BATON ROUGE, La. – Through four races Ron Maroney was darn near unbeatable. That is, until he met Mike Hilsabeck.
In Hilsabeck's Nitro Jam debut, the Fuel Altered racer out of Phoenix, Ariz., upset undefeated Maroney in an exciting final that saw the driver of the "Arizona Thunder" win in a pedalfest to bring the opening night of the Mardi Gras Nitro Jam presented by Domino's Pizza at State Capitol Raceway to a close.
Hilsabeck was joined by winners Bill Evans in Pro Fuel and Jay Turner in Nitro Harley on the first night of action at the Louisiana track. Nitro Jam's AMSOIL Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car class was cut short of its final because of moisture on the track.
Hilsabeck, a legend in the Fuel Altered category, produced two strong rounds to drive around Kyle Hough in round one before meeting Maroney in the final. With the exciting – and rather late – evening crossing over into a new day, Hilsabeck and Maroney engaged in a pedal fest that saw Hilsabeck clock a run of 9.072 seconds at 156.73 mph behind the wheel of his '23 Roadster to Maroney's 10.250 at 146.17 seconds.
In the consolation round Hough drove around Tom Padilla to pick up the round win.
In Nitro Harley, North Carolina native Jay Turner continued his undefeated streak to six in a row with a victory over Canadian Mike Scott. Turner defeated Louisiana's own Randal Andras in the opening tilt before matching up with Scott in the final. Turner ran a 6.852 at 156.16 seconds in the final to pick up his third Ironman trophy of the year.
Defending champion Steve Dorn defeated Andras in the consolation pairing.
Evans wrapped up Friday's professional categories with two strong runs beginning with an opening-round win over Robin Samsel. Evans was scheduled to lock horns with Cherissa Smallwood in the final, but Smallwood failed to fire and Evans was able to power down the track in an easy win to pick up his 10th career Nitro Jam victory.
Nitro Jam's most recent race winner Kristen Dennis recorded the consolation round win over Samsel.
Brad Thompson and James Day, driving Louisiana's famous Candies & Hughes machine, were scheduled to meet in the AMSOIL Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car final, but moisture on the track prevented the pair from competing their final runs.
Friday's Mardi Gras Nitro Jam opener also featured a round of Outlaw Pro Modified racing as Denham Springs, La. native Al Suggs rocketed to the top of the qualifying charts with a blistering 3.981 at 181.48 mph run in the 1/8 mile. Last year's winner Joe Palmisano was second on the charts with a 4.239, 173.14 followed by Joseph Mohana, Bill Doucet and Delaney Weaver.
In the final pass of the evening the world famous Grave Digger piloted by Randy Brown took two round wins over Joey Parnell in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
The Mardi Gras Nitro Jam presented by Domino's Pizza will continue on Saturday with the final day of professional competition in Pro Fuel Dragster, Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car, Nitro Harley and Fuel Altered in addition to two more rounds of Outlaw Pro Modified qualifying and hundreds of sportsman racers in competition. Saturday's Mardi Gras finale will also include jet dragsters, jet funny cars, the Chevy Rebellion wheelstander and the monster truck showdown between Grave Digger and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in addition to all the nitro action.
Gates open at 2 p.m. with FanFest scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and two more rounds of Nitro Jam at 8 p.m.