The competition is heating up as the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) rolls into the halfway point in its eight-race 2022 season this weekend at the North vs. South Shootout presented by Line-X and Iron Man Quick Connect Push Bar, June 23-25 at Maryland International Raceway. World championship contenders are emerging, while the series’ new small-tire class will make its debut.
“The Maryland fans have always been very supportive of us over the years, and we have an incredible show lined up for them this weekend,” said Tyler Crossnoe, race director, PDRA. “Competition is at an all-time high across the board in our professional and sportsman classes. Plus, we’re debuting our newest class, AFCO Super Street presented by Menscer Motorsports. Fans of all kinds of different classes will find something for them at this event.”
Just one point separates Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous points leader Tommy Franklin and three-time and defending world champion Jim Halsey after the first three races. Franklin, a two-time world champion, won the most recent race on tour. Halsey, a Maryland native, is the defending event champion. “Mountain Man” Mike Achenbach, who won the season opener, is also in the hunt less than 20 points behind Franklin and Halsey.
Todd “King Tut” Tutterow has a commanding lead in WS Construction Pro Boost presented by P2 Contracting and Ty-Drive with back-to-back wins at the first two races. His closest challenger is record holder Melanie Salemi, who qualified No. 1 and took runner-up honors at the last race.
With record car counts and tight competition, Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock presented by AED Competition is led by JR Carr, who’s tuned by Maryland’s own Frank Gugliotta. Carr has qualified No 1 at all three races this season, and he won the Norwalk race last month. Past world champion Johnny Pluchino is just over one round behind him, and Mountain Motor Pro Stock veteran Tony Gillig is just over two rounds out of the points lead.
$hameless Racing Pro 632 newcomer Amber Franklin is having a breakout season with back-to-back wins at the last two races. She has a three-round lead over Walt Lannigan Jr. in the championship-winning $hameless Racing entry, which won the North vs. South Shootout with Wes Distefano driving last year. Rookie and season opener winner Alan Drinkwater is also in the hunt, along with Bowling Green runner-up Lexi Tanner.
Maryland is the third of six races for Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle, where second-generation rider Chris Garner-Jones is the defending world champion, defending event champion, and the points leader. Meshal Al-Saber and Paul Gast round out the top three in points.
Menscer Motorsports Pro Street presented by AFCO is also going into its third of six races. Hometown hero Tim Essick is the defending world champion and points leader, with Norwalk winner Bill Riddle and Canada’s Nick Agostino chasing him down.
PDRA racers will have just two races – the North vs. South Shootout and the Drag 965 Summer Shootout presented by Classic Graphix – to lock in their positions to race at the second annual Summit Racing Equipment PDRA ProStars race. It will take place at Virginia Motorsports Park’s K95 Night of Fire on July 30, and the top eight drivers in ProStars points in 10 classes will take part in the special race within a race.
“Drivers are starting to lock in their ProStars positions, and points are really starting to add up,” Crossnoe said. “There are make-or-break scenarios that will be decided at these next two races. Over $50,000 in prize money will be up for grabs at the ProStars race, and there are no entry fees, so this is a valuable opportunity for our racers.”
Super Street is making its long-awaited debut at Maryland, the first of four scheduled races for the class. It’s a small-tire class with big potential, as racers from numerous different classes have made adjustments to run Super Street.
“Super Street will be a class that brings relatability to the PDRA,” Crossnoe said. “Cars will be in original appearance, body lines and more. The excitement level continues with the ruling of no wheelie bars as well. This brings the possibility of big wheelstands and impressive pedal jobs by the talented drivers. It’s taking the excitement of a number of the radial classes that are well known and throwing an old-school flare in with 28-inch bias ply slicks out back.”
Along with the professional classes, the North vs. South Shootout will include the PDRA’s full lineup of sportsman classes: MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by U.S. Rail, Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster presented by Laris Motorsports Insurance, MagnaFuel Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers, and Lucas Oil Top Dragster presented by Laris Motorsports Insurance. Edelbrock Bracket Bash presented by COMP Cams will also give local bracket racers the chance to race on a big stage.
The PDRA’s rising stars will compete in Coolshirt Systems Pro Jr. Dragster presented by PRP and Classic Graphix Top Jr. Dragster presented by PRP.
Spectator tickets are available for $20 on Thursday, $25 on Friday, and $30 on Saturday, while a weekend pass is available for $60. Kids 6-11 get in for $5, and kids 5 and under get in free. Tickets can be purchased at PDRA660.com or at the gate.
Thursday testing is available for North vs. South Shootout participants before kicking off qualifying on Friday morning. Pro qualifying begins Friday at 2 p.m., followed by Friday Night Fire with its back-to-back pro sessions starting at 5:30 p.m. Sportsman and Jr. Dragster classes will get one final qualifying session Saturday starting at 9:30 a.m. before eliminations. Pre-race ceremonies and the first round of pro eliminations will begin at 3:30 p.m.