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Big Upsets, Record Passes Highlight First-Round Eliminations at PDRA American Doorslammer Challenge

Despite a challenging forecast for Saturday, racers in the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) kicked off eliminations in dramatic fashion at the DeCerbo Construction American Doorslammer Challenge presented by Callies Performance at Summit Motorsports Park.

After finishing qualifying with a second session, the series completed the first round of eliminations in four out of six professional classes, as well as five sportsman and Jr. Dragster categories.

Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous, Penske/PRS Pro Boost presented by WS Construction, Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock presented by AED Competition, and $hameless Racing Pro Outlaw 632 were the classes that started eliminations Saturday evening. Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle and Drag 965 Pro Street will begin eliminations on Sunday.

The PDRA’s sportsman racers in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman 32, Lucas Oil Top Dragster 32, and Edelbrock Bracket Bash presented by COMP Cams also finished first round, with MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by Tejas Borja and Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster left to start racing on Sunday.


After qualifying No. 1 in his Fulton-powered “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro, defending Pro Nitrous world champion Jim Halsey uncorked a 3.633-second pass at 207.85 to set low E.T. of the event in his first-round win over Brian Shrader, who didn’t make it to the finish line. Halsey will take on fellow two-time world champion Tommy Franklin in the second round.

Dean Marinis, who sustained a high-speed crash just after crossing the eighth-mile finish line with a winning 3.656 pass, walked away without major injuries but is unable to return for second round. His first-round opponent, Ed Burnley, will take his spot on the eliminations ladder.

First-round results: Jim Halsey 3.633 def. Brian Shrader (no E.T.), Tommy Franklin 3.665 def. Jackie Slone 6.366, Lizzy Musi 3.661 def. Marcus Butner 3.893, Rickie Smith 3.694 def. John Vergotz 3.799, Dean Marinis 3.656 def. Ed Burnley 3.761, Ron Muenks 3.979 def. Jim Widener 5.084, Jay Cox 3.683 def. Dane Wood 3.755, Tony Wilson 3.678 def. Matt Guenther 3.681.


Johnny Camp, the Pro Boost winner at the PDRA season opener in April, fired off a 3.597 at 210.01 in his ProCharger-boosted “Hells Bells” ’69 Camaro to defeat Melanie Salemi and her 3.678 at 211.59 in their opening round match. The pass tied the class E.T. record set by Randy Weatherford at the World Finals in 2019. Camp and Weatherford will line up against each other in the second round.

There were a couple major upsets involving holeshot victories to add suspense to the round. Longtime Pro Boost racer Chuck Ulsch used a sizable holeshot advantage and 3.672 to defeat NHRA Pro Mod star Khalid Al-Balooshi and his 3.637. A holeshot advantage also allowed Chris Cline’s 3.732 to knock out Kurt Steding and his 3.635.

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First-round results: Daniel Pharris 3.635 def. Matt Hutter 3.759, Jason Lee 3.637 def. Todd Tutterow 3.621, Chris Cline 3.732 def. Kurt Steding 3.635, Chuck Ulsch 3.672 def. Khalid Al-Balooshi 3.637, Johnny Camp 3.597 def. Melanie Salemi 3.678, Randy Weatherford 3.630 def. James Beadling 3.639, Kevin Rivenbark 3.636 def. Preston Tanner (no E.T.), Ken Quartuccio 3.708 def. Jason Harris 3.911.


With cool air and track conditions, the naturally aspirated, clutch-equipped hot rods in Extreme Pro Stock struggled to put the power to the ground in their opening round. Defending world champion Johnny Pluchino navigated the challenges most effectively, recording a 4.064 at 179.54 to defeat Dave Hughes’ 4.12. Pluchino and his Kaase-powered Strutmasters ’13 Mustang will take on Chris Powers in round two.

Powers had the second quickest pass of the round with his 4.105 at 172.56 over Justin Kirk, who won the most recent race on tour.

Bill Neri delivered the upset of the round, though, as he pulled out a 4.218 at 171.69 to

First-round results: Bill Neri 4.218 def. JR Carr 4.235, John DeFlorian 9.877 def. Steven Boone (broke in qualifying), Elijah Morton 4.179 def. John Montecalvo 11.321, Johnny Pluchino 4.064 def. Dave Hughes 4.12, Chris Powers 4.105 def. Justin Kirk 7.868.



Defending Pro Outlaw 632 world champion Wes Distefano continued to prove his mettle after qualifying No. 1 by laying down a 4.174 at 168.60 in his Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro. The Michigan driver defeated Tara Thornton in the process, and will race Ohio’s Brian Werner in the next round.

First-round results: Wes Distefano 4.174 def. Tara Thornton 4.807, Brian Werner 4.393 def. Mike Murphy 4.519, Dillon Voss 4.313 def. Brian Clauss 7.26, Tony Gillig 4.232 def. Sam Freels III 4.471, Daryl Stewart 4.186 def. Chris Holdorf 4.511, Nicole Liberty-Cach 4.324 def. Sylvester Barnes Jr. 5.002, Vince Khoury 4.492 def. Lexi Tanner (alternate), Jordan Ensslin 4.35 def. Joe Valerio 4.608

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The DeCerbo Construction American Doorslammer Challenge presented by Callies will continue Sunday at 10 a.m. Visit or for schedule updates and results.

This story was originally published on May 30, 2021. Drag Illustrated

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