VOLUME XXI, NUMBER 5 - MAY, 2019
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ET DRAG RACING
PDRA at Budds Creek, Maryland
North-South Shootout Racers Claim Victories
Words by Nate Van Wagnen
Photos by Tara Bowker
Jay Cox got the Pro Nitrous win…twice!
An eventful weekend of racing at the Professional Drag Racers Association (www.PDRA660.com) North-South Shootout presented by Line-X at Maryland International Raceway concluded early Sunday morning (June 2) when Jay Cox defeated Lizzy Musi in a rerun of the Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous final round. The original final round had to be rerun after debris blew through the sensors, tripping the eighth-mile beams in Cox’s lane.
The North-South Shootout victories in the other professional classes went to Kris Thorne in Moroso Pro Boost, Todd Hoerner in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock and Ronnie Smith in Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle. Class veteran Paul Major picked up the win in Atomizer Racing Injectors Outlaw 10.5 presented by Drag 965. Dane Wood defeated Fredy Scriba in an all-nitrous Classic Graphix Pro Mod Challenge final round.
The sportsman winners are Scott Moore in MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman, Glen Teets III in Top Sportsman 32, Camrie Caruso in Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster and Marty Martin in Top Dragster 32. Kendall Payne earned the win over Duane Allen in Edelbrock Bracket Bash.
The Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster presented by Knoxtown Products win went to Brayden Davis, who ran 7.88 to defeat Connor McGee’s 7.864, both on a 7.90 dial-in. Earlier in the day, McGee won the final round from the rain-delayed Mid-Atlantic Showdown. Local racer Nathan Tanner, who won the Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster final round from the PDRA Mid-Atlantic Showdown Saturday morning, also went on to win the Maryland race, running 7.984 on a 7.90 dial-in next to a red-lighting Zach Shirkey.
On Friday, a high car count, frequent oil-downs and rapidly approaching thunderstorms led PDRA officials to postpone the third qualifying session, which was also to include the rain-delayed pro class final rounds from the PDRA Mid-Atlantic Showdown at Virginia Motorsports Park.
The Sunday final round in Pro Nitrous was one of two final rounds that had to be rerun due to debris blowing through the eighth-mile sensors. The win light came on in Jay Cox’s lane during the first running, but his scoreboard posted an invalid time next to Lizzy Musi’s 3.655 at 206.95. About an hour later, Cox turned on the win light again, this time with a 3.677 at 206.48 in his Buck-powered Butner Construction ’69 Camaro. Musi was aggressive off the starting line, but slowed to a 5.878 at 79.52.
“It’s really rewarding any time you can win,” Cox said. “This is a max-effort racing class. It isn’t something you can take lightly. Pat (Musi) stood on his and I stood on mine. That’s all that motor had. My guys work hard, they deserve every chance to win. I hate that the deal ended up like that, but at the end of the day it is what it is.”
Cox and his Smithfield, North Carolina-based “Pumpkin” Camaro stepped up in each round leading to the final, beginning with a 3.759 at 204.23 over Mike Gondziola and a 3.698 at 206.39 to defeat Billy Albert and his 3.817 at 201.94. In a tight semifinal battle, Cox unloaded a 3.674 at 206.80 to take down Chris Rini’s game 3.685 at 205.57 and earn his way to his second final round of the season.
Musi in Frank Brandao’s Edelbrock/Lucas Oil “King Kong 7” 2019 Dodge Dart started eliminations with a 3.747 at 206.23 over Chris Patrick before pedaling to a 4.049 at 160.96 over Ed Burnley. She recorded low ET and top speed of the event, a 3.651 at 207.88, to defeat Todd Fontana and his 3.713 at 204.05 in the semifinals.
After qualifying No. 1 for the second consecutive race, Florida’s Kris Thorne (shown) earned his first Pro Boost event win in his twin-turbocharged ’17 Corvette, defeating defending world champion Tommy D’Aprile in the final round. Thorne used a .007 reaction time and a 3.703 at 216.38 in the Mikey Rees-tuned ‘Vette to take down D’Aprile’s low-of-the-event 3.683 at 202.30 in his Al Billes-owned-and-tuned ’69 Camaro.
“It felt really good – I’ve been wanting to get one of these wins for two years,” Thorne said. “We're finally starting to get the bugs worked out of this thing and finally put all our ducks in a row and got our first win in PDRA. I'm basically just in the car holding on. I've got to give it all to the crew and all the Proline guys out here helping us. I just hope we can keep it up.”
Thorne moved past the first round with a 3.736 at 217.00 over Tom Blincoe, then pedaled to a 3.909/209.69 over Tylor Miller. The Proline-powered entry rocketed to a 3.689 at 216.55 over Kevin Rivenbark and his 3.715 at 201.46 in the semifinals.
D’Aprile, who defeated Jerico Balduf in the rain-delayed Mid-Atlantic Showdown final round earlier in the day, was the quickest driver in the opening round with his 3.72 at 200.32 over Balduf in a rematch of the Virginia final. The roots-blown Camaro improved to a 3.71 at 200.83 to beat Anthony DiSomma, then stepped up yet again to 3.692 at 201.16 over Terry Leggett to advance to his third consecutive final round.
EXTREME PRO STOCK
Todd Hoerner’s triumphant return season to Extreme Pro Stock continued in a big way when he lit up the final-round win light, adding an accomplishment to go along with his runner-up finish at the East Coast Nationals and No. 1 qualifying effort at the Mid-Atlantic Showdown. Hoerner steered the Brian “Lump” Self-tuned TT Motorsports ’14 Camaro to a 4.073 at 178.73 next to John Montecalvo’s 4.107 at 176.84 in the final round.
“Man, it feels awesome to get this win,” Hoerner said. “I'm so tickled and I'm so happy for (car owners) Tommy Zarella and his wife Paula and his daughter Tiana. Without them, I couldn't be out here. I'm doing everything I can to take him back that trophy. I'm just tickled pink and we're very thankful. Any of these guys out here can win. It was brutally hot and humid and it sucked the life out of you this weekend. Fortunately, the car worked good and we were able to get the win.”
Hoerner qualified No. 2 in his Sonny’s-powered entry and ran a 4.105 at 178.14 to beat JR Carr in the first round. He slowed to a 9-second pass in the semifinals, but opponent Chris Powers went red by .008 seconds.
After getting into the eight-car field in the third and final qualifying session in his Tommy Lee-tuned ’18 Camaro, Montecalvo used a 4.137 at 176.21 to dispatch No. 1 qualifier Jeff Dobbins and his 4.164 at 175.50 in the first round. A consistent 4.121 at 176.30 followed to take out defending world champion Steven Boone in the semifinals.
PRO OUTLAW 632
Defending Pro Outlaw 632 world champion Johnny Pluchino is used to pulling double duty as the driver of Dominic Addeo’s ’06 Ford Escort in Pro Outlaw 632 and the crew chief on his father John’s Extreme Pro Stock entry. That changed Friday morning, though, as John offered Johnny the chance to make his Extreme Pro Stock debut.
Pluchino (shown), the points leader, didn’t let the unexpected opportunity distract him from success in Pro Outlaw 632. He unleashed a 4.215 at 167.97 in the naturally aspirated Escort to defeat Mike Oldham in the Mid-Atlantic Showdown semifinal and to qualify No. 1 going into Q3 – and the Virginia final round against Tony Gillig, who defeated Jordan Ensslin on the other side of the ladder.
“We're really confident in the 632 program right now,” Pluchino said. “We've been fast, but we've turned the consistency up a notch. The challenge has been going back and forth from the Pro Stock car to the 632 car. The shifting patterns are a little different, doing the burnout is a little different. Every little thing is similar but a little different. We've managed to do well so far, but these are two difficult cars to drive. We're really happy with the performance of them. I just have to stay tuned in.”
On Saturday, beam interference during the Pro Outlaw 632 final round led to the second rerun of the evening, with defending world champion Johnny Pluchino turning on the win light in both attempts. His scoreboard registered an invalid time in the first final, while Wes Distefano recorded a 4.206 at 173.65. When the two drivers returned to the starting line for the rerun, Pluchino set low ET of the event, a 4.195 at 168.51, as Distefano struggled to a 9.885 at 42.69.
“This class is getting really tough out here,” Pluchino said. “Wes is bringing the heat. Tony (Gillig) put me out in the (Mid-Atlantic Showdown) final. It makes winning that much better when the competition is that tough. There's just no feeling like holding this trophy.”
Pluchino, who also made his Extreme Pro Stock debut this weekend, admittedly struggled with his Dominic Addeo-owned Strutmasters.com ’06 Ford Escort on bye runs in the first and second rounds. He rebounded with a 4.231 at 167.95 in the semifinals to eliminate 2017 world champion Dillon Voss and his 4.302 at 165.97.
Distefano qualified No. 2 in his nitrous-assisted, Musi-powered ’68 Camaro before running a 4.251 at 173.43 to beat Sylvester Barnes Jr. in the opening round. He improved to a 4.209 at 173.72 to take out Mid-Atlantic Showdown winner Tony Gillig and his 4.319 at 164.57. A holeshot advantage helped Distefano earn the semifinal win over Chris Holdorf in a 4.284-to-4.271 decision.
PRO NITROUS MOTORCYCLE
Defending world champion Ronnie “Pro Mod” Smith (shown) picked up his first win of the season, but his event victory was practically overshadowed by his record performance in the final round. Smith shattered the Pro Nitrous Motorcycle ET national record – his own 3.973 set at the 2018 North-South Shootout – with a 3.958 at 176.28, defeating Brunson Grothus and his 9-second pass in the final round.
“You don't understand how big of a deal this is,” Smith said. “I owe a lot to my tuner (Shane Smith) and FuelTech. The round before the final, we ran a 3.97. We knew the weather would come to us, so we didn't change much on the bike – we just sent it. When it went a 3.95, I couldn't believe it myself. I looked up and almost fell of the bike.”
Smith, of Pasadena, MD, rode his Innovative Performance Hayabusa to a 4.053 at 174.66 over TT Jones in the opening round. His 3.977 at 175.46 defeated Chris Garner-Jones’ 4.021 at 174.93 in the semifinals and served as the backup run for his final-round record.
Grothus slid into the eight-motorcycle field on the bump spot and capitalized on the opportunity, using a holeshot advantage and 4.051 at 176.70 to take out No. 1 qualifier Paul Gast and his 4.025 at 177.91. The Iowa-based rider hopped up his Indocil Art Suzuki to record a 4.007 at 177.16 over three-time world champion Eric McKinney and his 4.076 at 173.36.
The two quickest Outlaw 10.5 cars on the property squared off in the final round, as No. 2 qualifier Paul Major in his twin-turbo ’01 Corvette fired off a 3.97 at 210.77 to defeat No. 1 qualifier Ken Quartuccio’s 4.006 at 198.44 in his twin-turbo “Serial Killer” ’17 Corvette.
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