If you're going to make a championship statement, make it with a bang. That's exactly what championship contender Tommy Franklin did on Saturday as the PDRA's season draws down from a thrilling 2023.

Franklin's near-record 3.614-second, 206.42 MPH pass Saturday night at the PDRA Pro Line Racing Brian Olson Memorial World Finals presented by ProCharger put him on top of the Pro Nitrous field, where he is expected to settle a battle with Jim Halsey on Sunday.

Also landing atop their respective professional categories were Todd Moyer (Pro Boost) and Steven Boone (Pro Stock).

Saturday marked the third consecutive race that Franklin, the two-time series champion has finished as the No. 1 qualifier. The run came up shy of four-time and reigning series champion Jim Halsey’s four-year-old E.T. record by .001. Halsey ended up No. 2, so the two can only meet in the final round.

“The goal is to turn on win lights, but we're not being conservative,” said Franklin, who thanked God, his team, and supporters like Red Line Oil, Jerry Bickel Race Cars, and Pat Musi Racing Engines. “We're not doing anything other than letting it hang out and racing the racetrack we get. The racetrack has been great. Qualifying No. 1 is step one. We've got a couple more steps to make tomorrow. Battling with Halsey, they're a great team over there. It's not going to be easy. We're going to go out there and just race our lane, try to go as fast as we can, and try to turn on win lights. Our goal is to one, win the race, and two, win the championship. Or maybe in the opposite order.”

Halsey drove his Fulton-powered “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro to a 3.645 at 206.39. Jay Cox, who’s stepping away from driving duties after this season, ran a nearly identical 3.645 at 206.32 in his Musi-powered Butner Construction “Pumpkin” ’69 Camaro to qualify third.

In Pro Boost, Moyer maintained his top spot from Friday’s lone qualifying session. He improved on his performance in the second session on Saturday, recording a 3.584 at 225.97 in his twin-turbocharged ’16 Camaro. With engine builder Carl Stevens Jr. of Xtreme Racing Engines calling the shots, Moyer set a new class speed record and took the No. 1 spot by over 15 MPH over Joel Wensley Sr. and his identical 3.584.

“This has been the wildest three weeks in racing I think I've been through,” said Moyer, who thanked his wife, Kathaleen. “Carl and his dad [Carl Stevens Sr.] took this car from a ‘barely get in’ car to a top one car. This is unbelievable. It's incredible. It's been one heck of a weekend for us. We're gonna try to go some rounds and take it to the end. The last race [a Northeast Outlaw Pro Mod event] was ours and we had a coil go bad and just bad luck, but it's got eight new coils on it.”

Wensley, who set new career-best numbers with his 3.584 at 210.77, qualified second in his ProCharged Liberty’s Gears ’17 Camaro. Elapsed-time record holder Melanie Salemi posted a 3.591 at 209.10 in Eddie Whelan’s screw-blown Steady Eddie’s ’19 Camaro to qualify third.

The Pro Boost field was the second-quickest field in the 10-year history of the class, with Chuck Ulsch’s 3.647 at 206.13 sitting on the bump spot. Seven of the nine drivers who didn’t qualify for the 16-car field ran in the 3.60s.

Boone has competed in Mountain Motor Pro Stock for more than ten years and has accomplished a lot. He’s won races and a world championship, but he’d never qualified No. 1 in PDRA competition before Saturday night. The Weaverville, North Carolina-based driver took his Allen-powered Boone Motorsports ’07 Cobalt to the top spot in the second of three sessions when he lit up the scoreboard with a 4.029 at 179.68.

“We had some trouble at the last race and thought we’d found it, but we didn’t,” said Boone, who thanked Allen Competition Engines, AED Competition Fuel Systems, Maxima Racing Oil, Line-2-Line Coatings, and Adam Lambert at PRS. “After testing I was very disgusted. Friday morning, we started on this thing at 7 o'clock in the morning and we tore this thing apart from front to rear. We got out there for the first run today and just guessed at it. We made a good pass to give us something to work off of and everything just seems like it's fell in line.”

There were 20 Extreme Pro Stock cars competing this weekend. Still, the elusive three-second run remains out there.

“This is what we love to do and we strive to do this,” Boone said. “We would love to have seen the 3.99, but it will come. It will come. I think we're ending the season on a good note and I hope tomorrow goes well. I'm happy for my whole team – myself too. It's just too bad that we found everything here at the end of the season, but at least we got something to carry us through the winter.”

Class E.T. record holder John DeFlorian qualified second in his Kaase-powered Allegheny Metallurgical ’15 Camaro with a 4.037 at 179.25. North Carolina’s Elijah Morton rounded out the top 3 with a 4.04 at 177.28 in his Allen-powered Morton Brothers Motorsports ’19 Mustang.

Other top runners headed into Sunday include Daryl Stewart (Pro 632), Chris Garner-Jones (Pro Nitrous Motorcycle), Jerry Morgano (Pro Street), and Derek Mota (Super Street).

After one session on Friday and another on Saturday, the No. 1 qualifiers in the sportsman classes are Buddy Perkinson (Elite Top Sportsman), Robert Pickens (Elite Top Dragster), Barry Daniluk (Top Sportsman 48), and Bruce Mullins (Top Dragster 48).

In the Jr. Dragster classes, Ava Meloni and Wyatt Stanley secured the No. 1 qualifier awards. Meloni ran a 7.906 in her TT Motorsports ’19 Mike Bos dragster to take the top spot in Pro Jr. Dragster, which qualifies using a 7.90 index. Stanley and Jason Geryes both cut .009 reaction times in Classic Graphix Top Jr. Dragster, but Stanley did it first to qualify No. 1 in the class that qualifies on reaction times.

Championship Sunday at the PDRA Pro Line Racing Brian Olson Memorial World Finals presented by ProCharger at Virginia Motorsports Park will begin at 10 a.m. starting with first round of eliminations in the Jr. Dragster classes and Edelbrock Bracket Bash presented by COMP Cams, followed by the second round of eliminations in Top Dragster 48 and Top Sportsman 48. Pre-race ceremonies and pro eliminations will kick off at 12:30 p.m.