2023 DI WORLD SERIES OF PRO MODIFIED - EVENT PAGE
FINAL NOTEBOOK -
SUNDAY NOTEBOOK - INCREDIBLE WINNER'S CIRCLE ENDS EPIC EVENT
DRAMATIC WIN HIGHLIGHTS WSOPM FINALS - After three rounds of Pro Modified qualifying for the World Series of Pro Mod at Bradenton Motorsports Park (BMP), Canada’s Spencer Hyde with his screw-blown ’69 Camaro was solidly in the 32-car field at 22nd of 61 entries.
However, once the fourth-and-final session got going, Hyde’s 3.68 gradually got pushed out of contention.
With a last-chance effort, Hyde knocked 5-thousandths off his qualifying time to post a 3.682 that bumped Brandon Snider’s 3.683 from the field and gave Hyde the 32nd-and-final position for eliminations and a shot at the $100,000 winner’s purse.
Once racing began in earnest, Hyde and his Mark Savage-led crew were first out of the gate against Tommy Gray, who fouled away a 3.72 while Hyde advanced with an off-the-pace 3.81 at 198.26-mph effort .
Regardless, it advanced him to round two, where he faced off against fellow Canuck Eric Latino in a similarly powered ‘69 Camaro. Again,
Latino posted a quicker 3.69 to Hyde’s 3.71 at 205.10 combination, but Latino waited an excessive .120 on the tree to Hyde’s .035 reaction time that was more than enough to secure the round win.
Yet another holeshot came in the quarterfinals as Hyde left with a solid .026 light leading to a 3.67 pass, while Marcus Birt had an uncharacteristic .068 leave to precede his slightly quicker 3.66 losing effort.
Remarkably, the trend continued in the semis, with Hyde having a stellar .011 light that led to a 3.65 at 205.57 to beat Jason Harris with a slightly quicker 3.64 ET, but a much slower .070 reaction time.
Only in the $100,000-to-win final against Kurt Steding and his blown 2020 Camaro did Hyde leave second with a .037 light to a .033, but his 3.64 at 205.51 combination was just enough to beat a 3.65 at 207.15 for Steding by just 5-thousandths at the eighth-mile finish line.
In Mountain Motor Pro Stock, John Montecalvo came from the number-nine starting position to beat Tommy Lee, Richard Cowger, Johnny Pluchino and Elijah Morton for the $25K event win.
Also picking up the Factory Stock Classic win at BMP was Lenny Lottig of Meyersdale, PA, with his 2020 Camaro over the ’23 Camaro of Jesse Alexandra out of West Bend, WI.
The WSOPM Top Dragster final went to McKenna Kitterman of Holmes Beach, FL, while the Super Pro title belonged to Chesapeake, VA’s Brooks McMath, and Pennsylvania’s David Ngo won the XFWD title.
‘GREEDY DRIVING’ COSTS EMAN - Running in the left lane for round one of Pro Stock eliminations alongside Dylan Voss, Aruba’s Trevor Eman went into severe tire shake and crashed his 2018 Mustang into the left wall, then crossed the track and backed heavily into the right guardwall. Voss was uninvolved in the accident and advanced to round two of racing.
Fortunately, Eman was not injured. He took full blame for the accident.
“My ego is badly bruised, but that’s about it,” a visibly angry and disappointed Eman declared. “That single pass is the poorest I've ever driven this race car.
“It was going into tire shake and I shifted into second gear and I thought I could get back in it but it just shook some more. I was like a ping-pong ball, just bouncing around in there,” he continued. “When that happens, it’ll get away from you in a second.”
Eman said he hated tearing up a perfectly good racecar and felt so disgusted and disappointed at what happened that he jumped the fence and walked back to his pit long before the on-track cleanup was over.
“We have good equipment. We have a beautiful car. We have a really good race car and I messed it up and it was just unnecessary. Just because you don't get out so often and you miss being at the racetrack and you don't want to go home after first round, you can’t justify that. It was just greedy driving.”
TUCCI TALKS WSOPM - After nearly 38 years on the mic, legendary drag racing announcer Al Tucci has seen it all and called it all. Still, the Chicago native said the Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod at Bradenton Motorsports Park rivals anything he’s ever seen or called before.
“I've done a lot of big shows, series finals and one-time shows. And you think, ‘Wow, I'll never see this again.’ We all feel that way sometimes, that I will never believe what I just saw,” Tucci said from his perch in the tower high above the BMP starting line.
“And then we go years into it and then we get another big show and you think, ‘Wow, this one just bettered that one from two years ago!’ It’s inevitable. And this show, this World Series of Pro Mod is one of those shows. Wes Buck and his team put together something special here, I think. It's just an incredible array of tuners, drivers, chassis builders – and cars. The cars here are awesome.”
Tucci and NHRA’s Jason Galvin handled the bulk of the announcing for the World Series of Pro Mod, and both expressed genuine excitement about the opportunity.
“After we went through the first round of qualifying, we couldn't believe the cars that weren't in the field,” Tucci said. “And then after four qualifying sessions, the cars and teams that didn’t get in could give you a damn good Pro Mod race.
“And this (kind of racing) is the most incredible when it's this tight. We've all lived through races where certain guys are the best and unless they screw things up, they're going to win,” Tucci continued. “Here, you never know who’s going to step up and get things done. That’s what really makes it great.”
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - SATURDAY NIGHT IS RIGHT FOR FIGHTING!
WSOPM FEATURES UNIQUE FORMAT - John Camp and his Brandon Stroud-led crew never managed to repeat on Saturday the 3.62 from Friday night that earned them No. 1 status in qualifying for the Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod. However, in Saturday’s two sessions they still posted strong elapsed times, running 3.65 mid-afternoon and 3.64 in the fourth-and-final evening session.
Unlike most head-to-head races, however, that performance didn’t automatically set a date for him with No. 32 qualifier Spencer Hyde at 3.68 in a very tight field. So tight, in fact, that if the Canadian, Hyde, had not improved by just 5-thousandths from the 3.687 he’d run in Friday night’s second session that had him 22nd, that previous time would’ve been bumped all the way down to 36th place and into the consolation event for the top-16 non-qualifiers.
Regardless, WSOPM promoter Wes Buck opted to do a live, blind drawing Saturday night to determine Sunday’s elimination-round pairings. As it turned out by the draw, Camp will face off against another Canadian, Kenny Lang, who went 3.67 at 204.23 in Friday night’s session to place 31st on the qualifying list.
Hyde, meanwhile, will race Tommy Gray in round one, who was slotted in at 19th after making a 6.64 pass in his final opportunity on Saturday night.
Regardless of the random pairings, the higher-qualified driver will have lane choice in round one. In subsequent rounds leading to the $100,000-to-win final on Sunday, the previous rounds’ winners will again be paired up through a blind draw, but again the quicker car from each prior round will retain lane choice, just as in a standard drag racing format.
PRO MOD 1ST-ROUND PAIRINGS - Here are Sunday’s blind-drawn, opening-round pairings for the Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod at Bradenton Motorsports Park, in the exact order they were drawn, showing driver’s name followed by original qualifying position, qualifying ET, and mph in parentheses.
Spencer Hyde (32, 3.682, 204.51) vs. Tommy Gray (19, 3.664, 205.22)
Marcus Birt (2, 3.647, 205.13) vs. Justin Bond (8, 3.649, 204.73)
Justin Jones (9, 3.653, 207.43) vs. Manny Buginga (22, 3.666, 205.76)
Kurt Steding (20, 3.665, 206.04) vs. Dustin Nesloney (15, 3.660, 206.73)
Jason Harris (3, 3.647, 204.79) vs. Jim Halsey (6, 3.648, 205.01)
Robert Abbott (24, 3.671, 205.19) vs. Travis Harvey (27, 3.675, 203.49)
Kenny Lang (31, 3.679, 204.23) vs. John Camp (1, 3.626, 205.91)
Ron Muenks (11, 3.655, 204.57) vs. Marty Robertson (26, 3.675, 204.98)
Preston Tanner (5, 3.648, 205.32) vs. Jason Lee (17, 3.661, 205.01)
Eric Latino (28, 3.675, 201.88) vs. Bubba Stanton (16, 3.660, 205.94)
Mark Micke (7, 3.649, 211.73) vs. Randy Weatherford (23, 3.668, 206.32)
Tommy Franklin (12, 3.656, 207.50) vs. Todd Tutterow (29, 3.678. 204.57)
Mark Werdehausen (18, 3.662, 216.86) vs. Ken Quartuccio (13, 3.65, 204.05)
J.R. Gray (30, 3.679, 206.26) vs. Jason Scruggs (4, 3.648, 208.55)
Jay Cox (14, 3.660, 208.04) vs. Chip King (25, 3.673, 203.25)
Lyle Barnett (21, 3.665, 202.09) vs. Robert Cox (10, 3.653, 202.18)
PUMPING UP THE CROWD, RIGHT? - Shortly before making random draws Saturday night to determine pairings for his World Series of Pro Mod’s first elimination round, Drag Illustrated founder and publisher Wes Buck (center, facing camera) held court with a couple of hundred racers, spectators and sponsors gathered near the starting line of Bradenton Motorsports Park.
Standing atop a short guardwall between the burnout lanes, Buck spoke of his love for the sport, his desire to see drag racing – and Pro Modified racing in particular – thrive, as well as what it will take to reach the proverbial “next level.” He challenged people to dare to take the next step.
“You guys deserve this moment,” Buck assured the assembled crowd of team owners, drivers, crew members and even a few fans of the sport. “You guys deserve this platform. Our sport needs this. The world needs this. If No Prep Kings is the WWE, then we're the UFC. We really fight them, right? Come one, come all; we are going to get down, right? No gimmicks. No storylines to sell.
“We just decide, you know, that we're going to get down. We're going to have a real drag race. But I’ve got to say, I give it up to those guys. I think they have forced us all to step up our game a little, maybe even more than that? But they’ve made us see what's possible, right?”
RANDOM DRAW NON-FACTOR FOR WSOPM DRIVERS - Most drivers at Bradenton Motorsports Park this weekend seem to like the blind-draw format of pairing combatants for each round of the World Series of Pro Mod, especially since it’s such a tight field. With only .056 of a second separating number-one qualifier John Camp from No. 32 Spencer Hyde, they say it feels like a toss-up, regardless of where you qualify or who’s in the opposite lane.
“Yeah, with the draw it really doesn’t matter where you qualify—other than the money for number one—you just have to make sure you’re above that 32-car cutoff,” eventual polesitter John Camp said, referring to the $10,000 bonus he collected courtesy of Jan-Cen Racing Engines/Mike Janis Superchargers. “It’s also a pride thing for your guys, knowing you beat the best of the best to get that number-one spot.”
But Camp, who took the top spot with a 3.62 lap at 205.91 mph, insisted he never worries about who’s running beside him, instead preferring to just run his own race and try to take whatever the track has to give that day.
“We race our lane and we go balls out every pass, we give it everything we feel the track will take,” he said. “There is no holding back because anybody on this property can win this race, there are no easy cars here. None. So we just race our lane. I don't care who we draw.”
Nitrous racer Tommy Franklin, who owns the PDRA and is a top-running competitor there, too, shared similar thoughts. He observed at least 18 of the 61 entries were PDRA cars, plus several now-NHRA competitors have strong PDRA ties, so he knows well the level of competition he’s facing.
“When you look at the qualifying sheet, there's not even six hundredths that separates all 32 qualifiers, so it really doesn't matter. It's going to be heck of a drag race,” Franklin said.
“It's an epic event to be able to put that many cars that close together. It's awesome,” he continued. “And I'm proud from my side of it, I'm proud to see our racers do that and for me personally. Just to be able to come out here and race with them and get in the field, I was outside looking in that fourth session, so it felt really good to be able to go out there and put it all together and get in the show.”
Jason Scruggs is among those now-NHRA Pro Mod regulars with deep ADRL/PDRA roots, at one time even co-owning the PDRA series with Franklin. Scruggs and his Mississippi-based team struggled in early qualifying for WSOPM but wound up 4th on the qualifying list. He said he also sees the random draw for opponents as a non-factor in how his team will approach raceday.
“I got to be honest, you look at the field and everybody's between .068 and .064 except for Johnny Kemp. So really it doesn't matter who you get anyway,” Scruggs said. “And it's going to be hot tomorrow so everybody can run pretty much the same. It's just going to come down to whoever gets good lights and races smart and has a little bit of luck on their side.”
BIRT BRINGS GRUDGE APPROACH TO WSOPM - Marcus Birt said he was sitting at home in Georgia last Sunday when he got “the call.” Jose Gonzalez had a family emergency to deal with at home and wouldn’t be able to drive his Q80 ’69 Camaro at this weekend’s World Series of Pro Mod. Would he be able to drive in place of Gonzalez?
“It took me maybe 20 seconds to decide. I told them, ‘Heck yeah, I’ll drive it,’” Birt said, just one week removed from wheeling a similar ride on radial tires at Lights Out 14 last weekend. “They asked how soon could I get down here and I told them, ‘I’ll leave right now if you want.’”
Birt did arrive the next day at Bradenton Motorsports Park, where he made a few practice laps before qualifying began on Friday. The team, with Proline’s Steve Petty calling the shots on the tune-up, eventually qualified second with a 3.64-seconds pass at 205.98 mph.
“I don't know if the air wasn’t there, but we were standing on it a little bit for sure,” Birt said. “Or, I don't know, maybe just playing it smart and don't show our hand for tomorrow. Maybe we got some in the back pocket.”
A longtime grudge racing veteran, Birt thinks that experience could serve him well in WSOPM eliminations, where the teams won’t know for certain who they’ll run against until the final round.
“I'm going to go up there like it's a grudge race for a hundred grand every round,” Birt declared.
“You better go up there tomorrow with your game on every pass, because you don't know who you're running and the field is so tight. I don't think there's no duds out there,” he added. “Basically, it’s just got to be your day. You might, maybe you’ll get one lucky round, but I really think you’ll probably have to go up there and have at least four picture-perfect passes: tune, light, driving, you know, the whole package every time.”
BUGINGA BREAKS THROUGH IN PRO MOD DEBUT - If you’re gonna’ go, go big! That seems to be the guiding principle for radial racing veteran Manny Buginga as he embarks on a new Pro Mod career by qualifying for arguably the biggest single-event race in class history.
“It feels good. I’m just happy for our guys, Jamie, Franny, they all work so hard, it’s just amazing to be in it,” Buginga said. “But it just brings us to the reality of how many good teams there are out there. And we’ve got some work to do. But to make it to 22 out of 60 cars that show up? For a newbie like us or myself, I feel blessed to be here.”
In his first official Pro Modified outing, Buginga piloted his Jamie Miller-tuned Camaro to a 3.66 pass at 205.76 mph to officially qualify 22nd of 61 entries for the 32-car field. In a random draw, Buginga was paired up against No. 9 qualifier Justin Jones for the opening round of racing.
THE FIELD IS SET - Most of the 32 official qualifiers for the World Series of Pro Mod gathered on the BMP starting line Saturday night, with the board showing randomly drawn pairings for first-round eliminations on Sunday.
FRIDAY NOTES - FIRST DAY IS A BLAST AS RACERS TAKE TO THE TRACK
WIND WINS EARLY FRIDAY - High winds throughout most of the day Friday at the Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod (WSOPM) postponed the opening round of qualifying from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Steady northerly winds gusting to 35 mph blew straight down the track from the shutdown area toward the starting line.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of these competitors and we will wait as long as we have to for safe conditions to return,” WSOPM promoter Wes Buck said.
DROPPING THE LAUNDRY - An exceedingly rare occurrence of two cars dropping their parachutes during side-by-side burnouts came during the opening round of Pro Mod qualifying Friday night. Tommy Franklin’s nitrous-breathing ’69 Camaro (far lane) and the screw-blown C7 Corvette of Randy Merrick both shook the chutes loose and both drivers lost their first official attempt on the track.
CAMP BACK-TO-BACK BEST ON FRIDAY - John Camp said he wasn’t sure what to expect when he arrived from Canonsburg, PA, this weekend for the DI World Series of Drag Racing at Bradenton Motorsports Park.
“Picked the motor up at Proline on the way down, brought it straight to the track and first (test) pass it went A-to-B. So, you know, I can't say enough about Proline,” Camp said. “And it's the same short block as we had last year with a little bit different cylinder head. Still a Procharger combination, still PDRA legal. Well, actually they put 25 pounds on it, so we're a little bit heavier. We went across the scales at 2635 (lbs.) last night.”
Regardless, the new combination, with Proline’s Brandon Stroud calling the tune-up as crew chief, set low E.T. in both of Friday’s qualifying sessions to lead a stacked field of 61 Pro Mod entries.
“We were wondering how it was going to do and so far it's panning out real well,” Camp said in a classic case of understatement after going 3.64 at 204.82 mph late Friday afternoon, then improving to 3.62 at 205.91 in the night session.
FREEMAN FASTEST IN PRO STOCK - We’re all more used to seeing Richard Freeman as the Elite Motorsports team owner standing behind five-time and reigning NHRA Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders, but at WSOPM he’s competing as a driver alongside Enders in the Mountain Motor Pro Stock class.
Freeman made sure everyone knew he was no field filler Friday afternoon with a 4.06 at 177.81-mph pass that was quickest and fastest of the 18 Pro Stockers at Bradenton Motorsports Park. Mountain-motored veteran John Deflorian Jr. was just two-thousandths behind in second, followed by Alan Drinkwater, Enders and Tommy Lee to fill out the top five.
Freeman is driving a 2020 Camaro built by Rick Jones, while teammate Enders is in a 2018 version of the same car, both of which were part of J.R. Carr’s mountain-motor program that Freeman recently purchased. He said in 2008, he and Carr started the team together, so it’s come full circle.
“When IHRA cut the program, I made the decision to go 500-inch racing instead, and Frank and J.R. continued (in mountain motors) so it's kind of neat to get all back together,” Freeman explained. “We’re all having a lot of fun. J.R. and Frank (Gugliotta) are both part of the (Elite Motorsports) team now. Frank is crew chief Erica’s crew chief here.”
Proving her versatility behind the wheel, Enders revealed she’d never previously driven a mountain-motor car until her first test pass at Bradenton.
“I never hit the starter button in one of these cars until we got here on Monday,” she said. “It's definitely got a learning curve to it, a lot different than my 500-inch stuff, but still really cool because it's a clutch car with a five-speed Liberty. So same concept essentially, but nothing is really the same at all.”
She explained NHRA Pro Stock cars get shifted at 10,500 rpm, compared to 8,500 rpm for the mountain-motored rides. Likewise, she said 500-cubic-inch NHRA engines deliver power through a 6.5-inch “race car clutch” compared to the 10.5-inch “Mack truck” clutches in this weekend’s ride.
“So, it definitely drives a lot different. And we go from electronic fuel injection back to carburetors – which is what I love. My guys make fun of me. They like to call me ‘Warren Johnson,’ because I just love carburetors, I love gauges, I love old school,” Enders said.
“So that part of it's been really cool to have that back and just to add another car to my resume of driving and the fact that it's a door car and a clutch car makes me really happy.”