race reports

The 49th Annual Nitro Ignitor at Boise, Idaho


Words and photos by Brian Losness

Kris Krabill (near lane) and Jeff Arend met in the first round.


It is hard to image that for the past 49 years the opening race for the NHRA’s Division 6 points calendar has been at Firebird Raceway. The other fun fact that goes along with that is that this event has had a companion co-headliner in the form of nitro cars competing in their own organic event.


Over the years this has been in the form of front-motored Top Fuel dragsters, fuel altereds, and of course Funny Cars in both big show and now nostalgia flavors.


The nitro shows are based on eight-car fields, and for the most part usually between eight and ten cars make the trip to Idaho. This year, however, was an exception… for the better.


There were predictions of 14 to 15 cars making the event. In actuality, a baker’s dozen showed up for the show. Which means that there were still going to be five cars that would not be able to play on Sunday.


However, the car count was not the only item that was a positive. On the free Thursday test and tune session the weather was perfect, about 65 degrees and a sub-100 track temperature.

California’s Dan Horan and his David Fears-tuned Camaro literally took all the oxygen out of the room with their 5.71 and a track record speed of 261.27 mph. That performance was going to be indicative of what was going to happen the rest of the weekend.


When qualifying started on Friday afternoon a group of twelve made their way to the starting line. Once again, the weather was perfect and that showed up in the performances turned in by the teams.

This time it was Horan’s former crew chief, Ron Swearingen, who is the tuner of Don Hudson’s “California Hustler” driven by big show journeyman Jeff Arend. Arend drove the bright yellow Tran Am to a 5.68-second, 251.63-mph lap to be the leader in the club house.


He was followed by Horan at 5.75/248.52. The third spot was held down by Sturgeon County, Alberta, Canada’s Ryan Hodgson, and his Bob Papernick-tuned Camaro at 5.77/248.16.


Rounding out the eight-car show was Kent, Washington’s (via Southern California) “Hollywood” Kris Krabill in the Rick Akers Camaro at 6.17/241.20.


Saturday was scheduled for two qualifying attempts. The weather was getting a bit warmer, and therefore, the corrected altitude would start to climb as the air was getting slightly worse. This would mean that 5.60’s would be out of the question, however cars running in the 70’s and 80’s would not be out of the question.


As qualifying concluded the action was exciting and cars were getting bumped out of the field and then bumping back in.


Edmonton, Alberta, Canada’s Tim Boychuk started Saturday in the number six slot at 5.95, and after the second session Boychuk’s Twig Ziegler-tuned Camaro would step up to a 5.89, however this was only going to be good for the number nine slot. Putting the pressure on the team to find some more as the thinking in the pits was that the bump could be either an .86 or and .85 to get into the show. The advantage Boychuk has is that Ziegler has a plethora of nitro funny car racing experience. And at times it almost is like Twig likes the pressure. Again, the veteran tuner delivered his end of the deal, and the former long-haul trucker and sprint car driver Boychuk held up his end of the bargain and the “Happy Hour” Camaro went from out to in as Boychuk ran a 5.80 at 239.82 and put him solidly in at number six.


This pushed out Jim Broome’s Speed Sport Omni with Jim Maroney at the wheel. Arend would stay number one with his earlier 5.68. Boychuk’s run would put Krabill back on the bump with a 5.86/244.69. This would make it the quickest field in Ignitor history.


With thirteen cars, some of the lesser funded teams were looking for other victories. Such as the Rice Brothers from Pocatello, Idaho. It was basically a home game for the team. With brother Jon doing the driving the team recorded one of their best runs at 6.29/224.36. The big thing was there was no parts damage, and the car was in one piece.

Can you tell the Rice team is from Idaho?


“This is like a win for us,” said a smiling Jon Rice, “We can now go to Spokane in a few weeks and see how much better we can run. We only run a few times a year.”


This will be less now for the team with the track in Salt Lake City being closed, but it was a good showing for the family Rice effort.


The pairings would shape up as: Arend vs Krabill; number 2 Hodgson against Marc Meadors; number 3 Horan versus Boychuk; and the final pair would be former sand racer Billy Morris against Bobby Cottrell.


Sunday again dawned with some very comfortable temperatures and a very high thin cloud layer over the track.


The first pair would pit Horan and Boychuk. Boychuk would move first and by two hundred feet the gap was a car length. Boychuk was first to all the timers except for the finish line as the engine dropped two cylinders about five seconds into the run, and this allowed Horan to sneak by for the win. Margin of victory thirteen thousandths of a second.


Next would be Hodgson and Meadors. Meadors ran into the Hodgson/Papernick buzz saw. Hodgson was out first at .095 and combined with the guy with bright white hair, tune up, and a 5.67-258.52 simply covered up Meador solid 5.87-237.46 effort.


The third pair on paper should have been easy to guess as number one Arend would face number eight Krabill. But we don’t drag race on paper. At the green “Hollywood” was up on the wheel and went .056 on the tree as the La Verne, California-based Arend was .102, but the “California Hustler” was doing just that as Arend was guiding Swearingen’s tune up in an attempt to catch “Hollywood.”


At the stripe the win light blinked in Krabill’s lane and then was enveloped in oil smoke, as there was some engine damage incurred on the run. The tail of the tape, Krabill 5.71/252.52 to Arend’s 5.68/253.95. MOV eighteen ten-thousandths of a second.

The final pair pitted Cottrell and Morris. This was over before it really started as Morris in the “Problem Child” had an issue with the throttle cable which prevented proper activation, and this allowed Cottrell an uncontested win 5.76/256.60 to Morris’ 11.57/71.90.

Round two which would have Krabill and Cottrell matching up. There is some history between these two with Krabill being the former and Cottrell the current driver for Bucky Austin. There was a buzz in the air as the teams pulled into the water box.


Cottrell was .059 on the light and Krabill was .077, however, before the Cottrell’s bright green Camaro got to the Christmas Tree, it knocked the tires loose, and Cottrell peddled the throttle a couple of times in an attempt to catch back up, but Krabill was streaking to the finish line. However, at about 1200 feet a main bearing broke and locked up the crankshaft. (No Bueno)

The resulting engine explosion eviscerated the black Camaro carbon fiber body, sending parts and pieces into sub orbit. Covered in oil and fire, Krabill did a masterful job of keeping the car straight and getting it stopped right in front of the Firebird Safety team stationed at the turn off. “Hollywood” punched out of the car and was none the worst for wear.


In the other lane Cottrell in his attempt to catch back up with Krabill now had to do his best Lewis Hamilton impression dodging left and right to avoid all the carnage that was raining into his lane. Cottrell unfortunately did collect a couple sizeable pieces and the car sustained some damage to the nose of the car.


After the clean up, which was done very quickly and efficiently by the combined efforts of the Firebird Safety Team and the NHRA Division Six team, the other semifinal was rolled out. This would be the race that would decide the winner of the event as it was unlikely Krabill and Akers would be able to repair the extensive damage to the car.

Hodgson and Horan would line up for the win. Again, the bearded Canadian was up on the wheel and was .095 at the tree, and it was pretty much over right there as Horan was .165, then the red and white Camaro shook the tires and Hodgson would train length his opponent with 5.76 at 256.60.


NHRA rules mandate that Hodgson would have to stage the car under power and take the tree.


There was a couple of teams who offered Akers and Krabill their bodies, however most of the bodies are mounted differently from one to another, and there really was no time to make such major structural changes.


Ryan Hodgson


So as the final was call, the Hodgson team pulled to the starting line, did the burnout, then took the green and the win.


Not only did the professional cars set records, but sportsman cars were also running extremely quick and fast. There were some top dragsters (both coincidently from Montana) who were running in the 6.13-6.16 second range in nearly 4,000 feet of corrected air. Nothing to sneeze at.


If the weather would cooperate in August, which it has sometimes in the past, there could be flopper and FMTF cars in the fifties. An exciting possibility.


The next stop for the Heritage Series funny car teams is June for the Holley National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, KY.


Here are the Sportsman Results for the Ignitor:

Comp: Ryan Warter (near lane), Olalla, Wash., .069, 8.93, 152.90 def. Lucky Snyder, Longmont, Colo., .143, 8.35, 153.81.

Super Stock: Rod Stults, Marysville, Wash., .042, 11.46 (11.23 dial under) 100.03 def. Cody Lane, North Bend, Wash., -.014 foul, 9.54 (8.90 dial) 112.39.

Stock: Scott Burton, Golden, Colo., .035, 9.93 (9.91 dial) 126.02 def. Joe Sorenson, Woodburn, Ore., .069, 11.44 (11.43 dial) 114.42.

Super Comp: Parker Theobald, St. George, Utah, .021, 9.17 (9.15 index) 172.89 def. Chris Barton, Deer Park, Wash., .037, 9.18, 176.10.

Super Gas: Mike Coltrin (near lane), Boise, .024, 10.16 (10.15 index) 156.61 def. Greg Hehr, Ravendale, Wash., .030, 10.16, 110.42.

Top Dragster: Duston Wurtz (far lane), Nampa, .012, 7.41 (7.37 dial) 181.23 def. Shane Molinari, Battle Ground, Wash., .025, 6.28 (6.30 dial) 221.23.

Top Sportsman: Marty Castagno (near lane), Grantsville, Utah, .032, 7.30 (7.28 dial) 190.94 def. Frank Tamez, Yakima, Wash., .037, 7.59 (7.54 dial) 181.15.

Sportsman Motorcycle: Kahea Woods, Las Vegas, Nev., .016, 8.95 (8.89 dial) 143.43 def. David Wheeler, Murray, Utah, .112, 9.22 (9.23 dial) 146.65.


Super Street: Brian Phillips Jr., Walla Walla, Wash., .038, 11.14 (11.15 index) 144.81 def. Francesca Giroux, Slave Lake, Alta., .039, 11.10, 143.37.


Super Pro: Butch Warner, Nampa, .024, 8.41 (8.40 dial) 164.21 def. Victor Clark, Boise, .028, 8.05 (7.58 dial) 123.51.


Pro: Seth McLean, Nampa, .050, 12.11 (12.04 dial) 95.74 def. Chris Hall, Brigham City, Utah, -.025 foul, 9.49 (9.54 dial) 141.47.


Heavy: Glen Phillips, Middleton, .010, 12.56 (12.45 dial) 108.87 def. Mike Ritz, Boise, -.006 foul, 12.25 (12.27 dial) 113.70.  



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