2019 PDRA SUMMER NATIONALS - VALDOSTA EVENT PAGE
FINAL NOTEBOOK - SUNSHINE ON SUNDAY PROVES TO BE A GOOD THING
SECOND CHANCE AT FIRST PLACE - At various points in the weekend, John Strickland wasn’t sure he would even get to race in the eight-car Pro Boost field. First, he was bumped out of the field from the No. 2 spot in the second and final qualifying session. Then he was inserted into the field as an alternate for Terry Leggett, who walked away from a fiery incident in qualifying, but Strickland originally couldn’t stay for Sunday’s rain-delayed eliminations.
But he was able to shuffle around plans and his GALOT Motorsports team worked through their struggles to end up in the winner’s circle Sunday afternoon. In the final round, Strickland drove his ProCharger-boosted ’69 Camaro to a 3.781 at 199.79 to eliminate Melanie Salemi and her 4.107 at 139.91.
“We’ve had some lucky breaks this weekend,” Strickland said. “We went from being the No. 2 qualifier to not being in the show. Due to Mr. Terry Leggett’s misfortune, we were able to get in. The car threw us all kinds of curveballs this morning and the crew’s done a great job overcoming the electrical problems and getting us here. As a driver, I did a good job up until the final round. I almost gave it away there, but it worked. A lot of luck played a big part in this all weekend.”
Strickland opened eliminations with a 3.759 at 200.44 over Tommy Gray, who was in the field as an alternate for No. 1 qualifier Daniel Pharris. Strickland stepped up to his weekend-best 3.742 at 200.14 over Maryland race winner Kris Thorne and his 3.851 at 211.76 in the semifinals.
Salemi in her roots-blown “Purple Reign” ’68 Firebird qualified No. 3 before using a 3.731 at 200.29 to dispatch defending world champion Tommy D’Aprile and his 4.147 at 139.30 in the first round. She then defeated Kevin Rivenbark’s 3.807 at 180.40 with a 3.755 at 199.55, preventing an all-GALOT Motorsports final round.
BOONE SEALS THE DEAL - A tight field of eight Extreme Pro Stock drivers entered Sunday eliminations knowing they’d need to grab every advantage they could get as the naturally aspirated Mountain Motor Pro Stock cars battled muggy South Georgia conditions.
Defending world champion Steven Boone happened to race three drivers who reached too far for a starting-line advantage, as each of his opponents turned on the red light, allowing Boone to take his admittedly “wounded” Boone Motorsports ’07 Cobalt to his first win of the season. Boone recorded a 4.223 at 173.03 in the final round, while John Montecalvo let off the throttle after going red.
“We had a rabbit’s foot this weekend, I’ll be honest,” Boone said. “It was a little tricky on that (final round) pass. But I’m tickled to death. It’s been since last year since we were in a final. Like I said, luck was on our side today. This win is really going to help us in the points. We didn’t qualify for the very first race this year since we had ignition issues. We’re doing our best to defend that No. 1 because we want to wear that again next year.”
Boone ran his best pass of the event, a 4.144 at 174.30, next to Johnny Pluchino’s 4.191 at 174.75 in the first round. He slowed to a 6.078 at 78.70 after Chris Powers red-lit away a 4.123 at 175.80 in the semifinals.
Montecalvo’s Tommy Lee-tuned ’18 Camaro was the quickest car of the weekend, qualifying No. 1 and posting a 4.103 at 176.53 over Jeff Dobbins’ 4.118 at 176.77 in the opening round. A 4.128 at 175.98 followed in the semifinals, beating out Elijah Morton for the second final-round spot.
JOHNNY BE GOOD - Defending world champion Johnny Pluchino was given a 50-pound weight penalty going into the Summer Nationals, which fueled the outspoken New York native to fight for his third Pro Outlaw 632 victory of the season. He was successful in his mission, using a holeshot advantage and a 4.322 at 164.27 in car owner Dominic Addeo’s Strutmasters.com ’06 Ford Escort to take down Chris Holdorf’s 4.306 at 166.68 in his nitrous-assisted ’53 Corvette in the final round.
“I don’t know if there’s any win sweeter than this one,” Pluchino said. “We weren’t the quickest car here today, but we got down a hot racetrack in bad conditions. We’re in Georgia with a naturally aspirated car and we’re fighting nitrous guys, so we were really at a disadvantage this weekend. My dad and my guys pulled through and we got a holeshot win in the final. I’m just glad to get another win for Chip Lofton and everyone at Strutmasters.com.”
Pluchino qualified No. 2 and started eliminations with a 4.313 victory over rival and 2017 world champion Dillon Voss. The second-generation driver stepped up in an incredible semifinal pairing, which saw Pluchino win by just one thousandth with a 4.285 at 166.09 over Wes Distefano’s 4.288 at 171.84.
Clermont, Florida’s Holdorf raced out of the No. 4 spot and used a 4.278 at 167.41 to defeat fellow Floridian Mike Oldham and his 4.597 at 164.31. Holdorf was set to face teammate Walter Lannigan Jr. in the semifinal, but his nearly identical ’53 Corvette broke before staging. Holdorf went on to run a 4.293 at 166.85 on the single pass.
FINDING HIS WAY BACK - Three-time Pro Extreme Motorcycle world champion Eric McKinney didn’t receive the message that South Georgia in mid-summer is not the right time or place to record career-best, world-record-setting numbers. The Ohio rider left Valdosta with the low qualifier award, a new career-best ET (3.977), a new world record for speed (179.92) and the event win. He left on 2017 world champion Travis Davis in the final round, riding his McKinney Motorsports Hayabusa to a 4.056 at 178.33 next to Davis’ 4.279 at 142.22.
“Being back in the winner’s circle is the best feeling ever,” McKinney said. “I couldn’t have done it without my team, and especially my teammate/tuner (Ashley Owens) letting me ride his bike until we sorted out the bugs on mine. The whole weekend was awesome other than the rain. My whole team worked their tails off in between rounds because of the crazy ‘round robin’ eliminations. The competition is so tight – you’ve got to be on your game 100 percent, so to win is just awesome.”
McKinney’s 3.977 at 179.92 over Mike Corley was the stunner of the weekend. He continued the performance in the second round, laying down a 3.98 at 178.38 to beat Tommy Saxon. He nearly matched his qualifying performance to the thousandth with a 4.032 at 178.59 in the semifinals next to Owens’ 4.178 at 168.94.
To earn his way into the final round, Davis started with a 4.07 at 176.70 to defeat Lance Hines’ 4.322 at 170.99. A pair of holeshot wins followed. First, a 4.05 at 177.60 to beat championship contender Chris Garner-Jones’s 4.014 at 174.84, then a 4.095 at 173.18 next to defending world champion Ronnie “Pro Mod” Smith’s 4.058 at 174.39.
TOP SPORTSMEN - The Elite Top Sportsman final round featured Southeast hitters Jackie Robison and Bruce Duncan squaring off in a pair of classic Chevrolets. Robison left first and turned on the win light in his ’66 Nova, running 4.386 on his 4.37 dial-in. Duncan ran a 4.334 on his 4.25 dial-in in his ’68 Camaro. Robison defeated Ken Ellison, Glen Teets III and Mike Corbin before the final round, while Duncan eliminated PDRA regulars Randy Perkinson, Derrick Brown, Scott Moore.
Ohio’s Chris Nyerges made his long drive pay off when he picked up the Top Sportsman 32 win in his 2000 Firebird. He ran a 4.502 on a 4.48 dial-in, besting Hickory, North Carolina’s Jeff Pittman and his 4.358 on a 4.32 dial-in in his ’68 Chevelle.
Going into the Elite Top Dragster final round, it was a given that the PDRA “660 Man” trophy would stay in the Southeast. Hampton, Georgia’s Phillip Sexton kept it in the Peach State, wheeling his ’17 M&M dragster to a 4.124 on a 4.11 dial-in alongside Ocala, Florida’s Brian Bednar. Bednar went red in his supercharged ’09 Spitzer dragster. Sexton first raced past Nick Hamilton, Angie Travis and Kellan Farmer, while Bednar’s prior round wins came over 2016 world champion Justin Kirk, Bill Earnst and Maryland winner Camrie Caruso.
Jr. Dragster graduate Kimberly Messer continued her strong rookie season in Top Dragster 32 with her second victory in her ’16 Racetech dragster. She used a 4.67 on a 4.66 dial-in in the final round to turn on the win light, while Mandy Teets-Seal broke out with a 4.509 on a 4.51 dial-in.
NEXT UP - The 2019 PDRA Tour will continue July 18-20 at the inaugural PDRA Northern Nationals presented by Callies at Dragway 42 in West Salem, Ohio.
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - MOTHER NATURE STILL NOT HAPPY
A second evening of heavy pop-up rain storms forced Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) officials to push Saturday eliminations for the PDRA Summer Nationals Ignited by Lithium Pros Batteries into Sunday. Racing will resume at 9 a.m. at South Georgia Motorsports Park to complete the all-eighth-mile series’ fourth of eight races.
“We were all worried about the heat when we came to South Georgia in June, but this time of year also comes with these pop-up showers and thunderstorms,” said Tyler Crossnoe, race director, PDRA. “We hate to push things to Sunday. We know it’s a long drive for a lot of people. But Sunday is our rain date at the PDRA and we’re going to have to utilize it. We explored other options, such as pushing it to the next race, but we feel this is the best decision for the series.”
The series was preparing to go into the first round of eliminations for its professional categories after starting racing in the sportsman classes. Efforts to dry the track were stopped twice, leading race officials to push racing into Sunday.
“We’ll start at 9 a.m. with Pro Boost and continue through the first round of the rest of the pro classes,” Crossnoe said. “We’ll run it as fast as we can and we’ll wrap up by early afternoon as long as everything runs smoothly. We want to get teams on the road as soon as possible.”
The professional class low qualifiers going into Sunday eliminations are Daniel Pharris in Moroso Pro Boost, Randy Weatherford in Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous, John Montecalvo in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock, Walter Lanningan Jr. in Schwing America Pro Outlaw 632 presented by East Side Auto Transport, and Eric McKinney in Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle.
Eliminations started in the PDRA’s sportsman classes: MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman, Top Sportsman 32, Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster, Top Dragster 32, Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster presented by Knoxtown Products, Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster and Edelbrock Bracket Bash.
Spectators who attended Saturday qualifying at the PDRA Summer Nationals can return for Sunday free of charge with a valid Saturday wristband. Otherwise, Sunday spectator passes will be available at the gate for $20.
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK -
MOTHER NATURE WINS - Frequent pop-up rain showers prevented Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) officials from completing Friday qualifying at the PDRA Summer Nationals Ignited by Lithium Pros Batteries at South Georgia Motorsports Park. The all-eighth-mile series finished one of three scheduled qualifying sessions in all professional and sportsman classes, as well as two sessions in the Jr. Dragster classes.
“We’ve been battling weather issues all season, and this weekend isn’t any different,” said Tyler Crossnoe, race director, PDRA. “We were about to go into two pretty awesome night sessions before the rain started popping up. We have another chance of this (rain showers) tomorrow afternoon and we’re doing everything we can to get ahead of it so we can crown champions here at the Summer Nationals.”
After the lone qualifying session, the provisional low qualifiers in the professional classes are Daniel Pharris in Moroso Pro Boost, Jim Halsey in Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous, John Montecalvo in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock, Walter Lanningan Jr. in Schwing America Pro Outlaw 632 presented by East Side Auto Transport and Eric McKinney in Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle.
The PDRA’s sportsman classes were in the staging lanes for their second session when the rain started. The provisional low qualifiers are Erica Coleman in MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman, Buddy Perkinson in Top Sportsman 32, Brian Bednar in Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster and Bill Fordyce in Top Dragster 32.
The Jr. Dragster classes were able to run two qualifying sessions Friday afternoon. The leaders going into final qualifying are Aaron Reynolds in Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster presented by Knoxtown Products and Alyssa Rabon in Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster.
Qualifying at the PDRA Summer Nationals Ignited by Lithium Pros Batteries will resume Saturday at 10 a.m. with Edelbrock Bracket Bash time trials, followed by the final qualifying session for Jr. Dragsters.
“After Jr. Dragsters, we’ll finish Q2 for Top Sportsman and Top Dragster, then go into the second qualifier for pros and we’re going racing right after that,” Crossnoe said. “We’re hoping to be into Q2 for pros by 11:30, starting eliminations at 1 and we’ll try to get it done as quick as we can so we can get ahead of the forecasted rain showers. Pro eliminations will start around 2 pm.”