DINWIDDIE, Va. (October 24, 2020) – Defending world champion Jim Halsey gained ground in his quest for a second Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous world championship when he qualified No. 1 Friday night at the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) Proline Racing Brian Olson Memorial World Finals. Racing at Virginia Motorsports Park, Halsey shot to the top spot with a 3.638-second pass at 208.46 mph.
Championship contenders John Strickland (Penske/PRS Pro Boost presented by WS Construction) and Dillon Voss ($hameless Racing Pro Outlaw 632) also qualified No. 1 in the pro classes, as well as JR Carr in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock, Ashley Owens in Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle and Tim Essick in Drag 965 Pro Street.
There are also some tight championship battles in the PDRA’s sportsman categories, where the No. 1 qualifiers are Buddy Perkinson in MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by Tejas Borja, Michael White in Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster, Andrew Johnson in Teets Memorial Top Sportsman 48 and Kellan Farmer in Lucas Oil Top Dragster 48.
In the Jr. Dragster classes, a perfect 7.900-second pass gave Manassas, Virginia’s Christopher Suppers the No. 1 spot in Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster. Hunter Smith was almost perfect with a .001 reaction time, putting the Oakwood, Virginia-based driver in the No. 1 spot in Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster.
Jim Halsey entered the weekend exactly 100 points behind points leader and two-time Pro Nitrous world champion Tommy Franklin. He took a nine-point chunk out of that deficit by qualifying No. 1 with his 3.638 at 208.46 in his Brandon Switzer-tuned, Fulton-powered ’68 Camaro. Franklin, who typically qualifies in the top three, ended up No. 10 after Friday’s two qualifying sessions.
“It’s definitely all on the line,” Halsey said. “We weren’t trying to run super-fast or anything like that. We missed the first session by a little bit and shook the tires. It ran what it should’ve ran. Now it’s all about winning the race. It’s between me and Tommy. I just want to thank Michael, Eric, Cathy, Brandon, Melissa, the whole team. They deserve it more than I do.”
Chris Rini fired off a 3.665 at 205.72 in his Buck-powered ATI Performance Products ’69 Camaro to qualify No. 2 in the 17-car field. Lizzy Musi, making her third PDRA appearance of the season after a busy summer filming episodes of Street Outlaws, qualified third in Frank Brandao’s Musi-powered Edelbrock/Lucas Oil “King Kong 7” ’18 Dodge Dart with a 3.697 at 206.07
The top two drivers in Pro Boost points ended qualifying in the top two qualifying spots as well, as John Strickland and Jason Harris were the two quickest drivers in the 15-car field. Strickland led both sessions in his ProCharger-boosted, Proline-powered GALOT Motorsports ’69 Camaro, with his 3.648 at 205.01 in the second and final session leading the way.
“Well, seeing how we’re less than a hundred points ahead of Jason, that will definitely help us out with [the championship chase],” Strickland said. “We just need to maintain and last a round longer than Jason. I’m excited about running for a championship. I’d love to have a championship, just like everybody else out here racing. I think it would say a lot about teaming up with Proline and all the guys we team up with to get us here. It’s all about all these guys working hard. It would be good for them. They did it last year with Kevin [Rivenbark]. If we could do it again this year, it would say a lot about the team.”
Harris was the quickest of three drivers who ran 3.65s, with a 3.656 at 204.98 in his ProCharged “Party Time” ’18 Camaro. Kurt Steding and Randy Weatherford both ran 3.657, but it was Steding who got the No. 3 slot with a faster 206.54 speed in his Todd Tutterow-tuned, roots-blown P2 Contracting ’20 Camaro.
EXTREME PRO STOCK
With Johnny Pluchino locking up the Extreme Pro Stock world championship at the last race, the focus in the class turned to the race for the 3-second zone. JR Carr was a serious contender after running a 4.02 in the heat of the day during Thursday testing. He didn’t break into the 3s in Friday qualifying, but he was the closest out of the nine drivers. Carr’s 4.014 at 179.71 in his Frank Gugliotta-tuned ’20 Camaro gave him the No. 1 spot.
“At first we were [going for a 3-second pass],” Carr said, “but it started cooling down and the humidity was high, so Frank changed it around a little bit just to make sure we got down. At first, we probably were swinging a little harder and that’s not normal for us. It was a decent run. I haven’t seen it on the graph yet, but I think there’s a little left. But there wasn’t a 3 there. We’ll take it though. No. 1 qualifier, we’re happy about that for the last race of the year. We’ve ran 4.01, a 4.02, a 4.03 and a 4.04 this weekend. It’s been a good car. It goes down every time.”
Pluchino also came up short in the chase for the 3s, but he got a career-best 4.02 at 179.80 out of the effort in his Kaase-powered Strutmasters.com ’13 Mustang. Dwayne Rice recorded one of his best passes, a 4.089 at 174.12, to qualify third in his Miller-powered Mountain Motor Mafia ’18 Camaro.
PRO OUTLAW 632
Two-time world champion Dillon Voss needs every point he can get in his race to pass Wes Distefano for the Pro Outlaw 632 world championship. He earned a few by out-qualifying Distefano by seven spots with a 4.195 at 170.13, but Voss is the first to admit he’s fighting an uphill battle.
“We’ve got a tough weekend ahead of us,” Voss said. “We’re a little over three rounds behind Distefano. It’s in the cards though. He hasn’t made a good qualifying pass yet. We’re just going to take it round by round [Saturday] and see where the cards fall. We have a good chance at winning the championship and a good chance at winning this race tomorrow. That’s our goal.”
Jimmy Pelcarsky and his nitrous-fed small-block ’15 Camaro posted a 4.206 at 168.53 to slide into the No. 2 position. A close 4.208 at 167.51 put Chris Holdorf third in his nitrous-assisted, Nelson-powered Dewitt Custom Concrete ’53 Corvette.
PRO NITROUS MOTORCYCLE
The Pro Nitrous Motorcycle riders are racing for win lights, records and a trophy without championship pressures, as Travis Davis clinched his third title at the last race. Ashley Owens almost set a new E.T. record on the McKinney Motorsports Hayabusa with his 3.955 at 178.57, which was good for the No. 1 spot.
“Great pass, but like every other pass, I wish I could do it over again,” Owens said. “This is a great track and I love being at PDRA. I appreciate [team owner] Scott McKinney. This is his stuff, he just lets me tune and ride and have fun. It’s all good. We’re having a good weekend. It was close to the record, but close doesn’t count. We’re just going to take it one pass at a time. I just have to get through first round, then go from there. We’ll see what the track gives me and see if we can go faster.”
Drag bike legend Paul Gast followed Owens into the 3-second range with his 3.985 at 179.14 aboard his Fast By Gast entry. Championship runner-up Chris Garner-Jones qualified third with a 4.011 at 176.37 on the Hayabusa formerly campaigned by his late father, T.T. Jones.
Outlaw 10.5 star Tim Essick, who won the last Pro Street event victory at Virginia in July, picked up the low qualifier award in his home-built, ProCharged “Brown Sugar” ’18 Mustang with a 3.909 at 189.68. Charlie Cooper drove his twin-turbo Mustang to a 3.964 at 196.19 to get the No. 2 spot, while Mike Reynolds’ 4.249 at 160.77 in his supercharged ’69 Nova was third-quickest in Pro Street’s third appearance on the PDRA tour.
For the third consecutive race, Buddy Perkinson took his former Pro Nitrous car, a Musi-powered LAT Racing Oils ’69 Camaro, to the No. 1 spot in Elite Top Sportsman. His 3.731 at 202.73 was the quickest of the quick 16, followed by John Benoit’s 3.768 at 200.83 in his nitrous-assisted ’17 Camaro and Derrick Brown’s 3.811 at 192.85 in his ProCharger-boosted ’14 Camaro.
Andrew Johnson posted a 3.99 at 193.40 in the twin-turbocharged “Excalibur” ’55 Chevy typically driven by his father, Lester, to end up No. 17 in the Teets Memorial Top Sportsman qualifying order. He just missed the Elite Top Sportsman field, but the run put him No. 1 in the Top Sportsman 48 class.
Consistent low qualifier Michael White found himself in the familiar No. 1 spot in Elite Top Dragster with his 3.713 at 194.27 effort in his ’57 Chevy-themed, ProCharger-boosted ’11 Maddox dragster. Jody Stroud took the No. 2 spot in his supercharged “Zombie” ’07 Spitzer, while points leader Steve Furr ended up third with his 3.814 at 189.42 in his ProCharger-equipped ’13 American dragster.
Elite Top Dragster defending world champion Kellan Farmer ran a 3.943 at 180.50 in his nitrous-fed ’20 Racetech dragster to sit just outside the Elite Top Dragster field, but at the top of the Top Dragster 48 ladder.
Due to a threatening weather forecast, race officials decided to move eliminations up to Saturday to complete the race before rain moves into the area. Racing will begin with first round of the Top Jr. Dragster at 9 a.m., followed by Pro Jr. Dragster, Bracket Bash, Top Sportsman 48, Top Dragster 48 and the Pro classes. The current schedule calls for completing eliminations Saturday night.
ABOUT THE PDRA
Based in Fredericksburg, Va., the Professional Drag Racers Association is the top sanctioning body in the United States for the sport of eighth-mile drag racing. The PDRA’s professional categories include Pro Boost, Pro Nitrous, Extreme Pro Stock, Pro Nitrous Motorcycle, Pro Outlaw 632 and Pro Street. The series also features sportsman racing in Top Sportsman, Top Dragster, Pro Jr. Dragster, Top Jr. Dragster and Bracket Bash. The 2020 PDRA schedule consists of six national events. For more information on the PDRA, visit www.PDRA660.com.
Photo credit: Roger Richards