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Ward, Halsey, Carr, A. Franklin, Garner-Jones, Green and Mota Qualify No. 1 at Season-Opening PDRA East Coast Nationals

Tara Bowker photos

Derek Ward’s fast-paced start to the 2024 Pro Modified season continued Friday night when he lowered the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) Pro Boost elapsed time national record to qualify No. 1 at the Summit Racing Equipment East Coast Nationals presented by FuelTech at GALOT Motorsports Park. Racing at the Red Line Oil PDRA Drag Racing Series season opener, Ward recorded a 3.555-second pass at 211.76 MPH in the final qualifying session to set the record and claim his first No. 1 qualifier award in WS Construction Pro Boost presented by P2 Contracting and Ty-Drive. 

Four-time Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous world champion Jim Halsey also went quicker than his own E.T. national record with a 3.608 at 208.84 to qualify No. 1. He’ll need to run within 1% of that performance to back up the record during eliminations. 

No. 1 qualifiers in the PDRA’s additional pro classes are JR Carr in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock presented by AED Competition, Amber Franklin in PDRA Pro 632, Chris Garner-Jones in Drag 965 Pro Extreme Motorcycle, Ron Green in Menscer Motorsports Pro Street presented by Afco Racing, and Derek Mota in Afco Racing Super Street presented by Menscer Motorsports. 

After three qualifying sessions in the sportsman classes, the No. 1 qualifiers are Tim Molnar in MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by PAR Racing Engines, KC Ingram in Laris Motorsports Insurance Elite Top Dragster presented by Greenbrier Excavating & Paving, Thomas Brown in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman presented by Corbin’s RV, and Danielle Gonzalez in Laris Motorsports Insurance Top Dragster presented by Younce RV. 

The PDRA’s Jr. Dragster classes completed two qualifying sessions, with a final third session set for Saturday morning. Angier, North Carolina’s Lane Morgan is the provisional No. 1 qualifier in Coolshirt Systems Pro Jr. Dragster presented by Philadelphia Racing Products with a 7.901, leading five other drivers that recorded 7.90s. In Classic Graphix Top Jr. Dragster presented by Philadelphia Racing Products, which qualifies off of reaction time, Jason Geryes is the provisional No. 1 qualifier with a .007 reaction time. 


Just a month after winning the $100,000 Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod, Derek Ward added another achievement to his 2024 scorecard by setting a new Pro Boost national E.T. record in his screw-blown ’68 Firebird. Racing against 2023 WSOPM champion Spencer Hyde in a special grudge race at the end of the final qualifying session, Ward charged to a 3.555 at 211.76 to win the grudge match, set the record, and take the No. 1 qualifier award over a field that saw eight other drivers dip into the 3.50s. 

“It’s incredible,” said Ward, who backed up the record with his 3.587 in the second session. “We’ve got a race car right now, and I’ve got to give props to G-Force Race Cars and Resolution Racing Services – Jon and Jim [Salemi] – and MSR [Mike Stawicki Racing] for the motors. They’ve got a killer package. It’s one of the best cars out here. It runs great out the back. It’s just a very powerful car we have right now. I knew if it goes down, we were gonna put up a number. I wasn’t expecting a .55.”

Running the record and finishing ahead of Hyde in the grudge race added an exclamation point to the statement Ward and his team made at the WSOPM. The 2023 NEOPMA champion is determined to make more statements this season, including getting his first Pro Boost win. 

“We just won this year’s [WSOPM] championship, and to beat last year’s champion, we definitely have a good car, and we’re here to stay to hopefully win some more races,” Ward said. “We’ll take it day by day, but it’s racing. Anything can happen, that’s for sure.”

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Two-time world champion Todd Tutterow, who’s returning to the driver’s seat after a one-year hiatus, drove car owner Justin Smith’s screw-blown QuikFuel ’69 Camaro to a 3.584 at 212.06 to qualify No. 2. Hyde, who laid down a 3.586 at 212.13 alongside Ward, qualified third in his screw-blown “Jack & The Green Stock” ’69 Camaro. 

Tutterow’s teammate, Kurt Steding, just missed the top three with his 3.586 at 210.05 in his screw-blown P2 Contracting ’69 Camaro, but it was quick enough to get the Boost Wars engine builder challenge win for Team WYO Motorsports over Melanie Salemi, who had to lift to a 3.786. 


The final pair of Pro Nitrous qualifying featured the quickest side-by-side pass in class history, as four-time world champion and national E.T. record holder Jim Halsey ran a 3.608 at 208.84 alongside three-time and defending world champion Tommy Franklin’s 3.615 at 206.42. Halsey’s pass in his new Brandon Switzer-tuned, Fulton-powered ’68 Camaro was quicker than his four-year-old series E.T. record of 3.613 seconds, giving him the opportunity to leave with a new record if he can back it up by running within 1% of the 3.608 in eliminations. 

“The new car showed in testing and at Bradenton that it was going to be pretty good,” Halsey said. “We just need to figure it out all the way. We had probably 800 runs on the other car and we may have 10 or 12 on this one. So, it will take a while, but it’s going to be a good car.”

A similarly quick pass in Thursday testing gave Switzer and Halsey the data they needed to throw down a monster run in the final qualifying session. 

“We thought we could repeat that,” Halsey said of his strong pass in testing. “That’s pretty much what we tried to do. I think we were like two thou at the 330 within that. We were not really standing on it hard, but we weren’t taking it easy either.”

Franklin, who left the starting line first and picked up the Nitrous Wars engine builder challenge win for Team Pat Musi Racing Engines, qualified second with his 3.615 in his “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro. Fredy Scriba, who brought out a brand-new, Musi-powered ’69 Camaro, qualified third with a 3.655 at 206.29. 


When the weather conditions for the East Coast Nationals appeared to be conducive to running the first official 3-second pass in Extreme Pro Stock competition, JR Carr got the call from crew chief Frank Gugliotta and new driver Bo Butner to drive the ’20 Camaro that he previously drove and sold to Elite Motorsports. Though that elusive number didn’t pop up on the scoreboard, Carr was the closest in the class with his 4.029 at 180.07 in the Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage entry. 

“This is really special,” said Carr, who thanked team owner Richard Freeman, Bo and Randi Lyn Butner, Gugliotta, and the team. “We struggled a little bit getting there, but it’s a testament to Frank again. He’s been working like always – working on power, working on the cars. Bo and Randi Lyn have been out here and they’re doing awesome. We’re just kind of a part of the deal a little bit – more support, so to speak.”

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Carr will still have the opportunity to chase a 3-second time slip during Saturday eliminations. 

“Who knows what tomorrow brings?” Carr said. “We’re just having a good time and we’re trying to run fast. Frank’s goal is the record. Mine is to win the race. Hopefully the weather helps us get there, but we have to try to win the race.”

Past world champions Steven Boone and John Montecalvo qualified second and third behind Carr. Boone in his Allen-powered Boone Motorsports ’07 Cobalt posted a 4.041 at 179.49, and Montecalvo wasn’t far behind with a 4.042 at 179.78 in his Kaase-powered ’21 Mustang. 

Dillon Voss won the first Horsepower Wars engine builder challenge of the season for Team Voss Racing Engines on the strength of a holeshot advantage and a 4.059 at 178.59 over past world champion Chris Powers and his 4.056 at 178.12 representing Team Sonny’s Racing Engines. 

PRO 632

Three rising stars in Pro 632 went to the top of the qualifying order to start the season. Amber Franklin, the 2022 world champion, fired off a 4.126 at 171.53 in her Musi-powered “OG Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro in the final session to maintain the No. 1 spot that she held since the first session. She steadily improved in each session, boosting the second-generation PDRA champion’s confidence going into eliminations. 

“We have a lot of confidence going into the first race,” said Franklin, who thanked her crew, parents Tommy and Judy, Red Line Oil, Pat Musi Racing Engines, and tuner Jeff Pierce. “That’s a good way to start the year. We’ve always been confident that we’ve got a good car, but going in and making runs like that really proves my team and proves what we’ve got to show for everybody.”

Newcomer Carson Perry made a statement with his 4.15 at 169.21 in his ’69 Camaro to qualify second. Doug Nicholl, who finished second in last year’s championship chase, drove his Musi-powered ’68 Camaro to a 4.165 at 168.83 for the No. 3 spot. 


Two-time and reigning Pro Extreme Motorcycle world champion Chris Garner-Jones had an eventful day of qualifying aboard his T.T. Jones Racing ‘18 Hayabusa, but it ended in another No. 1 qualifying award for the second-generation rider. Garner-Jones injured a toe when he had to use his foot to control his motorcycle on his first qualifying attempt, then bounced back with a 3.988 at 178.17 to take the top spot in the second session. He sat out the chilly final qualifying session. 

“I feel pretty good going into race day,” said Garner-Jones, who thanked Red Line Motorsports Media, tuner and brother William Garner-Jones, and the PDRA. “Of course, we want to come out and set a good tone. They say you’re only as good as your last pass. Well, my last pass wasn’t that good last year. I kind of bogged it off the line, and then the first pass this year was terrible – messed my toe up. But I think we redeemed ourselves on the 3.98 and the No. 1 qualified spot.”

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Past winner Brad McCoy, who has focused on tuning for the last few seasons, qualified No. 2 with a 4.035 at 174.35 on his McCoy Motorsports ’21 Hayabusa. Multi-time winner Ashley Owens used a 4.054 at 175.09 on one of two McKinney Motorsports Hayabusas to round out the top three. 


Outlaw 10.5 veteran Ron Green’s offseason efforts to step up his ProCharged 2000 Firebird paid off with his first Pro Street No. 1 qualifier award. He set the tone in the first session with his 3.894 at 200.92, which was almost a tenth quicker than the No. 2 qualifier’s performance. While Green’s attempts to lower the E.T. record in the next two sessions didn’t pan out, no one went quick enough to unseat him as the No. 1 qualifier. 

“From leaving the World Series [of Pro Mod], we had a hot rod there, but it started wheelieing on us, so we had to do some adjustments,” Green said. “We went testing and tried to work with that. We figured it out somewhat and we ran good and we came here and said we’re gonna try it here. My son [Ronnie Green Jr.] is behind the keyboard. We made it happen. We didn’t test the last couple of days because he wasn’t here, but when he came in this morning, we went out and made a lick and it was good.”

Former Top Dragster racer Dan Norris, who’s making his Pro Street debut, stepped up to a 3.936 at 185.31 in his roots-blown ’22 Mustang in the final session to jump up to the No. 2 spot. His teammate, reigning world champion Bill Riddle, took the No. 3 position with a 3.941 at 191.10 in his roots-blown Corrigan Race Fuels ’89 Camaro. 


Derek Mota, last year’s championship runner-up in Super Street, put the class back on notice when he threw down a 4.645 at 164.91 in the final qualifying session to take over the No. 1 spot in his turbocharged ’93 Mustang. The Massachusetts driver went into the session qualified third behind No. 1 qualifier Dan Whetstine and defending world champion Blake Denton. 

“It’s unbelievable, man,” said Mota, who thanked partners like East Point Recovery Centers, Harts Turbos, and DiSomma Racing Engines. “We took a long offseason. We changed whole combos, new suspension stuff, and tried new turbos today. We had a little struggle this morning. It was running good, but just wasn’t what we were looking for, so we went back to our original 85 and it’s back now. My whole team just thrashed and Jamie [Miller] is on the computer doing his thing. This is where we want to be. Had a little struggle at the beginning, but now we’re on a good path.”

Whetstine slid into the No. 2 spot in his ProCharged ’90 Mustang with a 4.669 at 158.37. Denton in his nitrous-fed ’76 Camaro qualified third with a 4.672 at 155.56. 


Past world champion Tim Molnar went to the No. 1 spot in Elite Top Sportsman with a 3.726 at 200.68 in his nitrous-fed ’68 Camaro. Bryan LaFlam qualified second with a 3.739 at 196.93 in his supercharged LaFlam Motorsports ’67 Mustang. Glenn Butcher also dipped into the 3.70s with his 3.778 at 195.14 in his nitrous-fed ’69 Camaro to round out the top three. The Elite Top Sportsman field made series history, as it was the first time all 16 drivers ran quicker than 3.90 seconds. Jeff Simons and his 3.886 took the No. 16 spot. 

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Thomas Brown edged out Tim Lawrence by speed to take the No. 1 spot in Top Sportsman, as both drivers recorded 3.942-second efforts. Brown’s 188.10 MPH in his nitrous-assisted ’12 Camaro put him on top over Lawrence’s 184.50. 


A trio of supercharged dragsters secured the top three positions in Elite Top Dragster after three qualifying sessions. Missouri’s KC Ingram laid down a 3.683 at 204.70 in his ’20 Miller dragster to qualify No. 1, holding off Frank Falter IV’s 3.703 at 202.61 in his “Candy Man” ’22 Miller dragster and Kyle Harris’ 3.72 at 194.77 in his Ontario, Canada-based ’15 Horton dragster. 

Danielle Gonzalez missed the quick Elite field, but her 3.849 at 188.60 in her ’23 American dragster put the Wallingford, Connecticut-based driver in the No. 1 spot in Top Dragster. 

The East Coast Nationals will continue Saturday morning starting with Jr. Dragster final qualifying at 9 a.m. Pre-race ceremonies and pro eliminations will begin at 2 p.m. 

Saturday tickets are available for $30. Kids 5 and under get in free, while discounted Junior tickets are also available. Tickets can be purchased at or at the gate. 

The race will be streamed live on for fans who can’t attend in-person.

This story was originally published on April 6, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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