Stoken Adds PDRA Summer Drags Title; Ahli, Pittman, Garner-Jones Also Win
Twenty-four hours after making the first 3.60s eighth-mile pass in Pro Nitrous history to qualify first for the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) Summer Drags, Pat Stoken (pictured above) left U.S. 131 Motorsports Park, located halfway between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo in Western Michigan, as the event winner, too.
“Wow, what a weekend. It’s like a dream; only dreams end like this,” the logging company owner from Eureka, MT, said. “To become the quickest nitrous car in the world and then to win the race, geez, it’s just unbelievable. I’m not even sure I could believe if we hadn’t just lived through it.”
Also earning pro class wins were Bader Ahli with his first in Pro Extreme, Alan Pittman in Pro Boost for the first time, Chris Garner-Jones with his second-straight race title in Pro Extreme Motorcycle and Jody Stroud in Pro Open Outlaw.
In the sportsman classes Tim Lawrence won his first PDRA Top Sportsman trophy, Joe Hessling prevailed in Top Dragster, Preston Tanner won Pro Jr. Dragster and Caleb Russell got the job done in Top Jr. Dragster. Additionally, Matt Sackman won a consolation race for non-qualifiers from the Top Sportsman and Top Dragster classes.
Pat Stoken claimed the number-one starting position in his bright orange 2014 Camaro by going an unprecedented 3.69 seconds at 201.07 mph in the third round of Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous qualifying on Friday night (June 26). For being the first to dip below 3.70 seconds he also won a $5,000 bonus paid by Bryant Crane and Rigging.
“Between Brandon Switzer and Reher-Morrison motors and Rick Jones at RJ Race Cars, everything just worked perfect this weekend; everything just came together. Everybody did an excellent job,” Stoken said.
Close behind in second at 3.70 seconds and 201.70 mph was Steve Jackson, Stoken’s eventual rival in the final round. To get there, though, Stoken first had to go through Bob Gulitti, Jim Sakuvich and Mike Castellana in the semifinals.
On the opposite side of the ladder Jackson had a free pass from round one when Keith Haney was unable to answer the call for eliminations, but blew the scoop off his ’69 Camaro with a nitrous backfire at the end of his run. With repairs made for round two, Jackson won a tight race against Jay Cox before ousting two-time defending NHRA Pro Mod champ Rickie Smith from the semis.
Stoken left first with a .029 light to Jackson’s .063 in the final and never looked back, winning in 3.75 seconds at 199.03 mph while Jackson got out of the groove and had to shut down early in order to avoid crossing the centerline.
“We were just thinking we wanted to get down the track; we didn’t want to give it away,” Stoken said later. “The track was great here all weekend and we went straight down it pretty much every time, no problems at all. This PDRA is really a great organization to race with and it was great to see the fans out here today, too. They made it a lot of fun.”
The win vaulted Stoken from 12th to eighth in season points, while Jackson moved up from seventh to third, trailing only Smith and leader Tommy Franklin.
Bader Ahli started his ’69 Camaro from the fourth position in NAS Racing Pro Extreme after running 3.52 at 212.16 mph in qualifying. Defending event champion Randell Reid qualified number one with a 3.51 at 214.39, with Jason Scruggs and Brandon Snider following in second and third, respectively.
In eliminations, Ahli opened with a fortunate free pass in round one with a traction-challenged 4.58 run at just 130 mph after Carl Stevens Jr. failed to show. A comfortable win over Duane Rister followed before Ahli took out Todd Tutterow with a sizable .068 holeshot in the semis. That paired Ahli with Mike Recchia for the final after Recchia also advanced from the semis with a holeshot victory over Snider.
The final was decided at the starting line as Recchia’s screw-blown ’69 Camaro barely moved when its transmission broke, while Ahli posted a 3.62 at 210.77 to earn his first PDRA race title.
“I was really relaxed. I felt like this race was mine. The car left good but it shook a little and I just had to ride through it,” said Ahli, who with the win took over the points lead from teammate Mustafa Buhumaid. “You need luck more than anything else to win here (PDRA), but now my car is starting to be more consistent and I think in the next five races you will see us doing better.”
It had been three years since the last time Alan Pittman visited victory lane as a driver, but he steered the roots-blown ’69 Camaro owned by Terry and Terri Green to the Precision Turbo Pro Boost title at the PDRA Summer Drags in Martin, MI.
“I won an Extreme 10.5 race here on my way to the championship in 2012, so this track has been very, very kind to me. I love coming here,” Pittman declared.
A well-known chassis builder who created the car at his shop in Greenville, SC, Pittman qualified eighth in the 16-car field with a 3.88 pass at 189.08 mph, compared to top qualifier Todd Moyer who drove his twin-turbocharged 2014 Camaro to a 3.83-seconds lap at 2015.10 mph.
Regardless, it was Pittman who reached the final round against number-three starter Jim Bell after knocking off Jason Hamstra in round one, catching a break when Jeremy Ray went red in round two, and taking out a traction-challenged Eddie Rogers in the semis.
“That one round I went up there knowing the transmission was broke, but I went ahead and staged just in case he redlit and when the tree came down I went red, but he did too, but even worse,” Pittman explained of his advancement past Ray. “That was our lucky break.”
Bell, meanwhile, beat Tylor Miller and Brian Hicks before winning with a holeshot over teammate Kevin Fiscus in the semifinals.
Unfortunately, Bell timed out at the tree in the final round, however, automatically handing the win to Pittman, who ran 3.87 at 190.68 to cap off his weekend.
“When we built this car we put a 481X motor in it, but we just put a new 526 Brad Anderson Hemi in it and came here untested,” Pittman said. “It just won the race so I think it’ll be staying in there.”
With the win, Pittman climbed from 13th to sixth in Pro Boost points, while Fiscus took over the lead from Kevin Rivenbark, who debuted a brand-new Jerry Bickel-built 2015 Corvette at the Summer Drags, where he qualified 11th, but lost a close race to a holeshot by Hicks in the opening round.
PRO EXTREME MOTORCYCLE
In Drag 965 Pro Extreme Motorcycle it was a repeat of the previous event four weeks earlier in St. Louis, as Chris Garner-Jones rode his 2014 Suzuki to the number-one starting position, then defeated defending class champion Eric McKinney (who had won each of the first three PDRA races this season) for the race win.
After three rounds of qualifying Garner-Jones led the slim five-bike field with a 4.04-seconds ride at 174.28 mph, with McKinney just four-thousandths of a second behind at 177.03 mph and Terry Schweigert third at 4.11 and 169.94 mph.
In eliminations Garner-Jones opened with a 4.07 bye run, then defeated Schweigert with a 4.05 before turning things up for the final with a 4.02 at 174.15 to overcome a .012 holeshot leading to a 4.06 pass at 175.99 by McKinney.
“I wasn’t aware of where he was; all I know is he wasn’t in front of me. You know, (McKinney) is a great racer. I look up to the man, I really do,” Garner-Jones said in victory lane. “He’s been doing this a lot longer than me and he’s won a lot of races, so I’m going to take advantage of any chance I get and when we race it’s really going to be a race.”
Leaving the track, McKinney retained a strong lead in points over teammate Ashley Owens in second place, but Garner Jones climbed one position over Schweigert to third overall with five races remaining in the 10-event season.
PRO OPEN OUTLAW
As soon as Jody Stroud arrived at the top end of U.S. 131 Motorsports Park after defeating Eddie Lykins in the Toefco Pro Open Outlaw final he climbed from his “Zombie Rage” dragster and did his best Ricky Bobby impression. Literally running around his car while stripping off his driver’s suit and clothing and yelling “I’m on fire!” Stroud stopped only after someone assured him, “It’s okay, you’re not on fire, Ricky Bobby,” just like in the “Talladega Nights” movie starring Will Ferrell.
“I was so glad someone gave me that out because I was almost down to my underwear,” said Stroud, who revealed he’d promised his crew the night before that he’d perform the skit if he won the second Pro Open Outlaw race held this year. “They reminded me just before we ran the final what I’d said, so being as crazy as a dooky house bat I had to go through with it,” the New Carlisle, OH-based driver added.
Stroud started number one with a 3.66 pass at 198.50 mph in an 8-car field after 11 entries made qualifying attempts. He made it past Michael Scheel and set a new ET record for the class with a 3.61 win over Bryan Keller in the semis. Lykins, meanwhile, started third and beat Eddie Careccia and Phil Esz to reach the final round.
Once there, Stroud left with a .009 advantage off the line, then ran 3.62 at 198.41 for the win while Lykins had to pedal and posted a 3.95 at 186.41 mph.
Top qualifier Tricia Musi set a new elapsed time record of 3.934 seconds on her way to the MagnaFuel Top Sportsman final, where she came up short in a pedaling contest against Tim Lawrence. It marked the first PDRA event win for Lawrence, the number-14 qualifier from Princeton, WV, who dedicated the race to his wife’s recently passed-away mother, Edna Farley.
The Dart Top Dragster win at the PDRA Summer Drags went to number-eight qualifier Joe Hessling, who ran his Procharger-equipped machine to an off-the-pace 4.17 win at just 138.89 mph in the final round over Jim Prevo.
The PDRA Huddleston Performance Pro Jr. Dragster win went to number-11 qualifier Preston Tanner, with the Huddleston Top Jr. Dragster title going to first-place qualifier Caleb Russell.
The PDRA will return to action July 16-18, with the inaugural PDRA North-South Shootout at Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek, MD.