Competing on a championship level in a single-power-adder class is one thing. Carrying that same level of performance over to a multi-combination class – with a combination that by many accounts is at a disadvantage – takes something more.
[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #180, the 2022 DI Awards Issue, in January/February of 2023.]
Throughout the 2022 season, Jim Halsey’s Pro Nitrous team proved they have the consistency and dedication it takes to not only continue dominating in PDRA Pro Nitrous, but also stomp a field full of boosted cars in outlaw Pro Modified competition.
Halsey won two PDRA races and qualified No. 1 at four on his way to an unprecedented fourth Pro Nitrous world championship. He then closed out the season with a $51,000 win at the Snowbird Outlaw Nationals at Bradenton Motorsports Park.
Those are just the latest in a long list of accomplishments Halsey has enjoyed with his tight-knit team over their two-plus decades together. Halsey and his wife, Cathy, started dating in 1987, the beginning of a relationship that has including managing the Crouse family businesses, owning and operating Cecil County Dragway, and going racing together.
Crew chief Eric Davis, whose father built engines for Halsey’s early bracket cars, officially joined the team in 2000 after Halsey’s five-year hiatus from Pro Modified racing. Michael McMillan came on board in 2010, and tuner Brandon Switzer started working with the Halsey team in 2017.
“Because me and Eric and Michael have worked together for so long, we kind of know what each other’s thinking,” says Halsey, who’s sourced engines from Fulton Competition Engines since 2000. “When we come back to the trailer after a run, we don’t really talk about anything, we just go do. We’ve been doing it so long – and Brandon’s been doing it so long – we kind of speak the same lingo from back in the carburetor/clutch days. It’s like an assembly line. Nobody has to ask. Nobody has to be told. It’s like a well-oiled machine.”
The team’s rhythm was put to the test at the 51st annual Snowbird Outlaw Nationals at Bradenton in early December. Halsey qualified fifth for the 32-car show with a 3.612-second effort, rounding out a top five that included roots blowers, screw blowers, ProChargers, and turbochargers.
He then won the race, using a 3.627 to defeat Jason Lee’s ProCharger-boosted 3.673 in the final round. Between testing, five qualifying sessions, and five rounds of eliminations, Halsey made 11 consecutive passes between 3.61 and 3.68. It’s an accomplishment Halsey attributes to the team’s rigorous maintenance program.
“First of all, we knew the rules going in, so we knew if we were going to pull it off, we had to play ball with the big boys,” begins Halsey, who drove his “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro back to the trailer after the winner’s circle celebrations. “Our plan was every run or two, the thing was coming apart, no matter what. Didn’t matter if it was hurt or it wasn’t hurt.
“I don’t remember how many times the engine was apart through the weekend, but it was apart three times on Sunday. We made five runs on Sunday and it was apart three. We had three fresh racks of pistons, rings, and rods hanging in the trailer ready to go Sunday morning for race day.”
After each accomplishment this past season, Halsey gave all the credit to his small but mighty team. He echoed that when notified that his team won the DI Crew of the Year Award.
“They don’t get the credit they deserve,” Halsey says. “I try to give it to them as much as I can. They’re not volunteers – they get paid – but this is their hobby more than anything. If I didn’t pay them, they’d probably still do it. Their dedication to the team and to me…I’ll never be able to thank them enough.”