Camp, Halsey, Pluchino, Distefano and Davis Earn Victories at PDRA DragWars
Pro Nitrous veteran turned Pro Boost rookie Johnny Camp secured his first-ever Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) “660 Man” trophy Saturday night when he won PDRA DragWars presented by Modern Racing. Racing in Penske/PRS Pro Boost presented by WS Construction, Camp recorded a 3.693 at 203.16 mph on a single when final-round opponent James Beadling couldn’t fire up.
The event victories in the other professional classes went to multi-time event winners, as Jim Halsey (Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous), Johnny Pluchino (Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock), Wes Distefano ($hameless Racing Pro Outlaw 632) and Travis Davis (Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle) also won.
In the sportsman classes, past world champions Donny “Hollywood” Urban and Kellan Farmer won in MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by Tejas Borja and Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster, respectively. JR Ward (MagnaFuel Top Sportsman 32) and Wallace Wilson (Lucas Oil Top Dragster) also won. Jarret Creech claimed the Edelbrock Bracket Bash win.
Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster finalists Nyckolas Shirkey and Ethan Steding both broke out on the 7.90 dial-in, but it was Shirkey’s 7.882 that won out over Steding’s 7.88. In Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster, McKenzee Hogan grabbed a significant holeshot advantage, but broke out on her 9.61 dial-in with a 9.523, allowing Kamryn Love to get the win with a 9.068 on a 9.06 dial-in.
In just his fifth Pro Boost race, Johnny Camp strung together four win lights to earn his first career PDRA victory after six years of trying in Pro Nitrous. Camp, who qualified No. 2 in his Brandon Stroud-tuned, ProCharger-boosted “Hells Bells” ’69 Camaro, ended the day with a 3.693 at 203.16 on a single pass. Opponent James Beadling wasn’t able to start his roots-blown ’69 Camaro for the final round.
“I’d like to first thank Proline and Tatman Electric for everything they do, and our own company, Donaldson Supply and Turnkey Foundations,” Camp said. “Especially Proline and the tuners and the whole package. We’ve been working at it and it’s finally paid off. We won Maple Grove in Northeast Outlaws and we’ve been No. 1 a couple times, No. 2 at Shakedown. We’re really happy with what’s going on. It’s my first year with this combination, first year in this car. I only have 50-some passes on the car. I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished.”
Camp’s first two round wins came via singles, as first-round opponent Wade Moody broke in qualifying. Camp ran a 3.694 at 202.58 on that bye run, then laid down a 3.689 at 203.31 on a single in the second round. He stepped up again with a 3.678 at 203.37 against John Strickland in the semis, but Strickland went red on his 3.681 pass.
Beadling, who earned his first low qualifier award on Friday, recorded a 3.717 at 200.32 in his roots-blown ’68 Camaro on his earned first-round bye. He defeated Kurt Steding in the other remaining roots-blown car in the second round, going a 3.674 at 201.37 to Steding’s 3.694. Beadling repeated the performance to the thousandth of a second to knock out defending world champion Kevin Rivenbark in the semifinals.
Jim Halsey had a dominant championship season in 2019, but the nitrous Pro Modified veteran was winless in Pro Nitrous competition this season going into DragWars. He needed a major comeback to stay in contention for another world championship, as he was trailing two-time world champion Tommy Franklin by a couple rounds. He made up one of those rounds Saturday night, firing off a 3.632 at 206.61 in his Fulton-powered Yellowbullet.com Nationals ’68 Camaro to defeat Franklin and his 3.685 at 204.14 in the final round.
“This is our first win of the year, so it’s tremendous for us,” Halsey said. “We changed a bunch of stuff on the car over the winter. We had some bad luck. Now we’re one round apart. [Franklin]’s one round ahead. I told Eric [Davis, crew chief] last week, all we have to do is qualify No. 1 at the next two races and win both of them. We’re one down, one to go. I think [this win] puts us in the driver’s seat. I’ve never really chased anybody from behind this close, so we’ll see what happens.”
Halsey in his Brandon Switzer-tuned entry qualified No. 1 and steadily improved throughout race day. He started with a 3.704 at 205.26 to beat Dane Wood in the first round, then ripped into the 3.60s with a 3.657 at 206.45 against Billy Albert. A 3.644 at 206.73 on a semifinal single gave Halsey lane choice over Franklin in the final.
Franklin qualified No. 2 in his Musi-powered “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro. His 3.692 at 204.98 in the first round was good for low E.T. of the round and a round win over Brian Shrader. Franklin recorded a 3.671 at 206.07 next to a red-lighting Tommy Mauney in the second round, then improved slightly to a 3.661 at 205.82 to deny Chris Rini and his 3.719 in the semis.
EXTREME PRO STOCK
Johnny Pluchino rolled into the weekend with incredible momentum after winning three of the first four races in his Kaase-powered Strutmasters.com ’13 Mustang. He added yet another victory and padded his points lead over JR Carr by three rounds, effectively securing the 2020 world championship. He left on Elijah Morton in the final round and held the lead with a 4.086 at 176.79 to Morton’s 4.111 at 175.52.
“We won two 632 championships as a stepping stone to get to this,” said Pluchino, who will need to officially clinch the title at the World Finals. “This was where I wanted to be. I dreamt about this for a long time. Pro Stock’s my goal. Mountain Motor Pro Stock is pretty badass. These things are a ton of fun to drive. I have a lot of respect for these competitors out here. I say we’re badass and we’re the ones to beat – and we are – but there are some really good competitors out here, guys who’ve been doing this for a long time. I have a lot of respect for them. But we told them we were coming this year and we did.”
Pluchino, who drives the same car his father John drove to the world championship in 2016, qualified third. His 4.105 at 176.58 beat Dave Hughes’ 4.11 in the first round. Pluchino improved in reaction time and elapsed time in the semis, going 4.085 at 177.51 to eliminate 2018 world champion Steven Boone and his 4.15.
Morton caught his lucky break in the first round when Carr left too soon, throwing away a 4.068 next to Morton’s 4.117 at 175.52. Morton made his own luck in the semis, though, as he used a holeshot advantage and a 4.109 at 175.75 to defeat No. 1 qualifier Chris Powers and his 4.068.
PRO OUTLAW 632
Wes Distefano has had consistency on his side all season, but the Michigan driver was winless in four consecutive final-round appearances. He ended that streak at DragWars, as he took down two-time world champion Dillon Voss in the final round on a holeshot. Distefano’s 4.211 at 170.19 in his Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro held off Voss’ 4.207 at 169.57.
“It’s really great to get the monkey off our back,” Distefano said. “Honestly, my confidence wasn’t there. I was really dreading that fifth runner-up. For us to be able to pull it off on a holeshot, that makes it a little more special as a driver, but I’m just so happy for me and my team. We worked really hard. We worked our tails off. It feels really good.”
Distefano out-qualified Voss in the No. 1 spot, but he admitted he was a couple numbers behind Voss through eliminations. He did have low E.T. of the first round, though, with his 4.211 at 170.02 over Mike Oldham. He slowed slightly to a 4.239 at 170.45 on a second-round single, then picked back up to a 4.213 at 170.32 to beat a red-lighting Jordan Ensslin.
Voss ended up No. 9 in his Voss-powered Race Star Pro ’17 Corvette. He won first round with a 4.281 at 168.05 over Alan O’Brien’s 4.294, then dipped in the 4.10s with a 4.182 at 170.64 to defeat Chris Holdorf. A 4.168 at 171.05, one of his quickest passes ever, helped him beat Walter Lannigan’s 4.25 in the semis.
PRO NITROUS MOTORCYCLE
Defending world champion Travis Davis was dealing with a gremlin in Friday qualifying, but the Alabama rider got his Timblin-built Hayabusa figured out for race day. A little luck helped, too. Davis ended up seeing the win light illuminated in his lane when his final-round opponent, Ashley Owens, went red. Davis ran his slowest pass of eliminations, a 4.082 at 172.19, while Owens threw away a 4.051 at 171.95.
“All the competition’s tough,” Davis said. “The guys who haven’t been so fast, they can step up and run a number at any time. Sometimes I get a little relaxed on the tree and I’m behind. I’m just glad everything came together and we won tonight. The bike stayed together and I didn’t have to do anything to it.”
In the first round, Davis and championship rival Chris Garner-Jones left the starting line with nearly identical reaction times, but Davis pulled away with his 4.069 at 175.09 over Garner-Jones’ 4.084 at 171.49. He was consistent in the semis, laying down a 4.068 at 174.71 while opponent Gerald Smith went red. With Davis’ win over Garner-Jones in the first round and his third win of the season, he clinched his third PDRA world championship.
Owens went into eliminations as the No. 1 qualifier aboard his McKinney Motorsports Hayabusa. He ran a 4.15 at 172.21 to eliminate Terry Wynn in the opening round before firing off a 4.052 at 172.06 on a semifinal single.
A pair of past world champions battled it out for the Elite Top Sportsman win, with 2018 champion Donny “Hollywood” Urban in his Nesbitt-powered ’69 Camaro taking on 2017 champion Dewayne Silance in his Buck-powered ’68 Camaro. Urban was better on both ends of the track, leaving first and running 3.941 on his 3.89 dial-in. Silance broke out, going 3.973 on his 4.00 dial-in.
The Top Sportsman 32 event winner was decided on the starting line in the final round. Ron Whitlock rolled through the stage beam before the tree activated, letting JR Ward run 4.391 on his 4.36 dial on a single pass to win.
Defending Elite Top Dragster world champion Kellan Farmer broke through for his first win of the season in his nitrous-assisted ’20 Race Tech dragster. The Race Tech shop foreman used a slight starting line advantage and a 3.99 on a 3.97 dial-in to defeat Josh Duggins, who ran a 4.243 on a 4.22 dial-in in his ’15 Maddox dragster.
It was a North vs. South matchup in Top Dragster 16, where South Carolina’s Wallace Wilson cut a .004 light and ran 4.455 on a 4.45 dial-in to knock out Ohio’s Rikki Molnar, who broke out with a 4.404 on a 4.41 dial.
The PDRA will decide its 2020 world champions and close out the season at the Proline Racing Brian Olson Memorial World Finals, Oct. 22-25 at Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, Va.