Top Sportsman and Top Dragster classes take center stage

This is the third in a three-part series looking at the current Tournament of Champions qualifiers from the seven IHRA sportsman categories. You can find Part One here and Part Two here.

So far, the 2009 IHRA season has been filled with new and exciting changes. From a completely revamped sportsman championship system to the redesign of other thrilling sportsman programs, it is clear that sportsman racing within the confines of the International Hot Rod Association is booming like never before.

Of all the changes, however, the one that has produced the most immediate results is the decision to include the two quickest and fastest sportsman categories as a part of the professional rounds at all IHRA Nitro Jam national events. So before the fans get a chance to see 320 mile per hour dragsters and 240 mph doorslammers, they get to see some of the quickest and fastest sportsman drivers on the planet running in Top Sportsman and Top Dragster.

Not only has the inclusion of these talented drivers given fans a chance to see a bevy of new faces, but it has also given the competitors themselves a chance to race on the biggest stage in the sport. Combine that fact with the advent of the 32-car fields and the Top Sportsman and Top Dragster classes have once again reclaimed their premier status in the IHRA.

“Our goal with these classes has been to put the ‘Top’ back into them by having the best of the best make up the fields. With the 32-car fields, the classes have become quick again and it takes good runs just to qualify,” said Skooter Peaco, Vice President of Racing Operations. “The fans have been very positive towards these classes as they have been the featured sportsman categories within our professional rounds this year. It has been a great year for these classes so far.”

With an increase in exposure and tougher fields, the results have spoken for themselves. Simply put, the racing has been great and the fans have really responded to the new format.

In all, four former champions have already qualified for the new Tournament of Champions out of the Top Dragster and Top Sportsman ranks and two drivers have won multiple times.

Also of note, three drivers – all from the Top Dragster class – have qualified in multiple classes.

Beginning with the premier sportsman door car class in all of racing, the Top Sportsman class has simply been dominated by Chris Gulitti (left).

While a driver can only qualify once in their respective class, they can eliminate the competition and shrink the field with multiple wins and that is exactly what Gulitti has managed to do.

Gulitti has won three national events in ’09, winning a Nitro Jam event at Dallas Raceway, a Champion Systems Sportsman Nationals race at Pine Valley Raceway and the Summit All-Stars race at Rockingham Dragway.