2018 PDRA DRAG WARS - EVENT NOTEBOOK
FINAL NOTEBOOK - NO. 1 QUALIFIER APPEARS TO BE TICKET TO WINNER'S CIRCLE
DIVINE DOMINATION - A black ’69 Camaro with a Noonan engine and Al Billes supercharger was guaranteed the Pro Boost win going into the final round, as near-teammates Tommy D’Aprile and Marc “the Rodfather” Caruso were set to square off for the trophy. It ended up being the closest race of the day, with D’Aprile leading out of the gate with his .007 reaction time and holding on through the eighth-mile stripe with a 3.765 at 199.75. No slouch with a .025 light, Caruso came up just 13 thousandths of a second short with his 3.76 at 197.39.
“When you’re the No. 1 qualifier, it seems like it’s tough to win, too,” D’Aprile said. “I’m just blessed to be a part of this team. I’m dedicating this win to my dad’s 80th birthday (on Friday). He’s someone who allowed me to start racing, so it’s special for me to win this for him and to win with these guys and win that final the way we did. That was a close one.”
D’Aprile and the Billes-owned-and-tuned ’69 Camaro were equally quick in earlier elimination rounds, running 3.805 over Larry Higginbotham and 3.767 over Ric Fleck, both with superior reaction times. Caruso in his Caruso Family Racing ’69 Camaro took down heavy hitters Jerico Balduf and John Strickland before facing D’Aprile, now a two-time winner this season.
DOBBINS PUTS MOPAR IN THE CIRCLE - Jeff Dobbins went to bed Friday night unsure of his ability to go rounds after qualifying on the bump spot in his Bears Performance/Curacao ’14 Dodge Avenger. A holeshot win in the opening round, coupled with quick reaction times and a deadly-consistent car, was all Dobbins needed to change his attitude. By the final round, Dobbins was really on his game with a 4.10 at 176.19 to claim the win over Steven Boone and his 4.124 at 174.26 in the Boone Motorsports ’07 Chevy Cobalt.
“This win is special coming from the 16th hole – that’s hard to do,” Dobbins said. “We’re a good team, but we just struggled all year. We just stuck together. Yesterday, we weren’t feeling good about our chances. We woke up this morning and came out swinging. We knew we had a good car and a good team, we just had to get it done.”
Dobbins used a pair of 4.12s to move past John DeFlorian Jr. and Rick Cowger in the first two rounds. He ran 4.116 next to a red-lighting Trevor Eman and the Aruba.com Mustang in a “battle of the Caribbean” in the semifinals. Boone, who won his first PDRA win earlier this season, beat Matt Giangrande, Chris Powers and 2016 world champion John Pluchino en route to the final.
QUITE THE WEEKEND - Ronnie “Pro Mod” Smith went wire-to-wire to enjoy his career-best weekend in the PDRA’s Pro Extreme Motorcycle class riding his Innovative Performance ’16 Suzuki to progressively quicker passes from the No. 1 spot. Smith’s final shot was a 3.997 at 175.59 over Chris Garner-Jones and his 4.08 at 173.83.
“We’ve worked hard all year,” said Smith, a first-time winner. “We’ve came so close, broke a record, and we’ve just been chasing this win all year. It’s just the total package we have in this bike. It’s been on a string all weekend.”
Smith, the points leader, ran a 4.059 over Terry Wynn in the first round, then a 4.027 at 175.66 to hold off No. 2 in points, Terry Schweigert, in the second round. He then took advantage of a competition bye run in the semifinals. Meanwhile, Garner-Jones defeated T.T. Jones, Ehren Litten and Brunson Grothus.
COOL AS THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PILLOW - Pro Outlaw 632 points leader Johnny Pluchino didn’t let the pressure of a final-round match with defending world champion Dillon Voss get to him. In fact, he fed off the pressure, just as he did all day, unleashing a 4.251 at 167.38 to drive Dominic Addeo’s ’06 Ford Escort around the .003 reaction time and 4.298-second pass of Voss in his Voss Racing Engines ’17 Corvette.
“I saw a whole lot of Voss’ car in the final round,” Pluchino said. “I think I got close to the centerline because I was looking at him so much, but we were able to get around him. I’ve been trying to get around him for a while now. He’s been a thorn in my side, so we’re excited to pull off the win. We’ve got a lot of momentum going into these last two races.”
Pluchino kicked off eliminations with a 4.277 on an earned bye run, then improved to run 4.247 over Tony Gillig and a 4.233 over Jeff Ensslin. Voss, who maintained his spot directly behind Pluchino in the points, raced around Alonzo Williams, Jeremy Huffman and Jordan Ensslin before the final round.
SUCCESS - Aaron Glaser successfully defended his 2017 Drag Wars victory in Elite Top Sportsman when his Albert-powered Glaser Collision ’68 Firebird ran a 4.064 on a 4.06 dial-in over Scott Moore’s 4.143 on a 4.10 dial-in in his PAR-powered ’08 Mustang. Glaser previously defeated No. 1 qualifier and engine builder Billy Albert, Henry Underwood and Cam Clark before the final round.
“Crazy” Ed Foley notched the Top Sportsman 32 win in his Ford-powered ’12 Mustang, running a 4.394 on a 4.39 dial-in next to points leader Dennis Gaboriault, who ran 4.199 to break out on his 4.20 dial-in.
SHARKTINO - It was a battle of North vs. South in the Elite Top Dragster final round, as Tom Martino drove his Youngstown, Ohio-based “Sharktino” dragster to a 4.097 on a 4.08 dial-in, while Mocksville, North Carolina’s Russ Whitlock broke out with a 4.216 on his 4.22 dial. Martino defeated Alan O’Brien, Camrie Caruso and Kyle Harris on his way to the final round.
In Top Dragster 32, Johnny Grub used a superior reaction time and 4.847 on a 4.83 dial-in to overcome the dead-on 4.500 of Chad Traylor.
UP NEXT - The PDRA 2018 Tour will continue next month at the PDRA Fall Nationals, Oct. 4-6, at Darlington Dragway in Hartsville, South Carolina.
FRIDAY EVENT NOTEBOOK - FAMILIAR FACES STOP THE LEADERBOARDS
FRANKLIN LEADS BOTTLE ROCKETS - While Tommy Franklin is certainly not new to qualifying No. 1 in Pro Nitrous, the same can’t be said for his new Musi-powered ’69 Camaro. Nearly identical to the “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro that he drove to the last two Pro Nitrous world championships, Franklin’s new ride glided to a 3.71 at 202.12 to earn the top spot.
“This new car is starting to come around,” Franklin said. “It doesn’t want what the old car wanted, so we’re re-learning a lot. It wasn’t like we could just put in the tune-up from the old car. We’re taking baby steps to get there, but tonight it showed a lot of promise. With it being a new car, we just don’t know what it’ll take, so I was in uncharted territory on Q3. It stuck and it was gone. As soon as I let go of the button, I knew it was on a pass. The track was killer – it was killer all day – but the air finally came around to match the track in the night session.”
With his second No. 1 qualifying effort of the season, Franklin also helped engine builder Pat Musi secure the 2018 Flatout Gaskets Nitrous Wars championship. Franklin will line up next to Tyler Jenkins to begin eliminations Saturday afternoon.
Mooresville, North Carolina’s Lizzy Musi continued her impressive string of performances at GALOT, claiming the No. 2 spot with a 3.727 at 205.04 in the Edelbrock ’15 Dodge Dart. Points leader Jason Harris finished the day in the No. 3 slot after driving the Boone-Harris Racing “Party Time” ’69 Camaro to a 3.733 at 200.80.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT - A pre-race test session paid off for Ronnie “Pro Mod” Smith, as the Maryland-based rider fired off a 4.025 at 175.43 to qualify No. 1 and set himself up on the right side of the eliminations ladder to potentially earn a semifinal bye run. Smith will face Terry Wynn in the first round of eliminations.
The turbocharged Williford Racing ’18 Suzuki Hayabusa carried Virginia winner Ehren Litten to the No. 2 spot with a 4.034 at 181.79. Past event winner Brunson Grothus ended up third with a 4.053 at 175.84 on his Indocil Art Hayabusa as he looks to add to his pair of 2016 PDRA “660 Man” trophies.
TWO IN A ROW - For the second race in a row, New York’s Johnny Pluchino led a field full of the Southeast’s best Pro Outlaw 632 cars when he recorded two of the quickest passes of the day in Dominic Addeo’s ’06 Ford Escort. He drove the naturally aspirated, Kaase-powered entry to a 4.258 in the first session, then lowered the boom with a 4.242 at 167.80 to wrap up the final qualifying session.
“We weren’t able to make Q2 because we hurt my dad’s engine (in Extreme Pro Stock) on Q1, so all of our resources went to fixing that,” Pluchino said. “I didn’t have a graph on Q1, so we went up there and seat-of-the-pants’ed it, felt what we felt and made a decision. With the changing conditions, we figured we could run a high .23 or low .24, but it doesn’t always work out that way. We would’ve been No. 1 anyway with the .25, but it was nice to go out there with a .24 going into race day.”
Pluchino will start eliminations with a competition bye run Saturday afternoon. Defending world champion Dillon Voss follows Pluchino in second with a 4.262 at 167.53 in the Voss Racing ’17 Corvette. Jordan Ensslin is just a hundredth behind him with his pass of 4.272 at 166.85 in his Lakeland, Florida-based ’02 Pontiac Trans Am.
HEY, HEY .. IT'S BILLY ALBERT - Engine builder Billy Albert powered to the top in Elite Top Sportsman behind the wheel of Stan Nance’s Structural Mechanical ’17 Camaro, recording a 3.818 at 197.54 to hold a sizable lead over No. 2 qualifier Don Klooster and his 4.008 at 183.42 in his Michigan-based ’68 Camaro. Virginia’s Jordan Wood is third with a 4.011 at 187.73 in his nitrous-assisted ’14 Mustang.
With 53 Top Sportsman entries attempting a run during Friday qualifying, a 32-car Top Sportsman ladder will be set in addition to the 16-car Elite Top Sportsman field after the final qualifying session. Erica Coleman is the Top Sportsman 32 provisional No. 1 qualifier with a 4.164 at 179.09.
CREASMAN PACES DRAGSTERS - Leicester, North Carolina’s Jeremy Creasman blasted to a 3.813 at 186.72 in his ProCharger-boosted ’15 Maddox dragster to hold the provisional No. 1 spot in Elite Top Dragster. Kyle Harris is chasing Creasman with a 3.858 at 190.81 in his supercharged ’32 Bantam altered, as is No. 3 qualifier Alan O’Brien in his AMC-powered Race Tech dragster with a 3.93 at 188.31.
Bruce Mullins and his ’07 American dragster will lead the second 16-car Top Dragster field into Saturday’s final qualifying session.
ON TAP - The 2018 PDRA Drag Wars at GALOT Motorsports Park will continue Saturday, Sept. 8, with sportsman final qualifying at 9:30 a.m. Pre-race ceremonies are scheduled for 1:45 p.m., followed by first round of eliminations at 2 p.m.
Q2 - The following are Friday's second session qualifying results.
Q1 - The following are Friday's first session qualifying results.