SATURDAY NOTEBOOK -
THREE IN A ROW - Three races, three wins; Mick Snyder scored an unprecedented third-consecutive Pro Extreme (PX) race title June 22, in the ADRL U.S. Drags V at Virginia Motorsports Park, near Richmond. The class points leader did it from the driver’s seat of his Powersource Transportation ’63 Corvette, too, using a holeshot to defeat first-time finalist Tim Tindle.
“Fortunately, I never saw him,” Snyder said after gaining a .026 advantage on the starting line that translated to a James Bond-like (.007) margin of victory when his 3.665 at 208.23-mph pass held off the quicker and faster 3.646 at 208.59 put together by Tindle in the Taylor Racing 2005 Corvette.
Snyder previously won this year at Reading, PA., and St. Louis, MO.
“We’ve done it three different ways now,” he said. “My dad (Larry) gave me one (win) with some awesome horsepower; we won one on a single and this one I got to do it. A holeshot win is always cool!”
Snyder started his day from the number-two qualifying position behind only teammate Jason Scruggs, who ran an impressive 3.602 at 208.26 to take the top spot into eliminations with his Garret-built ’63 Corvette. A broken quill shaft in Scruggs’ supercharger during the burnout for the first round of eliminations ended his day, however, eliminating any chance of the two titans of the class meeting in the final.
Regardless, Snyder ran a consistent race, going 3.685 at 207.02 to take down Chris Russo in the opener before going 3.655 at 207.75 against Von Smith in round two.
An unfortunate chain of events led to single runs in both PX semi-finals, as Snyder’s scheduled opponent, Danny Lowry, was disqualified by ADRL officials for not waiting for the starting tree to be activated before making his own solo pass in round two. For Tindle, who previously beat John Stanley and Tommy D’Aprile to the eighth-mile stripe, his semi-final match against California’s Jay Diedrich was scuttled when Diedrich’s car refused to go into gear.
A 3.656 pass at 207.75 mph secured lane choice for Snyder over the 3.708 at 205.26 by Tindle.
“It’s very exciting, just crazy,” Snyder said after improving one position from his runner-up result against Scruggs at the Richmond track last year.
“We rattled the tires a little bit and got out of the groove, so it was quite a handful going down the track, moving all over the place, and then the shift light came on but I didn’t have time to shift right then so I had to drag it out a bit, but then I hit it and the win light came on. It was pretty cool,” Snyder said of his final-round ride.
“And then when I saw that .66 on my side and a .64 over there, that made it even cooler!”
TWO IN A ROW - Pro Nitrous racer Doug Riesterer is developing a flair for the dramatic.
Three weeks ago he arrived at the St. Louis ADRL event just in time to make one qualifying pass before going on to earn his first event win in nearly two years. He arrived a little earlier this past weekend to Virginia Motorsports Park for the ADRL U.S. Drags V, but still managed only one qualifying pass under power to get in the race-day show before going on to score his second-straight PN title.
“We had some trouble getting parts before this race, FedEx kind of jerked us around, so we showed up here with no timing belt on the motor, put it on, but missed the first lap. And then it rained and we lost the second one. And then today I popped the intake on the first lap this morning, so it kind of turned into a last-shot deal and I was just happy to get in,” Riesterer explained.
After an on-and-off the throttle pass that even saw him get a little sideways, Riesterer powered his way into the 15th position with a 4.245-seconds run at 178.31 mph, bumping nitrous legend Shannon Jenkins from the 16-car field in the process.
A fortunate 4.532 win over a traction-challenged Jim Laurita followed in round one of racing for Riesterer, but by then he’d found his groove, running 3.849 at 188.62 to beat Robert Patrick Jr. and 3.854 at 192.33 against the surprising number-14 qualifier Jason Harris in the semis.
On the opposite side of the ladder, fourth-place starter Burton Auxier carved his way through John Bartunek with a 3.887 run at 193.77, then took out points leader Rickie Jones with a 3.858 at 194.74 and barely missed out on lane choice for the final with a 3.856 win at 194.13 over Robert Mathis in his best ADRL outing to date.
That set up a rematch of the St. Louis final, with Auxier gunning for revenge with a .028 holeshot followed by his best run of the weekend at 3.824 seconds and 195.08 mph, but Riesterer met the challenge with a near-record 3.750 pass at 195.11 mph to repeat his final-round results.
“I’ll tell you, this car is bad fast,” Riesterer said of his Reher&Morrison 855-equipped ’68 Camaro. “It’s a helluva’ lot of fun. I’m glad we made the trip.
“But this class is so tough; there are so many tough guys out here and Burton is definitely one of the toughest so we knew we had to step up for him,” he continued. “We had John DeCerbo over helping us before the final and you know he’s crazy; he told us he’d pay for whatever we burned up, so I just kind of turned him loose on the jet box and I’m not even sure exactly what he put in it but it worked—and we didn’t even burn anything up!”
THE WINNING BRAND - “Bad Brad” Brand, also known as “Triple B,” pulled double duty June 21-22, driving both his own car in Extreme 10.5 (XTF) and Roger Burgess’ twin-turbocharged ’53 Corvette in the Pro Modified class for the ADRL U.S. Drags V.
He didn’t last long in Pro Mod, falling to Jeff Naiser in round one, but Brand made it all the way to the winner’s circle at Virginia Motorsports Park in spectacular fashion with his twin-turboed, RJ Race Cars-built 2007 Mustang.
“I wish I could’ve had a little more test time with the Vette because I think we could’ve done some more there, but it was kind of a last-minute deal,” Brand explained. “This car, though, since last year has been flawless. We haven’t done anything to the motor; Jon Kaase does the work on it, since Vegas last fall when we set a 10-inch tire record with it. We took it to the ADRL race at Bristol, ran it here and got the win. One for two, that ain’t bad.”
Billy Glidden qualified first in the eight-car XTF field with a career-best 3.859 at 191.70 in his Mickey Thompson-backed, nitrous-huffing 2010 Mustang, but Brand was right behind in second place after a 3.938 at 197.94-mph run. Glidden lost in the first round, however, to the screw-blown ’09 Mustang of Alan Pittman, who after beating a tire-smoking Dan Myers with a 4.046 pass at 192.82 in the semis, would meet Brand in the XTF final.
After dispatching Dennis Sugrue from the opening round of eliminations, Brand earned lane choice for the final with a 3.972 at 197.83 win over Chuck Ulsch and his screw-blown ’68 Camaro. Brand ran low ET in each of three rounds of eliminations.
Pittman, who won the season’s first two races (including at Bristol where he won over Brand in the final), left first with a .031 reaction to Brand’s .075, but his 4.022 at 194.63 was no match for a wheelstanding 3.949-seconds pass at 185.72 mph by the Loganville, GA, driver.
“It got out there and stood up and I had to pedal it again,” Brand said. “It kind of got near the wall, but I felt pretty comfortable it would come down okay so I just stayed in it. It was a good run.”
BLAZING A PATH - Looking more like a nitro Funny Car following a fiery engine explosion, Casey Stemper’s 2011 Suzuki flashed across the finish line at Virginia Motorsports Park trailing a long plume of flames as Stemper scored his second win of the year, with each coming at the expense of championship-contending rival Eric McKinney.
“Eric was running real good all day, so I knew it was going to be a real tough race right from the start,” said Stemper after running the identical 4.034 elapsed time in the final that he qualified number one with ahead of McKinney’s 4.067-seconds effort.
“I was a little ahead when I started seeing flames where my head gasket was starting to fail and I could see Eric was coming up on my left side, but my dad and all the people who were helping us tune had already told me, ‘We don’t care if you burn it to the ground, just win this race,’ so there was no way I was going to let off.”
The fire was out by the time Stemper rolled to a stop at the top-end turnoff, with no obvious damage to the externals of the bike.
“We have to go through the engine now anyway, so I’m pretty sure no one’s going to complain,” he added with a laugh.
Stemper, from Upper Marlboro, MD, was a model of consistency in eliminations, running a trio of 4.04 passes in defeating TT Jones, former back-to-back class champion Billy Vose and veteran rider Paul Gast to reach the final round. Hamersville, OH’s McKinney, meanwhile, put together runs of 4.124, 4.080 and 4.083, respectively, in downing Monte Campbell, 2009 champ Scott Gray and Canadian Terry Schweigert in his first appearance on the ADRL tour this year.
McKinney got the jump with a sizable .051 holeshot, but Stemper quickly reeled him in and raced to the win at an off-the-pace 164.77 mph compared to McKinney’s 4.106 pass at 172.92 mph.
“It was our third-straight final and our fourth of five races this year, so I really can’t be too upset,” said McKinney, winner of the two previous ADRL national events. “But Casey was really flying here this weekend, so we have some work to do before we get to (the next ADRL race in) Michigan.”
SLAYING THE GIANTS - In a real David vs. Goliath showdown, “Fast Fredy” Scriba defeated former ADRL Pro Extreme World Champion Todd Tutterow in the Pro Mod final of the ADRL U.S. Drags V at Virginia Motorsports Park.
“We were just trying out some new parts and really came here just to test,” the Abingdon, MD-based winner admitted about his nitrous-boosted ’63 Corvette. “But then it started to run pretty consistent; not the fastest, but pretty consistent.”
Scriba qualified fifth in the eight-car field with a 3.989-seconds pass, then beat Dave Roemer and number-one qualifier Rickie Smith to reach Tutterow, who was driving Don Walsh Jr.’s twin-turbocharged 2012 Mustang for the first time and started sixth before defeating Mike Castellana and Jeff Naiser in the preliminaries.
Tutterow, who in Virginia became the first ADRL competitor to have qualified in four classes (PX, PN, XTF, PM) left first in the final with a .015 light, then made his best pass of the weekend with a 4.021 at 190.16 mph, but Scriba’s .057 reaction followed by a 3.972 at 188.96 delivered the win by just seven-thousandths of a second.
“Yeah, it was a close one,” Scriba said. “Todd is really good and even though he didn’t have many laps in the car we just knew he would get it down in the final so we had to make sure we made the lap, too.”
THE TOP SPORTSMAN - After 35 entries from 15 states made qualifying attempts to make it into the richest Top Sportsman event in history, it all came down to a pair of native sons to decide the Summit Racing Equipment ADRL Top Sportsman Clash of the Titans at Virginia Motorsports Park in Petersburg, VA.
Virginia’s own Terry Teets from Manassas and William Brown III from Chesapeake squared off in the fifth and final round for the 32-car race day field, with Teets taking home the $10,000 top prize after Brown broke out by just two-thousandths of a second.
The win also gave Teets the ADRL U.S. Drags V victory—one year after his brother Glenn Jr. won the U.S. Drags IV title.
“It’s great to keep it in the family,” Teets declared after his 4.444 at 163.59-mph pass against a 4.33 dial got the job done when Brown’s 2005 Grand Am ran 4.338 at 160.33 against a 4.34 dial.
“We left right together,” said Brown, who posted a .026 light to Teets’ .024, “so when I got to he far end and didn’t see him anywhere near me I thought I better get out of it, but I was just a fraction of a second too late. I didn’t realize he was as close as he was.”
Teets said his all-black ’04 Cavalier is an ex-Jerry Haas Pro Stocker that performed perfectly all weekend with its Buck Racing 706 under the hood.
“We never touched the car all weekend, not once,” Teets said. “Wayne Rogers did all the tuning on it and all I did was get in and drive.”
Teets said he wasn’t sure what he’d spend the prize money on, but admitted some of it probably would end up going back to Summit.
“I want to thank ADRL and Summit for putting this deal together. I buy all my parts from Summit; I really do, so yeah, I’ll probably be getting something new from them real soon,” he said.
PERFECTION - Top Sportsman driver Chuck Mohn had been perfect in the 2012 ADRL season—in qualifying, at least.
The professional landscaper from Fountainville, PA, started each of the four races completed so far from the number-one position, but Mohn’s streak appeared to be in jeopardy at this weekend’s ADRL U.S. Drags V at Virginia Motorsports Park, as he entered the third and final qualifying session in third place behind Travis Harvey and Keith Raftery.
A 4.125-seconds pass at 174.01 mph took care of that, however, placing Mohn firmly atop the list of 32 qualifiers for the Summit Racing Equipment ADRL Top Sportsman Clash of the Titans that also will determine the U.S. Drags winner.
“Man, I wanted that to happen,” Mohn said. “I know it’s not a win or anything, but that’ll come, too, but just keeping this qualifying streak going is pretty cool.”
After dialing in at 4.15 for round one of eliminations, Mohn’s ’69 Camaro slowed to a 4.512, allowing Bruce Thrift to advance.
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - HEAT AND RAIN MAKE FOR CHALLENGING DAY IN RICHMOND
DIALING IN RIGHT - When Jason Scruggs rolled his ’63 Corvette straight off the trailer and onto a 140-degree race track no one at Virginia Motorsports Park expected to see 3.674 seconds and 206.13 mph pop up on the scoreboard. Making it that much more impressive, the performance came as part of the first pair of Pro Extreme qualifiers for the ADRL U.S. Drags V.
“I like going out first so I don’t have to watch anybody else,” the former back-to-back class champion said.
His father and crew chief, Mitchell, said it didn’t really matter when they made a lap anyway since they knew they’d have to take quite a bit of power out of the engine just to get down the hot track.
“We just took an extra degree of timing out of it,” Mitchell said. “We were thinking it would run a high .60 or a .70-flat, so it just made a little bit better pass than we thought.”
Points leader Mick Snyder, winner of the last two Pro Extreme races, placed second with a 3.705-seconds run at 204.79 in another ’63 Vette, while Brandon Pesz was third at 3.710 and 204.29 mph in his ’58 Corvette.
“We may have got a little lucky today, but no matter what, if you’re running .67 or even a .70-flat you have to have a good track,” Scruggs stated. “The Crisp boys do a good job on every track they prep, but on a track that’s 140 degrees you’ve got to have a good surface. I don’t believe you could find a better track at 140 degrees than this one was today.”
After one scheduled round of qualifying on Friday was lost to rain, the evening round was postponed to Saturday morning when the wet stuff returned. A third and final session previously scheduled before eliminations begin Saturday also will go as planned.
ONE SHOT DOES IT - Jim Halsey couldn’t have known he’d make only one qualifying attempt on the first day of the ADRL U.S. Drags V, but the Maryland-based racer made the most of the opportunity, regardless. On a day when high track temperatures made delivering power to the Virginia Motorsports Park surface tricky, Halsey managed a Pro Nitrous-leading pass of 3.905 seconds at 193.16 mph in his Fulton 867-powered ’68 Camaro.
“I was happy with that one,” Halsey said. “Under those conditions I think that’s about as much as we could’ve expected, but there’s a lot more in it and hopefully tomorrow we’ll go a lot faster.”
The second of a scheduled four qualifying sessions was pre-empted by rain Friday afternoon before the evening’s third planned round was postponed to Saturday morning with a final opportunity scheduled for the afternoon before eliminations begin.
Halsey said his team had been testing a new engine and chassis combination for several weeks leading up to the ADRL event in Petersburg, VA, with the last couple of tests coming under similar hot-weather conditions.
“I think that really helped us here,” the multi-time ADRL event winner said. “We’ve been trying some stuff to put us ahead of the curve and I think we’ve found some things that’ll really help us. We come out here to win these things. If I didn’t think we had a chance to win, I wouldn’t even bother with coming.”
Of 20 entries in the session, only four other drivers managed to run in the threes behind Halsey, including Jim Laurita, Robert Patrick Jr., Robert Mathis and Stan Allen, respectively.
THE LEADER OF THE PACK - Just two qualifying laps were completed on Friday (June 21) for the ADRL Summit Racing Equipment Top Sportsman Clash of the Titans, with Burlington, NC’s Travis Harvey taking the provisional number-one spot over a record-setting 35 entries. A third qualifying session at Virginia Motorsports Park was canceled due to a mid-afternoon rain shower, leaving only Saturday’s scheduled qualifying round as a final opportunity for opponents to topple Harvey from the pole.
“I haven’t been number-one qualifier anywhere for about three years,” said Harvey, who ran 4.141 seconds at 173.43 mph with his ’68 Camaro in the opening round. “But I’m here to win. I don’t really think about number one; it’s nice, but it’s not why I’m here.”
Keith Raftery of Lake Charles, LA, jumped up from fifth to second with a 4.193 at 174.80 in the second round, while Chuck Mohn, who has secured the top qualifying spot at each of the four prior events this year, placed third at 4.197 and 173.16 mph.
“I really wanted the night session. I think I could’ve run a three (second pass) tonight; I really do. The track is that good,” Harvey said despite facing oppressive heat throughout the day that made the track surface reach temperatures exceeding 140 degrees. “It’s really good out there for the weather conditions. You just have to be smart with it and throw at it what it can take.”
Top Sportsman normally features a 16-car field, but with Summit’s help the ADRL was able to build the class up by offering a $10,000 prize to this weekend’s winner and nearly $30,000 total for the class. After Friday’s action, the ’97 Firebird driven by Ronnie Proctor of Harpers Ferry, WV, was slotted into the 32nd and final position with a pass of 4.584 at 155.27 mph.
The doubled race-day field also means one extra round of racing to determine the Summit Clash of the Titans winner, who also will be awarded the ADRL U.S. Drags V event title.
“It won’t be easy; the guys that race here are the best Top Sportsman racers there are. You’re gonna’ have to keep up with the weather, your car’s got to be good and you’re gonna’ need some luck,” Harvey predicted. “I think we’re ready.”
ELIJAH LEADS XPS - After the Extreme Pro Stock (XPS) class took to the track for the first time this weekend at Virginia Motorsports Park, defending class champ Cary Goforth and his father, Dean, held the two top spots with a pair of 4.146-seconds passes. After round two of qualifying a pair of identical 4.078 elapsed times remained on top, but belonged instead to Elijah Morton and Todd Hoerner, with Morton in first based on going half-a-mile-an-hour faster at 176.77 mph.
“It’s a new car for us this year and we had some typical new-car blues, but we’ve learned a lot, my guys have dug deep and we’ve found a few things that needed correcting,” Morton said. “I’ve also got my good-luck charm here with me, my wife Violet,” he added.
He also pointed out that Bob Yoak, who sold Morton his first Pro Stock car, was at the track with him and gave his Jerry Haas-built 2012 Mustang a kiss on its roof before the number-one pass.
“That’s something that Bob always used to do when he was at the track all the time, so he just continued the tradition today,” Morton explained. “If it works out we may have to get him out here for every race from now on.”
Following Morton and Hoerner, who won the most recent XPS race at St. Louis three weeks earlier, were David Schorr, Pete Berner and Richie Stevens. Dean Goforth improved to 4.106 to place sixth, but his son failed to improve his time and dropped down to 13th with one more session left on Saturday before eliminations begin.
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT - Mike Castellana qualified number one with his nitrous-fed 2012 Camaro at three of the four ADRL Pro Mod races held so far this year, missing only at the most recent event in St. Louis—the one he didn’t attend because of prior obligations back home in Muttontown, NY.
Regardless, he was back on top after two rounds of qualifying for the ADRL U.S. Drags V, leap-frogging from second place past first-round leader Jeff Naiser and his ’68 Camaro. “It all goes back to Shannon (Jenkins, crew chief) and my guys,” Castellana insisted. “It was pretty hot, but they made all the right calls.”
Naiser’s 3.984 at 188.04 pass from the opening session actually fell to third after Castellana improved from 3.997 to 3.965 at 192.80, while Dave Roemer jumped from seventh up to second with a 3.976 at 189.71 mph in his ’06 Cavalier. Finishing out the top half of the eight-car field with one more qualifying session to go was the ’63 Corvette of Fredy Scriba at 3.989 and 187.31 mph.
Todd Tutterow, driving Donnie Walsh Jr.’s twin-turboed 2012 Mustang, and Rickie Smith, fresh off an NHRA win at Bristol, TN, in his nitrous-boosted ’12 Camaro, ran identical 4.041 passes, but Tutterow got the nod for fifth based on speed. Pat Musi and Brian Teachman filled out the top eight, with Brad Brand in Roger Burgess’ twin-turbocharged ’53 Corvette just outside in ninth.
WANTED: CHANGE OF FORTUNE - It was a year ago when ADRL Pro Nitrous driver Burton Auxier set the nitrous world on its head, running a seemingly improbable 3.74 at Virginia Motorsports Park.
It was also a year ago at VMP when Auxier’s weekend came to an abrupt halt when his car broke after the burnout in the semifinals, just after his amazing back-to-back runs of 3.74 and 3.75
It’s been that kind of up-and-down stretch for the 2010 ADRL World Champion as he heads back to VMP for this weekend’s ADRL U.S. Drags V.
Auxier has impressed and done well since claiming that championship in 2010, continually staying in the title hunt and going rounds.
But he’s also had some downright rotten luck in the money rounds and has lost in his last six finals appearances, including the last two Pro Nitrous races.
“We want to win real bad,” Auxier said. “The car is certainly capable of winning races and the car has proven that it is fast. It’s just a matter of getting everything to work at the right time.”
As for trying to explain his struggles in finals over the past two seasons, Auxier couldn’t put his finger totally on it.
This year, he fell to Robert Patrick in the finals at Maple Grove, and then ran a strong 3.84 in losing to Doug Riesterer by .006 earlier this month in St. Louis.
It follows a streak of four runner-up finishes last year, which doesn’t include the rotten luck that followed his record-breaking pass in Virginia.
“We don’t have as much time in between rounds as it gets later in the race, and maybe we get in a hurry. You can’t take your time like you can in qualifying, but by the time you get to those rounds, you should know what to do,” Auxier said.
“Hopefully we get better at it. This weekend ought to be real interesting. It’s always good to go to Richmond. It’s a good track with good air and the cars should put up some pretty good numbers.”
With temperatures slated for the low-to-mid-90s in Richmond, Auxier may not approach the unbelievable 3.74 he put together last year, but he’s continually proven capable of running in the high 3.70s and low 3.80s.
The key in his mind if solving a clutch issue that has popped up way too often over the past two seasons.
It’s come at the worst times, too. Auxier was less than three rounds from first place in the points race late in the year in 2011 when issues cost him in Norwalk.
This year, it also reared its ugly head in the two final rounds.
“We’ve been fighting these clutch problems for a while. Over the winter, we had the clutches updated and we changed the combination. It’s taken a while to get back to where we were,” Auxier said.
“We should have run .04 or .05 quicker in both of the finals we’ve gone too this year, but we couldn’t get everything out of the clutch. Once you change some things, it takes a while to get a handle on it. So many things have to be right.
“But I think we’ve got all that sorted out and we found the problem. We’ll see this weekend and I’m anxious to see what it can do.”
Of course, making the right calls on the clutch can present the hardest decisions.
Auxier said the 3.74 last year in Virginia was the first race “that we got enough clutch in the car.”
If Auxier finds that sweet spot in Virginia again, that win drought may finally be history.
“Whichever team makes the least mistakes is the who is going to win. Hopefully that’s us this weekend and we can have a good race,” Auxier said.
A FAMILY AFFAIR - For all they have accomplished and been a part of over a long and successful drag racing career, Doug and Justin Kirk have never raced separately on the same weekend.
That is, until this weekend.
Doug, a former two-time IHRA Pro Stock world champion, will be running his Extreme Pro Stock Mustang at the ADRL’s U.S. Drags V at Virginia Motorsports Park, trying to build on the momentum from the last two events.
Meanwhile, his son, Justin, will be close to home, racing at a massive 3-day dragster event, The Ultimate 64 Shootout, at Mountain Park Dragway in Clay City, Ky.
Kirk will be racing a dragster on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the main attraction being Saturday’s Ultimate 64 Shootout, pitting 64 cars in a winner-take-all bracket race that nets the winner an incredible $50,000.
“It’s going to be a whole different experience,” Doug said. “Justin takes on a lot on the Pro Stock car, but I guess we will have everybody else fill in here and there. I’m sure we will be texting back and forth all weekend.”
It will obviously be a major adjustment for both father and son, but Justin also brought up another important scenario.
“He said what are you going to do if I win and you’re not there. I said, ‘What are you going to do if I win $50,000 and you’re not here?’ They didn’t have anything to say about that,” Justin said with a laugh.
Countered Doug: “I want him to win, but I would never hear the end of it. I guess I will take the repercussions from that if he’s winning $50,000.”
The close-knit family racing team has a long history of success, partly because of a strong competitive nature that drives all of them.
That competitiveness even carries over to the occasional father-son matchup like the one that took place at Mountain Park Dragway in the finals of a local dragster race last year.
“As long as one of us wins, it doesn’t matter, but when he beats me, it gets bad. He still lets me know about that race,” Justin said.
A year ago, Justin also raced in the Ultimate 64 Shootout, losing in the second round to Jeg Coughlin Jr. – yes, that Jeg Coughlin Jr. – of the massive event.
It attracts some major names, with all 64 putting up $1,500 – with no buy backs – to try and win $50,000.
The Ultimate 64 Showdown – pitting 32 dragster against 32 door cars – takes place on Friday as part of the huge 3-day weekend and hands out $12,000 to the winner, while the Ultimate 32 Dragster Shootout on Sunday gives away another $5,000 to the winner.
“I’m excited, but I’m nervous. A prize of $50,000 to win is a lot. There’s no second chances, so you have to be ready,” Justin said. “We’ve won a lot of races at this track and this is pretty much where dad started, so hopefully this will be a good weekend.”
Said Doug: “We’re a very competitive family. We work together, play together and race together. If this is what (Justin) wants to do, I just want him to be good at it.”
Miles away, Doug will be trying to find the perfect combination for a Pro Stock car that has proven finicky thus far in 2012.
Kirk is currently 12th in points after falling in the first round to close friend Brian Gahm earlier this month in St. Louis.
That halted the momentum he built at Maple Grove in May when he advanced to the semifinals before Gahm also took him out there.
In St. Louis, Kirk’s motor broke early in the event, which had the team scrambling and then going home earlier than they had hoped.
But a new motor just arrived to their shop in time for the U.S. Drags and it could be the answer to getting Kirk going this weekend in the stout XPS class.
“We’re working on things and we’re coming with it,” Doug said. “With the new motor, it all just depends on how it dynos. If it does well, we might put it in and start with it.
“It just depends on the weather and all those things. I think with the hotter weather, it evens things up a whole lot more. The hotter the weather, the better the racing gets.”
For the Kirk family, the better the racing, the more memorable this weekend could be.
MULTI-TASKER - When you’re in charge of 700 employees for a successful coal business that includes four underground coal mines and one surface coal mine, drag racing is understandably used as an enjoyable escape.
Through four races driving in the 2012 ADRL Pro Nitrous class, Jim Laurita’s season thus far is comparable to staying at an all-inclusive, five-star resort, especially compared to 2011.
Laurita posted a career-best 3.83 earlier this month at the Gateway Drags in St. Louis, has advanced to back-to-back semifinals and is currently sitting third in points, less than three rounds behind points leader Rickie Jones.
That, though, pales in comparison to the enjoyment factor the West Virginia native is experiencing in 2012.
“I’m going out there for relaxation. This is fun for us. I’m as competitive as all get-out and a championship would be great, but as long as we’re having fun, that’s what is important,” Laurita said. “Family comes first, my business is second and racing is third.
“But I really enjoy the ADRL and I’m really having a lot of fun. I’m really pleased with the progress we’ve made. Last year was a real challenge, between running my business and then trying to run at this level.”
Laurita has been the president of Dana Mining Company for 22 years, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who first started the coal mining company 50 years ago.
Centrally located in Morgantown, W.Va., Laurita grew up around the mining business, developing an incredible work ethic along the way.
“We’ve got a lot of great employees who have worked for us for more than 30 years. I’m surrounded by a good management team that allows me to go race,” Laurita said. “I enjoy the sport because it’s a challenge. It’s both science and art and it’s real exciting to get those cars down the track.”
A year ago, there wasn’t much excitement involved. Laurita suffered through electrical problems the first half of the year, burning up several engines. Then, transmission issues on his automatic converter transmission disturbed the last half of the season, and Laurita limped to a 13th-place finish in the points.
Coming off his first win in Norwalk late in the 2010 season, it wasn’t nearly what Laurita had expected.
“It just about killed me last year with my business and then to have all these problems racing,” Laurita said. “It just pushed me to work harder and smarter, and not give up, but I can’t tell you how many times I almost quit with the converter and went with the clutch.”
Things started to change at the final event in 2010, when Laurita went 3.84 in Dallas, advancing to the quarterfinals. He worked closely with Marty Chance of Chance Racing Converters, Carl Rossler of Rossler Transmissions and Brandon Switzer of Switzer Dynamics to get the car right and it obviously paid off.
“It’s just so much better now. I’ve got so much more time to think and prepare now. Last year, we were just thrashing all the time,” Laurita said. “Now, I really don’t touch anything. I’m surrounded by some great people and things are just a lot better this year.
“These last two races, things have really come around. We’re trying to take baby steps now and just continue to creep up on it. I feel like we’ll be right there at the top of the pack very, very soon with this converter combination.”
He might already be there.
Laurita has consistently found the 3.80s for the first time in his Pro Nitrous career in 2012, setting down a 3.85, a 3.84 and a 3.83 in the semifinals at Maple Grove. That came in a spectacular side-by-side race against eventual event winner Robert Patrick.
In St. Louis Laurita was back at it, running a 3.83 and a losing 3.85 in the semifinals to Burton Auxier.
Laurita even pleased the thrill seekers at St. Louis during his final qualifying run. He got loose, went hard toward the left wall and then back across the center line, going up on two wheels. It continued over and just scraped the wall, but Laurita displayed some quality driving with the save.
After some cosmetic work at Tim McAmis Race Cars, Laurita picked the car up on Tuesday and is ready to keep improving at next weekend’s U.S. Drags V at Virginia Motorsports Park
“We’re getting down the track more often than not. We’ve got a real good combination right now and we’re really enjoying this,” Laurita said. “We’re getting a little better all the time.”
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