SCARY MOMENT - At the X-DRL Thunder Valley Madness event in Bristol, TN, Dean Goforth was enjoying one of his better outings in recent memory. After Friday's three rounds of qualifying for Extreme Pro Stock (XPS), the 68-year-old patriarch of Goforth Racing was sitting second at 4.085 and 176.67 mph, behind only the 4.082 by his son Cary, the defending back-to-back XPS champion over in the rival ADRL series.
In Saturday's fourth and final qualifying session Goforth watched as a couple of pairs ahead of him Kevin Bealko ran 4.083 to take over the second spot, giving Goforth one last chance at improving his lot before eliminations began that afternoon.
Making a solo pass in the left lane as the final car in the class, Goforth launched into what he later described as his best 60-foot time of the weekend. Unfortunately, that's also about where things went wrong in a hurry.
Goforth's 2009 Pontiac GXP made a sudden and dramatic turn to the right, briefly getting up on its two left-side wheels before striking the right guardwall with its right front, then right rear quarters. It then bounced back and careened across the track, seeming to defy physics as it appeared to hit the left wall even harder with its left front corner before limping to a halt crossways in the middle of the track near the eighth-mile finish line.
"The car left good and it was going straight and I remember thinking, 'this is gonna' be a good one,'" Goforth recalled later, after being cleared by trackside medical personnel to return to his pit. "I was in the middle of making the shift to second gear and everything just broke loose; it didn't shake or anything. I really didn't know what was going on and it happened so fast that I didn't even have time to react before it hit the wall.
"What happened I think when I hit that wall, though, is that my foot hit the throttle again and the engine was still running so I shot back across under power. That was the one that hurt; I think that was a worse impact than that 200 mile-an-hour crash I had at Tulsa (2009), which is the last major accident I had.
"I'm okay, but I'll probably be sore tomorrow," he concluded. "Nothing hurt but my chest where the seatbelts did their job."
Goforth also praised the X-DRL and Bristol track workers who he said were by his side within seconds of when the car stopped. He also singled out fellow XPS driver Todd Hoerner, who was the first to arrive by his side. "I heard Todd looked like a deer jumping the fence to come help me," he said with a laugh. "I was told he didn't even touch the fence, just jumped right over."
Upon inspecting Goforth's wrecked ride before it was dropped off a flatbed truck in their pit, crew chief Brian Self suspected a broken wishbone in the right rear suspension was the culprit behind the crash.
"That's what they tell me," Goforth said. "It definitely came as a surprise."
With a brand-new 2013 Camaro already scheduled for delivery from chassis builder Jerry Haas, Goforth said he hopes to have it ready in time for the Mountain Motor Nationals, set for May 10-11 at Maryland International Raceway, as well as the next X-DRL event the next weekend at No Problem Raceway in Belle Rose, LA.
BACK FOR NOW - Some might say Todd Tutterow is back where he belongs--back behind the wheel of a screw-blown Pro Extreme car and back among the front runners of the class.
Tutterow arrived at the X-DRL Thunder Valley Madness event with a more familiar supercharged hemi beneath the hood of his Jeffers Pro Cars '68 Mustang, replacing the twin-turbocharged unit that had been giving him fits and starts all year long to this point.
"Myself and Harry (Hruska of Precision Turbo) talked about the deal and we were so far off with our combination that we decided to put the blower back in the car for right now so we can continue to qualify and be able to run up front," Tutterow said shortly before placing fourth with a 3.672-seconds pass at 205.10 mph in Saturday's fourth and final qualifying session on the eighth mile at Bristol Dragway.
Frankie Taylor, another Pro Extreme stalwart who also briefly attempted the turbo experiment at the start of last year's ADRL season, led the 15-car field with a 3.646 at 209.07 in his screw-blown '05 Corvette, also from the Jeffers shop. Qualified between the two ex-ADRL Pro Extreme world champions were Tommy D'Aprile in second (3.655/206.10) and Dan Millen, who ran the identical ET and speed that Tutterow did but got the position based on doing it first.
"I went about it wrong," Tutterow admitted in explaining early-season struggles that left him a non-qualifier at X-DRL and ADRL events alike--typically as a result of severe tire shake that quite literally was tearing his car apart. "I still know it will work in my car, I just went with the wrong transmission-converter combination, wrong gear ratios and tires. That's the biggest thing.
"And we've got GALOT on board with us now and they're not paying me to test, so like I said, we made the decision to go back to where we know we can be competitive."
Tutterow, in fact, experienced a degree of success with a twin-turboed '70 Plymouth Duster in several 2012 NHRA Pro Mod events.
"We were really close with the Duster, but it was heavy and we ran a lot smaller turbo on it," he said. "And 3.80s was pretty fast with a turbo car, but these guys (Pro Extreme) are running .50s. I don't want to run .80s; I want to run .50s with a turbo car, so I've got to find the correct combination for that."
"King Tut" also revealed another brand-new, Jeffers-built '68 Mustang will soon arrive at his Yadkinville, NC, race shop. "When the new car gets here we're going to put the blower in it, get that car raceable, and put the turbos back in this car and get it worked out.
"The problem was we were coming to the races to test and you don't get but four laps that way and I can do that at home. So once we get the new car sorted out we can put the turbos back in and start testing this car again, but without trying to race it at the same time," Tutterow reasoned.
"Once we get it figured out I know it's going to be really, really fast. It's going to turn a lot of heads."
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - A DAY OF FAST RUNS AND CARNAGE
TOUGH BREAK FOR BELL - Canadian Jim Bell enjoyed a great start to his X-DRL experience as he ran 4.196 at 182.13 mph in a solo pass during the opening round of Pro Turbo qualifying to place a provisional second for X-DRL Thunder Valley Madness.
Unfortunately, Bell's finish came even quicker as his new Pro Line 526-powered and Bickel-built 2012 Mustang got loose under braking and wound up hitting the right guardwall at eastern Tennessee's historic Bristol Dragway.
"I got the chutes out, but got on the brakes a little too hard," the Edmonton, Alberta, native glumly admitted as his crew buttoned up the trailer for the tow back to Pro Line in Ball Ground, GA, with his mangled Mustang securely strapped down inside. "They're carbon fiber and they just locked up and the car slid at about a 45-degree angle across the track.
"I thought I almost had it saved, but then the front hit and the right rear quarter sideswiped the wall. It's mostly cosmetic damage, but it's enough that we're done for the weekend," he added.
NOT HIS KIND OF PARTY - Todd Martin has suffered an unfortunate start to his 2013 X-DRL Pro Extreme season.
After a pre-season testing crash at Tulsa Raceway Park tore up the front end of his wild, flamed, screw-blown '68 Mustang, it required complete new front body work in addition to significant frame and suspension repairs by its original builders at Garret Race Cars.
Martin made it through unscathed at the X-DRL debut event at Tulsa a couple of weeks later in March, but his luck ran out again Apr. 26 at Bristol Dragway in round three of qualifying for X-DRL Thunder Valley Madness.
"The pass was over, the chutes were out and all of a sudden the car just started hopping," Martin recalled of his meeting with the left guardwall in the Bristol shutdown area after making a fourth-place 3.727 pass at 203.25 mph--his best of the day--while running alongside Frankie Taylor.
"This is a bumpy track, I don't care what anyone says, this place is bumpy," he insisted. "And the left lane is worse than the right, at least in the shutdown; on the racing surface the left is better. When it started bouncing it just aimed me over toward the wall and I don't know how I didn't hit it more head on, but I just smacked it a glancing blow."
Taylor said he watched it all unfold immediately after he threw out the laundry following a class-leading 3.646 at 209.07-mph run.
"I had my chutes out quick like I usually do and here comes ol' Todd flying by me and then when he got his chutes out his car got all loose and wound up going hard to the left," Taylor described. "I saw him hit the wall and that's when I got afraid he might bounce back and come across into my lane so I got on the binders pretty hard. But he got it under control pretty fast, so no problem."
The problem was all Martin's, however, as his car's left front fender took the brunt of the impact while its left exhaust header was flattened and the driver's door sustained significant scuffing. Fortunately, the damage appeared only to be cosmetic this time, so Martin and representatives from his sponsor, Kryptonite Kustoms, quickly set to work with determination and duct tape to restore the Mustang's classic good looks.
"We'll get it back out there tomorrow," Martin promised. "I just hate that this happened--again--but we'll get it fixed."
AND A MAD MAN SHALL LEAD THEM - Frankie "Mad Man" Taylor was fast straight off the trailer Apr. 26, as he led through all three rounds of Pro Extreme qualifying for X-DRL Thunder Valley Madness at Bristol Dragway.
Taylor opened with a 3.684-seconds pass at 208.23 mph that stood up in the number-one spot through two sessions, then improved to 3.646 at 209.07 in the third and final round on Friday. One more qualifying opportunity is scheduled for Saturday before elimination rounds begin.
"It was nice and smooth and it feels good to make a couple of good passes instead of just one fast Hail Mary," said Taylor, who is making his X-DRL driving debut after concentrating on helping his brother Paul tune Tim Tindle's entry at the series' inaugural event last month in Tulsa.
Running in the next pair behind Taylor and in the same right lane, Tommy D'Aprile came closest to the 2009 ADRL Pro Extreme champion's time with a 3.655 run at 206.10 mph in Mel Bush's late-model Corvette. Brandon Pesz, winner of the Tulsa race, placed third, with Dan Millen and Todd Tutterow filling out the top five after 15 drivers made qualifying attempts on the Bristol eighth mile.
"It's coming around," Taylor said of his screw-blown, Larry Jeffers-built '05 Corvette that had to have more than 75 pounds added to it in order to meet the X-DRL class minimum 2,350 pounds. "We're still trying to adjust to the extra weight. It doesn't sound like a lot, but it's enough to make a difference."
With a .924 60-foot time and 2.462 to half-track, Paul Taylor said if the car was running in its outlaw or ADRL configuration the pole-sitting pass probably would've clocked in at 3.60 or 3.61 seconds.
LAURITA LEADS EARLY BRISTOL PN QUALIFYING - It's all new to Pro Nitrous racer Jim Laurita this weekend at Bristol Dragway, beginning with the '68 Camaro he recently purchased from lead tuner Brandon Switzer and drove to his first provisional number-one position on day one of the X-DRL Thunder Valley Madness at Bristol Dragway.
The top three qualifiers in the class all made their best runs in Friday's second of three sessions, with Laurita's 3.898 at 194.07 leading the way over Pat Stoken's 3.907 at 193.57 and a 3.911 pass at 191.19 by Jeff Naiser. Defending ADRL PN champion Bob Rahaim stepped up in round three with a 3.912 at 191.62 to fill out the top half of Saturday's eliminations field.
Laurita is driving the same car that current NHRA Top Fuel driver Khalid Al-Balooshi steered to the 2011 ADRL PN Battle for the Belts title with Switzer tuning. There's also a brand-new Reher-Morrison 872 engine fitted with a revolutionary nitrous system by Switzer Dynamics under the hood, and to complete the transformation from the '70 Camaro he drove in the X-DRL's debut event last month in Tulsa, Laurita is making the switch at Bristol from an automatic to a clutch-operated transmission.
"We tested at Mooresville (NC) with it last week, but my first full passes with the clutch were here today at Bristol," Laurita said. "It's a lot more work, a lot more going on in the car, but I'm already getting pretty comfortable with it. But I've got a really talented crew, too, so that makes it a lot easier."
With only seven entries, Billy Glidden (3.925/190.40), Robert Mathis (4.164/181.84) and Tommy Franklin (4.442/149.07) completed the Pro Nitrous qualifying list.
MOYER QUICKEST IN PRO TURBO AT BRISTOL - At just a tick off a career-best 3.90 in a runner-up finish last month in the X-DRL's inaugural event, Todd Moyer paced the new Pro Turbo class with a 3.913 at 201.01 mph after three qualifying sessions for X-DRL Thunder Valley Madness at Bristol Dragway, the second of nine scheduled events this year for the fledgling eighth-mile series.
"We were shooting for a 3.93 to be honest, but a 3.91? Yeah, we'll take that," Moyer said after making the run in Friday's third round. "We actually took some power out of it to get some bite. We just had too much power down low before that.
"Running this bigger tire has made things more fun," the Pasadena, TX-based driver said about moving his twin-turbocharged '63 Vette up to Pro Turbo after his traditional 10.5W class was axed from both the ADRL and X-DRL programs this year. "With the kind of power we're looking at here, 2,000 horsepower or more, the 10.5 tire had to have everything absolutely perfect. This one's a little more forgiving; it's window of opportunity for tuning is a little bigger."
Dominican racer Jose Gonzalez in his '69 Camaro that Eric Dillard drove to a double-record-setting win (3.78/210.64) over Moyer in the X-DRL season opener at Tulsa, was the only other driver of five entrants to break into the threes, as he placed second with a 3.950 at 202.09 mph. A fourth and final round of qualifying will be held Saturday prior to elimination rounds.
GOFORTH FORCES FATHER FROM XPS LEAD - With a 4.085-seconds effort at 176.67 mph, Dean Goforth led through two rounds of X-DRL Thunder Valley Madness qualifying for the Extreme Pro Stock class, but son Cary stole away the number-one spot with an impressive 4.082 at 176.03 in Friday's third and last session at Bristol Dragway.
"I kind of hate it for my dad because he more than deserves anything that comes his way success wise," the defending back-to-back ADRL XPS champion said. "But to have both cars running good is a real bonus. I can't remember the last time we were one and two, last summer maybe. It's definitely been awhile."
John DeFlorian, winner of the inaugural X-DRL event three weeks earlier in Tulsa, OK, slotted in at number three with a 4.094 at 175.84 mph, while Rocky Watford edged out only Todd Hoerner for the eighth and final qualifying position with a 4.241 at 170.11 mph.
Goforth, who lost to a holeshot in the opening round at Tulsa, was pleased not only with the performance of his 2010 GXP in Bristol, but with his improved driving, too.
“We were a little bit off there, but hopefully we’re back now,” he said. “This was the type of day we needed to get us going better. I finally had a decent light today; I think maybe I needed to have a sense of urgency."
One more round of qualifying remains before eliminations begin on Saturday.
DAVIS DELIVERS AGAIN IN TS QUALIFYING - Fresh off a number-one qualifying performance two weeks ago for the rained-out ADRL event in Cecil, GA, Top Sportsman veteran Ronnie Davis repeated the feat Apr. 26, as he ran 4.112 at 178.92 mph to secure the top spot for eliminations in X-DRL Thunder Valley Madness at Bristol Dragway.
Unlike all heads-up classes in the X-DRL that have one more round of qualifying to complete before eliminations begin on Saturday, the bracket-racing Top Sportsman and Top Dragster classes complete qualifying and set their race-day fields on day one of each event.
"That was a good pass; not perfect, but good," said Davis, who also competes in NHRA Div. 2 with his Roush Yates-powered, nitrous-boosted '63 Corvette. "If we can repeat that tomorrow I think we'll be in good shape."
With only six entries at Bristol, in round one Davis will face off against Glenn Butcher in the debut of his brand-new Garret-built '69 Camaro, while number-two starter Aaron Glaser will take on Randell Reid, and Stacy Hall will race Jim Sackuvich.
In Top Dragster, Kevin Fisher's 4.277 at 163.61 mph led a seven-car field into race day and Dan Stevenson led the way for just three entries in the X-DRL's Extreme Pro Mod category with a 3.923 at 191.73 in his nitrous-fed '70 Camaro.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES - A year ago, Frankie Taylor was still wrapped up in his turbo experiment when he arrived at Bristol Dragway.
It was the final time he drove with the turbocharger, the only indication as to how well that weekend went.
Now, the Pro X-treme standout is ready to make a different impression at the track when he races this weekend at the X-DRL's Thunder Valley Madness.
"I feel like I've got a chance this year," Taylor said.
Last year, that wasn't the case. Taylor got into the 3-second zone with his turbo set-up, but he ultimately didn't make the field at the ADRL event. That proved to be the last straw, as Taylor went back to the screw blower that keyed his 2010 PX world championship and star status in the doorslammer world. Things have gradually gotten back to normal since then, and Taylor has big ideas this weekend in Bristol.
He went 3.63 in Valdosta at the ADRL event two weeks ago, but even in the high altitude at scenic Bristol, Taylor hopes to improve upon that and give Bristol fans a better idea of why he's known as the "Madman."
"I figure to go high 3.50s here. It should and it's definitely capable of it," Taylor said. "That's what we'll be shooting for and hopefully we can do that."
Those are big aspirations for this weekend, but Taylor is glad just to get back on a regular racing schedule. He had a productive winter racing in the Arabian Drag Racing League in Qatar, winning twice and advancing to two finals.
Even with an old engine, Taylor traded world record blows with the competition, truly proving he was all the way back with his screw blower combination.
"It was a great show. Everybody was hauling butt over there," Taylor said.
But there was plenty of work to be done upon returning, and it took nearly two months for Taylor to get back behind the wheel. Coupled with getting teammate Tim Tindle's new Mustang ready for this weekend's X-DRL race, and it's easy to understand why just getting to race may be more relaxing for Taylor at the moment.
"Coming back from Qatar, we've just been really busy trying to get these cars ready. It's nice to just go racing," Taylor said. "This will only be the second race we've done this year. That's what we like to do so hopefully it's a good weekend and a lot of fun."
As for Tindle's new car, Taylor has big ideas for that as well. He may not be thinking 3.50s, but for a car that has yet to make an official pass, Taylor thinks it can still make plenty of noise in Bristol.
"I think it will do pretty good. We'll set up a baseline to try and get down, and hopefully we can go low 3.70s and then get after it some," Taylor said. "It's tough when you can't go test it anywhere, but it ought to be pretty good."
NEW CAR FOR TINDLE - Tim Tindle finally doesn't have to answer the question.
Every previous Pro Mod car he had owned had been purchased from another driver, meaning Tindle would always get questions about the previous owner first. It wasn't necessarily irritating, but it did give him a twinge to know the car was perhaps never fully his.
Now, Tindle has something to call his own.
He took delivery of a black Pro X-treme '67 Shelby GT 500 Mustang from Jeffers Pro Cars last week and then worked tirelessly with Frankie Taylor to get it ready in time for this weekend's X-DRL race at Bristol Dragway.
It has yet to make it down the track, but just having a brand-new car is enough to make Tindle smile.
"This is the first new car I've ever built, and it's been real exciting," Tindle said. "Now maybe people can see my car and be like, 'That's Tim Tindle's car.' That would be cool.
"After driving Frankie's car, it worked so good and I talked to Jeffers about building a new car for me. I sat in it, got some stuff measured for me, and I did some extra stuff that I wanted to do. That made it really exciting for me."
Tindle certainly had good results in Taylor's Jeffers Pro Cars Corvette, winning the ADRL event at zMAX Dragway last year, posting several runner-up finishes in 2012 and finishing as the runner-up at the X-DRL opener earlier this month in Tulsa.
But he was ready for a new car - and his own car - even if it meant significantly reducing his sleep over the past week.
"We got it Saturday evening and we've been thrashing on it ever since. We worked until 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning and finally got it fired up," Tindle said. "The first pass it will ever make will be in Bristol. It ought to be pretty interesting."
The one positive is there will be some familiarity with the car. The body is obviously different than Taylor's Corvette, but the suspension, chassis and nearly everything else is set up exactly the same.
"We're hopeful that it goes right down the track the first time," Tindle said.
That's the best-case scenario, but Tindle only thinks along those lines.
Even with a new car, expectations don't change for the Florida-based driver.
"When I go to the track, I go there to win every race. My mindset is to try to win every race," Tindle said. "Obviously that's not going to happen, but if I'm going to race, I'm going there with the mindset to win."
Should that win come in Bristol, Tindle may have to pinch himself. Not only would he be winning driving a new car - and one specifically built for him - but he would be doing it at a track he has always revered.
"This is the place to race for me and it's been that way since I got into Pro Mod," Tindle said. "I've won a bunch of races, but the two I've always wanted to win were Gainesville and Bristol. I've never won either, so hopefully I can get the win here. That would be the icing on the cake."