BATON ROUGE, La. — While Saturday’s sold out Mardi Gras Nitro Jam was marred with weather, Sunday’s finale more than made up for it.
After a passing thundershower forced the postponement of the Mardi Gras Nitro Jam finale to Sunday, nitro racers and sportsman racers alike went to work under the hot Louisiana sun on Sunday and over a dozen winners were crowned on the final day of the Mardi Gras Nitro Jam presented by Domino’s Pizza at State Capitol Raceway.
In professional competition three drivers swept the weekend as Bill Evans (Pro Fuel), Mike Hilsabeck (Fuel Altered) and Jay Turner (Nitro Harley) took home a pair of Ironman trophies while James Day (AMSOIL Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car) and Al Suggs Jr. (Outlaw Pro Mod) added their name to the list with wins as well on Sunday.
Sportsman winners from day one of the Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL and Tournament of Champions qualifier were Russell Marr (Forney, Texas) in Top Sportsman, Chase Murray (Orange, Texas) in Top Dragster, David Latino (Donaldsonville, La.) in Super Stock, Jimmy Hidalgo (Donaldsonville, La.) in Stock, Vernon Rowland (Blanchard, Okla.) in Quick Rod, Floyd Russo (Gonzales, La.) in Super Rod and Bart Nelson (Laporte, Texas) in Hot Rod. All seven drivers earned automatic bids into the year-end Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions presented by AMSOIL.
Hilsabeck had perhaps the biggest weekend sweep of the professional categories as the Phoenix, Ariz. driver swept the Nostalgia Fuel Altered category in his first weekend out with Nitro Jam. Hilsabeck, behind the wheel of the “Arizona Thunder” Altered, beat defending class champion Ron Maroney on Friday and followed that up with a big win over young Kyle Hough in “Nanook” on Sunday.
Hilsabeck had the second best elapsed time of the opening round on Saturday to advance to the final and kept that speed on Sunday with a 6.597, 196.54 pass to drive around a tire-spinning Hough for his second career Nitro Jam victory.
“We had a great time in our first weekend out with Nitro Jam and we look forward to doing this again in the future,” Hilsabeck said. “It was great to be able to bring back the history and excitement of this class to a whole new generation of fans and Nitro Jam gives us that opportunity to put on this incredible show.”
Evans also doubled up over the weekend with a big win over Robin Samsel on Sunday in Pro Fuel Dragster. Evans consistently had the best times of the entire weekend in the nitro-powered category and used that momentum to pick up his 11th career Ironman on Sunday against Samsel. The Florida native ran a 5.616, 238.72 in the final to drive around Samsel who ran into trouble moments after stabbing the throttle.
In the consolation pairing Kristen Dennis drove around Cherissa Smallwood.
In Nitro Harley Jay Turner moved to 8-0 in round wins this season with yet another victory behind the handlebars of his wildly-designed “big pig” Harley Davidson. In Sunday’s final North Carolina’s Turner met up with Mike Scott and ran a weekend best 6.470, 211.01 to pick up the win.
In the consolation round Louisiana’s Randal Andras defeated Steve Dorn.
Louisiana native Al Suggs Jr., from just down the road in Denham Springs, took the Outlaw Pro Mod category with a win over last year’s winner “Pizza Joe” Palmisano. With thousands of local fans on hand to cheer him on and a record-breaking ’41 Willys to guide, Suggs went three rounds of 1/8th mile competition against Wayne Collins and Bill Doucet before meeting Palmisano in the final.
Palmisano got a jump on Suggs, but the No. 1 qualifier showed just why he was featured on just about every media outlet in the area as he stormed back with a 4.052, 182.77 to take the win over Palmisano who ran a 4.244,167.91.
Wrapping up the pro categories was James Day behind the wheel of the “Candies & Hughes” Barracuda as he went undefeated in his grudge race with Brad Thompson. Day won his opening round tilt on Saturday before the rains came and kept that momentum on Sunday with a weekend-best 5.853, 241.93 to Thompson’s 6.407, 188.63.
In the sportsman categories Russell Marr defeated Rowdy James in Top Sportsman, Chase Murray defeated T.J. Tracey in Top Dragster, David Latino defeated Wayne Winfield in Super Stock, Jimmy Hidalgo Sr. defeated Jimmy Hidalgo Jr. in Stock, Vernon Rowland defeated David Nicoll in Quick Rod, Floyd Russo defeated Chris Eidson in Super Rod and Bart Nelson defeated Thomas Marlow in Hot Rod.