Two-time PDRA Pro Boost world champion Kevin Rivenbark had just clicked off a 3.637-second, 206 mph test pass Thursday afternoon at PDRA DragWars when he found himself fighting his ProCharger-boosted GALOT Motorsports ’69 Camaro.
A parachute issue locked up the rear end, sending Rivenbark across the track in front of teammate Daniel Pharris and into the retaining wall. The car ended up flipping over and spinning like a top on its roof before coming to a stop at the end of the GALOT Motorsports Park shutdown area. The current points leader wasn’t injured in the crash, but his car was undoubtedly taken out of commission at the penultimate race on the 2021 PDRA schedule.
“It was a fast run. Too bad it didn’t go so well in the shutdown,” Rivenbark said. “Apparently, as best we can tell, the right parachute just fell and went up under the car and wrapped around the wheel and just kept wrapping around the axle tube. I thought I had it recovered, but all of a sudden it took a hard left again and then rolled.”
Rivenbark is going into the weekend with over a three-round lead over Todd Tutterow in Pro Boost points. The crash would’ve been catastrophic for Rivenbark’s championship chase had it not been for a quick offer from Stan Shelton to drive Shelton’s screw-blown Culp Lumber Mustang.
“One of the things I thought about was my points lead,” Rivenbark said. “Thank God the Shelton family came and asked me to drive their car. I’d tested it about a month ago in Darlington for them, so I felt a little comfortable in it. I got in it [in testing] and we’ll do the best we can to keep that points lead.”
The offer from Shelton came shortly after Rivenbark returned to the pits. Shelton drove the car after the crash in the third Pro Boost test session, then came back to his pit area – which is conveniently right next to the GALOT Motorsports camp – and offered the car to Rivenbark.
“He came over and it was pretty much, ‘Sorry it happened and I’m glad you’re OK. You’re driving my car.’ It went from there,” Rivenbark said. “His car is running real well. Every run it’s making improvements. I feel like we have a pretty good chance to do something.”
After a couple adjustments in the cockpit, Rivenbark got in the Shelton Motorsports entry and fired off a 3.68-second lap to conclude Thursday testing. It’s not quite at the performance level as Rivenbark’s ProCharger car was running before the crash, but he believes tuners Lee White and Steve Petty will get it there in a hurry.
“I feel it’s got more in it,” Rivenbark said. “They’ve changed a lot on it in the last month or two. Stan’s been tractor pulling, so they really haven’t had time to come out. Every pass it’s making progress, two numbers here or there. I think we’ll get it down to the mid-to-low .60s before it’s over with.”
Rivenbark recognizes the irony that a safety item played such a major role in the crash. It’s the latest parachute-related incident in the Pro Mod ranks.
“Safety is one of the biggest things – seat belts, visors, everything,” Rivenbark said. “I hate that one of the safety items kind of caused it, but it was really air flow and stuff like that with these cars. It’s something that needs to be addressed. It’s not the first time, and it’s not going to be the last until we figure out what to do.”
All things considered, Rivenbark is in a good place. He wasn’t injured in the disconcerting crash, and he still has a real shot at a third world championship thanks to Shelton’s generous offer.
“I’m just thankful,” Rivenbark said. “It could’ve been a lot worse than it was. You can’t be scared of these cars, but you definitely have to respect them.”
Rivenbark ran a 3.694 in the first qualifying session on Friday to sit sixth with two sessions left in the day.