He's won three IHRA Alcohol Funny Car championships, two Arabian Drag Racing League season titles, the 2010 NHRA Pro Mod championship and even the U.S. Nationals in 2008, but until this weekend Von Smith had never won an American Drag Racing League (ADRL) event. That changed June 9, at Virginia Motorsports Park, near Richmond, where Smith drove his Al-Anabi Racing '69 Camaro to the Pro Extreme win for the ADRL Simply Phones U.S. Drags VI.
"I don't want to sound like bragging, but I've won at just about everything Howard (Moon, crew chief) and I have tried, but I was starting to wonder if it was ever going to happen over here," Smith admitted after making his quickest and fastest run of the event at 3.639 seconds and 210.08 mph to beat Joey Martin, who ran into severe tire shake with his '55 "LowMad" before coasting to a 6.543-seconds finish at just 77.16 mph in the final round.
Smith's ET and speed in the final were the best of each for the class throughout eliminations.
"The car left with the wheels up and carried them a long way out there," he recalled. "It was a pretty cool ride.
"I obviously have to thank Howard and all my guys for getting me here, but also (team owner) Sheikh Khalid for sticking with us," Smith added. "He calls me in the mornings, usually wakes me up, and he's never wavered in his support, always saying we could do it and that's meant an awful lot to me."
Smith didn't make it down the track under power in the opening round of qualifying on Saturday (June 8), but settled into the number-six slot with a 3.693 at 208.30 in the second and final session. A third scheduled round for the entire event field was scrapped due to a lengthy delay for track drying and grooming after a brief but heavy rain storm blew through early in the day.
"I feel a lot more confident in the direction we went in here," Moon said. "The first run we made I had my old stuff in it and we smoked the tires, so I changed something and it turned right back around."
In round one of racing, Smith ran 3.686 at 208.84 to outdistance a solid 3.746 run at exactly 198 mph by Gene Hector and his "Small Block Mafia" '63 Corvette. Round two saw Smith cut an excellent .013 light against defending class champ Mick Snyder before leading stripe-to-stripe with a 3.694 at 208.62 against Snyder's 3.701 at 206.10 in his Powersource Transportation '63 Vette.
That sent Smith to the semis, where he strapped a .040 holeshot on number-one qualifier and Al-Anabi teammate Alex Hossler that translated to a .024 margin of victory an eighth-of-a-mile later as Smith's 3.693 at 209.07 beat Hossler's quicker 3.677 at 206.61-mph pass.
"I was waiting for the track to cool down because during the day it was touchy out there," Moon said. "We were fortunate that Von cut a light on Alex because it spun the tires pretty hard. I had told Von that we were just going to race the track and it went another .69 there, but I'm very glad that we had lane choice for the final so we could go back to the other side (right lane)."
Martin never made a good pass in both qualifying attempts and started 13th of 14 entries. He came alive in eliminations, however, running 3.725 at 205.19 in a first-round clash with number-two qualifier Jason Scruggs, who was on and off the throttle on his way to a losing 3.955 effort at 197.13 mph. Martin next took down a traction-challenged Neal Wantye with a 3.731 at 204.70 in round two before improving to 3.716 at 205.32 in the semis against third-place qualifier Tommy D'Aprile, who suffered tire shake early in the run.
"It was a pretty uneventful week, which I guess was good for us," Smith said shortly after climbing from his car at the top end of the track. "We normally struggle a little at first, which we did, but once we got the car sorted out it was on a string and it stayed that way all weekend long. Man, I'm tickled pink; this is awesome to finally get a win here. It's been a long time coming."
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