Words and images courtesy: American Drag Racing League/ADRL.us
The 2011 American Drag Racing League (ADRL) season has been the most frustrating of Jason Scruggs’ highlight-filled career.
But that tune changed in a major way on Saturday at Virginia Motorsports Park.
One of the pioneers and most successful drivers in the ADRL’s Pro Extreme class, Scruggs struggled like never before this season, but that only made his performance during the Speedtech U.S. Drags IV that much sweeter.
Scruggs wrapped up a thrilling weekend with a career-best 3.63 at 206.70 miles per hour, knocking off Mick Snyder in the finals of what immediately became one of the most memorable weekends of his career.
“We’ve won two championships and a lot of races, but we’ve never struggled this bad. After knowing how it felt to struggle that much, to win this race after all of that feels better than those championships,” Scruggs said. “It was the most exciting win I’ve ever had.”
It sent a huge VMP crowd home happy and they had plenty to cheer about on Saturday.
The winners list also include Mike Castellana (Pro Nitrous), Dan Millen (Extreme 10.5), Ashley Owens (Pro Extreme Motorcycle), Dean Goforth (Extreme Pro Stock), Glenn Teets Jr. (Summit Racing Equipment Top Sportsman) and Mike Janis (Pro Modified).
World records were set in two classes as well, and the largest ADRL field in 2011 turned in one of the finest performances of the year.
Scruggs provided the final highlight, knocking off Mick Snyder with his best pass of the weekend. He went 3.66 or better in every run during eliminations – finally finding a rhythm with his converter combination – knocking off points leader Jason Hamstra in the semifinals with a 3.64.
“We’ve had so many guys helping us and we just appreciate all of it. I have to thank Speedtech and Hoosier Tires, Garrett (Race Cars) for sticking with me the whole time, and, of course, my dad, my crew, my wife and my kids,” Scruggs said. “It felt like we had a good hot rod out there this weekend.”
Burton Auxier set a new world record in Pro Nitrous, destroying the old mark with an unbelievable 3.746 during the first round of eliminations.
But his car broke in the semifinals against the consistent Castellana, who went 3.82 or 3.81 in every elimination round to pick up his third win this season. The Al-Anabi Racing driver then strengthened his points lead in the competitive PN class, going 3.827 at 196.19 mph to beat Jeff Naiser in the finals.
Castellana also watched No. 1 qualifier and teammate Mahana Al-Naemi crash hard into the wall during semifinals, though he went 3.812 moments later to move to the finals.
“You have to be fast, but you have to be consistent, too,” Castellana said. “We just didn’t want to do anything crazy. This is great. Winning never gets old.”
In Pro Extreme Motorcycle, Ashley Owens and his Fast by Gast bike made history in two major ways.
He did it first in the quarterfinals, going 3.989, and then followed it up with a new world record pass of 3.977 at 179.42 mph in the finals.
“That was the culmination of two years of work,” team owner Paul Gast said. “We never could have dreamed to have this much success, but with the work and effort we’ve put in, it really feels good. After so many 4.01 and 4.02s, we felt like it had to happen.”
Owens also needed every part of that 3.977 in the finals, as Casey Stemper nearly won due to a .007 reaction time. Owens barely tracked him down, edging him out by just .003 in a spectacular final round that came after the class had its quickest qualifying bump in history (4.21).
“He was out there on me. I thought I was going to run out of track,” said Owens, who has four wins in 2011. “I’m just happy to get the win light. We put in a lot of work and to get two 3s and win, it’s a great weekend.
“I can’t thank Paul enough. This bike is just unreal and we needed every bit of it.”
Dan Millen used every bit of power from his Jerry Bickel Race Cars 2011 Mustang, going 3.883 at 198.03 mph in the finals of Extreme 10.5. The time broke a track record and it was just enough to edge out No. 1 qualifier Chuck Ulsch, who went 3.897 in the championship round. The victory, which is the second in three races for Millen, also allowed him to pass Billy Glidden for the points lead.
“We had it all hanging out there. The car was maxed out,” Millen said. “Compared to the beginning of the year, this stretch has really brightened our season. The middle part of the year has really put us in a much better position. Our goal coming in was to get ahead of Billy and we did that.”
Dean Goforth celebrated his second career win and first since 2009 when he went 4.095 at 174.91 to slip past defending world champion John Montecalvo.
Goforth’s Jerry Haas Race Cars-built GXP was quicker off the line, leading to an emotional celebration in the winner’s circle.
“Jerry has really given us a good car. I really think it’s the best one he’s every built, and (Sonny’s Racing Engines) has given us great horsepower, too.”
In Summit Racing Equipment Top Sportsman, Glenn Teets Jr. went 4.373 at 161.04 mph to knock off Sandy Wilkins in the finals. Wilkins had a perfect reaction time of .000 in the semifinals to slip past No. 1 qualifier Ronnie Davis, but Teets had a great .015 reaction time in the finals to celebrate a win in a big and wildly-competitive Summit Racing Equipment Top Sportsman class.
“This was great. I’ve never felt anything like that,” Teets said. “Just the atmosphere and the fans, this was like heaven. This is the kind of racing that I love.”
The debut of Pro Modified in the ADRL was also a rousing success, as the eight-car exhibition featured a number of standouts runs.
None could top Janis in eliminations, however, as he put together back-to-back runs of 3.914, including one in the finals against Khalid Al-Balooshi. The holeshot win on Saturday also comes 10 years after Janis’ first victory at VMP.
“This track has always been good to us and just to win, period, is special,” Janis said. “We saw a lot of encouraging things and it was just a great weekend.”
In Pro Junior Dragster, Trevor Wilson ousted Tia Tutterow in the finals, going 7.979 at 80.94 mph to get the win. The seventh stop on the nine-race 2011 ADRL Tour – Dragstock VIII – takes place on Sept. 9-10 at Rockingham Dragway.