Early last month at Tulsa Raceway Park, the Summit Racing Equipment Mid-West Pro Mod Series (MWPMS) became the first major touring drag racing series in the country to return to action after the loosening of nationwide pandemic lockdown restrictions.
The MWPMS wasted no time in getting back at it, too, with the Keurig Dr. Pepper Lonestar Nationals May 22-23, at the Texas Motorplex, near Dallas, where veteran driver Ron Muenks emerged as victor in the marquee Pro Mod class.
“With all that’s going on in the world right now it was inspiring to see our Mid-West Series racers back on the race track so quickly, right where they belong,” MWPMS founder, owner and competitor Keith Haney declared. “Getting back to racing is just one more step in the bigger picture of getting back to business and putting our country back on its feet again.
“And I couldn’t be prouder of our Mid-West Pro Mod Series team led by Jimmy Boles with help from Lonnie Grim who handles all of our rules now. And we also have Randy and Cale Hancock, who are key to just getting anything done that needs to be done, along with Ellen Eschenbacher, our events marketing director who keeps things organized and stays on top of getting our social media posts out there. It’s a real team effort.
“And we had Chad Reynolds from Bangshift.com out there doing the live feed online for us and it also went live over NHRA.tv,” Haney continued. “A lot of people didn’t know because we didn’t announce it, but we had over 10,000 viewers watch the Mid-West Pro Mod Series streamed live along with the NHRA Lucas Oil series on NHRA.tv, the whole event. So NHRA fans that maybe knew nothing about us or about our series know about us now and it was history for Chad and Bangshift, too.”
Out on the track, Muenks qualified his Dave’s Claremore RV ’68 Camaro second behind only last year’s MWPMS champion and this year’s Tulsa winner, Aaron Wells. In eliminations he beat Chad Green, Jeffrey Cummins and Clint Satterfield on his way to meeting fourth-place starter Jim Sackuvich in an all-nitrous Pro Mod final.
When the lights turned green, Muenks got away first with a .022 holeshot and led stripe to stripe, finishing an eighth-mile later in 3.71 seconds at a career-best 204.29 mph in a close match over Sackuvich and his ’69 Camaro at 3.72 and 204.17 mph.
“All I had to do was do my job on the tree and drive it out the back door,” Muenks said. “So Jeff Pierce, he put the tune up in it and I was staring at the moon to the 400 mark, ’cause the front end was in the air and off and gone we went, straight as an arrow.”
Muenks’ victory marked the first MWPMS win for a nitrous entry since Haney earned the series’ 2017 World Finals title at Tulsa Raceway Park. With his own nitrous-assisted Camaro currently nearing repair after an early season crash in Florida this year, Haney said he got to enjoy the MWPMS event in Texas from a different perspective.
“At Tulsa a couple of weeks earlier I was too busy because I co-own that track with Todd Martin, but once we got to the Motorplex what I enjoyed the most was getting to know all the Mid-West Series racers a little better,” Haney said. “I got to watch every round of qualifying, every round of racing for all classes, and from being at my trailer handing out contingency stickers and walking the lanes between rounds with Randy and Ellen I think I spoke with nearly every racer there.”
Teams from as far away as California and Pennsylvania have made the trek to race with MWPMS this year, Eschenbacher pointed out, adding that several even opted to leave their race rigs behind in the Midwest to become part of the series for the entire 2020 season.
“It’s also great to have NHRA stars like Scott Palmer and Terry Haddock coming out to compete with the 40 Pro Mod racers we’ve seen between the first two MWPMS events this year,” she added.
Joining Muenks and his “Purple Gorilla” teammates in the MWPMS winner’s circle was 2019 series champion Wells, who suffered an uncharacteristic first-round loss to California’s Justin Wake. That relegated him to the unique MWPMS Slammers class for non-qualifiers and those who don’t make it out of round one, where he went on to beat newcomer Mike Labbate in the Slammers final.
Shannon Smith, who posted a perfect triple-zero reaction time in the Top Sportsman final against Lance Abbott, also visited victory lane, as did 16th-place qualifier William Swann over number-one starter Jim Thorp in Race Star Wheels Top Dragster, Megan Meyer with the NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster win over Dean Dubbin, and Sean Bellemeur after a stripe-to-stripe lead over Annie Whiteley in the NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car final.
Also part of the MWPMS Lone Star Nationals were two Jr. Dragster categories for 8-17 year olds, featuring two separate points races held during the event on Friday and Saturday night, with the cumulative winner from both days being awarded an official NHRA “Wally” trophy.
Friday’s Pro Jr. Dragster race was highlighted by an all-girl final in which Jordan Eperjesi prevailed over Emma Heidkamp, while Tyler Janousek took the Sportsman Jr. Dragster final over Brody Teague.
On Saturday night, second-generation driver Scottie Taylor, son of Pro Mod star Frankie “Mad Man” Taylor, beat Brad Bettis in the Pro Jr. Dragster final to win in his final Jr. Dragster appearance and also capture the first NHRA “Wally” trophy for the Taylor family. Meanwhile, in Sportsman Jr. Dragster, Tyler Wells ran dead on his 8.92 dial in to beat Teague, who broke out in his second-straight final, but also picked up the Wally for his efforts.
The next scheduled stop on the Covid 19-delayed 2020 MWPMS tour is June 19-20 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, near St. Louis.
Story by Ian Tocher, photos courtesy MWPMS/Raceworks/Gary Rowe