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Corey Michalek Talks Top Alcohol Dragster’s Chance to Race for $10,000, PDRA ‘660 Man’ Trophy at VMP’s Night of Fire

Krista Zivcic photos

The stars of the PDRA won’t be the only ones racing for cash and a PDRA 660 Man trophy on July 22 at Virginia Motorsports Park’s Night of Fire featuring the third annual Summit Racing Equipment PDRA ProStars race. Eight Top Alcohol Dragster drivers will fight for the first-ever 660 Man awarded to a non-PDRA-sanctioned class. Plus, the purse was just raised to $10,000, making the Top Alcohol Dragster Shootout presented by The Empowerment Alliance the highest paying Top Alcohol Dragster race.

“Having The Empowerment Alliance step up to be the presenting sponsor of this shootout has taken it from being an already incredible event to now being the most lucrative payday in Top Alcohol Dragster racing this entire year,” said Corey Michalek, one of the eight competitors who will take part in the Top Alcohol Dragster Shootout. “Getting the chance to run for a $10,000 payout in front of what promises to be a massive crowd further legitimizes the class and it will be special to do so while supporting American energy so close to the nation’s Capital.”

Michalek, driver of the Fund That Flip A/Fuel dragster, also runs React104, a video production firm that specializes in next-level cinematic looks at drag racing. Having worked with PDRA and series director Tyler Crossnoe for the last few seasons, Michalek was eager to work with Crossnoe to add Top Alcohol Dragster to the Night of Fire lineup.

“I want to be crystal clear that this is Tyler’s doing. I just played a very small role in helping him assemble the field, but he’s the one that’s been the mastermind behind the whole show,” Michalek said. “He’s always trying to continually push the show for the PDRA and anything else he’s involved in. Last year, Night of Fire was huge, and he wanted to see what he could do to take it to the next level. He said one day he’d love to be able to run alcohol cars at this event, as well as the fuel cars. Given our working relationship and my connection to the class, he asked if I’d be interested in helping him to assemble the field.”

Along with Top Alcohol Dragster, VMP’s Night of Fire will feature four Top Fuel dragsters – driven by Larry Dixon, Scott Palmer, Artie Allen, and Jacob McNeal – a Nostalgia Funny Car match race, jet dragsters, a wheelstander, and concerts by Alaska Rayne Holloway, Chase Matthew, and Walker Montgomery. The PDRA ProStars portion of the event will include Pro Nitrous, Pro Boost, Extreme Pro Stock, Pro 632, Pro Street, Super Street, Elite Top Sportsman, Elite Top Dragster, Top Sportsman, Top Dragster, Pro Jr. Dragster, and Top Jr. Dragster.

The Top Alcohol Dragster field is split evenly between nitro-injected A/Fuel cars and blown alcohol combinations. On the A/Fuel side, Michalek will be joined by Sarah Allen, Megan Smith, and John Ausherman. The supercharged contingent is made up of Dan Dietrich, J.P. Gutierrez, Mike Hepp, and Brandon Greco.

“We’ve got four blown cars and four injected nitro cars that will be able to, I think, create some really unique storylines throughout the event,” Michalek said. “Just given the diversity, not only of the engine combinations, but also the teams that will be there. For the most part, it’s a really young group of drivers, people that are really hungry to establish themselves within the sport, as well as a handful of veterans.

“I think a lot of people have always been saying that Top Alcohol Dragster is just leaning way too heavily towards the injected nitro combination,” Michalek added. “But having a 50/50 split here will be really cool to show just how the two power adders work against one another.”

Top Alcohol Dragster will utilize a callout format that’s entirely unique for the category, which typically runs 2-4 qualifying sessions depending on the event, then sets the eliminations ladder based on qualifying. At Night of Fire, drivers will run one qualifying session on Friday evening to determine qualifying positions. Come race day, the top four qualifiers will call out who they want to race in the first round, beginning with the No. 1 qualifier. Should the No. 1 qualifier decide to call out the No. 2, 3 or 4 qualifiers, the callout order will work its way down the line. Callouts will also determine the semifinal pairings, with the two quickest winners in the first round calling out their opponents.

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Michalek at Summit Motorsports Park’s Night Under Fire in 2022.

The callout format is one of the aspects of the event that will separate it from the usual NHRA Lucas Oil Series national events and regional races that typically make up a Top Alcohol Dragster team’s schedule. Though $10,000, a 660 Man, and bragging rights will be on the line, the teams realize they’re there to put on a show.

“I think it’s a different mindset going into these races,” said Michalek, who’s competed in Summit Motorsports Park’s Night Under Fire in Top Alcohol Dragster match races for the last few years. “We obviously really enjoy NHRA national event and regional competition, but when you show up to those, you still have a good time, but it’s a much more serious approach. For these events, it kind of takes you back to just generally enjoy the aspect of getting to go out and race a car and do it in front of what always ends up being really big crowds at these types of events.”

Still, the competition aspect of the event is on Michalek’s mind as his Michalek Brothers Racing team prepares for the event from their home base in central Ohio. As a lifelong fan of the sport, he’s excited about the opportunity to make PDRA history by winning the event.

“This one will be unique because the PDRA is upping the ante as well, where this will be the first time they’ve ever awarded one of the 660 Men to a non-sanctioned PDRA class,” Michalek said. “So there is a financial reward for winning the event, but I think everybody’s striving to be the first one to put their name on that list of non-sanctioned PDRA classes to win that type of trophy, which hopefully this will be a tradition moving forward.”

Michalek and his React104 brand have produced a number of moving PDRA-focused video recaps like “The Reason” and “The Last Stand.” React104 expanded its partnership with the series this season, attending all eight points races on the 10th anniversary schedule to produce anything from TV commercials to driver features for the PDRA social media pages. Getting to know the drivers and what it took for them to qualify for the ProStars race just adds to Michalek’s appreciation for the opportunity to be involved.

“It’s been such a unique experience getting to be ingrained into a newer series that my class isn’t involved with,” Michalek said. “All those guys earned their way into that show coming up in a couple weeks. So to be able to be added as a part of that, I know that we’re really excited about it. I know the Top Fuel guys are really excited about it. It’s a fantastic racetrack and a really cool series.”

Fans who can’t make it to Virginia Motorsports Park for the Night of Fire and PDRA ProStars can watch the official livestream on FloRacing.com.  

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Since 2005, DI has informed, inspired and educated drag racers from every walk of the racing life - weekend warrior and street/strip enthusiasts to pro-level doorslammer and Top Fuel racers. From award-winning writing and photography to binge-worthy videos to electric live events, DI meets hundreds of thousands of racers where they live, creating the moments that create conversations.