After Ohio was baked with record high temperatures in July, the cooldown arrived in time for the 35th Annual Auto Plus Night Under Fire at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, with a capacity crowd enjoying temperatures in the 60s and 70s.
John Force, "Courtney's dad," was the number one qualifier in Funny Car and defacto winner due to a weather-shortened event. Force was also the Night Under Fire champion in 2009. Force's daughter Courtney, fresh off her first professional win last weekend at an NHRA race, came in second.
The elder Force was racing the patriotic-themed "American Pride" Funny Car which will be retired forever after the Night Under Fire. 1,500 1:24 scale die-cast replicas were made, available for purchase from Summit Motorsports Park while supplies last.
In Jet Dragster, Jill Canuso was number one after a blistering 301.00 mph pass in just 5.196 seconds.
Bob Motz wrapped up the first pro session in his jet-powered Kenworth semi truck, going 215.93 mph at 6.987 seconds.
Opening ceremonies were spectacular with a flyover featuring a World War II B-25 Mitchell bomber escorted by three SNJ fighter planes. Pre-race driver introductions are a tradition at the Night Under Fire and the capacity crowd cheered as NHRA drivers were introduced including both Forces, Buckeye native Jim Head, Alexis DeJoria, Jeff Arend and 2008 Night Under Fire winner Dan Wilkerson.
Rain shortened the event after the first pro session and after a wait for the weather to clear, the trigger on the fireworks got pulled around 10:30 pm. Most of the crowd stayed to watch the fireworks which lasted more than 20 minutes. Earlier, rain had stopped falling but the dew point had dropped to the point where moisture in the air prevented the track from getting totally dry, which is necessary for 300-mph cars.
Bill Bader, Jr. president of Summit Motorsports Park, made an announcement that tickets will be on sale soon for the 36th Annual Auto Plus Night Under Fire scheduled for August 2013, and fans can get a 50% credit towards next year's ticket purchase due to the weather.
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