U.S. STREET NATIONALS, BRADENTON - EVENT NOTEBOOK
FINAL NOTEBOOK - A FITTING TRIBUTE, AND A STRONG FINISH
HALSEY HEADLINES WINNERS LIST AT U.S. STREET NATIONALS - Despite racing with heavy hearts after track worker Daniel "Chaps" Stone was killed in an on-track accident Friday night, management, staff and competitors at south Florida's historic Bradenton Motorsports Park pressed on Jan. 29-31, to complete the annual U.S. Street Nationals presented by Diamond Pistons.
Beyond the obviously tragic accident that also involved Pro 275 racer Paul Major, it was a remarkably clean race with no other accidents, on-track incidents, or even major cleanups throughout the rest of the weekend.
Wrapping up about 8:30 Sunday night, reigning PDRA Pro Nitrous champ Jim Halsey emerged as 2021 U.S. Street Nats Outlaw Pro Mod champion in his '68 Camaro, barely edging out number-one qualifier Todd Tutterow in the final round.
"I could see him the whole time; it was really close," Halsey said. "Got him by three thou at the top end. So yeah, it was pretty close. Like a bracket race."
Radials vs. the World honors went to second-place starter Bryan Markiewicz and his Procharger-equipped '69 Camaro, while Mark Micke drove Jason Carter's twin-turboed '78 Malibu to the Pro 275 title, and Rob Goss won X275 from the number-one position in his Procharger-boosted '09 Challenger.
Justin Cyrnek also followed up his first-place qualifying run with a win in Limited Drag Radial, as did Chris Holdorf, who ran the Outlaw 632 table with his supercharged '53 Corvette.
In Ultra Street, Dave Fiscus from Batavia, OH, came from farthest down the qualifying sheets among race winners, rising from a 13th-place start to beat sixth-place starter Scott Parson in the final. Heavy Street saw the unique '90 Mazda RX7 of Florida's own Rick Prospero make a solo pass in the final after Jim Stanley's '02 Camaro broke on the starting line.
JIM HALSEY: NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET - How fitting that Jim Halsey's nitrous-huffing '68 Camaro figured so prominently on posters and online advertising for the annual U.S. Street Nationals at Bradenton Motorsports Park. The current PDRA Pro Nitrous World Champion lived up to the pre-race hype Jan. 31, driving his multi-hued machine to a very tight holeshot victory over screw-blown rival Todd Tutterow in the Carmark Engineering Outlaw Pro Mod final.
"Pretty cool to win like that, especially when you're up against guys like Tutterow with these big, badass blower cars. It's kind of tough for us," admitted Halsey, who eked out a three-thousandths-of-a-second margin of victory thanks to leaving with a .012 advantage off the start.
With a 3.58 seconds at 211.46-mph pass that held up throughout eliminations as quickest and fastest of the meet, Tutterow placed his Mike Decker-owned 2019 Camaro atop a list of 38 entries competing for a spot within the 32-car qualified field. Randy Weatherford started second after posting a personal-best 3.59-seconds run at 211.03 in his Procharger-boosted '69 Camaro, and Halsey was third at 3.61 and 208.42 mph.
With round one of Pro Mod eliminations completed Saturday night, Halsey advanced to Sunday's 16 with a 3.60 at 208.88 win over teammate Erica Coleman, while Tutterow ran 3.61 at 210.24 against a redlighting Scott Napierata in the final pair down the track that day.
On Sunday, Halsey opened with a solo 3.64 at 206.76-mph pass after 14th-place qualifier Jackie Slone was unable to continue, then ran another 3.64 at 207.78 against a redlighting Melanie Salemi in her screw-blown '68 Firebird. Victory in the semi-finals came courtesy of a sizable .046 holeshot against Weatherford, whose 3.61 at 208.33 wasn't able to hold off Halsey's 3.62 at 208.23 mph.
Meanwhile, Tutterow outran teammate Robert Abbott with a 3.64 at 207.75 to open his Sunday efforts, then went 3.60 at 207.78 to down Terry Coyle in Chip King's supercharged '72 Mustang, before beating a second teammate, Kurt Steding and his 2020 Camaro, with a 3.61 at 209.72 in the semis.
With lane choice, Tutterow lined up on the left for the final, but it was Halsey with the advantage off the start, leaving with a .044 to Tutterow's .056 reaction time. It paid off 3.62 seconds later as Halsey turned on the win light going 207.05 mph. Tutterow showed 3.61 and 206.92 on his scoreboard.
"It was a good race. I mean, he was a little quicker on the tree than I was, but I had a little better ET and when we got to the finish line I really couldn't tell who won," Tutterow said. "And the scoreboard was kind of delayed before I saw my speed. I thought it should've run more speed than it did."
Going to the line, Halsey knew he had a tough challenge ahead of him, and when it was all over he had a similar take to Tutterow.
"I kind of figured he had a little advantage on us performance-wise so I just did what I thought I needed to do," he said. "Which was do my job driving and push it. And I actually thought I did better than it was. I was .044 and I thought I was better than that. Maybe I was (staged) real shallow or something.
"But it was a fun race to win. I could see him the whole time," Halsey continued. "When you have an advantage on everybody to where you win by a tenth (of a second) every run, then it kind of gets old after a while. This one, I knew I was in a drag race for sure."
STEVIE FAST: WHAT WENT WRONG - In a word: everything.
That pretty much sums up "Stevie Fast" Jackson's assessment of qualifying "The Shadow," his legendary screw-blown 2015 Camaro sixth in an 11-car field, then losing to Daniel Ray in the opening round of Radials vs. the World eliminations at the 2021 U.S. Street Nationals.
"We started sucking when we cranked the truck up in the driveway and we never quit sucking until we pushed the car into the trailer. That's the easiest way I can tell you. It's been a rough weekend," Jackson admitted. "But opening weekends of the season can be like this. Half the stuff that you think was going to do better in the off season, your changes don't work."
Even getting to South Florida's historic Bradenton Motorsports Park proved to be a challenge for the back-to-back reigning NHRA Pro Mod World Champion and his Evans, GA-based team.
"We missed out on the day of testing (Thursday) because our truck and trailer broke down on the way here and we had to get it towed," he explained. "And then we just had some, some struggles, but this race always kind of sets the tone for the year and we're getting all the bad luck out of the way now. We'll be in much better shape to be competitive at Lights Out (Feb. 24-28 at South Georgia Motorsports Park).
"We found some stuff over on the legal side of things at the end of last year that made the engine more responsive and powerful, so we transposed some of that stuff into the radial tire car and just don't have a good handle on making it consistent yet," Jackson said, holding up a small, homemade cartoon of co-crew chief Phil Shuler thinking "Burn it up!"
Regardless, Jackson remained apologetic, knowing his legions of fans have practically come to expect record-setting performances each time he hits the track.
"I hate it for everybody that drove a long way to come watch us race, just to watch us stink the joint up, but if you line the car up enough times, you're going to have these outings where just nothing seems to go right. So we definitely didn't perform the way we wanted to this weekend, but we're going to keep swinging at it."
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - KING TUT SHINES IN DAY TWO QUALIFYING
TUTTEROW TOP QUALIFIER IN PRO MOD - Todd Tutterow's Friday-night pass of 3.58 seconds at 211.46 mph withstood the challenges of 37 other Outlaw Pro Mod competitors after Saturday's lone and final qualifying session for the 17th annual U.S. Street Nationals presented by Diamond Pistons at Bradenton Motorsports Park.
Tutterow, driving the screw-blown Decker's Salvage late-model Camaro, will face off against Largo, FL's Ken Cruz, who ran 3.96 at 186.36 to secure the 32nd and final qualifying slot with his supercharged '02 Camaro.
Jim Halsey retained his third position from Friday night's action, as did Kevin Rivenbark and Kurt Steding to round out the top five.
In fact, it takes until the 10th slot to see the first change and that came about only because Adam Flamholc withdrew from his '63 Corvette to put Steve Wiley in the seat. Unfortunately, Wiley managed only a 6.48 to place 36th overall.
Significantly, PDRA nitrous Pro Mod star Tommy Franklin made the jump up from 36th on Friday night to 16th after Saturday morning with a 3.69 at 204.29-mph combo in his '69 Camaro. Virginia-based Steve King also broke into the qualified field, moving his screw-blown C7 Corvette up from 33rd to 27th with some last-round 3.85 at 183.29 heroics.
Round one of Pro Mod eliminations is scheduled to be completed Saturday evening, with the remaining four rounds of racing reserved for Sunday.
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - A TRAGIC OPENING DAY IN BRADENTON
TRAGEDY STRIKES U.S. STREET NATIONALS - An unidentified track worker was killed Friday night during round two of Pro 275 qualifying for the 17th annual U.S. Street Nationals at Bradenton Motorsports Park.
The burst panels on the engine of Paul Major's 2001 Corvette let go as it crossed the eighth-mile finish line and the throttle may have then hung open as the car entered the shutdown area. The track worker apparently was struck by Major's car near the end of the pavement. Major was uninjured in the accident.
Details were not readily available when all track activity was canceled for the night about 7:30 p.m. Friday. Qualifying for all classes was scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.
UPDATE: The track worker has been publicly identified as longtime BMP employee Daniel "Chaps" Stone. A GoFundMe.com page has been established to aid Stone's family and several racers have reportedly pledged to donate any winnings from the event to the cause. CompetionPlus.com joins the entire drag racing community in offering sincere condolences to Stone's family and friends.