2018 PDRA EAST COAST NATIONALS - EVENT NOTEBOOK
ELIMINATIONS NOTEBOOK -
A WIN IS A WIN – BUT AGAINST TWO OTHER CARS? – Terry Leggett was all smiles as the Pro Extreme trophy sat on his Ford after he beat Jason Scruggs in the final round. But even Leggett wasn't thrilled by beating the only two other cars in the field.
Leggett was actually the slowest qualifier in the three-car field but beat Adam Flamholc and then Scruggs to secure the win.
"Any time you win at GALOT, it's good," the North Carolina native Leggett said. "We're really, really disappointed there ain't a bunch of cars here. … We really hope the car numbers pick up. From what we're hearing ,I think it's going to be quite a bit better at the next race. We really hope so.
"For me and (tuner) Terry (Coyle) and other people, we think it's the coolest class there is out here, you know what I'm saying? That's us, because we race it, maybe. I don't know."
Bryant Industrial Crane and Rigging joined the class as title sponsor, with Pro Line Racing as the presenting sponsor.
"I know people have put money it," Leggett said. "We got up the sponsors they said they needed to keep the class. Maybe they need to do better to get cars, I don't know. I don't know what the problem is. I've begged and pleaded and tried to get people about all I can."
THAT’S THE WAY THE BALL BOUNCES - Tommy D'Aprile had one of the quickest – if not THE quickest – Pro Boost cars at GALOT Motorsports Park for the opening round of the PDRA season, the East Coast Spring Nationals.
But a not so funny thing happened en route to a final-round appearance and a possible victory. Something broke in the transmission while D'Aprile, the No. 1 qualifier, was pulling away from semifinal opponent Chuck Ulsch. As D'Aprile slowed to a 3.835-second pass at 172.21 mph, Ulsch inched ahead and won with a 3.704 at 198.41 mph run.
"It was probably going to run .67, right around there, so it was a good run, good weekend," D'Aprile said. "It was a really good weekend. Just unfortunate we had a little parts breakage, but I look at it as fortunate for those guys. You've got to be happy for them, you know you do. Good guys, Chuck and all those guys."
D'Aprile won the Pro Boost race in Bradenton, Fla., as part of the U.S. Street Nationals in January with this car, a former Pro Extreme vehicle that Al Billes purchased.
"Great team," D'Aprile said. "These guys work so well. We are so comfortable together. I can't say I'm not disappointed, I'm just not discouraged at all."
D'Aprile earned the No. 1 with a pass of 3.678 seconds at 201.13 mph and made another great pass in the second-round win over Jay Santos, 3.683 at 202.03 mph. He was ready for Ulsch in the semis with an .022-second reaction time, and the car was there, too. Well, almost.
"We left together: we were within one-thou on the Tree," D'Aprile said. "I could feel it, I could see his car going back. We were pulling away, and it felt great. Something let go. I heard the engine start to race, and the car wasn't going. Then it kinda sputtered a couple times, and one of my guys said they saw sparks come out the back end.
"Hey, it's in one piece, everybody's good, we're healthy, we're happy, God's good, and I'm blessed. On to the next one. A little bit of adversity, but you know what, it's great because when you overcome that adversity, it's sweet."
DEFLORIAN WAS DEFLYING – Extreme Pro Stock driver John DeFlorian got as close to the historic three-second barrier as anyone, winning his first-round match with Steven Boone. His run of 4.014 seconds at 180.72 mph was the best the Missourian had ever run.
DeFlorian tried to step up in the second round, but it didn't quite work out, as he fell to eventual race winner Elijah Morton.
"I'm not going to lie: We were shooting for the threes," DeFlorian said. "Any Pro Stock guy who tells you they weren't, they're crazy, they're full of it. They were shooting for it. We were, straight up. That run (in E2), we wanted to run at least a flat to back up the 4.01, but we really wanted to go .999.
"I went up a little earlier and looked at the track, and at that point decided the right lane was a little bit better. Unfortunately, in about a 45-minute period of time, the lane really went away and deteriorated. We shot ourselves in the foot because we didn't catch it, and we took the right lane; we should've taken the left. If we'd have taken the left, it wouldn't been a little different story."
The tires rattled in low gear, so DeFlorian put it in second to try to smooth it out and make it to the finish line. But Morton's 4.055 at 177.44 mph run knocked out DeFlorian's 4.129 at 172.23 mph.
DeFlorian, though, could take plenty of solace from his 4.014.
"We struggled a little bit early in testing and qualifying," DeFlorian said. "We discovered our issue (with tires), and we were able to correct that. We got that straightened out, but what that did was put us behind two runs from where we needed to be.
"But we made some big strides in both of the other qualifying sessions and got us in the show. That was the main thing so we would be prepared for (race day).
"We had a good plan for today, we really did. That run (in the first round) was a really, really good run. It was a career-best in both speed and ET for me. We were the first car to go over 180 mph a few years ago, so that 180.72 was pretty impressive, and we were really happy with that."
Asked if he thought Morton or Chris Powers could run under four second in the final, DeFlorian said, "I hope not, to be totally honest with you. I can't lie about it."
They didn't, so DeFlorian still has a chance to be the first Pro Stock driver in the three-second range.
"Overall, very happy with the weekend," DeFlorian said. "We made big strides over where we've been for quite awhile. We're really pleased with that, and I'm looking forward to Budds Creek. It could be really interesting there as well."
THE SHOCKS HEARD 'ROUND THE WORLD – Precision Racing Suspension's Adam Lambert had shock absorbers on 70 cars at GALOT this weekend, but those big numbers are nothing new for the company. Lambert has shocks on nearly 500 race cars all across the world, including Australia, Sweden, Germany, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar, and, of course, the United States.
"Honestly, any country where there's a drag strip, we have customers," Lambert said.
For the PDRA opener, PRS was on 91 percent of the qualifiers in Pro Extreme, Pro Nitrous, Pro Boost at Pro Stock. PRS had the entire Pro Stock field, with shocks on all 11 cars.
So, yeah, Lambert was busy this weekend.
"It was pretty damn steady," Lambert said. "Someone would text or call and say, 'Can you swing by and look at a graph?' On my way down, I'd get called by another customer. I can't turn my back on them. It was definitely busy. Without my brother Andy being along to help, I wouldn't be able to do it on my own. It's gotten to that point with PDRA being so busy that I have to have help."
PRS had a few customers in PDRA until Lambert began working with Tommy Franklin and Lizzy Musi. With the speed shown by Franklin and Musi, his business took off in the series.
"We had other customers beside Tommy, but no customers who went out there and really kicked everybody's ass," Lambert said. "The first big breakthrough was when we got Tommy. … When people see that No. 1 on the car, that's what they want."
Lambert's work starts by selling shocks to teams, but it's more than that.
"A lot of new customers think, 'You have the fastest cars. Just send me the shocks they have,'" Lambert said. "But there's so much more to it. You don't just bolt the shocks on and run low ET and world record. You have to have the whole package: from the motor combination to tire and wheel setup to four-link There's so much more to it. We really focus on suspension and then chassis consulting and tuning."
It's clear that Lambert's work has been successful, and his association with the PDRA seems to be mutually beneficial.
"The PDRA, in my opinion, is for the suspension or parts side of it, the best bang for the buck," Lambert said. "It's affordable, and they want companies there to support the racers. They're not worried about the huge buy-in number to get on the midway. They just want people there so their racers have support. That's why I emphasize so much on PDRA. When we need something, it gets done. We're always working with their officials, their teams."
EXTREME UPSETS – So you think you have to qualify in the top half of the field to win? Well, check out the first round of eliminations in Extreme Pro Stock: Exactly ZERO of the higher-qualified cars advanced to the second round.
J.R. Carr, the No. 5 qualifier, started the party with a win over No. 4 Scott Benham. Then, No. 6 DeFlorian beat No. 3 Steven Boone with a terrific 4.014-second pass.
No. 7 qualifier Morton then knocked off No. 2 John Pluchino when Pluchino went red. The upsets climaxed with the final pair, when No. 8 Powers ran 4.057 at 177.44 mph to beat a slowing Jeff Dobbins – the No. 1 qualifier.
ALSO TAKING HOME TITLES - Johnny Pluchino, the son of 2016 Extreme Pro Stock world champion John Pluchino, used everything he learned from his father about naturally aspirated, clutch-equipped race cars to score the Pro Outlaw 632 win over Matthew Buck. Pluchino’s ’06 Ford Escort left the line first alongside Buck in Ken Kershaw’s Chassis Engineering-built ’15 Camaro, then Pluchino’s scoreboard lit up first with a 4.265 at 167.68 over Buck’s 4.281 at 165.42.
“We really have to thank (engine builder) Jon Kaase,” Pluchino said. “We got this motor probably 2-3 weeks ago. My dad and I spent nights nonstop putting this thing together, but it’s a bad piece. We’re out here running with these nitrous guys and we’re showing ‘em how to do it.”
In the Outlaw 10.5 division, John Carinci’s striking blue ’04 Corvette quietly reached the semifinals after escaping the first two rounds without an opponent in the other lane, though he popped off a 4.05 and 4.06 in the process. The Canadian driver turned up the wick on his turbocharged entry for the semifinal as he recorded a 3.957 at 200.68 over Joe Newsham’s 4.347 at 136.52. Carinci was unopposed again in the final round when low qualifier Phil Sliskovic’s Camaro left early. Carinci streaked to a 3.965 at 200.38 to take the win.
In Elite Top Sportsman, Donny Urban parked his ’06 Chevy Cobalt in the winner’s circle after running a 4.208 on a 4.15 dial-in, while opponent Derrick Brown left the starting line before the tree activated. John Prime earned the Top Sportsman 32 victory over Huston Dial.
Top Dragster standout Kevin Brannon drove his brand-new ProCharged ’18 Maddox dragster to a 3.785 on a 3.81 dial over Denver Maltba’s 3.808 on a 3.84 dial-in in a double breakout Elite Top Dragster final round. Josh Duggins was the winner in Top Dragster 32, scoring over Greg Slack in the final round.
The next stop on the 2018 PDRA Tour is the PDRA North-South Shootout at Maryland International Raceway, May 3-5.
QUALIFYING NOTEBOOK - PDRA KICKS OFF A NEW SEASON WITH FAMILIAR FACES ATOP THE QUALIFYING LIST
WELCOME BACK - Welcome back, Jason Scruggs. And welcome to the sandtrap.
Scruggs returned to the driver's seat of his Pro Extreme Camaro for the season-opening PDRA East Coast Nationals at GALOT Motorsports Park after an eight-month absence. But after a blistering run in the second qualifying session Friday, Scruggs put it in the sand at top end.
"It's cool to be back when stuff's going right," Scruggs said. "That kind of sucked. I've been racing for 20-something years, and that's the first time I ever run into the sandtrap."
Scruggs had just made a pass of 3.521 seconds at 219.83 mph to go to the No. 1 spot, but only one parachute came out after the finish line. And almost before Scruggs knew it, he was in the sand.
"One of the chutes came out, and the other one didn't," Scruggs said. "It's a little short here for what we're used to, and by the time I realized I was going faster than I thought, I was running out of room. I started really trying to stop, and I waited too late, basically."
The front end had some cosmetic damage, and there was plenty of sand and pebbles to be cleared out of the car. But otherwise, the car was fine. Scruggs skipped Q3 on Friday night, but he should be ready to go when racing resumes.
"It hurt the front end," Scruggs said. "All it did was hit the sand, but the sand hurt the front end. If we weren't qualified, we might could get it together. We're just taking our time, cleaning it up good. We'll try to race whenever, whether it's tomorrow or Sunday."
Scruggs stayed No. 1 in the three-car Pro Extreme field but figures there's more in the car.
"Really, we should've been in the .40s," Scruggs said. "I'm a little disappointed, truthfully, with our performance. We've had a lot of bad breaks and haven't had anything go our way, really. The reverser broke (Thursday) in testing – that was the best conditions, and we never got to back up from the burnout.
"We've just been behind the 8-ball, seems like. And now this. If we stay around to Sunday, maybe we can get in the .40s."
The driver of the "Mississippi Missile" took a break from racing last August after a couple of years of drudgery. He's back to have some fun.
"It got to be a second job for my family," Scruggs said. "We work so much anyway, and when it gets like that, and you feel like you've got to go, it gets to the point where it's not fun anymore. I did that for a few years, and it was getting worse and worse and worse. We just needed a break."
Scruggs has partnered with Roger Hinson for 2018, and it's a good fit since Hinson doesn't want to race full-time either. Scruggs said he'll race as many PDRA events as his farming will allow, perhaps four or five races. And he might race another event or two somewhere along the way.
"We just decided to go out and have fun when we've got time to do it," Scruggs said. "If we don't we'll stay at the house."
RAIN ISN'T GOING AWAY – Scruggs was unsure of when he'll race again this weekend because PDRA had yet to inform him that Saturday's schedule will be moved to Sunday. It's not a matter of if it will rain at GALOT, but how much rain will the area get. The forecast was for 100 percent chance of rain, with plenty of the wet stuff.
That made for a fairly easy decision to postpone eliminations to Sunday, starting at 9 a.m. Eastern.
"It's looking like heavy rain," PDRA co-owner Tommy Franklin said. "The forecast is bouncing back and forth. One of them said it starts at 6 in the morning, and one said it starts at 10 in the morning. I guess we kinda hope it starts. If we're sitting here with no rain, we're all in trouble.
"Sunday looks clear. It should be a little cooler, but it should be a good race day. We'll try to give the fans everything they want and give them a good show.
BEING NO. 1 IS FAMILIAR TO FRANKLIN – Franklin is the reigning Pro Nitrous champion, and he went to the top in Q1 on Friday.
"We're just trying to start off where we left off," Franklin said. "The car's good and everything. We're trying a little bit new combination, and we're taking some little baby steps to get there. I think we'll be all right."
He slipped to No. 2 after Q2 but made a run of 3.668 seconds at 204.60 mph to go back to the top.
Franklin is driving the same '69 Camaro Pro Mod car with which he won the championship last year, but the team is trying to new stuff internally in the Pat Musi engine. There's no better place, Franklin said, to try some new things.
"This place is beautiful," Franklin said. "It's an awesome place. The race track is always stellar, and the air is good down here and puts up stellar numbers all the time. The competition is stiff out here, for sure."
A new car is on the horizon for Franklin's team.
"We've got a new car coming," Franklin said. "We should get it in the next couple weeks and get some testing. We'll get it out here in the next few races."
A DIZZYING START FOR LIZZY – The PDRA season didn't exactly start the way Pro Nitrous driver Lizzy Musi wanted. Well, until Q3. But we'll get to that in a moment.
Let's let Musi describe the start to the season:
"This weekend has been really rough to start," Musi said. "We planned to test some new stuff, and we thought we could go A to B. We started out with new tires, and we thought. 'Hey, it's the tires.' We tried the next run, and the car just seemed down on power. It didn't just do that on that run; it did it on several others."
The team changed engines, but that was only the first of multiple parts swaps. The team changed ECU boxes, ignition, coil, but the problem still wasn't fixed.
"My dad looked at the computer and figured out some stuff," Musi said. "It actually was a timing issue –it was some little stupid deal. I think we got all that handled now."
Musi felt good about Q2, but that run was aborted almost as soon as it started.
"As soon as I let go of the button, it sounded like it was in high gear," Musi said. "It was the worst sound ever. It sounded like it was stuck in gear or something."
The team checked the, and it went into gear forward and reverse, so Musi and the team were left to scratch their heads. Pat Musi went back to the computer, and they pulled the transmission – and it was in sad shape.
"It literally welded itself together," Musi said. "My dad said it was the worst one he'd ever seen. It looked like it was eating itself away for a while. That was probably another key factor for why the car was performing the way it was."
A new transmission was installed, and Musi jumped to the No. 3 spot with a pass of 3.681 seconds at 204.60 mph – easily her best run of the weekend. Whew.
Musi, though, remained as upbeat as ever, even before the run in Q3.
"Here's the crazy thing: This race, I feel more relaxed than ever," Musi said. "I don't know how. I just feel laid-back. I've learned to just do my thing. When I'm sitting in that seat, the whole world changes."
Her reaction times were "on kill": .017 seconds, .019, .022, .019, .030, .029. Yeah, seems like the problems really bothered her.
"I found my spot on the Tree, and that's been the golden ticket," Musi said. "It was good, and we'll be all right for this race."
CARR'S NEW CAR – J.R. Carr debuted a new 2018 Chevrolet Camaro Extreme Pro Stock this weekend, and it's clear the Jerry Bickel-built car has plenty of potential.
Carr's car (we just couldn't help ourselves) was No. 1 after the first and second qualifying sessions, and he ended up in the No. 5 spot.
"We're behind in laps," Carr said. "We wanted to run the Liberty (transmission), but we don't have any data, so you don't want to show up and not qualify. Qualifying is No. 1. We're making laps and getting better."
Carr used a Lenco Transmission at GALOT but will eventually switch to Liberty. Liberty's Gears is sponsoring the Pro Stock class in PDRA this season.
"Craig Liberty stepped up as the class sponsor, which is phenomenal," Carr said. "Great company, great guy, great family. It's impressive for our class to have that credibility to get that sponsorship. We want to support him and do well for him, but big picture, we have to make smart decisions as far as racing goes.
"The transmission is phenomenal; there's no question about it. We just don't have data to do what we’re doing. These cars are so finicky that it doesn't take much to make the wrong call."
Carr took delivery of the new car on January 15, but an initial test had to be canceled because of weather. A second test lasted a couple passes, and Carr got a couple more at Darlington, S.C. before coming here.
"We don't have a lot of data, but at least we made some A-to-B passes," Carr said. "It's going to be good; there's no question.
"Our plans are to win everywhere we go. But that's everybody's plan. We'll run all the races and do the best job we can every single day."
NEW CLASS, FAMILIAR FACE - Longtime Pro Extreme standout Tommy D’Aprile made the switch to Pro Boost over the winter, teaming up with tuner and car owner Al Billes to field a Roots-blown ’69 Camaro with a Noonan Race Engineering power plant and Billes supercharger. After solid performances at the Florida winter series races, D’Aprile kicked off his PDRA season with a 3.678 at 201.04 in the final session.
“We went to Florida for the first race and ran very well but we had to make some changes,” D’Aprile said. “We came out for the second race and ended up qualifying No. 1 and winning the race. To come here and qualify No. 1 again against a tough class like this, I’m just blown away.”
D’Aprile will race Kurt Steding in a first-round match-up. GALOT Motorsports driver John Strickland is second after running a 3.709 at 201.28 in his blown ’69 Camaro and will race Colby Barber’s turbocharged entry. Carolina doorslammer racing hero Todd “King Tut” Tutterow qualified third with a 3.717 at 201.07 and will face Eric Donovan.
OH CANADA! - Terry Schweigert, a perennial favorite in the PDRA’s two-wheeled class, qualified his Canadian Suzuki atop a strong 16-bike field with a best of 4.029 at 173.67. He faces Ricardo Knights in the opening round.
“This is a good way to start the year, especially with the two turbo bikes out here,” Schweigert said, referencing an offseason rule change to allow turbocharged entries in the class for the first time. “To run that pass at the end of the day feels good. It’s a nice way to end the day and go into eliminations from the top spot.”
Drag bike chassis builder Brunson Grothus rode his Indocil Art ’14 Suzuki to a 4.048 at 173.74 to take the No. 2 spot and take on George Whitaker on Sunday. Ronnie Smith is the No. 3 qualifier with his 4.049 at 171.25 and will face John Davis Jr.
VOSS DOMINATES AGAIN - Defending world champion Dillon Voss in his Voss Racing Engines ’17 Corvette raced to the top spot in Pro Outlaw 632, posting a 4.302 at 165.70 after two sessions. Jeff Ensslin and his unique ’37 Chevy are No. 2 with a 4.323 at 163.59, followed by Matthew Buck’s 4.326 at 163.83 in his ’15 Camaro. Pro Outlaw 632 will get one final qualifying session on Sunday morning before moving into eliminations.
SLISKOVIC TOPS 10.5 - In the first of five Outlaw 10.5 appearances on the 2018 PDRA tour, Phil Sliskovic tops the eight-car field with a striking 3.984 at 189.31 in his Musi-powered ’15 Camaro. Baltimore-based John Decker Jr. is second in his supercharged ’02 Camaro with a 3.995 at 193.82, followed by John Carinci’s 4.00 at 195.90 in third.