Lisa Bolton knew that it was her against the world.
Bolton knew that in the long, prestigious history of the Moser Axle-Mania Sportsman Showdown no footbrake racer had ever won IHRA’s richest sportsman race. She knew no woman had ever won it either. Add in the fact that Bolton’s final round opponent was Cameron Manuel, one of the hottest drivers in sportsman racing today, and Bolton knew it was going to be a tough task.
But it isn’t always what you know, it is what you do.
Bolton stunned the Moser Axle-Mania field on Sunday, racing her way to a victory in one of the richest sportsman races in the country over Manuel and pocketing a cool $22,500 in the process at the IHRA Northern Nitro Jam at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park.
“I never thought this would be possible. This is just an incredible moment,” said a teary-eyed Bolton moments after climbing from her car. “We always hoped, but you just never know in a race like this. I was up against a lot of tough competitors and I had some wonderful races, but to actually win a race like this is just unthinkable. I am speechless.”
After a long and trying weekend, Bolton finally saw her hard work pay off with a trip to the final against reigning Super Rod champion Cameron Manuel. With the biggest victory of either drivers career on the line, both drivers left with identical .012 lights, but it was Bolton out of the Stock ranks running closest to the numbers in the unique eighth-mile competition with a 7.186 lap on a 7.17 dial at 93.49 mph. In the other lane Manuel gave it his all, but came up just shy running a 6.699 on a 6.67 dial at 112.10 mph, a difference of roughly two feet at the line.
“I was very, very nervous about racing him. I knew he was going to be extremely tough and I only hoped I could keep doing what I was doing and give him a decent race,” Bolton said. “I knew throughout the run that it was close, but when I saw the (win) lights I was in disbelief.
“When I saw that win light come on I screamed. I just screamed as loud as I could. I couldn’t believe it.”
Bolton’s victory came after an interesting weekend that included rain, storms and lots of waiting for her chance to claim her share of the $51,000 purse. Thankfully, Bolton got two rounds out of the way first thing on Friday, but the rest had to wait for nearly two full days.
“Rain delays are good in the morning because you get to sleep in, but it also gives you a chance to think about things and it can really make you crazy,” Bolton said. “I was also frustrated with all the weather because I was supposed to go home and spend some time with my family. But I will tell you, this makes up for it.”
Bolton’s run to the final began on Friday with a bye win over Brain Rowe, setting up a battle for the Stock crown against veteran Nick Folk. Bolton nailed the tree against Folk and ran a solid race while Folk broke out.
After that, the rains moved in.
Saturday’s finale was washed out by heavy rains and storms that damaged the tower and forced the finish of the Moser Axle-Mania race and the remainder of the Northern Nitro Jam to Sunday. More rain washed away the start on Sunday and pushed the finale of the Northern Nitro Jam to mid-afternoon where Bolton finally got back on track – both figuratively and literally.
In the quarters Bolton met up with Quick Rod competitor Tony Elrod and once again claimed a breakout win, running .022 off her dial while Elrod ran a tad too quick. Bolton finally put the entire package together in the semifinals against Nick Karas as Bolton nailed the tree with a .010 reaction time and ran the same .010 off her dial.
In the other semifinal Manuel eliminated Jeff Gardiner to move on to face Bolton.
“I have to thank Moser and IHRA. I have to thank my husband and all my family. I wish they could have been here this weekend,” Bolton said. “All of our friends here at the track, I have to thank them along with Nick Karas and his family for a great semifinal run and Cameron for a great final. This is a wonderful event and it is something you look forward to every year.”
So with a unique trophy and a much, much fatter wallet, what is next for Bolton, her husband Eddie and the rest of the gang?
“We are ready to go home,” Bolton said with a laugh. “Then we are going to pay off the stacker trailer we just bought. I just have to say, wow.”