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Perkinson, Steding, Morton, Lannigan, Gast and Agostino Low Qualifiers at PDRA North vs. South Shootout

Tara Bowker photos

Longtime doorslammer wheelman Buddy Perkinson ended Friday qualifying as the No. 1 qualifier in two different classes at the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) North vs. South Shootout presented by Line-X and Iron Man Quick Connect Push Bar at Maryland International Raceway. Perkinson earned his first No. 1 qualifier award in Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous as the fill-in driver for two-time world champion Tommy Franklin, and he’s the provisional low qualifier in MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by US Rail.

The No. 1 spots in the rest of the PDRA’s professional classes went to Kurt Steding (WS Construction Pro Boost presented by P2 Contracting and Ty-Drive), Elijah Morton (Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock presented by AED Competition), Walter Lannigan Jr. ($hameless Racing Pro 632), Paul Gast (Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle), and Nick Agostino (Menscer Motorsports Pro Street presented by AFCO).

In the debut of the PDRA’s new small-tire class, AFCO Super Street presented by Menscer Motorsports, Maryland’s own Wes Ervin is the No. 1 qualifier.

In addition to Perkinson, the provisional No. 1 qualifiers in the sportsman classes are Victor Puglia in Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster presented by Laris Motorsports Insurance, Joe Roubicek in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman 32 presented by Vortech Superchargers, and Patrick McMath in Lucas Oil Top Dragster 32 presented by Laris Motorsports Insurance.

In the Jr. Dragster ranks, a pair of Maryland natives hold the provisional No. 1 spots. Ridgely’s Nyck Shirkey posted a 7.900 in his ’21 Halfscale dragster to lead the 37-car qualifying order in Coolshirt Systems Pro Jr. Dragster presented by PRP. Defending world champion Rowan Parlett, from nearby Mechanicsville, is the provisional low qualifier in Classic Graphix Top Jr. Dragster presented by PRP with a perfect .000 reaction time in his Computech ’15 Halfscale entry.

PRO NITROUS

Two-time Pro Nitrous world champion Tommy Franklin broke both his hands in an off-track accident a couple weeks before the North vs. South Shootout, forcing him out of the seat of his Musi-powered “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro. He called on 2020 Elite Top Sportsman world champion Buddy Perkinson to drive the car at Maryland, and with a 3.693 at 204.32, Perkinson ended up grabbing his first low qualifier award in the class. It’s the third consecutive low qualifier award for the car.

“That’s a dream come true,” Perkinson said. “It wouldn’t be possible without Judy and Tommy and the whole Franklin Motorsports team. There’s a lot of people over here. They have four race cars, and it’s a lot going on. To be able to step into an established, winning, championship program, that’s something that people dream of, and frankly, you never really get that opportunity. I’m just trying to do the best I can for them, and hopefully play the spoiler and keep some people from getting some points.”

Chris Rini, who’s making his return to Pro Nitrous competition this season, qualified second with a 3.696 at 203.74 in his Buck-powered ATI Performance ’69 Camaro. Perennial contender Jay Cox grabbed the third spot in his Musi-powered Butner Construction “Pumpkin” ’69 Camaro with a 3.699 at 205.29.

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PRO BOOST

P2 Racing driver Kurt Steding fired off a 3.636 at 208.17 during the second Pro Boost qualifying session to put his Todd Tutterow-tuned, screw-blown P2 Contracting ’20 Camaro in the No. 1 spot going into the final session. Despite a slew of other drivers running well into the 3.60s, Steding was able to hold on to his low qualifier title on the strength of his speed.

“I wasn’t even expecting it,” Steding said of his run. “It popped up and felt good going to No. 1. That’s my first No. 1 qualifier in the PDRA. I’ve been on the top a lot and been knocked right back down, so this feels really good. Todd did a great job tuning. The crew did a great job. I have to thank everybody involved – my wife [Wendi] and Todd and Todd’s wife [Denise] and the whole crew.”

Robert Gallegos tried to swipe away the top spot, but just missed with his 3.636 at 206.10 in his ProCharger-boosted BASF ’22 Mustang. Todd “King Tut” Tutterow in his screw-blown P2 Contracting/FTI Performance ’20 Camaro qualified third with a 3.638 at 208.33.

EXTREME PRO STOCK

Mountain Motor Pro Stock veteran Elijah Morton set low E.T. of all three qualifying sessions, breaking JR Carr’s season-long No. 1 qualifying streak in Extreme Pro Stock. Morton stepped up each time his Allen-powered Morton Brothers Motorsports ’19 Mustang went down the track, ending up with a 4.066 at 177.39 in the third session.

“I’m so proud of my guys,” Morton said. “We have Allen Competition Engines, Larry Jeffers Race Cars, and AED Carburetors on board. [AED] is here helping me tune. We had a little work done with Modern Racing to get my staging helped up a little bit, so I’m proud of that as well. My car has been flawless all weekend. It’s run the fastest every round. Of course, it’s not over until the last round. We were able to hold on to it. The Allen Competition Engines pulled it out when it needed to. We stepped up every round. So glad for our team here.”

Tony Gillig in his Kaase-powered Dayco/Gillig-Wagner Motorsports ’10 GXP qualified No. 2 with a 4.077 at 176.70. Carr, who has the points lead after winning the last race in Norwalk, is third with a 4.08 at 178.00 in his Frank Gugliotta-tuned Maxima/CP-Carrillo ’20 Camaro.

PRO 632

Four different drivers dipped into the 4.10s in Pro 632, but Walter Lannigan Jr. was the quickest of those four with his 4.16 at 171.21. Lannigan, driving for the championship-defending $hameless Racing team, has now qualified No. 1 at three of four races in the Musi-powered $hameless Racing/Race Star Wheels ’68 Camaro.

“All I can tell you is I have a bad A-team – Troy Russell, Bill, Alan, Sergio, all the guys,” Lannigan said. “Everybody is just as important as the next guy. It couldn’t be done without them. It’s always a group effort.

“You just have to be on your driving game,” Lannigan continued, speaking of the competition in Pro 632. “Amber [Franklin] gave me a good lesson today. I was kind of not on my game, but tomorrow is a different story. It’s a driver’s race right now. It’s not so much horsepower, you just have to be on your game as a driver.”

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Franklin, a two-time winner this season, just missed out on her second consecutive No. 1 qualifier award, posting a 4.167 at 170.79 in her Musi-powered “OG Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro to end up No. 2. Rookie Alan Drinkwater, who won the season opener, qualified third with a 4.193 at 169.17 in Kenny Floyd’s Kaase-powered ’04 Escort.

PRO NITROUS MOTORCYCLE

Motorcycle drag racing veteran Paul Gast missed the first Pro Nitrous Motorcycle race of the season, but he’s making up for it with big performances on his Fast By Gast ’16 Hayabusa. After qualifying No. 1 and winning the last race, the 73-year-old rider qualified No. 1 again with his 3.972 at 172.94.

“The conditions here in Maryland are a little tough, but still capable of running good times,” Gast said. “I ran about the same as I did in Norwalk under different conditions. We were smart enough to not touch the bike. We just maybe put some rings in it and checked it all out. But for the most part the bike’s doing really good. I did just have a teeny, little malfunction there with the clutch, but was able to get through it. I was hoping to run a little better there. It still runs really good. Even when it’s hot out or really wet out, these nitrous vehicles tend to really still run good. I don’t blame conditions for much because we have controls for a lot of things that we can step the thing up at any point. I’m proud of the bike.”

Multi-time world champion Travis Davis was the only other rider to dip in the 3-second range with his 3.998 at 175.80 to qualify second. Ashley Owens was close, though, recording a 4.000 at 175.23 on his McKinney Motorsports ’14 Suzuki to take the third spot. Defending world champion Chris Garner-Jones qualified No. 9, just missing the eight-bike field.

PRO STREET

In the third of six races for the Pro Street class, Ontario, Canada’s Nick Agostino grabbed his second No. 1 qualifier award in his turbocharged, small-block-powered “Cannoli Express” ’69 Camaro. Agostino fired off a 4.02 at 206.48 in the second session to lead the nine-car qualifying order.

“We’re pretty happy with that,” Agostino said. “I wasn’t thinking there was going to be too many 3-second runs out there today with the conditions and the heat and the air. I think the last run was closer to 100 [water] grains. Turbo alcohol cars don’t like 100 grains. We’re happy with No. 1 again. I’m not sure what’s going to happen [in eliminations]. We’re just looking at things over here. We might’ve grabbed a bearing, so we’re just looking through stuff to make sure we’re OK. That’s why we sat out the last run so we can have a look at it, and hopefully we have a chance to get everything ready for tomorrow.”

Defending world champion and local racer Tim Essick was the second-quickest with a 4.064 at 186.69 in his ProCharger-boosted “Brown Sugar” ’18 Mustang. Bill Riddle, who picked up his first-ever win at the last race, qualified third in his supercharged ’89 Camaro with a 4.083 at 187.63.

SUPER STREET

The Super Street class rolled into the North vs. South Shootout with a blank slate, as it’s the first-ever event for the new small-tire slick class. Hurlock, Maryland’s Wes Ervin set the performance standard for the class with his 4.87 at 151.65 in his nitrous-fed ’88 Chevy S-10. Aria Connolly qualified second in her nitrous-assisted “Mz. Hyde” ’89 Mustang with a 4.935 at 145.42. Drag radial star Ron Rhodes took the No. 3 spot with a 4.94 at 162.37 in his nitrous-fed ’68 Camaro.

TOP SPORTSMAN

Past Elite Top Sportsman world champion Buddy Perkinson made the best run of the day by a bunch, driving his Musi-powered LAT Racing Oil ’69 Camaro to a 3.734 at 201.94. Donny “Hollywood” Urban had the next best performance, a 3.83 at 194.83, in his nitrous-fed ’69 Camaro. Chris “Nitrous” Nyerges followed in right behind Urban with a 3.836 at 196.67 in the Buck-powered Schween Motorsports ’20 Corvette to sit third.

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Top Sportsman points leader Joe Roubicek is just outside the 16-car Elite field, though his 4.214 at 166.33 in his Sonny’s-powered ’68 Camaro puts him in the top spot in Top Sportsman 32.

TOP DRAGSTER

A pair of Buffalo-area racers went to the top two spots in Elite Top Dragster, as Victor Puglia piloted his Puglia-built supercharged dragster to a 3.756 at 194.44 to lead the field. Defending world champion Pete Maduri is second with a 3.777 at 192.69 in his ProCharger-boosted Dynabrade ’17 Chrome-Worx dragster. Michael White posted a 3.82 at 189.28 in his supercharged ’15 Maddox entry to round out the top three.

Patrick McMath is the provisional No. 1 qualifier in Top Dragster 32 with his 4.276 at 163.49 edging out Dickie Smith’s identical E.T. by speed.

The PDRA North vs. South Shootout presented by Line-X and Iron Man Quick Connect Push Bar will continue Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. with final qualifying for the sportsman and Jr. Dragster classes. Pro eliminations will kick off at 3:30 p.m.

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