ROCKINGHAM, N.C. – New world records, stunning upset winners and a showdown for the ages, the International Hot Rod Ass’n’s return to Rockingham Dragway provided enough drama for an entire season.
With nostalgia flowing through the pits in IHRA’s return to its traditional stomping grounds, the ghosts of drag racing’s all-time greats witnessed a classic as IHRA’s most dominant driver, Jason Rupert, and a brand new face, Brad Waddle, headlined a weekend full of great racing in the heart of drag racing country at Rockingham Dragway.
Rupert won a race for the ages in the finals of IHRA’s nostalgia Nitro Funny Car class, as the driver of the Bays & Rupert “Black Plague” ’69 Camaro bested three-time IHRA Nitro Funny Car champion Peter Gallen by four thousandths of a second at the line. Rupert joined Kansas native Brad Waddle, winner of Mountain Motor Pro Stock, in the winner’s circle, along with pro winners Mike Scott (Nitro Harley), Ron Maroney (Nitro Altered) and Marisha Falk (Jet Dragster).
Sportsman winners during day two of the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL were Mike Koontz (Top Sportsman), Jeffrey Dobbins II (Top Dragster), Jim Reynolds (Super Stock), A.J. Currie (Stock), Dale Harrison (Quick Rod), Gerald Pierce (Super Rod), Michelle Pelo (Hot Rod), Zach Pennington (Junior Master), Wallace Wilson (Junior Advanced) and Mallory Logan (Junior Beginner).
But there was no bigger winner than Rupert.
Destined to meet in the finals from the very start, Rupert and Gallen, two longtime, dominant figures in their class representing each side of the country, both proved significantly ahead of their peers. The pair qualified first and second on Saturday and made easy work of their competitors on Sunday, ending in one of the closest races of the entire 2014 racing season.
With an Ironman on the line between two former world champions in the nostalgia flopper class, Gallen got off the line first with a .081 reaction time to Rupert’s .130, but Rupert flexed his muscle on the top end and powered past the driver of the “Poverty Stricken” ’77 Vega with a 5.684-second pass at 253.18 mph, besting Gallen’s 5.737, 242.50 by four thousandths at the line.
“I saw him out of the window and then he started to disappear on me. At that point, all I could do was look up at the scoreboard and hope I have enough room,” Rupert said. “I am used to driving modern Funny Cars and you sit so far back in those that if you see someone out your side window, then they are way ahead. With these cars, it is a bit different. I only saw his front quarter panel so I thought I better rev this thing up and hope the track is long enough.
“When I crossed the finish line I had no idea who had just won. Luckily we had the full 1,320 feet.”