His name is Jason Rupert, and right now he is the most dominating figure in the world of nostalgia Nitro Funny Car racing.
Rupert, who hails from Yorba Linda, Calif., is certainly no stranger to winning championships. The 42-year-old is the three-time reigning NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series champion in Nitro Funny Car campaigning the Mert Littlefield and Bays and Rupert Tribute machines. And now Rupert has set his sights on a new challenge, one that has seen his popularity skyrocket like never before – an IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series title.
Essentially an all-star lineup consisting of the world’s best nostalgia Nitro Funny Car teams, Rupert is currently the series points leader with the IHRA, sitting 113 points clear of second place. Through three complete races, Rupert has paced the field with three pole positions and three final rounds, taking home an Ironman on two occasions.
In fact, the only misstep so far in Rupert’s amazing 2014 campaign, one that has seen him hold an 88 percent round winning percentage, was when his car couldn’t make the call for the finals of the third race of the season.
It has been a dream start for the California native, one that would have most drivers jumping for joy. But not Rupert. As calm and unassuming a driver as you will ever find currently dominating a class, Rupert likes to step back and let it all soak in. After all, as quickly as his success has come, he knows it can all be gone just as fast.
“We feel really good about where we are right now and are proud of the success we have had so far this year, but everyone on the team has been racing long enough to know that it is a hard thing to keep going,” Rupert said. “There is always someone out there who is going to whoop up on you, so we are enjoying every minute of the amazing run we are on.”
Behind the wheel of the Bays and Rupert “Black Plague” 1969 Camaro, Rupert has set his sights on a fourth consecutive Nitro Funny Car championship and the first as part of the brand new NFC program with the IHRA. Through three races, Rupert has a season-best pass of 5.703 seconds at 252.38 miles per hour, both good enough for the new IHRA national event records had they been backed up.
He has qualified first at each of the first three events this season, plus a fourth when counting the rained-out event in West Palm Beach, Florida two weeks ago, with two wins over “Mr. Explosive” Mark Sanders and John “Bodie” Smith in the “Jungle Jim” machine. His only loss came to Mike McIntire Jr. in the “McAttack” Camaro when his car failed to make the call in the finals.
So what is Rupert’s secret to success? Not much of a secret at all, as it turns out.
“Right now my guys are doing a really good job maintaining the car and keeping it consistent. It is a lot of hard work, especially going to all of these tracks that we have never run at, but my guys are doing an amazing job with the car and the tune-up, which makes my job easy,” Rupert said. “We have been fortunate to hit the ground running, but a lot of these other guys out here, they can step up at any time and do the same thing. I treat every one of my competitors the same. They are all great racers who can beat you at any time.”
Of course, it hasn’t all been work for Rupert and the gang. They have all enjoyed a little R&R this season as well, giving them a great opportunity to soak in this great start.
“To be perfectly honest, this has been an amazing journey and has actually turned into a little mini-vacation,” Rupert said. “We have visited a lot of new places and I have been sightseeing at most of the places we go. Now I get an opportunity to race at Rockingham Dragway, a place I have always wanted to race at.”
The West Coast native will make his debut at the track known as The Rock May 17-18 for the IHRA Nitro Jam Spring Nationals as he gets back to work against his usual competition, plus the return of a new foe who should really mix things up. Three-time IHRA Nitro Jam Funny Car champion Peter Gallen in the “Poverty Stricken” Vega will make his 2014 debut at Rockingham Dragway against a field that will include the likes of Sanders, McIntire, Tim Boychuk, Bruce Litton, John Hale, Mike Halstead and more.
Gallen is the current record holder in the class and has been a dominating force with the IHRA since the sanctioning body debuted the nostalgia machines as part of their regular lineup back in 2010. Now Gallen will try and break up the "Black Plague" party as a dozen drivers in the Nitro Funny Car ranks look to add an Ironman to their collection in a historical showdown at Rockingham Dragway this weekend.
“I remember watching old races at Rockingham Dragway and have always thought it would be neat to race there. Now I will have that opportunity in a great environment with the IHRA,” Rupert said. “I love the atmosphere here, you can tell the fans are really enjoying it. And we can’t wait to put on a great show for the fans in Rockingham this weekend.”
Rupert will look to keep his streak alive and extend his points lead this Saturday and Sunday at Rockingham Dragway. Tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the gate for the return of the IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series to Rockingham Dragway.
CLICK HERE for tickets to the 2014 IHRA Nitro Jam Spring Nationals at Rockingham Dragway