NORWALK, Ohio – Despite a challenging forecast for Saturday, PDRA racers kicked off eliminations in dramatic fashion at the DeCerbo Construction American Doorslammer Challenge presented by Callies Performance at Summit Motorsports Park.
After finishing qualifying with a second session, the series completed the first round of eliminations in four out of six professional classes, as well as five sportsman and Jr. Dragster categories.
Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous, Penske/PRS Pro Boost presented by WS Construction, Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock presented by AED Competition, and $hameless Racing Pro Outlaw 632 were the classes that started eliminations Saturday evening. Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle and Drag 965 Pro Street will begin eliminations on Sunday.
The PDRA’s sportsman racers in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman 32, Lucas Oil Top Dragster 32, and Edelbrock Bracket Bash presented by COMP Cams also finished first round, with MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by Tejas Borja and Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster left to start racing on Sunday.
After qualifying No. 1 in his Fulton-powered “Daddy Shark” ’68 Camaro, defending Pro Nitrous world champion Jim Halsey uncorked a 3.633-second pass at 207.85 mph to set low E.T. of the event in his first-round win over Brian Shrader, who didn’t make it to the finish line. Halsey will take on fellow two-time world champion Tommy Franklin in the second round.
Dean Marinis, who sustained a high-speed crash just after crossing the eighth-mile finish line with a winning 3.656-second pass, walked away without major injuries but is unable to return for second round. His first-round opponent, Ed Burnley, will take his spot on the eliminations ladder.
Johnny Camp, the Pro Boost winner at the PDRA season opener in April, fired off a 3.597-second run at 210.01 mph in his ProCharger-boosted “Hells Bells” ’69 Camaro to defeat Melanie Salemi and her 3.678-second pass at 211.59 mph in their opening round match. The pass tied the class E.T. record set by Randy Weatherford at the World Finals in 2019. Camp and Weatherford will line up against each other in the second round.
There were a couple major upsets involving holeshot victories to add suspense to the round. Longtime Pro Boost racer Chuck Ulsch used a sizable holeshot advantage and 3.672-second pass to defeat NHRA Pro Mod star Khalid Al-Balooshi and his 3.637-second run. A holeshot advantage also allowed Chris Cline’s 3.732-second pass to knock out Kurt Steding and his 3.635-second run.
With cool air and track conditions, the naturally aspirated, clutch-equipped hot rods in Extreme Pro Stock struggled to put the power to the ground in their opening round. Defending world champion Johnny Pluchino navigated the challenges most effectively, recording a 4.064-second pass at 179.54 mph to defeat Dave Hughes’ 4.12-second run. Pluchino and his Kaase-powered Strutmasters ’13 Mustang will take on Chris Powers in round two.
Powers had the second quickest pass of the round with his 4.105-second pass at 172.56 mph over Justin Kirk, who won the most recent race on tour.
Bill Neri delivered the upset of the round, though, as he pulled out a 4.218-second run at 171.69 mph to defeat J.R. Carr’s 4.235-second pass.
Defending Pro Outlaw 632 world champion Wes Distefano continued to prove his mettle after qualifying No. 1 by laying down a 4.174-second run at 168.60 mph in his Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro. The Michigan driver defeated Tara Thornton in the process, and will race Ohio’s Brian Werner in the next round.