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Cox, Rivenbark, Dobbins and Distefano Highlight First-Round Winners at PDRA East Coast Nationals

Local favorite Jay Cox reset the Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous elapsed time world record Saturday night on his way to winning first round of eliminations at the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) East Coast Nationals presented by FuelTech. Cox ran a 3.637-second pass at 204.26 mph in his Butner Construction ’69 Camaro to cap off the action-packed round at GALOT Motorsports Park in Benson, N.C.

Racing was put on hold for the night after all classes ran first round of eliminations. Other highlights from first round include Kevin Rivenbark’s 3.661 at 205.07 in Moroso Pro Boost, Jeff Dobbins’ 4.043 at 179.09 in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock and Wes Distefano’s 4.195 at 173.27 in Schwing America Pro Outlaw 632 presented by Precision Chassis. Mo Hall had the quickest pass in Atomizer Racing Injectors Outlaw 10.5 presented by Drag 965 with his 3.853 at 192.49.

Sportsman racers also completed first round in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman, Lucas Oil Top Dragster, Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster presented by Knoxtown Products and Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster, while Edelbrock Bracket Bash racers were able to run two rounds before falling temperatures led PDRA officials to call it a night. Pro Boost and Pro Nitrous non-qualifiers also ran a round in the Classic Graphix Pro Mod Challenge, a second-chance race.

Eliminations at the PDRA East Coast Nationals presented by FuelTech will resume Sunday at 10 a.m., beginning with Top Jr. Dragster.


Jay Cox’s record-setting 3.637 at 204.26 over Rob Hunnicutt was the result of a busy winter that saw the Smithfield, N.C. native make 63 test passes between late December and February. He also integrated new components from Switzer Dynamics, Buck Racing Engines and M&M Transmission into his RJ Race Cars-built Camaro. Cox and his Butner Construction/Smithfield Collision/Lester’s Body Shop team entered Saturday eliminations from the No. 1 spot after firing off a 3.648 at 206.04 in Thursday’s first qualifying session.

“It felt really good to run that well,” Cox said. “We worked really hard this winter testing. It took the long way around to get to where we wanted to be – we slowed a little bit – but you see the result. The car is fast but it’s consistent – it runs .66 in the daytime and .63 at night. It feels good. I know what the car can do and I know the potential.”

Cox admitted his first-round game plan was aggressive considering rain stripped racers of their usual qualifying schedule. PDRA officials pushed the first session up to Thursday evening to get ahead of Friday’s rain storms, then a second session set the field Saturday afternoon.

“It’s tough over here because it’s professional racing, and I stress that,” Cox said. “We had to qualify in not-so-ideal conditions. We got one shot to go fast. It’s tough when you have to do that because you want to go up there and swing for it, but if you shake the tires and don’t go down you look bad. First round we shouldn’t go that fast, but I was confident and I told my guys, ‘Let’s see what it’ll do.’”

A similarly bold tuneup will be plugged into Cox’s Buck-powered “Pumpkin” ’69 Camaro for second round, where he’ll face No. 8 qualifier Chris Patrick.

“You can’t take it easy over here anymore,” Cox said. “Any one of these guys can bust your teeth out at any second. We’re gonna run this thing as hard as we can run it. If we have to service it, we’ll service it. We’re going to run it hard. If I’m going to get beat, I’m going to get beat with my best tuneup in that car.”

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First-round results: Chris Patrick 3.739 def. Rickie Smith 3.745, Halsey 3.793 def. Dane Wood 3.888, Randy Weatherford 3.849 def. Dean Marinis 4.422, Jason Harris 3.698 def. Johnny Camp 3.768, Chris Rini 3.693 def. Tommy Mauney 3.756, Lizzy Musi 3.643 def. Ed Burnley 3.803, Tommy Franklin 3.641 def. Andrew Handras 3.769, Jay Cox 3.637 def. Rob Hunnicutt 5.507.


Clinton, North Carolina’s Kevin Rivenbark continued his hot streak in the Steve Petty-tuned GALOT Motorsports Pro Boost ’69 Camaro when he recorded a 3.661 at 205.07 in his first-round defeat of Chuck Ulsch and his 3.892. The ProCharger-boosted, FuelTech-equipped entry rolled into eliminations in the No. 1 spot on the strength of a 3.684 at 200.29 in the final session.

“I was kind of worried to start with since we had some issues,” said Rivenbark, who will face Marc Caruso in the next round. “We really haven’t had any issues with the car until this weekend. It was just a mechanical failure. We missed Q1, then went out there for Q2 and really didn’t know what to expect. Just like it has in the past, the car just runs off a number. We went up for first round thinking it’d run maybe another .68, but it clicked off a .66. I don’t know, it’s just a miracle car is all I can tell you.”

First-round results: Marc Caruso 3.718 def. Jerico Balduf 3.724, Chip King 4.425 def. Anthony DiSomma (no time), Tommy D’Aprile 3.712 def. Larry Higginbotham 3.709, Kris Thorne 3.691 def. Ric Fleck 4.093, Eric Gustafson 3.700 def. Mike Yedgarian 7.318, John Strickland 3.687 def. Roderjan Busato 3.774, Melanie Salemi 3.712 def. Terry Leggett 4.003, Kevin Rivenbark 3.661 def. Chuck Ulsch 3.892.


Extreme Pro Stock ET and speed record holder Jeff Dobbins drove his Bear’s Performance ’14 Dodge Avenger to a 4.043 at 179.09 to defeat Dave Hughes and record the quickest pass of the round. He’ll take on 2016 world champion John Pluchino in the second round.

First-round results: John Pluchino 4.057 def. JR Carr 4.086, Todd Hoerner 4.102 def. Dillon Voss 4.094, John Montecalvo 4.068 def. Chris Powers 4.196, Jeff Dobbins 4.043 def. Dave Hughes 4.135.


Racing out of the No. 3 spot, Wes Distefano steered his Musi-powered ’68 Camaro to the quickest Pro Outlaw 632 pass of the weekend, a 4.195 at 173.27, defeating Bobby Starr in the process. The Waterford, Michigan-based racer will square off against Jeff Ensslin in the next round.

First-round results: Michael Nauman 4.349 def. Daryl Hameetman 4.46, Dillon Voss 4.286 def. Jordan Ensslin 4.317, Jeff Ensslin 4.363 def. Jeremy Huffman 4.292, Chris Holdorf 4.249 def. Matt Salminen 10.385, Tony Gillig 4.284 def. Mike Wolfe 4.451, Wes Distefano 4.195 def. Bobby Starr 4.461, Walter Lanningen 4.234 def. Mike Oldham 4.808, Johnny Pluchino 4.221 def. Robert Sellers 5.000.


After changing the setup on his Outlaw 10.5 ’07 Corvette, including a move to drag radials, Mo Hall set low ET of the weekend with his first-round 3.853 at 192.49. It was a slight step up from the 3.889 at 191.95 pass Hall used to qualify No. 1 in the nitrous-assisted, Fulton-powered ‘Vette. The Maryland-based Outlaw 10.5 veteran will have a bye run into the semifinals.

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First-round results: Paul Major 5.65 def. Jerry Morgano (DQ-red light), Rich Bruder 4.047 def. Mewshaw (no time), Tim Essick 4.023 def. Tommy Mauro 4.695, Joseph Thomas 4.724 def. Jesse Lambert 6.869, Mo Hall 3.853 def. Joel Wensley 4.55.


For complete first-round results from the sportsman categories – Elite Top Sportsman, Top Sportsman 32, Elite Top Dragster, Top Dragster 32, Pro Jr. Dragster, Top Jr. Dragster and Bracket Bash – click here to view results on the PDRA Facebook page.

Racing at the PDRA East Coast Nationals presented by FuelTech will resume Sunday at 10 a.m. Admission is $10 with a Saturday ticket stub or $20 without a Saturday ticket.

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