Melanie Salemi (Simmons) notched some history last season when she became the first licensed Canadian female driver in the Pro Mod class category…..
For Melanie, who is originally from Orillia Ontario, but who now resides with her racing husband Jon (Salemi) in Buffalo NY her rookie season in the Pro Mod class was “story book” to say the least.
After acquiring her class license and driving an all new race car she made serious ripples within drag racing by winning in unexpected but convincing fashion the PDRA’s marquee “DragStock” event held in Rockingham NC in September – scoring in the PDRA’s ultra competitive Pro Boost class category.
Melanie was driving a cutting edge new Pontiac Firebird which is the collaborate flagship car from highly respected Western NY based G-Force Race Cars, Racing Resolution Services and MSR (Mike Stawicki Racing)
“2015 was an awesome experience to say the least,” Melanie said about her season which also included a career quick 5.88 secs. “I know it’s cliché but my team is so great. I don’t really feel that there is another team as versatile as ours. Every aspect of this car is built and maintained under our own roof. Engine, chassis, tuning, maintenance and management, It really is a one stop shop. Without the effort from my entire team this just wouldn’t be possible.
The season was for sure a major accomplishment for the talented racer who paid her dues and graduated from within various Canadian Sportsman ranks including Junior and Top Dragster class categories.
“I started racing Jr. Dragster when I was 11,” she revealed. “From there, on my 17th Birthday I obtained my Top Dragster License. I raced In Top Dragster at Grand Bend Motorplex until the Quick 32 Sportsman Series was implemented in 2009. After having a not very successful first season competing in that quickly evolving series, I knew my team had to step it up if we wanted to even try to be competitive the following year. We decided to put a blower motor in the dragster and that summer I made my first 6 second passes. From there each year until the end of the Quick 32 series we stepped up to maintain competitiveness. In 2014 we had put a Hemi in the dragster and I got to race in a few outlaw heads up races which was really awesome.”
Melanie was then afforded the opportunity to make the major step up to Professional level drag racing within the demanding Pro Mod class category.
“I wouldn’t say the transition was difficult because I knew what I was getting myself into and I had a few of the best guys in the industry by my side,” she continued. “I asked a lot of questions and mentally and physically prepared myself well. For the previous 4 race seasons I had been at so many Pro Mod events and I paid close attention to what it took to be a good driver. Everyone on my team has a role, my role is to do the best driving job I can and that is what I am constantly focused on.”
“The only thing that made me really open my eyes the first time I let the button go in the Pro Mod car,” she added. “That was the first time I’d driven a car having the engine in front of me. In the dragster it was pushing you along, kind of a point and shoot. In the Pro Mod you have this engine screaming in your face and at first the sensation of that was pretty cool. That was something that took a few runs to get use to and now after making a lot of laps this season, it’s not bad at all.”
With the 2015 season now behind them Melanie’s team is now focused on the upcoming 2016 campaign which will see them compete in both the USA and Canada and in both 1/8th mile and 1/4 mile competition.
“For 2016 we are planning on chasing points in the 1/8 mile Pro Boost class at the PDRA as our main focus,” she affirmed. “Within the next few weeks we will be heading south to do some testing with the Fueltech EFI set up on my car so we are really excited about that. I will race in Canada at the IHRA National Event in Grand Bend, Ontario. I always look forward to that race. With Grand Bend being my home track a lot of my sponsors, family and friends are there to cheer me on and I love that. Those are the events that we have solidified on our Schedule so far. If our schedule allows we will make it to couple more Canadian events and a few more 1/4 mile races also. There is nothing like racing 1/4 mile in the Pro Mod!”
An important added dimension for her team is the fact that she will also begin racing as part of a 2-car Pro Mod team next season. Her engine builder, Mike Stawicki will be behind the wheel of a new TT Motorsports owned, G-Force Race Cars built C7 Corvette.
Melanie Salemi Motorsports also expresses a huge thanks to Tommy Zarella owner of TT Motorsports. “Tommy is a huge part of our team. He is a very gracious person and supplies us with many tools to make all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together and operate smoothly”.
The 2016 season will see the introduction of some important new technology too with Salemi and her team venturing into the world of EFI.
Jon Salemi, owner of Resolution Racing Services stated, “It’s the next move for managing these cars. It’s more about the efficiency of the engine and having the control we need to make better runs. Our team is currently developing a kit in conjunction with Fueltech USA and plans to be on track in January with the new set up after some pulls on the MSR Performance Racing Engines dyno”.
Melanie Salemi Motorsports was also quick to cite the ongoing support of it’s valued line-up of sponsors and marketing partners which includes: Delta Faucet Canada, TT Motorsports, MSR Performance, G-Force Race Cars, Resolution Racing Services, Santos Motorsports, RS Performance, Motorsports Unlimited, Castrol, Ross Racing Pistons, Flatout Gaskets, Big Sky Motorsports, Jeff Pierce Race Car Tuning, DJ Safety, Hoosier, PST Driveshafts, Vintage Trailers and B&J Transmissions.
Post and photos by: Bruce Biegler