DINWIDDIE, Va. – Mountain Motor Pro Stock veteran J.R. Carr earned a meaningful win during the Sonny Leonard Memorial Race contested at the PDRA Summer Shootout at Virginia Motorsports Park Sunday afternoon.
Racing in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock presented by AED Competition, Carr used a 4.091-second pass at 175.07 mph to defeat defending world champion Johnny Pluchino’s 4.102-second run at 177.04 mph in the final round.
Defending world champion Jim Halsey (Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous), Kevin Rivenbark (Penske/PRS Pro Boost presented by WS Construction), Daryl Stewart ($hameless Racing Pro Outlaw 632), Travis Davis (Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle) and Tim Essick (Drag 965 Pro Street) also earned pro class victories at the fifth of eight races on the 2021 PDRA tour.
The event winners in the sportsman classes are Donny Urban in MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by Tejas Borja, Tom Martino in Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster, Chevy Floyd in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman 32, and Dickie Smith in Lucas Oil Top Dragster 32. Stephen Osborne defeated Donald C. Webb in the final round of Edelbrock Bracket Bash presented by COMP Cams.
Reaction times made the difference in the PDRA’s Jr. Dragster classes. Shawn Nardi used a quicker reaction time to win over Nyck Shirkey in the Coolshirt Systems Pro Jr. Dragster final round, with Nardi running 7.95 seconds and Shirkey going 7.921 seconds, both on a 7.90 dial-in. In the Classic Graphix Top Jr. Dragster final, Brandon Jenkins went red, allowing Katelyn Page to win with an 8.974-second pass on an 8.94 dial-in.
Carr qualified No. 1 in Extreme Pro Stock at every race this season, yet round wins have escaped him. Everything finally clicked for Carr and his Frank Gugliotta-tuned ‘20 Camaro at Virginia, as he earned a final-round win over Johnny Pluchino. The two drivers left with nearly identical reaction times, then Carr ran a 4.091-second pass at 175.07 mph to finish ahead of Pluchino’s 4.102-second run at 177.04 mph.
The race was also the Sonny Leonard Memorial Race, making the win that much more meaningful for Carr. He also won the largest payout in PDRA Extreme Pro Stock history, taking home $10,000 plus more than $5,000 in additional winnings from numerous donors who wanted to increase the payout in honor of Leonard.
“That one’s for Sonny,” Carr said. “We’ve got Sonny on board. This is for his family too. I know what they’re going through – I’ve been there. It means a lot. If you race Johnny Pluchino, you better be ready. I don’t care when it is. The kid is good. He’s really good. I just finally started feeling better and getting more aggressive. The crew was flawless like always. They believed in me. They should’ve fired me, but they said they wouldn’t. We’re here now. That was for Sonny, for Frank, for the crew, my wife [Teri], and I’ll take whatever’s left.”
Defending Pro Nitrous world champion Halsey went into the Summer Shootout with a commanding lead in Pro Nitrous points. He added to that lead with a No. 1 qualifying effort, then marched through eliminations to secure his fourth win in five races. Halsey won on the starting line when final-round opponent Fredy Scriba went red by .012 seconds, though Halsey capped the day off with a 3.677-second run at 206.01 mph in his Fulton-powered “Daddy Shark” ‘68 Camaro.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Halsey said. “When you surround yourself with the best people in the industry, this is the result. Very proud of my guys and gals. With that 3.67, we were trying to get everything we could get because Fredy’s been pretty badass the last couple races. We needed to be on our game for him.”
As the Pro Boost points leader going into the weekend, Rivenbark was racing in defense mode at the Summer Shootout. He was, however, looking for his first win of the season, and he found it after defeating former teammate Todd Tutterow in the final round. Tutterow had the starting line advantage, but he got out of shape and had to lift, while Rivenbark sailed by on a 3.653-second pass at 204.79 mph in the ProCharger-boosted GALOT Motorsports ‘69 Camaro to take the win.
“It’s a relief,” Rivenbark said of the win. “You’re never far enough ahead of anybody. Between Tutterow and [Randy] Weatherford, [Johnny] Camp, [Daniel] Pharris, all them behind me, I can have a real bad weekend and any one of them could win and be right back in the hunt. It is a relief. I was four points ahead of Weatherford coming into the race. That’s nothing. That’s qualifying points there. For them to go out early and for me to win, it’s huge. I missed taking advantage of that when they went out at Maryland. That was my own fault. But to capitalize on it this weekend is very good.”
This season marks Stewart’s return to racing after a 25-year hiatus, but he’s performing like a practiced veteran. The Norwalk winner picked up his second win in five races in the Pro Outlaw 632 class, using a holeshot advantage and a 4.224 at 168.83 in his HRE-powered Chassis Engineering ‘12 Camaro to beat Wes Distefano’s 4.21 at 170.30 in the final round.
After missing the Ohio race, defending Pro Nitrous Motorcycle world champion Davis needed a strong performance at the Summer Shootout. He delivered a championship-caliber performance in the final round on Sunday, charging to a 3.969-second run at 178.59 mph aboard his Timblin Chassis Hayabusa to knock down No. 1 qualifier Chris Garner-Jones and his 4.057-second pass at 168.98 mph.
Pro Street standout Essick was motivated to bounce back at Virginia after suffering a rare first-round loss at the last race. He recovered in a big way, qualifying No. 1 in his ProCharger-boosted “Brown Sugar” ’18 Mustang and racing to the final round. Essick posted a 4.066-second pass at 185.49 mph to defeat Nick Schroeder’s 4.097-second run at 186.56 mph.
The Elite Top Sportsman final round was set to be a close race, as Urban and Henry Underwood both entered 3.94 dial-ins. The race was decided on the starting line, though, as Underwood left too soon in his ProCharger-boosted ‘63 Corvette. Urban slowed to a 5.473-second run to take the win in his nitrous-fed ‘69 Camaro.
Chevy Floyd earned his first win in Top Sportsman 32, as his supercharged ‘63 Corvette defeated Marty Dabney in the final round.
Previous Top Dragster world champion Martino proved that it’s all about consistency once eliminations begin in Elite Top Dragster. In the final round, he ran a 4.109-second run on a 4.10 in his NGK Spark Plugs ‘13 Mac Sherrill dragster to run dead-on for the third time in eliminations and win the race. Martino defeated Nick Hamilton, who broke out with a 3.859-second pass on his 3.87 dial-in.
Maryland’s Dickie Smith steered his ‘18 Racetech dragster to victory in Top Dragster 32.