Nostalgia AA/FC drag racing hit new heights at the 53rd Annual NAPA Auto Parts Ignitor, held at the historic Firebird Raceway from May 17-19, 2024. This year, the oldest professional racing event in the Pacific Northwest played host to a historic moment. Nathan Sitko, driving the Hodgson Racing’s Bubble Up Firebird, broke track records and left an indelible mark in the NHRA Division 6 Lucas Oil Drag Race Series.

A Weekend Steeped in Racing Tradition

The NAPA Auto Parts Ignitor is more than just a race; it’s a celebration of drag racing heritage. Steeped in over four decades of tradition, the inaugural Ignitor was captured by Don “the Snake” Prudhomme (in addition to a victory in `78). The winner of the inaugural Ignitor back in 1971 was none other than Don “the Snake” Prudhomme with his Hot Wheels Funny Car.

Coincidence or not? The Hodgson Racing’s Bubble Up Firebird previously held the Firebird Raceway track record with a 5.56 ET and just so happens this weekend marks 56 years ago Mattel introduced the first releases of Hot Wheels on May 18th, 1968, featuring the legendary Don “the Snake” Prudhomme.

Other Ignitor Funny Car champions have included the likes of Jerry Ruth (`72, `74), Ed McCulloch (`75, `76), Gary Densham (`90), Roland Leong’s Hawaiian (`73, `80) and many others.

In fact, the last time the event amassed the largest field of AA/Funny Cars was the Ignitor Nationals back in 1981, which saw “240 Gordie” Bonin defeat Henry Harrison in the final round.

Setting the Stage for History

Nathan Sitko and the Hodgson Racing’s Bubble Up Firebird team came into the event with a mission: to break their previous Firebird Raceway track record of 5.564 ET. The team faced initial setbacks, breaking down after their burnout in the first round of qualifying. However, they bounced back in the second round with an impressive 5.664 elapsed time, securing the number two spot. Then in the third round, they held onto their position with a 5.63 ET.

Record-Breaking Performance

In the first round of eliminations, Sitko and the Bubble Up Firebird lived up to their reputation and more. They recorded a breathtaking 5.510 ET at 262.69 MPH, shattering both ends of Firebird Raceway’s track record. This run not only broke their previous record but also set the quickest run (ET) and fastest speed (MPH) ever in an AA/Funny Car in the NHRA Heritage Series.

Why is this significant? The previous record in the AA/FC NHRA Heritage Series was held by Mike McIntire in the McAttack 1970 Camaro, with an elapsed time of 5.549 seconds and a speed of 253.61 MPH, set during the 2017 Bakersfield March Meet. Sitko’s performance eclipsed these numbers, solidifying his place in drag racing history.

The Semi-Finals and Final Round Triumph

The semi-finals saw Nathan Sitko face off against Kris Krabill. Sitko clocked a 5.654 ET at 253.99 MPH, securing the win and advancing to the final round. In a thrilling AA/Funny Car final, Nathan Sitko’s run of 5.55 ET at 256.94 MPH outpaced Bobby Cottrell, who finished with a 5.68 ET at 253.33 MPH. This victory marked Nathan Sitko’s first time racing at Firebird Raceway as the driver of the Bubble Up Firebird—a truly unforgettable debut.

The Legacy Continues

Nathan Sitko’s record-breaking run stands as a testament to the relentless pursuit of excellence that defines Hodgson Racing/Pacemaker. This achievement not only cements their legacy at Firebird Raceway but also sets a new benchmark for future AA/FC drag racers.