CORDOVA, Ill. – Any question as to why the IHRA Summer Nationals at Cordova Dragway Park was the most anticipated IHRA national event of the season was answered Saturday night.
With a massive crowd looking on and thousands around the world watching live via IHRA’s streaming webcast, Shawn Bowen and Dean Goforth collected big wins to highlight the return of IHRA national event drag racing to Cordova. Bowen won a thriller over Jason Rupert in Nitro Funny Car, his first with the IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series, while Goforth won for the first time since 2009 in Pro Stock to lead the way at the IHRA Summer Nationals at Cordova Dragway Park.
Mark Cox (Nitro Harley), Troy Martin (Nitro Altered) and Kat Moller (Jet Dragster) added wins in IHRA’s professional categories. In sportsman competition, Curt Fredrich (Top Sportsman), Anthony Layne (Top Dragster), Dean Mesenbring (Super Stock), Aaron Allison (Stock), Mike Eggleston (Quick Rod), Brian Folk (Super Rod) and Marc Erickson (Hot Rod) were all winners Saturday night.
Bowen’s victory over Rupert in the finals of Nitro Funny Car proved one of the most exciting six seconds in the history of IHRA’s brand new Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series. Bowen, the 2013 champion with the DragRacingOnline.com AA/FC Challenge, and Rupert, a four-time national event winner this season and one of the most dominant cars in the sport, were heavy favorites entering the weekend and emerged as the final two contestants following a brutal weekend that saw more than a dozen drivers battling for one Ironman trophy.
With the world watching, Bowen and Rupert put on a show in the finals of the nitro-burning nostalgia class with Bowen grabbing a narrow starting line advantage in the “Violator” 1977 Pontiac Firebird and turning that into a holeshot victory. Bowen crossed the finish line first with a 5.846-second pass at 244.74 miles per hour, besting Rupert’s quicker and faster 5.824 at 245.32.
“What a win and what a way to finish the weekend. To race Jason, I mean look at his track record. He is the most dominant car out there right now and to win against him means a lot,” Bowen said. “Even with his impressive resume, I tried not to think about it. I went out there, tried not to focus on my opponent and pictured my win light coming on. I try not to get worked up during a run, I just focus on what I need to do. When it left, it was going toward the center and I had to pedal. I reeled it back in, but I could hear him the whole way. When I saw my win light I thought, wow, how great is this.”
Bowen’s victory was far from an upset as the Grand Blanc, Michigan driver placed the “Violator” Pontiac squarely at the top of the charts after two rounds of qualifying on Friday. On Saturday, however, Rupert fired back during the second round of eliminations with a head-turning 5.700-second pass. With both cars showing their hand early, it was truly anyone’s game when the green light lit for the final time.