2022 PDRA MAPLE GROVE - NORTHERN NATIONALS EVENT PAGE
RINI, TANNER, PLUCHINO HEADLINE MAPLE GROVE WINNERS
I'LL HAVE A SECOND - Chris Rini had to wait several years to hoist his first PDRA “660 Man” trophy in Pro Nitrous at the Summer Shootout in July. He had to wait just four weeks to pick up his second one at the Northern Nationals, where he used a 3.73 at 202.00 in Bryant Marriner’s Buck-powered ATI Performance Products ’69 Camaro to defeat Jim Halsey and his off-pace 3.825 at 202.48 in the final round.
“I feel really good,” said Rini, who was just over four rounds behind Halsey in points going into the race. “The car's making really good runs. The crew's really working well together. We have good products, good sponsors. I'm trying to drive as good as I can. There's some real tough competition out there. To win the first one was great. To win the second one's even better. It moves us forward in points. Now we're holding No. 2 solid.”
Rini qualified second before eliminating Rob Hunnicutt in the first round with a 3.827 at 201.31. He dipped into the 3.70s with a 3.765 at 202.48 to beat two-time world champion Tommy Franklin, who slowed to a 4.992. Rini then took advantage of a single in the semis, running a 3.726 at 202.52.
“I can't thank [tuner] Brandon Switzer enough; one, for sponsoring the class. Two, for all the products that we run on the car that were made by him,” said Rini, who also thanked his wife, Emily, his team, his employees at Chris Automotive in New York and LR Auto Sales in North Carolina, as well as ATI Performance Products and Buck Racing Engines. “We’re just making good runs. We have reliable horsepower. We proved that we can run with everybody else. I took a year off, and it's been a really good return. We've been so close all year. It's nice to see it happening. The guys put in a ton of work. Win, lose or draw, they're putting in the same work. To win just makes it that much sweeter.”
Halsey qualified No. 1 for the third time this season in his Switzer-tuned, Fulton-powered “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro. That gave him a first-round bye run, which the three-time world champion used to run a 3.794 at 203.80. Halsey recorded a 3.746 at 204.79 to overcome Wes Distefano’s .060 holeshot advantage and 3.823 pass in the second round. An all-Maryland semifinal pairing followed, with Halsey and Fredy Scriba both cutting .044 reaction times. Halsey pulled ahead, though, winning with a 3.702 over Scriba’s 3.792.
ALL GROWN UP - Brother-sister duo Preston and Lexi Tanner won PDRA Jr. Dragster world championships together in 2016, and now they’re competing for world championships together in the pro classes. Just two races after Lexi earned her first win in Pro 632, Preston raced to victory in Pro Boost for the first time in his screw-blown “Sweetheart” ’15 Corvette. Tanner used a slight holeshot advantage and a 3.665 at 204.11 in the final round to defeat Todd “King Tut” Tutterow, who beat Tanner in the final round at the Doorslammer Derby earlier this year.
“This win means everything,” said Tanner, who also reached the final round at the recent Summit Racing Equipment ProStars special event. “It means not giving up on the people who surround you and believing that you can win and just keep digging. That's what we kept doing.”
Tanner’s career-best weekend started on Friday when he qualified No. 1 for the first time. He kicked off eliminations with a 3.722 at 204.35 to beat Scott Wildgust, then left on James Beadling to win on a holeshot with a 3.701 at 203.68 over Beadling’s 3.688 at 204.32. Tanner then singled his way to a 3.684 at 203.19 in the semis to meet Tutterow in the final.
“That dude's a living legend at this point,” who thanked Tutterow’s Wyo Motorsports for providing the team’s horsepower, along with tuner Jeff Pierce, crew member Chad Crawford, parents Andy and Missy, sister Lexi, and supporters like M&M Transmission, G-Force Race Cars, Manhattan Collision Centers, and Talbert Manufacturing. “Just to go up against him or even get a round win, let alone a race win against him, it means everything. For our team, it just shows that we can hang with him and hang with the best.”
Tutterow, who has two wins this season in his screw-blown P2 Contracting/FTI Performance ’20 Camaro, qualified third. He used a 3.735 to beat Kevin McCurdy in the first round. The veteran driver and tuner then met up with P2 Racing teammate Kurt Steding, who went red, forfeiting a 3.703 to fall to Tutterow’s 3.707. Tutterow earned lane choice for the final round with his 3.67 at 207.11 victory over Rob Cox and his 3.723.
PLUCHINO DELIVERS - While western Pennsylvania isn’t exactly around the corner from Johnny Pluchino’s home base on Long Island, Maple Grove Raceway is the 2020 Extreme Pro Stock world champion’s home race on the PDRA tour. He had a cheering section full of family and friends on hand to see him win his third race of the season in his father’s Kaase-powered $hameless Racing/Strutmasters ’13 Mustang. Pluchino pedaled his way to a 4.308 at 171.79 in the final round to beat defending world champion Chris Powers, who lifted to a 5.265 at 95.00.
“It’s extra special to win in front of family. I'm just glad to put a smile on everyone's face,” said Pluchino, who also has two Pro 632 world championships to his name. “I'm extremely appreciative that they came out and supported us. It takes a family that supports you to be able to go do these things. I love them all and appreciate them. We're going to take one hell of a winner's circle picture.”
There are still two races left in the season, but Pluchino’s first-round match had serious championship implications, as he had to line up against points leader Tony Gillig. Gillig left first with a .005 reaction time, but he had to lift, allowing Pluchino to pedal on to a winning 4.781 at 163.33. Pluchino then played defense, holding off No. 1 qualifier JR Carr and his 4.502 at 172.04 with a 4.228 at 174.53. Carr was third in points behind Pluchino going into the weekend.
“This weekend is another step in the direction we're looking to go here,” Pluchino said. “At the end of the day, we ran like sh*t, but we got it done. That's all that matters. We had to run the guy in the lane next to us and we beat them every time. This was I think the trickiest event I've ever been to. I'm not sure why, but it really gave us some fits. To be holding this trophy at the end of the weekend, I'm just extremely grateful. Thank you to my team, my dad, and my partners. This is such a team deal. We have two events left for the ultimate goal.”
Powers, who hails from nearby Carlisle, started race day from the third spot in his Chuck Samuel-tuned Sonny’s Racing Engines ’21 Camaro. His 4.139 at 175.73 over Dave Hughes was the second-quickest pass of the first round. He left on No. 2 qualifier Elijah Morton, whose low E.T. of eliminations 4.112 at 175.73 wasn’t enough to get past Powers and his 4.149 at 174.66 in the semis.
RETURN ENGAGEMENT - About a month after winning in Pro 632 at the Summer Shootout, Daryl Stewart returned to the winner’s circle with his HRE-powered Chassis Engineering ’17 Camaro. Stewart and tuner Clayton Murphy stepped up for the final round against points leader Amber Franklin, firing off a 4.196 at 168.64 to drive around Franklin and her 4.223 at 168.01. His final-round performance was also good for low E.T. of eliminations.
“This win means a lot,” said Stewart, who thanked Murphy, crew members Chris Boudreau and Johnny Smith, and engine builder Daryl Hameetman. “I don't know where we are in points because we missed a race, but it gives us something to shoot for at these last few races. We’ll have some time off, so that will be nice for everybody. Hopefully we'll come back strong. I just barely beat [Amber] just now. She tree’d me. That was the worst light I had all weekend, but she got me there.”
The Jupiter, Florida-based driver made steady improvements all day after qualifying No. 2. He used a 4.239 at 168.24 to beat Gary Hood in the first round, then a 4.211 at 168.37 to eliminate Brian Clauss and his 4.276. A 4.206 at 168.49 in the semifinals gave Stewart the win over No. 3 qualifier Alan Drinkwater, as well as lane choice over Franklin by just .001.
Franklin, also a two-time winner this season, qualified fourth in her Musi-powered “OG Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro before running a 4.272 at 168.26 over Chris Sweeney, who couldn’t start up for their first-round race. The past Pro Jr. Dragster world champion posted a 4.245 to beat Stu Beaden’s 4.414, then stepped up again to a 4.207 to knock out low qualifier Walter Lannigan Jr. and his 4.221 in a side-by-side semifinal match.
IN THE WIN COLUMN - Defending Pro Street world champion Tim Essick has gone winless since his season-opening win at the East Coast Nationals, but the Maryland native bounced back with a well-timed victory at the Northern Nationals. In the final round against Bill Lutz, Essick grabbed a solid holeshot advantage and ran a 4.06 at 187.68 in his ProCharger-boosted “Brown Sugar” ’18 Mustang to hold off Lutz and his 4.026 at 190.86. Moments later, Essick’s crew chief, Dan Whetstine, picked up the Super Street win to get the team’s first double-up victory.
“I'm so happy for Dan,” said Essick, who’s raced with Whetstine for over 20 years. “To have both cars in the winner's circle is one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments. I can wish for it to happen again, but I'm so happy he was able to get there.”
Essick qualified fourth, setting up a big-time matchup with points leader Ty Kasper in the opening round. Essick left the line first and won with a 4.303 at 185.66 over Kasper’s 4.567 at 162.53, taking the points lead back in the process. He then stepped up to a 4.237 at 186.69 to beat No. 1 qualifier Nick Agostino and his 4.78 at 151.90 to move on to the final.
“Coming into this race, we lost our points lead and it was really a lot of pressure,” Essick said. “This is a pivotal deal. To have Kasper first round and have it play out like it did just swung it the other way. It's been such a back and forth. It's close competition, and it just goes to show any combo and any car can win it.”
Lutz qualified third in his supercharged “Big Boost” ’67 Camaro before posting low E.T. in the first two rounds, a 4.154 at 188.25 to beat Joe Thomas and a 4.181 at 188.60 to defeat newcomer Eric Pagliughi in the semis.
AN O.G. IN THE CIRCLE - Dan Whetstine was one of the first drivers to sign on for the PDRA’s new 28x10.5-inch slick-tire class, AFCO Super Street presented by Menscer Motorsports. His efforts were rewarded in just the third race for the class, as he stepped up to a 4.789 at 154.23 in the final round to knock out No. 1 qualifier Ron Rhodes. Rhodes, who beat Whetstine in the final round at the last race, slowed to a 6.452 at 91.54. It was the first PDRA win as a driver for Whetstine, who’s been a part of Tim Essick’s success in Pro Street and its predecessor, Outlaw 10.5, as his crew chief.
“I'm very grateful. Tim does so much for me personally. I look good because of him,” said Whetstine, who also thanked his wife, Michelle, crew guy Tim Savoy, and sponsors UPR, Billet Atomizer, and ProCharger. “I'm just a lucky guy. I have a really good core of people around me. No one works harder on my program than Tim Essick. I try to give him the same amount of effort in his program as mine. We have a great relationship. It's a relationship where no one keeps score. That's rare, and I'm very lucky.”
Whetstine qualified third in his ProCharger-boosted ’91 Mustang and opened eliminations with a 4.80 at 155.12 to win against Matt Schalow and his 5.153. Another pass in the 4.80s, a 4.831 at 154.79, followed in the semis to beat No. 2 qualifier Scott Marshall and his 5.087.
“We’re starting to get a handle on applying some power,” Whetstine said. “Today, we just kind of nicked at it here and there. We found a suspension issue in between races, and that has really allowed us to start putting some power back into the car. I’m pretty happy with how things are working out. I'm just happy PDRA has a class for us to race in. The family atmosphere is second to none, and the exposure is second to none.”
Rhodes, who picked up his second No. 1 qualifier award in his small-block nitrous ’68 Camaro, ran a 5.165 at 116.38 on a first-round single. He then recorded low E.T. of race day, a 4.707 at 152.00, to win over Blake Denton, who couldn’t get fired up for their semifinal match.
California’s Joe Roubicek, who entered the race No. 2 in Top Sportsman points, snuck into the Elite Top Sportsman field in the No. 16 position and made the most of the opportunity. His Sonny’s-powered ’68 Camaro was consistent throughout eliminations, running a dead-on 4.19 in the final round to defeat Vonnie Mills and her 4.173 on a 4.11 dial-in in her Sonny’s-powered “Show-N-Tell” Camaro. It was Roubicek’s second consecutive win, as he won the recent Summit Racing Equipment ProStars race in Top Sportsman.
Al Davidowski caught a break in the Top Sportsman 32 final round, where opponent Ken Langlois went .001 red on his 4.342 on a 4.34 dial-in pass in his ’63 Corvette. Davidowski then also went red in his ’10 GXP before breaking out with a 4.193 on a 4.20 dial-in to get the win.
Phil Mollichella took the Elite Top Dragster trophy back to West Chester, Pennsylvania, after taking down a handful of championship contenders. He lined up against defending world champion Pete Maduri in the final round, laying down a 4.144 on a 4.14 dial-in in his ’11 Miller dragster to turn on the win light. Maduri in the Bauer family’s ProCharged Dynabrade ’17 Chrome-Worx dragster ran a 3.767 on a 3.73 dial-in.
The Top Dragster 32 final round was decided on the starting line when Tisha Wilson went red by .002 in her Kannapolis, North Carolina-based ’01 Undercover dragster. New Jersey’s Fred Denight posted a 4.186 on a 4.18 dial-in in his ’06 Quay dragster for the win.
UP NEXT - The 2022 PDRA world championship season will continue Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at PDRA DragWars presented by Pro-Fab at GALOT Motorsports Park in Benson, North Carolina.
FIRST DAY IN THE BOOKS AT THE GROVE
WHAT SOPHOMORE JINX? - Preston Tanner continues to impress in his sophomore season in Pro Boost, as the 22-year-old driver earned his first No. 1 spot on the strength of a 3.663 at 204.23 in his screw-blown “Sweetheart” ’15 Corvette. The past Pro Jr. Dragster world champion took the top spot by just one thousandth in the final session. Tanner is chasing his first win in the class after reaching the final round at the Doorslammer Derby in Kentucky and the Summit Racing Equipment PDRA ProStars in Virginia just two weeks ago.
“Everybody likes to have a fast car, but to have the fastest car when you go up there, it means something a little extra,” said Tanner, who thanked tuner Jeff Pierce, Todd Tutterow and Brad Schmidt of Wyo Motorsports, M&M Transmission, G-Force Race Cars, Resolution Racing Services, Manhattan Collision Center, Talbert Manufacturing, parents Andy and Missy, sister Lexi, and crew member Chad Crawford. “This just shows that our program is working. We always see other people going out there being the fastest and you're like, ‘Man, I really have to gun for it.’ Now, we're in the situation where we just need to go A to B and try to win the race with A-to-B runs.”
Randy Weatherford, who defeated Tanner in the ProStars final round, claimed the No. 2 spot with a 3.664 at 199.55 in his ProCharger-boosted WS Construction ’19 Camaro. Points leader Todd “King Tut” Tutterow in his screw-blown P2 Contracting/FTI Performance ’20 Camaro rounds out the top three with a 3.675 at 206.29.
IT'S ME AGAIN, MARGARET - For the second consecutive race and the third time this season, defending world champion Jim Halsey took the No. 1 position in Pro Nitrous. He earned it on speed, posting a 3.732 at 205.10 in his Fulton-powered “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro to outrank Chris Rini’s 3.732 at 203.25 in the final session.
“The credit goes to [tuner] Brandon Switzer,” said Halsey, the only three-time world champion in the class. “This is a tuner's track, for sure. We went down the track this morning. We probably could've gone a little faster if we had one more run on the track. We get a single first round since we're No. 1 qualifier. That will give us one more lap on the track. Hopefully we continue to get a little better.”
Rini, who earned his first Pro Nitrous win at the Summer Shootout a few weeks ago, took Bryant Marriner’s Buck-powered ATI Racing Products ’69 Camaro to the No. 2 spot with his 3.732 pass. Ed Burnley, the runner-up at the 2021 Northern Nationals, qualified third in his Musi-powered “Iron Man” ’69 Camaro with a 3.734 at 201.55.
CARR CONTINUES DOMINANCE - JR Carr, fresh off of a $10,000 Extreme Pro Stock win at the ProStars race, added his fourth No. 1 qualifier award of the season after recording a 4.061 at 178.42 in his Frank Gugliotta-tuned F5 Motorsports ’20 Camaro. The Mountain Motor Pro Stock veteran is seeking his second points-earning win of the season as he chases down points leader Tony Gillig and 2020 world champion Johnny Pluchino in a bid for his first PDRA world championship.
“Being No. 1 is a great confidence booster because it shows you have the car to do it,” said Carr, who thanked his crew, wife Teri, and supporters like CP Carrillo and Maxima Racing Oils. “Now, instead of a burden – you have the fastest car, you have to win everything, then you screw something else up – it just gives me the confidence to get in and drive. Don't worry about all the things you can't do anything about. I tell everybody how hard these cars are to drive, but I think it's because of Frank being so aggressive all the time. Maybe they're a little easier to drive than I think, but I don't know any different. He's always aggressive, and I like it. Always trying to improve.”
Elijah Morton, who qualified No. 1 at the last two races, slid into the No. 2 position with his 4.096 at 176.60 in his Allen-powered Morton Brothers Motorsports ’19 Mustang. Defending world champion and home track star Chris Powers drove his Chuck Samuel-tuned Sonny’s Racing Engines ’21 Camaro to a 4.098 at 175.89 to qualify third.
SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST - The last pair in Pro 632’s final qualifying session put on a show, as Walter Lannigan Jr. and Daryl Stewart both made 4.189-second passes. Lannigan’s speed of 170.47 in the Troy Russell-tuned, Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro was just a touch faster than Stewart’s 169.08, putting the Pooler, Georgia-based driver in the No. 1 spot for the fourth time this season.
“I kind of needed that,” said Lannigan, who thanked his team, including Dave, Troy, Shawne, Bill, Sergio, Greg, and the rest of the $hameless Racing team. “Sometimes you kind of question yourself, but I knew I could do it, and my guys had faith in me the whole time. My guys worked hard like they do always. This is just the result of it. To me, that was a final round and I approached it as a final round. Daryl and I were joking and had a little wager up in the staging lanes. That was a statement.”
Stewart, who qualified No. 1 and won the last points race on tour, enters race day in the No. 2 spot in his HRE-powered Chassis Engineering ’17 Camaro. One thousandth behind Lannigan and Stewart, rookie Alan Drinkwater fired off a 4.19 at 169.83 in Kenny Floyd’s naturally aspirated, Kaase-powered ’04 Escort to qualify third.
4 OUT OF FIVE AIN'T BAD - Canada’s Nick Agostino qualified No. 1 for the fourth time in five Pro Street races after charging to a 4.047 at 203.03 in his turbocharged, small-block-powered “Cannoli Express” ’69 Camaro. It was a reassuring performance for Agostino, who had to make repairs after a massive wheelstand on a winning semifinal pass at the last event. Between testing and qualifying, it took a handful of passes for Agostino and his team to settle back into a sweet spot.
“We tested [Thursday] and we struggled,” said Agostino, who thanked his crew, as well as Mark Menscer of Menscer Motorsports and Mark Micke of M&M Transmission. “We were knocking the tires off at 500 feet. I got a little bit nervous when it did a Top Fuel burnout at 500 feet. The first round, we took some [power] out and the track hadn't improved like we thought it would. I had to take more out. We slowed things down and the track came around on that last pass. Everything worked out. I thought it would go .02 or .03. We took some boost out of the back just because we were nervous it was going to kick the tires. It worked out good.”
Bill Riddle, a first-time winner this season in his supercharged Corrigan Race Fuels ’89 Camaro, is second with a 4.068 at 186.30. Bill Lutz drove his screw-blown “Big Boost” ’67 Camaro to a 4.094 at 174.80 to take the No. 3 spot.
THE SPORTSMAN REPORT - Past world champion Buddy Perkinson bounced back from a tricky run in the first session to take the provisional No. 1 spot in Elite Top Sportsman in the second session, driving his Musi-powered LAT Racing Oils ’69 Camaro to a 3.888 at 192.69. Defending world champion Tim Molnar is second with a 3.913 at 194.49 in his nitrous-assisted ’68 Camaro. Henry Underwood in his ProCharged PAR Racing Engines ’63 Corvette, posted a 3.915 at 188.96 to sit third going into Saturday’s final qualifying session.
Top Sportsman veteran Mark Payne is the provisional No. 1 qualifier in Top Sportsman 32, just missing the Elite field with a 4.241 at 171.69 in his House of Payne ’06 Cavalier.
Vic Puglia rocketed to the top spot in Elite Top Dragster with his 3.766 at 194.21 in his Tonawanda, New York-based, ProCharger-boosted ’20 Puglia dragster. Reigning world champion Pete Maduri is No. 2 in the Bauer family’s ProCharged Dynabrade ’17 Chrome-Worx dragster with a 3.804 at 193.74. Points leader Larry Roberts is third with a 3.841 at 190.16 in his centrifugally supercharged ’16 Racetech dragster.
Val DiGenova is outside the 16-car Elite field by just .003, but a 4.228 at 167.53 puts the New Hampshire driver on top in Top Dragster
ON TAP FOR TODAY - The PDRA Summit Racing Equipment Northern Nationals presented by Penske Racing Shocks will continue Saturday at 9:30 a.m. beginning with final qualifying for the sportsman and Jr. Dragster classes. Pro eliminations will begin at 3:30 p.m.