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Lee, Halsey, Morton, Stewart, McKinney and Essick Race to Victory at PDRA American Doorslammer Challenge

A pair of local Ohio racers showed out at the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) DeCerbo Construction American Doorslammer Challenge presented by Callies Performance, as Toledo’s Jason Lee and Hamersville’s Eric McKinney raced to victory in pro classes at Summit Motorsports Park Sunday afternoon.

Lee, racing in Penske/PRS Pro Boost presented by WS Construction, scored his first-ever PDRA victory in Eric Gustafson’s Coast Packing Company “Lard Machine” ’69 Camaro. McKinney, a multi-time world champion in Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle, earned another event victory on his McKinney Motorsports Hayabusa.

The other professional class victories went to Jim Halsey in Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous, Elijah Morton in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock presented by AED Competition, Daryl Stewart in $hameless Racing Pro Outlaw 632, and Tim Essick in Drag 965 Pro Street.

In the sportsman categories, Cheyenne Stanley (MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by Tejas Borja), Peter Maduri (Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster), Nick Meloni (MagnaFuel Top Sportsman 32), and TG Paschal (Lucas Oil Top Dragster 32) earned the event wins. Brian Erath claimed the win in Edelbrock Bracket Bash presented by COMP Cams when he defeated Alex Diekfuss in a Corvette vs. dragster final round.

Will Creasman earned the Coolshirt Systems Pro Jr. Dragster win, running a 7.932 in his ’21 Mike Bos dragster to defeat Keaton Peterson’s 7.965 in his ’17 Mike Bos, both with a 7.90 dial-in. Both Classic Graphix Top Jr. Dragster finalists went red, but Rowan Parlett went red after Colton Whitley, handing the win to Parlett and his Mechanicsville, Maryland-based ’15 Halfscale dragster.


Jason Lee has been making headlines in numerous different classes and sanctioning bodies over the last few years with Eric Gustafson’s Coast Packing Company ’69 Camaro, but he hadn’t won a race in Pro Boost before this weekend. He stepped up in a big way for the final round, firing off a 3.659 at 208.97 in the heat of the day to defeat Randy Weatherford and his 3.672 at 209.88.

“What a day,” Lee said. “This is the best place in the country, in my opinion, to do it. This is actually a local track for me. I had family come out and it was great to have them here. They haven’t been able to watch me race for several years, so they finally had an opportunity to come out. It’s awesome to win in this organization because I think it’s probably the most highly competitive group of guys out there. Hopefully we can just keep this rolling.”

Lee started eliminations from the No. 9 spot, but he quickly stepped up as one of the quickest cars in the class during eliminations. He used a holeshot advantage and 3.637 at 209.79 to beat Todd Tutterow’s 3.621 in the first round. Second-round opponent Daniel Pharris threw away a 3.657 with a .005 red light, but Lee was ready with his 3.674 at 208.91. A consistent 3.678 at 208.62 was enough to move on over Chuck Ulsch’s 3.718 to earn a trip to the final round.

Weatherford was quick and consistent on the tree and down track in his ProCharger-boosted WS Construction ’17 Camaro. He stayed in the 3.60s throughout eliminations, running a 3.63 over James Beadling’s 3.639, a 3.653 to beat Johnny Camp’s 3.676 and a 3.667 to eliminate Kevin Rivenbark.

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A weekend that includes taking the low qualifier award and the event victory has become almost a routine for two-time Pro Nitrous world champion Jim Halsey. But his trip to the winner’s circle was anything but routine, as he faced a pair of multi-time world champions – Tommy Franklin and “Tricky” Rickie Smith before defeating Tony Wilson in the final round.

Halsey’s 3.685 at 206.70 in his Brandon Switzer-tuned, Fulton-powered ’68 Camaro was just quicker than the 3.704 at 204.05 from Wilson, who enjoyed his second consecutive “career-best” weekend.

“Beating Rickie in the semis, that was big for us,” Halsey said, who wished a happy birthday to his longtime girlfriend, Cathy Crouse. “He’s one of the best there is. We need to beat people like him to continue our run. With Jay [Cox] and Ron [Muenks] going out second round, that helped us big time. Beating Tony in the final helped us a little bit there too. This weekend just gave us a little bit of lead and breathing room.”

Halsey, who held the points lead over Muenks, Cox, and Wilson going into the weekend, posted a 3.633 at 207.85 to highlight an ultra-quick first round of eliminations on Saturday night. When the sun came out on Sunday, Halsey found his spot for race day, running a 3.68 at 207.11 to beat Franklin’s 4.505 and a 3.697 at 206.35 to defeat Smith, a former NHRA Pro Mod and PDRA Pro Nitrous world champion, and his 3.727 in the semis.

Wilson, a semifinalist at the first two races of the season, qualified No. 11 in his Justin Elkes-tuned, Musi-powered “Midnight Special” ’69 Camaro. His 3.678 defeated Matt Guenther’s 3.681 in a tight first-round match. A 3.709 beat a red-lighting Jay Cox and a 3.727 kept Wilson ahead of Ed Burnley’s 3.818 in the semis.


After taking runner-up finishes at multiple races in 2020, Extreme Pro Stock veteran Elijah Morton scored his first PDRA victory since the 2019 season opener. He earned it as a driver, cutting a .021 light to leave on Chris Powers and secure a holeshot victory. Morton ran a 4.167 at 176.49 in his Allen-powered Morton Brothers Motorsports ’19 Mustang, while Powers chased with a 4.075 at 177.11.

“It’s just an awesome win,” said Morton, who was sure to recognize veterans and members of the military for their service. “My guys worked hard today. We had a lot of little gremlins we had to get corrected. The starter fell off right before we were getting ready to go up for the third round and they fixed it. Everybody jumped in. We had a lot of little things happen, but my crew did a great job. The driver did his job today too. We’re just so thrilled to be here. It’s a very rewarding win today on Memorial Day weekend. What a memory.”

Racing out of the No. 7 slot on the 10-car ladder, Morton scored a major first-round win over John Montecalvo in the opening round with his 4.179 at 176.67. A .004 reaction time gave Morton his first holeshot win of the day, running a 4.127 at 177.21 to John DeFlorian’s 4.083. Finally, Morton caught a break in the semifinals when Bill Neri left the starting line too soon, allowing Morton’s 5.253 to beat Neri’s 4.442.

Powers, who won the PDRA season opener in his Sonny’s Racing Engines ’14 Camaro, was consistent throughout the weekend’s various weather conditions, running a 4.105 to beat Justin Kirk in Saturday’s chilly opening round, then a 4.121 in the sun on Sunday. He did have to lift to a 10.208 on a semifinal single, though.

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Daryl Stewart has pushed his Chassis Engineering ’12 Camaro to semifinal finishes at the last three races he’s attended – two PDRA races and an unsanctioned race – so he was eager to go one round further at the American Doorslammer Challenge. He one-upped that goal, though, as he left on defending world champion Wes Distefano in the final round and recorded a 4.205 at 168.60 to get his first win in Pro Outlaw 632. Distefano ran a 4.224 at 168.03 in the runner-up effort.

“This win definitely helped us out,” said Stewart, who thanked tuner Clayton Murphy and crew member Chris Dunn. “After getting to the semis at the last three races, it was getting tough. But it’s all good and this definitely breathes some life into us. We’re ready to go. We’re excited for Maryland now.”

Stewart, who is just five races into his first season of competition in 25 years, qualified No. 2 and went 4.186 at 170.54 to knock down Chris Holdorf in the first round. A 4.195 at 170.32 followed to defeat Nicole Liberty-Cach in E2, then his 4.207 at 170.47 eliminated Vince Khoury in the semis.

Distefano was the low qualifier in his Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro. He started eliminations strong with a 4.174 to beat Tara Thornton, then slowed to a 4.297 and 4.26 to defeat Brian Werner and Tony Gillig, respectively.


Multi-time world champion Eric McKinney didn’t have the conventional road to the winner’s circle in Pro Nitrous Motorcycle. After qualifying No. 1 with a 4.01, the Ohio native received two bye runs in eliminations, including the final round when he recorded another 4.01 to claim the PDRA “660 Man” trophy.

“It’s awesome because this is basically our home track,” McKinney said, thanking his father and team owner, Scott McKinney, as well as tuner and teammate Ashley Owens. “Our whole family is up here. It’s the first race my boys got to come to. Having the whole family in the winner circle is awesome. We set out to chase points but we had to miss the first race due to truck problems, so this win works out good. It’s been a long time since I’ve held a trophy, so it’s really cool. It’s also awesome to win on Memorial Day weekend – hat’s off to all the veterans and military members.”

McKinney’s had a single in the first round because his opponent, Gerald Smith, broke in qualifying and wasn’t able to return for eliminations. McKinney ran a 4.258 at 174.08 to get data for the final round. He was unopposed again in the final because Owens, his opponent for the round, had to head to the airport to catch a flight.

Owens qualified No. 2 on the team’s other McKinney Motorsports Hayabusa, then used a holeshot advantage and 4.103 to beat Chris Garner-Jones’ 4.06 in the first round.


Maryland’s Tim Essick had the car to beat in Pro Street. Between qualifying No. 1 and ripping off low E.T. of the event in the opening round, Essick proved himself all weekend. The performance ended with a 3.974 at 188.33 on a final-round single, as Chris Cadotto broke on the burnout and couldn’t make the run.

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“It’s terrific,” Essick said, mentioning sponsors ATI Transmissions, ProCharger, Precision Racing Suspension, Billet Atomizer, and UPR. “It’s been a long weekend, but outside of that, everything just worked flawlessly. We just kept racing the racetrack, doing our thing, not worrying about who we were racing. This gives us a ton of momentum. We have a lot of good data, a lot of good laps. We changed a couple things in the engine, so we got all that ironed out up here so we’ll be set and ready to go when we get home [for the next race in Maryland].”

Essick started the day with a single as well, posting a 3.956 at 188.81 in his ProCharger-boosted “Brown Sugar” ’18 Mustang. A 4.162 at 186.46 followed in the second round to defeat Jesse Lambert, then a 4.047 at 187.16 to beat Bob Ross and his 4.107 sent Essick to the final round.

Cadotto qualified No. 2 in his supercharged ’97 Dodge Ram known as “the Brick” and opened eliminations with a strong 4.066 to beat a red-lighting Ron Stang. He slowed to a 4.605 in his second-round victory over Joseph Thomas and posted a 4.732 on a competition single in the semis.


A long day of fast bracket racing in Elite Top Sportsman ended in victory for Cheyenne Stanley and his twin-turbocharged ’07 Mustang. Final-round opponent Erica Coleman laid down a perfect .000 reaction time in her Fulton-powered ’68 Camaro, but she encountered trouble and slowed to a 4.266 on 3.87 dial-in. Stanley was also off pace with his 4.151 on a 3.90 dial, but he held on for the win.

After late-round finishes at the first two races of the season, Top Sportsman points leader Nick Meloni secured his first event victory of the season in his TT Motorsports ’69 Camaro. Meloni ran a 4.292 on a 4.28 dial-in, while final-round opponent Troy Finner went red by .009, throwing away a 4.305 on a 4.29 dial.


One of the quickest Elite Top Dragster fields in PDRA history came to a dramatic close in the final round, as Peter Maduri defeated Michael White in a race decided by thousandths of a second. Maduri left first in his K100/Dynabrade ’17 Chrome-Worx dragster with a .004 reaction time to White’s .005. Maduri sealed the deal with a 3.792 on a 3.79 dial-in, just edging out White’s 3.768 on a 3.76 dial-in.

In Top Dragster 32, points leader TG Paschal padded his lead with his second win of the season. He had a .005 starting line advantage over Shanna Stone, then his 4.288 on a 4.29 dial-in beat Stone’s 4.358 on a 4.36 dial in a double-breakout final round.

The next race on the 2021 PDRA tour is the North-South Shootout presented by Line-X, June 24-26 at Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek, Maryland.

This story was originally published on May 30, 2021. Drag Illustrated

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