SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - AN EXCITING DAY ENDS AN EXCITING SEASON
CHAMPIONS AT LAST - Tommy D’Aprile was already out of his Mel Bush Motorsports ’05 Corvette and shouting with excitement before it rolled to a stop on the turnoff road from the Texas Motorplex eighth mile. He had just beaten Von Smith in the Pro Extreme (PX) final of the ADRL World Finals VIII presented by CarSafe for his first ADRL event win.
“Oh my God; I can’t believe this!” D’Aprile repeated over and over as tears of joy and relief streaked his cheeks. “It’s amazing; I can’t even describe what I’m feeling right now.
“All I want to do is thank Mel and Joanne Bush for everything they do. I am so grateful to them and to my guys and of course, to God. Everyone knows how important my faith is to me and I’ve been in a couple of finals before, but this is the first time we’ve won and I thank Him for that.”
D’Aprile ran strong all weekend, qualifying with a 3.580-seconds effort at 209.85 mph—his first in the 3.50s—that briefly was the quickest pass ever recorded in the series before Frankie Taylor stole away the top spot a couple of pairs later with a stunning 3.577.
Regardless, D’Aprile remained imposing in eliminations, setting low ET of the opening round with a 3.655 at 206.16 against Art McMahan. In round two he again set low ET with a 3.628 at 206.20 win over Alex Hossler, winner of the previous event in Ohio a few weeks earlier.
In the semis, D’Aprile faced newly crowned PX World Champion Mick Snyder, who clinched the title the previous round when Jason Scruggs, his only remaining challenger, redlighted away his chances of adding a third championship against eventual finalist Von Smith. D’Aprile left on Snyder with a .012 advantage and once more set low ET of the round at 3.623 and 206.61, while Snyder put up a game 3.648 at 207.11, his best pass of eliminations.
Meanwhile, Smith started from the number-13 slot and ran 3.711, 3.662 and 3.668 seconds in consistent wins over past series champions Bubba Stanton, Scruggs and Taylor, respectively.
In the final, D’Aprile cut a stellar .009 light to Smith’s .061, then stormed to the win in 3.633 seconds at 206.51 mph, while Smith had traction problems and slowed to 4.314 at just 118.58 mph.
“I was so nervous; I just wanted to go up there and cut a good light and do my job. I knew the car was gonna’ go down there because my guys worked so hard all weekend and it was about as perfect as it could be,” D’Aprile said. “All I knew was that I wasn’t gonna’ lift unless it was on its roof and maybe not even then; I promise you that.”
PRICELESS - It has to be said. Pat Stoken was stoked at getting his career-first Pro Nitrous (PN) win Oct. 20, beating doorslammer legend Shannon Jenkins in the final round for the ADRL World Finals VIII presented by CarSafe.
“Oh man, this is awesome,” the veteran ADRL campaigner from Eureka, MT, said in victory lane at the Texas Motorplex, near Dallas. “I’ve got my wife and sons with me on the team, but I also have my daughter and her little boy here this weekend and to be able to share this moment with them is priceless; priceless.”
Not only did Stoken win, but he did it from the number-one starting position after going 3.769 seconds at 198.44 mph to lead the 16-car field with the third-quickest PN pass ever recorded. Only Jim Laurita joined Stoken in the 3.70s with a 3.795 qualifying pass and only Stoken—who set low ET in all four rounds of racing—reached the .70s during eliminations, too.
“The car was working great all weekend,” he said of his Rick Jones-built ’69 Camaro with Reher-Morrison horsepower and Switzer Dynamics nitrous under the hood. “It stayed very consistent and did what we wanted it to do, so I thought everything went really well.”
Stoken opened with a first-round freebie when Chuck Nyutten failed to answer the call to stage and ran 3.833 at 195.53 to gain lane choice for round two over Johnny Pilcher, whom he beat with a 3.821 at 195.53 that overcame a .038 holeshot by Pilcher.
Round three provided another free pass to Stoken when Doug Riesterer was shut off on the line after ADRL officials detected a leak under his car. After watching Shannon Jenkins shake the tires and coast to a 4.747-second unopposed win because the car of his opponent, Stan Allen, sustained significant engine damage in round two, Stoken opted for a launch and half-track shutoff that still yielded lane choice with a 4.462 elapsed time.
In the final, Jenkins gained a huge head start with a .020 light to Stoken’s sleepy .136, but a 3.786 at 198.03 was more than enough to secure the win after Jenkins’ motor expired late in the run and dropped him to a 4.729 at just over 111 mph.
“We tuned it up a little bit because we knew Shannon would, too,” Stoken said. “It pulled hard and never shook at all, so it did what we asked it to do. I did see Shannon get out on me and I think he shook or something because he got out of it and I never saw him again—which is a good thing!”
Stoken’s first win came in his fifth PN final-round appearance.
“It’s been a long time coming and to be honest it’s still kind of hard to believe we won. But we did and it’s going to make the off season a whole lot better,” he said. “We’ve got a good, fast car now, one that we’re just starting to really get to know, so I’m already looking forward to next year.”
ANOTHER TITLE FOR CASTELLANA - Despite winning four of the six ADRL Pro Mod races he attended earlier this year, Mike Castellana arrived for the ADRL World Finals VIII more than a hundred points behind leader Jeff Naiser and with Pat Musi hot on his tail. When he left, Castellana had five wins and his second consecutive ADRL championship in hand, following up his Pro Nitrous title from last year.
After Naiser failed to qualify for the eight-car field at the Texas Motorplex and Musi lost in the semis to Mike Janis, Castellana knew he’d clinched the championship with his nitrous-boosted Al-Anabi Racing 2012 Camaro.
“Knowing we had already won the championship helped make us more relaxed for the final,” he said. “And I guess you could say getting the win was sort of the icing on the cake.”
Castellana qualified second behind Musi and took out Todd Tutterow and his twin-turboed ’70 Duster in round one, then Jeffrey Cummins Jr. with his nitroused ’68 Camaro in the semis to reach Janis in the final.
“We had a little problem in the burnout there when the shifter tower fell off the car and I couldn’t get it in reverse at first,” Castellana revealed. “Then Shannon (Jenkins, crew chief), he helped me get it to go back in drive, at least I got it in gear, and I held it down and just steered with one hand. It worked out pretty good.”
After double-bulbing the tree before Castellana staged (a mistake he apologized for at the top end) Janis left with a .036 holeshot, but his roots-blown 2010 Mustang soon went into tire shake and Castellana sailed by to take a one-handed win in 3.857 seconds at 195.22 mph, his quickest and fastest pass of the weekend.
With now five Pro Mod wins and nine in the Pro Nitrous ranks, Castellana trails only Billy Glidden, who has 15 Extreme 10.5 victories, on the all-time ADRL win-leaders list.
“All of my success, it belongs to my crew,” the Muttontown, NY, racer insisted. “Shannon and the crew did another amazing job with the car; it just kept making good runs all weekend long and to get five wins this year I think proves just how awesome they really are. I also have to thank Sheikh Khalid (Al-Thani) for continuing to support us; it’s a big team effort.”
CHALK UP ANOTHER - Despite winning his first ADRL Extreme Pro Stock (XPS) championship last year, Cary Goforth didn’t like the way his 2011 season ended. This time around he was determined to close out his second-straight series title run in style and finished with his car on fire and the win light on for the XPS final Oct. 20, at the ADRL World Finals VIII presented by CarSafe at the Texas Motorplex, near Dallas.
“Man, when it hit high gear just as I was reaching the finish line—BOOM!—I could see fire coming in around the bottom, but all I was thinking about was how cool it was to win this thing,” Goforth said immediately upon climbing from his still-smoking 2010 GXP after track workers extinguished a few remaining flickers of flame.
“Last year we came in here nursing a hurt motor and went out second round. I did not want to do that again. This time we came prepared to go the distance and show that we come to race no matter what the points say,” he continued. “Winning this race means an awful lot to me.”
After four rounds of qualifying, Goforth slotted into third place at 4.055 seconds and 177.32 mph, just ahead of his father and teammate, Dean, and behind only Pete Berner and John DeFlorian, who secured his fifth number-one start in the 10-race series this year with a 4.040 pass at 179.95 that also set a new speed record for the class.
In round one of racing, Goforth got an easy 4.095 win when DeFlorian’s teammate, Kevin Bealko, went red at the start, and then he led stripe-to-stripe against Richard Penland to post a 4.131 win at 173.83 in round two. Round three saw past class champ John Montecalvo fall to a 4.072 at 175.96 by Goforth—which also gave him lane choice for the final by just one-thousandth of a second over DeFlorian.
DeFlorian reached the XPS final with a series of 4.085 at 176.77 against Brian Gahm, 4.127 at 174.53 over Elijah Morton, and 4.073 at 177.09 in defeating rookie driver Matt Bertsch.
That left only the final and Goforth left nothing to chance, leaving with a .045 advantage off the start and running 4.096 at 175.57 at the expense of one motor, with DeFlorian fading a little to 4.102 at 176.26 mph. The win represented Goforth’s third in 2012 and the class-leading ninth of his ADRL career.
“I’m just so proud of my team and the work they put in to make this happen again,” the Holdenville, OK, racer said. “It’s so hard to let people know how much goes into something like this and I want to thank my dad, too, for giving me the opportunity to live a dream like this.”
STEVENS WINS BELTS BATTLE - Despite losing to a holeshot by Elijah Morton in round one of Extreme Pro Stock (XPS) eliminations for the ADRL World Finals VIII, Richie Stevens Jr. still left the Texas Motorplex a winner. In a unique race-within-a-race, Stevens successfully defended his XPS Battle for the Belts title that marked his first ADRL victory one year earlier.
Within qualifying for the World Finals, the XPS community kept an ADRL tradition alive at the World Finals VIII by staging their own Battle for the Belts, a showdown between the top-eight points earners that was dropped from the official ADRL program this year.
Organized by Stevens’ crew chief, Tom Pierson, with the blessing of ADRL officials, the XPS class even took care of their own purse for the special race within a race, with each qualifier posting up $1250—in cash—with $7500 destined for the winner and the $2500 going to the runner-up. There also were $500 gift certificates from approximately 30 class and series sponsors distributed evenly through a pre-race random drawing, ensuring each participant received at least a $1500 value in return.
Once racing began within the second round of qualifying on Friday afternoon, second-place-in-points Stevens opened with a win over David Schorr, then got past Brian Gahm to reach the final, held at the end of Saturday’s lone session. On the opposite side of the ladder, fifth-place Pete Berner beat Todd Hoerner and John DeFlorian in the preliminaries.
In the Belts final, Stevens left first with a .061 light to Berner’s .105 and it made the difference an eighth of a mile later as Stevens beat a quicker and faster 4.103 at 175.41 with a run of 4.119 seconds at 174.32 mph.
“It’s always nice as a driver to get the win with a holeshot,” Stevens said. “But I’m mostly proud of my team, led by Mark Eckman and our crew chief, Tom Pierson. Everybody has done a great job this year, Greg, Mikey, Wayne, Jerry Haas, my dad, Erica (Enders); it’s just been a great year overall.”
Stevens, who is known as a good “leaver” on the starting line, was at a loss for words, however, when describing his .138 light in World Finals eliminations.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” he admitted. “It was like I just watched the tree come down and then went. I hate it for my guys because I would’ve loved to double up for them. I don’t want to sound greedy, but it would’ve been nice.”
TWO IN A ROW - Billy Glidden isn’t so sure he’d like a longer season, but he sure would like to be able to back this one up a few months for a couple of “do overs” now that he’s hit his stride with a new tune-up in his nitrous-fed, Mickey Thompson-backed 2010 Mustang. Glidden, from Whiteland, IN, dominated Extreme 10.5 (XTF) at the ADRL World Finals VIII presented by CarSafe Oct. 19-20, in Ennis, TX.
“I’m working with a new combination this season, the motor, clutch, gearing, everything, and it’s definitely a better setup, but it takes time to figure it all out,” Glidden explained after winning the race, but finishing second to Alan Pittman and his screw-blown ’09 Mustang in the season-long points chase.
After qualifying number one among only five entries with a 3.915 blast at 190.59 mph, Glidden repeated with a 3.919 solo pass at 189.26 mph, then beat Todd Moyer and his twin-turbocharged ’63 Corvette with a 3.945 at 187.18 in the semis. That set a pairing with fifth-place starter Dan Myers in his third final of the year, but the first in his supercharged ’57 Chevy Cameo pick-up.
Myers left with an ever-so-slim, one-thousandth of a second advantage of the start, but it wasn’t nearly so close an eighth of a mile later, as Glidden ran 3.946 at 187.11 mph to secure his ADRL-leading 15th event win, while Myers crossed the line in 4.501 seconds at 142.58 mph.
“This stuff has kicked us in the butt so many times that I approached the final just like I would for anyone,” Glidden said. “I don’t ever take anybody for granted; we just go up there and try to do our best every time.”
GOOD 'OLE NO. 7 - Though a couple of others merely had to enter and pass tech to seal the deal, Pro Extreme Motorcycle’s (PXM’s) Eric McKinney arrived at the Texas Motorplex as the only ADRL racer to have already clinched a 2012 championship at the previous event a few weeks earlier in Ohio. That didn’t stop the Hamersville, OH, rider from putting on his game face for the ADRL World Finals VIII, though, as he led the 14-bike field into eliminations with a 4.051 qualifying pass at exactly 175 miles per hour aboard his Ashley Owens-tuned 2012 Suzuki.
“We always come to race and we always want to win,” McKinney declared before eliminations began. “Otherwise, why bother?”
McKinney made a first-round single of 4.042 seconds at 175.14 after Charles Seaton’s bike broke, then made a scheduled 4.060 at 174.53 competition bye run in round two before dousing the hopes of Shane Eperjesi with another 4.063 at 174.21 mph in the semis.
That left only second-place qualifier Shane Norris and his 2011 Suzuki between McKinney and his seventh win in 10 ADRL starts this year. Norris left first, though only by three thousandths, and McKinney ran 4.032 at 176.03 to handily get the job done against the 4.130 at 171.97-mph pass posted by Norris.
“It feels great to finish like this; it feels like we really put an exclamation point on our year,” McKinney said after his fifth-straight event victory and his seventh in 10 races. Only Owens, riding for Paul Gast in his 2011 championship-winning run, has more single-season wins at eight.
“That’s some pretty elite company and I’m honored to work with Ashley so close this year,” McKinney said. “He’s made a huge difference to our race program, but I also have to thank my mom and my dad and my uncle for everything they do, too. I know I say this all the time, but they really are the ones who make this happen. I’m just the rider.”
FINALLY - The third time proved to be a charm for William Brown III, who in his third final-round appearance of the year scored his first ADRL Top Sportsman win at the ADRL World Finals VIII in Ennis, TX. Driving his Chesapeake, VA-based ’05 Grand Am, Brown raced through Bill Chinn Jr., Jim Sakuvich and Lizzy Musi to reach Glenn Butcher in the final round.
Once there, Brown dialed in at 4.21, while Butcher predicted 4.25 for the final run in his ’68 Camaro, which went to a new owner after the race as Butcher is taking delivery of a brand-new Garret Race Cars-built entry. Butcher left with a .020 reaction time, but broke out with a 4.240 at 167.53 and allowed Brown the race win with a 4.222 pass at 168.94 mph.
“It took a while, but all that hard work by my team paid off,” Brown said. “It feels good to accomplish something like this after all of the hard work, but I did think he had me right up until I saw my (win) light come on.”
Brown also finished second in the inaugural championship year for Top Sportsman in the ADRL, 77 points behind new champ Marco Abruzzi.
“I would have liked to get two trophies,” Brown admitted. “But Marco deserves his and I’m still really happy to finally get just one. This win will mean a lot to us for the entire off season. It’s nice to finish with a bang.”
FIRST WIN FOR MOPAR - Not only did Kevin Helms qualify his naturally aspirated 2011 Dodge Challenger first in the SuperCar Showdown for the ADRL World Finals VIII presented by CarSafe, he became the first Mopar pilot to break the winning streak of the more prevalent supercharged Ford Mustang Cobra Jets.
Helms, of Schriever, LA, ran 5.889 at 116.42 in the final to beat Mustang driver Fred Henson from Madisonville, TX, who went 5.945 at 117.04 mph.
SWEET, STICKY REVENGE—When Tom Pierson (right), crew chief for Richie Stevens’ Extreme Pro Stock entry, arrived at his car Saturday morning to head into the ADRL World Finals VIII at the Texas Motorplex, he found it wrapped in plastic with Vaseline coating its door handles and festooned with signs declaring his undying love for crew member Mike Vinezeano.
Immediately, a plan was hatched to get back at the suspected perpetrators—Amanda and Laren—the daughter and friend of team owner and sponsor Mark Eckman. “This has been ongoing all year long with these girls,” Pierson declared. “They would pull these pranks on Mike and me, but this time we’re going to get them back.”
Once Stevens had won the Battle for the Belts (organized by Pierson for the XPS class) and been eliminated from World Finals contention, the team let off a little steam by duct-taping the young ladies to their golf cart, spraing them with whipped cream and parading them through the pits with horns blaring—all while dear, old dad looked on and enjoyed the spectacle.
“It’s all in good fun,” Pierson stressed. “But we just had to get them back for an entire year’s worth of pranks.”
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - A DAY OF SMASHING RECORDS AND CLINCHING CHAMPIONSHIPS
MADMAN TO THE TOP - Frankie Taylor made the quickest and fastest pass in the history of the American Drag Racing League (ADRL), during round three of Pro Extreme (PX) qualifying Oct. 19, for the ADRL World Finals VIII presented by CarSafe at the Texas Motorplex. The 2010 PX champion from Dickinson, TX, steered his Stupid Fast Racing ’05 Corvette to a 3.577-seconds lap at 212.19 mph that established a new official speed record, though the ET must still be backed up within the required one percent to make it also an official mark.
“We finally got that record away from ol’ Wes,” Taylor declared, referring to the prior standard of 211.49 mph set by Wes Johnston in May 2010 at Virginia Motorsports Park. It was the first 3.50s pass of the season for Taylor and only the fourth overall this year in the ADRL after Mick Snyder ran one at the previous race in Norwalk, OH, and Tommy D’Aprile (3.580) and Brandon Pesz (3.587) also turned the trick in Texas with career-best efforts to place second and third in qualifying, respectively.
“We weren’t really trying to set a record, we just set it up to go just a little bit better than we had,” said Taylor, who ran 3.622 at 210.54 in round two on Friday. “All the credit has to go to my team and especially my brother, Paul; he made all the right calls on our tune-up. I also need to thank Process Manufacturing, Benji Lapp Snap-On Tools, Renegade Fuel and Oil and my teammate, Tim Tindle. Without all of their help, too, there’s just no way I could be out here.”
Incremental times on Taylor’s lap included .901 to 60 feet and 2.413 to the 660-foot half-track mark. By comparison, D’Aprile’s incrementals on what briefly had been the quickest pass ever just two pairs earlier included .905 and 2.406, while Pesz posted incrementals of .902 and 2.411 seconds.
“It was really smooth; it just jumped up on the tire and went cruising,” Taylor recalled. “And it actually hit the rev limiter at the finish line. If we had turned that up a little it would’ve been even a little better. But that’s okay; we learned something for future runs.”
Several drivers ran career-best passes throughout Friday’s qualifying, resulting in what already was the second-quickest PX field in series’ history, anchored by Clint Thompson’s 3.755 at 203.92 mph in the provisional 16th position with one last session to go on Saturday.
“This is fun,” Taylor said. “I like it when everyone’s going fast like this.”
MUSI'S LAST HURRAH - In discussing his class-leading 3.873-seconds pass at 193.54 mph after day one of the ADRL World Finals VIII presented by CarSafe, Pro Mod championship contender Pat Musi confirmed he plans to take at least a year off from racing as he prepares for an off-season move from Carteret, NJ, to Mooresville, NC.
“This will be my last race for a while. I just think the time is right,” the 60-year-old doorslammer legend said. “I’m getting older and I want to set up my business to where hopefully my daughters can take over.”
In the meantime, Musi remains focused on trying to wrest the 2012 ADRL Pro Mod championship away from points leader Jeff Naiser, who after three rounds of qualifying were completed at the Texas Motorplex, remained not qualified for the World Finals.
With only Saturday’s lone qualifying session left, second-place points man Mike Castellana (129 points behind Naiser) slotted into second, just two-thousandths of a second behind Musi, followed by Pete Farber in a ’63 Corvette instead of his more familiar Dodge Daytona. Naiser was mired in 13th of 14 entries after managing a best of only 4.126 at 161.71 mph.
“I feel for the guy, I really do,” insisted Musi, who trails Naiser by 150 points (with 100 paid for each round win). “It’s really tough when you’re racing for an eight-car field. The bump is what, 3.94? He’s gonna’ have to come out set on kill just to get in, but he’s a good racer and I’m not counting anyone out yet. It’s going to be exciting, that’s for sure.
“We were trying for the record (Castellana; 3.845) with that pass and it might’ve got it if it had stayed straight. This thing is a real handful to drive; it’s got a lot of power,” Musi said of the number-one run in his nitrous-boosted, EFI-equipped 2010 Stratus. “But I’m in touch with Rickie (Smith) after every pass on the phone and we’ve got the car repeating now and that’s what’s important.
“We would really like to win this championship. What a great way that would be to finish up here.”
STOKEN TOPS NITROUS CARS - In vaulting up from fourth place, Pat Stoken didn’t even realize he’d just made the third-quickest pass in Pro Nitrous (PN) history when he ran 3.769 seconds at 198.44 mph to seize the provisional number-one spot after the first day of qualifying for the ADRL World Finals VIII presented by CarSafe.
“I thought it said 3.86,” Stoken said of his quick glance at the scoreboard as he sailed his Rick Jones-built ’69 Camaro into the shutdown area of the Texas Motorplex. “It was so smooth and so straight that it didn’t feel especially fast. It didn’t feel any different than the pass before, so it wasn’t until I got down there to the top end that someone told me 3.76 and I realized what had happened.”
Stoken credited RJ Race Cars, Reher-Morrison Racing Engines and Switzer Dynamics for providing the tools he needed to post a career-best performance in Friday’s third round of qualifying.
“We’re getting there; it’s starting to do what we want it to do,” said the Eureka, MT-based logger. “But we’ve gotta’ have some luck, too, so hopefully it’ll be there when we have to go racing.”
Stoken also pointed out he has a secret weapon in his pit, or at least a lucky charm, as his six-year-old grandson, Jace, along with his daughter Caley, had joined him at the track for the first time in five years. He also singled out the efforts of his wife, Terrie, and sons Cory and Casey for all they do to keep him on track. “My boys, my team, they work really hard to make this happen. It’s a total family effort.”
Following Stoken on the PN qualifying list with a fourth and final session to go on Saturday were Jim Laurita, newly crowned class champion Bob Rahaim, Rickie Jones and Robert Mathis.
UNTOUCHABLE - With a track record 4.040-seconds pass that also set an official national speed record of 179.95 mph, Extreme Pro Stock (XPS) driver John DeFlorian was poised to pick up his fifth top-starting honor of the year with one last qualifying opportunity remaining for the ADRL World Finals VIII presented by CarSafe.
“That’s really big for us; that would mean we qualified number one at half of all the races this year,” DeFlorian pointed out. “I can’t give my team enough credit for that.”
With atmospheric conditions expected to remain consistently favorable on Saturday, DeFlorian also hinted the record setting may not be over.
“I told my guys on the way down here that we may see 180 miles an hour this weekend and I still think that’s possible. If it stays like this we could see some interesting numbers on the ET side, too,” he added, as the first three-second run remains available for the taking.
Within qualifying at the Texas Motorplex, the XPS community also kept an ADRL tradition alive at the World Finals VIII by staging their own Battle for the Belts, a showdown between the top-eight points earners that officially was dropped from the overall program this year.
“All the credit for the Battle for the Belts belongs to Tom Pierson (crew chief for Richie Stevens Jr.),” DeFlorian said. “He organized everything, he bought the belt and had it made, he probably started working on this about five races ago and made sure everyone was on board.”
The XPS class even took care of their own purse for the special race within a race, with each qualifier posting up $1250—in cash—with $7500 destined for the winner and the $2500 going to the runner-up.
As the number-eight starter, DeFlorian drew points leader Cary Goforth to race during round two of qualifying and led stripe to stripe to win by half a car length. Also scoring opening-round Belt wins were number-five Pete Berner over fourth-place Todd Hoerner, second-place Stevens over seventh David Schorr, and number-three Brian Gahm over John Pluchino in sixth.
In the Belt semis, Berner overcame a slight five-thousandths holeshot by DeFlorian to advance with a 4.051 at 177.53 that gave him lane choice over Stevens, who went 4.064 at 176.72 to beat a tire-shaking Gahm. The final will be held within the fourth and final qualifying session on Saturday before World Finals VIII eliminations begin.
FOCUSED - Eric McKinney arrived from Hamersville, OH, to the Texas Motorplex for the ADRL’s season-ending World Finals VIII knowing he’d already clinched the 2012 Pro Extreme Motorcycle (PXM) championship, but that didn’t sway his approach to the race.
“I came here with the same mindset I bring to every race and that’s that I want to win,” he said after taking the provisional number-one starting slot with a 4.068 pass at 174.73 mph aboard his Ashley Owens-tuned Suzuki. “This season isn’t over until you walk across that stage.”
McKinney is looking for his fifth-straight victory and seventh this year should he reach his ninth final in the 10-race season.
“We want to keep the streak going, but it’s not going to be easy; it never is,” he said. “Everyone wants to win that last race of the year because it gives you bragging rights through the whole off season.”
Heading into Saturday’s fourth and final qualifying round, Dave Norris was second, followed by Nathan Murray, Shane Eperjesi and Monte Campbell to round out the top five. With 13 bikes on the grounds, they will run off a 16-bike ladder once eliminations begin.
DETERMINED - When Pat Musi returned to racing after a brutal 2011 crash, he had hoped to prove that it was the right decision.
Now, with a chance at an ADRL championship in the Pro Modified class heading into this weekend’s World Finals at the Texas Motorplex, Musi is about as satisfied as he could be.
Musi crashed hard into the guardwall at Atlanta Dragway in May of 2011, fracturing a vertebrae, but he feels as good as ever heading into the final race of the 2012 ADRL season.
“I’m feeling pretty good. I thought about hanging it up after that, but I didn’t want to go out like that,” Musi said. “I’ve worked hard on the rehab, and I just wanted to see what would happen. But it was like riding a bike, and I’ve never looked back.”
Musi had surgery to insert titanium pins into his lower back following the crash, but his performance has been top-notch in 2012.
Heading into the final event, Musi is third in points and, when bonus participation points are factored in, he trails Jeff Naiser by just 150 points (or 1.5 rounds in the ADRL).
In addition, Musi has advanced to two finals and set the world speed record in the class, running 196.22 mph at St. Louis in June.
Still, there is unfinished business for Musi, who is doing everything he can to be ready for this weekend in Dallas.
“I’m pleased with my performance, but we haven’t won a race and that’s frustrating. But we haven’t hurt any parts, the car is good and the owner is real happy,” Musi said.
“Our whole crew has jumped on board and we’re coming to Dallas to win this deal. We’ve worked the last two weeks on this thing. Everything is fresh and we’ve got a spare engine in the trailer, too. You better believe we’re going to try to win this deal.”
There are a number of scenarios where Musi could slip past both Naiser and Mike Castellana, who is 21 points ahead of Musi, but he is only focused on winning.
Should he do that, Musi will be in a great position to claim his first ADRL world championship and cap off an incredible comeback.
Musi also will have a back-up engine from Robert Patrick in case he needs it. Patrick was in a horrific crash last month at Summit Motorsports Park, but the engine suffered only cosmetic damage.
Since Patrick won’t be racing in Dallas following the wreck, Musi now has a back-up motor and he plans to push everything to the limit in Dallas.
“Our goal is just to go win the race. We want to try to run as good as we can. I’m thinking about running as fast as we can run,” Musi said. “Dallas is going to be a good track. I’ve got a hard road ahead, but we’ve been working on some stuff and we’re going to make a shot at it.
“I’m old-school. I’m completely focused. We’ve gone over the car front to back. We’ve put a lot of time into this. This week was race week, and we think we’re really ready.”
Championship or not, Musi is still thrilled with his decision to get back behind the wheel. It’s also allowed him to see his daughter, Lizzy, complete her first year of racing.
Lizzy will finish her solid rookie campaign in Top Sportsman in Dallas, adding another great aspect of Musi’s 2012 season.
“It’s been great. The whole ADRL has been great. Watching my daughter run has been great. She’s learned a lot, she’s got a good car now and that’s pretty cool,” Pat Musi said. “She’s coming along and I’m very proud of her. We’ve had a lot of fun this year.”
FRIENDS AND COMBATANTS - The way Mick Snyder sees it, there’s only one perfect scenario to figure out who will be the Pro Extreme world championship at this weekend’s ADRL World Finals at the Texas Motorplex between him and Jason Scruggs.
“I just think we need to get both cars to the finals and race it off. That would be awesome,” Snyder said. “On a positive note, one of the teammates is going to win and that’s cool, too. Obviously we would like for it to be the orange car and Jason would like it to be the red car.”
As for the head-to-head matchup in the finals, Scruggs is on board with that line of thinking as well.
“It would be cool to meet in the finals and for it to come down to that,” Scruggs said.
If it does, it would be the biggest final round ever for either driver.
But even if it doesn’t come down to that, this will be a massive weekend for both Snyder and Scruggs. Snyder currently leads Scruggs by a mere six points heading into the weekend, which means everything will come down to Friday and Saturday in Dallas.
It’s been a banner year for both. Snyder won three straight races, led the points standings for most of the year, became the first (and only thus far) driver in 2012 to reach the 3.50s and continues to show remarkable progress in only his third season driving a Pro Extreme car.
Scruggs, meanwhile, has made another spectacular late-season charge, winning two of his three races since July. He has continually closed the gap on Snyder, and the six-point margin means everything is up for grabs at the Texas Motorplex.
“There’s pressure on both of us, but you just have to block that out and try to run your race. That’s hard to do because, in reality, there’s pressure on both of us,” Scruggs said.
As for importance of this event, Scruggs, a two-time world champion in the ADRL, knows there is plenty on the line.
“I consider it the most important race of my career, but that’s how I consider every race. But obviously it’s the most important one of the year,” Scruggs said. “It’s going to be an exciting weekend and we’ve had good luck in Ennis.
“But anybody in this class can take you out at any time. We’re both going to have to be on our game.”
Snyder, who is after his first ADRL world championship, is coming off a career-best pass of 3.59 last month in Norwalk and appears to have regained the mojo that led to an incredible three-race winning streak in May and June.
Heading into the biggest race of his ADRL career, Snyder won’t back down from his aggressive approach, either.
“You keep looking at the progress and it’s pretty dang exciting. We keep changing everything. We never go to the track with what we had at the track at the previous race. We’re always in test mode,” Snyder said.
“In order to stay ahead, you have to keep doing something.”
But even with a world championship on the line, Snyder’s mindset won’t change from the season’s first 10 races.
“We went through the car, made sure everything is where it’s supposed to be, load the car up like normal and get everything ready to go,” Snyder said.
“It’s more than a race, but you really can’t change your approach.”
CLINCH SCENARIOS - The 2012 ADRL Tour will come to a conclusion at this weekend’s ADRL World Finals VIII presented by CarSafe at the Texas Motorplex, and there are plenty of world championship races to be decided.
SPRINGING FORWARD - Keith Haney Racing's two cars are looking to end the ADRL season with a strong statement this weekend at the ADRL World Finals VIII presented by CarSafe at Texas Motorplex.
Haney and teammate Monroe Guest have endured their fair share of growing pains this year making their Keith Haney Racing Chevy Camaros race ready and competitive. However Haney said every time they hit the track, the cars just keep getting better.
"We're feeling real strong," Haney said. "The cars have come around real nice. We has some issues in the beginning, but now we're happy with everything.
"We're happy with the crew chiefs and the decisions that have been made and we're looking forward to a good close on the year."
aney said after racing in Pro Mod last time out, they are expecting to race in the Pro Nitrous field this weekend because there is going to be a better opportunity to make the field.
"There's a lot of NHRA guys coming to race on their way out to Las Vegas," Haney said. "The Pro Mod class only has eight spots as compared to 16 for Pro Nitrous, so we just want to give ourselves the best chance to be competitive."
He said the team recently completed an event at Tulsa Raceway Park that yielded promising results.
"Both our cars raced the Throwdown," Haney said. "I won first round despite the transmission being messed up and Monroe had a good outing, where he qualified No. 4. I couldn't make the call for second round because we didn't want to hurt the motor over a tranny, but we learned a lot.
"We feel like we've great package right now. Or motors from Reher-Morrison Racing Engines are great and Lucas Oil has come on board recently and really helped us out."
Haney said they are all pieces it the puzzle to make Keith Haney Racing a true contender in 2013.
"We want to run the season from the beginning," Haney said. "For a few reasons we didn't get the chance to do that this year, but now we've got a huge leg up on 2013. We want to be contenders at all 10 races next year."
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