A late night of racing at the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) Spring Nationals paid off for pro class winners Mattias Wulcan (Pro Extreme), Tommy Franklin (Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous presented by MoTeC), Melanie Salemi (Andy McCoy Race Cars Pro Boost), Trevor Eman (Extreme Pro Stock), and Travis Davis (Drag 965 Pro Extreme Motorcycle). Dillon Voss picked up the win in East Coast Auto Transport Extreme Outlaw 632 at the class’ second of four races with the PDRA.
In the PDRA’s sportsman classes, Dwayne Silance won Magnafuel Top Sportsman and Matt Cooke won Lucas Oil Top Dragster. The Campers Inn RV Pro Junior Dragster win went to Jarrod Kissinger on a holeshot over Nicole Zuccarelli. MegaCorp Top Junior Dragster driver Kaylee Love earned a runner-up finish in the completion of the East Coast Nationals and won the Spring Nationals race over Brooke Miller in the final round. Tim West earned the Edelbrock Bracket Bash win with his 4.529 run in the final round.
Past European Pro Mod champion Mattias Wulcan earned the Pro Extreme win in just his third race in the United States. The Swedish driver made strides at the Valdosta and Benson races, then managed to string together three quick passes during Saturday’s eliminations at Darlington.
“It’s amazing – a dream come true,” Wulcan said. “We’ve been thinking about this for a couple years, and we decided in December to come here to run Pro Extreme. I was able to get my whole crew to come with me. We’re regular workers and we do this in our spare time. It’s a huge sacrifice for my crew. It’s a great feeling to win with them”
Wulcan qualified third and made his way past Wesley Jones and past world champion Jason Scruggs before meeting low qualifier Mike Recchia in the final round. Wulcan’s ’69 Camaro moved off the starting line first, allowing his 3.604-second pass at 209.50 mph to defeat Recchia’s 3.555 at 212.46, which stood for low et of the event.
“These are the fastest cars in the world. I drove a Pro Mod in Europe. We won the 2014 FIA championship, then we went to Qatar and tried going 200 meters (roughly 660 ft). We started liking that, then we crashed our old Pro Mod car. We had thought about switching to the screw blowers, so that was the time to make the move. That move paid off today,” Wulcan added.
Defending world champion Tommy Franklin managed to pull off a clean sweep of the weekend, qualifying No. 1 and recording low et of three rounds in the process of winning his first Pro Nitrous race of the season.
Franklin posted a 3.706 at 204.17 to qualify No. 1, but he was looking for more out of his Pat Musi-powered ’69 Camaro. He found what he was looking for in a 3.699 at 203.90 second-round victory over John Hall. Franklin backed down his “Jungle Rat” entry to run a 3.711 at 204.62 over Lizzy Musi, then a 3.722 at 203.71 to defeat Randy Weatherford’s 3.732 at 198.59.
“We just tried to pick away at it,” Franklin said of his eliminations strategy. “We actually started to get some power with the cool air rolling in so we slowed it down to get it down through there. The 3.69 was nice. Getting the No. 1 qualifier and the win is awesome.
“Like always, I thank the Lord, my crew, my family, all of my employees taking care of things back at home, and all of the fans who come out and watch the PDRA. It’s one heck of a show.”
Perennial Pro Boost contender Melanie Salemi charged to her first win since the 2015 Rockingham fall race. Racing out of the seventh spot, Salemi drove her Strange Engineering-backed “Purple Reign” ’68 Firebird to consecutively quicker runs through eliminations.
“It felt really good to get the win tonight,” Salemi said. “I went to a couple big finals last year and it was disappointing that we couldn’t come out on top for those, but coming here with even tougher competition, I think it’s really awesome that we were able to pull it together tonight.”
Driving a G-Force Race Cars entry built by her brother-in-law, Jim Salemi, and tuned by her husband, Jon, Melanie first ran 3.796 at 195.91 to beat Jerico Balduf in the opening round. She improved to a 3.758 at 197.89 unopposed when points leader José Gonzales ran into problems. Quicker still, Salemi posted a 3.746 at 198.41 over “Turbo” Todd Moyer, then a 3.732 at 198.24 to defeat GALOT Motorsports driver John Strickland’s 3.756 at 195.23.
“We actually struggled when the cool air came to us this weekend,” Salemi admitted. “We had a good car in the heat, so hopefully we can continue that on for the rest of the summer.”
EXTREME PRO STOCK
After doing battle with some of the toughest drivers in Extreme Pro Stock, Aruba’s Trevor Eman can now add a PDRA trophy to his impressive trophy case.
“We’ve been doing this for a while and we’re always chasing a championship, of course, but we have managed to win a race with all of the different sanctioning bodies we’ve raced in,” Eman said. “We won a race in the IHRA, won a race in the ADRL, and now add to that winning a race with the PDRA.”
Eman qualified his Aruba.com ‘11 Mustang in the fifth spot and raced past Dwayne Rice, Benson race winner Chris Powers and class veteran Cary Goforth before facing 2016 World Finals winner Buddy Perkinson in the final round. Though Perkinson grabbed a starting-line advantage, Eman drove around him with a 4.079 at 176.33 over Perkinson’s 4.175 at 170.00.
“Today was a tough day. Qualifying didn’t go too well for us yesterday. We put a good run in finally after making some big changes today. Every run after that just kept getting better and better. It was a long, exciting day.
“The team worked really hard today. I have a team that wakes up at 7 o’clock in the morning, works on the car all day, and here we are standing in the winner’s circle at 2 a.m. almost 20 hours later. My hat’s off to the team. They did a phenomenal job today. Adam and Andy (Lambert) from Precision Racing Shocks helped us really well today and they put us on a different direction that I think really helped us. We’re very excited for what the car’s doing now and we look forward to the next race,” Eman concluded.
PRO EXTREME MOTORCYCLE
Travis Davis found himself in a familiar place Saturday night when he won his second consecutive Pro Extreme Motorcycle race on the PDRA tour. He also qualified No. 1 aboard his Timblin Chassis ’12 Suzuki.
“It’s a good feeling to get another win,” Davis said. “The track was hot and tricky; had all different kinds of conditions to deal with. I chose to sit out the last qualifying session today because it was so hot and I didn’t feel like I was going to improve. We chose to get ready for eliminations and focus on that challenge.”
The soft-spoken Georgia rider slowed from his qualifying pace to a 4.286 in the opening round, but improved to back-to-back 4.05s to defeat Burke Forster and Brad McCoy. Davis used a better reaction time and his best run of the day, a 4.039 at 174.83, to win the final round over multi-time and defending world champion Eric McKinney and his 4.017 at 177.73.
“That’s two in a row for us. We went 3.98 at the last race, which was a big shock to me, too. We’re tickled. We have a good program going right now, and maybe we can keep it going,” Davis added.
EXTREME OUTLAW 632
A battle between two young Floridians proved to be one of the best races of the day in Extreme Outlaw 632. No. 2 qualifier Dillon Voss drove his Voss Racing Engines ’10 Camaro to a 4.337 at 166.05 over Jordan Ensslin’s 4.363 at 163.10 in the final round. The two drivers left the starting line just one thousandth of a second apart.
“This is our first national event win; it’s big,” Voss said. “The team worked hard this weekend. We have a fast, consistent race car. We qualified three-thousandths off the pole. It’s been a great race car all weekend. We’re very happy.”
TOP SPORTSMAN/TOP DRAGSTER
The Top Sportsman final round was won on the starting line when Jacksonville, North Carolina’s Dwayne Silance cut a perfect .000 reaction time alongside John Benoit. Silance posted a 4.11 on his 4.10 dial-in, while Benoit broke out with a 4.086 on his 4.09 dial. Silance previously defeated Bruce Thrift, Cam Clark and Jordan Wood before the final.
Top Dragster winner Matt Cooke had to wait over a second to leave the starting line after No. 16 qualifier Noah Strickland took off, considering Cooke’s 3.92 dial and Strickland’s 5.06 dial. Young Strickland had the better reaction time, but he broke out with a 5.039 ahead of Cooke’s 3.97. Cooke’s previous opponents in eliminations were Russ Whitlock, Angie Travis and Jimmy Sackuvich.
The 2017 PDRA Tour continues in two weeks at the PDRA North-South Shootout, June 1-3, at Maryland International Raceway in Mechanicsville, MD.
Friday Qualifying Recap
Mike Recchia, the most recent Pro Extreme winner on the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) 2017 tour, is well on his way to another strong performance at the PDRA Spring Nationals at Darlington Dragway. The Illinois native is currently qualified No. 1 with a 3.61-second pass at 211.96 mph after two of three qualifying sessions during the PDRA’s first stop at the legendary South Carolina track.
Also leading in the other professional categories at the PDRA’s third of eight events are Tommy Franklin in Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous presented by MoTeC, Brandon Snider in Andy McCoy Race Cars Pro Boost, Cary Goforth in Extreme Pro Stock, and Travis Davis in Drag 965 Pro Extreme Motorcycle.
The provisional low qualifiers in the PDRA’s sportsman classes are Dan Ferguson in Magnafuel Top Sportsman and Jody Stroud in Lucas Oil Top Dragster. Matthew Minter leads Campers Inn RV Pro Junior Dragster, while Hartsville’s own Brooke Miller sits atop the MegaCorp Top Junior Dragster qualifying order after three qualifying sessions. Ken Quartuccio is the provisional No. 1 qualifier in East Side Auto Transport Extreme Outlaw 632.
It may appear as though Mike Recchia loaded up his Agrow Fresh ’69 Camaro after winning the last race on tour and unloaded it at the Spring Nationals to qualify No. 1, but it wasn’t that simple. Recchia’s 3.61 at 211.96 is actually the result of a lot of hard work by his team.
“The funny thing is this isn’t the engine we ran at the last race at GALOT,” Recchia said. “All of the parts we ordered last December just came in, so we put this new engine and driveline together. We have a few bugs in the system, but we’ll go through the car tonight and squash those bugs. But it feels great to win the last race then back it up with this performance here.”
Chasing Recchia is PDRA Valdosta winner Tommy D’Aprile in the Mel Bush Motorsports ’15 Corvette with a 3.614 at 208.43 and Sweden’s Mattias Wulcan with a 3.615 at 209.50 is third.
“The guys behind us are super-fast people,” Recchia said. “You’ve got (Jason) Scruggs, D’Aprile and Terry Leggett. We’re finally beginning to swing with these guys. It’s been a long struggle.”
Defending Pro Nitrous world champion Tommy Franklin holds the top spot after running a 3.706 at 204.17 in his “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro. The Fredericksburg, Virginia-based businessman praised his Tommy Franklin Motorsports team, but also the Darlington Dragway and PDRA staffs for their part in the day’s success.
“The racetrack has been stellar all weekend,” Franklin said. “It was 140 degrees out there today and the car was just bolted to the track. Great facility, great track prep and great guys out here. Just gotta thank the Lord for keeping us safe.
“We had a great event out here tonight. I was really trying to go a 3.69 – I’m going to be greedy. But to go 3.70 at 204 in these weather conditions is just great. It just speaks a lot for my crew, my family, all of my people back home taking care of the businesses, and this Pat Musi horsepower and Jerry Bickel-built race car.”
Points leader and Valdosta winner Jay Cox in his Clements Mechanical ’69 Camaro is in second with his 3.711 at 200.80. Randy Weatherford’s clutch-equipped ’69 Camaro ran 3.732 at 199.91 to sit third.
Last year’s PDRA Pro Extreme world champion, Brandon Snider, made an offseason move to Pro Boost. He debuted an AAP-backed ’69 Camaro at the second race of 2017, just days after picking it up from chassis builder Jerry Bickel Race Cars. While that first outing was not successful, the Alabama native is already well on his way to a strong second race after posting a 3.721 at 202.07 Friday night.
“We tested (Thursday), went a 3.76 on a 137-degree track,” Snider said. “We came out today in the heat and just totally screwed it up, just lost it. We found a few issues here and there, went back and sorted it out. This is a different class, different car, different engine program – everything is different from Pro Extreme. Having this put in your lap and to learn it quickly is a real challenge. It’s a real challenge for all of us. We’re just going to keep picking at it.”
While the mechanical aspects of Snider’s program have changed significantly since switching classes, his mentality for Saturday’s final qualifying session and first round of eliminations remains the same.
“Nothing’s changed from last year as far as my strategy. We’re going to race the track. I never cared who’s over there in the other lane. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m just on another time run and I race the track. I try to cut as good a light as I can, but it’s just like testing. You go up, you’ve got your tune-up sorted out and you try to do the best you can. That’s how I’ve always approached it from the first round of eliminations all the way to the finals,” Snider said.
Points leader and Valdosta and Benson winner José Gonzales is second in his Pro Line-powered Q80 Racing ’67 Mustang with a 3.744 at 213.07. Hometown hero Tylor Miller is third in the Mike Kopchick-tuned Pee Dee Fleet ’69 Chevelle with a 3.76 at 197.37.
EXTREME PRO STOCK
Oklahoman Cary Goforth topped the Extreme Pro Stock field on Friday night for the second time this season. He drove his Dean’s Casing Service/Dewayne Higgins Trucking ’15 Camaro to a 4.048 at 178.36 in the night session after struggling on his first pass of the day.
“I feel really good right now,” Goforth said. “I felt good after the first session. I wasn’t even a bit upset about not getting down the first session because I knew we could come out here and run well in the night session. And I don’t want to look like we’re only running good in the night session. I think we can run really well in the heat. If you don’t run well in the heat, you’re not going to win a championship. That’s just the way it is. Everybody can run well when it’s cool.”
When Saturday’s third and final qualifying sessions rolls around, Goforth will attempt to hold off a large field of proven competitors. PDRA World Finals winner Buddy Perkinson is second in Enoch Love’s ’02 Cavalier with a 4.078 at 174.89, followed by mountain-motor Pro Stock veteran John Montecalvo in third with a 4.082 at 177.37.
“It’s a good deal to be able to come out and run Q3 in the heat and see where you stack up against everybody when the sun is out,” Goforth said. “That’s very important. You can say not everyone will improve. You can say we probably won’t run better than a 4.04. That’s probably true. But we definitely need to see where we stack up against the competition. That third qualifying run is just as important to me as any other qualifying session.”
PRO EXTREME MOTORCYCLE
A full field of 16 entries arrived at Darlington Dragway to make up the Pro Extreme Motorcycle field, currently led by Travis Davis. The PDRA East Coast Nationals winner posted a 4.044 at 175.78 in the second session to claim the top spot. Close behind Davis are Chuck Wilburn with a 4.051 at 175.30 in second and Ashley Owens with a 4.059 at 172.35 in third.
EXTREME OUTLAW 632
Connecticut’s Ken Quartuccio is the provisional No. 1 qualifier in Extreme Outlaw 632 for the second race in a row. Quartuccio recorded a 4.328 at 161.93 in his ’69 Camaro to charge to the top of the qualifying order. Rising star Dillon Voss follows in second with his 4.331 at 166.73. In third is Johnny Pluchino, who ran 4.365 at 160.43. Pluchino also earned the event win from the delayed PDRA East Coast Nationals, which was completed during qualifying at Darlington.
Two-time and defending Top Sportsman world champion Dan Ferguson lit up the scoreboards in a big way with his No. 1 qualifying effort. His 3.834 at 199.03 not only gave Ferguson the top spot, but also both ends of the national record. The “Carolina Kid” Travis Harvey is in second with his 4.027 at 182.26 in his ’63 Corvette. Longtime Top Sportsman driver Bruce Thrift is third with a 4.035 at 180 mph.
Jody Stroud and his Chesterfield, SC-based “Zombie” blown Spitzer dragster shot straight to the top of the Top Dragster qualifying order after laying down a 3.667 at 198.94, not far from the national records held by Stroud. Chaz Silance’s Buck-powered Worthy dragster is second with a 3.838 at 189.87, followed by Jeremy Creasman’s Maddox dragster at 3.845 at 180.36. Creasman also picked up the event win from the completion of the Benson race.
The PDRA Spring Nationals will resume Saturday with Edelbrock Bracket Bash’s final time trial at 10:30 a.m., followed by sportsman final qualifying. Professional classes will begin their third and final qualifying session at 1 p.m. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.
Spring Nationals Race Preview
The Legendary Darlington Dragway will play host to the stars of the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) for the first time ever at this weekend’s PDRA Spring Nationals, May 18-20. The historic South Carolina facility is the third stop on the all-eighth-mile series’ eight-race 2017 tour.
One of the drivers expected to make a lasting impression on the fans at Darlington is local star Tylor Miller, whose family owns and operates Darlington Dragway. Miller has finished no worse than sixth in Andy McCoy Race Cars Pro Boost points since 2014, currently occupying the fourth spot after the Valdosta and Benson races.
While the Hartsville resident is intensely familiar with running his Pee Dee Fleet Truck & Trailer Center ’69 Chevelle at Darlington, he doesn’t expect that to give him a leg up on the competition.
“Yes and no,” Miller said when asked if he felt he has a home-track advantage. “We don’t get to use the track as much as people think we do. With it being my home track and where I do most of my testing, I might have a little advantage, but not by much. A lot of PDRA guys and racers from other series come test at our track. The track will be consistent for everybody. (Track prep specialist) Jimmy Bradshaw will give us a track that is consistent with what we would see at any other PDRA race.”
Miller has made plenty of test passes at his home track, though he’s just like the rest of the Pro Boost teams in that they’ve never been in PDRA race mode at Darlington.
“I can unload my car and go A to B here any day of the week, but of course that won’t hold up at a PDRA race. With the PDRA, you’ve gotta run as fast as you possibly can every single run,” Miller said.
Since the PDRA and its racers have had a break on the tour since the PDRA East Coast Nationals at the beginning of April, Miller and his Pee Dee Fleet team have had plenty of time to service their equipment in preparation for this weekend’s race. Along with crew chief and Rage Fuel Systems owner and engineer Mike Kopchick, Miller has spent the last month doing dyno pulls, freshening engine components and looking over the Andy McCoy Race Cars-built Chevelle.
“I’m very excited to get back to racing,” Miller said. “I enjoy working on the car and doing R&D, but there’s nothing like being at the racetrack. It’s a good feeling knowing the spares are ready to go and everything in the car is fresh for the race.”
Joining Miller and fellow Pro Boost stars Jose Gonzales, John Strickland and Jeremy Ray will be the touring regulars of the PDRA’s pro classes in Pro Extreme, Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous presented by MoTeC, Extreme Pro Stock, and Drag 965 Pro Extreme Motorcycle. The PDRA Spring Nationals will also feature sportsman racing in the form of Magnafuel Top Sportsman, Lucas Oil Top Dragster, Campers Inn RV Pro Junior Dragster, MegaCorp Top Junior Dragster, and Edelbrock Bracket Bash. The trending East Side Auto Transport Extreme Outlaw 632 class will also join the PDRA for their second of four races on the 2017 tour.
The semifinals and finals from the delayed PDRA East Coast Nationals in Top Dragster, Pro Junior Dragster and Top Junior Dragster will be contested during qualifying at this weekend’s race. The Extreme Outlaw 632 final round between No. 1 qualifier Ken Quartuccio and No. 2 qualifier Johnny Pluchino will run during the third qualifying session.