Defending Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) world champions Jim Halsey, Johnny Pluchino and Wes Distefano reigned supreme at the inaugural Summit Racing Equipment PDRA ProStars race Saturday night at Virginia Motorsports Park’s Night of Fire. The specialty race featuring the top 8 drivers in ProStars points paid out over $50,000 to the winners in the professional and sportsman classes. All pairings were determined by a random chip draw.
Halsey was the winner of a special 16-car shootout pitting the top Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous drivers against the top Penske/PRS Pro Boost presented by WS Construction drivers. Pluchino won in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock presented by AED Competition and Distefano was victorious in $hameless Racing Pro Outlaw 632.
Larry Roberts won in an all-dragster final in the MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by Tejas Borja vs. Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster shootout. Stacy Hall earned the win in the MagnaFuel Top Sportsman vs. Lucas Oil Top Dragster race.
The PDRA’s rising stars in the Jr. Dragster classes also participated in the ProStars event. Ashley Franklin, daughter of two-time Pro Nitrous world champion Tommy Franklin, scored her first win in Coolshirt Systems Pro Jr. Dragster. In a double-breakout final round, Franklin drove her new Halfscale dragster to a 7.885 to beat Will Creasman’s 7.872. Rowan Parlett secured the $2,000 event win in Classic Graphix Top Jr. Dragster, using a holeshot advantage and a 9.036 on an 8.95 dial-in to defeat Donald O’Meara II and his 8.958 on an 8.92 dial-in.
Eric Jasper won the Super 64 Shootout, defeating Bruce Sisk in the final round.
PRO NITROUS VS. PRO BOOST
All but one pairing in the first two rounds of the $20,000-to-win Pro Nitrous vs. Pro Boost race featured bottles vs. boost matchups, but Jim Halsey’s “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro was the last nitrous car standing after the second round of eliminations in the 16-car shootout. With a brand-new Fulton 959ci engine between the framerails, Halsey kept the momentum rolling into the final round. He delivered his fourth consecutive PDRA victory, as Johnny Camp went red next to Halsey’s 3.657 at 207.02. Camp ran a 3.67 at 206.07.
“Considering the circumstances, this is pretty cool,” Halsey said. “The test run this morning was the very first run on the new motor. To run a .65 five runs later, it’s kind of unbelievable to me. But with Brandon [Switzer] and Eric [Davis] and Michael [McMillan] and Cathy [Crouse] involved, nothing surprises me.”
Halsey, who’s won the last two Pro Nitrous world championships, had to race Pro Boost competitors in all four rounds. He used a 3.733 at 205.07 to beat Jason Lee’s 3.771. He dipped into the 3.60s with a 3.682 at 205.38 to eliminate Don Tolley and his 3.823. The nitrous Pro Modified veteran coupled a .006 reaction time with a 3.67 at 205.85 to win over Kevin Rivenbark’s 3.683 and earn lane choice for the final – by two thousandths of a second.
“It was pretty nerve-racking, really,” Halsey said of racing all boosted entries. “Rivenbark is fast and he’s good on the tree. Camp, he’s the baddest guy in Pro Boost right now. It was pretty exciting.”
Camp, who raced in Pro Nitrous until the 2020 season, lined up against two-time Pro Nitrous world champion Tommy Franklin in the opening round. Camp in his ProCharger-boosted “Hells Bells” ’69 Camaro won with a 3.688 at 206.67 to Franklin’s 3.715 at 204.70. He raced further into the 3.60s with a 3.662 at 206.07 to beat Billy Albert’s 3.772. The Pennsylvania concrete contractor beat Todd Tutterow’s 3.681 with a 3.672 at 205.01 in the semifinals, the only round he faced another Pro Boost driver.
EXTREME PRO STOCK
With runner-up finishes at the last two races, Johnny Pluchino was more than ready to bag the $10,000 Extreme Pro Stock win in his Kaase-powered Strutmasters ’13 Mustang. The second-generation world champion pulled it off with a 4.104 – which stood for low E.T. of eliminations – to defeat 2018 world champion Steven Boone and his 4.248 at 169.68 in the final round.
“It’s cool to win the first ProStars race,” Pluchino said. “There will only be one first. I’m just happy about the momentum we’re starting to grab right now. We’ve had a good car, not a great car. I feel like I’ve been driving pretty good. I really want to defend this championship. I want to win every race I come to. If I’m coming to the racetrack, we’re coming to win. Just real proud of our group right now. Thanks to all of our partners like Strutmasters, Jon Kaase Racing Engines and Ram Clutches for sticking with us.”
Pluchino managed a first-round win with his 4.201 at 176.93 over Dwayne Rice’s 7.016. The New York native stepped up for his semifinal pairing with JR Carr, ripping off a 4.108 at 176.12 to finish ahead of Carr and his 4.191.
Boone started race day with a major holeshot win in his Allen-powered Boone Motorsports ’07 Cobalt, moving on with a 4.158 at 176.10 over Chris Powers’ 4.125. He won the next round on the starting line as well, as Justin Kirk went red. Boone won the semifinal round with a 4.299 at 172.85.
PRO OUTLAW 632
After losing on a holeshot in the PDRA Summer Shootout final round at VMP a couple weeks ago, Wes Distefano was eager to redeem himself at the ProStars race. He accomplished that goal, setting low E.T. of the first two rounds before defeating two-time world champion Dillon Voss in the final round. Voss went .001 red and ran a 4.198 at 170.43, while Distefano recorded a 4.227 at 168.83 in his Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro.
“It was a great event,” said Distefano, who won $7,500. “It was nice to have a little bit of a different format, not knowing who you were going to run. It just added another layer of excitement to the event. We struggled today. We didn’t win in the fashion we’d like to. Dillon outran us and was .001 red. You can’t get too much closer to being beat than that. It was a good win, but we’re fighting some problems.”
Distefano won the opening round of eliminations over Chris Holdorf when Holdorf went red by .008. Distefano ran a 4.201 at 170.99 to earn lane choice over Brian Clauss in the semifinals. Clauss grabbed a holeshot advantage and posted a 4.28, but it wasn’t enough to stay out in front of Distefano’s 4.223 at 168.26.
Voss in his Voss-powered Vigilante Associates ’17 Corvette had to take on teammate Mike Murphy in the first round. Voss earned the win with a 4.256 at 169.69 to Murphy’s 4.437. He was consistent in his semifinal victory over Jordan Ensslin, running a 4.254 at 168.30 to defeat Ensslin’s 4.461.
ELITE TOP SPORTSMAN VS. ELITE TOP DRAGSTER
The Elite Top Sportsman vs. Elite Top Dragster paired up door cars against dragsters, but only dragsters remained after the second round. Past world champion Kellan Farmer and Larry Roberts won their semifinal pairings to meet up in an all-RaceTech dragster final round. Farmer went red with a -.017 light and ran it out to a 3.907 on a 3.91 dial. Meanwhile, Roberts posted a 3.873 on a 3.87 dial-in to collect the $7,500 victory.
TOP SPORTSMAN VS. TOP DRAGSTER
The 16-car Top Sportsman vs. Top Dragster race ended with two Top Sportsman standouts in the final round, though one of them was in a dragster. Defending Top Sportsman world champion Stacy Hall took his Top Dragster entry to the final round to meet up with Ronnie Proctor in his nitrous-fed ’09 Mustang. Hall and Proctor left with nearly identical reaction times, but it was Hall’s 4.371 on a 4.37 dial-in that gave him the win. Proctor posted a 4.291 on a 4.28 dial-in in the runner-up effort.
The PDRA will return to its regular schedule August 15-17 for the P2 Contracting Northern Nationals presented by P2 Racing at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pennsylvania.