On the weekend of June 9-11, bracket racers converged on Darlington Dragway to pay tribute to one of the sport’s brightest young talents at the inaugural Sean Serra Memorial Drag Race. Over $139,000 in total payouts was up for grabs across three days of racing, but more than anything, racers were there to remember and honor Serra, who was killed in a car accident in July of 2022. He was 27.
[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #183, the Sportsman Special Issue, in July/August of 2023.]
The race was a production of Big Block Promotions, which includes Sean’s older brother, Jeff, as well as Jamie Sarracco and Kyle Cultrera. In a nod to Serra’s competition number, 139P, Friday’s race paid $13,900 to win, while Saturday and Sunday both paid $20,000 to win.
Racing was off to a slow albeit fun start on Thursday with the Over Kill Motorsports Golf Cart Showdown, which saw Stephen “Champ” McCrory get the win.
Footbrakers Jake Clayton and Jeff Krushinskie picked up the “Heavy” wins on Friday and Saturday, respectively, earning a $500 bonus and a spot in the Super Pro portions of the event.
In a door car versus dragster final round, Virginia’s Steve Witherow raced to victory in Friday’s L&L Transmission & Axle Services $13,900 race, with runner-up honors going to Thomas Bell in his wheelstanding Chevy S10. They were separated by five thousandths at the starting line, then Witherow laid down a 4.465 on a 4.46 dial-in to beat Bell’s 5.731 on a 5.73 dial-in by .0005. Jamie Holston was the lone semifinalist.
Witherow was understandably emotional in his winner’s circle interview. Both Serra brothers have driven for him over the years, so it was fitting that he won the $13,900 race. “This means a lot. It really does,” Witherow said in his interview with announcer Ryan Gleghorn. “I miss Sean. I’m glad I came through. He was riding with me all day.”
Friday night’s action concluded with a 280 MPH blast down the track by Dawn Perdue in the “Wicked Sinsation” Jet Dragster.
It was a dragster versus S10 final round yet again on Saturday for the FuelTech $20,000 race. Cory Gulitti was .002 off the line in his dragster, then ran a 4.459 on a 4.43 dial-in to beat Turtle Brannon’s 5.046 on a 5.03 dial-in. Jeff Dobbins II and Hayden Lambert were the semifinalists.
“I’m speechless,” Gulitti said. “I’ve had the most lucky rounds today that I’ve ever had. This thing has fought me pretty hard the last week or so, but thankfully, with the help of Bug McCarty, my parents, and Chris Wilson, we’ve got this thing turned around and it’s on kill. It’s proven itself because it’s a lot better than me right now.”
The on-track competition wasn’t limited to bracket racing. Racers smoked out the starting line in the Hubbard Heating & Cooling Burnout Battle, with Bug McCarty and Jason Rich named co-champs by the time it was over.
Donovan Williams earned the inaugural Sean Serra Memorial Drag Race Berserker MVP Award by winning the most competition rounds throughout the weekend. He outlasted Steve Witherow and Cory Gulitti to pick up a custom painted helmet provided by Champs Performance and Schuster Paint Works.
Rain brought racing to a hold during Sunday’s third round, and the rest of eliminations was eventually cancelled due to the weather. Though the weekend came to an end earlier than planned, racers walked away grateful for the opportunity to pay tribute to Sean.
“Thanks Kyle, Jamie, and the countless others who made this a successful first event,” Jeff Serra said. “It definitely gave us a different perspective and respect for the ones who organize races each week. Look forward to doing it again in 2024.”
McCrory, winner of the Thursday golf cart race, shared his post-race thoughts on Facebook, saying, “The Sean Serra Memorial Drag Race was the most fun and most well-ran race I’ve been to in a long time! Got lucky on Thursday and won the golf cart race. Didn’t do much on the track after that, unfortunately. Did get lucky and get some of the rainout split on Sunday. Great job Jeff Serra, Kyle Cultrera, Jamie Sarracco! Can’t wait for the next one! We love and miss you down here, Sean, but even your memory is still making our world a more fun place.”