Third-Gen Kirk Seeks Success in PDRA Top Dragster
With the start of the 2015 Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) season less than two months away no one is looking forward to it more than 22-year-old Justin Kirk. The third-generation racer from Lenore, WV, is excited about stepping into Randy Kelley’s supercharged dragster and going after Rookie of the Year honors and maybe even this season’s PDRA Top Dragster championship.
“Last fall we were actually looking for a blower to put on my car, the one we ran at four races in 2013 with the ADRL, so we called Randy up to see if he had one or knew where we could look,” Kirk said. “He said he was cutting back a little this year and suggested maybe I should just drive his car. I wasn’t expecting that, to be honest, but it’s a great car and I couldn’t be happier about the opportunity. It’s like a dream come true for me.”
Kelley, owner of BWC Trucking in Ironton, OH, is a longtime IHRA and NHRA Top Dragster veteran with several race titles to his credit. He said he’d been running the car in some local Quick 8 races last year and even entertained the thought of racing with the PDRA himself this season, but work commitments made that impossible.
“When Justin’s dad called me, wanting to know about building a blower motor and what I would recommend, I told him I’d just recommend putting Justin in my car,” Kelley said. “I’ve known the Kirk family for years and Justin’s a real good boy and a good young driver. He’s just got a good head on his shoulders, so I’m pretty happy about putting him in the car.”
Kelly described it as a 242-inch wheelbase American-built chassis powered by a blown 540 Chevy motor built by Matt Hornbuckle at Performance Engineering in Ashland, Kentucky. A two-speed Powerglide transmits the power to the rear wheels. “I know it’s going to run in the 4.0s and we’re really looking forward to going into three seconds. That’s really what I’d like to see with Justin in it,” he said.
The young driver’s racing pedigree dates back to the 1960s and ‘70s when his grandfather, Carl Kirk, was a member of the famous Rod Shop drag racing team. Later, his father, Doug, became a two-time IHRA world champion in the mountain-motor Pro Stock ranks, a multi-time ADRL winner and had planned to compete in Extreme Pro Stock with the PDRA this year before the organization suddenly canceled the class.
“After they announced the Pro Stock deal, we kind of didn’t know whether we were still going to race my car with PDRA or just do some local bracket stuff and then this deal with Randy came along,” Kirk explained. “Hopefully next year they’ll add Pro Stock back, but we understood their decision and it is what it is. At least with this new deal we get to keep racing and stay in touch with everybody.”
Kirk confirmed after making his PDRA debut in the season opener this March at Dallas, TX, he plans to run the full 10-race schedule this year. “I only ran four races with the ADRL and made it to two semis, so I’m confident we’re going to do pretty good this year with PDRA,” he said.
Kelley shares that confidence and said he intends to make it out to as many PDRA events as possible and will serve as tuning consultant alongside Kirk’s crew chief and uncle, Ronnie Herald. Kirk said they also may occasionally lean on the expertise and advice of PDRA veteran Terry Leggett and his crew, who run a similar fuel system on their Pro Extreme ’73 Mustang.
“It’s going to be a good experience to see if this blower car is the route we want to go,” Kirk said. “This may tell us if we want to race Top Sportsmen or maybe run some Quick 8 stuff and then after I get my feet good and wet, where we want to go in the future.”