Nitro Nationals, Osage Casino, Tulsa Raceway Park, Fuel Curve

Nitro Nationals Rewind – Fry, Graves and Bates Stand Tall in Tulsa

Nitromethane, fire, and fumes lit up the sky in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the annual running of the Nitro Nationals at Osage Casino Tulsa Raceway Park. The meet marked the highly anticipated return of Top Fuel to the historic facility as the NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel and A/Fuel categories were on tap along with the DRO Nostalgia Funny Car Series. Gassers, junior fuelers, pin-up girls, live music and more kept a capacity crowd entertained under sunny skies and warm weather, but the on-track action was even hotter.

Nitro Nationals, Osage Casino, Tulsa Raceway Park, Fuel Curve

Nitro Nationals, Osage Casino, Tulsa Raceway Park, Fuel Curve

California’s Jim Murphy entered the event with the NHRA Heritage Series points lead in Top Fuel over Mendy Fry, Adam Sorokin and Dusty Green. Murphy and tuner Roland Leong posted a 5.87 to qualify number two behind Jim Young’s pole-winning 5.74 at 232 mph. Fry qualified third as the ladder was set and after a first round that saw all the top qualified cars advance, the semi-finals got very interesting. Adam Sorokin used a .004 holeshot with a 5.70 at 234 mph to defeat Young’s quicker 5.68 at 260 mph sending the Champion Speed Shop entry to the final. A powerhouse match-up in the final pair of the semis brought Murphy and Fry to the line, a round that would prove pivotal in the 2017 Championship hunt. Fry’s 5.68 at 259 got the best of Murphy’s 5.89 at 211 as Sorokin and Fry were final round bound.

Nitro Nationals, Osage Casino, Tulsa Raceway Park, Fuel Curve

In the Top Fuel final, under the lights and watchful eyes of a great crowd in Tulsa, Fry’s 5.62 soundly defeated Sorokin’s 5.75 at 245 allowing Fry to make up precious ground on Murphy in the title fight. It was her second major win this season. This battle of Top Fuel heavyweights will conclude next month at the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield. With the Heritage Series Nostalgia Top Fuel Championship on the line both Murphy and Fry will be gunning for all the glory in Bako.

Nitro Nationals, Osage Casino, Tulsa Raceway Park, Fuel Curve

Twenty-seven-year-old Texan Tera Graves, the funny car division’s lone female combatant, stole the show in Nostalgia Funny Car by setting multiple career marks behind the wheel of John Hale’s “One Bad Texan,” Graves entered the event with only 11 passes under her belt in Hale’s funny car but looked like a veteran as she found her groove heading into eliminations. After posting her first five-second pass on Friday night, Graves clicked off her first 250 mph pass in the opening round of eliminations in a winning pass over Oklahoma’s Fred Farndon.

Nitro Nationals, Osage Casino, Tulsa Raceway Park, Fuel CurveGraves advanced to the final to face Paul Romine’s “Man O’ War” but mechanical issues prevented Romine from making the call. With the crowd cheering her on, Graves ran it through on a solo shot, carding a career-best 5.83 elapsed time at 207 mph scoring her first-ever win in a Nostalgia Funny Car. The victory provided a weekend Graves and company will never forget as she joined Mendy Fry in an all-female nitro winners circle.

Nitro Nationals, Osage Casino, Tulsa Raceway Park, Fuel Curve

Nitro Nationals, Osage Casino, Tulsa Raceway Park, Fuel CurveA/Fuel competition was dominated by multi-time class Champion Kin Bates from Anderson, California. A merciless performance drove Bates to the final to meet archrival Drew Austin. These two entered the event separated by only two points in the battle for the Heritage Series Championship. In the final, Austin ran into problems and had the best seat in the house to watch Bates blast to an incredible 5.97 at 231 mph to take the win, ensuring his spot atop the point standings heading into Bakersfield. This, like the Top Fuel class, will be one epic Championship battle between two of the best in the business.

Nitro Nationals, Osage Casino, Tulsa Raceway Park, Fuel CurveIt was a-rockin’ time in Tulsa as the Nitro Nationals again provided stellar racing and plenty of nitro for the fans looking for a tear-jerking’ dose of the sweet stuff. Now more than ever, vintage drag racing is providing fans with the best quarter-mile drag racing on the planet.

Nitro Nationals, Osage Casino, Tulsa Raceway Park, Fuel CurveIf you can find a way to get to Bakersfield October 20-22 for the 26th annual California Hot Rod Reunion, you will see what we’re talking about only on a larger scale as close to 400 competitors strap into battle.

Chris Graves has been involved in drag racing photography and journalism since the late 1990's and started shooting before he had a drivers license. Graves spent seven years crewing on Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars for Mitch King, Tony Pedregon and Dale Creasy Jr. After graduating from the Univ. of North Texas in 2006, Graves went full-time as a freelance photographer with wife Tera and the couple travels the country covering all forms of drag racing under his label Max Cackle Photography. Graves, track photographer at North Star Dragway in Texas, also serves as president and founder of the Southwest Heritage Racing Association and takes a few weekends off each season to pilot his blown front engine dragster in the SHRA and NHRA Heritage Series Nostalgia Eliminator 1 category.

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