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Tommy, Amber Franklin Score First Father-Daughter Double-Up; Camp, Carr, Gast and Riddle Also Win Big at PDRA American Doorslammer Challenge

Photos by Tara Bowker and Roger Richards

Past Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) world champions Tommy and Amber Franklin made series history Saturday night when they became the first father-daughter duo to win the same event. Racing at the DeCerbo Construction American Doorslammer Challenge presented by Callies at Summit Motorsports Park, Tommy won in Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous and Amber won in $hameless Racing Pro 632.

The other pro class victories went to Johnny Camp in WS Construction Pro Boost presented by P2 Contracting and Ty-Drive, JR Carr in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock presented by AED Competition, Paul Gast in Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle, and Bill Riddle in Menscer Motorsports Pro Street presented by AFCO.

Sportsman class wins were claimed by Donny Urban in MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by US Rail, Larry Roberts in Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster presented by Laris Motorsports Insurance, Ray Bamond in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman 32 presented by Vortech, and Frank Falter IV in Lucas Oil Top Dragster 32 presented by Laris Motorsports Insurance. In the Edelbrock Bracket Bash presented by COMP Cams final round, Mike Carroll used a .001 reaction time and a 4.881 on a 4.87 dial-in in his ’22 American dragster to beat Chris Schneider’s 4.718 on a 4.71 dial-in.

The American Doorslammer Challenge also included the PDRA’s Jr. Dragster categories, where the wins went to Justin Kerby in Coolshirt Systems Pro Jr. Dragster presented by PRP and McKenzee Hogan in Classic Graphix Top Jr. Dragster presented by PRP. Kerby defeated Klein Simpson in the final round, running a 7.912 on the 7.90 index, while Simpson broke out with his 7.884. Hogan and opponent Hanna Sheppard both ran close to their dial-ins, with Hogan running 8.988 on an 8.98 dial and Sheppard going 12.159 on a 12.15 dial, but it was Hogan’s quicker reaction time that sealed the deal.

PRO NITROUS

With Pro Nitrous kicking off the final rounds late Saturday night, Tommy Franklin set up the first end of a possible father-daughter double-up. He drove around three-time and defending world champion Jim Halsey in the final, running a 3.654 at 205.26 in his Musi-powered “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro to Halsey’s 3.679 at 206.57 to get the win. It was his first win of the season, but more importantly, it allowed him to share the winner’s circle with his oldest daughter, Amber, who won in Pro 632.

“We do this as a family,” said Franklin, the 2016-2017 world champion. “My family and friends come in here and help. We work our butts off. But to see both win lights come on, it’s awesome. It means more to me that she’s turning on win lights. I was missing [winning] also. We needed to get back there. The car’s awesome. Congrats to the whole team. Jeff Pierce has been on board with us helping us. Pat Musi gives us two awesome pieces, along with Jerry Bickel Race Cars. I love it. This is why we do it. You wonder some days, but this is why. We’re having fun. That’s all that matters right now. I thank God for everything we get. This is a dream come true.”

Franklin qualified No. 1 for the second consecutive race, then won the first round with a 3.723 at 204.14 over Billy Albert. He dipped into the 3.60s with a 3.695 at 204.88 on a second-round bye, as opponent Jason Harris couldn’t make the call. A 3.668 at 205.29 over John Vergotz’s 3.832 sent Franklin to the final round.

Halsey in his Brandon Switzer-tuned, Fulton-powered “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro qualified No. 2 before working his way through eliminations. He used a 3.732 to beat Dane Wood, then stepped up to a 3.693 at 204.42 to stop two-time Pro 632 world champion Wes Distefano. Halsey recorded a 3.654 at 205.29 in the semifinals to defeat home-track hero and event sponsor John DeCerbo and his 3.714.

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PRO BOOST

Former Pro Nitrous wheelman Johnny Camp was motivated to make up some ground in the Pro Boost points after missing the second race of the season last month. Camp threw down his best run of the event when it mattered most, using a 3.634 at 207.18 in his ProCharger-boosted “Hells Bells” ’69 Camaro to knock out No. 1 qualifier Melanie Salemi and her 3.647 at 205.72 in the final round.

“It’s good to bounce back with a win after missing that last race,” said Camp, who thanked tuner Brandon Stroud, his crew, Proline Racing, ProCharger, NGK Spark Plugs, and Tatman Electric. “We went to the semis at the first race, so it was a bummer to miss [Bowling Green]. Any time we can beat ‘King Tut’ [Todd Tutterow], he’s the best, so I feel good. And to beat the fastest car on the property [Salemi]. It was a good win for us. We needed it.”

Camp steadily improved throughout eliminations after qualifying third. He beat Robert Cox with a 3.681 at 206.26 in the first round, then ran a 3.666 at 206.07 over Ken Quartuccio’s 3.711. In the semis, Camp cut a .004 reaction time and ran a 3.64 at 206.57 to beat points leader Todd Tutterow and his 3.629 on a holeshot.

National E.T. record holder Melanie Salemi slid up to the No. 1 spot in the final qualifying session and continued to have the quickest car on the property in every round but the final. Driving Eddie Whelan’s roots-blown “Purple Reign’s Sidepiece” ’19 Camaro, Salemi charged to a 3.675 at 204.11 over Louis Ouimette, a 3.647 at 204.42 over Randy Weatherford’s 3.688, and a 3.626 at 205.04 over a red-lighting Robert Gallegos.

EXTREME PRO STOCK

JR Carr has had the quickest Extreme Pro Stock car in qualifying all season, but everything came together in eliminations for the first time this season at Norwalk. Just a couple weeks after winning in the quarter-mile Mountain Motor Pro Stock class at the Virginia NHRA Nationals, Carr in his Frank Gugliotta-tuned ’20 Camaro added the PDRA Norwalk trophy to his collection. He defeated No. 2 qualifier Tony Gillig in a side-by-side final round, with Carr’s 4.067 at 178.38 beating Gillig’s 4.077 at 176.74.

“We actually changed a motor, changed the clutch, changed the rear gear, changed the ignition box,” said Carr, who was appearing in his second consecutive final. “We had some issues and the car wasn’t running as good as it should. Then with the weather, which we all get the same program there, we were a little behind but we came around. Frank just knows how to tune these things. It doesn’t take him much. It’s just amazing how good he is at it. Thanks to CP-Carrillo, RJ Race Cars, Maxima Oil, ISC Racers Tape – they’re right behind us 100%. You need that support. It keeps you going and keeps you wanting to do good for everybody. This isn’t just about me. This is about a big group of people – my crew, my wife [Teri]. It’s very rewarding. It’s been a long time coming. We’re really happy.”

Carr nabbed the No. 1 qualifying spot in the final qualifying session on Saturday morning, then posted a 4.097 at 178.21 on a first-round single. Second-round opponent Derrick Reese went red by .008, by Carr was ready with a 4.088 at 178.02. He improved to a 4.078 at 178.31 to finish ahead of Elijah Morton and his 4.115 in the semis.

Gillig’s Kaase-powered Dayco/Gillig-Wagner Motorsports ’10 GXP was a 4.08-second bracket car in eliminations. The MMPS veteran ran a 4.089 at 176.90 to beat a red-lighting Chris Powers, a 4.085 at 177.04 on a second-round single, and a 4.085 at 176.63 to knock out recent winner Johnny Pluchino and his 4.094.

PRO 632

All the pressure was on Amber Franklin when she rolled to the starting line for the Pro 632 final round. Just minutes after watching her dad win in Pro Nitrous, Franklin held up under the pressure and delivered her second consecutive event win in the Musi-powered “OG Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro formerly driven by her father in Pro Nitrous. Franklin left on opponent Walt Lannigan Jr. and ran a 4.17 at 170.64 to maintain the lead over Lannigan’s 4.238 at 164.49.

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“We’ve been trying to do this since I started racing when I was 10,” said Franklin, who won the 2017 PDRA Pro Jr. Dragster world championship. “We hadn’t gotten there yet, but we had a lot of final rounds together. To finish it off tonight, it’s definitely very special for us. This one we won’t forget. Big thank you to the good Lord above. Without him, I wouldn’t be here. Thanks also to my parents [Tommy and Judy], [boyfriend] Blake [Denton], all of our crew, Pat Musi Racing Engines, Jerry Bickel Race Cars, M&M Transmission, Robert Hayes, Hoosier Racing Tires, and Jeff Pierce – he’s been a huge help to us this season.”

Franklin was also the No. 1 qualifier after jumping to the top spot in Saturday’s rain-delayed final qualifying session. That gave her a first-round single, which she used to record a 4.201 at 169.96, good for low E.T. of the round. Franklin was also the quickest of the second round with her 4.177 at 169.72 over Vinny LaRosa’s 4.344. She made her best run of the event, a 4.168 at 170.13, to beat longtime friend Lexi Tanner and her 4.225 in the semifinals.

Lannigan was appearing in his first final round as the new driver of the Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro, which Wes Distefano drove to the last two Pro 632 world championships. He qualified third and ran a 4.203 at 170.39 on a first-round bye when opponent Joe Valerio broke. Lannigan used a 4.18 to defeat Alan O’Brien’s 4.211, then a 4.164 at 171.14 to beat Daryl Stewart’s 4.194 and get lane choice for the final.

PRO NITROUS MOTORCYCLE

Motorcycle drag racing Paul Gast put together a streak of 3-second passes aboard his Fast By Gast Hayabusa to pick up the win in his first Pro Nitrous Motorcycle appearance of the season. Other than a 4.00 in the first qualifying session, Gast dipped into the 3s on every pass, including a 3.998 at 177.67 in the final round. He defeated Ashley Owens, who ran a 4.026 at 176.19.

“Running in the 3s every run was a big deal,” said Gast, who thanked all of the employees at Fast By Gast. “The bike’s really fast. We pushed it pretty good out here, especially for the air conditions, but we didn’t push it to the limit of what it might’ve been able to do. I’m just pleased it ran in the 3s, pretty deep down in there. The bike was fast and it deserved to win the race. I was along for the ride. I finally did good in the final.”

Gast started the day with a 3.961 at 178.64 to handily defeat Kuwait’s Mohammad Alawad and his 4.106. He nearly matched the run on a single in the semifinals, posting a 3.966 at 176.03 to get lane choice for the final round.

Owens qualified No. 4 on his McKinney Motorsports entry before running a 4.038 at 175.75 on a first-round single, as teammate Eric McKinney wasn’t able to make the call due to mechanical damage sustained on Saturday morning’s final qualifying session. Owens then improved slightly to a 4.035 at 174.19 to beat Meshal Al-Saber and his 4.06 in the semis.

PRO STREET

Michigan’s Bill Riddle scored a meaningful first Pro Street win in his supercharged Corrigan Race Fuels ’89 Camaro after defeating Ty Kasper in the final round. Riddle recorded a string of career-best numbers on race day, ending with a 4.009 at 188.20 in the final round. Kasper made his best run of the weekend, a 4.091 at 200.17, in the runner-up effort.

“This win means a lot,” said Riddle, who thanked his wife, Leslie. “This is the anniversary of my father passing away nine years ago today. I really wanted it today. It means a lot. It takes a lot of help from my crew and the people behind me like Corrigan, Mickey Thompson, Jim Beadling, Ken [Juszczyk] at Motorsports Unlimited, and SSI Superchargers.”

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Riddle qualified fifth before starting race day with a 4.051 at 186.23 victory over Bill Lutz and his 4.212. He then scored a huge upset win in the semifinals when he ripped off a 4.017 at 187.00 to knock down defending world champion and No. 1 qualifier Tim Essick, who ran a 4.151.

Kasper had an interesting path to the final round after qualifying sixth in his turbocharged Victus Baseball Bats/Kasper Performance Edge ’05 Mustang. He pedaled his way to a 5.147 at 147.97 first-round win over Gary Cygan and his 5.475. No. 2 qualifier Chris Cadatto went red against Kasper in the semis, allowing Kasper to move on with his 5.495 at 90.48.

TOP SPORTSMAN

Past world champion Donny “Hollywood” Urban was on his game all weekend in Elite Top Sportsman, as he qualified No. 1 and won the race in his nitrous-fed ’69 Camaro. In Urban’s second consecutive final round, he and Mike Gerber left the starting line with nearly identical reaction times. Urban posted a 3.827 on a 3.76 dial-in for the win, while Gerber slowed to a 4.179 on his 3.97 dial-in in his Maryland-based ’68 Camaro.

New Jersey’s Ray Bamond was better at both ends of the track to score the Top Sportsman 32 win over PDRA regular Ken Langlois. Bamond was first off the line in his ’68 Camaro and recorded a 4.297 on a 4.28 dial-in, defeating Langlois’ too-quick 4.317 on a 4.31 dial-in in his ’63 Corvette.

TOP DRAGSTER

In Elite Top Dragster, No. 5 qualifier Larry Roberts lined up against Ashley Johnson in the final round. Roberts left first in his ProCharger-boosted ’16 Race Tech dragster and followed through with a 3.824 on a 3.79 dial-in to beat Johnson, who dialed a 3.81 but coasted to a 7.154 in her supercharged ’10 Agan entry.

Frank Falter IV denied Ohio native Rikki Molnar a home-state win in Top Dragster 32, with Falter running a 4.021 on a 3.99 dial-in in his ’22 Miller dragster. Molnar left first by .001 thousandth of a second in her ’16 American dragster, but it wasn’t enough of an advantage to win with her 4.273 on a 4.23 dial-in.

The PDRA will race again in just under a month at the North vs. South Shootout, June 23-25 at Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek, Maryland.

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