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Melanie Salemi Leads Pro Mod Friday Qualifying at Snowbird Outlaw Nationals

Chris Sears photo

After two rounds of Outlaw Pro Mod qualifying at the 51st annual Snowbird Outlaw Nationals presented by Motion Raceworks, Melanie Salemi is the provisional low qualifier with a 3.589-second pass at 206.95 MPH in the second session Friday night at Bradenton Motorsports Park.

Along with two rounds of Pro Mod qualifying, the complete Snowbirds lineup, from Pro 275 to Jr. Dragster classes, also received one round of qualifying to kick off the historic event.

Salemi rolled into the Snowbirds with one of the quickest cars in Pro Mod, Eddie Whelan’s roots-blown Slice-and-Ice ’19 Camaro. Throughout the 2022 season, she reached the final round at multiple independent Pro Mod races, won a PDRA Pro Boost race, and qualified No. 1 four times in Pro Boost competition. Even with a weight penalty for her combination, Salemi and her family-based team, led by husband Jon and brother-in-law Jim, managed to take the top spot.

“Right now, we literally have five people that do nothing but focus on this race car,” Salemi said. “It’s been paying off by miles. I’ve gotta give it to these guys. They forgo a lot of stuff so that our race car is fast. I know I’m in the spotlight, but I think it’s time to put them ahead of me for once. They’ve spent countless hours on figuring things out and working on the setup from gear ratios to the engine program to the way the car is set up with weight. When you focus and you pay attention to minor details and you have the car right and you can pick away at little things, it really works.”

Salemi, who recorded a 3.608 at 204.91 in the first session, wasn’t the only driver who improved at the top of the qualifying order in Q2. Kurt Steding ran a 3.606 at 209.04 in his screw-blown P2 Contracting ’20 Camaro to move around Jim Halsey for the No. 2 spot. Halsey also improved with his 3.612 at 209.30 in his nitrous-fed “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro, but he slipped to third.

Salemi and the rest of the Pro Mod field will get at least two more chances to improve in Saturday qualifying.

“If we’re qualifying, we’re trying to do the best we can,” Salemi said. “I’m telling you right now, our team’s not giving up. We’re going to keep trying to go faster and faster and faster until this thing won’t go any faster.”

Beyond laying down more strong numbers, Salemi is charged up for the opportunity to race in front of the big crowd that typically turns out for the Saturday night Jet Jam Night of Fire at the Snowbirds.

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“I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. I know this place is going to be packed with fans,” Salemi said. “I love putting on a show for the fans. I’ve been fortunate enough to grow my fanbase where I have certain fans at certain tracks. Tomorrow, I’m definitely going to be looking for the people in those stands at the very top because they’ve been there every year that we’ve been here and I know they’re going to be cheering for us. I’m looking forward to putting on a good show in front of a huge crowd tomorrow.”

Behind Salemi, 22 Pro Mod drivers dipped into the 3.60s. The bump spot for the 32-car field is currently held by Derek Ward with his 3.926.

PRO 275

Three-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown jumped to the top spot in Pro 275, where he’s driving Manny Buginga’s ProCharged “Fred” ’03 Mustang. He posted a 3.769 at 201.04 to lead the class after the first session. Taylor Lastor in his Texas-based, nitrous-fed ’17 Corvette qualified second with a 3.787 at 195.00, followed by Ocala, Florida’s Chad Opaleski in his supercharged ’66 Chevelle with a 3.918 at 193.27.

LIMITED DRAG RADIAL

Limited Drag Radial saw a trio of 3-second passes in the opening qualifying session. Larry Salvator was the quickest of the three with his 3.92 at 194.74 in his ’03 Mustang. Ziff Hudson qualified second with a 3.957 at 180.04, and Matt Bell is third in his ’93 Mustang with a 3.96 at 191.40.

X275

Ryan Milliken set a new X275 speed record on his way to the provisional No. 1 spot, running a 4.168 at 183.24 in his diesel-powered ’69 Nova. He held off hard-charging X275 stars Dean Marinis and Kenny Hubbard, who both also dipped into the 4.10s. Marinis posted a 4.193 at 169.23 in his nitrous-fed Mustang, and Hubbard went a 4.196 at 170.79 in his ProCharger-boosted ’74 Nova for the third spot.

ULTRA STREET

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Jason Spina is the provisional low qualifier in Ultra Street after driving his Cocoa, Florida-based ’90 Mustang to a 4.521 at 155.56. Indiana’s Kieffer Simpson is second with a 4.556 at 159.25 in the Haley James Racing “American Xpress” ’13 Mustang. Eugene Rodriguez slid into the No. 3 spot with a 4.561 at 154.83 in his ’92 Mustang.

OUTLAW 632

Three drivers dipped into the 4.10s in the first session of Outlaw 632. Dillon Voss went to the No. 1 spot in his nitrous-fed ’09 Cobalt on the strength of a 4.154 at 170.88. Alan Drinkwater recorded a 4.178 at 170.26 in Kenny Floyd’s naturally aspirated ’04 Escort to sit second. Daryl Stewart laid down a 4.188 at 170.30 in his nitrous-assisted Chassis Engineering ’12 Camaro to round out the top 3.

The 51st annual Snowbird Outlaw Nationals presented by Motion Raceworks will continue Saturday at 9 a.m. beginning with Jr. Dragsters.

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