2016 PDRA WORLD FINALS - EVENT COVERAGE
FINAL ELIMINATIONS NOTEBOOK
THIS ONE'S FOR BERT - The starting line at Virginia Motorsports Park was full of emotion when Virginia’s own Buddy Perkinson turned on the win light over John Pluchino in the Extreme Pro Stock final round. Perkinson was driving for team owner Enoch Love, who was fielding a car for the first time since 2011 when his former driver, Bert Jackson, succumbed to injuries sustained at a race in Rockingham, NC.
“I knew we had a very good engine and the right parts, but I don’t think anyone had the expectation to come out and have a weekend like we did,” Perkinson admitted. “It was more about just getting back to the track. It’s been about five years since E. Love last fielded a car. It was a very emotional deal. A lot of people came together to help get the car ready.”
Perkinson qualified 11th and earned an opening round holeshot win over Elijah Morton, courtesy of a perfect .000 reaction time. His performance picked up in his following victories over Frank Gugliotta and Doug Kirk, eventually running a weekend-best 4.077 to defeat Pluchino’s 4.096 in the final round.
“It was really a storybook weekend, a really cool deal for E. Love and all of the original crew members who were around when Bert Jackson was driving.”
The Extreme Pro Stock victory was the second win of the weekend for Perkinson, who drove his family-owned Camaro to the Top Sportsman win in the rain-delayed Bradenton event.
“You don’t have very many races like that in drag racing, especially in the PDRA where the competition is so tough. I was feeling good about our chances on Thursday – we were going down the track and making the right calls. We got lucky in the final round. The car didn’t shift and (Dan) Ferguson went red. I think you need to be good when you need to be good, but you gotta’ have a little lucky every now and then,” laughed Perkinson, who thanked parents Mark and Terri Perkinson, crew chief Christian Thompson, and crew member Brian Terrell, as well as XPS team owner Enoch Love and his team for the opportunity to drive the Pro Stock car.
SNIDER SEALS THE DEAL - Points leader Brandon Snider went into the World Finals knowing that he would only need to win one round in order to lock up his first PDRA world championship. The Atmore, Alabama-based driver qualified number one for the sixth time this season, setting up a favorable ladder position against number eight qualifier Monte Grace. A 3.542-second pass was more than enough for Snider to win the round and the championship.
“It was tremendous,” Snider said of the round win. “We knew we had to win that round to seal the deal. Going into eliminations as the number one qualifier helped out. I didn’t try to push the tree or anything, just needed to go down the track. That round win took a lot of pressure off.”
Snider’s Q80 Racing 1969 Camaro ran a 3.552 at 217.11 to defeat Swedish racer Mikael Lindahl in the semifinals. Waiting for Snider in the final round was outgoing world champion Jason Scruggs, who pushed his ScruggsFarm.com Camaro to a 3.492 at 220.66 pass in his semifinal victory over Frankie “Mad Man” Taylor. With a wounded rear end, Snider was unsure if he would be able to overtake the “Mississippi Missile”.
“We had some rear end problems all weekend, and it hurt the rear end again in the semifinals. I figured Jason would go another 3.49 or quicker, and I knew we couldn’t do that. We just hoped the rear end would last another pass without destroying itself, and fortunately it ran a 3.52 and Jason didn’t make it down the track,” Snider admitted.
One of the strongest competitors all season long, Snider was rightfully proud of the accomplishments of his team, made up of crew chief Jimmy Crenshaw and crew member Michael Elsberry.
“This championship is huge for us,” added Snider, who tunes his screw-blown Camaro. “People don’t realize how hard we’ve worked. People see that we race once a month or so, but they don’t realize how much time, effort and money is funneled into this car. We worked hard the last couple years to develop a good program. To be rewarded with this championship is just huge for me, Jimmy and Michael. It says a lot because we have one of the smaller teams and smaller budgets. This just proves that it can be done.”
STORYBOOK ENDING - Pro Nitrous stars Jay Cox and Tommy Franklin looked to be the championship favorites entering last weekend’s Bradenton and Virginia races, though Travis Harvey also had a mathematical shot at the title. The championship ultimately came down to the semifinal round, when Franklin’s Pat Musi-powered 1969 Camaro unleashed a 3.699 at 204.20 alongside Cox’s troubled 5.76 pass. With that, Franklin locked up the championship and set himself up for a potential world record.
With all of the pressure off, the Fredericksburg electrical contractor fired off a screaming 3.677 at 204.70 against Bradenton winner Steve Jackson’s 3.765 pass.
“The conditions were ideal for setting records,” Franklin claimed. “We don’t get that too often – at the beginning of the year and the end of the year. We knew we were going to have some good air. We made it into the final after winning the championship. As much as we wanted to win the race, the pressure was off and we decided just to see what we could lower the record to. We don’t always get that opportunity, so we swung for it.”
It was a storybook ending to a dramatic weekend for Franklin. He entered the final qualifying session on the bump spot. His Bickel-built Camaro broke the driveshaft around 400 feet into the run, but a 3.759 pass was enough to take the eighth spot in qualifying. Franklin and team spent all of Saturday night looking over every section of the car to help prevent any further issues from getting in the way of the championship. The result was a 3.705 win over Randy Weatherford in the first round, followed by a 3.706 over Dean Marinis in the quarterfinals. The drama ramped back up again for the semifinal run against Cox since the winner would clinch the championship.
“A lot of emotions were going around,” said of the atmosphere around his team. “After winning the round, it was the best way it could’ve happened, right? But leading into it I’m thinking, Man, this is in my hands now. Nobody knocked Jay out before me and no one knocked me out for him.”
Franklin went on to thank the Lord, as well as wife Judy and daughters Amber and Ashley, adding, “We have great horsepower, a great car, and a great crew to put this thing together every pass.”
ALL GALOT ALL THE TIME - Now six times a winner this season, Kevin Rivenbark was primed to bring a second Pro Boost championship to the GALOT Motorsports team. The only driver who could unseat him from the top spot was his teammate, John Strickland, who won the other three races that Rivenbark didn’t win. The two North Carolina drivers faced off in the semifinals from the rain-delayed Bradenton race on Saturday, with Rivenbark taking the round win and the championship with his 3.725 pass. He backed it up with a 3.721 in the final round to beat first-time finalist Marc Caruso and reset the ET world record.
Moving on to the Virginia race, Rivenbark and his Todd Tutterow and Jeff Bohr-tuned 2015 Camaro continued the streak of blistering elapsed times. Rivenbark’s first-round 3.711 reset the world record again in a winning effort over Ric Fleck. Further round wins over the turbocharged entries of Eric Dillard and Rick Hord sent Rivenbark to the final round, where he faced young teammate Ty Tutterow. The son of tuner and veteran driver Todd Tutterow posted a strong run in his Pro Boost debut, but another 3.715 at 200.77 out of Rivenbark’s machine was too much for Tutterow’s 3.763 at 197.97.
“After the first few runs this weekend we realized we could run quick enough to reset the record,” Rivenbark recalled. “When we ran Ty, we were actually shooting for the sixties and it just didn’t happen. Tommy (Franklin) ran a 3.67 right behind us (in Pro Nitrous), so obviously the track conditions were there. We just missed it somewhere. I’ve set the record four times this year. We set it at Tulsa, Rockingham, and then Bradenton. To do it four times in one year…words can’t describe it. All of us at GALOT have had a remarkable year.
“Ty was driving an older car that his dad used to drive. For him to enter his first race in Pro Boost and come out with that kind of success just goes to show how much potential he has,” Rivenbark boasted of his 21-year-old teammate.
The dominant weekend was a fitting way to end the season for Rivenbark and the Earl and Peggy Wells-owned GALOT Motorsports team. Between Rivenbark and Strickland, the team leaves the 2016 season with the world championship, the ET world record, and nine wins in as many races. Strickland also won a National Tractor Pulling Association national championship this season. He finished second in the PDRA Pro Boost championship points.
ALL IN A DAY'S WORK - Like Franklin and Rivenbark, Pro Extreme Motorcycle rider Eric McKinney won the race, reset the world record, and won the world championship all in one day. He rolled into Virginia Motorsports Park second in points behind Chris Garner-Jones, leaving the two-time champion to fight down to the wire for the title.
“We just about didn’t qualify at Bradenton and I think I lost first round at the race before that,” McKinney remembered. “It’s been an up-and-down rollercoaster season – going from being a dominant team for the last couple years to chasing and chasing and just getting beat. It was brutal the last couple races, just about enough to take the wind out of your sail.”
The McKinney Motorsports team set their program into overdrive in the tail end of their championship defense season, making an estimated 50 test runs in the last month. Their efforts paid off, as McKinney qualified number one at Virginia and recorded three of the quickest runs of the season – 4.025, 3.997, and 3.986 – in eliminations. The 3.986 at 178.12 in the final round was an ET world record, though McKinney insists he wasn’t expecting such a quick run.
“I went 4.02 first round, then we went into championship mode. After Chris (Garner-Jones) went out first round, I knew I needed to win the race, so our goal was to get down the track every round. The weather and the track conditions came to us, and it just happened. We chased a 3.99 run since we first ran in the threes at Dallas last year. We ran numerous 4.01s or 4.02s, then boom, it happened. Now that Ashley (Owens) has the tune-up figured out, I think common three-second runs won’t be out of the question. To run two of them back-to-back this weekend was pretty impressive.”
McKinney thanked his team – tuner and teammate Ashley Owens, who he was scheduled to run in the final round; father Scott; uncle Steve McKinney; and fiancé Ashley Fischer for their efforts.
“It’s a team sport, and I’m just the fortunate one who gets to ride the motorcycle. Everybody behind the scenes, this is their championship; their race win; their world record. I’m just the guy who gets to ride it, and I don’t think they get enough credit. Everyone does their job well, and that makes my job that much easier because I know my motorcycle will do the job,” McKinney noted.
NEXT UP - The PDRA will recognize the 2016 world champions at the 3rd annual PDRA Championship Awards Banquet, held at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown during the Performance Racing Industry show, Saturday, Dec. 10.
QUALIFYING NOTEBOOK -
FIRST TIME IS THE BEST TIME - Chris Rini was sitting seventh when he pulled his ATI Performance Products 1969 Camaro into the stage beams for his third qualifying pass. He pulled off one of the quickest runs in Pro Nitrous history, a 3.694, to shoot right to the top spot for the first time in his PDRA career.
“I said if the car makes it past a hundred feet it’s really going to be a good run,” said Rini, who struggled with electrical gremlins earlier in the weekend. “You always hope for a good run, but I knew this one would be exceptional. The thing got out there and picked the front end up at 100 feet and just kept on truckin’. I looked over at the score board and I didn’t think I read it right. I knew we had the right power, I knew we had the right parts – a Charlie Buck motor in a Jerry Bickel car with an ATI transmission.”
The personal-best performance and corresponding qualifying position were a timely morale boost for Rini and his team as they enter the offseason. He’ll face fellow New Yorker “Mean” Dean Marinis in the first round of eliminations on Sunday.
“I’m super happy that we made that run. My team’s been down and out. We usually do real well and run at the front, but this season has been trying. Hopefully we’re moving in the right direction now,” added Rini.
Recent GALOT race winner Lizzy Musi is qualified second with her 3.717, followed by Steve “Stevie Fast” Jackson’s 3.719. Jackson ran his representative performance in the final round of the rain-delayed Bradenton race, defeating Travis Harvey’s 3.745 to claim the event win.
IT’S NOT HOW YOU START - Atmore, Alabama’s Brandon Snider faced mechanical issues of his own during the initial qualifying sessions at the PDRA World Finals. The current points leader finally caught the issue before the final qualifying session, allowing him to jump up to the number one spot. A stout 3.533 at 215.17 was good enough for the top spot, but Snider had an even lower elapsed time planned.
“We got the car back to where it should be and had it set up to run a high 3.48 to low 3.49,” Snider claimed. “It went through to half-track and the car nosed over. I knew right then that it was eating up a gear in the back. I barely made it to the finish line stripe before the engine RPM got so high to get on the rev limiter. We had to pull the axles out of the car to get it back to the pits since it was just chewing itself up. Honestly we would’ve had a .48 or .49, but we’re happy with the number one spot. We’re ready to go some rounds tomorrow – we got our hot rod back.”
Snider is one round away from clinching his first Pro Extreme world championship. The Q80 Racing driver tunes his own car with support from his small crew, led by longtime crew chief Jimmy Crenshaw.
“Jimmy and I have worked so hard back at the shop at night. People don’t realize the amount of time that goes into these cars. I pretty much live and sleep with this thing within 60 feet of my house. I’m working on it every day and every night, and it’s paying off.”
A six-time number one qualifier this season, Snider will face Monte Grace in the opening round. He’s followed in the qualifying order by Frankie “Mad Man” Taylor (3.543), defending world champion Jason Scruggs (3.546), logger Terry Leggett (3.548), and Swedish racer Mikael Lindahl (3.565).
SURPRISE, SURPRISE - Pro Boost standout John Strickland is no stranger to quick runs in his GALOT Motorsports 1969 Camaro, but the North Carolina driver was on cloud nine after recording a 3.713 at 200.11 mph in the final qualifying session. The blast was quick enough to lead the 30-car qualifying order and for a potential national record, though Strickland was most pleased with the speed – his first time over 200 mph.
“Brad (Schmidt, car chief) told me that it was probably going to be a 200 mph run,” Strickland recalled. “I didn’t know if it would be a 3.71 or not, but I knew that they would try to get everything out of it. I was expecting it to be good, but I wasn’t expecting that good. I’m just tickled to death to go 200. I never really thought that I’d see 200 mph in the eighth-mile.
“Running at the top like this makes you feel like the team you’ve got is just the right bunch of guys to make it all happen. I’m so proud of the guys I’m associated with and the team Mr. and Mrs. Wells have put together. It’s just great to be a part of it.”
If Strickland and his Todd Tutterow and Jeff Bohr-tuned Camaro can run within one percent of the 3.713 performance, he’ll take the Pro Boost national elapsed time record from teammate Kevin Rivenbark. The driver of GALOT Motorsports’ 2016 Corvette reset the national record and qualified number two with his 3.721 while completing eliminations from the rain delayed Bradenton race. Rivenbark defeated Marc Caruso in the Bradenton final round to earn his fifth event win of the season and clinch the 2016 Pro Boost world championship.
THE NARROW ROAD AHEAD - A third PDRA Pro Extreme Motorcycle world championship isn’t out of the picture for Eric McKinney just yet, but he has a tough and narrow road ahead of him. The Ohio rider is about two rounds behind points leader Chris Garner-Jones entering Sunday eliminations, which he’ll start from the number one spot.
“It’s just amazing to be number one with three 4.03s at the top, and ours was the quickest,” McKinney quipped. “To go number one is always awesome, but especially now since we’re still chasing the championship. I think I’m two rounds and eight points behind Chris, so we need him to lose first round and we’d need to win the race in order to take the championship.”
McKinney stressed the tight competition in the class. Teammate Ashley Owens and Canadian dairy farmer Terry Schweigert closely followed McKinney in the qualifying order with their identical 4.034 passes. Owens grabbed the second spot since his run was just over one mph faster than Schweigert’s.
“This PDRA Pro Extreme Motorcycle class is just unreal. The first three guys ran 4.03, and it took a 4.10 just to qualify. It’s amazing to be a part of it, let alone be the number one qualifier.”
McKinney also appeared in the final round from the Bradenton race, falling to Garner-Jones in a 4.059-to-4.065 race.
FIFTH TIME IS THE CHARM - For the fifth time this season, the mountain-motored Extreme Pro Stock class joined the PDRA’s usual line-up of four professional classes and four sportsman categories. Longtime XPS racer John Pluchino scored the number one spot, running a 4.03 at 177.91 to narrowly edge out Elijah Morton and his 4.035 at 178.07. Steven Boone (4.05), Doug Kirk (4.055), and Frank Gugliotta (4.065) round out the ultra-competitive top five qualifiers.
THE NARROW TIRES - Also racing with the PDRA on a part-time basis this season was the DiSomma Racing Engines Outlaw 10.5 class, made up of nitrous assisted, turbocharged, or supercharged doorslammers racing on 10.5-inch wide slicks. Canadian John Carinci powered his 2004 Corvette to the number one position with a 4.034 at 190.08 mph. Baltimore’s Mike Decker Jr. is second with a 4.041, followed by Ron Green’s 4.083, Dale Collins Jr.’s 4.089, and Martin race winner Frank Pompilio’s 4.101.
THE SPORTSMAN REPORT - While the Top Sportsman class has been named in memory of class forefather and world champion Ronnie Davis since he succumbed to injuries sustained at the Rockingham race earlier this season, the PDRA decided to expand the World Finals Top Sportsman program to include two Top Sportsman races in memory of Davis. An astounding 85 cars attempted to qualify for the Quick 16 and Elite 32 fields, with Virginia’s own Randy Perkinson taking the Quick 16 number one spot with his 3.855 at 191.65. His cousin, Buddy Perkinson, qualified number two and won the Bradenton final round over Dan Ferguson. William Brown III leads the Elite 32 field with his 4.129.
Chesterfield, SC racer Jody Stroud earned the Top Dragster low qualifier award with a blistering 3.664 at 197.33 in his supercharged “Zombie” dragster. David Brown’s Musi-motored entry qualified second with a 3.84, followed by David Jordan (3.852), Alan O’Brien’s unique AMC-powered dragster at 3.865, and Matt Sackman (3.885). Justin Kirk earned his second win of the season when he won the Bradenton final round.
SUNDAY’S GAME PLAN - Eliminations at the PDRA Brian Olson Memorial World Finals at Virginia Motorsports Park are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Sunday, October 23. Tickets are $20, though fans who attended Friday or Saturday will be admitted for $10 with their Friday or Saturday wristband.
FINAL QUALIFYING ORDER
SESSION TWO -
SESSION ONE -
RAIN SHORTENS FRIDAY QUALIFYING AT PDRA WORLD FINALS
Late rain showers and falling temperatures forced race officials to postpone Friday’s qualifying action at the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) Brian Olson Memorial World Finals at Virginia Motorsports Park. The inclement weather set in during the middle of the second qualifying session for Top Sportsman, which featured a record 74 cars attempting to qualify.
All of the PDRA’s professional and sportsman classes received at least one qualifying session on Friday. Defending world champion Jason Scruggs leads the NAS Racing Pro Extreme field with his 3.546 at 217.53 mph. The other number-one qualifiers in the pro classes are Steve Jackson (Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous presented by MoTeC), John Strickland (GALOT Motorsports Park Pro Boost), Ashley Owens (Drag 965 Pro Extreme Motorcycle), Ron Green (DiSomma Racing Engines Outlaw 10.5), and Richard Penland (PDRA Extreme Pro Stock).
In the sportsman classes, Randy Perkinson’s 3.893 is the quickest performance in Ronnie Davis Top Sportsman presented by MagnaFuel, which will break down into two fields of the Elite 16 and Quick 32 cars at the end of qualifying. South Carolina’s Jody Stroud tops the 32-car Top Dragster qualifying order after their two sessions. The Junior Dragster classes also received two qualifying sessions before the rain set in, with Gavin Stanley leading Talbert Pro Junior Dragster and Arellyn Garner-Jones topping MegaCorp Top Junior Dragster.
In addition to the World Finals, the PDRA is also attempting to complete eliminations from the rain-delayed PDRA Sunshine State Shootout presented by Mel Bush Motorsports, originally held in Bradenton, FL earlier this month. Some rounds were completed at Virginia on Thursday night, then most of the Bradenton event champions were decided in final round competition on Friday. The winners were Chris Garner-Jones in Pro Extreme Motorcycle, Buddy Perkinson in Top Sportsman, Justin Kirk in Top Dragster, Mia Schultz in Pro Junior Dragster, and Arellyn Garner-Jones in Top Junior Dragster. The Bradenton event winners in Pro Extreme, Pro Nitrous, and Pro Boost will be decided on Saturday, which is scheduled to begin with the completion of Top Sportsman’s second session.
“The weather is supposed to be clear with temperatures in the 60s Saturday and Sunday, so we’re going to start where we left off with the rest of Top Sportsman’s second qualifying session,” said PDRA race director Bob Harris. “We’ll also finish the remaining final rounds from the Bradenton race. If the weather looks good, we’ll try to give everyone their third qualifying session. We have 391 cars on the property with more coming in, so we want to give them a shot at the track. Our plan is to start eliminations by 5 p.m. and run as many rounds of the pro classes as we can tomorrow night. Right now, it looks like it will be Sunday before we’re totally finished.”
Harris and the PDRA officials have been tasked with making weather-related decisions at nearly every stop on the nine-race tour this year, but that didn’t make the call to postpone qualifying any easier.
“We put in a big effort to make this happen today,” Harris stressed. “Our goal all year has been to make Fridays better. We made a valiant effort to dry the track. We probably could’ve had the track dry by 10 p.m., but I don’t feel that it would be safe. With us being an organization run by racers with the wellbeing of the racers in mind, we decided it would be best to wait until we have a safe, dry track.”
Qualifying at the PDRA Brian Olson Memorial World Finals at Virginia Motorsports Park is scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m.