Persistence paid final dividend’s during the PDRA’s weekend event held at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis….
Jason Scruggs scored his second-straight Pro Extreme win Sunday night (May 31), while Travis Harvey picked up his career-first Pro Nitrous title in the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) Mid America Open. Also earning pro class wins at Gateway Motorsports Park, directly across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis, were Kevin Rivenbark in Pro Boost and Chris Garner-Jones in Pro Extreme Motorcycle.
In the sportsman classes Ronnie Davis also won his second straight PDRA Top Sportsman trophy, Lynn Ellison prevailed in Top Dragster, Aaron Philpot won Pro Jr. Dragster and David Roloff finished first in Top Jr. Dragster. Additionally, Bob Henry of Owasso, OK, won a consolation race for non-qualifiers from the Top Sportsman and Top Dragster classes.
Rain unfortunately shortened Friday’s planned program from three to two rounds of qualifying and the wet stuff returned the next day to preempt nearly all on-track activity. PDRA and track personnel, led by brothers Cale and Cody Crispe, the organization’s nicknamed “Traction Twins, worked tirelessly all weekend to repeatedly dry and prepare what Scruggs called, “probably the best track I’ve ever raced on.”
Though the race was scheduled to end Saturday night, with heavy rain continuing to fall PDRA officials reached the decision about 7 p.m. to return on Sunday to conduct a third and final qualifying session in the morning before running eliminations for all classes.
It was no easy path to victory lane at Gateway for Scruggs, a past two-time class champion, who started his Saltillo, MS-based ’69 Camaro an uncharacteristic 15th in NAS Racing Pro Extreme with a 3.79 at 207.88-mph qualifying lap. He admitted to feeling more than just a little worried about getting bumped out of the 16-car field as 25 entries made their final qualifying attempts.
“That was nerve wracking,” he said. “I was the first car out this morning and we shook so I said to everyone then, ‘Don’t worry about adjusting the valves; we’re not going to be in anyway.’ And then to watch the rest of qualifying and nobody bumped me, not even one spot, I was amazed that happened. So we got lucky right off the bat this morning.”
In round one of racing, though, Scruggs erased any concern he’d lost the handle on his ride by laying down a 3.54 at 217.84 to beat teammate and defending class champ Bubba Stanton, who got out of shape early and had to lift. After that Scruggs returned with a slightly quicker 3.54 at 219.08 solo pass when Todd Tutterow broke that also set low ET and top speed for the meet.
In the semis Scruggs left early by five thousandths, then lost traction and had to shut down, but still dodged a 3.61 at 183.69-mph bullet when Badir Ahli had a much worse redlight start (-.280), triggering drag racing’s famous “first-or-worst” infraction and disqualification rule.
That sent Scruggs to the final round, his second-straight after winning at Shreveport, LA, just three weeks earlier. His opponent would be Texan Randell Reid, who qualified his 2007 Corvette fourth, then beat John Sullivan, Tommy D’Aprile and Ahli’s NAS Racing teammate Mustafa Buhumaid, who went for a wild ride in the semis when he crossed from right to left into Reid’s lane and took out the timing cones while Reid had to hug the wall at 150 miles an hour to avoid a collision.
“I was behind him so I saw him coming across and I lifted and got over as far as I could to give him space,” Reid said.
In the final Reid and Scruggs left with reaction times separated by only a thousandth, but Reid’s screw-blown Hemi engine almost immediately began smoking badly and he limped to a 4.42 pass at just 120.57 mph, watching Scruggs win with his own off-the-pace 3.79 at 181.03 effort.
“When it’s your day it’s your day is all I can say. We had a bad qualifying effort when everything that could go wrong did and then today it felt like we could do no wrong,” Scruggs said. “In the final I was on a good run until it blew the burst panel out of the manifold about 200 feet out and then I just lugged it down through there because I didn’t see him. I kept expecting him to come flying by me but he never did, so I guess it really was just our day.”
In Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous, Elon, NC’s Harvey put on a clinic in domination at Gateway, qualifying his Sonny’s Racing Engines-powered 2014 Camaro in the number-one position with a 3.72-seconds lap at 199.61 mph before setting low elapsed time in each of four rounds of racing to take his first pro class win.
With the entire field aiming for the first 3.60s pass in Pro Nitrous–along with the $5,000 bonus that comes with it courtesy of Bryant Industrial Crane–Harvey came close in round one of eliminations with a 3.707 pass at 200.98 mph to beat 16th-place qualifier Keith Haney. The run also delivered to a new official ET record backed up within the required one percent by his qualifying time.
Despite the loss, Haney also left St. Louis a happy man after running a career-best 3.76 at 201.10 mph in his own ’14 Camaro powered by a brand-new Reher-Morrison powerplant.
“I’m not happy we lost, but I cut a double-oh-nine light, got my first 3.70 and my first pass over 200 miles per hour here, so this was a great race for us,” he said. “We made a statement here that we’re ready to play; nobody is going to take us for granted when they line up against us now.”
Harvey–“The Carolina Kid”– stepped up in round two with a 3.704 pass at 200.74 mph to further lower his new ET record while eliminating Jim Sakuvich, then ran 3.71 at 200.80 in the semis to beat a traction-challenged Steve Jackson, whose team barely completed an engine swap in time to make the round. “That new Reher engine was a little more aggressive than the old one and we just missed the tune-up,” Jackson explained later. “We’ll get ’em next time.”
Despite being a little slower, Harvey’s 3.71 still gave him lane choice for the final over back-to-back reigning NHRA Pro Mod champion Rickie Smith in the final. Smith got there after qualifying 11th with a 3.80 pass, then getting by John Camp in round one, Jay Cox with a big nitrous explosion near the finish line in round two, and Tommy Franklin who also suffered a nitrous blast about halfway down the Gateway eighth mile.
Smith left first in the final with a .033 light, with Harvey posting .053 at the tree. Harvey said he knew Smith had left on him, but by just a couple of hundred feet out he saw Smith’s ’69 Camaro slip back. Once more flirting with the 3.60 prize, Harvey finished with another new record 3.703 at 200.65 mph against a 3.83 at 196.70 by Smith that put him a little over a car length behind at the stripe.
“It’s an honor for me to run against Rickie Smith, never mind beat him. I would never have thought I’d ever get to race him,” Harvey declared while waiting for his winner’s circle celebration. “I grew up watching Rickie and Tommy Mauney, Charles Carpenter, guys like that, so for me to even be out here with him is an honor.”
Harvey then credited his Boone Racing teammates for the win and putting him oh so close to the 3.60s.
“Well, I think we probably could’ve run a .60 here, but we didn’t want to give the race away so we just ran what we knew we could get down the track,” he said. “We didn’t tear the engine down even one time today, so it gets tired and I think if it would’ve been fresh for the final that .70 with a three could’ve easily been a .69. But that’s okay, I’m just glad we won the race; that’s the important thing.”
Harvey dedicated the win to team owners Jimmy and Brad Boone, as well as Vaughn Miles, a longtime friend who came on board this season as a team sponsor. “This is pretty exciting for me,” he said. “I’ve won in Top Sportsman and Top Dragster, but never in a pro class before and I couldn’t have done it at all without my team. I want them to know that.”
Rivenbark said he was “kind of concerned” as he headed into qualifying for the PDRA Mid-America Open with his supercharged GALOT Racing ’67 Mustang. He explained the team had made several changes to the car since finishing as runner-up at the PDRA’s most recent race three weeks earlier in Louisiana and Thursday’s test session at Gateway had yielded no solid passes down the track.
The challenge continued in Friday’s two qualifying sessions, with the Wallace, NC-based driver posting a best of 3.94 at 188.99 that was good enough for only a 15th place start in the 16-car Precision Turbo Pro Boost field. And although his Sunday morning qualifying hit was much better, a timing malfunction meant it didn’t move him up the ladder.
“That was okay, though, because at least we knew we had our car back. It showed 3.98, but our graphs showed it probably was a 3.83 run at about 194 miles an hour, which would’ve put us in the number-one position,” Rivenbark explained.
His first elimination round result appeared to back up the assumption as Rivenbark went 3.81 at 194.18 mph to handily defeat second-place starter Brian Hicks. A nearly identical 3.81 at 194.12 then sent Ric Fleck home from round two and a 3.83 win at 194.35 mph over Kevin Fiscus sent Rivenbark to the final.
There, he met Michael Biehle, who was competing in his first PDRA event with his twin-turbocharged 2013 Mustang. Biehle started fifth with a 3.87 run at 202.94 and remained very consistent in elimination round wins over Scott Christoffel, Jim Bell and Steve Summers in the semi finals.
Unfortunately, the final was decided before it even started, as Biehle left far too early with a -.282 light, while Rivenbark put together another solid 3.83 at 191.21-mph effort.
“We had hurt it a little in the last pass, so that’s why it slowed down a little, but after the start we had this weekend I couldn’t be happier about how everything turned out,” Rivenbark concluded. “My team never gave up and we all came together when it counted.”
Posted by Ian Tocher
Photos by Ian Tocher & Bruce Biegler
Another Strong Event Effort From BFR Bunch!
BELL / FISCUS RACING (BFR) made the most of a wet weekend at the PDRA Mid-America Open race at Gateway Motorsports Park just outside of St. Louis, Illinois on May 29-30, 2015 in the Pro Boost class with a strong qualifying performance and a semi-finals appearance.
During the first round of Pro Boost qualifying, Kevin Fiscus twin turbo, PLR-powered 2012 Ford Mustang put down a nice, smooth 3.943 at 202.55 mph pass in the eighth mile right off of the trailer. For round two, Fiscus improved his numbers and went 3.888 at 203.98 mph which placed him third overall. The third and final round yielded even better results for Fiscus, and his 3.872 at 204.98 mph run kept him in the number three qualifier position.
Meanwhile, Jim Bell’s twin turbocharged, Pro Line Racing 481X-powered 1969 Chevrolet Camaro got a little loose in the first round of Pro Boost qualifying, but Bell expertly recovered and piloted the car to a quick elapsed time of 3.968-seconds at 190.59 mph. His second qualifying run, however, resulted in an even better 3.875 at 201.79 mph pass which placed Bell in the number one spot. Round three, however, brought with it some tire shake for Bell. As a result, he was forced to lift, clicked off a 5.088 at 125.44 mph run, and dropped back into fourth overall.
Moving into eliminations, both Fiscus and Bell were pleased with how well their cars were performing despite the team having to work around multiple rain delays. In round one, Bell faced off against the number thirteen qualifier, Alan Pittman, and quickly dispatched his opponent with a winning 3.893 at 200.77 mph pass. Fiscus, too, was victorious in his match against Gerry Capano, the number fourteen qualifier.
Bell was unable to advance in round two, as he was defeated by Michael Biehle II, the number five qualifier. Bell cut a better light and held the lead past the half-track mark, but Biehle was able to get around him and crossed the finish ahead of Bell by approximately five feet. Fiscus, however, took out Eddie Rogers who had qualified eleventh and moved into the semi-finals where he lined up against Kevin Rivenbark. Fiscus got the holeshot advantage and left the line first, but slowed mid-track and gave up the win to Rivenbark.
“We’re really glad that all of our team’s hard work is paying off, and our cars are now performing like we expected them to,” said Bell. “This was a great weekend with great qualifying results for us both, and Kevin drove like a champ to get to the semi-finals. We’re going to work on keeping this momentum going!”
Both Bell and Fiscus will be competing in the Pro Mod class at the 46th annual Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ on June 5th-7th, 2015 as the Bell/Fiscus Racing team continues their 23-race commitment for the 2015 season.
Posted by: Ainsley Jacobs