Birthday Boy Nets Trophy Present at Rockingham
when: April 4-6, 2014
where: Rockingham Dragway in Rockingham, North Carolina, USA
story and photos by Tim Hailey
brought to you by McKinney Motorsports
Birthday boy Eric McKinney scored the PDRA’s first PXM win. MORE PHOTOS
With two ADRL Pro Extreme Motorcycle championships in their rearview, Eric McKinney and the McKinney Motorsports team set their sights on the new Professional Drag Racers Association and the first ever PDRA race at Rockingham Dragway this past weekend.
Still a goofy kid at 64, Paul Gast qualified #1 with a 4.03 at The Rock. MORE PHOTOS
But despite pre-season testing in Valdosta, McKinney and teammate/tuner Ashley Owens had to chase legendary racer Paul Gast in Rockingham qualifying, and finished the sessions second (McKinney 4.067) and third (Owens 4.088) behind number one qualifier Gast (4.036). “Paul just knocked it right out of the park from the get-go,” said McKinney. “He was talking to Dad (team owner Scott McKinney) all winter on the phone, saying ‘I’m gonna smack that kid of yours around!’ and stuff like that. And it was all good fun, but he came out swingin’ and we were chasing him.”
Eric had low ET 4.07 in an ugly round 1 of eliminations. MORE PHOTOS
The first round of eliminations was admittedly a poor showing for the whole PXM class, as not a single pair went down the track side-by-side. Gast had a bye when broken Chuck Wilburn no-showed. Ditto for Owens’ E1 opponent TT Jones, who broke in Q4. John Collins sprung a leak at the line and was pulled off against opponent Jay Fisher. And McKinney’s opponent Ronnie Procopio installed a fresh motor overnight, only to simply take the tree in hopes of a McKinney miscue. There was none, and Eric advanced with a 4.07—low ET of the round.
McKinney had a bye to the final when teammate Ashley Owens had a catastrophic failure of a new part from a well-known clutch manufacturer. This clutch basket gear failed after only 6 smooth passes on Owens’ bike.
That broken gear cut this new doorway in Owen’s cases, damaging carbs, fuel lines and bodywork along the way. You might want to make sure you’re not running one of these parts before your next race weekend.
McKinney’s second round opponent was to be teammate Owens, but a defective clutch basket gear sawed through Ashley’s cases in round 1 and ended his day then. Eric ran a 4.10 on his bye to the final. Gast faced the upstart Fisher. Paul had blown the tire off badly on his E1 bye, and again spun out of the groove on this pass. Fisher ran a steady 4.14 to gain his first final.
Gast (near lane) spins left out of the groove, advancing Jay Fisher to the final. PHOTOS
Sadly for Fisher, he was pulled off the starting line for the final by the PDRA’s Traction Twins when his beautiful yellow bike sprung an oil leak out of the water box. And McKinney was beatable with a 4.12, stretching out second gear with a startling new tune-up from Owens. “The shift points were different,” said McKinney. “It was like a Sunday drive at first, then turned into ‘Game On.’ It hit the rev-limiter going into third gear, and I’ve never done that. It probably maybe would’ve been an .06 or .07, but it caught me off-guard. Ashley’s got a new idea going on and it’s gonna be a pretty good deal for us….if I could just learn how to ride it!”
The McKinney Motorsports team in familiar surroundings—the winners circle. PHOTOS
McKinney felt a little guilty about his “Last Man Standing” win. “There was a lot of luck on our side this weekend,” said Eric. “Procopio just broke the beams first round, Ashley was broke the second round, and then they shut Fisher off in the final. That was a tough break for those guys. That was his first final and they did an excellent job this weekend. I wanted to run him.
“So this win was a gift. I like to win, but I don’t want to win like this. I don’t feel like I earned it this weekend, but a win’s a win. And to win the first PDRA race is pretty awesome. I’m excited about it. Now we’re gonna move on and try and do it again.
A perfect gift for 29 year-old birthday boy Eric McKinney. MORE PHOTOS
“I don’t know if we can be as successful as we’ve been the last couple of years, but we’re gonna do what we can do. If people don’t like us because of that, we’ll keep trying to stomp ‘em. The more they hate, the harder we’re gonna work. And this was a good start.
“And it was a good start for the PDRA too. We really want to thank Jason Scruggs and everybody who put this organization together, and also all the sponsors who stepped up to make sure that bikes are a part of the show—especially Vance&Hines and Fast By Gast.
“We get our cranks from Vance&Hines and our cylinder heads from Fast By Gast, so I want to thank them for their help with our program as well. And all the people who put this rocket together and keep it going so I can come up here and let the button go. Ashley’s behind this thing. He’s the mastermind, along with Dad. My Uncle Steve’s on the clutch, and Mom’s keeping everybody in line.”
Eric and the McKinney Motorsports team unload their winning program at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Valdosta for this weekend’s Manufacturers Cup Spring race, April 11-13, 2014.
EARLIER: McKinney and Fisher in PXM final
EARLIER: Gast, McKinney, Owens, Fisher advance at Rockingham
Ugliest round in the history of racing was E1 of PXM at The Rock
EARLIER: Gast sits out 2, Stays #1 at The Rock
Paul Gast was able to retain #1 qualifier even while sitting out the last 2 sessions
Bikes were pushed to last in Q4 for some reason. Eric McKinney improved with a 4.06
Jim Bell crash. Jim is “doing OK”
Frankie Taylor’s monster 3.48 pass
Saturday qualifying replay
Ashley Owens made a move into 3rd in Q3 while Jay Fisher replaced a broken tranny and dropped to 4th
Dan Phelps crash. Dan is OK
Paul Gast laying it down with a 4.03 on his Pro Stock/Pro Mod hybrid. MORE PHOTOS
MIRock stud Ronnie Procopio has struggled so far this weekend, bending valves in Q1
With 9 bikes on site, Brad McCoy is so far the lone man out of an 8 bike field. PHOTOS
“The hell you say!” Procopio seems to be saying to Scott McKinney in the lanes. PHOTOS
“Trust me,” Dan Wagner appears to be saying to Ashley Owens. MORE PHOTOS
Chuck Wilburn sporting a HANS-style device. MORE PHOTOS
Earlier Saturday qualifying
EARLIER: Gast on Top at First Ever PDRA Race
Paul Gast went straight to #1 with a 4.06 at PDRA at The Rock
Gast’s opening salvod framed by another beautiful Rockingham sunset. MORE PHOTOS
2X ADRL champ kept his 4.14 test tune-up and improved to 4.10 for second in the order
Jay Fisher stunned the field with a 4.113 lap on his sweet yellow bike. MORE PHOTOS
Ashley Owens sits fourth with a 4.119. MORE PHOTOS
Big John Collins pushed his DNR chassis to a fifth place 4.18. MORE PHOTOS
Speaking of big men, TT Jones is sixth with a 4.20. MORE PHOTOS
Lively Legend Paul “Fast by” Gast lead Pro Extreme Motorcycle after one round with a 4.06 at the inaugural PDRA Spring Open at Steve Earwood’s Rockingham Dragway. Todd Martin of Oklahoma City and veteran Frankie Taylor of Dickinson, Texas, powered to the first day lead in NAS Pro Extreme.
Driving a replica 1968 Ford Mustang, Martin covered the eighth-mile distance in 3.567 seconds at only 207.30 miles per hour. Taylor was the only other driver to break the 3.60 barrier. The former ADRL champion was clocked in 3.599 at 210.44 mph in his 2005 Chevrolet Corvette.
Other first day leaders were Pittsboro’s Jason Harris in Pro Nitrous, Troy Coughlin Jr. of Delaware, Ohio, in Pro Boost, and past ADRL champion Cary Goforth of Holdenville, Okla., in Extreme Pro Stock.
Harris, son of PDRA Series coordinator Bob Harris, drove his 1968 Pontiac Firebird to a time of 3.821 seconds at 197.51 mph to set himself up for a potential second straight win at The Rock where he prevailed last fall in the ADRL race. Coughlin, the former NHRA Pro Mod champion and brother of reigning NHRA Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., set the pace in the turbocharged Pro Mod class with a time of 3.925 seconds at 198.88 mph.
Qualifying continues Saturday with three more sessions, eliminations are Sunday. SO GET THERE!
EARLIER: PDRA Set to Start at The Rock
ADRL champ Eric McKinney is on his way to The Rock for PDRA
The name has changed, but the concept of free admission to watch the nation’s quickest Pro Modified race cars on an eighth-mile fast track remains the same this week (April 4-6) as Steve Earwood’s Rockingham Dragway plays host to the opening event in the new Professional Drag Racers Association series. The inaugural PDRA Spring Open will be international in scope with racers representing Sweden, Canada, Aruba and Dubai among those vying with America’s best for points and prize money in categories already familiar to Pro Mod race fans.
Pro Extreme and Pro Nitrous race cars including those of founding PDRA partners Jason and Mitchell Scruggs of Tupelo, Miss., Gene Hector of Big Spring Texas, Roger Henson of Boliva, Tenn., and Tommy Franklin of Fredericksburg, Va., will be among the first to test a newly-refurbished Rockingham track surface expected to deliver record times and speeds.
In addition to the top two Pro Modified classes, sponsored by NAS Racing and Switzer, respectively, champions also will be crowned in the Precision/Pro-Line Pro Boost, Aruba Extreme Pro Stock, Pro Extreme Motorcycle, Top Sportsman and Top Dragster classes as well as Jr. Dragster. “Basically, same racers, same format,” Earwood said. “That’s the biggest thing. Pro Mods on the eighth mile put on a great show and have become fan favorites. We’re extremely proud to be hosting the PDRA’s first event.”
Mike Castellana will be in the house
Among those expected to make the biggest noise at the opener are Mike Castellana of Muttontown, N.Y., driver of the just fabricated Jerry Bickel late model Chevrolet, Joey Martin of Milton, Fla., whose 1955 Chevy Nomad has proven to be one of the most popular cars in the category and veteran Frankie Taylor of Dickinson, Texas. However, the Dubai-based NAS (Nad Al Shiba) Racing Team also could pose a challenge with drivers Mustafa Buhumaid and Bader Ahli at the wheel of brand new Jerry Bickel-built early-model Camaros.
One significant change to the schedule will be an early pro qualifying session at 6 p.m. Friday followed by three more starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. Sportsman eliminations will open the Sunday program at 10 a.m. followed immediately by pre-race ceremonies and the first round of racing in all pro categories.
In addition to qualifying, the Saturday night show will feature the new Ultra 4 Shootout presented by Ultra Sonic LLC in which the quickest four Top Dragsters as determined in the first two qualifying sessions will compete for a $500 bonus just before the traditional jet car finale.
The island nation of Aruba, which has been designated the “official vacation destination” of the PDRA, will be represented by the Extreme Pro Stock Ford Mustang driven by veteran Trevor Eman of Pos Chiquito, whose U.S. shop facility is in Union, S.C.
Past Rockingham winner Elijah Morton of Jacksonville, N.C. also is considered a major Pro Stock threat while Eric McKinney of Homersville, Ohio, last year’s spring winner, is favored in a Pro Extreme Motorcycle category in which former MIRock Superbike Series winners Dave Norris of Bryans Road, Md., and Ronnie Procopio of Raleigh also are expected to challenge.
The track, which recently underwent successful “surgery” to repair a problem at the transition from concrete-to-asphalt in the left lane, will be open from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Thursday for testing in all categories, pro and sportsman.
Free tickets are available at www.prdra660.com