Friday, July 30, 2010

Friendly Rivals Add Flare To Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car Field

Gallen and Nichols in dead heat for inaugural Nitro Jam Prostalgia championship

NORWALK, Ohio (July 29, 2010) – From the stands it certainly looks like just an ordinary race.

Peter Gallen, in his purple Vega, rolls into the staging beams. Across from him sits a bright yellow Camaro driven by Steve Nichols. The pair pushes forward, carefully monitoring who will flinch first. The green light flashes. In an instant they are away.
At the stripe it is Nichols by a nose, but this race isn’t over just yet. Gallen, who moments ago wanted nothing more than to destroy his opponent, also wants to be the first to congratulate him after a hard earned victory. Today it was Nichols who proved the fastest, tomorrow who knows.

Welcome to the fun and unique world of Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car racing.

Gallen (front) and Nichols are never far apart, either on the track or in the pits

“What can I say? We are racers,” Gallen said following an epic showdown between himself and Nichols at the recent MOPAR Nitro Jam Nationals in Grand Bend. “When we put our helmets on we want to rip each others lungs out, but other than that we are pretty friendly with one another. It is just the nature of the sport.

“It is nice to have somebody you are comfortable with and will have your back. We can borrow from each other and not think twice about it. It is also nice to have someone with a fast car you can really feel good about beating – and boy do we enjoy beating that yellow car.”

Added at the beginning of this year, the Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car class has become an overwhelming hit with fans and drivers alike as these easily recognizable, very quick nitro machines put on an amazing show at Nitro Jam events across the country. And like the unique cars, elaborate designs and fun nicknames adorning the sides of the cars are the drivers themselves, a collection wildly entertaining and talented individuals who have made a living match racing and putting rubber to the pavement wherever their services are needed next.

It hasn’t always been easy not having a permanent home, but the experiences gained elsewhere have created unique bonds and unlikely friendships that have spilled over into Nitro Jam this season as part of the restructured series.

Gallen has one of the most consistent Prostalgia Funny Cars in drag racing today

“It makes it fun. We are all very competitive, but we are all also willing to help,” Nichols said. “Everyone is different, obviously, but that is what makes it fun. We have people who are just racers and are there to win and we have others who are there to have a good time.

“I mean we are all working hard to make our machines go and most of these guys will help you in a minute, but when you get out there to race we are racing and we are there to win. Ultimately, no matter the person, that is really what it is all about.”

And when it comes to friendly rivalries and unique competition no one fits that bill more than Nichols and Gallen.

Having met for the first time at a Good Guys race in Indianapolis last year, the pair have become good friends over the past year traveling with the Nitro Jam tour and have together been pushed into the limelight as two of the fastest and most consistent cars on the series.

And what a year it has been.

A successful trip out west has given Nichols the championship lead

Combined the duo have won half of the races in 2010 and are currently first and second in points. Gallen has four wins and is 13-3 in competitive rounds, while Nichols has two wins and is 17-7 in round-by-round competition. Combined the pair have faced one another five times this year, with Gallen winning three of those meetings.

Nichols, on the other hand, has been the only driver able to keep up with the “Poverty Stricken” machine, having handed Gallen two of his three round losses so far this year. Thanks to that, and a successful trip out west, Nichols currently holds a 66 point lead over his friend and rival.

Together the pair have formed a deadly duo as close friends off the track, but on the track you won’t find a pair more likely to trade paint and run each other into the wall just like the thousands of oval track racers across the country. And that, combined with two wildly differing personalities, has placed Nichols and Gallen on a stage all their own on the Nitro Jam tour.

“It is a friendly rivalry as far as I am concerned. We pit near each other and kind of help each other out,” Gallen said. “It is nice, to be honest with you. I actually don’t leave the pits much, my wife is the social one. I like to keep to myself most of the time, but Steve is close by and that makes it easy to work together and, if needed, kick his ass a little.”

While the pair has met sporadically over the year, their rivalry reached a fevered pitch at the most recent Nitro Jam in Grand Bend. After toying with different combinations throughout the weekend the two racers met both nights in the Prostalgia NFC final, splitting the series with one win apiece.

Gallen took nearly 20 years off to raise his family before returning to racing in 2009

“I have to give credit to that yellow car, that is one of baddest hot rods here,” Gallen said following his victory. “Steve is an experienced tuner, he is a fantastic driver and, while you never say you are afraid of someone, I greatly respect that team. You got a guy that leaves on time and a car that is very, very fast. That is a heck of a combination.”

“We are simply trying to keep up and have some fun,” Nichols added. “At the end of the day I have the utmost respect for that man and his driving and tuning abilities. No one on this planet is more consistent and fast. When I look at that team I know that they have got it. We call it the bracket car and you have to be on your game because he is going to be consistent.”

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Gallen is just getting back into the sport while Nichols is a longtime competitor in the class. Gallen took the better part of the last two decades off to raise his children before deciding to return to the track last year.

“To be honest with you when you take 18 or 19 years off and have this crazy pipe dream of putting together a nitro car and to have the success we have had is unreal,” Gallen said. “I told my guys last year that they have no idea how good a year we had and I don’t think we can duplicate it and then here we are this year doing even better. I would never have dreamt we would be as successful as we have been.”

Nichols, on the other hand, has been steadily getting better over the past few years culminating with what he hopes is a championship season in 2010.

Riding with a Hemi for the first time, Nichols has struggled to find consistency through the early portion of the season

“The year, for us, has been a learning curve. I have run a Chevrolet for five years coming into this season, but this year we came out with the Hemi for the first time. I know it is the motor of choice, but I am a Chevy guy so it has been a bit of a struggle,” Nichols said. “I was talked into running the Hemi and right now we are running our race against ourselves. We still have some things we are trying and hopefully we can get rid of these gremlins.

“Still, we are enjoying the heck out of the season. We just want to thank the IHRA for the shot they took this year. I am excited and glad to be a part of the IHRA and the success they have had this year.”

Nichols also said that while most of the attention over the past few weeks has been focused on Gallen and himself, the rest of the Prostalgia group is quickly making up ground.

With only four races remaining the rivalry between the two should continue to heat up

“I know that Pete and myself are getting a lot of attention right now, but I still give accolades to all the other guys,” Nichols said. “They are all out there working just as hard and they all do a great job. I want those guys to know that I think the world of them.”

With only four races remaining this season, the duo of Nichols and Gallen have unfinished business as they go head-to-head for the inaugural Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car championship beginning at the Northern Nitro Jam at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Mich. in mid-August.

And no matter what happens you can at least count on one thing – this rivalry won’t slow down anytime soon.

“Peter and that group have a great team and that is why they have more trophies than me,” Nichols said. “But we are going to change that in Michigan.”