All three of the top class attractions within PDRA circuit racing featured first time winners during last weekend’s event held in NE Louisiana…..
Jason Scruggs and Mike Castellana scored victories May 2, in Pro Extreme and Pro Nitrous, the top two classes in the inaugural PDRA Cajun Nationals at Thunder Road Raceway Park, near Shreveport. It marked a welcome change for both former class champions as neither had previously reached victory lane with the all-eighth-mile Professional Drag Racers Association since its inception early last year. Also picking up pro class wins were Gerry Capano with a career-first title in Pro Boost.
Jason Scruggs, from Saltillo, MS, started from the number-four slot on the 16-car NAS Racing Pro Extreme list after running 3.57 seconds at 217.63 mph in qualifying his ’69 Camaro. Brandon Snider was the top qualifier after going a career-best 3.54 in his own ’69 Camaro.
Scruggs got progressively quicker and faster with each elimination-round win, opening with a 3.59 at 212.83 to beat Todd Tutterow, winner of the previous PDRA race last month at Rockingham, NC. Next came a stripe-to-stripe, 3.57-at-217.14 win over Mustafa Buhumaid, who won the season opener in March at Ennis, TX. In the semi finals, Scruggs met up with Snider and overcame a sizable .042 holeshot to win in 3.54 seconds at 218.37 mph. “I was a little slow on the tree against Brandon, but he shook and our car went a .54, so that was lucky,” Scruggs admitted.
That left only the final and NAS Racing driver Badir Ahli between Scruggs and his first PDRA trophy. Ahli, who started his ’69 Camaro sixth after a 3.60 at 211.93 qualifying run, had beaten Don Wootton, Frankie Taylor and Wesley Jones in the preliminary rounds.
With lane choice for the final, Scruggs went against the grain and went with the right lane, despite having a little trouble seeing the starting tree from that side.
“I lost lane choice for the semis, but when we went a .54 in the right lane I decided to just stay there for the final against Badir. I was having a little trouble seeing the tree from the right lane, though, because of a bar near the window, so I was having to stick my head out to the right side of the cage just to see it. That’s what made me late against Brandon,” he explained.
Last year, in the PDRA’s first season, Scruggs was number-one qualifier at five of eight races; however, never managed to win any of them. This year, he opened the schedule with a number-three qualifier at Dallas and started number one in Rockingham–but lost both times in the opening round of eliminations.
That all changed at Thunder Road. Ahli left first with a .013 holeshot and Scruggs was still behind at the 330-foot mark, but at the 660-foot finish line he held a .031 advantage, which translated to a 3.53-seconds pass at 219.08 mph, or about half a car length for the win over Ahli’s 3.57 at 208.94-mph effort.
“I was beginning to think I was jinxed,” Scruggs said later. “And when you start trying too hard bad things happen, so I’m happy to finally get that out of the way and now we can just go race and have a good time.”
With a 3.82 pass at 192.25 mph, Mike Castellana qualified his Speedtech ’69 Camaro ninth at the PDRA Cajun Nationals. Leading the way in the Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous class was Jay Cox with a 3.73 run at 200.68 mph, which stood up as low ET and top speed for the weekend.
In eliminations, Castellana raced through Jim Sackuvich, Pat Stoken and Travis Harvey to reach his first PDRA final round, going up against five-time finalist and two-time winner Tommy Franklin. After qualifying third, Franklin had ousted defending class champ Jason Harris, John Camp and current back-to-back NHRA Pro Mod champion Rickie Smith from his side of the ladder.
In the final round, Castellana left with a .017 advantage off the green, then ran 3.79 at 197.83 to edge out Franklin’s 3.78 at 195.87 by .011, or less than three feet at the finish line.
“I honestly couldn’t tell who won at the end, but then I saw my win light was on,” the New York native said. “I actually thought he won, I really couldn’t tell.”
Crew chief Shannon Jenkins said Castellana drove “perfect” in the final and the win reflected a true team effort. “We’ve been trying some new stuff and it’s starting to come together,” he said. “Hopefully this is just the start of a lot more races like this for us.”
Castellana echoed that thought. “We knew if we could get it all together we would have a car that could win. Shannon did an awesome job putting everything together,” he said.
The weekend at Thunder Road Raceway could not have gone any better for Gerry Capano and his Greenville, DE-based team. After running a then-career-best 3.86 at 193.68 mph to capture his first Precision Turbo Pro Boost pole, Capano and his supercharged ’63 Corvette remained consistent and got even quicker and faster through four rounds of eliminations.
He opened with a 3.87 at 193.77 win over Californian Scott Oksas in round one, then posted 3.82 at 193.63 to beat John Strickland in round two. Next was a 3.81 pass at 193.40 that overcame a huge .120 holeshot by Tylor Miller in the semis and sent Capano on to face Strickland’s teammate Kevin Rivenbark and his ’67 Mustang in the final round. Rivenbark, who started from the number-six position, had put Brian Hicks, Steve Summers and Ric Fleck on the trailer in the preliminaries.
Rivenbark, who had won twice in two prior PDRA final-round appearances, moved first with a .041 reaction time, but his .026 advantage was soon erased as Capano ran a straight and smooth 3.80 at 194.18 mph to handily defeat Rivenbark’s back-pedaling 3.91 at 192.30 combination.
“Man, this is awesome,” Capano excitedly declared upon exiting his car at the top end of the track. “I have to thank my crew and sponsors and especially my wife, Heather, for all of their hard work. We’ve never had a day like this before. The car just went A to B and got the job done. He got out on me a little there, but once we got to the 330 I didn’t see him anymore. It’s just awesome!”
Also earning event class victories — Ronnie Davis with his first PDRA Top Sportsman crown and Mike Greene also with his first PDRA Top Dragster win. Brooke Heckel and Scottie Taylor also prevailed in Pro Jr. Dragster and Top Jr. Dragster, respectively.
Post and photos by: Ian Tocher