BATON ROUGE, La. — Through four races Ron Maroney was darn near unbeatable.
That is, until he met Mike Hilsabeck.
In Hlsabeck’s Nitro Jam debut the Fuel Altered racer out of Phoenix, Ariz. upset undefeated Maroney in an exciting final that saw the driver of the “Arizona Thunder” win in a pedal fest to bring the opening night of the Mardi Gras Nitro Jam presented by Domino’s Pizza at State Capitol Raceway to a close.
Hilsabeck was joined by winners Bill Evans in Pro Fuel and Jay Turner in Nitro Harley on the first night of action at the Louisiana track. Nitro Jam’s AMSOIL Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car class was cut short of its final due to moisture on the track.
Hilsabeck, a longtime legend in the Fuel Altered category, produced two strong rounds to drive around Kyle Hough in Nanook in round one before meeting Maroney in the final. With the exciting – and rather late – evening crossing over into a new day, Hilsabeck and Maroney engaged in a pedal fest that saw Hilsabeck clock a 9.072, 156.73 behind the wheel of his ’23 Roadster to Maroney’s 10.250, 146.17.
In the consolation round Hough drove around Tom Padilla in “Nasty Benjamin” to pick up the round win.
In Nitro Harley North Carolina native Jay Turner continued his undefeated streak to move to 6-0 in rounds won with a victory over Canadian Mike Scott. Turner defeated Louisiana’s own Randal Andras in the opening tilt before matching up with Scott in the final. Turner ran a 6.852, 156.16 in the final to pick up his third Ironman trophy of the year.
Defending champion Steve Dorn defeated Andras in the consolation pairing.
Evans wrapped up Friday’s professional categories with two strong runs beginning with an opening round win over Robin Samsel. Evans was scheduled to lock horns with Cherissa Smallwood in the final, but Smallwood failed to fire and Evans was able to power down the track in an easy win to pick up his 10th career Nitro Jam victory.
Nitro Jam’s most recent race winner Kristen Dennis recorded the consolation round win over Samsel.
Brad Thompson and James Day, driving Louisiana’s famous Candies & Hughes machine, were scheduled to meet in the AMSOIL Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car final, but moisture on the track prevented the pair from competing their final runs.
Friday’s Mardi Gras Nitro Jam opener also featured a round of Outlaw Pro Modified racing as Denham Springs, La. native Al Suggs rocketed to the top of the qualifying charts with a blistering 3.981, 181.48 run in the eighth mile, light-years ahead of the rest of the competition. Last year’s winner Joe Palmisano was second on the charts with a 4.239, 173.14 followed by Joseph Mohana, Bill Doucet and Delaney Weaver.
In the final pass of the evening the world famous Grave Digger piloted by Randy Brown took two round wins over Joey Parnell in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.