It’s never an easy thing to jump behind the wheel of a machine that can power from 0 to over 230 miles per hour in just 660 feet. To perfect this feat, both in tuning and driving, going to six final rounds and winning three in just nine events in a single year is, quite simply, remarkable. Brandon Snider has done just that to be crowned the 2016 NAS Racing Pro Extreme World Champion.
Snider’s always had a love of fast cars and his passion quickly led him to the local track where, in the mid ‘90s, he began honing his skills. He raced local quick 8 events until he decided to step it up. He went straight to the top, competing in professional eighth-mile drag racing’s quickest and fastest category, Pro Extreme. Throughout the PDRA’s tenure, Snider has made a serious run at the championship, finishing second in 2014 and fourth in 2015. After those two narrow misses, Snider told his crew that this would be their year. Those prophetic words started taking hold at the very first race, where Snider not only won the season opener at Osage Casino Tulsa Raceway Park, but reset the Pro Extreme National ET Record with a 3.486 – a number that still stands. He continued pounding all season, going to the semi-finals or finals at nearly every event, also scoring six number one qualifier awards along the way. Although defending champion Jason Scruggs put in a strong bid, Snider was not to be outdone. A first round win at the PDRA World Finals solidified his first ever championship.
“The last race in Virginia we had to win the first round to seal the championship,” said the Atmore, Alabama native. “That was probably my happiest moment all year. If we had gone out that round Jason could have potentially overtaken the championship. But once we won first round I knew we had it won. Jason ended up going to the finals and we did, too. He had engine trouble and we made a clean run with a 3.52 to take the win.
“We had a really good year that could have been better; we could have won six of the nine, but stupid stuff happened, whether it was me late on the tree, or this or that. Overall it was a very good year. The car was more consistent this year than it ever has been. We worked the past two years really hard on our engine program to be able to go out and run with Jason and the other top runners. Over the winter we just worked and worked and worked to try to make our engine program better, to build more horsepower. That played a major role in it – me and Jimmy digging, working harder, being on the computer more, figuring out what the car wants and likes. These hot weather setups on 135 degree tracks where everybody struggles, it would go right down. We worked hard to make the car consistent through June, July and August. And we did, we went rounds. We went to the finals in Michigan, in Maryland, and then won Memphis. That was three hot weather setups in a row we went to the finals”.
Those events played a key role in Snider’s championship. Getting down the track when others struggled was something Snider prided himself on this season. As the tuner and driver of the car, the former Army National Guardsman combines his on-track and off-track knowledge to finesse his program.
“When you get into a car to drive that you put the tune up in, I think you’ve got an advantage there because you get to feel what the car does, you know what the car likes, and you can come back and correct stuff. Being hands on on both aspects helps a lot. But I’ve also stood behind cars and tuned them and been able to make the right adjustments even when drivers couldn’t give me feedback. When you look at the computer, it doesn’t lie. Numbers are numbers. If you go by that you can correct. But at our level of racing, both being in the driver’s seat and tuning I think does give a little advantage.”
Although Snider handles two roles on the team, he is quick to point out that he could not compete at the highest level without his team of crew, supporters and sponsors. In fact, Snider says it was more important to him to win the championship for them than for himself.
“My crew, crew chief Jimmy [Crenshaw] and Michael [Elsberry], go and make absolutely no money; they take off of work and lose money just because they love it and believe in me. Them and the fans that support me, text me, email me, call; all the folks from my hometown- nobody here is really known for racing or having fast cars; and my sponsors; it’s all for them. It’s not about me – I mean, I’m happy we won, but it was for everybody that believed in me. Those are the people I’m happy for. I’m happy that they got the championship, that they were part of it. You can’t ever take this from us. We won it fair and square. We worked hard.
“My mom is probably one of my biggest cheerleaders,” Snider continued, giving credit where credit is due. “My wife stays back and doesn’t go because of the kids’ school. She supports me while I’m gone racing and tuning. Mama has to take care of the home front while I’m gone.
“Jimmy and Michael have been my two crew. Me and Jimmy tackle the car here at the house. Michael is out of Georgia. We pick him up on the way. It’s just basically a three man crew. They get the car serviced between rounds. I’m in there on the computer trying to make it run faster. Those guys help out tremendous. Without those guys I wouldn’t be able to do it.
“Q80 was a big part of our success this year, but they will not be back next year. This was a one year deal and I knew that going in. We’re currently seeking marketing partners, primary or associate. Without these guys here we’re not going to be able to be out there next year. I cannot fund it out of my own pocket. I’ve got to have major help. We’d like to come back and defend our title, but without additional sponsorship we won’t be able to. The team is on board and in place to do it; it’s just that extra help we’ve got to have.”
Snider also thanks product and associate sponsors Quick Drive, Liberty Gears, SCE Gaskets, Valvoline, Moroso, Hammer Superchargers, Dan Olson, Manley, Trend Performance, Bullet Cams, Fragola Performance Systems, Precision Racing Suspension, Neal Chance Converters, Pro Fabrication, Diamond Pistons, Rage Fuel Systems, Hoosier Tire, NGK Plugs, MBE Cylinder Heads, Richmond Gear, Total Seal, Jesel, Clevite, MVM, Alky Pro, Reid Rocker Arms, CarSon Innovation Inc, Jerry Bickel Race Cars, Motorsports Unlimited, Flagship Transportation.
“I really want to thank everybody that’s got a decal on this car,” added Snider, who also co-owns an HVAC business. “They’re on here for a reason – either because they support me with product or semi-sponsorship. I want to thank all the sponsors that believed in me and stayed with me over the past two years. We finally got it this year. We finally pulled it off.”
Snider’s ‘69 Camaro will be on display at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Show in the PDRA booth, December 8-10. Then in February Snider will head to Australia to serve as tuner for Frank Mammone before coming back to the states to defend his championship.
“I’m just the idiot looking at the graph and driving the car. If it wasn’t for all these other people helping out we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Snider added gratefully. “It’s hard for me to take credit for it. I just appreciate everybody that’s stayed with me. And really I want to thank Tommy, Judy, Mitchell and Jason for stepping up and having a place for us to go race. If it wasn’t for PDRA, we’d be back quick 8 local racing. Those guys, all of them, stepped up and kept going even through rain-outs and hard races. Everybody still got paid. That says a lot for this organization. I want to thank them for supporting us and having us a place to race.”