Rupert gets win with short field

The best plans don’t always come together. This year, the second stop of the NHRA Heritage Series was at the famed Firebird Raceway in Eagle, Idaho. This race was run in conjunction with the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, Division 6 opener.

Twelve teams were pre-entered to make the trip to the high desert facility, but the number that showed up was considerably less. Two of those who didn’t make it were Roger Garten and Mark Sanders, both of whom had suffered devastating crashes at Bakersfield’s March Meet, and were still in the process of rebuilding their rides. For other teams, family engagements or business commitments had to take priority.

Among those who did make the trip were NHRA Heritage Series Champion Jason Rupert, DRO Series Champion John Hale, Twig Ziegler and his new driver Jim Obalek, “Uncle” Bucky Austin and his new shoe Ryan Davenport, Will Martin and his beautiful Ford Mustang, and Kurt Cruise in his Camaro.

With a short field, all any driver had to do was stage the car under its own power and then take the tree. Nevertheless, the best-laid plans of… well you know the rest.

In addition to the professional cars, there was the Lucas Oil Div 6 race, which attracted over 400 sportsman racers. There was the potential for great action.

On Friday, the clouds were low and heavy, and after a brief delay, qualifying began in earnest. But with the action on the track moving right along, Mother Nature decided to step in. This came in the form of a huge nasty super cell which came screaming over the track, packing forty mile per hour winds and stinging rain. To the west of the track were reports of funnel clouds on the horizon. The rain continued and a quick look at the weather radar showed rain for as far as the eye -- or in this case the radar -- could see. NRHA wisely pulled the plug and called it a day.

The sun broke through on Saturday, but it forgot to turn on the heat as the temperature was just barely in the low 40s Saturday morning. With Friday’s attempt washed, out the nitro bunch had just two attempts to make the show, but with it being a short field this would seem to be a given. Once again, however, that phrase about best-laid plans comes to mind.

In the first session, many of the crew chiefs were leery of the Firebird surface. This place is unique in that, even when the temperature is cool, the track has excellent traction as long as there is sun on the surface. Crew chiefs will often have a tendency to back the cars down too much and then the lack of horsepower combined with the excellent traction will cause tires to shake.

Five cars would make attempts: Cruise decided that he was not ready yet, so he would sit this session out. Rupert was first out and ran into that exact traction scenario. His car did a wonderful impression of a paint shaker at a hardware store, going about fifty feet and hammering the tires.