Known throughout the drag racing world as one of the fastest, most pristine tracks in all of racing, the International Hot Rod Association's best racers will travel to Palm Beach International Raceway™ (PBIR) from May 2-3 for two thrilling days of action and entertainment at the IHRA Nitro Jam Palm Beach Nationals. The event, which is considered one of the crown jewels on the IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series event schedule, will host the best in Nitro Funny Car, Nitro Harley, Nitro Altered, Mountain Motor Pro Stock and Jet Dragster competition.
For the first time since 2009, the IHRA has returned to a traditional competitive racing format with professional qualifying taking place on Friday, May 2 and eliminations set for Saturday, May 3. A huge championship purse and championship points are on the line in all classes when the IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series stops at Palm Beach International Raceway the first weekend in May.
"Palm Beach International Raceway is not only one of the fastest tracks in the country; it is also one of IHRA's main facilities as part of the IRG Sports + Entertainment™ family. In addition to some great racing, the Palm Beach Nationals will also feature a lot of fun, entertainment and great hospitality for the many fans of the IHRA," said Scott Gardner, President of IHRA Motorsports. "This is one of the biggest weekends on the calendar for the IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series, and I anticipate the drivers and teams will most definitely step up their games to try and win one of our crown jewel events."
Among the record-setting performances in 2014 have been great showings from IHRA's Nitro Funny Car and Pro Stock classes during the first three events in the 12-city series. One of IHRA's original classes when it was founded in the early '70s, Pro Stock returned to IHRA competition for the 2014 season after a brief hiatus and has been met with overwhelming support - not to mention topping the list of record-breaking performances.
Earlier this year, Missouri native John DeFlorian shattered the IHRA records in speed and elapsed time with a blistering 6.224-second pass at 226.70 mph in San Antonio. Currently, DeFlorian sits second in the Pro Stock standings behind Oklahoma native Cary Goforth. They will be joined in Bradenton by Goforth's teammate Todd Hoerner, along with two-time IHRA Pro Stock World Champion Pete Berner, Scott Hintz, Kevin Bealko, and more.
In the Nitro Funny Car races, Californian Jason Rupert leads the way in the "Black Plague" Camaro, coming off of two Nitro Jam victories in the first three races. He is joined by rookie winner Mike McIntire Jr. in the "McAttack" Camaro, who played spoiler at IHRA's other Florida event in Bradenton, along with "Mr. Explosive" Mark Sanders, Tim Boychuk in "Forever Forward," John Hale in the "Mike Burkhart" tribute Camaro, Bruce Litton in the "U.S. Male" Vega, Ronnie Young in the world famous "Blue Max," Mike Halstead in "Candies & Hughes", and additional racers.
Also making history in Palm Beach will be the debut of the world's only Jet Dragster championship program being contested by the four fastest women in drag racing - the Larsen Motorsports jet team. This four-car team is made up of four very talented female competitors with vastly different backgrounds. From a 19-year-old college student, to a female test pilot, a nurse and an entrepreneur at the helm of the operation, the team of Elaine Larsen, Marisha Falk, Dawn Perdue and Kat Moller will compete in 300 mph, side-by-side jet-powered drag racing action.
Additional IHRA Nitro divisions will include Nitro Harley and Nitro Altered, two radical and extreme classes that are among the most popular in the world for their death-defying competition. Iconic racer Jay Turner leads the 220 mph nitro-powered motorcycle class, joining points leader Randal Andras, Floridian Joey Sternotti, Mike Scott, Ron Gledhill, and more racers.
Mark Cox, a 55 year old competitor in the nitro-burning Harley-Davidson class, comes into Palm Beach International Raceway on a record setting pace. With a returning sponsor in the form of popular southern eatery Bojangles, and his new partnership with Alvin Kobernusz, Cox entered the IHRA Nitro Jam Southern Nationals at Bradenton Motorsports Park ready for a fight.
Cox came away from Bradenton with included three bracket-like passes of 6.363, 6.291 and 6.296, as well as the Ironman trophy. He also set a new IHRA speed record in the Nitro Harley class with a pass of 230.76 mph culminating with a win over top qualifier and the man everyone was gunning for Joey Sternotti. That win, combined with his new record, helped put Cox right in the discussion as he quickly makes up lost ground in the battle for the two-wheel IHRA championship.
"Man, it was great to come out of the gate in my first race of the season and pull off a win for the Romines and especially Steve Horne," Cox said. "Without Horne's bike this weekend, this win would likely have been impossible. I really appreciated Steve and Mike's confidence in me. It was so exciting to be back racing with IHRA. When I ran with the IHRA in the early days there was so much excitement and so much enthusiasm from the fans. Now, to see that happening all over again, is amazing."
Adding to the seemingly perfect set of circumstances for Cox in Bradenton, his last win in Nitro Harley came in 2002 at Rockingham Dragway, the last race run under the traditional qualifying and eliminations format prior to this season. And seeing as how this was Cox's first start since then, technically that gives Cox back-to-back IHRA wins 12 years apart.
"I remember that win like it was yesterday. We ran Ray Price in the final and took the very last race run under the old format. Now, to come out here and win in my first start with the IHRA since then, is just an amazing feeling," Cox said.
Now Cox, Sternotti, points leader Randal Andras and the rest of the Nitro Harley gang head to Palm Beach International Raceway for the IHRA Nitro Jam Palm Beach Nationals May 2-3 for another round of incredible Nitro Harley action.
"I am really looking forward to Palm Beach. Mike is trying to repair our original bike and honestly I am not sure which bike I am going to be riding," Cox said. "Either way, I think we can be just as competitive down there and hopefully come away with another win. I really want to contend for this championship and I hope this momentum will help us make up for lost time."
Nitro Altered, another extreme class once banned from organized competition due to the extreme danger behind the wheel, will include Arizona native Ron Maroney in "Blind Faith," Las Vegas native and third generation racer Kyle Hough in "Nanook", the popular "Arizona Thunder" driven by Mike Hilsabeck, "Bullet Bob" driven by Don Blackshear, and more.
New for the 2014 Palm Beach Nationals is the interactive Fan Fest, where fans can tour the open pits, meet the drivers, and take part in a number of fun family activities including the Larsen Motorsports Jet Technology Center, a hands-on look at the design and technology behind a jet-powered racing team. Fan Fest also features the 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, the Batmobile from the 1960s Batman television series, and additional well-known vehicles.
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 - on Saturday, May 3 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. as part of the Fan Fest. On display exclusively for the Fan Fest at PBIR will be the stunning one-of-a-kind Bubba Edition Bumblebee TRANSFORMER Camaro, featured in the movie "Transformers: Age of Extinction", in theaters this June. With facilities located in both Jupiter, Florida and Fairfax, Virginia, Bubba's East Coast Rods and Customs is a family-run business headed by the father and son team of Tom and Bubba Lloyd.
The Nitro Jam show time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday for qualifying and 6 p.m. on Saturday for eliminations. For a complete event schedule, visit.
Tickets to the 2014 IHRA Nitro Jam Palm Beach Nationals at PBIR are $25 on Friday and $30 on Saturday for adults and $10 for children per day. Fans can save $5 on each adult spectator ticket when purchasing tickets online in advance.
For drag racing fans who are desperate for their nitromethane fix, but can't wait until next weekend, ESPN has you covered. The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series moves to Royal Purple Dragway near Houston for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Sprint Nationals and ESPN2 and ESPN3 will air qualifying and eliminations action from April 25-27. All NHRA programming on ESPN networks is available on computers, smartphones, tablets, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV via WatchESPN, accessible to fans who receive ESPN’s linear networks as part of their video subscription from an affiliate provider.
Qualifying will be aired live, starting at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 25, and is available on ESPN3. Additional qualifying coverage will air on Saturday, April 26, at 6:00 p.m., also on ESPN3. On Sunday, April 27, the eliminations will air live starting at noon on ESPN3, and will continue on ESPN2 at 7:00 p.m.
Stay tuned to this column for full coverage leading up to the Palm Beach Nationals, as well as complete race weekend updates. Be sure to subscribe to the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner, and keep track of your favorite racers, no matter how many (or how few) wheels they may or may not race on. If you're a motorsports fan, and know of an event, team, or person you'd like to see profiled, please let me know. Also, be sure to follow me on twitter, and read my articles about local getaways, HOAs, elections, and restaurants.