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In a few days it will begin for the 44th time, the Pepsi Nightfire Nationals (Aug. 13-16) will bring some of the best nitro nostalgia cars to the high desert just outside of Boise, Idaho.
However, in 2015 there will be some interesting changes to not only the event, but to the racetrack.
It has been well documented that the management team at Firebird Raceway over the winter of 2014 took the time and resources to make major repairs and updates to the racetrack. This work was evident at the May funny car event when there was not one aborted run due to track conditions.
The most used phrase to describe the racing surface at the Ignitor was “the difference is night and day”. Therefore, with temperatures forecasted to be in the high eighties and low nineties during the day and upper sixties at night during the Nightfires, it should make for very exciting racing. The history of the track surface is that when the sun goes down it begins to tighten upsignificantly.
Another big change for the Nightfires this year is the addition to the professional show of -- wait for it -- Fuel Altereds! Now the management team has taken a page out of the Bakersfield playbook and will be running the fuel altereds on a 6.20 index.
For you who may be rolling your eyes at altereds on an index, just cool your jets. I have seen it a couple of times at Bakersfield and it is a helluva good show. It allows for all kinds of altereds (transformers, modified and old-school altereds) to compete.
It makes a great show and there is the added benefit of running at night, and that gives us “HEADER FLAMES”. Two fuel altereds side-by-side going down the track with big header flames… Nirvana!
Firebird General Manager Scott New confirmed that the Top Fuel field would be an eight-car show for 2015.
This year will see the return of the legend Roland Leong to the Nightfires, as he will be engaged in an endeavor that he has not done since 1968. (Before many of you were born, or even your parents.) Roland will be using his tuning talents to help his old friend Jim Murphy. Roland has not worked on a dragster since 1968 but it appears that he has not forgotten too much about it, as the WWII ran a 5.67 to 1,000 feet at the last Saturday Night Nitro.
Now for the past two years most of … well, all … of the attention in Top Fuel has been focused on Tony Bartone and Steve Boggs in the Bartone Bros. fueler. They were perfect in 2014 and won the championship. They started out that way in 2015 until they got to Bowling Green when the High Speed Motorsports Team headed by Tom Shelar, Sean Bellemeur, and driver Bill Dunlap did something that someone has not been able to do since the 2013 Nightfires and that is defeat the Bartone Bros.
Entering the Pepsi Nightfire Nationals, on paper Top Fuel should be an all-time show stopper. With those teams already mentioned, there is always the ultra-competitive Champion Speed Shop team with Adam Sorokin at the controls. Dusty Green driving Steve Harwood’s Nitro Hemi has become a serious player this year. Rick White in the Neal and White digger, and Rick Williamson in the Team Craig machine are also contenders. Every one of these cars either has won or gone to the finals at the Nightfires. Thus it should be an epic race in Top Fuel.
Funny Car has been a surprise as such this year. Steven Densham came out at Bakersfield, did the Don Prudhomme thing, and ripped their throats out taking the win at The Patch.
It was same song second verse at the second race of the year at Boise as Densham dominated the field. Team Densham appeared to be headed for the “hat trick” in in SLC, but a bad engine bearing derailed those plans. Then Mother Nature derailed the plans for the rest of the event in SLC by raining it out.
That event’s make up is scheduled to be in conjunction with the Nightfire Nationals in Boise.
Currently Kris Krabill is second in the points and theoretically can take the lead if he can “double up” in Idaho and Densham encounters issues.
Robert Overholser and Richard Townsend are within striking range if either one of these two can double up. Krabill, Townsend, and Overholser will be racing for the win of the SLC event during the two Saturday qualifying sessions at the Nightfires.
Earlier in the year it was the plan of John Hale to come back to Boise and bring the One Bad Texan Camaro however, due to the rigors of the Big Show Tour, John wanted to tell all his fans in Boise, that he can’t make it, but wanted to say “Hey” to all.
It is safe to say that all the fuel car teams along with many other racers will be racing for Roger Garten. Garten passed at the last Saturday Night Nitro. There was a celebration of life for Roger at the NHRA Motorsports Museum on August 1st that was well attended. It would not be a huge surprise to see something impromptu honoring Roger take place at the Nightfires as well.
This year’s Nightfires with the track improvements and possibility of excellent weather could be a pivotal event in the run for this year’s championships in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.