Getting Ready for the Nightfires

It is hard to believe that the NHRA Heritage Series season is three quarters done. However, this year -- unlike the last couple of years -- we have seen that no one team in either of the nitro categories is running away with the points leads.

In Top Fuel, Adam Sorokin is in the lead based on his win at Bowling Green and a solid finish at the March Meet. Second is Jim Murphy, after two late round finishes at the Holley Hot Rod Reunion and the March Meet. Third is March Meet winner Rick Williamson, in the cleanup position is “T-Bone” Tony Bartone, the reigning World Champion, and Rick White is currently fifth in points.

Bartone to this point has not been able to exercise the advantage that he and crew chief Steve Boggs have possessed over the past three to four years. It is not that Bartone has fallen off, it appears that others in the class have just gotten more serious about racing and have stepped up their games. Bartone has had some strange events -- one would not call it bad luck, it is just some weirdness that has happened. Like having a barrel valve fitting split just off the starting line at Bowling Green (Yeah, that happens all the time.)

At the Aug. 11-14 45th Annual Pepsi Nightfire Nationals at Boise’s Firebird Raceway the format calls for an eight-car field in Top Fuel. This decision of having an eight-car show is appropriate however will cause pressure to get into the program, and then pressure to get out of round one of eliminations on Sunday if a team is trying to make a run at the championship.

The run schedule appears to be modified for Sunday with first round of eliminations taking place at 2 p.m., second round at 4:30 and finals at 7 p.m. This means it is imperative for the teams to run all the qualifying session or at the least the two Saturday sessions, slated for 2:30 and 7 p.m. coincidentally. The Friday night session also scheduled for 7 p.m.

Now I will put my Al Roker hat on and just add this tidbit of nebulous weather information. The 10-day forecast is calling for temperatures in the middle 90’s for the race. For Idaho that means it could be 110 degrees or snow…

For the floppers the story started out at the beginning of the year with “Hollywood” Kris Krabill acting like a prize fighter who got hit in the face with a straight right hand and got hacked off, and then proceeded to lay a first class ass whupping on the field at Bakersfield.

That modus operandi continued in Boise at the Ignitor, with Krabill qualifying about mid pack and then on Sunday he and crew chief “Uncle Bucky” Austin gave the field another thrashing.

However, the race at Salt Lake City washed out back in June, and that might have put a hitch in the Krabill momentum.

A month or so after the rainout in SLC, at an independent show in Spokane an interloper arrived on scene. Not really a true interloper but an outside force that has not been seen much on the Heritage Series in a couple of years. Tim Boychuk came to Spokane and cleaned up, then proceeded to go to the Heritage Series event at Mission, British Columbia, Canada, and once again, Boychuk had the rule of the roost by taking that win as well. That win put Boychuk in fifth place in points.

Speaking of points, Krabill holds a 120-point lead over another Canadian player, Ryan Hodgson, who holds down second place. The point battle from second down to tenth place is truly a back ally dogfight as 90 points separate second to tenth places. Third is former champion Dan Horan, fourth is last year’s champ Steven Densham, followed by Boychuk. Holding down the sixth position is Cory Lee, followed by Don Hudson, Richard Townsend, Tim Nemeth and in tenth is another IHRA interloper, Mark Sanders.

This year at the Nightfires will feature like the top fuel field an eight-car show for the floppers. This should tighten the screws just a bit more. Especially if one or more of the teams decide to forgo a qualifying session and not get a read on the racetrack.

There will be a first at the Nightfires in the Funny Car division. There is also going to be a “B” show. The first four non-qualified racers will get a chance at what circle track racers call the Hooligan (a second chance race). Winner will get a trophy and some cash, I would suspect. This is an extra benefit for those racers who make the tow to Idaho, and for those spectators in attendance.

Once again, there is scheduled to be an eight-car field of fuel altereds running on a 6.20-second index.

This year is the 45th year of the Nightfire Nationals, and as someone who will be attending his 22nd Nightfires, it has grown and changed throughout the years. It has matured, yet the vibe of good old fashion drag racing is still in abundance.

Besides where else can you get a double-double and a half-pound of ice cream for less than a sawbuck? Then go sit back and watch some good nitro racing from a nice lawn on the side of the hill, on a beautiful August evening. Can’t beat it.

The Idaho fan base never disappoints, showing up in strong numbers. This could be a real barnburner of an event. If you can’t make the trip, monitor the DRO Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.