Defending Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous world champion Jim Halsey picked up his third No. 1 qualifier award in five races Friday night at the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) DragWars presented by Modern Racing at GALOT Motorsports Park. Halsey came within thousandths of a second of his own E.T. world record with his 3.618-second blast at 208.88 mph.
Halsey was joined by first-time No. 1 qualifier James Beadling in Penske/PRS Pro Boost presented by WS Construction, Chris Powers in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock, Wes Distefano in $hameless Racing Pro Outlaw 632 and Ashley Owens in Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle.
In a proactive move to get ahead of hurricane-related weather on Saturday, the all-eighth-mile series also completed all three rounds of qualifying for the sportsman and Jr. Dragster classes. Buddy Perkinson (MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by Tejas Borja), Michael White (Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster), Zachary Houser (MagnaFuel Top Sportsman 32) and Nick Meloni (Lucas Oil Top Dragster 16) are the sportsman low qualifiers.
In the Jr. Dragster classes, Arellyn Garner-Jones used a 7.902 to qualify No. 1 in Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster, where the top eight qualifiers all ran 7.90s. Spencer McGee’s perfect .000 reaction time gave the South Carolina native the No. 1 spot in Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster.
The first of two final races in Jim Halsey’s first Pro Nitrous world championship defense season is off to a strong start, as the longtime nitrous Pro Modified wheelman finished qualifying in the top spot, but perhaps more importantly, one spot ahead of points leader Tommy Franklin. Halsey and Franklin were paired up in all three sessions, and Halsey led all three, closing with a 3.618 at 208.88 in his Fulton-powered ’68 Camaro.
“We put a lot of hard work into this thing over the last few weeks,” Halsey said. “Between testing, racing at Shakedown and earlier today making some pretty good runs, we feel pretty good. That No. 1 spot is nice because I need all the points I can get. Tommy is still a couple rounds ahead of me, so I need to do whatever I can do to catch him.”
Franklin set his high mark right out of the gate, running a 3.646 at 206.64 in his Musi-powered “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro in the first session. Conversely, Jay Cox in the Buck-powered “Pumpkin” ’69 Camaro missed it in the first session and rebounded with a 3.66 at 205.29 in Q2 and a 3.664 in the final session to end up No. 3.
For the third time this season, Pro Boost saw a first-time No. 1 qualifier lead the pack, as Ohio’s James Beadling in his roots-blown ’68 Camaro held off a slew of ProCharger-boosted Camaros. Beadling ran a 3.656 at 204.26 in the first session to shoot to the top spot, then followed it up with a 3.657 in Q2. He sat out the final session when no one else went around him.
“I have a great team behind me,” Beadling said. “Everybody was working hard to keep the car going. Words can’t explain how rewarding this is. I hope this set us up well for race day.”
Johnny Camp, who earned his first No. 1 spot at the last race, came close to a second low qualifier award when his 3.659 at 206.57 put him No. 2 in his Brandon Stroud-tuned “Hells Bells” ’69 Camaro. Fellow Pro Boost rookie Jason Harris qualified third with a 3.671 at 203.89 in his Stroud-tuned “Party Time” ’18 Camaro.
EXTREME PRO STOCK
Chris Powers’ third and final qualifying attempt was over before it started, as his parachutes shook loose during the burnout, preventing him from making the run. But the 4.035 at 178.42 he recorded in his Sonny’s-powered ATI Performance Products ’14 Camaro in the second session held as the quickest pass of the day.
“We’re real happy,” Powers said. “Chuck [Samuel]’s done an awesome job on this car. Sonny’s really been working with us here over the last six weeks. We have some power under the hood and got everything running the way it was here last year and we found some more steam. We’re really happy with it. We’re glad to be back on top. We’ll see if we can close it out this weekend and climb back up the hill.”
Tommy Lee, driving the Camaro he usually tunes for defending world champion John Montecalvo, used a 4.045 at 178.83 to earn the No. 2 slot. Points leader Johnny Pluchino qualified third in his Kaase-powered Strutmasters.com ’13 Mustang with a 4.062 at 178.76.
PRO OUTLAW 632
It might’ve taken a few runs for Wes Distefano and his $hameless Racing team to find exactly what their Musi-powered ’68 Camaro was looking for, but the end result was a 4.194 at 172.32 to qualify No. 1.
“We’d been fighting all day, just like a lot of other cars here, battling adversity,” Distefano said. “Whenever you’re able to overcome that, it’s a really good feeling, going from a low to a high. The things we were trying to work on today weren’t working for us to improve, so we went back to what worked for us. We’re gonna need to stick with that and hope it’s enough.”
Distefano was followed by Black Flag Motor Sports teammates Walter Lannigan Jr. and Chris Holdforf. Lannigan’s 4.225 at 167.63 in his Nelson-powered ’53 Corvette put him No. 2, while Holdorf ran a 4.244 at 166.11 in his Dewitt Custom Concrete ’53 Corvette for the No. 3 spot.
PRO NITROUS MOTORCYCLE
In just his second appearance of the season, veteran rider Ashley Owens rode his self-tuned, McKinney Motorsports Hayabusa to a class-leading 4.037 at 176.21. He started the day with a strong 4.18 and improved in both sessions that followed.
“We’ve been kind of struggling and hadn’t made as many races this year, so that felt great to qualify No. 1,” Owens said. “It’s kind of a loaner bike so it’s not the bike I normally ride. I appreciate Eric [McKinney] letting me ride it this weekend. It turned out real good. It’s an exceptional weekend so far.”
The Jones family team performed well in qualifying as well, with rider Richard Gadson qualifying second with his 4.041 at 172.65 and Chris Garner-Jones following in third with a 4.048 at 173.61.
Elite Top Sportsman No. 1 qualifier Buddy Perkinson said he was only trying to run in the low 3.70s during the first qualifying session, but a 3.673 at 204.82 popped up on the scoreboard. He’ll need to run within 1% of that E.T. to officially set the new PDRA Top Sportsman record in his Musi-powered LAT Racing Oils ’69 Camaro. John Benoit follows Perkinson with a 3.726 at 204.05 in his Buck-powered ’17 Camaro, while Derrick Brown’s 3.835 at 193.63 rounds out the top three.
Zachary Houser posted a 3.975 at 173.72 in his ’00 Firebird to end up on top of the Top Sportsman 32 field.
A full tenth of a second stands between Michael White and No. 2 qualifier Junior Houston, as White recorded a 3.719 at 194.46 in his ProCharger-boosted, ’57 Chevy-themed Maddox dragster to end the day in the No. 1 spot. Houston got the No. 2 spot on speed, with his 3.811 at 190.97 slightly outpacing Angie Travis and her 3.811 at 190.65.
New Hampshire’s Nick Meloni drove his Dan Page-built dragster to a 4.244 at 162.49 to lead the second Top Dragster field, which will run a 16-car ladder on race day.
Edelbrock Bracket Bash racers will get one final time trial Saturday at 9:30 a.m., followed by first round of eliminations for Jr. Dragster, Top Sportsman 32 and Top Dragster 32. Professional class eliminations will follow.