Combustion Chamber-2004 Pepsi Nightfire Nationals


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Boise, ID-August 12-15  Plain and simple, this four-day event at Firebird Raceway is a “must see” event that any drag fan far and wide should attend.  Firebird Raceway’s annual Pepsi Nightfire Nationals not only showcases some of the area’s toughest bracket racers (who compete for $5,000 each night Friday-Sunday), but also features three consecutive nights of spectacular nitro racing!  A variety of fuel altereds, front-engine dragsters, Pro Mods, and of course several exhibition classes, pull out all the stops at a chance to claim a “Nightfire Nationals” title.

Despite temperatures that climbed over the century mark early on in the weekend, the 33rd annual event drew record crowds, but better yet, the fans were treated to excellent on-track performances.  A record number 12 AA Fuel Altereds entered the event, with the standout performance provided by Ron Fassl in his Amos Satterlee-tuned Pepsi Thunder.  Fassl ran an off-the-trailer 5.505/2.69.78 during the first qualifying session, equaling the track e.t. record held by Gary Read.  Fassl came back on Sunday with an unbelievable 5.447/276.41 which shattered both ends of the record.  His exclamation point to the weekend was the 5.47 in the final and Amos claiming that there was still more in it.  I can’t wait to see what they bring to the party next year!

And speaking of parties, this year’s event provided the largest sparkler-lighting and sing-along of “Happy Birthday” on Saturday evening in honor of track owner Bill New’s 70th birthday.  If that wasn’t enough, Bill was also treated to a warm-up in Jack Harris’ “Nitro Thunder” Top Fuel entry Sunday afternoon, followed later that evening with a fire-up in Fassl’s winning AA/FA winner’s circle party.  What a treat!

The 34th Pepsi Nightfire Nationals is already slated for August 11-14, 2005, and you can best believe that plans are already being made to make that edition the best ever.  The following photos are just some of the highlights from the event.  Enjoy!  Dawn & Mark

James Generalo Jr. made his first appearance at Firebird Raceway in his gorgeous “Impatient” ’23 T AA/FA.  Generalo, who was by far the under-dog of the AA/FA show with his single mag, small pump, smaller everything, compared to the rest of his big brother field, ran a career-best 6.379 during qualifying placing him eighth out of the 12 entries.  Generalo faced Randy Eakins in the AA/FA “B” bonus race on Sunday, but his 6.46 was not enough to hold off the hard charging 6.37 turned in by Eakins.  Hope to see this cool cat next year! image
image Mendy Fry made her big event debut at Firebird Raceway and qualified in the seventh spot of the 8-car AA/FD field ( in a last-ditch effort) with a nice 6.25.  Fry drew Jack Harris in round one, but had to abort the run when her entry drifted toward the centerline.
Lee Smith qualified his ultra-spiffy ’58 ‘Vette in the sixth spot of the Pro Mod field with a 6.64.  Smith caught a slight holeshot on first round opponent John Scialpi, but Scialpi’s 6.502 was too much for Smith’s 6.563. image
image Dave Hix ran a best of 6.12 in his ’32 Bantam AA/FA during qualifying, but that wasn’t enough to make the 4-car main field with a 6.04 bump.  Hix was able to compete in the “A” bonus round on Sunday against Mitch King’s “Bone Bucket” ’23 T, and what a race that turned out to be.  Hix slapped a .137 holeshot and stepped up to a 6.09, but King was able to close the gap and thunder by with a winning 5.90.  M.O.V. was just .049.  Wow!
Jason Richey qualified Dave Smith’s “Nitro Thunder” entry in the sixth spot of the Top Fuel show with a 6.22.  Richey’s weekend came to end in round one against Bill Dunlap, when Richey clicked it early to a 7.68 to Dunlap’s quicker 6.03. image
image Former Comp Eliminator-Pro Mod-AA/FD competitor Rich Howell debuted his slick AA/FA at Firebird Raceway.  Howell made a soft half-track pass on Friday evening and came out loaded for bear on Saturday, however a sheared blower-drive prevented Howell from properly burning this load of nitro at the hit.
Jim Murphy qualified his AA/FD entry on top of the charts with an off-the-trailer 5.937/247.25 on Friday.  Murphy advanced to the second round where he met Sean Bellemeur, but was forced to give up the chase when he put his OSH-backed entry up on both sides at mid-track after having gotten wickedly out of shape. image
image Ron Fassl and Amos Satterlee broke the backs of AA/FA contingent at Firebird Raceway with a first round winning 5.44/276.41, which eclipsed the track record of 5.50/273.63 held by Gary Read.  Fassl then went on to claim his third Nightfire Nationals title over Read in the final with a 5.472/267.06.  The capper to the event was the traditional fire-up in the winner’s circle, but with “New Crew” patriarch, Bill, in the driver’s seat for a special 70th birthday treat.  What a weekend!
John Scialpi launches his ’57 Chevy to 6.514 during Pro Mod qualifying which placed him third in the show.  Scialpi lasted until the semi-final round where he dropped the final round bid to eventual runner-up Pat Stoken. image
image Ricky Ruiz, who has been a player on Sunday in past Nightfire events, failed to qualify his ’23 T in the AA/FA show.  Ruiz was only able to muster an 8.06 during qualifying which placed him in the 12th spot of the field.
Scott Mason collected the fifth qualifying spot in the Top Fuel show with a 6.21.  Mason then received a first round runner-up ticket courtesy of Sean Bellemeur, who posted a winning 6.08 over Mason’s 6.25. image
image 2003 Nightfire champ Greg Daebelliehn made the quick four AA/FA show in the third spot with a 5.91.  Daebelliehn’s hopes of a repeat win were dashed in the opening round, as opponent Gary Read used a 5.74 to take out Daebelliehn’s early shut-off 6.33.
Wayne Torkelson was the mark of consistency in his blown ’55 T-Bird at Firebird Raceway.  Torkelson claimed the number one qualifying spot by two-thousandths over Pat Stoken with a 6.485, and went on to win the event taking out Scott Bailey (6.51 to 7.02), Vern Mills (6.51 to 8.46), and Pat Stoken (6.46 to 6.92), respectively. image
image Stephen Neese blistered the Goodyears on his ’34 Ford Coupe AA/FA prior to running a 6.22 during qualifying.  Neese, who qualified for the bonus match against Dave Hix, was unable to return on Sunday as a result of a motor-grenading run on Saturday.
2003 Tater Baker winner Brendan Murry has been all over the map in 2004, on and off the track.  Murry just made the Top Fuel main field in the eighth spot with a 6.26, but lost oil pressure in his “Running Wild” entry after the burnout in his round one match with Jim Murphy. image
image Ed “Outlaw” Jones thoroughly enjoys entertaining the younger crowd in his Jelly Belly-backed, fire truck-themed wheelstander, not too mention providing loads of the sweet treat for the fans.
“Nasty” Dave Benjamin came out to play with the AA/FA contingent at Firebird in the “Mystery T”, but was only able to run a best of 8.04 during qualifying. image
image Terry Cox ran a best of 6.33 in the Cheetah III during Top Fuel qualifying, but that number just missed the 6.26 bump of the “A” main field.  A day later, but certainly not a dollar short, Cox ran a 6.25 against Lee Jennings in the Tater Baker consolation final.  Jennings took home the spud award with his equally improved 6.18.
Like the rest of the AA/FA field, Gary Read had his sights set on winning the Nightfire crown.  Read qualified number two with a 5.53 and met number one qualifier Ron Fassl in the final.  Unfortunately for Read, his over-amped and out-of-shape entry didn’t reach the finish line under power and was forced to watch Fassl take the win-light with a 5.47. image
image Lee Jennings, near lane, and Jim Murphy squared off during Saturday evening’s Top Fuel qualifying session.  Murphy maintained his pole position, but Jennings was unable to break the 6.26 bump spot in the main field.  Jennings did, however, step up his performance mark and went on to win the Tater Baker title over rookie shoe Terry Cox, 6.18 to 6.25.
Exactly how much prestige does the Nightfire Nationals hold in racer’s hearts? Well, for NHRA Top Fuel competitor Mitch King, it ranks pretty high.  King opted to skip the NHRA national event in Brainerd, MN, and chose to compete in his “Bone Bucket’ AA/FA at the Nightfire Nationals.  King just missed the main field, but his 5.90/235.23 blast on Sunday was good enough to claim the “A” bonus race over Dave Hix’s game 6.09/235.78.  Great job, Mitch; we look forward to seeing you again next year! image
image The Pro Mod finale came down to the one-two punch of Pat Stoken’s nitrous-powered ’67 Camaro (number two qualifier/6.487) and Wayne Torkelson Jr.’s blown ’55 T-Bird (number one qualifier/6.485).  Stoken was knocked out by 1,000′, as his off-pace 6.97 was no match for the 6.46 turned in by Torkelson.  Stoken did claim low e.t. for the event with his first round winning 6.463.
Jeff Diehl, near lane, and Ron Fassl danced into the darkness during Saturday evening’s final qualifying round.  Neither driver improved on their numbers from the previous night, but sure put on a helluva good show. image
image Jack Harris and the “Utah Posse” claimed their fourth Nightfire Nationals Top Fuel title since 1999, defeating the likes of Mendy Fry, Bill Dunlap, and Sean Bellemeur, respectively.  Harris also ran away with low e.t. and top speed of the event with a 5.901/252.80 shot in the final.
Randy Eakins, who had completed his AA/FA licensing just one year ago at this event, returned to Firebird Raceway and claimed the “B” bonus race over James Generalo with a nice 6.37/240.06. image
image Idaho State Land Speed Record holder Chuck Haynes closed each evening’s program in his “Volcano” jet dragster against fellow MT statesman Kevin Olson in the “Gravity Storm”.
Jeff Diehl rocketed to a 6.04 in his Witch Doctor Fiat entry during AA/FA qualifying Friday evening.  Diehl met Ron Fassl in round one but was unable to get his entry out of reverse following the burnout, and was forced to shut-off and watch Fassl reset the both ends of the track record with a 5.447/276.41 image
image Mike Boyd wheeled the famed Winged Express through half-track burnouts during the weekend, not too mention bringing the SRO crowd to their knees when he knocked out Jeff Diehl’s “Witch Doctor” in an impromptu match race on Sunday.  Also worth noting, the New Crew presented the second annual “Jaker All-Star” award (a namesake tribute to Bill’s father and grandfather) to Al “Mousie” Marcellus for his years of providing true professional All-Star qualities at Firebird Raceway.  Congratulations, Mousie!
© M & H Photography -All text, photos, graphics, artwork and other contributed material within the Combustion Chamber  are copyrighted and may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without express written consent. 

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