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Grudge Races Set to Take Center Stage During World Series of Pro Mod Rivals Night

This Friday, March 3rd, the Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod presented by Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage and J&A Service, brings an added layer of excitement to Bradenton Motorsports Park with its second qualifying session. However, this isn’t just a standard qualifying round; it marks the special WSOPM Rivals Night. Featuring over 20 grudge races, this evening is set to showcase a unique blend of competition and rivalry.

WSOPM Rivals Night distinguishes itself by focusing on the intense matchups between drivers, where personal and professional rivalries come to the forefront. These races aren’t just about clocking the best times; they’re about proving oneself against a familiar opponent. With the backdrop of one of drag racing’s most celebrated events, this night promises to deliver memorable moments of strategy, skill, sportsmanship, and, of course, side bets and bragging rights.

Here’s what’s on tap for WSOPM Rivals Night. 

Keith Haney vs. Marcus Birt
Headlining the highly-anticipated WSOPM Rivals Night are small tire legend Marcus “Axeman” Birt and reigning Mid-West Drag Racing Series Pro Mod champion Keith Haney. There is a history between the two – Birt placed some of his hero cards in Haney’s card holder at Yellowbullet last year. Haney retaliated by placing some of his autograph mats in Birt’s, but now he’s ready to take the rivalry to the track.

“We’re gonna see how much pep he’s got in his step – he’s going to get the champion,” stated Haney. “He’s coming to the big boy world now. He may have ran good in Jose[Gonzalez]’scar last year, but he’s got to do it in his own this year.”

Mark Micke vs. Todd Moyer
WSOPM Rivals Night is trending toward the single most electric night in all of drag racing with a dream matchup between two of the quickest-and-fastest turbocharged Pro Mod drivers in the world, Mark Micke and “Turbo Todd” Moyer, locked in. Micke and Moyer were both swinging for the fences at the end of 2023/beginning of 2024, trying to set record times. With Jose Gonzalez behind the wheel, Micke’s twin-turbo Camaro ran a 5.359 E.T. at 272.94 mph last December in Bradenton. Moyer ended up with the record during U.S. Street Nationals testing in late January, becoming the quickest and fastest doorslammer driver in history at 3.457 seconds and an astonishing 233.92 mph in the eighth mile and a 5.14 in the quarter mile in his twin-turbocharged 2014 Camaro. 

Todd Tutterow vs. Rickie Smith
PDRA Pro Boost champion Todd “King Tut” Tutterow and Pro Mod living legend “Tricky” Rickie Smith will line up for a rematch of the iconic 2008 Quick-8 race from Farmington Dragway. The race started with the infamous two-minute staging duel on July 4, 2003.

Jason Harris vs. Travis Harvey
The battle of the Carolinas will collide again for the second time during WSOPM Rivals Night. Jason “Party Time” Harris, two-time PDRA Pro Nitrous world champ, and Travis “The Carolina Kid” Harvey, reigning Big Dog champ, will meet in familiar territory as they line up against one another. These two are both Big Dog champions at Piedmont Dragway, but now they’re taking their rivalry to Bradenton Motorsports Park.

Mike Decker Jr. vs. Lyle Barnett
Reigning 2023 Snowbird Outlaw Nationals winner Lyle Barnett has agreed to race Mike Decker Jr. after the two-time NEOPMA champion called out the “Shake and Bake” podcast host for Rivals Night. 

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“Every time Lyle is on the starting line, the announcer says he is the best in the business. So I want him,” stated Decker Jr., winner of the 2023 Nationals.

Spencer Hyde vs. Kurt Steding
It’s the rematch we’ve all been waiting for – 2023 WSOPM champion Spencer Hyde against 2023 WSOPM runner-up Kurt Steding. Hyde defeated PDRA Pro Boost star Kurt Steding in a winner-take-all final round decided by just thousandths of a second. Two screw-blown hot rods – Hyde’s “Jack and the Green Stock” ’69 Camaro vs. Steding’s brand-new P2 Contracting ’69 Camaro – will history repeat itself?

Scott Palmer vs. Brandon Pesz
Two of the best old-school outlaw Pro Mod drivers are locked in for WSOPM Rivals Night. Scott Palmer, “The People’s Champ,” will be making his return to Pro Mod after suffering a horrifying crash in his “Studezilla” Top Fuel Pro Mod in August 2023. Palmer will line up his M&M Transmission ’63 Corvette against Pesz’s “Headhunter” ’53 Corvette.

Jim Halsey vs. Tony Wilson
Long-time Pro Nitrous competitors Tony Wilson and Jim Halsey will square up during WSOPM Rivals Night. Wilson, who’s now driving a screw-blown ’63 Corvette, called out Halsey, and “Jimmy Winlights,” with his “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro, gladly took him up on the offer.

Blake Housley vs. Chris Cline 
In the nostalgia-bodied battle, Blake Housley is gearing up to take his nitrous-fed ’41 Willys and pit it against veteran North Carolina doorslammer driver Chris Cline’s iconic screw-blown “Christine” ‘58 Plymouth Fury during his WSOPM debut.

Paolo Guist vs. Scott Wildgust
Adding to an almost impossibly stacked lineup on Friday in Bradenton, Pro Mod’s Paolo Guist and Scott Wildgust are locked in for WSOPM Rivals Night. It’ll be a battle for Canadian bragging rights.

Preston Tanner vs. Melanie Salemi
Young gun Pro Mod driver Preston Tanner called out seasoned racer Melanie Salemi. It’ll be Tanner’s screw-blown “Sweetheart” ’15 Corvette pitted against Salemi’s screw-blown Camaro, who is also the reigning WSOPM Chicago-Style Second-Chance Shootout winner.

Adam Flamholc vs. Raymond Matos
Giving the WSOPM some “worldly-flair,” Adam Flamholc, Swedish doorslammer hero, and Raymond Matos, Puerto Rico’s standout Pro Mod driver, are locked in for Rivals Night under the lights at Bradenton Motorsports Park. 

Tommy Franklin vs. Marcus Butner
Fresh off his PDRA Pro Nitrous championship season, Tommy Franklin, in his Musi-powered “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro, is locked in to square off against Marcus Butner. Butner, also in a Musi-powered ’69 Camaro named “Heartbreaker,” has Jay Cox calling the shots, who is an old rival of Franklin’s.  

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Alex Laughlin vs. Jason Scruggs
Two drivers who are equally feared when they’re behind the wheel of a Pro Mod will go head to head during Rivals Night. Alex Laughlin, a wheelman with a near-record number of NHRA competition licenses, will be lining up against the “Mississippi Missile” Jason Scruggs. Scruggs raced Frankie Taylor last year at Rivals Night; now Frankie is tuning Laughlin’s car.

“It’ll be a fun race, and a good ass whoopin’ I’d take,” said Alex Laughlin.

Joe Albrecht vs. Scott Lang
It’s a battle for NFL supremacy – the Philadelphia Eagles vs. the Los Angeles Chargers on the drag strip! “Nova Joe” Albrecht, backed by Fletcher Cox, and Scott Lang, driving for Keenan Allen, are locked in for Rivals Night. And dare we say there’s more than bragging rights on the line.

Mike Decker III vs. Derek Ward
2023 Northeast Outlaw Pro Mod Association champion Derek Ward is ready to throw down against Mike “Hollywood” Decker III. Ward will be pulling his G-Force Race Cars-built ‘68 Firebird into the staging beams against Decker III’s screw-blown Camaro. 

“If he’s alright with looking at my tail lights all the way down the track, then bring it on,” said Decker III on his grudge race against Ward.

Jeff Rudolf vs. Chad Green
Outlaw Pro Mod veteran Jeff Rudolf called out Pro Mod driver turned winning nitro Funny Car racer, Chad Green. Rudolf will pit “The Ghetto Sleigh” ProCharged Camaro against Green’s nitrous-fed Bond Coat Corvette.

Ed Burnley vs. John Vergotz
In a tale as old as time, two superheroes will face off against one another. Ed Burnley’s “Iron Man” Camaro will battle Vergotz’s “Dark Knight” Camaro in a nitrous vs. nitrous pairing during Rivals Night.

Jim Widener vs. Mike DiDomenico
These NMCA rivals are ready for a rematch at the WSOPM. DiDomenico, driving a new-to-him screw-blown Corvette this weekend, beat Widener and his BES-powered, nitrous-fed Corvette in the second round in Indy at the end of the season.

Jason Lee vs. Ken Quartuccio
NHRA Pro Mod winner Jason Lee and Ken Quartuccio, one of the best outlaw Pro Mod drivers out there, will take the Christmas tree for WSOPM Rivals Night. Lee will be wheeling a new screw-blown Pro Mod Camaro aka the “Lard Machine.” Quartuccio is looking forward to lining up his recently rebuilt Camaro, which is powered by a Pro Line Racing HEMI and F4R-140 ProCharger, against Lee Friday night.

This story was originally published on February 28, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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