2022 PDRA WORLD FINALS - EVENT PAGE
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK: THE FIELDS ARE SET FOR THE FINAL 2022 RACEDAY
SALEMI SEALS THE DEAL - For the fourth time in seven races, Melanie Salemi drove Eddie Whelan’s roots-blown Slice-and-Ice ’19 Camaro to the No. 1 spot in Pro Boost. With husband Jon and brother-in-law Jim calling the shots, Salemi posted a 3.579 at 209.46 in Friday’s opening session that held up as the quickest pass through the other three qualifying sessions. Second in points behind Todd “King Tut” Tutterow, Salemi is on a mission to collect as many points as possible.
“We know we have to do a lot of things here to win the championship,” said Salemi, who won the World Finals in 2018. “Every star has to align. I have to qualify No. 1, which I've ticked that off. We have to win the race, set a record, and Todd has to lose first round. Every run we’ve been swinging for it. We're going to try again tomorrow. I hope Jon has his fingers on fire and we can do it.”
Tutterow is right behind Salemi, qualifying No. 2 after laying down a 3.602 at 208.33 in his screw-blown P2 Contracting ’20 Camaro in the final session. Friday’s No. 3 qualifier, Johnny Camp, also raised the bar with a 3.607 at 209.14 to maintain his spot in a session that saw numerous drivers step up.
HALSEY DELIVERS AGAIN - Three-time and defending Pro Nitrous world champion Jim Halsey knew there was more left in his Brandon Switzer-tuned, Fulton-powered “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro after taking the provisional No. 1 spot with a 3.668 in Friday’s second session. He proved that in the final session, recording a 3.658 at 207.34 to lock in his third consecutive low qualifier award and fourth of the season.
“We made two runs yesterday and switched engines this morning to our favorite engine,” Halsey said. “It just gives you that much more information. We had a run last night about the same time as tonight. The track conditions were similar. We thought we knew what we could get away with and what we couldn't get away with.”
With mid-3.60 passes on two different motors, Halsey can go into eliminations with confidence. He’s chasing his fourth world championship and third World Finals victory.
“We’re definitely thinking about the championship,” Halsey said. “Four in a row would be awesome, but we'd like to win too. Everybody has to do their job, especially me. I've been a little lax here during qualifying, but hopefully tomorrow I can pick it up.”
Perennial contender Jay Cox made his best run of the weekend, a 3.677 at 205.66, in his Musi-powered Butner Construction “Pumpkin” ’69 Camaro to qualify second. Pro Nitrous rookie Wes Distefano lowered his career-best E.T. for the second day in a row, posting a 3.682 at 203.77 to hold on to the No. 3 spot in his Troy Russell-tuned, Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro.
ENDING ON A GOOD NOTE - Extreme Pro Stock driver John DeFlorian didn’t achieve his goal of becoming the first driver in the class to break into the 3-second zone, but he did qualify No. 1 in one of the largest and most impressive fields of Mountain Motor Pro Stock cars in recent history. His 4.012 at 180.04 from Friday night was as quick as anyone got to that elusive 3-second pass, though DeFlorian and several other drivers went for the record in Saturday’s final session.
“We just didn't get the conditions,” said DeFlorian, driver of the Kaase-powered AMSOIL ’15 Camaro. “It was so close. Last night, that 4.012, honestly, it should've been a 4.004 or 4.005. The car was a little loose down track. But it wasn't there. It has to be perfect – the weather, the setup, all the calls, the driver – everything has to be dead-nuts perfect. That's why it's so hard to break that barrier. We're trying like hell. I was really wanting it.”
Eighteen drivers attempted to qualify for the 16-car field. JR Ward sits on the bump spot with a 4.126 at 174.50. The significance of the large, competitive field is not lost on DeFlorian, who built several of the cars in the class as the shop foreman at Jerry Haas Race Cars. He’s encouraged by the strength of the class and motivated to defend his World Finals event title.
“I came in here to win,” DeFlorian said. “There's no other thing I come here to do, other than run that 3 and try to be No. 1 qualifier. Well, we got part of it done. We didn't get the 3. Now we have to try to get the win. Maybe the weather's good enough [to attempt a 3-second run]. Who knows what will happen there. The objective is to win every round and try to take that trophy home.”
JR Carr, who recorded a 4.015 at 180.36 in his Frank Gugliotta-tuned ’20 Camaro next to DeFlorian in the quickest side-by-side pass in class history, qualified second. Elijah Morton stepped up to a 4.017 at 179.85 in his Allen-powered Morton Brothers Motorsports ’19 Mustang to solidify his No. 3 spot.
ONE-UPPING - After making the quickest run in Pro 632 Friday qualifying, Walter Lannigan Jr. in the Troy Russell-tuned $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro did it again on Saturday with his 4.136 at 172.12. Lannigan has now qualified No. 1 at five of seven races this season driving the car that won the 2020 and 2021 world championships with Wes Distefano driving. A win has escaped Lannigan and the team this season, but the Georgia native is hoping to change that on Sunday.
“We've been struggling all weekend,” said Lannigan, referring to a hurt engine in pre-race testing and a converter issue earlier in qualifying. “Today was just a confidence builder for tomorrow. We’ve got the equipment, the manpower, and the know-how. When things break, there's nothing you can do about it.
“Everybody else in the top five has a trophy,” continued Lannigan, who’s No. 2 in points behind newly crowned world champion Amber Franklin. “I want one now. I have one from two years ago, but I took a year off. Now it's time to take one home to end the year.”
Franklin qualified No. 2 in her Musi-powered “OG Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro, backing up her 4.155 from Friday with a 4.151 at 171.08. Similarly, Daryl Stewart improved from his 4.164 to a 4.162 at 169.74 in his Clayton Murphy-tuned Chassis Engineering ’17 Camaro to stay third.
QUICK BY GAST - Paul Gast made a 3-second pass on Friday afternoon that safely put him in the No. 1 spot in Pro Nitrous Motorcycle, then he improved on Saturday to fend off two other 3-second riders. Gast rode his Fast By Gast Suzuki to a 3.961 at 179.44, qualifying No. 1 for the third time in three appearances this season. Since he isn’t in championship contention, Gast has just one goal for race day.
“The goal is to win the race,” Gast said. “That was the goal before we even thought of coming here. I'm going to try my hardest. It's pretty much up to the rider at this stage in the game. I think I have the bike that can certainly do it. The other guys are coming on, though. I think it'll be a little bit different weather tomorrow, but I know one thing: I ain't turning it down.”
Reigning world champion Chris Garner-Jones fired off a 3.982 at 175.00 to move up from second to third. He passed Kuwait’s Meshal Al-Saber, who also improved to a 3.984 at 178.31 aboard his Q80 Racing entry.
PRO STREET ROCKS - Pro Street qualifying featured some of the quickest passes in the brief history of the class. Bill Riddle used a career-best 3.94 at 189.95 in his roots-blown Corrigan Race Fuels ’89 Camaro to outqualify Friday’s provisional low qualifier, Bill Lutz. With tuning help from Pro Boost driver Jim Beadling, the Michigan driver ended qualifying as the quickest of four drivers that dipped into the 3-second range.
“We just started leaning out the motor, and it seemed to like it in between the 60-foot and the 330,” said Riddle, who’s looking for his second win of the season. “Jim's been helping me out for a while and helping me with the fuel tuneup. We seem to be getting it pretty close now.”
Lutz’s 3.963 at 196.44 from Friday’s night session put him in the No. 2 spot. Ty Kasper, who won his first two races earlier this season, set new career-best numbers in Pro Street trim with his 3.976 at 197.36 to qualify third.
SUPER STREET - While several Super Street drivers made personal-best passes in Saturday’s two qualifying sessions, no one topped the three quickest passes from Friday. Alexandria, Virginia’s Paul Curry qualified No. 1 in his ’69 Nova known as “The Joker” with a 4.646 at 158.82. Dan Whetstine is second with a 4.676 at 158.13 in his ProCharger-boosted ’93 Mustang, and Scott Marshall is third in his Elkton, Virginia-based ’89 Mustang with a 4.744 at 150.65.
TOPS OF THE SPORTSMEN - A career-best 3.787 at 197.05 allowed Glenn Butcher to hold on to the No. 1 spot in Elite Top Sportsman. After running a 3.788 on Friday, Butcher made a slightly quicker pass in his nitrous-fed ’69 Camaro to lead Donny “Hollywood” Urban and Chris “Nitrous” Nyerges. Urban and Nyerges also maintained their No. 2 and 3 positions from Friday with their passes of 3.798 and 3.803, respectively.
Friday’s provisional low qualifier in Top Sportsman 48, Barry Daniluk, also held on to his top spot with a 3.992 at 178.40 in his naturally aspirated ’68 Camaro.
Jody Stroud’s quickest pass in Elite Top Dragster qualifying, a 3.60, was quicker than the minimum E.T. in the class, so that run was disqualified. Stroud in his supercharged “Zombie” ’07 Spitzer dragster came back and recorded a 3.70 at 185.10 to qualify No. 1. He went around Vic Puglia’s 3.713 at 194.30 and Brian McHattie’s 3.738 at 196.90.
Marty Jones Jr. and his Toms River, New Jersey-based ’07 Undercover dragster missed out on the 16-car Elite field, but he took the No. 1 spot in Top Dragster 48 with a 3.884 at 185.26.
The final day of the PDRA Proline Racing Brian Olson Memorial World Finals presented by ProCharger will start with first round of eliminations in the Jr. Dragster classes at 10:15 a.m. Pro eliminations will kick off at noon.
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF THE SEASON
ON THE CUSP - Pro Nitrous points leader Jim Halsey missed the No. 1 spot in Friday’s first session by just one-thousandth of a second, but he came back with a big run in the second session to take the provisional No. 1 spot. He drove his Brandon Switzer-tuned, Fulton-powered “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro to a 3.668 at 206.83, improving on his 3.686 from the first session. The nitrous Pro Modified veteran is chasing his fourth consecutive world championship.
“To make a good run today and make another good run at night to back it up, we're pretty happy,” said Halsey, who thanked his longtime crew. “The car is good. We have an engine in that's not one we usually run, so that's probably why we were a little slower than we expected to be. We'll change engines in the morning and try again.”
Two-time world champion and track owner Tommy Franklin is second with a 3.685 at 204.73 in his Musi-powered “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro. Wes Distefano, the reigning Pro 632 world champion and a Pro Nitrous rookie, cracked into the top three for the first time with a career-best 3.695 at 203.61 in the Troy Russell-tuned, Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro.
TALL ORDER - Pro Boost record holder Melanie Salemi and her family-based team went into the World Finals knowing they need a career-best weekend to have a shot at the world championship. Currently No. 2 in points behind Todd “King Tut” Tutterow, Salemi needs a maximum points weekend, including winning and setting a new record. She came close to the record on her first pass of the day, driving Eddie Whelan’s roots-blown Slice-and-Ice ’19 Camaro to a 3.579 at 209.46 to lead the 19 other drivers on the Pro Boost sheet.
“I don't think we were quite trying to go that quick on that run, but it worked out,” said Salemi, who credited her team, the G-Force Race Cars shop staff, and engine builder Mike Stawicki. “It kind of set us up in a weird position because we know what we have to do to win the championship. It's an extremely tall task. We didn't come here with the mindset that 'this is what we have to do' because when you do that, it never happens. So we decided to come into this race the same way we would go into any race. Whether we set the record in qualifying or not, we are still here to win the race. If it’s our turn, it’s our turn. If it’s not, we’ll try again next year.”
Tutterow’s P2 Racing teammate, Kurt Steding, is currently No. 2 in his screw-blown P2 Contracting ’20 Camaro with a 3.62 at 209.52. Johnny Camp in his ProCharger-boosted “Hells Bells” ’69 Camaro is third with a 3.622 at 208.81.
LOOKING FOR THAT THREE - John DeFlorian’s goal for the World Finals is to run just one ten-thousandth of a second quicker than his 4.000-second Extreme Pro Stock record set at last year’s World Finals. With a 4.012 at 180.04 during the second session, DeFlorian believes his Kaase-powered AMSOIL ’15 Camaro has what it will take to record the class’s first official 3-second run when the conditions are there.
“The water was coming in really heavy, and you just can't burn water,” explained DeFlorian, who thanked crew chief Brian “Lump” Self, his team, and supporters like Kevin and Karen Bealko, AMSOIL, and Graber Concrete. “We were still going for it. I think we've got a little issue going on with the car that we may have figured out. Both runs the car got loose down track. If we just straighten that run out there, it would've gone a 4.004. It’s just so close. But tomorrow doesn't look bad. We'll see what the conditions do and we'll see what we can do. We love coming out here to this race every year. [The first 3-second run] is always this thing that everybody is chasing. We couldn't have gotten any closer last year – one ten-thousandth.”
DeFlorian is far from alone in his quest for the first spot in the 3-second club. JR Carr in his Frank Gugliotta-tuned F5 Motorsports ’20 Camaro fired off a 4.015 at 180.36 in the lane next to DeFlorian. Elijah Morton was the third-closest to the 3s with his 4.021 at 180.52 in his Allen-powered Morton Brothers Motorsports ’19 Mustang.
CLINCHED - While second-generation PDRA star Amber Franklin secured the Pro 632 world championship by making her first qualifying pass, there’s still an event win on the table. That’s what Walter Lannigan Jr. and the $hameless Racing team are pursuing. The four-time No. 1 qualifier is well on his way towards that goal, as he recorded a 4.151 at 171.58 in the Troy Russell-tuned, Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro in the opening qualifying session to hold the provisional No. 1 spot.
“It's been pretty good because we've been fighting adversity from day one,” Lannigan said. “But we've been persevering through it. The guys never give up. The ultimate goal is to win the race. We haven't won a race all year. It doesn't mean that we can't win a race, we just haven’t done it yet. The whole plan is to be smart and win the race.”
Franklin is the provisional No. 2 qualifier in her Musi-powered “OG Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro with a 4.155 at 170.45. Daryl Stewart, who won the last two races on tour in his HRE-powered Chassis Engineering ’17 Camaro, is third with a 4.164 at 169.68.
ALWAYS FAST BY GAST - Drag bike racing veteran Paul Gast proved yet again that he has the quickest Pro Nitrous Motorcycle as he was the lone rider to dip into the 3-second range. He unintentionally let off the throttle early on his first qualifying pass and still posted a 3.978 at 176.74 aboard his Fast By Gast Hayabusa. Since the evening session’s conditions were much cooler than Gast will likely see on race day, he chose to sit out the second session.
“We made a perfect run and there's definitely a little bit more in it,” Gast said. “You've gotta have it running really good for three days, especially the third day. I'm here for the race. I opted out of tonight's qualifier in 48-degree weather. It had a chance of going real fast, but by watching the other bikes, it probably wasn't going to happen. I think it was prudent to just wait and make another one or two tomorrow. It's all about racing for this bike and me at this stage of my deal.”
Kuwait’s Meshal Al-Saber followed Gast with a 4.017 at 174.53 on his Brad McCoy-tuned Q80 Racing bike, while defending world champion Chris Garner-Jones is third with his 4.052 at 163.28 on his TT Jones Racing entry.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT - Central Ohio’s Bill Lutz decision to test at one of his local tracks on Thursday before making the trip to VMP is paying off. Lutz and his son, Kenny, made changes to their supercharged “Big Boost” ’67 Camaro after reaching the final round at the last race. They tested those changes at Kil-Kare Raceway, then Lutz and fill-in crew member Patrick Miller put them to work with a 3.963 at 196.44 in the second session.
“Obviously this lets us get real aggressive if we want to,” said Lutz, who thanked supporters like Haltech, Vic’s Body Shop, CIA Performance, Menscer Motorsports, Liberty’s Gears, and Quick Drive. “Both sessions we backed it down just to get it through that first 60 feet. We probably could've been more aggressive, so tomorrow we will be more aggressive with it. We're going to try to put it in the 3.80s tomorrow night. I want to see an 80-anything at 200. Then we'll be happy.”
Norwalk winner Bill Riddle also dipped into the 3-second range, running a 3.984 at 188.70 in his supercharged Corrigan Race Fuels ’89 Camaro. Virginia driver Jesse Lambert posted a 4.013 at 200.26 in his twin-turbocharged ’04 Mustang to end the day third.
ON THE RIGHT FOOT - Virginia’s own Paul Curry is off to a promising start in his first PDRA appearance. He made the quickest run of both sessions, including a 4.646 at 158.82 in the second session, in his ’69 Nova. Dan Whetstine, who won the last Super Street race in his ProCharged ’93 Mustang, is second with a 4.676 at 158.13. Scott Marshall is third with a 4.744 at 150.65
HOW THE SPORTSMEN FAIRED - Elite Top Sportsman veteran Glenn Butcher jumped to the top of the 78-car qualifying order with a 3.788 at 197.71 in his nitrous-fed ’69 Camaro. Two other nitrous-assisted drivers, Donny “Hollywood” Urban and Chris “Nitrous” Nyerges, took the other two spots in the Elite top three. Urban joined Butcher in the 3.70s with his 3.798 at 197.13 in his ’69 Camaro, and Nyerges posted a 3.803 at 198.32 in the Schween Motorsports ’20 Corvette.
Alberta, Canada’s Barry Daniluk drove his naturally aspirated ’68 Camaro to a 3.992 at 178.40 to lead the second Top Sportsman field.
Over 70 drivers are also attempting to qualify in Top Dragster, with Vic Puglia leading the 16-car Elite portion of the field on the strength of a 3.713 at 194.30. Brian McHattie is second with a 3.748 at 196.13 in his DB Motorsports dragster. Michael White ran a 3.767 at 191.24 in his ProCharged ’15 Maddox dragster to sit third.
Kyle Harris, who previously raced a blown alcohol Altered, is debuting a new dragster, which he drove to a 3.903 at 189.90 to take the provisional No. 1 spot in the second Top Dragster field.
ON TAP - The PDRA Proline Racing Brian Olson Memorial World Finals presented by ProCharger continues Saturday beginning with Jr. Dragster and sportsman final qualifying at 9:45 a.m. Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1 and 5:30 p.m.