2023 PDRA MID-ATLANTIC SHOWDOWN - VMP EVENT PAGE
FINAL NOTEBOOK - BIG TIME FINALS CONCLUDE PDRA AT VMP EVENT
HALSEY WINS CLASH OF THE TITANS - Four-time and defending Pro Nitrous world champion Jim Halsey won the season-opening East Coast Nationals, but it wasn’t a smooth and easy victory. This weekend, he and his tight-knit team battled back from the struggles they faced at the season opener, claiming a second consecutive win in the process. Facing “Tricky” Rickie Smith in the final round, Halsey recorded a 3.646 at 206.32 in his Fulton-powered “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro. The win light came on in Halsey’s lane when Smith went .012 red on his 3.663-second pass.
“It's nerve-racking,” Halsey said of facing Smith. “You know he's good – a good driver and a good tuner. He does everything right. You have to be on your A-game, and we didn't take him lightly, that's for sure.”
Halsey is now tied with two-time world champion Tommy Franklin as the winningest drivers in PDRA Pro Nitrous history.
“After what happened at the last race, we put in a lot of hard work between the races,” said Halsey, who credited tuner Brandon Switzer, wife Cathy, crew chief Eric Davis, and crew members Michael McMillan and Brian Chin. “It took a lot of thought and a lot of hard work and going back to what we know works best for us. I have the best crew there is in the world, there's no doubt about that.
“Gene [Fulton] pretty much closed the shop down for the last week and a half to get my stuff back together,” Halsey added. “Eric spent the last week and a half down there with Stacy [Hall] getting everything together. These guys deserve all the credit. I'm just the one that gets to drive it.”
Halsey qualified No. 1 before using a 3.665 at 206.01 to beat Blake Housley in the first round of eliminations on Friday night. He ran a 3.686 at 204.54 in Saturday’s second round to knock out Mike Achenbach, who slowed to a 5.084. A 3.656 at 206.57 over Jay Cox’s 3.921 sent Halsey to the final round on Sunday.
Smith, the 2015 Pro Nitrous world champion, qualified third in his Musi-powered Parkway Ford ’22 Mustang. He started eliminations with a 3.684 at 204.54 victory over Cam Clark, then ran a consistent 3.683 at 206.54 to beat Tommy Franklin. The King, North Carolina-based driver stepped up to a weekend-best 3.654 at 206.67 to finish ahead of Fredy Scriba’s 3.696, earning lane choice for the final in the process.
THE KID STAYS HOT - Another ultra-competitive weekend in Pro Boost ended with a final round between two Big Dog Shootout veterans, Travis “The Carolina Kid” Harvey and Jason “Party Time” Harris. The two drivers were quick on the starting line and at the finish line throughout eliminations, and the final round was no different. Harvey cut a perfect .000 reaction time in his ProCharged GALOT Motorsports ’69 Camaro and ran a 3.592 at 209.88 to win on a holeshot. Harris was no slouch with a .017 light, but his 3.586 at 208.65 wasn’t quick enough to get around Harvey.
“I just want to thank God first of all for giving me this opportunity,” Harvey said. “Racing against Jason, I've been racing him all my life and I know he's a great competitor. I knew I had to do my job, and I'm sure he felt the same way. Everything just lined out and worked well, from coming off the trailer to the end. It's been a great car. I just want to thank GALOT Motorsports, Pro Line Racing, [tuner] Steve Petty, and Vaughn Miles and Eric Holland for giving me the opportunity to drive this hot rod.”
Harvey, who reached the semifinals at the season opener, is looking to become the fourth different driver to win a Pro Boost world championship with GALOT Motorsports.
“This just puts us in a great position,” Harvey said. “If we can keep this thing healthy and don't have any parts issues, I think we'll be a big threat come the end of the year.”
Harvey picked up his first No. 1 qualifier award on Friday before beating James Beadling’s 3.771 with a 3.617 in the opening round. He ran a 3.634 at 207.98 to move past Scott Lang in the second round, then won his semifinal pairing with Ken Quartuccio on a holeshot. Harvey’s 3.616 beat Quartuccio’s 3.591 by a .001 margin.
Harris qualified third in his ProCharger-boosted “Party Time” ’69 Camaro, then ran a 3.624 at 207.30 to defeat Rob Cox. A close race followed in the second round, where Harris used a .002 reaction time to leave first on “Nova Joe” Albrecht and his .005 light. Harris was first to the finish line with a 3.643 to Albrecht’s 3.669 in Fletcher Cox’s ’69 Camaro. A holeshot advantage also helped Harris get the semifinal win over Johnny Camp, as he ran a 3.611 over Camp’s 3.583, which was low E.T. of the event.
POWERS HAS THE POWER - After qualifying No. 1 and losing in the second round at the East Coast Nationals, Chris Powers was determined to get back into the late rounds at Virginia. He steadily worked his way through eliminations in his Sonny’s Racing Engines ‘21 Camaro before capitalizing on final-round opponent Elijah Morton’s untimely red light. Powers lifted shortly after leaving the starting line, while Morton laid down a 4.053 after going red by .035.
“This feels really good,” said Powers, the 2021 world champion. “We had a good car at GALOT. I couldn't see out of the front of the car, so we chopped the scoop down and did a little work to it. We're back right where we want to be. The car's definitely bad fast. Chuck's got it figured out, for sure.”
VMP is the home track for Sonny’s Racing Engines and the late Sonny Leonard, adding another layer of importance to Powers’ win.
“I gotta thank Sonny's,” Powers said. “They're working nonstop seven days a week on these engines. That's a brand-new engine we put in the car at GALOT. We're really impressed with the performance of it. Thanks to ATI Performance for everything they do. MVM Wheelie Bars, Chuck Samuel, Rob Bealko, my wife, my son, and my daughters that help. It means a lot.”
Powers qualified No. 5 before using a 4.068 to get past Jeremy Huffman and his 4.134. A consistent 4.069 eliminated John Montecalvo’s 4.099 in the second round. In a semifinal race between the two most recent world champions, Powers cut a .001 reaction time and laid down a 4.050 to beat Johnny Pluchino’s 4.067.
Morton, who qualified second in his Allen-powered Morton Brothers Motorsports ‘19 Mustang, opened eliminations with a 4.083 over rookie Daryl Stewart’s 4.086. Second-round opponent Dillon Voss couldn’t make the call, and Morton lifted to an 8.235. He then ran a 4.05 to win over Alan Drinkwater’s 4.058 in the semifinals.
THAT GIRL IS ON FIRE - For the second race in a row, reigning Pro 632 world champion Amber Franklin faced off with class newcomer Jeff Melnick in the final round. Melnick won their first match, but Franklin got him back with a holeshot win in her Musi-powered “OG Jungle Rat” ‘69 Camaro. With a .005 reaction time, Franklin recorded a 4.155 at 171.60 to hold off Melnick’s 4.141 at 177.42.
“Any time you can get a win on a holeshot, you feel really good as a driver,” Franklin said. “Jeff Melnick and that whole O'Brien team are great, and I knew going into the final that I had to do my part. They've got a fast car and Jeff's a great driver. Losing in the final round at GALOT, we knew we had to get after it. Getting the win here feels good. I know we have a lot of momentum, and hopefully we can defend that number one on the door.”
It was an especially meaningful home track win for Franklin, who dedicated her win to numerous people.
“This one's definitely for Lizzy [Musi] and [Red Line Oil’s] Mark Beatty's dad,” Franklin said. “This is my first win since my grandpa passed away. I just want to thank God, my family, Red Line Oil, Pat Musi Racing Engines, Jerry Bickel – this one's also for him – Hoosier Racing Tires, Menscer Motorsports, and Jeff and Sam Pierce.”
Franklin, who now has two low qualifier awards to start the season, made her best pass of the event, a 4.131 at 176.10, to beat Mike Murphy and his 4.202. She defeated Walter Lannigan Jr. with a 4.169 at 174.84 in the second round. She had a bye run in the semis, using it to prepare for the final round with a 4.141 at 172.96.
Melnick qualified No. 4 driving Alan O’Brien’s small-block AMC-powered Greenbrier Paving & Excavating ‘20 Camaro before running a 4.152 over Gary Hood in the first round. He followed that up with a 4.154 to knock out Alan Drinkwater. He fired off low E.T. of the event, 4.121 at 178.83, to beat Doug Nicholl’s 4.20 in the semifinals.
GARNER-JONES DELIVERS - Past Pro Nitrous Motorcycle world champion Chris Garner-Jones bounced back from an early exit at the season opener by riding his T.T. Jones Racing Hayabusa to the win after qualifying No. 1. He went down the track on a single in the final round, as opponent Meshal Al-Saber’s Q80 Racing Hayabusa shut off as he was staging. Garner-Jones laid down a 3.982 at 176.79 for the win.
“This win feels great, especially after our first outing,” said Garner-Jones, who thanked his brother and tuner, William, as well as Red Line Motorsports Media, FuelTech, and PDRA. “We're not making excuses, but we ran good once we put the right combination in the bike. It was just a round too late. I feel like we could've won that race. But we came out here and ran some stout numbers from testing all the way to the final round. We didn't go in the fours all weekend. Every pass was three-ninety-something. It feels great.”
In the first round of eliminations on Friday night, Garner-Jones set low E.T. of the event with a 3.952 on a single. He lined up against rookie Brayden Davis in the semifinal, but the race was over on the starting line when Davis went red by .014 on a 3.984-second pass. Garner-Jones was ready with a 3.996 at 177.53.
Al-Saber, who also reached the final round at the season opener, qualified No. 2 on the Brad McCoy-tuned Q80 Racing entry. He ran a 3.985 on a first-round single when Gerald Smith couldn’t make the run. The Kuwait-based rider made his best run of the weekend, a 3.963, on a single in the semifinals.
ESSICK AND RIDDLE, PT 2 - Like Pro 632, the Pro Street final round was a rematch of the final round from the season opener. The top two qualifiers, Tim Essick and Bill Riddle, lined up for a 3-second battle between Essick’s ProCharged “Brown Sugar” ’18 Mustang and Riddle’s roots-blown Corrigan Race Fuels ‘89 Camaro. The race was over on the starting line, as Essick left too soon on a 3.954-second pass. In the other lane, Riddle fired off a 3.939 at 188.94 to tie the 2023 score between the two standouts.
“We kind of struggled [in qualifying],” said Riddle, who thanked Corrigan Race Fuels, Mickey Thompson Tires, Motorsports Unlimited, SSI Superchargers, and his wife. With the hot track, I wasn’t sure what to do, what the track would take. We just started inching up on it. Today against Tim I knew I had to put one on it, so that's what we did. The competition this year is absolutely awesome. We're starting to get some full fields. It's only a matter of time until these other guys are right there. It's pretty good this year. I like it.”
Riddle qualified second in his Michigan-based Camaro, then ran a 4.014 to take out Chris Tuten and his 4.356 in the first round. He dipped into the 3-second zone with a 3.998 on a second-round bye run, earning lane choice for the semifinals over Bill Lutz. He then took a slight holeshot advantage over Lutz and followed through with a 3.95, while Lutz had to lift after hiking up the front end.
Essick earned his first low qualifier award of the season, taking home the special Victus Sports baseball bat trophy. His path to the final round started with a 3.991-second bye run, the quickest pass of the opening round. He then ran a 4.023 to beat Carmen Damiani’s 4.172. The reigning world champion was unopposed for his 3.966 in the semifinals, as Nick Agostino couldn’t make the call.
MOTA JOINS THE LIST - Super Street saw different winners at each of the three races the class completed in 2022, and that diversity continued when Derek Mota scored the win in his Super Street debut. Using consistent low 4.70-second passes, he reached the final round to face Paul Curry. Curry wasn’t able to start his ‘70 Nova, while Mota drove Dave Mancini’s turbocharged ‘68 GTO to a 4.888 at 158.87 to collect the fourth win in the young history of the class.
“This win means everything,” said Mota, who built the car at his own shop, Mota Racing Fabrication. “We struggled with the car in testing. We only had six runs on it coming into here. We got here, used the test sessions to our advantage, then Jamie [Miller, tuner] found some stuff with the four-link and made changes. We went out there in E1 and went a .73, then we backed it up with a .74, then we went a .72 in the semis, then [Curry] couldn't start. We gave him as much time as PDRA would allow him. I don't like to win like that, but they make the rules, not me.”
After a trial period last season, Super Street will run six of the eight PDRA points races to compete for a world championship this season.
“We are going to run for the championship,” Mota confirmed. “This sets us up in a good spot. We should be sitting No. 1 right now with a brand-new car. We learned a lot this weekend. We got a lot of good data going home. We're just going to try to progress from here.”
Mota qualified fourth, then ran a 4.731 to beat JC Beattie’s 5.056 in round one. His 4.741 was enough to beat past winner Wes Ervin and his 4.852. A holeshot advantage paired with a 4.729 helped Mota knock out No. 1 qualifier Blake Denton and his 4.727 in the semifinals.
Curry, the No. 2 qualifier, was consistent in the first two rounds with a 4.753 over Don Barnett and a 4.757 to beat Matt Schalow. He stepped up to a 4.715 on a semifinal bye run to earn lane choice for the final.
THE SPORTSMAN WINNERS - Two quick nitrous-fed Chevrolets were set to meet in the Elite Top Sportsman final round, but Chris “Nitrous” Nyerges and the Schween Motorsports team weren’t able to finish repairs to their Buck-powered ’20 Corvette in time. That allowed another past world champion, Donny “Hollywood” Urban, to close out a solid weekend of racing with the win. He broke the staging beams in his ’69 Camaro to get the win.
Six rounds of Top Sportsman competition came to a close when Virginia’s own Chad Traylor and Connecticutt’s Brandon Miller met in the final round. Traylor was off the starting line first in his ’63 Corvette and ran 4.442 on a 4.43 dial-in to get the win over Miller, who broke out with a 4.379 on a 4.39 dial-in in his 2000 Chevy S-10.
Past world champions Steve Furr and Kellan Farmer raced through three rounds of Elite Top Dragster competition to meet in an all-North Carolina final round. With a .009 light and a 3.866 on a 3.85 dial-in, Furr picked up his second consecutive win in his Right Trailers ’13 American dragster. Farmer was closer to his 3.87 dial-in with a 3.875 in his ’20 Race Tech dragster, but he was behind off the starting line with a .042.
Past Top Dragster world champion TG Paschal found himself back in the winner’s circle after defeating Ken Batchelor in the six and final round. Both drivers left with .009 reaction times, but Batchelor broke out with a 4.309 on a 4.31 dial-in in his ’18 Mullis dragster, while Paschal ran a 4.306 on a 4.29 dial-in for the win in his ’12 Race Tech entry.
The next race on the 2023 PDRA schedule is the DeCerbo Construction American Doorslammer Challenge presented by Callies Performance, May 25-27, at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - RAIN GETS THE BEST OF VMP PDRA, COMPLETE RACE ON SUNDAY
An afternoon of heavy rain showers put a stop to Saturday eliminations at the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) Mid-Atlantic Showdown presented by Classic Graphix at Virginia Motorsports Park. Eliminations will continue Sunday.
“We’ve been expecting this rain all week, and we’ve done as much as possible to get ahead of it,” said Tyler Crossnoe, race director, PDRA. “By starting eliminations on Friday night, we put ourselves one round closer to finishing before the rain came in, but we just ran out of time. Fortunately, Sunday’s forecast is promising. Our PDRA and VMP teams will work through the night to rebuild the racing surface to provide our racers with the conditions they need to complete the Mid-Atlantic Showdown.”
Before the rain started, the second round of eliminations was completed in Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous, WS Construction Pro Boost presented by P2 Contracting and Ty-Drive, Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock presented by AED Competition, M&M Transmission Pro 632, Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle, Menscer Motorsports Pro Street presented by Afco, and Afco Super Street.
MagnaFuel Top Sportsman presented by Corbin’s RV and Laris Motorsports Insurance Top Dragster also completed a second round of eliminations. MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by PAR Racing Engines, Laris Motorsports Insurance Elite Top Dragster, Coolshirt Systems Pro Jr. Dragster presented by PRP, and Classic Graphix Top Jr. Dragster presented by PRP all started eliminations with one round completed.
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - MOTHER NATURE LOOMS ON THE HORIZON BUT RACING PREVAILS
THE KID IS HOT - In just his second Pro Boost race driving the ProCharged GALOT Motorsports ’69 Camaro, Travis “The Carolina Kid” Harvey earned his first No. 1 qualifier after missing it by just thousandths of a second at the season opener. He then recorded the second-quickest pass of the first round of eliminations, a 3.617, to move past James Beadling and earn lane choice over Scott Lang in the second round.
“We've had a great car all year,” said Harvey, who thanked GALOT Motorsports, Pro Line Racing, and Vaughn Miles. “It's just been phenomenal, from the World Series [of Pro Mod] to GALOT to here. Steve [Petty, tuner] is just doing a hell of a job. We're taking it one step at a time, seeing what the racetrack can hold. He detuned it a little bit just to get through first round. We're going to go back to the normal setup that we ran yesterday, and we should be good.”
All but one of the other first-round winners also ran quicker than 3.65, so Harvey realizes he’ll have his work cut out for him when eliminations continue.
“Anybody can win,” said Harvey, who also competed in Pro Nitrous but was eliminated in the first round. “Whoever has the best reaction time, I think that's what's going to determine the win light.”
Spencer Hyde, who won the Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod in March, earned the Boost Wars engine builder challenge win for Team Noonan in his screw-blown “Jack & The Green Stock” ’69 Camaro. In the third qualifying session, Hyde ran a 3.685 at 205.54 to defeat a red-lighting Kurt Steding, who lifted to a 5.446 in his Wyo Motorsports-powered P2 Contracting Camaro.
First-round results: Travis Harvey 3.617 def. James Beadling (DQ-red light), Scott Lang 3.634 def. Kurt Steding 3.657, William Brown III 3.714 def. Dustin Nesloney (DQ-red light), Ken Quartuccio 3.623 def. Spencer Hyde 3.666, Johnny Camp 3.613 def. Derek Ward 3.672, Melanie Salemi 3.643 def. Randy Weatherford (DQ-red light), Jason Harris 3.624 def. Rob Cox 5.543, Joe Albrecht 5.475 def. Chuck Ulsch (DQ-red light).
STOP US IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS BEFORE - Four-time and reigning Pro Nitrous world champion Jim Halsey had a busy Friday, as his two rounds of qualifying also counted as eliminations rounds in the Structural Concrete Nitrous Wars engine builder challenge. The current points leader won Nitrous Wars, maintained his No. 1 qualifying position, and won first round of eliminations in his Brandon Switzer-tuned “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro. He ran a 3.665-second pass at 206.01 MPH to beat Blake Housley and his 5.353 at 89.94.
“It's kind of a little different because you get up for the engine builder deal – both rounds – then you get up for first round, then you have to go to bed tonight and think about it,” Halsey said of Friday’s compacted schedule. “Then you have to wake up and get jacked up again [Saturday]. It's different, but it's exciting.”
Representing Fulton Competition Engines, Halsey won race two of the Structural Concrete Nitrous Wars engine builder challenge. Racing against Jay Cox and his Musi-powered “Pumpkin” ’69 Camaro in the final round, Halsey recorded a 3.682 at 206.23 to beat Cox’s 3.684 at 206.23 by just .005 seconds.
“Gene Fulton’s been in the game for a long time,” said Halsey, who will face Mike Achenbach in the second round. “He deserves a lot of credit for what he's done over the years. If we can keep carrying the torch for him, then that's what we're going to do.”
First-round results: Jim Halsey 3.665 def. Blake Housley 5.353, Mike Achenbach 5.571 def. Chris Rini (DQ-red light), Jay Cox 4.333 def. Billy Albert 4.551, Dane Wood 3.742 def. Travis Harvey 5.475, Fredy Scriba 3.659 def. George Williams (alternate), Ed Burnley 4.059 def. Brian Shrader 5.811, Rickie Smith 3.684 def. Cam Clark 3.725, Tommy Franklin 3.672 def. Jackie Slone 3.740.
PLUCHONO FINDS HIS GROOVE - Reigning Extreme Pro Stock world champion Johnny Pluchino didn’t have the start to the 2023 season that he was looking for, but after making changes to his Kaase-powered $hameless Racing/Strutmasters ’13 Mustang, he’s feeling good about his chances at Virginia. The second-generation champion qualified No. 1 before using a 4.045 to knock out class newcomer Jordan Ensslin and his 5.363 in the opening round. Pluchino will have a bye run in the next round.
“We’ve gotta keep adjusting for these conditions,” said Pluchino, who thanked his team and partners like Featherlite Batteries, $hameless Racing, Kelling Equipment Repair, Strutmasters, Ram Clutches, AED Carburetors, and Kaase Racing Engines. “The conditions are going to be ever-changing. Whenever we get this [race] in, whether we get this thing in Saturday or Sunday, the conditions change each day. We have to get our tuner caps on and do the right thing. As a driver, I've gotta stay on my game. Gotta stay consistent and gotta do my job. I have total confidence in my guys, my car, and everyone who puts the pieces into it. I feel great. Everybody else should be concerned. We’re ready for battle.”
In the new Horsepower Wars engine builder challenge, Elijah Morton and Team Allen scored the win. Pluchino, representing Team Kaase, didn’t make the run, while Morton laid down a 4.07 at 177.72 in his Morton Brothers Motorsports ’18 Mustang for the win.
First-round results: Johnny Pluchino 4.045 def. Jordan Ensslin 5.363, John Montecalvo 4.060 def. Dwayne Rice 5.929, Chris Powers 4.068 def. Jeremy Huffman 4.134, Elijah Morton 4.083 def. Daryl Stewart 4.086, Dillon Voss 4.207 def. Dave Hughes 5.561, Robert Patrick 4.191 def. Matt Giangrande 4.368, Alan Drinkwater 4.095 def. Steven Boone 4.253.
HOMETOWN DELIVERY - Virginia’s own Blake Denton jumped to the top of the Super Street qualifying order in the final session when he laid down a 4.729 at 156.05 in his Musi-powered ’76 Camaro. He repeated with a 4.721 at 156.50 on his first-round bye run to earn lane choice over past event winner Dan Whetstine in the second round.
First-round results: Blake Denton 4.721 (bye), Dan Whetstine 4.824 def. Connor McGee 6.655, Wes Ervin 6.260 def. CJ Cave (no time), Derek Mota 4.731 def. JC Beattie 5.056, Paul Curry 4.753 def. Don Barnett 7.144, Matt Schalow 4.904 def. Brad Cox 5.080.
ON TOP - Elite Top Sportsman, Elite Top Dragster, Bracket Bash, Pro Jr. Dragster, and Top Jr. Dragster will start eliminations Saturday.
The Mid-Atlantic Showdown presented by Classic Graphix at Virginia Motorsports Park will continue Saturday at 8:45 a.m. Pro eliminations are scheduled to resume around 11:20 a.m.