The 51st Ignitor, A Damn Good Show
By Brian Losness
NHRA Heritage Series Funny Cars
May 1, 2022 Eagle, Idaho USA. Bobby Cottrell and Billy Morris in the funny car final of the NHRA Heritage Series event action at Firebird Raceway, in Eagle, Idaho. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-Nitrophoto
Bobby Cottrell holding the Wally
May 1, 2022, Eagle, Idaho USA. Bobby Cottrell holds the NHRA Wally in the winner’s circle of the NHRA Heritage Series event at Firebird Raceway, in Eagle, Idaho. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-Nitrophoto
Bobby Cottrell with tean in Winners Circle
May 1, 2022, Eagle, Idaho USA. Team Bucky Austin with driver Bobby Cottrell in the winner’s circle of the NHRA Heritage Series event at Firebird Raceway, in Eagle, Idaho. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-Nitrophoto
The Fifty-First Ignitor, held at the veritable Firebird Raceway outside of Eagle, Idaho, is the second stop for the NHRA’s Heritage Racing Series funny car series.
However, the weatherman didn’t get the memo that people were looking to go racing on Saturday, and mother nature did the springtime Idaho tease. With just enough rain to keep cars off the track but not enough to wash the event out.
Funny car teams were given two opportunities to test on Friday before the event. Based on Edmonton’s aggregate, Alberta’s Tim Boychuk was the most consistent car running 5.93 twice. Dan Horan in the Pete Kaiser tuned Infinity Plumbing Camaro was quickest at 5.91-249.26.
Ten teams were on the grounds to fight it out for eight spots on Sunday, race day.
The only qualifying session on Saturday was late in the afternoon due to persistent rain showers.
Dan Horan led the brigade with a 5.78-255.43. Sliding into the two spot was Drew Austin with a piston killing 5.81-238.81. “Hollywood” Kris Krabill took the third spot in Michael Bartone’s car 5.821-238.55. Sophomore sensation Michael Peck Jr was in the cleanup slot also at 5.82 with a five at 255.43. Top Speed of the meet at this point.
Jerry Espeseth started the bottom half of the field with a 5.84-248.39. Bobby Cottrell was a surprising sixth at 6.03-201.52 after killing a motor and suffering a brief fire. Chris Davis rounded out the field with a 6.06 240.89.
Fan-favorite Tim Boychuk also attempted to qualify; however, he was shut off by an oil leak. Jon Rice in the Nitro Spud did not try. Billy Morris attempted, however, due to some confusion after the car was shut off due to a fuel leak, the team was allowed to restart the vehicle, and the team made a run. However, after further deliberation, the run was disallowed.
The NHRA and the Firebird Management team decided that because of a more favorable forecast, and with only four sportsman classes running for this event, the decision was made that the funny cars would get an early Sunday morning, the second qualifying session.
The eleven AM session proved to be the tell for what would be possible for the day. Weather conditions were outstanding, and the track had a great deal of adhesion.
The first to show their hand was Eddie Knox and Billy Morris. While their run from Saturday was disallowed, Knox had something much more valuable. Data. The Saturday run was a shut-off early 5.90. This gave Knox a springboard to build a tune-up, and the addition of a new Victory Camaro body, Morris drove the car to a 5.63 at only 245.67 to take the pole.
Cottrell in Uncle Bucky’s green Redline Oil car slid safely into second with a 5.65-251.25. Mike Peck Jr secured third with a 5.67 at nearly 260 miles per hour. Dan Horan secured the top half of the field with his 5.780.
The bottom half of the field was anchored by Jerry Espeseth and his 5.788. Drew Austin secured sixth at 5.81 238.81. “Hollywood” Kris Krabill in the Bartone and Lebor tribute to metal flake Camaro was seventh at 5.82. Rounding out the eight-car show was Edmonton, Alberta’s Tim Boychuk, at 5.83-243.99. Chris Davis made a valiant effort at 6.05, and Idaho’s own Jon Rice damaged their only engine on the Friday test run.
All the higher qualified cars won their respective matchups in round one, except for the Drew Austin and Mike Peck Jr. showdown.
On the starting line, the third generation Austin showed his driving prowess with a solid .073 reaction time, Peck dug himself a hole with his .196, and it went downhill from there for the Woodinville Washington driver. Austin rang up a 5.73-249.95 to cover Peck’s 6.04-238.43.
In the Horan and Espeseth match, Horan gave up a tenth on the starting line to Espeseth, who was running away from the Rancho Cascades, California runner till the throttle cable broke at the throttle pedal, and Espeseth became dead in the water, giving the win back to Horan.
In the first pairing, it would be Morris and Horan, followed by a version of The Family Feud pitting Bucky Austin’s Northwest Hitter against his nephew Pat Austin.
There were great expectations for these two matchups with excellent weather and track conditions. The first match-up was over before it started as Horan was devastatingly early with a – .267 redlight to give Morris the automatic win. To further rub salt into his already open wound, Horan ran a track record 261.98 mile per hour lap, all for naught.
The Austin feud was neater and tightly. Drew put a .055 on Cottrell, who wasn’t shabby with his .068 at the start, and they were door handle to door handle till about seven hundred feet when Austin’s orange Camaro started doing the Lindsey Vonn down the left lane, and he had to lift just before the first MPH light. Cottrell took the win 5.65-253.04 to 5.81-238.93.
The final round had every possibility to be an all-time showstopper. Neither team was disappointed. It is so rare in the sport of drag racing to have two cars so evenly matched, especially when you add CH3NO2 into the fuel tank. Both cars pulled to the starting line at about half-past five in the evening. Both engines were thumping hard. The tree came down, and both Camaro’s rocketed down the racetrack; you could throw a blanket over both cars. The cars hit the stripe the scoreboards rang up 5.687… for both lanes! Morris’ reaction time was a very solid .077. Nevertheless, he was second to Cottrell’s .040. Both cars are racing at over 250 miles per hour at the finish line. Arguably one of the best final rounds in all of drag racing, let alone nostalgia.
The Fifty-First Ignitor did not disappoint. Yes, there were weather issues. However, Idaho needs the moisture. The nostalgia funny cars put on an excellent show in Idaho. The Heritage Series next scheduled event is in Bowling Green, Ohio, on June 16. Then back to Idaho in August.
Along with the restructuring of the formally known as or still to be known as, or whatever it turns out to be UNFC, this has the potential of an excellent year for nostalgia nitro racing. Remember I said “potential.”