Elimination day at the third race of the PDRA’s 10th season Saturday night at the DeCerbo Construction American Doorslammer Challenge presented by Callies in Norwalk, Ohio, was nothing short of a knock-down drag out.
Two-time Pro Nitrous world champion Tommy Franklin hasn’t reached the winner’s circle since he won the American Doorslammer Challenge a year ago. He broke that winless streak Saturday night, knocking out the dominant Jim Halsey in the semifinals and defeating Marcus Butner in the final round. Butner, appearing in his first career final, made his best run of the weekend, a 3.683 at 205.69, but it wasn’t quick enough to get past Franklin’s 3.656 at 206.45 in his Musi-powered “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro.
“This means everything. We won. We won Pro Nitrous. That’s what we did. We won PDRA Pro Nitrous,” Franklin said. “Every team out there is just awesome. Obviously, Halsey, they’re the best out there right now and we’re trying to change that. Any time that you can beat them, that’s a good day. But the racetrack was stellar, great crowd, great car count, great everything about it. That’s just it. I say it all the time: This is the best series of racing and I’ll stand behind it every day.
“I thank God for everything that we do,” Franklin added. “This win is dedicated to my dad. I lost him in July and that’s the first win since then. It’s been a long time to get back to it. You start questioning whether you’ll ever get that chance again, but it was good for me to be able to do that, and I’m just thankful for it all.”
Franklin qualified No. 4 before running a 3.712 at 204.17 to defeat John Vergotz and his 3.836 in the first round. He dipped into the 3.60s in the second round, beating a slowing Blake Housley with a 3.69 at 204.79. In the semifinals, Franklin paired up with points leader and four-time world champion Jim Halsey for a rematch of last year’s Norwalk final round. Franklin left the starting line first with a .013 reaction time and made his best run of the weekend, a 3.641 at 206.70, to stay ahead of Halsey and his 3.672 at 206.89.
Butner went into eliminations in the No. 6 spot in his Musi-powered Butner Construction “Heartbreaker” ’69 Camaro, using a 3.721 at 203.12 to move on past a red-lighting Dave Roemer. A side-by-side race with “Tricky” Rickie Smith followed in the second round, with Butner leaving first by five thousandths and running a 3.703 at 203.95 to beat Smith’s 3.704. That set up an all-Butner Motorsports semifinal pairing with Jay Cox. The race was over on the starting line when Cox went red by .024, throwing away a 3.68. Butner ran a 3.685 at 205.16 in the other lane.