JUPITER, FL (April 16, 2011) – From start to finish, there was no stopping Joey Martin.
In front of a massive overflow crowd at Palm Beach International Raceway, Martin and his fan favorite Lowmad put together a string of incredible performances in Pro Extreme at the American Drag Racing League (ADRL) Safety-Kleen Spring Drags II.
He was the quickest car in every round, starting with Friday's first qualifying session and ending with Saturday's final, as Martin took the win with a 3.755 at 200.20 miles per hour to deny Jason Hamstra his second straight victory.
"I know I could do it," Martin said. "I knew if I got my way, I could have a winning car."
The ADRL's first trip to Florida proved to be a rousing success as an incredible fan turnout made for a memorable atmosphere during Saturday's eliminations.
Martin shared the last magic moment with the Pro Extreme win, but there were five others who savored a victory as well.
Mike Castellana's 3.828 gave him the Pro Nitrous win against Burton Auxier, while Billy Glidden picked up his ADRL record 12th event win after a solo pass wrapped up a wild day in Extreme 10.5.
Ashley Owens stayed on Glidden's heel, picking up his 11th career win in Pro Extreme Motorcycle with a 4.045 at 179.11 mph against Carlos Wilkerson. Pete Berner, meanwhile, exhaled deeply after finally earning his first ADRL win in Extreme Pro Stock following his 4.084 in the finals against Richie Stevens Jr.
In Pro Junior Dragster, J.C. Gloyd went 7.952 to knock off Kendall Thiesse.
After qualifying No. 1, Martin persevered through plenty of trouble during eliminations. He went 3.69 in a first-round win, but had to work diligently – with some extra help – to pick up wins against Gaylen Smith in the quarterfinals (3.71) and Von Smith in the semifinals (3.68).
"The last three rounds, we were thrashing," Martin said. "It was a lot of drama. (Two-time PX World Champion) Jason and Mitchell (Scruggs) really helped us. They're top-notch people."
Castellana is part of marquee team in Pro Nitrous, as he made impressive improvements throughout Saturday's eliminations.
He went 3.90 in the first round, following it up with a 3.87 in a second-round win against Jeff Naiser and a 3.83 in a semifinal victory against John Decerbo.
It was also an emotional win for Castellana, who returned to racing this year after he was diagnosed with cancer last summer. After rigorous chemotherapy treatments removed the cancer, Castellana appeared to be as good as ever behind the wheel at PBIR.
"It's an unbelievable feeling. It's just great. Really, it's hard to describe this right now," Castellana said. "Shannon (Jenkins) and the crew gave me a great car and you win with the people behind you. They really make this happen."
Jenkins' is Castellana's crew chief and close friend, and the victory made for a touching moment for the legendary "Iceman."
"This is probably one of the best races we've ever won together," Jenkins said. "To see how healthy he is, it's just great, and he hasn't lost his stride. He's still one of the best drivers out there."
The same could be said for Glidden, who continues to find a way to win in Extreme 10.5.
This might have been one of the most improbable yet. No. 1 qualifier Dan Millen went 3.92 in a semifinal victory, but his car went up in flames after crossing the finish line.
Millen escaped harm, but after the crankshaft was knocked out of the motor, the fire torched the entire front end of the car.
That ended his day, which would have included a bye run to the finals.
Instead, a semifinal matchup between Glidden and Frankie Taylor determined the winner.
Glidden's battery shut off to seemingly put a damper on his run of 4.15, but Taylor crossed the center line, automatically giving the win to Glidden, who simply had to activate the tree in the final.
"We had really good luck, but we'll take it," Glidden said. "We're just sticking to our gameplan and the car is just running really, really good for what we have."
Owens' new Fast by Gast continues to dominate in Pro Extreme Motorcycle, capping off a record-breaking weekend with his latest commanding performance.
Owens set the E.T. record on Friday (4.012), following it up with his second win of the 2011 season.
"The bike was just perfect all weekend," Owens said. "It's just so consistent. I love it. It's definitely the best bike I've ever been on."
Owens had two runs of 4.04 during eliminations, with his best being a 4.03 in a semifinal win against Richard Gadson. That set up the finals with Wilkerson, who knocked off hometown favorite Kim Morrell in the semifinals.
Owens was sure not to red light and then easily chased down Wilkerson for the win.
"We tried to push it a little in the final, but we didn't want to do anything crazy," Owens said. "We wanted to run well, but we didn't want to hurt the engine. We're just glad we got the win."
Berner felt the gamut of emotions in Extreme Pro Stock after picking up his first win in the ADRL.
"This is an unbelievable gorilla off our shoulders," Berner said. "The car is just so phenomenal right now and the guys are just working so hard. This is just awesome."
Upsets were aplenty during eliminations, but Berner was consistent throughout. He really shined under the lights, going 4.079 in a semifinal win against Trevor Eman, setting up another strong run in the finals.
"All I was concerned with was duplicating my previous laps," Berner said. "I just didn't want to go red and wanted to keep running consistent lights. This is quite an experience."
The ADRL returns to action on May 6-7 with the Penske Truck Leasing Inaugural Northeast Drags, which takes place at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa. It will be the ADRL's first trip to Maple Grove.
Photos by Roger Richards