KALITTA, PROCK, ENDERS RAKE IN THE BIG BUCKS WITH PRO SUPERSTAR SHOWDOWN WINS
by Bobby Bennett Jr.; Photos by Dave DeAngelis, Tracy Waters Sun, 2024-02-11 12:48
Two defending series champions and a rookie to a new class walked away with the largest share of winner’s prizes ever offered in drag racing history at the SCAG Power Equipment PRO Superstar Shootout at Bradenton Motorsports Park.
Doug Kalitta won the Top Fuel portion and pocketed a $250,000 winner’s share of the purse by beating Clay Millican in the final round. Austin Prock won Funny Car, while Erica Enders was the victor in the Pro Stock portion. Chad Green took home the coveted Don Schumacher Trophy for winning the Nitro Combo shootout.
The Top Fuel final round was a rematch of Friday evening’s epic qualifying battle with Millican, which the Drummond’s Tenn.-based driver won by taking home the top qualifying spot.
In the finals, though, Kalitta took the win-light with a 3.706 elapsed time at 335.14 miles per hour behind the wheel of his Applied Innovations dragster. Millican lifted early and coasted to a 4.22.
Kalitta knew very well who he was racing in the final round. Millican’s crew chief, Jim Oberhofer, formerly was his tuner at Kalitta Motorsports.
“I knew going up there it was going to be a tough race,” Kalitta said. “And Clay, he’s as hungry as they get. I’m fortunate to have Mack Savage and this whole Applied Innovations group here this weekend. We just signed a deal for three races with the Applied, and they take care of all our copiers and all that kind of scanning and all that stuff; it’s a huge company, actually, and they’re branching out more in Florida. So this was a good marketing opportunity for them to be on my car down here.
“We’ll cherish this one. It was inaugural, something cool. And we’ll definitely find a nice place for that trophy.”
Kallita’s road to the final round included wins over Justin Ashley and Leah Pruett.
Prock’s Funny Car debut for John Force Racing might have started off as an ugly duckling in Tuesday’s testing, but it quickly developed into a swan by Saturday night.
During Saturday’s eliminations, Prock rode a 3.845-seconds at 332.42 MPH in his Cornwell Tools Chevy Camaro SS to defeat defending world champion Matt Hagan, who ran a 3.872 at 329.75.
“Life has its ups and downs, and so does racing,” Prock said. “And we showed up here on Monday, struggled Tuesday and Wednesday. We were all ready to quit and leave here, and we kept our heads down to work and turned this race car around and ended up walking out of here with $250,000 and a couple of badass trophies. So man, I’m so proud of this Cornwell Tools Chevrolet. This whole team is outstanding. It’s an elite group and I’m just honored to be able to sit in the seat of this thing.”
Prock defeated Alexis DeJoria in round one and then his teammate John Force in round two to reach the final round.
Enders certainly had her share of frustrations in the early going. But just like Prock, she turned the frustration into domination on race day.
“We struggled a little bit at first through qualifying, and we laid down a decent run to go, number one,” Enders said. “It wasn’t the baddest run we could make, obviously, but to just slowly creep up on it. It’s super stressful. This racetrack was very challenging this weekend, but I have the best dude in the whole entire world, and that’s Mark Ingersoll, Jake Hairston, Anthony Lum, Tim Freeman, my boys Rick and Rickie Jones back in Illinois. It takes a whole team of people to make this successful.”
Enders struggled with confidence early in the week but by Saturday, she was in a better place.
“It played out the exact way that we wanted it to,” Enders said. “And I give God all the glory because it’s through him that we can do all things. And you can self-doubt, listen to the negativity in the haters, but if you have him as your captain there’s absolutely no way to fail,”
Maybe there was a lot of extra motivation considering who she had to race. The reigning world champion bested Dave Connolly with a 6.531 at 210.05 in her JHG/SCAG/Melling Camaro. Connolly recorded a 6.577 at 208.81 in the runner-up effort.
“The huge history that we have there. I learned some from him, but I am 10 times the driver and the person that I was when we worked together back in the mid-2000s,” Enders said. “And this proves that with the right group of people and having them have your back and them not wavering, you don’t have to wonder where they stand or who’s going to snake your deal or what’s going to happen. I know exactly where my boys are at all times and where their heart is. And I think with that, people are the most important part of the puzzle.
“I think that’s part of, we talk about God’s timing. Sometimes it’s hard to understand what’s going on, but when I went through that heartache and that backstabbing and everything that got me to here, I now know that that’s why. Because with this group, the entire universe is possible, and I’m just really thankful to be their driver.”
In a special Funny Cars vs. Dragsters consolation for non-qualifiers in the eight-car field, racers competed for the Don Schumacher Nitro Superstar Award and a $10,000 bonus from Red Line Oil. The format paired up Top Fuel dragsters versus Funny Cars in the first round, with the quickest of each returning for the final round. A two-tenths staggered tree in favor of the Funny Cars evened the playing field.
Pomona winner Chad Green beat four-time Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence in the all-Texas final round.
Green was first to the finish line both times in his Bond-Coat ’23 Ford Mustang. He cut a .064 reaction time to Torrence’s .186, then laid down a 3.977 at 318.17 to finish ahead of the CAPCO Contractors dragster’s 3.729 at 333.41.
“I did something today I definitely thought I would never do, and that’s race against a Top Fuel dragster,” Green said. “And on top of that, when I heard I was gonna be doing this last night when we got bumped out, I was like, ‘Oh, I just I hope I get Steve Torrence.’ That’s what I went home telling all my crew last night because he’s my buddy, and just to get a chance to race against a Steve Torrence, right? Or Brittany [Force], for sure. I was like, ‘If I don’t get Steve, I want Brittany.’ I went up to Steve after the first round and said I’ll probably never get a chance to do this again, and then, boom, we get to race each other in the final. So I got to beat him two times. I think got a holeshot both times. I’m just really proud of that.”
Other winners included Darian Boesch (Top Sportsman), Matt Dadas (Super Stock), and Monty Jo Bogan Jr. (Stock).