ADRL TEXAS DRAGS - EVENT NOTEBOOK

Written by Ian Tocher; Photos by Roger Richards.



   
   

 

 

SATURDAY NOTEBOOK -

Hernandez

MAKE MINE A DOUBLE - For three American Drag Racing League (ADRL) drivers, winning once this weekend at Houston Raceway Park (HRP) wasn’t enough.

For Pro Extreme driver Joshua Hernandez, one rousing victory in front of a boisterous hometown crowd proved to be plenty.

After winning the ADRL Universal Technical Institute Dragpalooza VI presented by Safety-Kleen, which was completed at HRP on Friday after being postponed in March, Pro Nitrous driver Rickie Smith, Extreme 10.5 standout Billy Glidden and Extreme Pro Stock’s John Montecalvo all made it a two-win weekend by coming up victorious at Saturday’s ADRL UTI Inaugural Texas Drags.

Hernandez and Ashley Owens (Pro Extreme Motorcycle) pulled out the other two class wins on Saturday, with Hernandez and his ‘57 Fight Me MMA Chevy bringing the crowd to its feet on several occasions.

The last came in the final, when the Houston-area native went 3.72 - the low round of the weekend - at 204.91 miles per hour to knock off Steve Wiley that set off a memorable celebration in front of plenty of friends and family.

“This was just incredible. The show of support for a hometown boy was just amazing,” Hernandez said. “To hold that trophy at the end of the night in front of the fans, that’s what it’s all about.”

Hernandez had the Texas heat figured out all weekend and was the most consistent PX driver by far on Saturday.

In the process, he treated fans to spectacular races on both days, but none were more entertaining than his semifinal duel with KH Al-Thani.

The Al-Anabi racing member went 3.76 in a great run, but Hernandez went 3.74 in an epic battle that captured everyone’s attention. Hernandez followed with another spectacular performance in the final, which was simply par for the course for the weekend.

“We changed a lot of stuff and the track was the great equalizer this weekend,” said Hernandez, who was also the top qualifier and became the new points leader.

“Everyone was struggling in the same areas and it was just a matter of who figured it out the fastest.”





AN EMOTIONAL DOUBLE - A victory double-dip proved especially rewarding for Rickie Smith, who dedicated both victories to his ill father.
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He teared up after the win on Friday and his father served as motivation a day later as well.

“I wanted to dedicate this race to him and it was on my mind,” Smith said. “I didn’t want to try too hard and mess up, but it’s so unbelievable to do two in a row. It’s a tremendous lift for me.”

Smith was impressive on Friday in running the best times in the class, but he was dynamite a day later, reaching 3.90 in both the semifinals and finals.

After qualifying in the top spot, Smith went 3.90 to defeat Shannon Jenkins in the semifinals, before knocking off Johnny Pilcher on a red-light win in the finals.

Pilcher surprised many by running well while debuting a new Camaro, but Smith had far too much power and consistency to be denied on this weekend.

“We’ve been fighting the engine all year and I’m just so tickled with this car right now,” Smith said. “The car is just working great.”




XTF

OH YEAH, HE'S BACK - Billy Glidden weaved his own memorable tale at HRP, winning for a second straight night just weeks after a devastating crash in Topeka.

The XTF standout returned quicker than expected to the track and the payoff was his best weekend in more than a year.

“We’re really happy and at least something appeared for us after all the work we’ve been doing,” said Glidden, who has a class-best 11 career victories. “Everything in me is cramping up.”

Glidden also extracted revenge on Gary White after losing to the Titan Motorsports driver at Michigan in June.

This time, White red-lighted and handed the victory to Glidden, who managed to come up victorious despite plenty of struggles in his 2010 Mustang on Saturday.

“Today, we didn’t do a very good job. In the first and second run, the car just took off,” Glidden said. “It was tough to maneuver today. For the semis, we changed the shocks, the transmission and the tires. We changed everything but the car, the motor and me.

“But if we continue progressing, we can be a contender again.”




UNFORGETTABLE - John Montecalvo shot to the top of XPS after a weekend the New York native will never forget.
Montecalvo
Nearly overcome by emotion in the winner’s circle, Montecalvo didn’t hold back when describing what the double-win weekend meant to him.

“It is by far one of the best weeks I’ve ever had in drag racing,” Montecalvo said. “I’ve never doubled up before and we just came through. I’m just so pumped right now. My adrenaline is through the roof.”

Montecalvo was nearly flawless on Saturday, again saving his best for last in the final. After knocking off Elijah Morton - whom he beat in the finals on

Friday - to advance, Montecalvo turned in a class-best 4.11 in the finals, knocking off Brian Gahm for the second straight race.

Montecalvo also has three straight wins to his credit, making him the hottest current driver in the ADRL.

“Today, we were on fire,” Montecalvo said. “It went picture perfect and I have to thank my crew for making this possible.”


Owens

IT WAS HIS WEEKEND AFTER ALL - After Ashley Owens had his streak of dominance snapped on Friday, the thought of it not being his weekend seemed to apply after he also broke two transmissions in three passes.

But Owens and his team kept at it and the payoff proved to be a trophy that the entire Fast by Gast team enjoyed.

His performance on Saturday was also an indication there might not be any chinks in his armor in PXM.

“We just kept working all weekend,” Owens said. “I had never broke a transmission before and then I did two in three passes. I still don’t know what happened. The guys just kept working hard.”

That was evident, as Owens ripped off two eye-popping times in the semifinals and finals.

After going 4.13 to advance to the finals, Owens denied Travis Davis a double-win weekend by running another 4.13 that smashed any other elapsed time for any competitor in PXM.

That those times and the win came in the second-fastest PXM field in ADRL history added even more gratification for Owens, who maintains a massive lead in points.

“It is satisfying,” Owens said. “It’s a great group of guys and we came through.”



DRAGPALOOZA WINNERS STILL IN THE HUNT -
Heading into the finals for the inaugural ADRL Texas Drags at Houston Raceway Park, four of yesterday’s five winners of the rain-postponed UTI Dragpalooza VI remain in contention.

Only Pro Extreme’s Frankie Taylor is out of luck after hitting the wall in round one, while Rickie Smith will look to repeat, joined by Billy Glidden in Extreme 10.5, Travis Davis in Pro Extreme Motorcycle and Extreme Pro Stock star John Montecalvo, who will actually be going for his third ADRL national event win in a row after taking the crown at Martin, Michigan, in June.

Pro Extreme will be settled between number-one qualifier Joshua Hernandez and fellow Texan Steve Wiley in an unlikely run from the 15th qualifying position. Hernandez reached the final by racing through Shawn Davis, then taking out a redlighting Brian Daniels in round two while also setting low ET for the meet so far at 3.73 seconds, and edging Sheikh Khalid Al-Thani in the semis 17-thousandths of a second.

Wiley’s incredible progression began with a car that wouldn’t go into reverse after its burnout for round one and had to be pushed back into position beside Taylor, who turned over the win with his crash. In round two, Wiley made a solo run when John Stanley couldn’t answer the call to stage and in the semis, former class champ Bubba Stanton broke on the run while Wiley pedaled his way to the finish.

Smith, with two years separating his first win at Budd’s Creek, Maryland, from last night’s triumph, may be looking at a much, much shorter gap this time around. He easily handled Earl Folse in the Texas Drags opener, beat Randy Weatherford by half a car length in round two and set low ET for the class at Houston with a 3.90 win over an early shut-off Shannon Jenkins in the semis. Meanwhile, Pilcher took out Charles Carpenter and Lee Adkins before posting a 3.94 holeshot victory over Steve Vick in the semi-finals.

Glidden, showing hints of his 2008 dominance of the class, started from the number-one spot and stormed through Kenny Hubbard, Eric Stubbs and Chris Shortridge to reach Team Titan’s Gary White in the final, winner of the two prior races before the ADRL got to Texas. White drove his unique turbocharged, six-cylinder Scion past a trio of Texans in H.T. Wilson, Todd Moyer and Jeff Naiser to reach his fourth final round of the year.

Davis put Paul Gast on the trailer to get his race underway, then downed Matt Prophit and top qualifier Terry Schweigert on his way to his second final in as many days, where he’ll face off against Ashley Owens, who has won all three previous completed ADRL races this year. Owens got quicker in each round today as he took care of Monte Campbell, Lance Hines and Eric McKinney, who Davis beat in the Dragpalooza final last night.

Montecalvo had the easiest path to the final as he ran unopposed in the semis due to being the top starter in a 12 car field. Before the bye, however, he beat Lester Cooper and his final-round rival in Dragpalooza VI, Elijah Morton, to set up today’s final against Brian Gahm. Jeff Dobbins fell to Gahm in the opener today, then Cary Goforth suffered the same fate before Gahm pulled off a holeshot win over Bob Bertsch in the semis.

MORRELL MAKES HISTORY -
Let the record show that Kim Morrell of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, is the first woman ever to reach 180 miles per Morrellhour on a Pro Extreme Motorcycle.

After taking out Rob Hunnicutt in round one, Morrell lined up against Eric McKinney for round two of Texas Drags eliminations. McKinney left with a .034 holeshot that allowed his 4.19 at 166.11 to beat Morrell’s quicker 4.17 pass, but the history belongs to Morrell after she ran a barrier-breaking 180.07 mph.

“Amazing. I couldn’t believe it,” Morrell said later. “It was very smooth, it felt like it was pulling harder all the way down.”

The 180-mph mark has been reached only one time previously in Pro Extreme Motorcycle when Ashley Owens posted a 180.30-mph speed in the opening round of eliminations last year at Martin, Michigan.

TAYLOR TAGS HRP WALL - Frankie Taylor is no longer in the running for a two-win weekend.

Last night he was celebrating a rain-postponed Dragpalooza VI win in Houston Raceway Park’s winner’s circle and looking forward to potentially doubling up in today’s inaugural ADRL Texas Drags. Taylor came out looking strong with a session-leading 3.79 pass in Saturday’s lone Pro Extreme qualifying round, but things went wrong in a hurry in his first-round elimination match against fellow Texan Steve Wiley.   

“From hero to zero in just a couple of seconds,” Taylor said not long after scraping his brand-new ’05 Corvette against the right guardwall. “We just got a little aggressive, took the tire off, and got sent into the wall.”

Taylor said his team left the same tune-up in the car that netted the .79 in last-chance qualifying, but considering the hot, slick track he now believes it was too much.

“Nobody’s been going fast today. They’re all running 4.0s and we’re trying for a 3.65; we were having fun and were just too stupid to back it down.”

Fortunately, the car sustained only minor cosmetic damage that Taylor said he’d take care of with “a couple of cans of flat black spray paint.” He also said the car will remain in its primered state for the immediate future, but remains scheduled to receive a fancy new wrap job.

“Not until I get this thing figured out, though,” he declared. “It’s a lot easier to fix the way it is right now.”

FIELDS SET FOR TEXAS DRAGS - A two-hour delay for track repair following Hugh Scott’s spectacular wreck meant qualifying extended an hour beyond the scheduled 3 p.m. start for Texas Drags eliminations.

No changes were made at the head of the fields during Saturday’s fourth and final session, so Joshua Hernandez starts number one with a 3.76 at 203.77 mph in Pro Extreme, Rickie Smith’s Dragpalooza VI-winning 3.91 at 191.97 from Friday night gives him the top spot in Pro Nitrous and the winning 4.03 at 183.02 in the Extreme 10.5 final gave Billy Glidden the pole, too.

John Montecalvo correctly predicted his 4.13 at 175.21 mph that won the Dragpalooza VI Extreme Pro Stock final would hold up as the number-one time and Canada’s Terry Schweigert paced the second-quickest Pro Extreme Motorcycle field in ADRL history with a 4.18 at 171.82 mph.   

HUGH SCOTT'S SCARY MOMENT -

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scott8SCARY MOMENT - Pro Extreme veteran Hugh Scott suffered a patented Hugh Scott accident today, crashing off the start of his lone qualifying attempt for the inaugural ADRL Texas Drags at Houston Raceway Park (HRP).

Lined up beside defending class champion Todd Tutterow, Scott fortunately waited until after Tutterow was long gone to launch his ’41 Plymouth from the left lane and straight into the right guardwall. Scott’s car shook hard, then made a sharp right just past the starting tree, getting up on its two left wheels before slamming nearly head-on into the far concrete in a fiery explosion.

With its front end heavily damaged, but no apparent residual fire, Scott’s car then rolled to a halt on the center line near half-track, where ADRL officials quickly arrived and began spraying the engine with fire extinguishers while other track safety workers helped the Red Bay, Alabama, native out of the cockpit.

Scott was checked out by on-site paramedics, who fortunately reported no injuries to the driver.

Here's an excerpt from Roger Richards' incredible photo sequence.

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DRAGPALOOZA RESULTS SHAKE UP POINTS RACES -
With only the top eight points earners in each class getting to race for a championship in the ADRL’s year-ending Battle for the Belts, results from each race along the way play a significant role in determining those elite eight and the rain-postponed UTI Dragpalooza VI at Houston Raceway Park is no exception.

Event winner Frankie Taylor vaulted from fifth place heading into the event to now sit atop the Pro Extreme points list, while former leader Alex Hossler dropped down to third with Joshua Hernandez bumping up one spot to second place. Jason Scruggs dropped from second to fourth and will inevitably fall farther in the rankings today with the conclusion of the inaugural Texas Drags.

Quain Stott, Gaylen Smith, Wes Johnston and 2009 Rookie of the Year Jason Hamstra make up the second half of current Pro Extreme Battle for the Belts qualifiers, while John Stanley and Sheikh Khalid Al-Thani both dropped off the Belts list and will be looking to return with good results today.

In Pro Nitrous, class legend Charles Carpenter and his iconic ’55 Chevy have taken over the lead, while Dragpalooza winner Rickie Smith climbed all the way from 10th to the runner-up spot, followed by former leader Mike Castellana, who is not competing at Houston this weekend, and Burton Auxier, who maintained his fourth-place standing.

Based on the strength of reaching his first Pro Nitrous final, Terry Murphy jumped from ninth to fifth place after Dragpalooza, followed by teammates Pat Stoken and Jim Halsey and last year’s champ, Khalid Al-Balooshi, who also is not competing this weekend.

Though not having a strong Dragpalooza showing, after winning the two previous events Gary White was able to hold on to his Extreme 10.5 points lead, as did Todd Moyer in second, but race winner Billy Glidden made a big move up from seventh to third and defending class champ Spiro Pappas fell one position to fourth. Jeff Naiser, Michael Neal, Chuck Ulsch and Kenny Doak all shuffled amongst themselves to place fifth through eighth, respectively.

In Pro Extreme Motorcycle, Ashley Owens’ nearly insurmountable lead remained intact, but Dragpalooza champ Travis Davis rode the win from seventh to second place, while his rival in the final, Eric McKinney, gained one position to sit third. Former second-place rider Terry Schweigert is now fourth, leading Lance Hines, Kim Morrell, 2009 class champ Scott Gray and Ronald Procopio.

Finally, the top two positions in Extreme Pro Stock remained with Cary Goforth and Brian Gahm, respectively, but Friday night’s winner, John Montecalvo swapped places with Steven Boone to take over third place. In the remainder of the top eight, Pete Berner held steady in fifth, Bob Bertsch moved up one position to sixth, Dragpalooza finalist Elijah Morton made a big gain from 11th to seventh and Doug Kirk dropped a couple of places to eighth.

Many of these gains and losses may be shortlived, however.  With one last qualifying session followed by elimination rounds for the ADRL Texas Drags scheduled for today, many of these points lists will look markedly different when the teams head for St. Louis in a couple of weeks.

SCRUGGS READY TO ROLL OUT NEW CAR -
The next time you see Jason Scruggs at an ADRL event he’ll have a new car.
Scruggs
Yesterday at Houston Raceway Park, the former two-time Pro Extreme world champ crashed his ’68 Camaro in third-round qualifying for today’s inaugural ADRL Texas Drags. Scruggs was uninjured in the accident, but the car now needs some front chassis and suspension work, a new right, front wheel and a new carbon-fiber body.

“Other than that, it’s really not that bad,” he says of the car that for a full year held sway as the ADRL’s quickest and fastest entry and was a race winner as recently as three months ago in Georgia. The damage is severe enough, however, that Scruggs plans to debut a brand-new, Garret Race Cars-built ’63 Corvette, draped in that familiar Scruggs red, at the ADRL’s next outing in just two weeks (Aug. 6-7), at Gateway International Raceway, near St. Louis.

“I’ll have to race it because there’s no way this one’s going to be fixed in time,” he says.

Each time Scruggs tackled the HRP track from the right lane yesterday and each time he fought to avoid crossing the center line.

“Yesterday just wasn’t my day,” Scruggs lamented. “We wrecked three times and just didn’t hit anything until it finally caught up to us.”

Scruggs says the car, also built by Garret, wasn’t shaking when it left the line, but on each pass it would veer left, forcing him to rapidly lift and upset its suspension. He claims early incremental numbers from the second and third passes indicated potential number-one elapsed times.

“It’s obviously a good car, but we think we may have some kind of issue under there that we just haven’t found yet. I’m taking the car home with me now and we’ll look at it there, but we’ll be concentrating on getting the new one ready for St. Louis,” he says.

Scruggs also says he accepts full responsibility for what happened in Houston.

“I’ll be the first to admit I probably drove it too far, but we weren’t qualified yet and it wasn’t shaking so I thought I could keep driving it. I thought I had it saved after I got the chutes out, but these cars are so fast now that if they get out of the groove they can come around on you so easy,” he explains. “I was just trying to get it in the show. I guess I was just trying too hard.”

MORE FRIDAY ACTION FROM THE CAMERAS OF ROGER RICHARDS

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Gene Hector has a backfire during Friday qualifying.


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Jason Scruggs [right lane] gets dangerously close to John Stanley during Pro Extreme qualifying on Friday at the ADRL Texas Drags. Scruggs crashed his Camaro later in the evening and is out of competition.
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Sometimes experience means nothing when a Pro Nitrous car gets off course. Pro Modified's winningest driver Shannon Jenkins gets into the wall during Friday qualifying at the ADRL Texas Nationals.
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Alex Viscardi gets crossed up with his turbocharged Mustang shortly after the launch.


 


 

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FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - ONE RACE DOWN, ONE TO GO

px_final
px_winnerMAD MAN PREVAILS - Frankie Taylor would have taken a win anywhere after waiting far too long for his second career American Drag Racing League (ADRL) victory in Pro Extreme.But to do it at his hometown track in front of a huge following of friends and family meant that much more for the Houston-area native on Friday.

The “Mad Man” debuted his new ’05 jet black Corvette at Houston Raceway Park (HRP) for the completion of the ADRL Universal Technical Institute Dragpalooza
VI presented by Safety-Kleen, which was postponed in March, and it made an immediate impact.

Taylor beat fellow Texas native Gaylen Smith in the PX finals, running a 3.76 at 200 miles per hour to get his second career win and one he won’t soon forget.

“This is a very emotional win. It’s been a great experience,” Taylor said. “To win in our hometown, it’s just crazy. We’ve won a lot of races in Texas, but this is way better. To win here in Houston, it’s great. It’s the best one yet.”


pn_final
pn_winnerHOT LIKE ALABAMA - Doorslammer legend Rickie Smith tested in extreme heat in Alabama on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the King, NC native credited that to his strong performance.

Smith went 3.91 in the finals, which led to a victory against Terry Murphy. But Smith is still thinking big with the Texas Drags lurking on Saturday.

“We found a few things that worked and we stayed low the whole day,” Smith said. “It was a good day. Now, I want another one (Saturday).”

Smith got better as the day went on, running a 3.97, 3.96 and 3.95, knocking off John DeFlorian, No. 1 qualifier Burton Auxier and Charles Carpenter while posting quicker times each round.

“I knew the car was consistent and reacting well,” Smith said. “The main thing
was that first pass. That’s always the key.”

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YEAH, HE'S BACK - Billy Glidden was involved in a crash in Topeka that left him questioning his next xtf_winnermove in racing. But his 2010 Mustang was quickly restored, surprising Glidden.He followed that by knocking off first-time finalist Michelle Wilson in the final, going a class-best 4.03 at 183 mph under the lights at HRP.

“We just persevered,” Glidden said. “I can’t thank Jerry Haas enough. They just got after it. From when they started (rebuilding the car) to when we picked it
up, it was nine days.

“The combination we’re using is a lot different and we’re just trying to learn it. Mickey Thompson’s support has just been amazing.”

Glidden beat Steven Benoit, Jeff Naiser and Spiro Pappas to reach the final, giving him an XTF-best 10 career wins. His 4.03 was also .16 better than No. 2 qualifier Jeff Naiser, making it more than enough to hand Glidden his first win in more than a year.

“I guess we just have a never-say-die attitude,” Glidden said. “We haven’t done real well since Topeka last year, but we’re still working at it.”

xps_final

xps_winnerSECOND STRAIGHT - XPS racer John Montecalvo got his second straight ADRL win, but this is one the New York native insisted he would savor even more.

“In Martin (in June), it was like we dominated, but this one we struggled. I think this one was more rewarding because we struggled,” Montecalvo said. “The
track was tough and we had a lot to deal with. This one was good.”

Montecalvo went a class-best 4.13 in the finals to beat Elijah Morton, which came on the heels of Montecalvo going 4.15 in the semifinals to slip past Brian Gahm.

After struggling early, Montecalvo found his groove, which could bode well for him on Saturday.

“There’s no way to describe this,” Montecalvo said. “This was just great. We were right on the tree today. We’ve never doubled up, so I guess that’s our goal
for (Saturday).”



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KNOCK THE BIGGEST OUT FIRST - Travis Davis turned more than a few heads in PXM, in part pxm_winnerbecause of who he beat in round two. The Douglas, GA native ended Ashley Owens’ run of dominance – at least for a day – in the quarterfinals, running a 4.20 to hand Owens his first loss in eliminations in 2010.

Davis and his ’08 Suzuki used that momentum to win for the second time in his ADRL career.

“I knew looking at the ladder it was going to be tough,” said Davis, who last raced in the ADRL in Richmond in May. “We tried to put consistent runs together
and everything worked out.

“This is just rewarding after all this time we all put into this. It’s such a great field and to do this in the ADRL, it’s just so rewarding. It’s a great
atmosphere and we love racing here.”




SCRUGGS SUFFERS QUALIFYING CRASH -
With his left-side headers acting like outriggers, towering showers of sparks flew behind Jason Scruggs_StanleyScruggs’ ’68 Camaro as he struggled to keep it from crossing into Terry Leggett’s lane during their third Pro Extreme qualifying attempts for the inaugural ADRL Texas Drags.

Scruggs fought the car from half-track on, immediately dropping the chutes as it swung left, then right, then left again before snapping back to the right and impacting the right guardwall hard with its right-front corner near the quarter-mile mark at Houston Raceway Park. The former two-time ADRL world champion then was able to get it straightened out and coasted to a stop in the shutdown lanes.

Looking back, the accident appeared almost inevitable as Scruggs battled an evil-handling ride in both of his previous passes, nearly collecting John Stanley and his ’68 Camaro in the opening session, then having to shut off early to again avoid crossing the center line against Quain Stott.

After safety crews quickly arrived to help, it appeared Scruggs exited the car uninjured and under his own power.

DRAGPALOOZA FINALS SET - With
one round of qualifying remaining for tomorrow’s inaugural ADRL Texas Drags, all five final rounds have been established for the postponed-from-March UTI Dragpalooza VI at Houston Raceway Park. The semis for all classes did not count as a qualifying pass for Saturday’s race, but all final rounds will represent double duty with Dragpalooza wins and Texas Drags starting positions on the line.

John Montecalvo led stripe-to-stripe in his semi-final win over Brian Gahm and his 4.15 at 174.46-mph pass earned him lane choice in the Extreme Pro Stock final over Elijah Morton, who went 4.21 against a redlighting Cary Goforth, throwing away a 4.17 run with an eighth-thousandths head start.

As Pro Extreme Motorcycle eliminations progressed, Travis Davis got quicker for the third-straight time, while semi-final opponent Charlie Prophit slowed a little each round and Davis advanced with a 4.18 win at 173.16 mph. He’ll hold lane choice over Eric McKinney in the final after McKinney ended Kim Morrell’s effort to reach her first final with a 4.19 at 172.04 defeating the lady’s ultra-consistent 4.21 effort.  

In Extreme 10.5 (XTF), Spiro Pappas made an uncharacteristic starting-line mistake, leaving five-thousandths of a second too soon in the semis to hand rival Billy Glidden his second-straight final-round appearance. Meeting Glidden will be Michelle Wilson in her first XTF final after she made an early-shutdown bye run after Michael Neal failed to make the call to stage. Glidden has lane choice over Wilson after going 4.11 in his semi win.

“We broke a rod and put a pretty good window in the block right at the end of that last run (in round two against Todd Moyer),” Neal said. “It’s too bad because the car was running good and I thought today might be the day, but I guess that’ll have to wait.”

Unfortunately, Steve Vick also suffered engine damage in his quarter-final win over Dan Stevenson and wasn’t able to stage for his semi-final match against Terry Murphy, who advanced to his career-first Pro Nitrous final with a traction-challenged 4.31 pass. He’ll have to step it up in the final, though, where he’ll have to face Rickie Smith, who also improved for the third-straight time to a 3.95 at 189.98 to beat Charles Carpenter’s on-and-off-the-gas 4.01 drive.

In the debut of a new Larry Jeffers-built ’05 Corvette, Pro Extreme’s Frankie Taylor made a solo 3.78 pass at 198.70 mph after Gene Hector’s engine spewed a huge fireball right at the start of his semi-final burnout. Taylor will race fellow Texan Gaylen Smith in the final, after Smith nipped Joshua Hernandez with a holeshot win of 3.78 at 200.53 to Hernandez’s quicker and faster 3.77 at 202.97 mph. Taylor holds lane choice for the big-money round by just two-thousandths of a second.  

ALL-TEXAS PX SEMIS -
The Lone Star State is well represented in the Pro Extreme semi-finals for Dragpalooza VI at Houston Raceway Park as Texas-based teams have taken all four spots.

Top qualifier Joshua Hernandez of nearby Conroe, Texas, and his Fight Me-branded ’57 Chevy will take on the similar machine of LenMar Motorsports’ Gaylen Smith from Mansfield, near Dallas.

Looking to meet one of them in the final will be either Frankie Taylor in the competition debut of his new ’05 Corvette from Dickinson, Texas, or Big Spring-based racer Gene Hector and his Small-Block Mafia ’63 Corvette.

Regardless, it’ll be a popular win for the partisan “crowd” on hand.  

INTERESTING XTF SEMIS -
After qualifying number-one back in March with a potential record 3.88-seconds pass, reigning Extreme 10.5 (XTF) World Champion Spiro Pappas has had an easy time of it in Dragpalooza VI eliminations so far.

When number-14 qualifier (of 14) Gary Naughton was a no-show for eliminations, Pappas made a fortunately unopposed 5.63 pass when the wheelie bars broke on his turbocharged ’09 Pontiac GXP, then made a 4.23 bye run in round two due to the short field.

Pappas and his Glenview, Illinois-based team will need to step up their game for the semis, though, as they’ll face off against 2008 class champion Billy Glidden, who ran low ET for the class in both prior rounds with his nitrous-fed 2010 Mustang, easily beating Steven Benoit with a 4.13, then dousing Jeff Naiser’s 4.19 with a 4.11 in round two.

The other XTF semi-final also features an interesting match-up as Michael Neal will drive Tom Ashley’s blown ’66 Chevy II against the nitrous-boosted 2000 Firebird of Texas racer Michelle Wilson, neither of whom have previously won an ADRL race.     

OWENS OUSTED FOR FIRST TIME IN 2010 -
Ashley Owens’ winning streak in Pro Extreme Motorcycle has come to an end.

Heading into Houston, the points leader and holder of both ends of the class performance records had a perfect record in eliminations this year, but close friend Travis Davis finally put Owens into the loss column after round two of the rain-postponed Dragpalooza VI.

Prior to the race both Owens and team owner Paul Gast marveled at the reliability and consistency of their new Suzuki, but some sort of gremlin finally caught up to them as the bike faltered shortly after the launch.

Davis will face off in the semis against Charlie Prophit, while Kim Morrell will take on Eric McKinney to determine the other Dragpalooza finalist.

JENKINS SCRAPES HOUSTON WALL -
Shannon “The Iceman” Jenkins became the first ADRL racer this weekend to make an unwelcome acquaintance with the Houston Raceway Park wall, as he scraped the right rear quarter panel of his ’68 Camaro against the concrete right at the eighth-mile finish line.

In round one of racing for the Pro Nitrous portion of the rain-postponed Dragpalooza VI, Jenkins was paired against Dan Stevenson and his ’70 Camaro. Jenkins got away first, but just as Stevenson was going by about half-track, Jenkins’ car made a move toward the center line from the right lane. It looked like Jenkins pulled the car back toward the groove, but momentum carried it across the lane to sideswipe the right guardwall.

Meanwhile, Stevenson took the win in 4.17 seconds as Jenkins gathered things under control and coasted off the track.

Racing was barely interrupted for track clean-up, so it appears there was little damage to the car.

‘MAD MAN’ SPINS OUT IN HOUSTON -
Frankie “Mad Man” Taylor has already put his brand-spanking-new, Larry Jeffers-built  ’05 Corvette Taylor_newcarthrough the spin cycle after adding it to his racing stable just a week ago.

The ADRL Pro Extreme ET record holder found an ignition problem in the car that surfaced only during the hard acceleration of a launch, so yesterday, just one day prior to the big double-race weekend at Houston Raceway Park, Taylor and crew visited nearby Houston Motorsports Park for a quick shakedown. Trouble was, the track was soaked with rain.

No matter, a quick drying job on the left lane allowed the opportunity for a safe ignition test—or so the Taylor team believed—at least until Taylor let off 1.02 seconds into the run, the car wiggled a little as it unloaded the suspension, and the big Hoosiers out back suddenly swapped ends and the car started spinning around in the still very wet right lane.

Fortunately, the car’s wheelie bars took the brunt of a relatively light bump against the right guardwall and after repairs were made, Taylor planned to debut the flat-black-primered piece today in weather-delayed ADRL action from the season’s opening event.

Not so fast. With the chassis yet to be certified, ADRL officials put the kibosh on that plan, so Taylor is scrambling today, trying to get a local NHRA inspector out to the track to perform a chassis inspection and issue a new certification sticker. Until and unless that happens, though, he’ll resort back to the same Jeffers-built Vette in which he lowered the ET standard to 3.60 seconds at the Richmond, Virginia, race in May.

If the new car can be certified in time and depending on how well his current car performs today, Taylor may actually race two cars in two days this weekend.     

BERTSCH BETTING ON KAASE POWER - After attending a board meeting for the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club, where his 16- and Bertsch_motor12-year-old adopted daughters spend a great deal of their time, Bob Bertsch departed Michigan late Tuesday night and single-handedly drove his race rig 750 miles straight south to Jon Kaase’s engine building shop in Winder, Georgia.

Bertsch arrived about 5:30 Wednesday evening to pick up and install “Kaas-illa,” the 822-cubic-inch monster motor that fits into the Rislone-backed ’07 Mustang that he’s qualified 12th for this weekend’s rain-postponed ADRL Extreme Pro Stock race at Houston Raceway Park. His crewman and Kaase employee Chuck Lawrence had just freshened up the engine and dyno tested it the day before in preparation for this weekend’s double-points-and-purse-paying ADRL marathon.

“You’ve just got to go into these things knowing what’s important and that can change depending on what happens each round,” Bertsch says of the format that has teams racing throughout Friday in rain-delayed eliminations from the original March event while simultaneously trying to qualify for an all-new race on Saturday. “If you lose first round, well, you can then concentrate on just getting a good qualifying spot from then on, but as long as you keep going rounds you have to focus on getting the win.”

A longtime Kaase customer dating back to his Top Sportsman days more than a decade ago, Bertsch is betting on the engine builder’s legendary horsepower building prowess to help him reach his first ADRL winner’s circle.

“As far as I’m concerned, there’s nobody better,” Bertsch says of Kaase. “He’s always thinking, never wants to just repeat whatever he’s done in the past, always wants to make things better. I just wish I could download from his mind just a portion of what he knows about making these things go fast.”

By 10:15 p.m. Bertsch was back on the road, planning on just a short leg that night to get him beyond the traffic of nearby Atlanta before embarking Thursday morning on the 800-mile or so trek to the track in Baytown, Texas.

“Hopefully it’ll be worth the trip,” he says.

TEXAS TWO-STEP FOR ADRL IN HOUSTON - When rain back in March interrupted the ADRL’s season-opening Universal Technical Institute Kenny_HoustonDragpalooza VI presented by Safety-Kleen at Houston Raceway Park (HRP), ADRL President Kenny Nowling and HRP Vice President and General Manager Seth Angel quickly decided to reschedule the event as part of a unique double-header this weekend (July 23-24), at the Baytown, Texas, strip.

The plan calls for Dragpalooza VI to be completed in its entirety today, running concurrently with qualifying for the inaugural ADRL Texas Drags, which will wrap up on Saturday, with full points and purses paid for both races. The format is similar to the ADRL’s championship-deciding Battle for the Belts, held during the series’ final event each year at the Texas Motorplex.

“We feel this is the fairest way to deal with this for our fans, our sponsors, our track partner and most importantly, our race teams,” Nowling said at the time. “We wanted to create an incentive for all our teams to return and participate, rather than just those that were already qualified.”

The two-in-one weekend, coupled with forecasted high temperatures and a hot, slick eighth mile, presents ADRL competitors with an opportunity to make big gains—or suffer huge losses—in this year’s points chases.

“It’s going to be hot and nasty, but we’ll try to get through it. Somebody’s got to win,” former back-to-back Pro Extreme World Champ Jason Scruggs says. “Really, the only difference is you don’t have runs to get things perfected. You’ve got to have your act together and be ready to race.”

Joshua Hernandez, Pro Extreme’s winningest driver with seven race titles to his credit, agrees. “You have to put your game face on a little earlier,” he says. “It can be exhausting and you have to get up for it mentally every time. That trophy adds a little more pressure and you can’t waste any time to step it up.”

Texas drivers Doug Riesterer, Gaylen Smith and Frankie Taylor feel like the tough conditions and familiar confines may play into their favor.

“Quite honestly, we’ve struggled on cool tracks. We feel good on hot tracks, so we’re looking forward to this,” says Riesterer, a past Pro Nitrous race winner. “It’s kind of our home track and I think we’ll go good down there.”

Smith, from just up the Interstate, near Dallas, says his team will arrive prepared to compete for the Pro Extreme win.

“If you come in lazy, you might as well not even try,” he states. “We got to Houston quite a bit. It’s kind of our second home, so we’re looking forward to it. I think we’ve got a good game plan going.”

Meanwhile, Taylor, the quickest doorslammer driver in the world after going 3.60 seconds in May at Richmond, Virginia, says he expects an “awesome” weekend. “It’s going to be good and we’re looking forward to having a lot of fun. We’ve won a bunch there and I think that’s going to help.”

ADRL ISSUES FRIDAY SCHEDULE FOR DOUBLE-HEADER IN HOUSTON - Parts of both ADRL events at Houston Raceway Park this weekend will be contested today (Friday) to complete the Dragpalooza VI event, postponed from March 20.

All four scheduled rounds of qualifying for all classes but Pro Extreme were completed at the original event before rain arrived, so the fourth and final Pro Extreme qualifying session, limited only to those cars that were in the lanes in March, will represent the weekend’s first on-track action.

The first two and final rounds of eliminations for the Dragpalooza VI event also will count as qualifying runs for the inaugural ADRL Texas Drags. Runs for Dragpalooza VI are identified with the tag "HOUSTON" and those for the inaugural Texas Drags are tagged "HOUSTON 2."

 8 a.m.            Gates Open                                                              
10 a.m.           Driver's Meeting                                                               
11 a.m.           HOUSTON PX Q-1           
Noon               HOUSTON 2 XPS Q-1
                      HOUSTON XPS E-1
                      HOUSTON 2 PXM Q-1
                      HOUSTON XPS E-1
                      HOUSTON 2 XTF Q-1
                      HOUSTON XTF E-1
                      HOUSTON 2 PB Q-1
                      HOUSTON PN E-1
                      HOUSTON 2 PX Q-1
                      HOUSTON PX E-1
                      HOUSTON 2 PJD Q-1
                      HOUSTON PJD E-1
            (Note: E-1 counts as qualifying)                 

 3 p.m.               HOUSTON 2 XPS Q-2
                      HOUSTON XPS E-2
                      HOUSTON 2 PXM Q-2
                      HOUSTON XPS E-2
                      HOUSTON 2 XTF Q-2
                      HOUSTON XTF E-2
                      HOUSTON 2 PB Q-2
                      HOUSTON PN E-2
                      HOUSTON 2 PX Q-2
                      HOUSTON PX E-2
                      HOUSTON 2 PJD Q-2
                      HOUSTON PJD E-2
            (Note: E-2 counts as qualifying)        

 6 p.m.               Pre-Race Ceremony
                                                               
 6:30 p.m.            HOUSTON XPS E-3
                      HOUSTON PXM E-3
                      HOUSTON XTF E-3
                      HOUSTON PN E-3
                      HOUSTON PX E-3
                      HOUSTON PJD E-3
       (Note: E-3 does not count as qualifying)
                                                                  
 7 p.m.               HOUSTON 2 PJD Q-3
                      HOUSTON 2 XPS Q-3
                      HOUSTON 2 PXM Q-3
                      HOUSTON 2 XTF Q-3
                      HOUSTON 2 PN Q-3
                      HOUSTON 2 PX Q-3
                                   

 


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