Racing for the PDRA’s Springnationals In North Carolina was completed with heavy hearts on Sunday….
Event champions were crowned – but for most thoughts were elsewhere — while eliminations wrapped up for the PDRA’s 2nd race of the 2016 season. (See HERE for additional detail).
Kevin Rivenbark completed a near perfect weekend by driving his GALOT Motorsports 2015 Chevrolet Corvette to the Pro Boost championship in the third annual PDRA Spring Nationals at Rockingham Dragway.
The Wallace, N.C., driver was quickest in every qualifying session and every racing round in an overpowering performance that sends him to Dallas for the May 21 Texas Nationals as the PDRA point leader.
Meanwhile, the featured Pro Extreme class delivered some of the best Pro Modified racing ever before Randell Reid of Iowa Park, Texas used an enormous starting line advantage to upset reigning series champion Jason Scruggs of Saltillo, Miss., in the final.
Scruggs covered the eighth mile distance in 3.501 seconds at 222.66 miles per hour but he couldn’t overcome Reid’s .017 reaction time which got his Corvette to the finish line .016 of a second ahead of the champion’s early model Camaro despite a slower 3.550 second time.
In the semifinals, all four Pro Extreme cars ran in the 3.50s. Scruggs was quickest at 3.573 but Reid, Jose Gonzales of Ball Ground, Ga., and Mike Recchia of Roselle, Ill., were close at 3.576, 3.581 and 3.575, respectively. Reid, a two-time PDRA winner who was shut out a year ago, also won that race on a hole shot.
Other Spring Nationals winners included Travis “the Carolina Kid” Harvey of Elon, N.C., in Pro Nitrous, Richard Penland of Benson, N.C., in Extreme Pro Stock, Chuck Wilburn of Tupelo, Miss., in Pro Extreme Motorcycle, Cody Moore of Collinsville, Okla., in Top Dragster and Dan Ferguson of Harrisburg, N.C., in Top Sportsman.
Rivenbark beat second generation pro Steve Whiteley of Grand Junction, Colo., son of two-time NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster world champion Jim Whiteley, in Sunday’s Pro Boost final for his second win of the weekend. On Friday, he won the PDRA Osage Nationals, a race that began in Tulsa but was completed at The Rock due to weather problems.
Harvey, a former PDRA Top Dragster World Champion, earned a narrow decision over Jay Cox of Smithfield to win Pro Nitrous after being upended in the Tulsa final on Friday. Against Cox, he covered the course in 3.751 seconds at 201.73 mph. Sox trailed at 3.763, 200.76 mph.
PDRA Polesitters Win Postponement
When the track became too cold for safe competition at the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) season-opener last month in Tulsa, OK, series officials decided to complete the semifinals and finals for its three premier classes within qualifying for this weekend’s PDRA Spring Nationals at North Carolina’s famous Rockingham Dragway.
After three scheduled rounds of qualifying for all classes were completed Friday night, all three number-one starters from the Tulsa event finished in victory lane, with Brandon Snider prevailing in NAS Racing Pro Extreme, Tommy Franklin winning in Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous and Kevin Rivenbark victorious in GALOT Motorsports Pro Boost. They joined Chris Garner-Jones, who had wrapped up the Drag 965 Pro Extreme Motorcycle title before the race in Tulsa was cut short by dropping temperatures.
PRO EXTREME — Brandon Snider ran a career-best and record-setting 3.48 seconds at 219.47 mph to secure the top position over the 16-car Pro Extreme field in Tulsa. He then steered his Q80-backed ’69 Camaro to preliminary round wins over Carl Stevens Jr. Todd Tutterow and Dubai’s Khalid al Refaei.
In the final, Snider topped Jason Scruggs when left first with a .022 holeshot, then posted another 3.55 at 218.87 to beat an early shutoff 4.77 at just 115.59 by Scruggs after his own ’69 Camaro went into severe tire shake about 100 feet out.
Post race, Snider revealed he narrowly avoided disaster at the top end after a major oil fitting broke in half just as his car crossed the eighth-mile finish line and sprayed the slick mixture under his left rear tire. Oil continued to drip from engine and suspension parts as the car sat idle in the pits nearly 20 minutes later.
“I felt the car slide sideways at exactly the same time as the chutes hit,” he said. “I’ve been in a couple of wild rides in these things before, but I’ve gotta say that probably scared me more than any of them. It was already getting out of shape when they caught me and that wasn’t a good feeling at nearly 220 miles an hour.”
PRO NITROUS — Consistency counts for Tommy Franklin and although his car wasn’t quite as quick in Rockingham as it was three weeks earlier at Tulsa, where he made a record 3.68-seconds run at 203.34, it remained as predictable as ever.
“We ran so good in Tulsa, so yeah, it would’ve been nice if we could’ve just finished things up there, but we have a good car here, too, considering the conditions with the temperatures going a little crazy,” he said.
With only 15 cars in the field at Tulsa Raceway Park, Franklin ran unopposed in the opening round, then overcame a holeshot by Jason Harris to advance and meet Jay Cox in the postponed semis at Rockingham. Franklin then led stripe to stripe over Cox, going just four-thousandths of a second slower than Harvey on a 203-mph run to the eighth-mile stripe.
Travis Harvey had a sizable advantage off the start in the final, but his ’69 Camaro faltered to a 4.5-second run at just 123 mph, while Franklin and his similar ride secured the win by going 3.742 at 203.49 mph.
“Travis is an excellent racer; you’ve always got to be on your best game to beat him, and fortunately we just put another solid run together,” he said.
PRO BOOST — Pro Boost racer Kevin Rivenbark was in a class by himself on Friday at Rockingham, running consistent 3.70s, with his GALOT Racing teammate, John Strickland, coming closest with a 3.802 that placed him second behind Rivenbark’s 3.761 at 200.02 in the Tulsa final over Melanie Salemi.
Salemi was going after her second-straight Pro Boost win at Rockingham after winning her career-first PDRA event there last fall. However, her final this time around got off to a rough start, or more accurately, a no start after the supercharged engine in her ’68 Firebird failed to fire. While Rivenbark completed his burnout, backed up and creeped forward toward the starting line, Salemi and her team desperately tried to get her car started. Just when it looked like she was going to be timed out by the PDRA starter, the reluctant ‘Bird roared to life, she completed a very short burnout and went straight to staging against Rivenbark.
“I’ve got to hand it to her; that had to be at least a little bit unsettling but she handled it like a pro,” Rivenbark said after winning with his 3.76 pass against a 3.846 at 192.85 by Salemi. “Even though she’s still pretty new to these cars I think she’s one of the best drivers we have out here. She’s really interested in learning more about them and learning how to get better in them.”
Posted with files by Steve Earwood, Ian Tocher & Bruce Biegler
Photos by: Bruce Biegler & Steve Embling
Some Struggles for Bell @ PDRA Season Opener
JIM BELL RACING (JBR) driver Jim Bell tried his best to put in a good show at the PDRA Spring Nationals at Rockingham Dragway in Rockingham, North Carolina on April 7-9, 2016, but rear suspension problems made it a tough challenge.
Bell, along with crew chief Brad Personett and crew man/head mechanic Chad McGregor, had tested at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia, the Monday and Tuesday prior to the PDRA race. Bell had a promising hit of 3.96 at 182 mph with an early shut off, but shortly after, the struggles began. Eleven hits later and there was little progress as the track prep simply would not hold the power the Pro Mods on site were making and tire shake was prevalent for all drivers who attended the test session. It was a disappointing outing, but the team used the situation as a learning opportunity.
After reviewing the RacePak data, Personett discovered that Bell’s twin turbo, Pro Line Racing Hemi-powered 1969 Chevy Camaro was only squatting .200-thousandths on the start, instead of its usual squat of .650-.700 which explained some of the problems they were having in testing. Upon arriving at Rockingham, Personett was fairly confident he had located the trouble and worked to resolve the issue. Bell made his first session qualifying hit but the car smoked the tires at the hit and Bell and aborted the pass. His 6.839 at 86.73 mph eighth-mile run was not what the team had hoped for, and it was back to the drawing board for more troubleshooting.
The crew made adjustments to try and fix where the car was binding up and not allowing the suspension to travel. They made a change to the four-link, and then Bell went back out for the second qualifier. The car launched, and after about twenty feet, it went into severe tire shake and headed towards the centerline. The scoreboards showed Bell’s performance of 7.376 at 83.50 mph had not improved as intended, and he dropped into nineteenth in the qualifying order.
Determined to remedy the issue, Bell asked Rick and Rickie Jones from RJ Race Cars if they had any ideas. The four-link bars had been taken off to ensure none of the heim joints were binding, and many other components were inspected as well. The Jones men agreed that all the bases had been covered, but the car still wouldn’t squat. Further scrutiny revealed a golf kart push bar mount was hitting the wheelie bar and had been causing the squat/suspension issue all along – it had been hiding in plain sight!
Confidence was high as Bell returned to the lanes for his third qualifying attempt. Bell left the line and soon realized that his Camaro had no power and knew the boost controller was turned on. He coasted through the traps and clocked a 5.387 at 133.03 mph pass, but it wasn’t enough to get in the show. At the top end, Bell discovered that a crew member had neglected to turn on the CO2 bottle after the burnout and the Camaro only had 3 pounds of boost when it should have been running 41.
“I’m disappointed that we did not do well, but we’re certain now that we have our suspension problems figured out. We just need to go out and prove it. And we will!” said Bell with his trademark enthusiasm. “We will test before the next NHRA event at Houston to make sure we are clear of these issues.”
A SPECIAL WORD FROM JIM BELL: Although this JBR press release is interesting to read, in the grand scheme of things it is of little importance given the fact that Ronnie “The King” Davis, arguably the all time most well-known name in Top Sportsman racing, lost his life as a result of a horrific top-end crash during the PDRA race at Rockingham, NC. Bell, his team, and the drag racing community mourns Ronnie’s passing and extends kind wishes and condolences to Ronnie’s daughters, Michelle Seger and Bridgett Medina, and his long time partner in life, Micki Dearing. Additionally, Ian Tocher, senior editor of Drag Illustrated, sustained severe injuries when he was hit by debris from Davis’ car. Please get well as soon as you can, Ian. We are all pulling for your recovery!
Bell will run at each of the ten NHRA Pro Mod races for 2016 and will continue his season at the 29th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals event in Baytown, Texas on April 29-May 1 at Royal Purple Raceway.
Posted by Ainsley Jacobs – Photo by Bruce Biegler