What started out as a bit of a gloomy morning turned into a marvelous day of racing as Bruce Litton, Ray Commisso and Jason Collins claimed Ironman trophies during Championship Sunday at the IHRA Mardi Gras Nationals at State Capitol Raceway in Baton Rouge.
Litton (Indianapolis, In) topped Bobby Lagana Jr. in one of the best races of the weekend in the Top Fuel championship as Litton lit the win light with a 4.875 second pass at 284.93 mph to best Lagana’s 4.964 second time at 249.53 mph.
“Anytime you race a track that you don’t have any data to you kind of tip-toe through it. Friday night we tried to rotate the earth and it got out of our realm a little bit and we came back and got back to where we thought we could get down the track and it went down every time,” Litton said. “That is a tribute to Richard Hartman and all the guys on the team. It’s not a one man deal; I am just the guy that gets to drive it.”
And what a weekend it was for Litton who qualified No. 2 on his way to his 14th Ironman.
“I feel like I have lived here for a month. We had absolutely no data about this place except that my crew chief Richard Hartman at the Cajun Nationals in 1990 drove a Nitro Funny Car and he was in the finals against John Force and he lost in a slight hole shot and this is a race he wanted to win,” Litton added. “This track owed him 19 years ago and you don’t forget losses like that. It was just a great weekend all around for the whole Lucas Oil team.”
Lagana reached the finals by knocking off No. 1 qualifier Del Cox Jr. (Downey, Ca) in the semi-finals in a pedal fest at the far end of the track. Both cars started smoking the tires at the 1,000 ft. mark, but it was Lagana that was able to stay in it for the win light on a 5.085 run at 233.92 mph. The run ended a nice weekend for the rookie who took the pole in his first ever weekend of IHRA Top Fuel racing.
Litton knocked off Paul Lee (Anaheim Hill, Ca) in the semi-finals in a great drag race. Lee pushed Litton the length of the track, but it was Litton that lit the bulb on a 4.820 time at 299.66 mph.
In the quarters it was Cox over Tim Boychuk, Lagana over Terry McMillen, Litton over Mitch King and Lee over Terry Haddock.
In Pro Modified, Raymond Commisso (Toronto, Ont) continued his incredible weekend with an Ironman victory over Tommy Gray (Baltimore, Md) with a 5.955 second pass at 244.83 mph over Gray’s 6.105 at 237.42 mph run.
“Every round you are trying to do your best and we just kept getting better every time,” Commisso said. “We didn’t have any computer so it was a bit of a crapshoot, but we rolled the dice three times in a row and it worked out in our favor for once.”
In the first two days of qualifying Commisso not only managed to grab the top qualifying spot, but also set an IHRA World Speed Record in the process at 246.08 mph. Add in an Ironman trophy and the Mardi Gras Nationals made for one incredible weekend for the Toronto native.
“Any racers’ dream is to qualify No. 1 and win the race and we have qualified No. 1 at a lot of races and this time we were able to close the deal,” Commisso said. “We set the speed record, we backed it up and we won the race going even faster E.T. wise and the car just kept going faster and faster all weekend. The funny thing is the last two rounds we didn’t have any data, our computer decided to pack it in, so it was basically a crapshoot.
“The one person I have to commend is Al Billis. Al is the god of drag racing. He knows how to get the car down the track and we certainly did that this weekend.”
In the Pro Modified semi-finals Gray got the free pass to the final round while Commisso had put in a little extra work to advance. Commisso battled Ed Hoover (Gilbert, SC) in an excellent drag race with Commisso continuing his hot weekend with a time of 5.984 at 243.15 mph to edge Hoover (6.156, 207.05).
Commisso came into the semis already holding the new IHRA World Speed Record he used that momentum to carry him through the ladder.
In the quarters it was Commisso over Taylor Lastor, Hoover over Danny Rowe and Gray over hometown-favorite and Baton Rouge native Harold Laird.
Jason Collins wrapped up the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock Ironman with a similar weekend to Commisso, taking the pole on Friday en route to a clean run through the elimination ladder.
Collins claimed the victory with a pass of 6.354 at 221.16 mph in the finals against John Montecalvo who turned in a time of 6.365 at 221.84 mph.
“We had transmission trouble and we worked and worked on it and we thought we had it fixed for the third round and we just got really lucky,” Collins said. “The guy we ran had trouble and we were able to get by in that round. For the final we managed to get a transmission from Team Aruba and we put it in and things went well from there. I think we were a little too soft in the finals, but we were just trying to get down the racetrack.
“You can go from hero to zero in no time in this class. We are going to go to the next race and go out and try to win it and we will let the chips fall as they may.”
One of the most competitive classes of the weekend came in the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock ranks as nearly every run down the track went to the wire.
Collins reached the PS finals with a win over Mark Martino (Stoney Creek, Ont), one of the weekend’s big surprises. But Martino’s nice weekend came to a close in the semis as he simply never got going and Collins cruised to the win on a 6.536 at 214.01 mph.
Montecalvo defeated Cary Goforth (Holdenville, Ok) in semi-finals when Goforth red-lighted. Montecalvo ran a 6.355 at 221.49 mph.
In the quarters it was Martino over Cale Aronson, Goforth over Frank Gugliotta and Montecalvo in an upset victory over defending Pro Stock world champion and No. 2 qualifier Pete Berner.
With so many cars on hand over the weekend trying to turn the win light, the IHRA needed to add an extra class to the already packed lineup and that class was Outlaw Pro Modified – and it didn’t disappoint.
Opelousas, Louisiana native Bill Doucet came away with the win in the Outlaw class, edging another Louisiana product in Joseph Palmisand (Abita Springs) in the final with a pass of 4.111 at 189.42 mph in the eighth mile.
Doucet reached the finals with a win over Shawn Davis (Lake Charles, La) with a pass of 4.822 at 128.24 mph and Palmisand defeated Danny Rowe (Laguna Hills, Ca) with a pass of 4.290 at 170.51 mph.
In Sportsmen action, Gary Bingham (Kings Mountain, NC) claimed the Top Sportsman championship with a win over Chris Gulitti (Tomball, Tx), Chris Bermond (Bay St. Louis, Ms) won the Top Dragster championship with a win over Nick Folk (Durand, Il), Slate Cummings (Hammond, La) won the Super Stock championship with a win over Mark Faul (Tacoma, Wa), Slate Cummings won the Stock championship with a win over Jarrod Granier (Labadieville, La), Luke Bogacki (Woodville, Al) won the Quick Rod championship with a win over Robert Cool (Laplace, La), Ben Massey (Bedford, Tx) won the Super Rod championship with a win over Jimmy Lewis (Forney, Tx) and Jay Bunce (Oklahoma City, Ok) won the Hot Rod championship with a win over Ray Dew (League City, Tx).