The Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) opens its fifth season of all-eighth-mile drag racing this weekend at the PDRA East Coast Spring Nationals, April 5-7. Taking place at GALOT Motorsports Park in Benson, N.C., the PDRA season opener is expected to draw hundreds of competitors across over a dozen classes, all fighting for world records and the event victory.
One of the stars to watch at the PDRA East Coast Spring Nationals is Tommy Franklin, the back-to-back and defending world champion in Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous presented by MoTeC. Franklin and his “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro got a preview of the competition last month when he won the first GALOT Motorsports Park Mad Mule race.
“We won the last 2017 GALOT Mad Mule race in November, then the first 2018 Mad Mule race in March,” said Franklin, the co-founder and principal owner of the PDRA. “There was a lot of tough competition, so it definitely wasn’t easy. Everyone has been doing their homework over the winter, so I think GALOT is going to be a fast race for every class.”
Franklin went on to predict that the world records for elapsed time and speed will fall in multiple classes this weekend.
“I’m pretty confident the Pro Nitrous record will fall, but maybe that’s because I hold the record and I don’t want to see it go,” laughed Franklin, whose 3.653-second blast set the record at Virginia Motorsports Park last fall. “We’re expecting very strong car counts, so I think we’ll also see some records for the quickest fields in PDRA history.”
In addition to Pro Nitrous, the PDRA East Coast Nationals will feature the PDRA’s other four touring professional classes. Leading the charge is Bryant Industrial Pro Extreme presented by Pro Line Racing, made up of the quickest and fastest accelerating Pro Mod-style cars in the world. Moroso Pro Boost features Roots-blown and turbocharged entries, while Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock offers clutch-equipped, naturally aspirated mountain motor Pro Stock cars. Rounding out the professional classes is Drag 965 Pro Extreme Motorcycle, which includes nitrous-assisted motorcycles, and for the first time ever, turbocharged entries.
The PDRA’s sportsman ranks will be represented by MagnaFuel Top Sportsman and Lucas Oil Top Dragster, which will each have an Elite 16 class and regular 32-car field this season. The future stars of the sport can be found in Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster and Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster. Edelbrock Bracket Bash, a class for local bracket racers, is also back for 2018.
Joining the PDRA this weekend and at select events throughout the 2018 PDRA tour will be the increasingly popular East Side Auto Transport Pro Outlaw 632 class and the small-tire stars of Atomizer Racing Injectors Outlaw 10.5. Pro Outlaw 632 will compete at all eight races except the Summer Nationals in Michigan, while Outlaw 10.5 is on the schedule for the East Coast Spring Nationals, the Firecracker Nationals in Virginia, the Super Strip Nationals in Ohio, and the World Finals in Virginia.
“From a Pro Mod side – big-tire, tube-chassis Pro Mod cars – we’ve got the best cars in the world,” Franklin said. “At the same time, we need to realize that that isn’t what everyone wants to see. Some people want to see sportsman racing or mountain motor Pro Stock cars. The Pro Outlaw 632 class is becoming very popular too. Then in Outlaw 10.5, that’s our way of introducing small-tire cars to our track prep style. We’re going to continue working with the small-tire guys to find ways for them to come race on our stage.”
With such a diverse – and rapidly expanding – offering of classes, Franklin and PDRA race director Bob Harris realized they would need to adjust the daily event schedule for the 2018 season. To allow all of the classes to compete within the two-day format, qualifying will be limited to three sessions and eliminations will begin earlier in the day on Saturday.
“Our intention is to get our events done by 9:30-10 p.m. on most nights so people can come in and see the show they came to see,” Franklin said. “We’re going to have three rounds of sportsman qualifying and two rounds of pro qualifying on Fridays. We’ll have a third round of pro qualifying on Saturday mornings, then go right into sportsman eliminations. Sometimes we’ll have to adjust for the weather, but our goal is to follow this new schedule.”
The PDRA East Coast Spring Nationals will begin with two days of testing, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday. Friday’s qualifying action will kick off with back-to-back sportsman qualifying sessions at 9 a.m., followed by the first professional qualifying session at 2:30 p.m. The professional classes will get a third and final qualifying session Saturday morning at 10 a.m. before the first round of eliminations for sportsman categories at 12 p.m. Professional eliminations are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m., with the final round for all classes set for 9:30 p.m. Gassers and a jet car will conclude the racing action on Saturday night.
Tickets to the PDRA East Coast Spring Nationals are available for $10 for Thursday testing, $20 for Friday qualifying and $25 for Saturday eliminations. A weekend pass, good for all three days, is available for $40. Children 10 and under get in free. Tickets are available at the gate or online at www.pdra660.com.