Leggett, Harris, Ulsch, DeFlorian Jr, McKinney and Oldham Earn PDRA Summer Drags Trophies
Past Pro Nitrous world champion Jason Harris broke a long winless streak Saturday night when he drove the “Party Time” ’69 Camaro to a meaningful final-round win at the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) Summer Drags at US 131 Motorsports Park.
Joining Harris in the winner’s circle as past PDRA event winners were Terry Leggett in Bryant Industrial Pro Extreme presented by Pro Line and Eric McKinney in Drag 965 Pro Extreme Motorcycle. The PDRA’s other professional classes crowned first-time winners: Chuck Ulsch in Moroso Pro Boost, John DeFlorian Jr. in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock, and Mike Oldham in East Side Auto Transport Pro Outlaw 632.
In the PDRA’s sportsman classes, the winners were Glen Teets III in MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman, Dennis Gaboriault in Top Sportsman 32, Al Peavlor in Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster and Nick Reavis in Top Dragster 32. Chris Ruzicka defeated Jake Foster in an Ohio vs. Michigan final round in Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster, with Ruzicka running 7.917 to Foster’s 7.919, both on a 7.90 dial-in. Defending Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster world champion Brayden Davis was defeated in the final round by Arellyn Garner-Jones when he broke out and Garner-Jones ran 8.169 on her 8.10 dial-in. Holland, Michigan’s Kenneth Bosh won the Edelbrock Bracket Bash with a 5.572 on a 5.54 dial-in over a red-lighting Bob Payton.
Pro Nitrous driver Scott Blake, who experienced a violent on-track incident during Friday qualifying, was released from an area hospital Saturday and briefly returned to the track before going home to Red Deer, AB, Can. to continue his recovery.
After winning six of eight final rounds and securing the 2014 Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous presented by MoTeC world championship in the PDRA’s inaugural season, Jason Harris has struggled to return to the winner’s circle in the Boone-Harris Racing ’69 Camaro. Harris earned the final-round win on the starting line, using a substantial holeshot advantage and 3.724-second pass at 201.52 mph to defeat No. 2 qualifier Jim Halsey’s 3.674 at 205.39.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Harris, a past Martin event champion. “We’ve struggled for the last couple years. We’ve got a good package and a good team put together right now with Danny Perry and the Boone family. Everybody’s really been standing by me, even through my bad years. It seems like we’ve always been a bridesmaid, never the bride. We came here and consistency was the key. We weren’t the fastest car all weekend, other than the No. 1 qualifier, but we stayed consistent between .72-.74 all weekend.”
Harris, a former Top Dragster wheelman, offered appreciation for his longtime supporters and dedicated the race win to his team partner’s late son-in-law.
“I’ve really gotta thank my wife, Crystal, as well as my sponsors Hoosier Tire, Walker Auto Parts and Mid-Atlantic Construction for standing behind me,” Harris said. “All these guys have stuck with me through the bad times. Finally, we got to some good times.
“This one is for Harold Denton – it’s been a long time since he put up a win. Also, the Boone family suffered a really bad loss recently. They lost their son-in-law, so that’s why they’re not up here. They stand behind me through the good and the bad, so this one is for Matt, their son-in-law.”
Harris’ Musi-powered “Party Time” Camaro was the picture of consistency through qualifying and eliminations. He earned the No. 1 spot and drove to a 3.745 over Todd Fontana, 3.747 on a holeshot over Jay Cox and 3.742 over John Hall in the semifinals. Halsey in his Brandon Switzer-tuned Yellowbullet Nationals ’68 Camaro powered to round wins over Matt Guenther, Chris Rini and Lizzy Musi.
Appearing in his third Pro Boost final round in as many races, Chuck Ulsch was due for a win in his Roots-blown ’68 Camaro. The former Outlaw 10.5 star earned his way to the final round with a string of progressively quicker 3.7-second passes, but a lucky break helped him secure his first PDRA 660 Man trophy. Final-round opponent Andy Jensen crept through the staging beams before the tree activated, then Ulsch went into tire shake shortly after his side of the tree dropped. He lit up the scoreboard with a 4.977 at 101.03.
“For us to be in three finals at the first three races of the year, this is really a dream come true,” said Ulsch. “We ran one PDRA race last year before we decided to run over here this year. We certainly didn’t expect to go to the first three finals. I was starting to think this win wasn’t going to happen, but it just started coming together this race. I guess the third time’s the charm.”
Ulsch, the No. 7 qualifier, ran 3.79 over Paolo Guist and 3.779 over Raymond Commisso before he used a .004 reaction time and 3.759 to beat Ric Fleck’s 3.755 in the semifinals. Jensen in his turbocharged, small-block-Chevy-powered ’68 Camaro posted round wins over James Beadling, Mike Yedgarian and No. 1 qualifier Tommy D’Aprile in prior rounds.
Terry “Legbone” Leggett, racing as the No. 1 qualifier for the second consecutive race, was surprised when his screw-blown ’71 Mustang lost traction on his first-round competition bye run. Leggett came back for the final round and improved to a 3.568 at 216.03, defeating a red-lighting Adam Flamholc and his 3.650 at 210.38.
“We thought we were invincible going into first round,” Leggett said. “We’d made clean runs every pass until then and we had all the faith in the world that we’d do it again. We just got a little too aggressive. When it got cooler and the sun got off the track, it was easier to go faster. I think we could’ve went right back up there after we didn’t go down and run a .59 or .60. But it was good the way it all worked out.”
Flamholc’s final-round ET was a repeat of the 3.650 at 210.77 he recorded in the first round. He was unopposed in his 5-Days Shutters & Blinds ’63 Corvette, as Scott Farley was unable to return to competition after damaging his ’70 Camaro during qualifying.
EXTREME PRO STOCK
After qualifying No. 1 at Maryland last month and at Martin Friday night, John DeFlorian Jr. was ready to finally string together enough quick passes to end up in the winner’s circle. A past winner in IHRA, ADRL and XDRL competition, DeFlorian earned his first PDRA Extreme Pro Stock victory when he drove his Amsoil ’16 Camaro to a 4.07 at 177.10 in the final round. His opponent, 2016 event and world champion John Pluchino, negated his 4.093 at 176.33 when he red-lighted.
“It feels unbelievable to finally win one of these races,” DeFlorian said. “This is one that just wasn’t happening. We struggled for over a year and I got to a point where I was thinking maybe I’m done or my day was gone. I’m so excited to get here and finally hold that trophy. This is where we got our first mountain motor Pro Stock win in 2012, so it’s extra-special to get our first PDRA win here. I could never thank everyone enough. I have the most awesome crew ever. Everyone has to pitch in and go above and beyond what we’ve ever done, but it’s paying off. We went down the track every run and just kept picking at it.”
Incredibly, all of DeFlorian’s opponents left too soon and decided the race on the starting line. However, DeFlorian was ready with superior passes: 4.111 next to Chris Powers’ 4.179 and 4.110 next to John Montecalvo’s 4.111. Pluchino’s New York-based ’13 Mustang recorded nearly identical 4.11s over Elijah Morton and J.R. Carr before the final.
PRO EXTREME MOTORCYCLE
Three-time PDRA Pro Extreme Motorcycle world champion Eric McKinney was set to run his tuner and teammate, Ashley Owens, in the final round, but a potential costly engine issue prevented Owens from bringing his motorcycle to the staging lanes. McKinney, the No. 8 qualifier, took advantage of the free pass and fired off a 3.994 at 178.36 to gather data.
“We’re really happy with the way things are going,” said McKinney, who won the last event in Maryland. “I really wanted to run Ashley in the final. I think we could’ve run a pair of 3-second passes. Whoever wins doesn’t matter to me. But his bike was smoking and we just had to park it. The crankshafts are expensive, hard to get and they wipe out everything when they go. It was a tough call, but we had to do it. The whole team worked hard this weekend, so it feels good to leave with a win.”
McKinney scored a holeshot victory over first-time No. 1 qualifier Ehren Litten in a 4.08-to-4.05 first-round race, then defeated Chris Garner-Jones’s 4.056 with a 4.029. On the other side of the ladder, Owens rode his McKinney Motorsports Suzuki to round wins over Brunson Grothus and Ronnie “Pro Mod” Smith.
PRO OUTLAW 632
Mike Oldham wasn’t the quickest Pro Outlaw 632 driver in qualifying, but his Tom Jarvis-owned ’05 Chevy S10 was the class of the field throughout eliminations. He used the second-quickest pass of the weekend, a 4.23 at 167.66, in the final round to overcome the .009 reaction time by Johnny Pluchino, who ran 4.293 at 165.75 in the runner-up effort.
“This has been an unbelievable weekend,” Oldham said. “I can’t thank Tom Jarvis enough for letting me drive this truck. I’d also like to thank Steve Schmidt for a great engine combination and the guys at Liberty for a great transmission. The crew was awesome and my wife puts up with all this stuff. It was like a dream come true. I just never thought we’d be standing here. It made the 18-hour drive from Florida worth it.”
Oldham started eliminations from the No. 5 spot and went 4.247 to defeat Walter Lannigan Jr. in the opening round. He fired off low elapsed time of the weekend, 4.223, next to a red-lighting Dillon Voss in the semifinals. Meanwhile, Pluchino used a pair of 4.30-second passes to defeat Daryl Hameetman and Matthew Buck on the way to the final round.
A pair of Virginia natives squared off in the Elite Top Sportsman final round, as Herndon’s Glen Teets III drove his ’08 Pontiac GTO to a 4.217 on his 4.21 dial-in. The win was his at the starting line, though, since Quinton’s Henry Underwood left .021 too soon in his ’68 Camaro. Dennis Gaboriault, the Top Sportsman 32 runner-up at Maryland, redeemed himself when he turned on the final-round win light over Luc Angers.
The Elite Top Dragster final round featured a battle between boosted dragsters. Al Peavler and his ProCharger-equipped entry ran 3.886 on a 3.88 dial-in to take the 660 Man trophy back to Olney, Ill. Camrie Caruso, daughter of Pro Boost driver Marc Caruso, broke out by just .008 in her supercharged dragster. Nick Reavis denied Michigan’s own Bill Swain in the Top Dragster 32 final round.
The next stop on the PDRA 2018 tour is the PDRA Firecracker Nationals, June 28-30, at Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, Virginia.