JUPITER, Fla. – Up until the final pass of the night, it was beginning to look like another Goforth, DeFlorian showdown in Mountain Motor Pro Stock.
That was until Todd Hoerner pulled to the line.
With teammate Cary Goforth and rival John DeFlorian dominating every aspect of the Pro Stock season so far in 2014, Hoerner jumped into the conversation in a major way on Friday with a chart-topping 6.259-second lap at 223.91 mph, good enough for the top qualifying position in the popular doorslammer class during opening night at the IHRA Nitro Jam Palm Beach Nationals at Palm Beach Int’l Raceway.
Jason Rupert qualified first for the fourth race in a row in Nitro Funny Car, while Jay Turner (Nitro Harley), Ron Maroney (Nitro Altered) and Elaine Larsen (Jet Dragster) all topped their respective classes Friday night.
Hoerner’s 6.259 in the Dean’s Casing Service 2011 GXP was just enough to keep John DeFlorian Jr. from his second pole position of the season as DeFlorian clocked in with a 6.281 at 223.73 in the Black Diamond Motorsports 2012 Chevrolet Camaro. Pete Berner was third with a 6.346 at 222.62, followed by Cary Goforth and Kevin Bealko. With just .091 separating the five-car field, it is truly anyone’s game on Saturday.
Jason Rupert proved Friday’s other major storyline as the Yorba Linda, California native drove the Bays and Rupert “Black Plague” Camaro to the top of the charts in Nitro Funny Car in an extremely tight field. Rupert’s 5.836 at 246.30 was just enough to hold John “Bodie” Smith in the “Jungle Jim” Camaro at bay with a 5.845 at 243.50. “Mr. Explosive” Mark Sanders made it a three-pack of drivers in the 5.80s with a 5.859 at 250.09.
Tim Boychuk qualified fourth with a 5.937, followed by Mike McIntire Jr., Ronnie Young, Mike Smith and Wayne Mellinger. Young provided one of Friday’s scarier moments when the “Blue Max” nostalgia machine went up in flames just shy of the finish line and drove into the catch fencing at the top end. Young walked away from the accident.
Perhaps of even more interest, the list of drivers that didn’t qualify for Saturday’s eliminations in Nitro Funny Car provided their own surprises. Bruce Litton, John Hale and Mike Halstead all failed to qualify in the nostalgia field.
North Carolina native Jay Turner led the nitro-fed motorcycle division, topping the Nitro Harley field with a 6.298-second pass at 224.25 mph. Floridian and local favorite Joey Sternotti was second with a 6.396 at 194.41 and Mike Pelrine was third with a 6.399 at 223.69. Most recent race winner Mark Cox qualified fourth with a 6.402, followed by points leader Randal Andras, Mike Scott, Larry Brancaccio and Alvin Kobernusz.
In the final nitro-burning class Ron Maroney topped the wild Nitro Altered division in the “Blind Faith” entry with a 6.307 at 220.37, followed closely by last race winner Don Blackshear in the “Bullet Bob” AA/FA with a 6.315 at 209.59. Brian Hope qualified third, followed by Kyle Hough, Ron Hope and Terry Haddock.
Elaine Larsen wrapped up Friday qualifying by topping the Jet Dragster class with a weekend-best pass of 5.781 at 277.77. Dawn Perdue was second and Marisha Falk and Kat Moller rounded out the four-car field.