2019 PDRA EAST COAST NATIONALS - EVENT PAGE
HOMETOWN STAR DELIVERS - GALOT Motorsports’ own Kevin Rivenbark delivered a hometown win for team owner and track owner Earl Wells in the team’s Steve Petty-tuned, ProCharger-boosted ’69 Camaro. Rivenbark turned on the final-round win light with a 3.688-second pass at 203.37 mph to defeat reigning world champion Tommy D’Aprile and his 3.73 at 200.92.
“For my second win here at GALOT, it feels really good to win for Mr. Wells and all the GALOT family,” Rivenbark said. “It’s icing on the cake to be able to win (at GALOT Motorsports Park). I just hope we can continue this all year long, me and John (Strickland). We were hoping for an all-GALOT final, but it just didn’t happen that way today.”
Rivenbark qualified No. 1 and continued to set the pace for the Pro Boost field through eliminations, recording low ET of the first two rounds with a 3.661 over Chuck Ulsch and a 3.678 over Marc Caruso. He eased off the throttle in the semifinals after opponent Eric Gustafson went red, slowing to a 4.837 and giving up lane choice to D’Aprile.
For his spot in the final round, D’Aprile used a holeshot advantage and 3.712 to overcome Larry Higginbotham’s 3.709, then dodged a bullet when GALOT Motorsports driver John Strickland was .001 red on a 3.685 next to D’Aprile’s 3.752. Another strong starting-line advantage and 3.723 narrowly defeated Melanie Salemi’s 3.729 in the semifinals.
WELCOME BACK - After posting a pair of runner-up finishes in 2018, nitrous Pro Modified veteran Jim Halsey scored his first-ever PDRA Pro Nitrous victory in his Fulton-powered, Switzer Dynamics-equipped ’68 Camaro. Halsey recorded a 3.693 at 206.70 in the final to take down defending world champion Jason Harris, who crossed the finish line with a 3.839 at 162.84 after a dramatic nitrous backfire.
“We struggled a little bit Thursday in qualifying, but once we made this morning’s run, we were pretty confident,” Halsey said. “I just had to do my job on the tree, especially with Jason because he’s probably one of the best at leaving. He showed that there, too.”
Halsey opened eliminations from the No. 7 spot, using a 3.793 to defeat Dane Wood before lowering the boom with a 3.671 at 207.46, one of the fastest runs in class history, to beat two-time world champion Tommy Franklin. A 3.702 victory over Randy Weatherford in the semifinals secured Halsey’s final-round berth.
Meanwhile, Harris had one of the best race days of his career, firing off a 3.698 over Johnny Camp’s 3.768, a career-best 3.665 over Chris Rini’s 3.683 and a 3.700 over Chris Patrick’s 4.624 on his way to the final round.
SON SHINE DAY - Just minutes after watching his father pick up the Extreme Pro Stock win, Johnny Pluchino held up to the pressure and notched his own event victory in Pro Outlaw 632. He drove Dominic Addeo’s Kaase-powered ‘06 Ford Escort to a 4.223 at 168.43 to defeat first-time finalist Wes Distefano and his 4.247 at 171.58.
“We’re still here – we’re not going away right now,” Pluchino said. “Everyone (in Pro Outlaw 632) picked up their stuff over the winter, so it’s going to be a tough year. It makes the racing more exciting and makes me yell in the car a little bit louder when the win light comes on. We’re excited, but at the same time we can’t stand still. In this sport, if you’re not improving your stuff every race, every day, every session, you’re going to get passed by. We’ll leave here, celebrate a little bit and we’ll go back to work.”
Pluchino, the No. 1 qualifier, was locked in the low 4.20s through eliminations. He started with a 4.221 over Robert Sellers and a 4.245 over Michael Nauman, then stepped up to a 4.217 to take down Chris Holdorf’s 4.229 in the semifinals.
Distefano in his Musi-powered ‘68 Camaro set low ET of the weekend with his opening-round 4.195 over Bobby Starr. His 4.27 defeated Jeff Ensslin in the second round, then a 4.244 was enough to beat Walter Lannigan’s 4.247 by just three ten-thousandths of a second in the semis.
FARMER DELIVERS THE GOODS - Second-generation drag racer and chassis builder Kellan Farmer earned his first Elite Top Dragster victory in the seat of his ‘19 Race Tech dragster. Farmer dispatched reigning world champion Chaz Silance in the opening round before defeating John Creasman and Kathy Fisher. Final-round opponent Robert Pickens went .016 red, but Farmer was ready with a 4.079 on a 4.05 dial-in.
A .006 reaction time helped Aaron Roberts seal the deal in Top Dragster 32, as he went 4.438 on a 4.42 dial-in in his ’14 Mike Bos dragster in the final round next to former Jr. Dragster standout Kimberly Messer’s 4.675 on a 4.67 dial-in.
NEXT UP - The PDRA will return to action in May for the first of two stops at Virginia Motorsports Park, the Mid-Atlantic Showdown presented by Modern Racing, May 2-4 in Petersburg, Va.
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK -
THE GREAT PUMPKIN FLIES - Jay Cox’s record-setting 3.637 at 204.26 over Rob Hunnicutt was the result of a busy winter that saw the Smithfield, N.C. native make 63 test passes between late December and February. He also integrated new components from Switzer Dynamics, Buck Racing Engines and M&M Transmission into his RJ Race Cars-built Camaro. Cox and his Butner Construction/Smithfield Collision/Lester’s Body Shop team entered Saturday eliminations from the No. 1 spot after firing off a 3.648 at 206.04 in Thursday’s first qualifying session.
“It felt really good to run that well,” Cox said. “We worked really hard this winter testing. It took the long way around to get to where we wanted to be – we slowed a little bit – but you see the result. The car is fast but it’s consistent – it runs .66 in the daytime and .63 at night. It feels good. I know what the car can do and I know the potential.”
Cox admitted his first-round game plan was aggressive considering rain stripped racers of their usual qualifying schedule. PDRA officials pushed the first session up to Thursday evening to get ahead of Friday’s rain storms, then a second session set the field Saturday afternoon.
“It’s tough over here because it’s professional racing, and I stress that,” Cox said. “We had to qualify in not-so-ideal conditions. We got one shot to go fast. It’s tough when you have to do that because you want to go up there and swing for it, but if you shake the tires and don’t go down you look bad. First round we shouldn’t go that fast, but I was confident and I told my guys, ‘Let’s see what it’ll do.’”
A similarly bold tuneup will be plugged into Cox’s Buck-powered “Pumpkin” ’69 Camaro for second round, where he’ll face No. 8 qualifier Chris Patrick.
“You can’t take it easy over here anymore,” Cox said. “Any one of these guys can bust your teeth out at any second. We’re gonna run this thing as hard as we can run it. If we have to service it, we’ll service it. We’re going to run it hard. If I’m going to get beat, I’m going to get beat with my best tuneup in that car.”
First-round results: Chris Patrick 3.739 def. Rickie Smith 3.745, Halsey 3.793 def. Dane Wood 3.888, Randy Weatherford 3.849 def. Dean Marinis 4.422, Jason Harris 3.698 def. Johnny Camp 3.768, Chris Rini 3.693 def. Tommy Mauney 3.756, Lizzy Musi 3.643 def. Ed Burnley 3.803, Tommy Franklin 3.641 def. Andrew Handras 3.769, Jay Cox 3.637 def. Rob Hunnicutt 5.507.
RIVENBARK SHOWING OFF AGAIN - Clinton, North Carolina’s Kevin Rivenbark continued his hot streak in the Steve Petty-tuned GALOT Motorsports Pro Boost ’69 Camaro when he recorded a 3.661 at 205.07 in his first-round defeat of Chuck Ulsch and his 3.892. The ProCharger-boosted, FuelTech-equipped entry rolled into eliminations in the No. 1 spot on the strength of a 3.684 at 200.29 in the final session.
“I was kind of worried to start with since we had some issues,” said Rivenbark, who will face Marc Caruso in the next round. “We really haven’t had any issues with the car until this weekend. It was just a mechanical failure. We missed Q1, then went out there for Q2 and really didn’t know what to expect. Just like it has in the past, the car just runs off a number. We went up for first round thinking it’d run maybe another .68, but it clicked off a .66. I don’t know, it’s just a miracle car is all I can tell you.”
First-round results: Marc Caruso 3.718 def. Jerico Balduf 3.724, Chip King 4.425 def. Anthony DiSomma (no time), Tommy D’Aprile 3.712 def. Larry Higginbotham 3.709, Kris Thorne 3.691 def. Ric Fleck 4.093, Eric Gustafson 3.700 def. Mike Yedgarian 7.318, John Strickland 3.687 def. Roderjan Busato 3.774, Melanie Salemi 3.712 def. Terry Leggett 4.003, Kevin Rivenbark 3.661 def. Chuck Ulsch 3.892.
HEY MO! - After changing the setup on his Outlaw 10.5 ’07 Corvette, including a move to drag radials, Mo Hall set low ET of the weekend with his first-round 3.853 at 192.49. It was a slight step up from the 3.889 at 191.95 pass Hall used to qualify No. 1 in the nitrous-assisted, Fulton-powered ‘Vette. The Maryland-based Outlaw 10.5 veteran will have a bye run into the semifinals.
First-round results: Paul Major 5.65 def. Jerry Morgano (DQ-red light), Rich Bruder 4.047 def. Mewshaw (no time), Tim Essick 4.023 def. Tommy Mauro 4.695, Joseph Thomas 4.724 def. Jesse Lambert 6.869, Mo Hall 3.853 def. Joel Wensley 4.55.
RAIN CANCELS FRIDAY PDRA GALOT QUALIFYING
Relentless rain showers forced Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) race officials to cancel Friday qualifying at the PDRA East Coast Nationals presented by FuelTech at GALOT Motorsports Park in Benson, N.C. The series’ first of eight races will resume Saturday morning with two sportsman qualifying sessions and a second and final pro qualifying session before going into eliminations.
“Unfortunately, Mother Nature won today, as we expected,” said Tyler Crossnoe, race director, PDRA. “After running one round of qualifying Thursday night to get ahead of the rain, we are prepared to complete the event on Saturday with two qualifying sessions for all classes. PDRA officials are working hard to create an event schedule for Saturday to accomplish a final round of qualifying and all eliminations.”
All but three of the PDRA’s professional and sportsman classes completed one round of qualifying Thursday night. The provisional No. 1 qualifiers are Eric Gustafson in Moroso Pro Boost, Jay Cox in Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous, Jeff Dobbins in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock, Johnny Pluchino in Schwing America Pro Outlaw 632 presented by Precision Chassis and Tim Essick in Atomizer Racing Injectors Outlaw 10.5. In the sportsman classes, the provisional low qualifiers are Erica Coleman in Magnafuel Top Sportsman and Robert Pickens in Lucas Oil Top Dragster.
On-track action is scheduled to begin with the first qualifying session for Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster, Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster and Edelbrock Bracket Bash at 9 a.m. The pro classes will build on the results of their Thursday qualifying session with Q2 at 12:30 p.m. Sportsman eliminations will begin at 2 p.m., followed by professional class eliminations at 4 p.m.