Drag racing’s premier 1/8th mile circuit touches down again at speedy VMP….

Longtime Moroso Pro Boost driver Ric Fleck scored his first-ever event win in the Professional Drag Racers Association PDRA Firecracker Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park. Fleck defeated points leader Chuck Ulsch, who was appearing in his fourth consecutive final round.

Past world champions Jason Harris (Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous presented by MoTeC) and John Pluchino (Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock) also won in their respective classes, as well as first-time winners Ehren Litten in Drag 965 Pro Extreme Motorcycle and Daryl Hameetman in East Side Auto Transport Pro Outlaw 632. Ken Quartuccio swept the debut of his new ’17 Corvette in Atomizer Racing Injectors Outlaw 10.5, qualifying No. 1 and winning the event.

In the PDRA’s sportsman classes, North Carolinians Derrick Brown (MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman) and Chaz Silance (Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster) scored event wins, along with Wayne Rogers in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman 32 and Angela Gantkowski in Lucas Oil Top Dragster 32. Casey Wagner defeated Connor McGee in the Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster final round, running 7.97 on a 7.90 dial-in to McGee’s too-quick 7.885. Mallory Logan used a .005 reaction time and 7.946 on a 7.90 dial-in to beat Nyck Shirkey’s break-out 7.893 in the Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster final round. Brian Mollison earned the Edelbrock Bracket Bash win over Rikki Molnar.

PRO BOOST — Ric Fleck has competed in Pro Boost since the PDRA’s debut season in 2014, posting Top 5 points finishes in 2015 and 2016, but he had yet to win a race or even reach a final round before the Firecracker Nationals. Fleck changed that when he took down points leader Chuck Ulsch in the final round, laying down a 3.769 at 196.76 in the Roots-blown “Dragon III” ’41 Willys to Ulsch’s 3.791 at 194.24. The two drivers last met in the Summer Drags semifinals in Michigan, a pairing Ulsch won en route to his first PDRA win.

Ric Fleck drove his Willys to the Pro Boost title over Chuck Ulsch’s Camaro

“It feels good not only to win, but to go through the people we went through to get it,” Fleck said. “We went through some of the best – John Strickland, Tommy D’Aprile and Chuck Ulsch. That was a battle. The car was good. The car was really good in Michigan, but Chuck got us there. We got down here and didn’t change anything. We qualified No. 2 and (tuner) Devin Barrick kept after it all day.”

Fleck recorded an impressive 3.799 in the heat of the day to open eliminations against Anthony DiSomma, then ran a 3.83 over Strickland and a 3.773 over D’Aprile. Ulsch, who’s been to the final round at all four races this season, previously defeated alternate Dina Parise, Junior Ward and Larry Higginbotham.

PRO NITROUS — Coming off of a slump-breaking win at the Summer Drags in Martin, Mich., Jason Harris and the “Party Time” Boone-Harris Racing ’69 Camaro were riding a wave of momentum into the Firecracker Nationals. The same strategy that carried Harris to the win in Michigan was successful in Virginia, as Harris poured the coals to his Musi-powered entry and raced to a 3.716 at 203.28 to defeat first-time finalist Tony Wilson and his 4.475 at 130.29.

Jason Harris (far lane) scored his second consecutive PDRA event win in Pro Nitrous class racing.

“Just like at Martin, we didn’t really have the fastest car every round, but we just raced the race track and raced the opponent and it worked out,” said Harris, the 2014 world champion. “I’ve been driving good again, and it was just time in the finals to turn it up and see what it had. It worked out great for us. I just have to thank the Boone family, Danny Perry and our crew for their hard work this weekend.”

Harris, the No. 3 qualifier, posted decisive round wins over Todd Fontana and Tommy Mauney before securing his second consecutive final-round appearance with a holeshot-win 3.754 over Jim Halsey’s 3.735 in the semifinals. Wilson started his day with a holeshot win over No. 1 qualifier Randy Weatherford, then knocked down Chris Rini and Jay Cox.

EXTREME PRO STOCK — John Pluchino was on a mission to redeem himself after a red light in the final round dashed his chances of winning the Summer Drags in Martin, Mich., in early June. He was able to pull off the win Saturday night, though, as he left first in his Kaase-powered ’13 Mustang and ran 4.108 at 175.75 alongside J.R. Carr’s 5.209 at 98.48 in his Sonny’s-powered ’18 Camaro.

“That red light at Martin broke my heart,” said Pluchino, the 2016 world champion. “That was absolutely on my mind going into the final tonight. I was .022 the round before and .022 in the final. I was on my game this weekend. I can’t say enough about my guys. It’s been a long, hot weekend, but it’s all worth it now. I love doing this, I love doing it with my son, and there’s nothing else I’d rather do.”

John Pluchino carved out a win in XPS racing with his Ford Escort.

Pluchino qualified No. 4 and picked up his pace each round, going 4.149 over a red-lighting Dave Hughes, 4.143 over Elijah Morton and a holeshot-win 4.131 over No. 1 qualifier John Montecalvo’s 4.081. Carr posted round wins over Lester Cooper, Steven Boone and Matt Giangrande.

Canadian racing highlights at the PDRA Firecracker Nationals included two pole positions – with BC’s Terry Schweigert leading the way in PXM (4.025 secs) and Melanie Salemi (a native of Orillia ON) qualifying #1 in Pro Boost (3.748 secs)

Posted by Nate Van Wagnen

Photos by Roger Richards