Friday, August 03, 2012

U.S. 131 Motorsports Park celebrates 50 years at Nitro Jam


Funny Car's fastest man Peter Gallen a big part of Nitro Jam, U.S. 131 history

MARTIN, Mich. (August 3, 2012) – In the spring of 1962 Martin Dragway opened to the fanfare of the western Michigan motorsports community.

Providing a world-class quarter-mile drag racing facility located between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Martin Dragway was a welcomed addition to the roster of great tracks in the motorsports-rich state.

For decades Martin Dragway hosted some of the biggest names in drag racing's rich history, from Rickie Smith and Shirley Muldowney to Bob Glidden, Don Garlits, John Force, Don Prudhomme and many more, on its way to becoming one of the premier racing facilities in the county. In 1986 the track, located in the small town of Martin, Mich., hosted its first IHRA national event with a one-off race and went on to become one of the most anticipated races on the schedule when it was added to the lineup fulltime in 2002.

AMSOIL Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car star Peter Gallen is a big part of U.S. 131 and Nitro Jam history

That same year the track, now known as U.S. 131 Motorsports Park, underwent $14 million in renovations turning it into one of the top motorsports destinations in the country.

Today many of the biggest teams in the straight line game travel to Martin, Mich. to test and race culminating with the annual IHRA national event each summer. This year, during the 50th anniversary celebration of U.S. 131 Motorsports Park, that history will be remembered and celebrated when the IHRA returns to the track the weekend of August 10-11 for the CarSafe Northern Nitro Jam.

Like a snapshot from the days of old, the 2012 Northern Nitro Jam will feature classic AMSOIL Prostalgia Nitro Funny Cars and Fuel Altereds just like mom and pop used to watch back in the day. In addition, race fans will also see two of the more state-of-the-art nitro-powered classes as Pro Fuel Dragsters and Nitro Harleys share the stage with the classic machines all in one weekend during the Nitro Jam season finale.

And one man that has been there through it all is Peter Gallen. 

Gallen, from Broomall, Pa., was in the final round of the very first IHRA race at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park back in 1986, falling to eventual Alcohol Funny Car champion Bunny Burkett. Not long after Gallen hung up his racing gloves for nearly two decades to raise a family, returning to the sport once again in 2010 this time behind the wheel of a nitro machine.

"Chi-Town Hustler" will be one of the famous names racing at the 2012 CarSafe Northern Nitro Jam

And in the true definition of irony Gallen, at the very same track where he took his first final, blasted down the Martin strip in August of last year with the fastest ever pass in nostalgia Funny Car history – a blistering 5.557-second lap – on his way to sealing his first career championship.

"We raced a couple of IHRA races back in the day and we even won at Bristol in 1989," Gallen said. "That year, I don't remember much about the race, but I do remember the track. What can I say? We made the final in '86 and went on to seal our first championship and set the record at the same place all these years later.

"As far as I am concerned the track in Martin is our favorite track.  We have a good history there and obviously some success. We can't wait to go there again."

Now, during the 50th anniversary celebration of U.S. 131 Motorsports Park, Gallen will once again return to the famed facility where he picked up his first final seeking his second career championship. 

"Maybe the racing gods will be with us again this year," Gallen said. "We ran 5.55 there last year and hopefully we will be able to have another big weekend this year. This place has a lot of history and obviously we have been a big part of that and we look forward to adding another piece to the puzzle next weekend."

Joining Gallen at the big show will be a collection of some of the most famous nostalgia Funny Cars in racing including the "Chi-Town Hustler" driven by Troy Martin, "Candies & Hughes" driven by Mike Savage and "All-Star Dodge" driven by Greg Jacobsmeyer. Also in action in Martin will be the "Bullet Bob" machine piloted by former IHRA champion Laurie Cannister and "McAttack" driven by Mike McIntire.

Gallen's classic "Poverty Stricken" Funny Car seen here in 1989

Behind the wheel of the "Poverty Stricken" 1977 Vega – the same name he ran on the side of his car back in the 80s – Gallen is locked in a tight battle with Savage and the "Candies & Hughes" team for the 2012 AMSOIL Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car championship.

Gallen has two wins this season, while Savage has three leading to only 13 points of separation between the two. While not in the hunt for a championship, Greg Jacobsmeyer will also be a factor as he recently went head-to-head with the fastest man in Funny Car racing and beat him in Canada last month.

"We haven't had the consistency this year that we had last year with the new car, but it is definitely coming around," Gallen said. "In Grand Bend we smoked the tires in the first final which is very uncharacteristic, but we came back in the second final and showed what we are made of. I think you will see another great race in Martin as there are some pretty strong cars in the field."

Joining the classic Funny Cars will be a field of old-timey Fuel Altereds including "Nanook", "Blind Faith", "Arizona Thunder" and "Nasty Benjamin." The battle for the Fuel Altered championship will also go down to the wire as rookie Kyle Hough in "Nanook" will try to hold off hard-charging Ron Maroney in the "Blind Faith" entry.

Bill Evans in the "Black Pearl" dragster has all but sealed up his second championship in three years in Pro Fuel Dragster, joining Jay Turner who has done the same in Nitro Harley.

All four classes will be in action Friday and Saturday night.

Don't miss a weekend of classic drag racing mixed with modern nitro excitement all with championships on the line during the CarSafe Northern Nitro Jam August 10-11 at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park.