Gast Collects PDRA Win at VMP

Motorcycle drag racing veteran Paul Gast broke Travis Davis’ win streak, earning a wire-to-wire victory over Davis in the Pro Nitrous Motorcycle final at the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) Summer Shootout presented by Callies Performance Saturday night at Virginia Motorsports Park. Gast’s Fast By Gast Suzuki left the line first and was quicker at the finishline, going 4.05 at 172.56 to Davis’ 4.078 at 173.70.

Two-time and defending world champion Davis had owned this season, with wins at both races the class attended before the Summer Shootout. “Travis Davis is ridiculously tough,” said Gast. “He’s beaten me a couple times now by .002 so I kind of almost owed him. But I was really on time for that final. I had a great light and a really good run.

“It’s really humid out, but the bike ran flawlessly,” continued Paul, crediting crew chief John “Butch” Schwartz for his efforts in the victory. “I’m really proud of how it ran, proud of the guys at Fast By Gast, and proud of Travis too. He put a good fight out there and it was kind of my turn, I guess.”

Gast slowed to a 4.157 at 163.10 in an opening-round victory over Terry Wynn after qualifying No. 1. He stepped back up to run a 4.059 at 166.83, knocking out Ashley Owens and his 4.074 at 171.97 in the semifinals.

Davis qualified No. 3 aboard his Timblin-built Hayabusa and kicked off race day with a holeshot victory over Mohamed Alawad. He left second in his semifinal race against Chris Garner-Jones but he held on with a 4.067 to beat Garner-Jones’ 4.097.


Kurt Steding and tuner Todd Tutterow didn’t waste any time getting Steding’s brand-new, Bickel-built P2 Contracting ’20 Camaro up to speed. In its first race in Pro Boost competition, the roots-blown entry carried Steding to his first-ever PDRA victory in his second final round. He left the starting line first and stayed in front through the finish line, posting a 3.719 at 201.49 next to Jason Harris’ 3.733 at 190.81.

“The car’s awesome, but it’s the team,” Steding said. “Todd Tutterow, his team and my team mixed together, we do the same thing every time. We get along great and we’re on the money. We mess up a couple things sometimes, but we pick it right back up. That’s what I love about this team. It wasn’t just me, it was this team.”

Racing from the No. 8 slot, Steding ran a smooth 3.787 at 201.40 on a single when Isaias Rojas wasn’t able to run alongside him. The Pittsburgh-area contractor caught a break when No. 1 qualifier Johnny Camp went red on a 3.702 pass, letting Steding move on with a 3.74 at 202.30. He advanced to the final round when he defeated Don Tolley with a 3.716 at 201.85.

Harris earned his spot in his second consecutive final round by moving past Stan Shelton in the first round, then drove the ProCharger-boosted “Party Time” ’18 Camaro to round wins in two of the closest races of the event. He left first in both, using a 3.702 to defeat Randy Weatherford’s 3.704 and a 3.681 to beat Kevin Rivenbark’s 3.689.


Two-time Pro Nitrous world champion Tommy Franklin won the first two races of the season, but a first-round exit at the last race, the Mid-Atlantic Showdown at Virginia, had him looking for a comeback. He found it on Saturday, as he finished the day with a 3.661-second, 204.08 mph victory over Jim Halsey and his 3.73 at 204.82 in the final round.

“We’ve just been picking at it all day and tried to race smart and get through there,” Franklin said. “That’s hard to do sometimes since we like to go fast. We didn’t really go for lane choice last round, but again, just trying to race smart. I wasn’t worried about lane choice because both lanes are stellar. My crew, they rock. Chris keeps it maintenanced. Todd, Chase, Blake, Amber, Ashley, my wife, Judy, we just keep at it. It’s good stuff. I’m as happy as can be. Thank the Lord for everything that we get to do out here. I’m pumped. It’s a shortened season, so we have to get every round that we can. That team right there [Halsey] is tough, so we’re just going to keep at it.”

Franklin qualified No. 1 in his Musi-powered “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro, giving him a first-round bye that he used to record a 3.721 at 202.88. He improved to a 3.697 at 203.31 to beat Jay Cox’s 3.716, then sailed to a 3.701 at 202.67 in his semifinal win over Rob Hunnicutt.

Halsey’s Fulton-powered “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro was similarly consistent, going 3.725 at 204.98 over Dane Wood and 3.71 at 204.88 over Tommy Mauney. The defending world champion unleashed a 3.668 at 205.04 on a semifinal bye run to establish lane choice in the final round.


Back-to-back dominant championships in Pro Outlaw 632 helped prepare Johnny Pluchino for his first full season in Extreme Pro Stock, where he’s won two of the three first races of the season in the Kaase-powered Strutmasters ’13 Mustang. He added a third win to that total when he grabbed a holeshot advantage and held off Chris Powers’ 4.103 at 174.59 with a 4.119 at 175.48 in the Summer Shootout final round.

“I’m shaking right now,” said Pluchino, who qualified No. 1. “I thought we’d have some success. I was hoping to be in contention for a championship going through the end. I know we’re far from over. This is still a tight, tight race. But this amount of success right now…I don’t know how to describe it. There’s not really a word to describe it. This has been a dream of mine for a really long time. My dad gave me this opportunity. Chip Lofton [of Strutmasters] gave me this opportunity and believed in us. It takes people like that. John and Brud were here wrenching on this thing. These guys put their heart and soul into this thing. There’s one thing about this team that separates us from the rest right now, and that’s heart.”

Pluchino’s race day started with a pair of bye runs. On the first, he coasted to the finish line. He went for lane choice on the second bye, ending up with a 4.118 at 175.57. It wasn’t enough to give him lane choice over JR Carr in the semis, but he left first on Carr and held on with a 4.124 at 176.07 to knock off Carr and his 4.111.

A No. 2 qualifying effort put Chris Powers in his Sonny’s-powered ATI Performance Products ’14 Camaro on the opposite side of the ladder from Pluchino. In the opening round, opponent John Montecalvo left before the tree activated and Powers ran a 4.127. He won on a holeshot over Elijah Morton in a 4.119-to-4.11 second-round match. He earned lane choice for the final with his 4.103 at 175.16 on a semifinal bye run.


Pro Outlaw 632 newcomer Jimmy Pelcarsky declared he would win Saturday’s race after earning his first-ever low qualifier award on Friday night. He backed up that talk, winning the event and setting a new national record in the process. The Ohio driver ran a 4.153 at 171.45 in the final round, backing up the 4.127 at 172.67 he laid down in the semifinals to set the class E.T. record. Pelcarsky in his 480ci small-block-powered Five-Star Valet ’15 Camaro defeated points leader Wes Distefano, who ran a 4.22 at 171.18 in the runner-up effort.

“We worked so hard for this,” Pelcarsky said. “It’s unbelievable. I’m speechless right now. I can’t believe it. We came, we conquered. This means the world. We’ve been drag racing a long time, since the early ‘90s, late ‘80s – NHRA Pro Stock, IHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stock. This is a great feeling after all those years, we finally got some recognition. It’s awesome. I couldn’t be happier. I just want to celebrate.”

Pelcarsky and his Hutter-powered Camaro were locked in the 4.10s all day, beginning with a 4.193 at 170.32 on a first-round bye. He improved on his best run from qualifying by laying down a 4.172 at 171.21 to defeat Chris Holdorf’s 4.23 in the second round. Past world champion Dillon Voss went red next to Pelcarsky when he recorded the 4.127 in the semis, improving the record formerly held by Johnny Pluchino’s 4.163.

Distefano was appearing in his fourth consecutive final of the season in his Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro. He qualified No. 2 and used a 4.234 to beat Sam Freels III, a 4.255 to eliminate JR Ward and a 4.235 on a semifinal bye run.

The PDRA’s sportsman classes had some upsets and races with major championship implications, as Buddy Perkinson (MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by Tejas Borja), Chaz Silance (Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster), Mike Butler (MagnaFuel Top Sportsman 32) and Stacy Hall (Lucas Oil Top Dragster 32) claimed victories.

In the Jr. Dragster categories, Will Creasman used a superior reaction time and a 7.939 to overcome the 7.909 pass by Nyckolas Shirkey in the 7.90-dial-in Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster final round. Similarly, Chloe Geryes’ better light allowed her 9.082 on a 9.07 dial-in to defeat Danika Miles, who went 9.083 on a 9.08 dial-in.

story by PDRA with photos by Tim Hailey

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