Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle defending champion Travis Davis backed up his season-opening victory by securing another event win at the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) Carolina Showdown presented by ProCharger at Darlington Dragway Saturday night.
Two-time Pro Nitrous world champion Tommy Franklin also went back-to-back. He took out defending world champion Jim Halsey in a marquee Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous final round at the second race on the seven-race revised 2020 PDRA tour.
John Strickland (Penske/PRS Pro Boost presented by WS Construction), JR Carr (Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock) and Dillon Voss ($hameless Racing Pro Outlaw 632) were also in the winner’s circle.
The Caroline Showdown also included ultra-competitive sportsman racing, where the winners were Dewayne Silance in MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by Tejas Borja, Steve Furr in Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster, Chad Traylor in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman 32 and Steven Boone in Lucas Oil Top Dragster 32. Joe Soucek Jr. was the winner in Edelbrock Bracket Bash.
In the Jr. Dragster classes, Kaylee Love ran a perfect 7.900 in her ’17 Halfscale dragster to defeat Nyckolas Shirkey in the Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster final round. Shirkey’s younger brother, Zach, had better luck in Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster, going 8.965 on a 8.95 dial-in to take down Spencer McGee in the final round.
PRO NITROUS MOTORCYCLE
Even though he won the East Coast Nationals at GALOT Motorsports Park in late May, Pro Nitrous Motorcycle racer Travis Davis wanted to make some changes to his Timblin-built Suzuki for the Carolina Showdown. When those changes didn’t work, Davis returned to what worked at GALOT.
Davis qualified No. 2 despite not liking what he saw with the new system. He moved past Terry Wynn in the first round with a 4.111 at 173.54 to Wynn’s 8.729. Georgia native Davis stepped up to a 4.065 at 174.96 in the semifinals.
Garner-Jones was on pace to back up his No. 1 qualifier performance with a victory. He set low E.T. of each round, beginning with a 4.037 to easily defeat Gerald Smith. His 4.02 on a semifinal single gave him lane choice in the final round.
Davis strapped a holeshot advantage on Chris Garner-Jones in the final round and held on with a 4.045 at 175.71 to beat Garner-Jones’ quicker 4.003 at 172.91.
“It’s nice to go back to back,” Davis said. “We hadn’t done anything to the bike since we left GALOT. The day before we got here, I changed the nitrous system completely. Put a whole different system on it. Tried it during the three qualifiers, didn’t like what I seen and went back to the old setup for first round. We ran all weekend with no Racepak data until after first round. I got data and then I was able to start picking it away. We’re still behind on the performance side a little bit, but you win ’em how you can win ’em.”
PRO NITROUS CAR
Rinse and repeat was the order of business for Tommy Franklin at the Carolina Showdown. He matched his performance from the season-opening East Coast Nationals in late May, qualifying No. 2 and winning the race. His Musi-powered “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro was locked in the 3.60s through eliminations, recording low E.T. of each round. Franklin set low E.T. of the event in the final round with a 3.648 at 204.73 alongside No. 1 qualifier Jim Halsey, who slowed to a 4.492 at 119.33.
“The goal is to win every one of [the races],” Franklin said. “But I think that’s everybody’s goal when we pull in. That’s all we try to focus on. I say it all the time: this is the toughest competition in drag racing. There’s some awesome teams out here: Halsey, [Jay] Cox, [Chris] Rini, Lizzy Musi. All of them are just super-fast, so to outrun them and be quick of the event just means a lot.”
Franklin’s road to the winner’s circle started with a 3.692 at 204.64 victory over Aaron Glaser, followed by a 3.681 at 205.10 to drive around Musi’s .006 reaction time and 3.736 in the second round. Franklin earned lane choice in the final round by ripping off a 3.659 at 204.64 on a single in the semifinals.
Halsey easily moved past first round with a 3.733 while Tony Wilson didn’t record a time in the other lane. He stepped up to a 3.699 on a competition single in the second round, then ran a 3.845 to defeat Andrew Handras in the semifinals.
It was an all-GALOT Motorsports, all-ProCharger-boosted, all-Pro Line-powered, all-’69 Camaro final round in Pro Boost, as teammates John Strickland and Kevin Rivenbark squared off in a final round for the first time since 2016. Strickland used a holeshot advantage and 3.668 at 202.16 to finish ahead of the defending world champion and his 3.684 at 203.71.
“It’s been a long time since an all-GALOT final,” said Strickland, who was the runner-up at the last race. “This is our second year with the Pro Line group, so it was really exciting for the whole group to be a part of a GALOT team final. [Team owner] Mr. [Earl] Wells has done a really good job of putting us in situations where we have some of the best equipment and the best people with us. We couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to work with. They’re constantly improving. ProCharger stepped up and they’re improving their product all the time and giving us what we need to be successful.”
Strickland’s “Dirt Digger” ’69 Camaro improved on each pass in eliminations, starting with a 3.725 at 201.88 to eliminate Clint Satterfield. He dipped into the 3.60s with a 3.695 at 202.61 over Johnny Camp’s 3.726 in the second round. In one of the best races of the day, Strickland grabbed a slight starting line advantage over Randy Weatherford and held the lead through to a 3.661 at 203.34 victory over Weatherford’s 3.67 in the semifinals.
Rivenbark was only about a number off Strickland’s pace through race day. He was quicker with a 3.722 to beat Eric Gustafson in the first round, then raced past Derek Ward with a 3.73. Semifinal opponent Jason Harris went .002 red to negate his 3.692, but Rivenbark was ready with a 3.675 at 204.08.
EXTREME PRO STOCK
A wire-to-wire performance put JR Carr and his brand-new RJ Race Cars-built ’20 Camaro in the PDRA Extreme Pro Stock winner’s circle for the first time. The Mountain Motor Pro Stock veteran recorded low E.T. of the event, a 4.035 at 178.50, in the final round to defeat Elijah Morton and his 4.113 at 175.37 in his Allen-powered Morton Brothers Motorsports ’18 Mustang.
“I’ve had wins in other series, but this series is tough,” Carr said. “I’m not an eighth-mile guy. They had to kind of convert me. Tommy and Judy [Franklin, PDRA co-owners] and Tyler [Crossnoe, series director], they’re good people and they do a great job. These are top-notch cars. The competitors, they want to tear your head off every time you line up. This is just a brutal deal. We won today, and I’m tickled pink.”
Carr qualified No. 1 Friday night – another first for the Pasco, Washington-based driver – and raised the bar in the first round by going 4.053 at 179.07 over Dwayne Rice. He improved even further to a 4.036 at 178.93 in the semifinals to knock out points leader Johnny Pluchino, who went .006 red on a 4.092 pass.
Morton, who took runner-up honors to Pluchino at the season opener, qualified No. 6 and took out 2018 world champion Steven Boone in a 4.125-to-4.175 first-round match. He went .018 red and lifted to a 4.95 in the semifinals, but opponent Chris Powers went red first on his 4.084 pass.
PRO OUTLAW 632
A DNQ at the East Coast Nationals motivated 2017 Pro Outlaw 632 world champion Dillon Voss and his family-based team to rebound in a big way at the Carolina Showdown. He qualified No. 2 in his Voss-powered ’17 Corvette and steadily improved to a winning 4.21 at 170.52 alongside Wes Distefano’s 4.25 at 170.20 in his Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro in the final round.
“We’re going hard after points this year,” Voss said. “DNQ’ing at GALOT was a hard setback. We actually met No. 1 in points [Walter Lannigan Jr.] in the semis, so we gained a couple rounds of points on him. Man, we literally went from zeroes to heroes this weekend. It feels really good. The car is running awesome. My dad [Kenny], Cory, Mark, my wife [Heather], all of them, are just doing a hell of job to get the car in the order it needs to be to chase a championship this season.”
Voss paired a .008 reaction time with a 4.263 at 170.58 to win first round over JR Ward and his 4.375. His semifinal victory over Lannigan was courtesy of a 4.227 at 169.92 to Lannigan’s 4.267.
Distefano, the No. 1 qualifier and defending winner at Darlington, opened eliminations with a safe 4.307 to beat the 4.778 of Mike Murphy. The Michigan driver earned an odd semifinal victory when Chris Holdorf left before the tree activated. Still, Distefano laid down a 4.236.
Past world champion Dewayne Silance added another PDRA 660 Man trophy to his trophy case after he put together a 4.043 on a 4.02 dial-in in his Buck-powered ’68 Camaro to defeat Buddy Perkinson in the Elite Top Sportsman final round. Perkinson, racing in his second consecutive final round, cut a .001 light and went 3.818 on a 3.78 dial-in in his Musi-powered ’69 Camaro.
A 4.667 on a 4.65 dial-in allowed Chad Traylor in his ’08 Cobalt to get the Top Sportsman 32 victory over Dave Miller in the final round. Miller had a slightly better reaction time in his ’00 S-10, but his 4.46 on a 4.43 dial-in wasn’t enough to pull off the win.
North Carolina sportsman racing hitter Steve Furr scored his second consecutive Elite Top Dragster victory, this time using a 3.926 on a 3.88 dial-in in his ’13 American dragster to defeat Russ Whitlock in the final round. Whitlock in his ’08 Race Tech dragster slowed from his 3.90 dial-in to a 4.017 in the runner-up effort.
In Top Dragster 32, Steven Boone’s .004 reaction time and 4.319 on a 4.28 dial made for a winning package in his ’17 Danny Nelson dragster. Opponent Nick Meloni broke out with a 4.262 on a 4.27 dial-in in his ’16 Dan Page dragster.
Next month, the PDRA heads north for the North-South Shootout presented by Frederick Line-X, July 16-18 at Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek, Maryland.
story and photos by Tim Hailey