FRIDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2013
After a two-year absence, drag racing’s signature vehicles will return to Steve Earwood’s Rockingham Dragway next year along with a revamped and re-branded IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series (NJDRS).
The IHRA Spring Nationals will be contested at ‘The Rock’ May 15-18, 2014 as one of the cornerstones of a NJDRS that will feature nitro Funny Cars, nitro-burning fuel altereds and nitro Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
The return of the Spring Nationals, an event that can trace its origins to 1967, has the owner of the historic Carolina track more excited than he’s been in years.
“Our last Spring Nationals was in 2011,” Earwood said, “but we still get weekly calls from spectators inquiring about the nitro cars and when we’re bringing back the Saturday fire-and-thunder show. Now we have an answer for them.
“Everybody at ‘The Rock’ is ecstatic that we’re going to once again be playing host to some of the fastest-accelerating vehicles on the planet. Nitro cars and the famous “jet truck,” what could be better?”
Earwood reluctantly withdrew from the series in 2011 after the IHRA decided to take a detour away from traditional racing to explore a more entertainment-based program.
The revised format proposed by the new ownership of the IHRA combines traditional qualifying and eliminations with selected carry-over entertainment elements.
“This is just a matter of listening to the customer,” said Aaron Polburn, president of IHRA Motorsports. “The Nitro Jam format was successful as evidenced by our growth. Our fans loved the show, but wanted to see more professional racing. What the end result turned out to be was a hybrid of Nitro Jam and traditional IHRA professional racing plus a greatly-expanded pit experience. I think the end product will be extremely fun to watch.
“We are thrilled to return to ‘The Rock’ with our nitro and fire racing spectacular,” Polburn said. “The Spring Nationals was always one of the IHRA’s most iconic events (so) this is like a homecoming.”
“There is so much great racing that has taken place at ‘The Rock’ over the years,” said Jason Rittenberry, President and CEO of IRG Sports + Entertainment, which purchased the IHRA earlier this year, “and we are more than thrilled to be bringing the IHRA Spring Nationals and the IHRA NJDRS back to Rockingham.”
The Spring Nationals began as an NHRA tour event at Bristol Dragway in Bristol, Tenn., before track developed Larry Carrier created the IHRA in 1971. Ironically, the first event ever contested in the IHRA series was the IHRA Pro-Am Nationals staged at Rockingham Dragway.
The event was contested continuously at Bristol through 1997. After a one-year absence, it was resurrected at Rockingham in 1999.
“This is a great fit for our schedule,” Earwood said. “We pride ourselves on providing something for everyone and, frankly, without the nitro cars, we haven’t been able to deliver that one segment of our audience. To be able to do that again is really gratifying and we look forward to working with Jason, Aaron, IHRA Vice-President Skooter Peaco and the entire staff to make this the biggest event in the series.”
The new format would include nostalgia nitro Funny Cars, nitro Harley-Davidsons and nitro fuel altereds, throwbacks to the drag racing’s golden era. One of the most unique aspects of the new series will be a jet dragster division featuring only women drivers.
The event also will include a full complement of IHRA Pro Am categories including Top Dragster, Top Sportsman and Super Stock along with two days of points racing in the IHRA Summit SuperSeries.
According to Earwood, an announcement will be forthcoming on when advance tickets to the Spring Nationals will be available for purchase.
The Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is an economic development organization and non-profit authority of Moore County, North Carolina. The CVB mission is to promote the area as a destination for visitors, meetings, conventions and tours. The CVB is funded primarily by a three percent hotel / motel room occupancy tax paid by visitors to Moore County.