CLASH OF THE TITANS - A classic final-round battle between the two winningest drivers in PDRA Pro Nitrous history ended with Jim Halsey taking down Tommy Franklin. It was the two drivers’ second time meeting in the final round of the East Coast Nationals, and Halsey took the win just as he did in 2021. This time, Franklin was first off the starting line, but he had to lift to a 6.841-second pass at 66.45 MPH. In the other lane, Halsey in his Fulton-powered “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro recorded his quickest pass of the day, a 3.646 at 206.20, to claim the first win of the season.
“We struggled quite a bit with some mechanical issues, but to come out with a win was way better than we did last year because we lost first round last year at this race,” said Halsey, who thanked his crew, including tuner Brandon Switzer, crew chief Eric Davis, Michael McMillan, and wife Cathy. “There's a few guys that stepped it up. It's obvious by the qualifying sheets and eliminations. To win a round on a holeshot, that means I'm doing my job when I need to. The way the crew worked to keep this thing running and together all weekend was pretty satisfying.”
Halsey, the four-time and reigning world champion, started eliminations with a rematch of his first-round race with young gun Cam Clark at last year’s East Coast Nationals. Halsey avenged his loss, as Clark went .020 red to Halsey’s .011 red paired with a 3.67 at 201.01. In the second round, Halsey cut a perfect .000 reaction time next to Chris Rini’s .002 light, following through with a 3.649 at 207.30 to Rini’s 5.08. He then used a holeshot advantage to win over “Tricky” Rickie Smith’s 3.654 with a 3.661 at 206.26 in the semifinals. 
Franklin, a two-time world champion, used a .008 reaction time and 3.683 at 206.95 in his Musi-powered “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro to defeat Mike Achenbach’s 3.701 in the first round. Second-round opponent Ed Burnley went red by .143, negating his 3.725, while Franklin cut a perfect light and laid down a 3.646 at 207.69 to move on to the semifinals. There, Franklin drove around Jay Cox’s .006 light with a 3.659 at 206.86 next to Cox’s lifting 3.805.
PURPLE REIGN - Melanie Salemi wrapped up three rounds of ultra-competitive Pro Boost qualifying as the No. 1 qualifier on top of the quickest field in series history. She didn’t have the dominant race day performance she was looking for in Eddie Whelan’s newly screw-blown Steady Eddie’s ’19 Camaro, but she ended up in the winner’s circle by the end of the night Sunday. Final-round opponent Johnny Camp set low E.T. of the weekend with a career-best 3.579 at 209.26, but he was disqualified on the starting line with a .004 red light. Salemi left with a .010 light and lifted to a 3.913 at 149.03 for the win. 
“Right now, confidence is not our No. 1 thing, only because the performance of the race car today was not what we're used to,” said Salemi. “I was under a lot of pressure because I knew the car wasn't running to its potential and we didn't have a handle on things so I was going to have to be on my game driving. In the final, it was going to the right and had the wheels up. I lifted not knowing that he red-lit. I didn't even know that I had won the race until like three minutes after I was out of the car and walking around. Sometimes a little luck goes a long way. You can’t win them all if you don’t win the first one.”
Salemi had a tense first-round matchup with Kenny Lang, managing to drive through tire shake to a 4.017 at 188.31 to Lang’s 4.104 at 180.38. She lined up against fellow New York-based driver Joe Albrecht in Fletcher Cox’s ProCharged ’69 Camaro in the second round. Salemi recorded a 3.605 at 208.65 to win over Albrecht, who ran a 3.626 but went red by .005. Another red light, a -.009 by Ken Quartuccio on a career-best 3.599 at 207.37, sent Salemi and her 4.618 at 110.07 into the final round. 
Camp, who recently qualified No. 1 to lead the 61-car field at the World Series of Pro Mod, qualified third at the East Coast Nationals in his ProCharged “Hells Bells” ’69 Camaro. He had a .005 light and a 3.624 at 208.71 to beat Rob Cox in the first round. Camp and tuner Brandon Stroud stepped up to a 3.605 at 208.55 to move past a red-lighting Jason Lee in the second round. In the semifinal pairing with No. 2 qualifier Travis “the Carolina Kid” Harvey, both drivers cut .001 reaction times. Camp was quicker down-track, though, winning with a 3.582 at 209.10 over Harvey’s 3.609 at 209.23. 
RICE SCORES FIRST PDRA PRO STOCK WIN - A first-time Extreme Pro Stock winner was guaranteed when finalists Dillon Voss and Dwayne Rice made their way to the starting line. Rice grabbed a starting line advantage in his DR Grading & Excavating ’22 Camaro and never looked back, running a weekend-best 4.102 at 176.28 to finish ahead of two-time Pro 632 world champion Dillon Voss and his 4.202 at 175.39. 
Rice qualified No. 11 before winning first round with a 4.715 at 162.63 over alternate John Konigshofer’s 7.701. He improved to a 4.143 at 176.03 to beat veteran driver and tuner Tommy Lee, who lifted to an 8.27 in their second-round match. The Grove City, Ohio-based driver fought his way down the eighth-mile strip to a 4.895 at 142.91 in the semifinals against John Montecalvo, who recently won the Mountain Motor Pro Stock Invitational at the World Series of Pro Mod. Montecalvo had struggles of his own and coasted through to an 11.984. 
Voss qualified one spot behind Rice in the No. 12 slot, then knocked down No. 5 qualifier Jordan Ensslin with a 4.099 at 168.83 in his Voss-powered ’06 Cavalier known as the “Bad Banana.” The Floridian got up on the wheel for his second-round pairing with reigning world champion Johnny Pluchino, using a .005 light and 4.08 at 177.28 to get the win over Pluchino’s 4.06. Fellow young gun Justin Kirk couldn’t return for their semifinal matchup, so Voss moved on to the final round with an unopposed 4.096 at 176.60. 
MELNICK WINS PRO 632 - After racing to a semifinal finish in his Pro 632 debut at the 2022 PDRA World Finals, Jeff Melnick went into the new season as a contender for the next first-time winner in the class. He checked that box at the first race of the season, taking Alan O’Brien’s one-of-a-kind AMC-powered Greenbrier Excavating & Paving ’20 Camaro to the winner’s circle. Facing defending world champion Amber Franklin in the final round, Melnick was .026 off the starting line and ran a 4.159 at 167.93, while Franklin slowed to an 8.467 at 50.53. 
“This is the culmination of 40 years of trial and error by Alan O’Brien and [engine builder] Barry Allen,” said Melnick, who thanked team supporters Greenbrier Excavating & Paving, Barry Allen Race Engines, PTP Racing, Mickey Thompson Tires, and his own Exotic Fabrication. “They’ve spent a ton of time and effort and money to perfect, blow up, burn up, smash, and everything to get to this point to be able to compete with people like Amber Franklin. It's amazing. I mean, this is probably the first AMC-powered professional category win since the '70s. It's wild. To do what we're doing, it is just awesome.”
Powered by a stock bore space, nitrous-fed, small-block AMC engine and tuned by Patrick Barnhill, the Melnick-driven Camaro qualified No. 7 before winning first round over Mike Murphy with a 4.249 at 165.52. In the second round, defending event champion Alan Drinkwater went red by .022 on a 4.19 pass, and Melnick ran a 4.152 at 170.51 to get lane choice over Lexi Tanner in the semis. Both drivers made their best pass of the day, but Melnick’s 4.13 at 169.27 was better than Tanner’s 4.192 at 169.25. 
Entering race day as the No. 1 qualifier, Franklin was determined to defend her championship in her Musi-powered “OG Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro. She lifted to a 4.681 at 111.63 on a first-round single, then laid down a 4.143 at 172.14 for the second-round win when opponent Gary Hood couldn’t make the run. Franklin and tuner Jeff Pierce then stepped up to a 4.128 at 171.75 in the semifinals to defeat Doug Nicholl’s 4.165 and set low E.T. of the event. 
FLAMING YOUTH - A unique pairing rolled to the starting line for the Pro Nitrous Motorcycle final round, as Kuwait-based No. 1 qualifier Meshal Al-Saber lined up next to 17-year-old Brayden Davis, who made his debut this weekend. After taking down two world champions, Davis cut a .004 reaction time to leave on Al-Saber and his .022. The third-generation rider was ahead at the finish line, too, posting a 3.992 at 175.34 next to Al-Saber’s 3.998 at 172.04. Right after winning on his father’s championship-winning Timblin Chassis motorcycle, Davis won in the Pro Jr. Dragster final round for a rare double-up. 
“This was a dream, perfect weekend,” said Davis, who thanked parents Travis and Brandy and supporters like Timblin Chassis, Monster Race Products, DTM Performance, MaxxECU, Fast By Gast, and Worldwide Bearings. “I knew the performance was there with my dad and Dan Wagner on the computer. When those two get together, great things are just bound to happen. 
“I knew I needed to do my part riding,” Davis continued. “I felt real comfortable on the bike this weekend. Dad told me to just focus on the tree and stay consistent. It got us in the winner's circle, but the performance side of it, it’s a new experimental motor we're doing and it's actually smaller CC and it's showing a lot of potential. It stayed together, and it had more in it, but we were just trying to play it safe and make sure we could go down the racetrack and be competitive.”
Davis, a past Top Jr. Dragster world champion and the son of multi-time and reigning Pro Nitrous Motorcycle world champion Travis Davis, started his first-ever race day in the class with 2021 world champion Chris Garner-Jones in the other lane. Davis left the line first and ran a 4.015 at 175.18 to beat Garner-Jones’ 4.006 on a holeshot. He then left first against multi-time world champion Eric McKinney before beating McKinney’s 4.024 with a 3.985 at 175.82. 
Al-Saber on Brad McCoy’s Q80 Racing Hayabusa was supposed to face Terry Wynn in the first round, but Wynn couldn’t make the call. Al-Saber used a 4.015 at 176.56 to earn lane choice over Ashley Owens in the second round. He left on Owens and recorded a 3.98 at 177.58 to defeat Owens’ 4.044, earning lane choice for the final round by .005. 
ESSICK DELIVERS - Between qualifying and eliminations, Bill Riddle was making the kind of passes that it looked like it would take to carry him to another Pro Street win in his roots-blown Corrigan Race Fuel ’89 Camaro. But after leaving the line in the final round with a .006 reaction time, Riddle went into a wheelstand and had to lift. Reigning world champion Tim Essick was in the other lane making a smooth 3.949-second pass at 190.54 to take the victory in his ProCharger-boosted “Brown Sugar” ’18 Mustang. Riddle posted a 5.508 at 82.40 in the runner-up effort. 
“It was just a terrific start to the year,” said Essick, who thanked supporters like ProCharger, UPR, and Billet Atomizer before dedicating the win to Nancy Babcock. “Over the winter, my particular combination got some weight, so to be able to work with it, find a little bit of E.T. throughout the winter, then come out at the first race and be able to apply it, it was perfect. We had a full field [in Pro Street] and every car that was in that field had the potential to win, except for one Super Street car that was testing. Other than that, it's a field full of sharks. It's great to see it grow to a full field.”
Essick, the No. 3 qualifier, opened eliminations with a 4.112 at 188.17 to get past John Carinci and his 4.177. He then made his first 3-second pass of the weekend, a 3.961 at 189.55, on a second-round single when Ron Green couldn’t make the call. A consistent 3.97 at 189.28 followed in the semis to win over a red-lighting Ty Kasper and earn lane choice for the final round. 
Riddle was the No. 1 qualifier, earning a first-round single. Even without someone in the other lane, he had a perfect .000 reaction time but lifted to a 6.371 at 65.35. He found his groove again in the second round, running a 3.936 at 189.15 to beat Jerry Morgano’s 5.102. The Michigan-based driver ran a 3.977 at 176.63 to defeat Canada’s Nick Agostino and his 5.287 in the semis. 
UNDERWOOD, FURR OPEN SEASON WITH WIN - Reigning Elite Top Sportsman world champion Henry Underwood was the third defending champion to start the season with a win. Racing against Arizona’s Bryan LaFlam in the final round, Underwood cut a .007 reaction time and drove his ProCharger-boosted PAR Racing Engines ’63 Corvette to a 3.842 on a 3.83 dial-in. LaFlam in his supercharged ’67 Mustang broke out with a 3.799 on a 3.82 dial-in. 
North Carolina’s own Zach Houser kept the Top Sportsman trophy in the Tar Heel State, taking his ProCharged 2000 Firebird to the win over Mark Reese in the final round. Reese broke out with a 4.214 on a 4.22 dial-in in his ’14 Mustang, while Houser won with a 4.323 on a 4.19 dial-in. 
Two champions squared off in the Elite Top Dragster final round, where 2020 world champion Steve Furr paired up with reigning world champion Larry Roberts in an all-ProCharger matchup. Furr was first off the starting line in his Right Trailers ’13 American dragster and held on to win with a 3.867 on a 3.79 dial-in. Roberts in his Roberts Equipment ’16 Racetech dragster followed with a 3.936 on a 3.81 dial. 
A pair of home-state racers, Harmony’s Justin Fordyce and Wallace’s Jimmy Albertson, met up in the Top Dragster final round. Albertson had the starting line advantage with his .002 light, but he slowed to a 4.392 on a 4.36 dial-in. In the other lane, Fordyce fired off a .009 reaction time and ran a 4.352 on a 4.34 to grab the win. 
NEXT UP - The 2023 PDRA season will continue April 20-22 at the Mid-Atlantic Showdown presented by Classic Graphix at Virginia Motorsports Park near Dinwiddie, Virginia. 





Inclement weather on Saturday forced Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) and GALOT Motorsports Park officials to postpone eliminations at the season-opening Summit Racing Equipment PDRA East Coast Nationals presented by FuelTech to Sunday. Rain and heavy winds put a stop to Saturday morning’s activities, and the forecast for the rest of the day predicted more of the same conditions.
“Between the wind and the rain, we weren’t going to be able to get cars on track until late in the evening,” said Tyler Crossnoe, series director, PDRA. ”With a full day of eliminations left to run, we’ve decided to postpone the rest of the event to Sunday. The forecast for the day looks much better, and will provide the conditions our racers need for safe and competitive racing.”
Qualifying in the PDRA’s professional and sportsman classes was completed Friday night. Classic Graphix Top Jr. Dragster completed its final qualifying session Saturday morning, and Pro Jr. Dragster ran one pair of its final session. 
Sunday activities will begin at 10 a.m. starting with the completion of Pro Jr. Dragster final qualifying. Edelbrock Bracket Bash presented by COMP Cams will then get a time trial before eliminations begin in the sportsman and Jr. Dragster classes. Pro eliminations are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.
Spectators who purchased Saturday tickets can return for free on Sunday or receive a refund. 





PUMPKIN SPICE - For the first time since the 2019 East Coast Nationals, nearby Smithfield’s Jay Cox will enter Pro Nitrous eliminations from the No. 1 spot. It’s been a long road back for Cox, who’s changed his engine and transmission combinations since that last low qualifier effort. He has his Musi-powered Butner Construction ’69 Camaro known as the “Pumpkin” right where he wants it, and that showed Friday when he recorded a 3.632 at 207.11 to lead the 18-car Pro Nitrous final qualifying sheet. 
“It’s just great for everybody that’s behind me. I always believe in myself,” Cox said. “I struggled the last couple years. I made a huge change when we changed our motor program and went to Pat [Musi]. Hands down, cannot say enough good things about Pat. Marcus Butner and Butner Construction, they stuck with me. I sucked last year. I’ll be the first one to tell you. I kept telling all my guys, just stick with me. Let’s learn this thing and it’s going to be fast when it’s done.
“I’d like to have a good year this year for my guys, for Pat, for Rick and Rickie Jones, for all my crew guys, for Butner,” added Cox, who also thanked local sponsor Smithfield Collision. “They’ve spent a lot of money these last two years and I really haven’t produced like I have in the past. There’s no easy wins in this class. When you change something major like I did and it sets you back a number or two, you have to be on your A-game everywhere.”
Four-time and reigning world champion Jim Halsey in his Fulton-powered “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro qualified No. 2 with a 3.645 at 205.22. Past Pro Nitrous world champion and overall Pro Mod icon “Tricky” Rickie Smith drove his Parkway Ford/Pee Dee Fleet ’22 Mustang to a 3.648 at 206.54 to end up third. 
SALEMI PACES CROWDED FIELD - Twenty-five drivers attempted to qualify for the 16-car Pro Boost field. By the end of the third qualifying session, Melanie Salemi was the No. 1 qualifier with a 3.58 at 206.10, and Kenny Lang sat on the bump spot with a 3.644 at 205.51 to make up the quickest Pro Boost field in series history. Salemi, driver of Eddie Whelan’s screw-blown Al-Lee Installations ’19 Camaro tuned by her husband, Jon, and brother-in-law Jim, earned her seventh No. 1 qualifier award. 
Salemi set the current Pro Boost elapsed-time record to qualify No. 1 at last year’s East Coast Nationals. The team switched from their roots-blown engine combination to a screw blower setup for this season as they seek their first world championship in the class. 
“This validates absolutely 100 percent everything that we did over the winter,” Salemi said. “We took all the information that we had from the roots blower stuff, Jon crossed it over to the screw blower stuff, and we dynoed, we dynoed, we dynoed, and we dynoed again. I know we struggled when we were in Florida at the World Series of Pro Mod, but at the end of the day we had our crap together and we were able to win the second-chance race. 
“But when we were going there we had the mentality that we were going there to test for PDRA because PDRA is going to be our main focus this year,” Salemi continued. “We won’t be switching combinations. We won’t be switching weights. We will just be running this car the way that it needs to be for PDRA if we go anywhere else. Our main focus this year is winning a championship. We’re putting everything that we have into that.”
Next to Salemi in the final session, Travis “the Carolina Kid” Harvey threw down a 3.589 at 208.20 in the ProCharged GALOT Motorsports ’69 Camaro to slide into the No. 2 spot. Johnny Camp qualified third in his ProCharger-boosted “Hells Bells” ’69 Camaro with a 3.59 at 207.27. 
Outside the 16-car field, four of the nine non-qualified drivers dipped into the mid-3.60-second range. 


POWERS TO NO. 1 - Chris Powers has had a handful of successful weekends at GALOT Motorsports Park, including Extreme Pro Stock wins at the last two East Coast Nationals. On Saturday, he’ll try to defend his event title from the No. 1 spot in his Chuck Samuel-tuned Sonny’s Racing Engines ’21 Camaro. The past world champion ran a 4.05 at 177.35 in the final session to take the top spot. 
“We’ve gotta thank Kelly [Ward, daughter of the late Sonny Leonard] because if it wasn’t for her keeping the doors open at Sonny’s, we would not have the power we have today to do it,” said Powers, who also gets support from ATI Performance. “I have to thank her and her husband and her mom. This is all them. They did all this to give us the best power. I can’t thank them enough. 
“That was a little bit of a soft hit,” Powers added. “We were figuring we probably could’ve went a .03 or a .04 there, but we’re super stoked about running a .05. We’re happy to get on the pole with Sonny’s. They deserve it. They worked their tails off for us all winter on this stuff. We’re really happy.”
Jacksonville, North Carolina’s Elijah Morton drove his Allen-powered Morton Brothers Motorsports ’19 Mustang to a 4.056 at 177.53 to qualify No. 2. Another North Carolina-based driver, Statesville’s Tommy Lee, took the Stellar Marine ’20 Camaro to the third spot with a 4.072 at 177.04, rounding out the top three of a 17-car order. 
SECOND-GEN FRANKLIN DELIVERS - Amber Franklin’s first Pro 632 world championship defense season is off to a strong start in her Musi-powered “OG Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro. She posted an impressive 4.14 off the trailer in testing, then made the quickest pass of qualifying, a 4.16 at 170.19, to claim her second low qualifier award. 
“We worked really hard over the winter. Pat Musi Racing Engines, Switzer Dynamics, and a whole bunch of people made a lot of things happen,” said Franklin, also thanking Red Line Oil, Jerry Bickel Race Cars, Hoosier Racing Tires, M&M Transmission, parents Tommy and Judy, tuner Jeff Pierce, and her team. “We’re still working and we still want to improve and back up the championship. It feels good to come into the first race and keep that momentum. We just want to stay consistent. If I can do my job, hopefully we can take it to the winner’s circle.”
Defending event champion Alan Drinkwater in his naturally aspirated, Kaase-powered ’04 Escort was the provisional No. 1 qualifier going into the final qualifying session with his 4.198 at 169.74, which slipped to No. 2. A third standout young driver in the class, Lexi Tanner, posted a 4.208 at 167.41 in her nitrous-fed “Thunder” ’15 Camaro to end up No. 3. 


SABER RATTLING - Kuwait’s Meshal Al-Saber rocketed to the top of the Pro Nitrous Motorcycle qualifying order with his 3.991 at 176.93 aboard the Q80 Racing/McCoy Motorsports ’20 Suzuki in the final session. It’s Al-Saber’s second time leading the field into eliminations. 
“I’m from the Middle East and I flew 15 hours to come over for this race,” said Al-Saber, who thanked Q80 Racing and B.M.R.C. “Our team has been working hard. Brad McCoy is the tuner and does the engines. He’s working hard. Today, going 4.05 and then a 3.99, I’m very happy about that. Qualifying No. 1 gives me the push to make the whole season.”
Al-Saber had some heavy hitters chasing him down for the top spot. Multi-time world champion Eric McKinney took the No. 2 spot on his McKinney Motorsports entry with a 4.037 at 173.94. Chris Garner-Jones, the 2021 world champion, qualified third with a 4.051 at 172.96 on his T.T. Jones Racing Hayabusa. 
RIDDLE ME THIS - Bill Riddle left the rain-shortened 2022 PDRA World Finals with a consistent 3-second Pro Street car, his roots-blown Corrigan Race Fuel ’89 Camaro, but without the chance to fully capitalize on his performance in the final round. So far, he’s picked up where he left off, as he qualified No. 1 on top of the 15-car qualifying order with a 3.968 at 187.89, with an eye on a season-opening win on Saturday.
“From last year, we basically just freshened it up and then went to one of those [World Finals] tuneups and it repeated,” said Riddle, who thanked sponsors like Corrigan Race Fuel, Mickey Thompson, SSI Superchargers, and Motorsports Unlimited, as well as his wife and team. “I was happy with it. Race day can’t get here soon enough. It was a long winter.”
Young gun Ty Kasper, who won two races in a breakout 2022 season, was the only other driver to dip into the 3-second zone with his 3.993 at 186.51 in his twin-turbocharged Victus Sports ’05 Mustang to qualify No. 2. Back-to-back world champion Tim Essick qualified third in his ProCharged “Brown Sugar” ’18 Mustang with a 4.032 at 187.26. 
THE SPORTSMAN REPORT - Nitrous cars led the way in Elite Top Sportsman as past world champion Buddy Perkinson claimed the No. 1 spot in his Musi-powered LAT Racing Oils ’69 Camaro with a 3.771 at 195.85, the lone driver in the 3.70s. Ohio’s Glenn Butcher came close with his 3.806 at 195.93 in his Albert-powered ’69 Camaro to qualify second. Another Ohioan, Chris “Nitrous” Nyerges, took the third spot in Dr. Gary Schween’s Buck-powered ’17 Corvette with a 3.811 at 198.47. 
Charlestown, Indiana’s Eric Burnett was a couple numbers short of making the 16-car Elite field, but his 4.014 at 189.84 in his ’17 Corvette gave him the No. 1 spot in the regular Top Sportsman field. 
Past Elite Top Dragster world champion Pete Maduri is starting his season with a No. 1 qualifying effort in the Bauer family’s Dynabrade ’15 Chrome-Worx dragster on the strength of a 3.719 at 198.88. Two North Carolina drivers follow in the second and third spots. Michael White is second with a 3.749 at 192.44, and past world champion Steve Furr is third with a 3.775 at 192.91 in his Right Trailers ’13 American dragster. 
By one hundredth of a second, Brian Maine missed the Elite field with his 4.067 at 177.93, but he took the No. 1 spot in the regular Top Dragster field by an eight-hundredths margin. 
SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE - Saturday’s on-track activities at the Summit Racing Equipment PDRA East Coast Nationals presented by FuelTech are scheduled to begin with Jr. Dragster final qualifying at 9:30 a.m. Pre-race ceremonies and pro eliminations will kick off at 3 p.m.