With a forecast for a sixty percent chance of rain early in the evening, and a full card of qualifying set to take place during that timeframe, the organizers of the IHRA Nitro Jam Palm Beach Nationals on Friday, May 2 at Palm Beach International Raceway had their collective fingers crossed. Although the rains did come down on more than one occasion, they held off just enough to allow round one of qualifying for the race to take place nearly unimpeded.
The gates opened just after 4:00 p.m., with plans to run bracket test and tune, as well as pro practice. Though a few cars took the opportunity to travel down the quarter mile, the track basically remained quiet until the official start of the racing at 7:20 p.m. This gave fans ample opportunity to wander the paddock area, interact with drivers and crews, and explore the Larsen Motorsports Jet Technology Center, a hands-on look at the design and technology behind a jet-powered racing team. There was also a small display from the featuring Hollywood Cars of the Stars, an exclusive collection from the Miami Auto Museum, of real cars from famous movies and television shows such as the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard, the DeLorean from Back to the Future, and the Batmobile from the 1960s Batman television series, in addition to a few others.
There was also a very special guest on hand; a world famous movie actor whose origins are from a planet far far way, but whose body was designed in Detroit and perfected here in South Florida. The 2015 Chevrolet Camaro that makes up the body of Bumblebee, featured in the movie “Transformers: Age of Extinction”, in theaters this June, made his local debut at PBIR. In addition to the famous and not so famous drivers in the race, drag racing legend Darrell Gwynn was seen rolling around the garage area, and found a place in the front row of the grandstands to watch most of the opening round of qualifying before driving off in his specially prepared van to his home in Fort Lauderdale.
The race featured competitors in Nitro Funny Car, Nitro Harley, Nitro Altered, Pro Stock, and Jet Dragster. After the first round of qualifying, Jason Rupert led the field in Nitro Funny Car, Jay Turner powered away from the competition in Nitro Harley, Don Blackshear blasted away from everyone else in Nitro Altered, and John DeFlorian slid into first place in Pro Stock. The first round of Jet Dragsters was cut short, unfortunately, as rain forced two of the four dragsters to power down before they had completed their runs.
The rain also virtually emptied the grandstands, and sent most of the assembled media scurrying back to their cars in the parking lot, including your favorite motorsports examiner. According to twitter, however, the second round of qualifying did commence just before 11:00 p.m.
The racing action continues on Saturday, May 3, with gates opening at 10:00 a.m., and featuring bracket racing all day. The Nitro Jam show time is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. for eliminations, with on-track action scheduled to end at roughly 11:00 p.m. Also on Saturday, fans will be treated to an autograph signing session with the stars of the television show “Hot Rod Reality,” Bubba Lloyd, Tom Lloyd and supermodel Layla Von Athey, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Tickets to the 2014 IHRA Nitro Jam Palm Beach Nationals at PBIR are $30 on Saturday for adults and $10 for children. Fans can save $5 on each adult spectator ticket when purchasing tickets online.