2018 PDRA FALLNATIONALS - DARLINGTON NOTEBOOK
FINAL NOTEBOOK - FIRST TIME WINNER HIGHLIGHTS WINNER'S CIRCLE
NO TIME LIKE THE FIRST TIME - The odds were stacked against Danny Sauro and his Tischer Acura Nissan-backed ’69 Camaro going into the Pro Nitrous final round against defending world champion Tommy Franklin. Sauro was strong in prior rounds, but Franklin had fired off low elapsed time of every round, including a near-record 3.659 in the semifinals. Sauro and tuner Justin Elkes stepped up in a big way, though, loading up a 3.652 at 204.17 to reset the ET national record and defeat Franklin’s 4.001 at 192.80 in the all-Musi final.
“It’s just been a great weekend,” Sauro said. “This is my second year in Pro Nitrous, and Justin Elkes and Modern Racing are the reason why I’m here. Justin said we were gonna go after it in the final, and I believed him. Whatever he says, we usually accomplish. As soon as I let go of the button, I said, ‘there’s something here, there’s something here.’ When it picked up the front wheels mid-track, I knew it would be fast. The faster the car goes, the smoother it is – the car just felt wonderful.”
Sauro became the fifth different Pro Nitrous winner in six contested races this season, and the second first-time winner on the year. He first moved past Edward Wilson and John Camp before running 3.682 next to a red-lighting Jay Cox in the semifinals. Franklin in his “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro advanced to his second consecutive final round after defeating John Hall, No. 1 qualifier Lizzy Musi and Todd Fontana.
FINALLY! - Winless in Pro Extreme Motorcycle since late 2016, Brunson Grothus was eager to fight through an ultra-competitive field of motorcycles to earn the Fall Nationals victory. His 4.016 at 175.99 on his Indocil Art ’15 Suzuki defeated first-time finalist Spencer Allen’s 4.082 at 174.55.
“I feel very fortunate,” Grothus said. “Everything fell our way. I had three really tight races – a .024 stripe, .028 stripe, and a .046 stripe. We absolutely could’ve ended up on the other side of those races. With the way everyone was running this weekend – world records and career-bests – I’m very fortunate to be the last one standing.”
No. 1 qualifier Terry Schweigert backed up his record-setting 3.914 at 184.58 from Friday night with his second-round pass of 3.942 at 181.09 aboard a new turbocharged entry, though the Canadian dairy farmer left the starting line too soon.
Grothus qualified No. 2 with a career-best 3.998 and raced past points leader Ronnie “Pro Mod” Smith and defending world champion Travis Davis before taking advantage of a semifinal bye run. Allen rode his Lamination Station Racing Suzuki to round wins over Ricardo Knights, Chris Garner-Jones and Ehren Litten.
THIRD -GEN ENSSLIN WINS - Third-generation drag racer Jordan Ensslin has been improving his performance in Pro Outlaw 632 at every stop on the PDRA tour. The Lakeland, Florida-based driver was incredibly consistent throughout Saturday eliminations at the Fall Nationals, posting a 4.26 and three consecutive 4.25s, including a 4.257 at 167.60 over Daryl Hameetman’s 4.291 at 165.50 in the final round.
“Ken Kershaw and I went up to the PRI Show a couple years ago to get this Outlaw 632 class involved with the PDRA, and my dad (Jeff) and I have been chasing one of these 660 Men since then,” Ensslin said. “We finally got one. It’s satisfying for me to not only win the event, but to know that I’m bringing smiles to the faces of everyone who’s supported me along the way. It’s so surreal to be in this position.”
Ensslin and the Ensslin Racing/Team Edmunds ’02 Trans Am raced out of the No. 4 slot and took down Robert Sellers, Mike Murphy and points leader Johnny Pluchino. Hameetman in his 5 Day Plantation Shutters ’67 Mustang raced past Matt Buck, Jr. Ward and defending world champion Dillon Voss before the final round.
SILANCE WINS TOP DRAGSTER - Chaz Silance added a second 660 Man to his 2018 collection with his Elite Top Dragster final-round victory over Tom Martino, who won the PDRA Drag Wars last month. Both drivers encountered trouble after leaving the starting line, but it was Silance’s 4.012 on a 3.83 dial-in getting the win over Martino’s 4.262 on a 4.06 dial. Silance’s Buck-powered, supercharged dragster previously defeated Josh Duggins, Lindsey Barker and Nick Hamilton.
JUNIOR WINNER - Appearing in her second final in just three races, Kannapolis, North Carolina’s Angela Gantkowski notched her second Top Dragster 32 win using a 4.424 on a 4.42 dial-in over William Brown III and his 4.634 on 4.64 dial-in.
FIRST-TIMER - In Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster, Cameryn Hawkins earned her first PDRA victory when she won on a double breakout over Nicole Zuccarelli, with Hawkins’ 7.89 beating Zuccarelli’s 7.86. Zach Shirkey picked up the win in Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster, running 8.969 on an 8.96 dial-in over Brooke Miller’s 7.995 on a 7.94 dial-in.
THE BACKET BASH - The Edelbrock Bracket Bash win went to Noah Johnson, whose .003 reaction time and 4.76 on a 4.73 dial-in defeated Mike Reavis and his 4.953 on a 4.95 dial-in.
UP NEXT - The 2018 PDRA Tour will conclude in two weeks at the PDRA World Finals, Oct. 18-21, at Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, Va.
QUALIFYING NOTEBOOK - MUSI LAYS ONE DOWN ON THE BOYS TO LEAD PRO NITROUS
THAT GIRL IS ON FIRE - Lizzy Musi earned her first No. 1 spot of the year in a big way, shooting to the top of an ultra-quick top-half of the Pro Nitrous field with a 3.677 at 207.28. It wasn’t only her best pass in the new Frank Brandao-owned “King Kong 7” Dodge Dart, it was also the fastest pass in Pro Nitrous history, beating out Musi’s own record of 206.54 set at GALOT Motorsports Park last fall. The new car, debuted at the Firecracker Nationals in July, is now showing signs of brilliance like its predecessor that carried Musi to back-to-back victories to close the 2017 season.
“We made a decision to stick with the new car and not flip-flop back and forth,” said Pat Musi, Lizzy’s father, crew chief and engine builder. “I’ve learned a lot – I’ve been racing a lot – and you learn a lot. Lizzy’s driving has come around the last couple years, and she’s really proving herself. I think we have everything coming together, we just have to stay on this path. I know it sounds crazy, but we have to pick up a little.”
Musi earned a first-round bye run, then will face the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup featuring defending world champion Tommy Franklin and John Hall. Danny Sauro recorded a career-best 3.686 at 203.71 in his Musi-powered Tischer Acura Nissan ’69 Camaro to qualify a career-best No. 2 behind Jay Cox and his 3.693 at 202.98 in the Buck-powered “Pumpkin” ’69 Camaro.
DEFLORIAN DOMINATES AGAIN - Now a three-time No. 1 qualifier this season, John DeFlorian wheeled his Amsoil ’14 Camaro to a 4.074 at 178.29 to lead the 15-car Extreme Pro Stock field into Saturday eliminations. He set the mark during the opening qualifying session. DeFlorian, the shop foreman for Jerry Haas Race Cars, was seen assisting points leader John Pluchino with his damaged car after impacting the right-side retaining wall in the third session.
Pluchino, who is chasing another world championship to go along with his 2016 title, was uninjured when his ’16 Mustang hit the wall in the right lane. Pluchino’s son and crew chief, Johnny, said the damage was enough to take them out of competition this weekend and possibly the World Finals in two weeks.
DeFlorian will start eliminations with a bye run. Maryland winner Steven Boone is the No. 2 qualifier in his Boone Motorsports Chevrolet with a 4.0852 at 176.19. Jeff Dobbins, the most recent winner on tour, qualified third in his Bears Performance/Curacao Dodge Avenger with a 4.0853 at 178.01.
THIRD TIME THE CHARM - Canadian dairy farmer Terry Schweigert topped the final qualifying order in Pro Extreme Motorcycle for the third time this season, though for the first time, he did it aboard a turbocharged entry. Riding a new motorcycle owned by Kevin Clark and tuned by Andy Sawyer, Dan Wagner and Steve Nichols, Schweigert rocketed to a 3.914 at 184.58 to set up two potential new records.
“That’s exactly what we were looking for on that run,” said Schweigert, whose Q1 pass of 3.968 at 181.60 was also quicker and faster than the existing record. “I was expecting it to run fast because the bike does what (the tuners) say it will do every time, and they said it should run a 3.91 or .92. I knew it was going to take off. It just pulled the whole way through, and I was really planted in the seat.”
Schweigert will take on fellow PXM veteran T.T. Jones in the first round Saturday afternoon. Brunson Grothus on his indocil Art-backed Suzuki qualified No. 2 with a 3.998 at 177.51, followed by Spencer Allen with a career-best 4.047 at 175.23 to earn his best final qualifying position.
ALBERT IS THE TOP SPORTSMAN - Engine builder Billy Albert went quicker than his own PDRA Top Sportsman record, posting a 3.764 at 199.56 in Stan Nance’s Structural Mechanical ’17 Camaro. John Benoit’s run of 3.81 at 200.62 challenges the speed record currently held by NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle star Matt Smith. Jordan Wood sits No. 3 in his Virginia-based Mustang with a 3.92 at 190.76.
CREASMAN LEADS THE DRAGSTERS - Jeremy Creasman charged to the provisional No. 1 spot in Elite Top Dragster with his 3.724 at 193.05 in his ProCharger-boosted dragster giving him a sizable lead over Kyle Harris in his supercharged altered with a 3.809 at 192.23. Lindsey Barker rounds out the top 3 with her 3.841 at 187.81.
ON TAP - The PDRA Fall Nationals at Darlington Dragway will continue Saturday morning with sportsman final qualifying at 9:30 a.m. Professional eliminations begin at 2 p.m.
FRIDAY QUALIFYING - q2