Cox, Quartuccio, Morton, Melnick and Lutz Top PDRA Fields at Northern Nationals
For the second time this season, Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous veteran Jay Cox drove his Butner Construction “Pumpkin” ’69 Camaro to the No. 1 spot to end Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) Friday qualifying. The North Carolina native recorded a 3.643-second pass at 206.61 MPH at the Northern Nationals presented by Talbert Manufacturing at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park to secure the No. 1 spot.
No. 1 qualifiers in the other professional classes are Ken Quartuccio in WS Construction Pro Boost presented by P2 Contracting and Ty-Drive, Elijah Morton in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock presented by AED Competition, Jeff Melnick in M&M Transmission Pro 632, and Bill Lutz in Menscer Motorsports Pro Street presented by Afco Racing.
In the sportsman classes, No. 1 qualifier awards went to Bryan LaFlam in MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by PAR Racing Engines, Alan O’Brien in Laris Motorsports Insurance Elite Top Dragster, Mark Payne in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman presented by Corbin’s RV, and Nick Meloni in Laris Motorsports Insurance Top Dragster.
After two of three qualifying sessions in the Jr. Dragster classes, the provisional low qualifiers are Charlee O’Meara in Coolshirt Systems Pro Jr. Dragster presented by PRP and Nathan Coon in Classic Graphix Top Jr. Dragster presented by PRP. O’Meara ran a 7.9007 to hold off Justin Kerby’s 7.9008 for the provisional No. 1 spot. Coon, No. 2 in points going into the event, cut a .001 reaction time to sit atop the Top Jr. Dragster field with one session remaining on Saturday.
Hard work over the course of the season and over the last couple days paid off for Jay Cox, who took his Musi-powered Butner Construction “Pumpkin” ’69 Camaro to the No. 1 spot in Pro Nitrous. The perennial contender boasted a 3.643 at 206.61 in the final session to claim the top spot. He also earned the Structural Concrete Nitrous Wars engine builder challenge win over a red-lighting Jim Halsey, who ran a 3.65 at 206.90 to qualify No. 2.
“It’s taken a lot of testing to get to this point,” said Cox, who thanked sponsors like Butner Construction and Smithfield Collision. “I’m good in good air and good conditions. These [Musi] motors are badass in the heat. They’re fast. They make a lot of power. I’ve just not been good with them. So, we did a lot of testing in the heat. I’ve just got a good combination for hot weather. Tyler [Crossnoe, series director] and Jimmy [Bradshaw, track prep specialist] have done phenomenal jobs giving us a consistent racetrack, and I would say that’s probably the most important thing because when it’s consistent, I can go up there every round and pick away at it.”
Cox and his Smithfield, North Carolina-based team were put to the test earlier in the weekend when a broken axle threatened to end their weekend after testing. The Butner Construction team worked through the night to get the “Pumpkin” back in winning condition.
“Marcus [Butner] had his guys drive up a whole entire rear end [from North Carolina],” Cox said. “We’re short-handed this weekend. We worked about 13 hours on this thing last night, never went to bed, and put everything up under the back of it brand-new. It speaks volumes to my guys, man. They don’t get enough credit.”
Pro Nitrous was one of several classes that completed the final rounds from the third annual Summit Racing Equipment PDRA ProStars race during qualifying. The special race-your-way-in event took place during Virginia Motorsports Park’s Night of Fire on July 22, but a major timing system failure prevented the completion of the final rounds. Two-time world champion Tommy Franklin scored the win with a 3.703 over Ed “Iron Man” Burnley, who went red on a 3.794 pass.
Behind Cox and Halsey, Indiana’s Jim Widener wheeled his BES-powered ’17 Corvette to a 3.673 at 204.82 to qualify third.
After collecting his first-ever Pro Boost win at the last race on tour in Maryland, Ken Quartuccio fired off a 3.616 at 204.17 in his ProCharged ’69 Camaro to qualify No. 1 in the class for the first time in his career. Quartuccio was the quickest of 14 drivers in the 16-car qualified field to run in the 3.60-second range. The points leader will now attempt to extend his lead by winning back-to-back races.
“We’ve really been fast all year,” said Quartuccio, who credited tuner Jamie Miller for his efforts, especially in improving the car’s 60-foot times. “At GALOT, I red-lit. At Virginia, I lost on a holeshot, both in the semis. So we were good all season, we just needed to get the package together. And honestly, my car always ran good in the heat, and we’re in my time of the year, and that’s where it’s really shining. I’ve got a great group of guys right now, and Mark Micke and Mark Menscer stepped up big time to help me behind the scenes with my program. My guys are killing it and we’re working our butts off, but it’s showing it now.”
Earlier in qualifying, Travis “The Carolina Kid” defeated young gun Preston Tanner in the ProStars final round. Harvey in the ProCharged GALOT Motorsports ’69 Camaro won with a 3.646 at 207.09, which also put him third in the final qualifying order. Tanner went red by .0009 on a 3.712-second pass.
Tanner found redemption in the final qualifying session, though, as he used a .002 reaction time and a 3.662 in his screw-blown Strange Engineering ’15 Corvette to beat Scott Wildgust in the final round of the Boost Wars engine builder challenge. Tanner got the win for Team WYO Motorsports, while Wildgust earned runner-up points for Team Noonan in his screw-blown Smokie’s Garage ’19 Camaro with a .007 reaction time and a 3.67.
Kurt Steding threw down a 3.623 at 207.76 in his Todd Tutterow-tuned, screw-blown P2 Contracting ’20 Camaro to qualify No. 2 between Quartuccio and Harvey.
One of the most consistently quick drivers in Extreme Pro Stock, Elijah Morton, earned his first No. 1 qualifier award of the season and secured the Horsepower Wars engine builder challenge win for Allen Competition Engines. Racing Dillon Voss and his Voss-powered ’06 Cavalier in the Horsepower Wars final round, Morton posted a 4.073 at 177.17 in his Allen-powered Morton Brothers Motorsports ’19 Mustang to get the win and the No. 1 spot.
“We’ve got a fast race car,” Morton said. “If we can keep the driver driving like he’s done today, then I think we’ve got a chance to win the race. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings to double up. It’s been a while. I’ve had, I believe, eight final rounds without a win. Feels good to get this [Horsepower Wars] win, even though it’s not the race win. We’ll keep pounding, and hopefully it’ll work out for the best. But there’s a lot of great competition here, and it’ll take a good job to get it done.”
Morton battled back and forth with Chris Powers for the No. 1 spot. Powers settled into the No. 2 position with his 4.087 at 175.71 in his Sonny’s Racing Engines ’21 Camaro. Rookie and recent first-time winner Alan Drinkwater qualified third in his Kaase-powered IronListing.com ’08 Mustang with a 4.105 at 176.61.
Jeff Melnick’s strong rookie season in Pro 632 continued when he drove Alan O’Brien’s nitrous-fed, AMC small-block-powered Greenbrier Excavating & Paving ’20 Camaro to his first No. 1 qualifier spot. His 4.148 at 170.65 in the final qualifying session was his best run under a new rules package since the ProStars race two weeks ago, where Melnick was one of the finalists.
“We did go testing this week working on the combination,” Melnick said. “These guys haven’t stopped working on this thing since the last event, to be completely honest. We figured some things out in testing. We came out yesterday and tested here all day. We were able to run the ProStars final, so we put everything back the way it was, ran that, switched it all back, made even more changes throughout the day yesterday. These guys are just the best, like I’ve said before. [Tuner] Patrick Barnhill and [engine builder] Barry Allen and Alan O’Brien are literally some of the smartest people I’ve ever been around my entire life, and they just can figure stuff out. They’re very good at what they do, and I’m very lucky to be driving this car for them.”
The ProStars final round between Melnick and reigning world champion Amber Franklin was contested during Thursday testing under the previous rules set. Melnick won with a 4.138 to Franklin’s 4.196, adding to his two victories in points-earning competition this season.
Franklin ended up No. 2 in qualifying with a best of 4.173 at 170.45 in her Musi-powered “OG Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro. Dearborn, Michigan’s Doug Nicholl drove his Musi-powered ’68 Camaro to a 4.183 at 169.75 to qualify third.
Ohio-based outlaw racing veteran Bill Lutz picked up his first PDRA Pro Street No. 1 qualifier award Friday night, but he did it in dramatic fashion when a fiery explosion put an exclamation mark on the end of his 3.976-second, 201.61 MPH pass. The incident caused extensive damage to Lutz’s screw-blown “Big Boost” ’68 Camaro, but Lutz and team, which includes son Kenny and co-tuner Patrick Miller, plan to work through the night to make the necessary repairs.
“It was a good run,” Lutz started to explain. “The car was right down the middle of the track and I thought it was on a perfect pass, and all of a sudden it just erupted into flames inside the car. Upon further inspection, we found that it literally blew the two-piece converter into pieces. That’s why I had so much fire inside the car with me. I couldn’t see where the hell I was going. Luckily, two races ago, I started wearing a head sock, so I just got a little bit of fire on my face, but nothing major compared to what it would have been. Couldn’t see where I was going. So I just figured I’d spin the car out, barely touched the wall. We’re going to fix it and we’ll be ready for E1 tomorrow.”
Earlier in the day, Lutz also won the ProStars final round over points leader Bill Riddle. Lutz ran a 4.01, while Riddle pedaled to a 5.043.
Two-time and reigning world champion Tim Essick claimed the No. 2 spot with a 3.986 at 186.95 in his ProCharged “Brown Sugar” ’18 Mustang. Michigan’s own Chris Cadotto made it an all-3-second top 3 when he ran a 3.999 at 190.60 in his unique screw-blown ’97 Dodge Ram known as “The Brick.”
Arizona’s Bryan LaFlam made the quickest pass in Top Sportsman to lead the 16-car Elite Top Sportsman field into eliminations. He recorded a 3.782 at 194.13 in his supercharged ’67 Mustang to lead the nitrous-assisted entries of Tim Molnar and Chris “Nitrous” Nyerges. Urban ran a 3.816 at 197.89 in his ’68 Camaro, while Nyerges wasn’t far behind with his 3.824 at 196.68 in the Buck-powered Schween Motorsports ’20 Corvette.
Mark Payne in his turbocharged House of Payne ’06 Cavalier was just a hundredth away from qualifying in the Elite field, but his 4.162 at 174.69 was quick enough to give him the No. 1 spot in the Top Sportsman 32 field.
Elite Top Dragster saw an all-3-second field after three qualifying sessions, with Alan O’Brien leading the way in his one-of-a-kind ’11 Race Tech dragster. Powered by a quad-turbocharged AMC powerplant, O’Brien fired off a 3.785 at 199.65 in his Greenbrier Excavating & Paving entry. Charles J. Careccia posted a 3.79 at 194.05 in his supercharged ’96 Horton dragster to qualify second. Frank Zeffiro in his ’06 Mike Bos dragster went a 3.798 at 193.63 to round out the top 3.
Behind the 16-car Elite field, Nick Meloni qualified No. 1 in Top Dragster 16 with his 4.277 at 161.52 in his New Hampshire-based TT Motorsports ’16 Dan Page dragster.
Competition at the PDRA Northern Nationals presented by Talbert Manufacturing will continue Saturday beginning with final qualifying for the Jr. Dragster classes at 10 a.m., followed by sportsman and Jr. Dragster eliminations. Pro eliminations will begin at 1:30 p.m. Pre-race ceremonies for the Northern Nationals nitro show begin at 5:50 p.m.
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