GRAND BEND, Ontario – Just one week ago at the IHRA Nitro Jam national event in Budds Creek, Maryland, Nitro Funny Car competitor Jason Rupert found himself packing his bags and heading home early, having just failed to qualify for the event.
On Sunday in Grand Bend, Rupert put that poor performance behind him and returned to form in a major way, dominating the class he has led all season long in claiming his fourth Ironman of 2014 at the IHRA Mopar Nitro Jam Nationals at the Grand Bend Motorplex.
Rupert qualified first for the sixth time this season and claimed his fourth win all in dominating fashion, besting longtime rival Mark Sanders in an all-Pacific Coast final. Rupert culminated his weekend with a 5.895-second elapsed time at 242.06 mph to take the win.
“Racing is all about peaks and valleys and you can go from hero to zero in less than a second. Last week we had something happen. We couldn’t get ahold of the track and we tried some other things and nothing seemed to work,” Rupert said. “We got here this weekend and we decided to start over. Everything seemed to work and respond how it should and it resulted in us getting back on track with the win.”
Joining Rupert in the finals of Nitro Jam on Sunday were Nate Gagnon (Nitro Harley), Rob Atchison (Pro Mod), Ron Maroney (Nitro Altered), Ike Maier (Top Fuel), Elaine Larsen (Jet Dragster) and Anthony Paone (Pro Stock).
In the finals of the Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL, Sunday’s winners were Dan Aitken (Top Sportsman), Jeremy McCormick (Top Dragster), Gianni Cantusci (Super Stock), Doug Box (Stock), Leo Zynda (Quick Rod), Andrew Stirk (Super Rod) and James Unum (Hot Rod).
Rupert, piloting the Bays and Rupert “Black Plague” ’69 Camaro, paced the field by a solid margin on Saturday to claim his sixth pole position of the season, with only his DNQ in Maryland standing in the way of a perfect year. From the top spot, Rupert eliminated Mike Halstead, Tim Boychuk and Sanders, with all three of his opponents running into trouble during their runs. Rupert had laps of 6.147, 5.771 and 5.895 on his way to the Ironman in Grand Bend.
“We really weren’t all that consistent this weekend. There were two runs I had to abort, we stripped a spark plug at the last minute and we had a new set of wheels and tires that we had trouble with, so we know that the gremlin is still there, we were just able to conquer it today,” Rupert said.
Sunday’s other big winners in the professional categories were Rob Atchison and Nate Gagnon, with both writing near-perfect scripts.
Atchison, a longtime racer in IHRA’s Alcohol Funny Car ranks with three world championships and more than two dozen national event victories, claimed his first career win in a Pro Modified with the PMRA series, besting Jeff Roth in an all-Ontario final. Jumping into the Pro Mod ranks three years ago, Atchison claimed his first career win at the same facility where he won his first Alcohol Funny Car race, making the win all the more exciting for the London, Ontario native.
“I love PMRA, but to win back at the Bend at an IHRA race and get an Ironman, it is super special. It is very reminiscent of my first win in Funny Car. It took four or five years to win that first race and we did it at home in Grand Bend. What an opportunity to do that again,” Atchison said. “Everything is so nostalgic. I am rolling through the staging lanes and I give Mike Baker a high five, I roll around the corner and I get to see Howie and the boys at the scales, it was just like old times.”