First time winners featured at PDRA North-South Shootout event….
NAS Racing Pro Extreme veteran Tommy D’Aprile and Drag 965 Pro Extreme Motorcycle rider Eric McKinney earned their first Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) wins of the season , joining repeat winners Tommy Franklin (Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous presented by MoTeC) and John Strickland (GALOT Motorsports Park Pro Boost) in the PDRA North-South Shootout winner’s circle.
The fifth race on the PDRA 2016 tour was finished on Sunday due to rain that moved into the Maryland International Raceway area near the end of first round on Saturday night.
Maryland’s own Mo Hall claimed the DiSomma Racing Engines Outlaw 10.5 win in the class’ second stop with the PDRA. Number one qualifier John Montecalvo won in PDRA Extreme Pro Stock, adding to his event titles in two other major series.
In the PDRA sportsman classes, the titles went to Glenn Butcher in Ronnie Davis Top Sportsman presented by MagnaFuel and Travis Laster in Lucas Oil Top Dragster. Second generation driver Cory Gulitti scored the Talbert Pro Junior Dragster win and half-scale dragster phenom Mia Schultz added another win to her tally in MegaCorp Top Junior Dragster.
PRO EXTREME – For the first time since the PDRA’s inaugural season in 2014, Florida’s Tommy D’Aprile scored the win in Pro Extreme, the PDRA’s quickest and fastest category.
“Big relief, I can tell you that,” D’Aprile said of breaking through for the win. “What was really exciting for me is that the guys who work on the team right now never had a win in any category. It was a first for them, so it was really special to be able to see that.”
Racing out of the third spot, D’Aprile used a .001 reaction time and 3.64 at 211.39 to defeat Mike Recchia’s 3.67 at 210.44 in the first round. He and opponent John Stanley struggled with the hot conditions in Sunday’s second round when D’Aprile’s 3.75 at 194.16 beat the 3.78 at 191.41 out of Stanley’s Cadillac CTS.
“In that left lane, I can tell you I probably came within less than a foot from hitting that wall when I was running John Stanley. I actually had to lift and pull the ‘chutes. Luckily I stayed in front of John. He was on a good run but ran into problems of his own. To me, that was the scariest and most exciting and crazy round,” D’Aprile recalled.
The Mel Bush Motorsports team was preparing their screw-blown 2015 Corvette for a final-round race against number one qualifier Brandon Snider when Snider’s crew chief informed them that the Q80 Racing Camaro would be unable to return for the final. D’Aprile staged, took the green light and idled to a 12-second elapsed time.
“As the saying goes, you really want to race for it, but with the day that we had I would take it any way we could get it. The truth is Brandon is a really close friend of mine and I know that we’re going to be able to race each other again. We’ve had some really good battles in the past.”
Always humble in victory or defeat, D’Aprile praised his team for their efforts in the hot conditions.
“I’m grateful for (team owners) Mel and Johanne Bush and the guys who work with us. We have Al Billes tuning for us now. We’ve won several races together and I think this is the start of something really good. We’re really gelling as a team right now and I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen.”
PRO NITROUS – The North-South Shootout trophy in Pro Nitrous had a short journey to its new home in Tommy Franklin’s trophy case in nearby Fredericksburg, Virginia. The local hero, who recalled a crash at this track eight years ago to the date, was eager to perform well for the home crowd.
As one of the quickest cars throughout qualifying and eliminations, Franklin and his Musi-powered 1969 Camaro made racing look easy. In reality, he was fighting the same conditions as the rest of the field.
“Just racing the racetrack was the biggest concern with the high track temperatures. I had a hard road to go through. I had Tommy Mauney, then Ron Muenks, then Stevie Jackson, and Travis Harvey in the final. I definitely had the bad side of the ladder,” Franklin claimed.
Franklin used a 3.834 and 3.793 to dispatch Mauney and Muenks, then ran a 4.127 against Jackson’s 4.78, making up for Franklin’s loss to “Stevie Fast” in the Pro Nitrous Shootout final round on Friday night. Finally, a 3.814 at 202.21 was enough to beat Harvey for the second time of the weekend.
“I beat Travis in the first round of the shootout, then Stevie beat me in the final round of the shootout. There was a little bit of redemption there for me to be able to beat Stevie in the semifinals,” Franklin said, thanking his crew and the Good Lord for the opportunity to race.
PRO BOOST – The seemingly unstoppable GALOT Motorsports team continued to dominate Pro Boost. After GALOT driver Kevin Rivenbark won the first three races of the season, the tides have turned in John Strickland’s favor. The veteran tractor puller won his second consecutive event on Sunday, beating fellow southerner Tylor Miller in the final round.
“I didn’t think that I’d even achieve a win at all this year,” admitted Strickland. “I knew the team was capable of achieving a win. I just didn’t think as a driver that I would be capable of doing that because it’s still pretty early in my racing career. The first time out, I struggled with reaction times and I said, ‘Well, I probably won’t win one this year but if I work hard at it this year I’d like to get one next year.’ It all just clicked and started coming together. I have a lot more confidence now than I did have – and two wins definitely helped that,” Strickland laughed.
Strickland’s 1968 Camaro, owned by Earl and Peggy Wells, made it down the tricky MDIR strip on all four qualifying attempts. A 3.815 at 196.44 during Friday’s night session solidified Strickland’s position as the number one qualifier.
“That Friday night round was just a round to see what you could do. It didn’t really help any as far as raceday being on Sunday because it was so hot. All of our racing conditions were similar to what we saw during qualifying on Friday. It helped to have those qualifying passes in the heat to help set up for eliminations,” Strickland noted.
Strickland and Miller were the only two drivers to dip into the 3.8s during Sunday’s continuation of eliminations, so a tight final round was anticipated when Strickland defeated Melanie Salemi and Miller beat GALOT driver Todd Tutterow in the semifinals.
“I knew that I had a car that was capable of winning. I knew that Tylor also had a competitive car, which I was glad to see they came back and ran so well. I knew he was real good on the tree. I felt real confident in the car and the team. I just knew that I would have to go out there and do as good as I had been doing or better to make it work out, and it did,” Strickland said of the 3.89-to-3.99 final round decision.
Posted with files and photos by Nate Van Wagnen