2017 PDRA EAST COAST NATIONALS - GALOT NOTEBOOK
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - LONG DAY MAKES FOR EXCITING PRO FINALS; SPORTSMAN POSTPONED UNTIL DARLINGTON
FIRST TIME IS THE BEST TIME - Racing out of the third spot, Mike Recchia did not have an easy path to his first winner’s circle celebration. He opened eliminations with a 3.583-second victory over Swedish driver Stefan Holmberg, then upset past world champion Jason Scruggs in a 3.541-to-3.551 race second round. Recchia reached the finish line before semifinal opponent Frankie Taylor in a pedalfest. Finally, his win light turned on in the final round as soon as Valdosta event winner Tommy D’Aprile left too soon.
“I knew Tommy could cut a light and had a really fast car,” Recchia said, who recorded a 3.591 at 208.01 in the final. “My son [Michael Recchia] does my tuning for me, and he said, ‘It’ll make it down, but I don’t know if it’ll beat a .52.’ So I knew I had to do my job on the tree. I’m not sure what happened with Tommy. He must’ve been distracted because that’s not Tommy – he’s always spot-on.”
The event win was especially rewarding for Recchia and his Roselle, IL-based team. While he’s come close on several occasions, Recchia hadn’t won a professional touring series event during his time as an eighth-mile doorslammer driver.
“This win validates everything we’ve been doing for the last five or six years. Trying to keep up with these guys [in Pro Extreme], it seems like we’re always a year or six months behind everyone’s performance. Finally, I feel like we’re getting somewhat closer to them, but there’s still more to be had. This win just validates everything we’ve been working towards – the engine swaps, the transmission work and everything else we do,” Recchia said.
HANCOCK WINS PRO NITROUS - First-time PDRA Pro Nitrous winner James Hancock’s day started rather unspectacularly – a 3.839 over Todd Howard in the first round and a 3.744 over No. 16 qualifier Brian Shrader in the second round. The Brian Shaw-owned Speedtech ’69 Camaro then stepped up and came out on the winning end of two of the tightest races of the weekend.
In the semifinals, Hancock left the starting line just one thousandth of a second ahead of opponent Randy Weatherford and maintained the lead to win, 3.722 to 3.729. Waiting for him in the final round was No. 2 qualifier Tommy Franklin. Again, Hancock used a starting-line advantage to secure the win. This time, however, it was a holeshot victory as Hancock ran a 3.701 at 200.65 to Franklin’s 3.700 at 203.86.
“It was a good race,” said Hancock, who tunes the Sonny’s-powered entry along with Fuel Tech’s Luís Fernando Backes de Leon. “I enjoy racing everybody – it’s not like you want to outrun them, we just want to outrun ourselves. You want to obviously win and go to the next round, but I like Tommy and all the guys out here. Outrunning them is not really want I want to do, but if that’s what it takes to win the race, that’s what we have to do.”
JOSE CONTINUES TO DELIVER - After 23 cars made qualifying attempts, the twin-turbocharged '67 Mustang of the Dominican Republic's Jose Gonzales sat atop the Pro Boost field with a stout 3.711-seconds pass at 212.26 mph. Second on the 16-car qualified list was Tommy Gray and his supercharged '06 Corvette from Maryland, followed by GALOT Motorsports' own John Strickland from nearby Harrells, NC, in a blown '69 Camaro.
After taking out James Beadling and his Ohio-based '14 Camaro in round one, Gonzales won a close race in the quarter-finals against Buffalo, NY's Melanie Salemi and her supercharged '68 Firebird. In the semis, Gonzales led stripe-to-stripe over Sweden's Adam Flamholc in a '63 Corvette with a 3.712 pass at 213.40 mph that also earned him lane choice for the final against Strickland, who drove through "Turbo Todd" Moyer and GALOT teammate Ty Tutterow before running 3.722 at 198.61 to beat Jeremy Ray on his side of the ladder.
Gonzales was obviously up for the challenge, as he left with a .032 holeshot, then made his quickest and fastest run of the weekend at 3.685 seconds and 214.48 mph, while Strickland also made his best pass at 3.719 and 198.88 mph.
"We knew it was going to be tough with Strickland and the whole GALOT Motorsports team. They're always very fast, and they were on their home track so we knew we had to tickle it a little bit and make it just a little bit faster because you never know how fast they'll be able to go," Gonzales said. "The final was good for us. The car went straight down the track and conditions could not be better. The whole PDRA and Jason Miller did an outstanding job on the track all weekend long."
POWERS TO THE WIN - Pennsylvania’s Chris Powers entered the PDRA East Coast Nationals simply wanting to get some experience behind the wheel of his new ATI Performance ’14 Camaro. After qualifying respectably in eighth with a 4.108, he charged through Mountain Motor Pro Stock veterans John DeFlorian, Dwayne Rice, and newcomer Matt Giangrande to reach the final round in the car’s debut.
“This is a new deal we put together,” Powers said. "We just came out to test this weekend and get some seat time since this is my first time in the car. I have a great crew behind me. This weekend definitely worked out way beyond expectations.”
With Extreme Pro Stock standout Cary Goforth waiting for Powers in the final round, crew chief Kevin Bealko applied a more aggressive tuneup to the Sonny’s Racing Engines 830-cubic-inch bullet. The tune worked, allowing Powers to match his 4.097 elapsed time from the second round at 176.90 to defeat Goforth’s 4.100 at 176.53.
“When you’re racing against the best, you find anything you can to get ahead. Our expectation was to just go A-to-B, so we just kept doing the A-to-B thing. The final round was definitely the hardest one to get by. [Cary Goforth]’s the best in the business, so I knew we had our work cut out.”
THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM - With a career-best run in the final round, third-place qualifier Travis Davis earned his third PDRA Pro Extreme Motorcycle win after scoring twice in 2014, the inaugural year for the all-eighth-mile series.
Defending class champion Eric McKinney qualified first with a 3.996 run at 178.78 mph aboard his 2012 Suzuki GS, while his teammate, Ashley Owens, started second, followed by Davis in third and Chuck Wilburn rounding out the top half of the eight-bike field.
All but McKinney survived the opening round of racing, with Davis easily defeating Canada's Burke Foster before edging out Owens by 13-thousandths of a second in round two. Wilburn, meanwhile, beat Foster's Canadian teammate Terry Schweigert, then sent Chris Garner-Jones packing from the semis.
Wilburn left first in the final, but Davis quickly recovered from a .015 starting-line deficit to win in 3.988 seconds at 176.05 mph over Wilburn's 4.062 at 175.27 effort.
"That was our first three-second pass and we've been trying to get that for a couple of years, so for it to come in the final and get us the win here, well, we couldn't have scripted it any better," said Davis, from Douglas, GA. "It's a big relief, too, to finally get back in the winner's circle. We couldn't be any happier right now."
INCOMPLETE - A series of lengthy delays at the GALOT Motorsports Park-hosted event forced racing to continue past the local 11 p.m. curfew, allowing the completion of the five professional classes. Competition in the four sportsman classes – Magnafuel Top Sportsman, Lucas Oil Top Dragster, Campers Inn RV Pro Junior Dragster and MegaCorp Top Junior Dragster – is down to the semifinals and will be completed at the next PDRA race in Darlington, SC, May 18-20. The final round of East Side Auto Transport Extreme Outlaw 632, between No. 1 qualifier Ken Quartuccio and No. 2 qualifier Johnny Pluchino, will also be contested at Darlington.
NEXT UP - The next race on the 2017 PDRA tour is the PDRA Spring Nationals, May 18-20, at Darlington Dragway in Darlington, SC.
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - HOMESTATE HEROES DELIVER FIRST DAY PERFORMANCES
LEGBONE IS THE TOP BONE - After missing the PDRA’s season-opening race in Valdosta, GA, earlier this month to recover from major health issues over the winter, Terry “Legbone” Leggett jumped to the top of the Pro Extreme qualifying order with his 3.527 at 217.56 during the night session.
“The fat lady ain’t sung yet,” Leggett said. “We have one more session. Another red car [past world champion Jason Scruggs] down there will be swinging for the fence in the morning. Right now, it feels really good, though. We’ll take it like it is.”
A humble logger from Pinetown, NC, Leggett was admittedly just glad to be back at the racetrack behind the wheel of his Terry Coyle-tuned, supercharged ’71 Mustang.
“This is our first race back,” said Leggett, who underwent multiple operations over the offseason. “I’ve personally been through a lot. This crew is flawless. It’s just great to be back, great to be around everybody you love. To come out here and run as good as we have and be number one right now, it’s great. Just to be here would be great – this is icing on the cake.”
Texan Frankie “Mad Man” Taylor enters Saturday’s final qualifying session as the No. 2 qualifier with his 3.546 at 212.73, followed by Valdosta event winner Tommy D’Aprile with a 3.577 at 213.23. Swedish FIA Pro Mod champion Mattias Wulcan is fourth with a 3.58 at 211.89.
THAT GIRL IS ON FIRE - The stars of the ultra-competitive Pro Nitrous class were shining bright Friday night as it took a 3.6-second run to qualify in the top three. Lizzy Musi and Tommy Franklin recorded a pair of side-by-side 3.675-second passes; Musi earned the provisional top spot via her 205.07-mph speed.
It’s crazy how close we were,” Musi said of her run against fellow Pat Musi Racing Engines-powered driver Franklin. “On the run, the car actually made a little move toward the center line. I saw the scoreboards light up with two 3.675s and thought, how is this even possible? I didn’t even know who got the number-one spot until one of my crew guys said we got it by speed.”
The run, which is quicker and faster than the official PDRA elapsed time and speed records, was a redemptive run for the driver of the AAP ’15 Dodge Dart.
“We actually struggled the first qualifying round,” Musi said. “We had something wrong with our purge solenoid and it actually ended up staying stuck open. That’s why you saw my purge deal constantly wide open when I staged and made that first pass. We knew it probably wouldn’t make the run but we had to just try it. We got that fixed and made a nice run in the second session. Now we can hopefully go some rounds tomorrow.”
Franklin, the defending world champion, recorded 204.82 mph on his run to sit second. Valdosta race winner Jay Cox is third in the Clements Mechanical ’69 Camaro with a 3.689 at 200.68 and Randy Weatherford is fourth with a 3.701 at 198.76.
NO ISSUES FOR PLUCHINO - Defending world champion John Pluchino returned to championship form Friday after struggling at the season opener earlier this month. Following behind several drivers who improved significantly in the second session, Pluchino posted a 4.057 at 177.21 to top the field going into Saturday’s final session.
“We had all kinds of issues in Valdosta – just a bunch of gremlins – but we knew we had a fast car,” Pluchino said. “We came here on Thursday, fixed everything we wanted to fix, and went 4.05 right out of the trailer. We knew we could tune right from there.”
With the gremlins cleared up in testing, Pluchino and his New York-based team were able to get aggressive once qualifying began.
“The first run we went 4.09 straight to the top and we just tuned off of that. As a matter of fact, the air changed 10 minutes before they called us up to the lanes for the second session. We pulled the transmission out and we were thrashing, changing ratios. We swapped it around, got it back in the car, went up there and ran 4.05. It was a really good run,” Pluchino added.
Trevor Eman, whose wife recently gave birth to the couple’s first child, is second in his Aruba.com Mustang with a 4.061 at 177.28. The Camaros of J.R. Carr and Cary Goforth each recorded 4.07s to qualify third and fourth, respectively.
THE SPORTSMAN REPORT - Over 32 Top Sportsman entries made an attempt down the GALOT Motorsports Park eighth mile Friday night. Virginia native Randy Perkinson drove his nitrous-assisted ’16 Camaro to the top spot with a 3.812 at 189.47. Engine builder Billy Albert is second in his new ’17 Camaro with a 3.843 at 191.95. Defending world champion Dan Ferguson ran a 3.905 at 192.82 to sit third in his second race as the driver of Henry Dogay’s ’68 Camaro. Barry Daniluk’s naturally aspirated Camaro is fourth with a 4.008 at 181.69.
The Horton-built dragster of Matt Cooke currently leads the Top Dragster field after running a 3.863 at 187.16 mph during the second qualifying session. Kathy Fisher and her “Dragoness” Procharged dragster sit second with a 3.88, followed closely by the new-look blown dragster of Paul Daigrepont with a 3.883 in third. Defending world champion Justin Kirk ran 3.934 at 181.18 in his supercharged Spitzer dragster to sit fourth.
ON TAP - The PDRA East Coast Nationals will resume Saturday with Edelbrock Bracket Bash’s final time trial at 9 a.m. Pro qualifying will conclude with a third session at 10 a.m., followed by sportsman final qualifying at noon. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m.