The Pro Extreme (PX) class was getting progressively quicker with each passing round of eliminations at the ADRL Memphis Drags III, but in the end it was a tire-rattling solo pass that sealed the victory for two-time world champion Jason Scruggs.
“I don’t know what happened to him (Brandon Pesz),” Scruggs said upon exiting his screw-blown ’63 Corvette after arriving alone at the top end of Memphis International Raceway. “All I know is that he staged—and then I took off.”
Scruggs left with a stellar .008 reaction time, but quickly had to pedal in order to regain traction before posting a winning 3.736-seconds pass at 207.34 mph.
It was, indeed, Pesz who staged in the right lane beside Scruggs for the PX final, but his ’58 Corvette barely moved off the starting line before pitching its blower belt from the pulleys.
“It didn’t break or anything; it just came off,” team owner Todd Martin explained. “We have to take it back to the shop and figure out what that happened because it’s never done anything like that before.”
After four rounds of qualifying, 2010 class champion Frankie Taylor paced the field with a 3.643 at 209.23 mph, the first of six drivers to run in the .60s, including Scruggs in third (3.654) and Pesz in fifth place (3.660).
In round one of racing, 10 of the 16 starters ran 3.60 laps, with Taylor again the quickest of the bunch at 3.621 seconds and 210.11 mph in beating Art McMahan, while Scruggs went 3.639/208.59 in his win over Randell Reid and Pesz put fellow Texan Richard Holt on the trailer with a 3.681 pass at 206.86 mph.
Round two saw another slew of 3.60s, with only Scruggs’ teammate and current points leader Mick Snyder left out (9.345) when the shift timer on his ’63 Corvette malfunctioned while Von Smith advanced with a 3.697/206.42 combination. Remarkably, Taylor, Scruggs and Pesz all ran 3.61 seconds in wins over Bubba Stanton (3.662/208.33), Tim Tindle (3.649/210.08) and Tommy D’Aprile (3.641/207.69), respectively.
“That round was incredible,” Scruggs observed later. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen a round where everybody ran that fast. You had guys losing with ETs that would be track records at most other places.”
Scruggs advanced to the final with a 3.633 run at 209.10 in the semis over the 3.744 at 199.67 by Smith, who nevertheless was encouraged by his best ADRL showing of the year after reaching the final at the season opener in March at Houston.
“We needed this; our morale was down a little after so many tough losses this year,” admitted Smith, who is a past NHRA and Arabian Drag Racing League champion. “My guys work so hard and put so much into this that I’m glad they got to go a few rounds. We all need that little shot of adrenaline sometimes, but really, this team has been a dream since 2008 when (team owner) Khalid (Al-Thani) came along.”
On the opposite side of the ladder, Pesz posted a .031 holeshot that allowed his 3.620 at 207.37 package to get around an impressive 3.600 at 211.20 by Taylor.
“We were going for a .58 and if it would’ve worked, we’d have won. But we had a .917 sixty-foot time; that’s what killed us,” Taylor lamented. “But I can’t complain too much; we’re lucky we were racing at all.
“I have to thank Todd Tutterow for lending us his blower. Tim (Tindle, Taylor’s teammate) broke his blower on the first qualifying pass, so we took the one off my car and put it on his—it was only fair—and then Todd lent us his to use on my car. Does that make sense? Anyway, if it wasn’t for Todd I wouldn’t even have been out there, so big thanks to him for helping us out.”
Scruggs, from Saltillo, MS, considers Memphis International Raceway his “home track” on the ADRL trail and had several friends and family members, including his wife, Alice, and young daughters along with him to enjoy the victory. It was his second Memphis Drags win after he also prevailed in 2009, the last time the ADRL visited before the track was temporarily closed, then reopened this year.
“But it’s the first time I’ve actually won here,” he pointed out in victory lane. “That race got rained out and we finished it up in Martin, Michigan, so this is the first time I’ve actually got to celebrate a win here.”
The win also significantly tightened the points chase for the 2012 Pro Extreme championship as Scruggs left Memphis just one round’s worth of markers behind Snyder.
“Yeah, that’s important, but I also want to say it wouldn’t even have happened if those guys (Snyder and his crew chief/father Larry Snyder) hadn’t come over this morning and helped us figure out our engine,” Scruggs stressed. “We had changed motors last night, but this morning it wouldn’t start and it didn’t even sound right turning over, but Larry, he really helped us out. We’re teammates and today that really showed, so whoever ends up winning this thing we’ll all be happy for each other.”
It was the third win this season for Scruggs and the ninth of his ADRL career, making him now the winningest driver in the class.
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