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Franklin, Pharris, Gillig, Distefano and Davis Race to Victory at PDRA DragWars

Two-time world champion Tommy Franklin scored his first Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous victory of the season Saturday night at the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) Proline Racing DragWars presented by Modern Racing. Franklin in his “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro defeated fellow two-time world champion Jason Harris in the final round.

Daniel Pharris (Penske/PRS Pro Boost presented by WS Construction), Wes Distefano ($hameless Racing Pro Outlaw 632) and Travis Davis (Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle) added victories to their 2021 scorecards, while Tony Gillig scored his first Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock presented by AED Competition victory in the debut of his new family-owned car.

In the sportsman classes, Buddy Perkinson (MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by Tejas Borja), Steve Furr (Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster), Joe Roubicek (MagnaFuel Top Sportsman 32), and Dickie Smith (Lucas Oil Top Dragster 32) claimed the event wins. Steve Corker in his ’69 Camaro won in Edelbrock Bracket Bash presented by COMP Cams, defeating Michael Smith in the final round.

Ethan Steding and Alyssa Rabon were the winners in the PDRA’s Jr. Dragster classes. Steding, the son of Pro Boost hitter Kurt Steding, left the starting first and ran a 7.917 on a 7.90 index to defeat Brooks McMath’s too-quick 7.884 in the Coolshirt Systems Pro Jr. Dragster final round. Rabon left the starting line first in the Classic Graphix Top Jr. Dragster final round and posted a 9.073 on a 9.03 dial-in to beat Ashton Halas’ 9.029 on an 8.98 dial-in.


Tommy Franklin’s late-season hot streak continues to build, as he secured his first PDRA win of the season after winning in Pro Modified at Virginia Motorsports Park’s Shakedown Nationals in September. Plus, his daughters, Amber and Ashley, enjoyed success of their own, with Amber taking runner-up honors in her Pro Outlaw 632 debut and Ashley reaching the semifinals in Pro Jr. Dragster. In the Pro Nitrous final, Franklin piloted his Musi-powered “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro to a 3.666 at 203.16 to knock off two-time world champion Jason Harris and his 3.709 at 203.71.

“The most exciting part is watching my kids, there’s no doubt,” said Franklin, crediting manufacturers like Pat Musi Racing Engines, Jerry Bickel Race Cars, and Ty-Drive. “They were both just killing it out there. Ashley went red in the semis, but she was dangerous on the tree all weekend. Amber obviously exceeded expectations as well. We just got out there and we’ve got a hot rod. This thing ran really good at Shakedown. We’ve been lost a little bit most of the year, just trying new things, trying to get it to work. Sometimes that’s what it takes. We’re on a good hot streak right now. We’ll take it. Thank you, everybody who supports us. Thank you, PDRA. Thank you, God, for everything we do. I say it all the time, it’s not all about one person. There’s so many people that make it happen.”

Franklin, the 2016 and 2017 world champion, qualified No. 2 and made it past fellow Virginian Dane Wood in the first round with a 3.867 at 188.17. He dipped back into the 3.60s with a 3.681 at 205.79 in his second-round win over Virginia engine builder Billy Albert. Franklin ran a 3.763 at 184.90 to beat Marcus Butner in the semifinals.

Harris, who returned to Pro Nitrous at the last race after a couple seasons in Pro Boost competition, qualified No. 4 in his Albert-powered “Party Time” ’69 Camaro. He used a 3.739 to defeat Dave Roemer, then a 3.705 to beat Ed Burnley’s 3.73. The 2014 and 2018 world champion won in the semifinals on the starting line when 2019 and 2020 world champion Jim Halsey went red by .005. Harris slowed to a 4.025 next to Halsey’s disqualified 3.656.


A weekend that started with a low – Pro Boost points leader Kevin Rivenbark crashing his GALOT Motorsports ’69 Camaro in Thursday testing – ended in a high point when Rivenbark’s teammate, Daniel Pharris, delivered a home-track win for the team. Pharris drove his Steve Petty-tuned, ProCharger-boosted GALOT Motorsports ’69 Camaro to a 3.641 at 206.95 in the final round to finish just .002 seconds ahead of Todd Tutterow’s 3.652 at 208.04. It was Pharris’s second win of the season, moving him into championship contention going into the final race of the season.

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“We did this for GALOT Motorsports,” Pharris said. “This was 100 percent a team effort. We lost a car earlier in the week on Thursday. It was just a very unfortunate deal. I knew Tutterow was going to be tough, so I just went up there loaded for bear. Mentally, it was pretty crazy to just be able to beat somebody like him. I grew up watching him race. To be able to compete at this level and actually win and contend in the points for a championship is just a dream come true. It’s always been something I wanted to do. The level of professionalism with this race series is just unbelievable. I don’t know if you can go any higher than this. It’s pretty cool. It was a group effort getting Kevin’s car flipped back over and getting him back in a car [Stan Shelton’s screw-blown Culp Lumber ’19 Mustang] to hopefully stay up in the points. We pulled it off together.”

Pharris qualified No. 2 before running a 3.701 at 206.04 to defeat Don Tolley in the first round. He stepped up to a 3.687 at 202.48 in his second-round win over Chris Cline. A .002 reaction time coupled with a 3.649 at 205.26 over Randy Weatherford’s 3.659 secured Pharris’s spot in the final round.

Tutterow, who was appearing in his third consecutive final round, qualified No. 4 in his screw-blown P2 Contracting ’20 Camaro. He got progressively quicker through eliminations, using a 3.705 to beat Josh Chester, a 3.684 to defeat Melanie Salemi’s 3.71, and a 3.672 to knock out Johnny Camp’s 3.653 on a holeshot in the semis.


Mountain Motor Pro Stock veteran Tony Gillig enjoyed a storybook weekend as he made his return to Extreme Pro Stock. Driving his family’s new Gillig-Wagner Motorsports ’10 Pontiac GXP, Gillig strung together three holeshot round wins before defeating low qualifier JR Carr in the final round. Gillig left the starting line first again in the final round and sealed the deal with a 4.142 at 174.71 ahead of Carr’s 4.21 at 174.64.

“All I can say is I’m a little shell-shocked,” said Gillig, who thanked his team led by his father, Bob Gillig, and brother-in-law Billy Wagner, as well as supporters like Jon Kaase Racing Engines, Ram Clutches, Flatout Gaskets, Summit Racing Equipment, Race Star Wheels, VP Racing Fuels, NGK Spark Plugs, and Dayco. “I drove the best I could today. This car and I are just an awesome fit. I was so comfortable up there every round. Everyone involved in this car is part of the puzzle. Every piece has to be there. I couldn’t be any happier. It was just an awesome, awesome day for all of us.”

After thrashing all week to finish the car for its debut, Gillig qualified No. 11 and drew No. 2 qualifier Elijah Morton in the opening round. Gillig used a .021 light and a 4.154 at 174.98 to beat Morton’s 4.12. An .018 reaction time and a 4.114 at 175.55 followed to knock out past world champion John Montecalvo’s 4.109 in the second round. Gillig then left on Frank Gugliotta in the semifinals with a .014 light and kept the lead with a 4.13 at 174.98 next to Gugliotta’s 4.111.

Carr qualified No. 1 for the seventh time in seven races this season in his Gugliotta-tuned CP-Carrillo/Maxima Oils ’20 Camaro. The Washington native won first round over Lester Cooper, then set low E.T. of eliminations with his 4.088 to eliminate Jeremy Huffman in the second round. He simply took the tree on his semifinal bye run.


Pro Outlaw 632 points leader Wes Distefano went into the weekend with a good chance at clinching his second consecutive world championship. Distefano and his nitrous-assisted, Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro were both on their A-game throughout the weekend, as Distefano qualified No. 3 and clinched the championship before defeating rookie Amber Franklin in the final round. Franklin grabbed a starting line advantage, but Distefano powered past her with a 4.18 at 171.56 to her 4.219 at 166.37.

“[Winning the championship] was obviously our goal,” Distefano said. “It’s always good to achieve our goals. We’re not done yet. I was cutting good lights. I think we went .002 [in the semifinals], so I was a little worried after that that we were getting a little too close to red. I tried to back it down in the last round and knew we had a good chance to run with Amber. Overall it just took consistency, the same thing my team always does. We work together, we all do our jobs and this is the outcome.”

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Distefano started race day with a 4.232 at 170.39 victory over Stu Beaden before taking out two-time world champion Dillon Voss on the strength of a 4.195 at 170.62 over Voss’s 4.233. Distefano’s near-perfect reaction time combined with a 4.198 at 170.90 gave him the holeshot win – and the championship – over championship challenger Daryl Stewart and his 4.177 in the semis.

Franklin, who was making her debut in the Musi-powered “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro formerly driven in Pro Nitrous by her father, qualified No. 4 and picked up round wins over Robert Sellers and Douglas Nicholl. Franklin came up short in her semifinal match with Chris Holdorf, but when Holdorf came up light at the scales after the run, Franklin and her 4.275 pass were reinstated to face Distefano in the final round.


Travis Davis started his Pro Nitrous Motorcycle championship defense season with a clean sweep at GALOT Motorsports Park earlier this season. The Georgia native repeated the sweep at DragWars, qualifying No. 1 and securing the event win aboard his Timblin Chassis Hayabusa. Davis used a slight holeshot advantage to defeat Meshal Alsaber in the final round, beating Alsaber’s 3.995 at 174.98 with a 3.996 at 176.67. The win gave Davis a valuable boost in his championship battle with Chris Garner-Jones.

“It was great to get the win,” said Davis, who thanked his wife, Brandy, son Brayden, and supporters Steve Nichols with Maxx ECU, Dan Wagner with DTM Performance, Dalton Perry with Perry’s Performance, and Monster Race Heads. “That was the biggest thing, to come here, try to out-qualify [Garner-Jones], and win the race. If we keep doing that, we should hopefully get the championship at the end of the year.”

Davis earned a first-round bye run along with his No. 1 qualifying effort, and he used the free run to set low E.T. of the round with a 4.031 at 176.24. He improved to his quickest pass of eliminations, a 3.986 at 176.35, to knock out Ashley Owens’ 4.145 in the semifinals.

Alsaber, from Kuwait City, Kuwait, qualified No. 3 on his Q80 Racing Hayabusa. He posted a 4.063 at 173.70 to defeat Spencer Allen in the first round and a 4.037 at 174.59 to beat Garner-Jones’ 4.019 in the semifinal round.


A pair of past world champions squared off in the Elite Top Sportsman final round, as defending champion Buddy Perkinson and 2018 champion Donny “Hollywood” Urban raced in their ’69 Camaros. Both drivers left the starting line with .023 reaction times, but Perkinson held on in his Musi-powered LAT Racing Oils entry to win with a 3.857 on a 3.81 dial-in, while Urban slowed to a 4.441 on his 3.90 dial-in in his Nesbitt-powered hot rod. Urban was the defending event champion.

The Top Sportsman 32 final round was an East Coast vs. West Coast battle featuring New York’s Dan Germano and California’s Joe Roubicek, both in nitrous-fed ’68 Camaros. Germano went red by .014, giving the win to Roubicek, who followed through with a 4.227 on his 4.21 dial-in.


Reigning world champion Steve Furr and 2021 championship contender Peter Maduri were the last two drivers standing in Elite Top Dragster. Furr proved why he won the championship, using a .010 light and a 3.899 on a 3.89 dial-in in the final round to eliminate Maduri and his 3.778 on a 3.76 dial.

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Consistent late-round finishers Dickie Smith and Nick Meloni raced through four rounds to meet up in the Top Dragster 32 final round. Smith in his Waldorf, Maryland-based ’18 Race Tech dragster cut a .007 light and ran a 4.367 on a 4.36 dial-in to secure the win. Meloni’s .014 reaction time and 4.265 on a 4.26 dial were strong, just not enough to beat Smith’s package.

The 2021 PDRA season will conclude in two weeks at the Brian Olson Memorial World Finals presented by ProCharger, Oct. 14-17 at Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, Virginia.

This story was originally published on October 3, 2021. Drag Illustrated

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