race reports

ADRL at Rockingham, NC

Jonathan Gray, driving Rickie Smith’s car (far lane) got the first ADRL Pro Mod win of the season over Doug Winters.


Saturday, April 8, was no day to play favorites at Rockingham Dragway where upsets were the rule rather than the exception at the ADRL Spring Drags, first race in the 2017 series.


Among the top qualifiers, only Top Fuel Harley rider Tii Tharpe of East Bend, N.C., managed to find his way to the winners’ circle although his No. 1 start was itself something of an upset as the field included multi-time national champion and pre-race favorite Jay “Bulldog” Turner.


Turner, of nearby Julian, did manage to put up the best numbers of the event when he stopped the quarter-mile timers in 6.352 seconds at 222.80 miles per hour in a first-round win over fellow Carolinian Mike Beland but he couldn’t duplicate that performance in round two and fell to Tharpe. Tharpe then beat Bill “Billy Jack” Jackson of Honeybrook, Pa., in the final.


In the Pro Mod divisions, the winners’ names were familiar but none of the three was really expected to get the trophy.

Rickie Smith’s son Matt, usually racing on two wheels with the NHRA Mello Yello series, was low qualifier driving his dad’s second Camaro.


The NHRA Pro Mod title, contested at the quarter mile distance, fell to second generation pro Jonathan Gray of Artesia, N.M., after No. 1 qualifier Matt Smith of King, N.C., son of many-time NHRA and IHRA champion Rickie Smith, was upset in the semifinals by veteran Doug Winters of Pleasant Garden.

Jonathan Gray was in the driver’s seat while Rickie Smith is recovering from back surgery.


Gray’s win capped an amazing four weeks for Gray Motorsports in which the Carolina-based team won the NHRA Gatornationals Pro Stock championship on March 19 with Jonathan’s brother, Shane, at the wheel of a Camaro and then won last week’s NHRA race at Las Vegas with Shane’s 17-year-old son Tanner driving.


The other two Pro Mod titles, decided at the eighth-mile distance, fell to former ADRL champ Brandon Pesz of The Woodlands, Texas, who won the Insane PM title, and veteran Carolina chassis builder and former IHRA Pro Mod Champ Tommy Mauney of Shelby, who prevailed in the Outlaw class.

VOLUME XIX,  NUMBER 4 - April  2017

Pesz, who has raced only infrequently the past few years, drove his 1958 Chevy Corvette past the 2005 ‘Vette of track record holder Frankie Taylor of Dickinson, Texas, in one of the closest races in Pro Mod history. Pesz used a narrow starting line advantage to get to the finish line .001 of a second ahead of his opponent in an all-Texas final to the eighth mile.


Pesz had the quicker Reaction Time of .052 coupled with a 3.651 at 202.12 mph while Taylor’s quicker and faster 3.620 at 210.21 mph could not overcome his .084 RT.


OUTLAW PRO MOD (eighth mile): Tommy Mauney, Shelby, N.C., 1968 Chevy Camaro, .134, 4.146, 178.42 mph, def. Wayne Smozanek, Jupiter Landings, Fla., 1996 Chevy Corvette, .390, 4.033, 179.68 mph.

TOP FUEL HARLEY (quarter mile): Tii Tharpe, East Bend, N.C., .113, 6.429, 217.25 mph, def. Bill “Billy Jack” Jackson, Honeybrook, Pa., .115, no time.


TOP SPORTSMAN: Boyd Beyer, Casstown, Ohio, 2004 Ford Mustang, .064, 5.688 on a 4.050, 82.10 mph, was unopposed.


TOP DRAGSTER: Paul Daigrepont, Mooresville, N.C., .033, 3.836 on a 3.820, 186.23 mph, def. Justin Kirk, Lenore, West Va., .034, 3.899 on a 3.880, 184.50 mph.

PRO JR. DRAGSTER: Samuel Peterson, Richlands, Mich., .028, 7.975, 79.18 mph, def. Jordon Baker, Sumter, S.C., .068, 7.945, 82.09 mph.

TOP BRACKET: Ron Hamm, New Carlisle, Ohio, 1969 Chevy Camaro, .022, 5.991 on a 5.980, 114.66 mph, def. Robby Stewart, Coats, N.C., 1923 T roadster, .024, 5.349 on a 5.340, 126.07 mph.


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