SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Nitro Jam may be a sport that is all about flash, excitement and entertainment, but for the drivers it can get pretty intense on the track.
Sure putting on a good show is foremost in their minds, but beating the guy in the other lane is really the driving force for their being. Just ask the stars of Nitro Jam’s top two classes.
Winning races and ultimately a championship is what it is all about for the drivers in the Pro Fuel Dragster and AMSOIL Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car classes and for some that goal is not being met in the early part of the Nitro Jam season. Defending Prostalgia World Champion Peter Gallen is off to the worst start of his career, with three round losses already after losing just four in the entirety of 2011, and the man who was supposed to dominate in Pro Fuel – 2010 champ Bill Evans – left Tucson without a trophy as well.
In their place are a few new stars who have stepped up and are looking to keep the momentum going entering one of the biggest races of the entire 2012 season at San Antonio Raceway this Friday and Saturday.
“It has been an overwhelming start to the year. We ended last year on a high note after struggling most of the season and now to start 2012 with a win has given this team the confidence we need to go out there and do our thing,” said Cherissa Smallwood, Friday winner at last weekend’s Arizona Nitro Jam. “When you gain some momentum you start feeling like you can win against anyone and that is the attitude we are going to need if we are to contend for the championship this season.”
Smallwood will be looking to make it three straight in San Antonio
Smallwood, driver of the “Nitro and Lace” dragster, is currently enjoying one of the most incredible turnarounds in recent motorsports history. Sitting at 0-16 in round wins entering the final race of the 2011 season, Smallwood found her groove at the season finale in Michigan and drove to her first career victory at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park.
Seven months later at the Nitro Jam season opener in Tucson, Ariz., last weekend Smallwood repeated that feat with another victory and is currently on pace for her best season ever entering this weekend’s San Antonio Nitro Jam. The reason for the turnaround? Attitude.
“We have a new trailer and have totally stripped our dragster to the bare chassis. We did some major adjustments to the driver’s compartment and the overall appearance of the car including new parts from front to back, a new rear and we are also giving 100 percent nitro a shot this year,” Smallwood said. “But more than anything, it is all about the confidence we gained at the end of last year that took us into 2012 with our heads held high”
Savage won his first career Nitro Jam in Tucson last weekend
Smallwood won three of four rounds in Arizona and ran her career best elapsed time and speed under the hot desert sun and is gearing up for another tall task this weekend. Smallwood will once again go toe-to-toe with Bill Evans and the “Black Pearl” team and Robin Samsel in “Predator,” but this weekend she will also face off against another strong female competitor in Kristen Dennis from Magnolia, Texas.
Dennis, driver of “Ladies First,” has one career Nitro Jam start to her credit, a victory at the Northern Nitro Jam at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park the same weekend that Smallwood picked up her first career win. Will it be a ladies weekend once again in Texas?
“I think so,” Smallwood said. “There is just something to be said for a little girl power.”
Another driver enjoying a ton of early season success in 2012 is Mike Savage, driver of the “Candies & Hughes” AMSOIL Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car. Savage had three Nitro Jam starts in 2011 with one final round appearance, but had never won a race until this past weekend at his home track.
San Antonio will feature the biggest Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car race of the year
Savage broke through for his first career Nitro Jam victory last Saturday at the Arizona Nitro Jam over defending champion Peter Gallen. Gallen beat Savage off the line, but in one of the closest drag races of the early season Savage charged back on the top end and bested the driver of the purple and gold “Poverty Stricken” machine.
Now it is off to San Antonio for the Tucson native to face off in one of the biggest nostalgia Funny Car races of the entire year for bragging rights that will last an entire season.
“There is a very tough field waiting for us Texas and we are certainly looking forward to the challenge,” Savage said. “I treat each and every one of these guys I race against the same. They all have quality cars and great drivers and I am proud to get an opportunity to show what I can do.”
Savage will square off with Gallen, 2010 Nitro Jam champion Steve Nichols in the “Mill Road Boys” Camaro, James Day in “War Eagle,” Tim Boychuk in “Troy Lee Designs,” John Hale in “Nitro Boss,” “Jungle Jim” and more.BREAKING NEWS: SPEED SPORT is back in print with a new monthly format! Subscribe for just $24.95. Special offer for former subscribers.