Lizzy Musi, the 23-year-old daughter of doorslammer drag racing legend Pat Musi, earned her career-first win Saturday night in the inaugural Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) U.S. Drags at Virginia Motorsports Park (VMP), near Richmond. Musi beat points leader Jason Harris in the Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous final, ending Harris’ undefeated streak from all four PDRA races previously held this year.
Also picking up pro class wins were Brandon Snider in the NAS Racing Pro Extreme class, Cary Goforth with his third Aruba.com Extreme Pro Stock victory of the season, Kevin Rivenbark in Precision Turbo/Proline Pro Boost and veteran rider Billy Vose with his first PDRA win in Pro Extreme Motorcycle.
Sportsman class victories went to Bruce Thrift in Magnafuel Top Sportsman, Derrik Sholar in STT Safety Equipment Top Dragster, and Preston Tanner and David Roloff in Huddleston Performance Pro Jr. Dragster and Top Jr. Dragster, respectively.
Musi qualified her Frank Brandao-owned 2009 Stratus in the number-one position over a PDRA record 32 Pro Nitrous entries with a career-best 3.74 seconds at 199.23 mph over the VMP eighth mile. Harris started from the second position after posting a 3.79-seconds qualifying pass.
In eliminations, Musi beat David Campbell, Jay Cox and John Camp to reach the final, while Harris raced through George Williams III and Tommy Franklin before catching a break in the semis when Chris Patrick left too early to throw away a 3.87 run that easily would’ve beaten the 4.20 posted by Harris when the engine in his ’68 Firebird sustained damage.
In the final round, Harris left first with a slight .007 advantage, but Musi won with another solid 3.88 performance at 181.64 mph, while Harris faded to a 4.24 at 136.90-mph effort.
Musi was overcome with emotion at the top end of the track after the win, remaining in her car for several minutes while gathering her thoughts and composure. “This is unbelievable, like a dream come true. Well, it is a dream come true,” she said upon exiting. “I’ve been dreaming a long time about winning a race and for it to finally come true is, well, I don’t even know what to say.”
The Mooresville, NC-based driver went on to praise her crew for their hard work and dedication to getting the job done, singling out crew chief Gary Henry and her father for making the right calls both at the shop and in the pits. Pat Musi said he “couldn’t be prouder” of his daughter.
“That kid, she deserves this win. I couldn’t be happier for her right now,” he said. “She’s put in the work and learned what she needed to and everyone on this team recognized that and that’s why they all work so hard to help her. We know we have the car, we know we have the driver, so now all we have to do is go out there get it done again.”
Operating on probably one of the tightest budgets in the Pro Extreme class, Snider showed up in Richmond without a screw blower to bolt atop his alcohol-burning Hemi, but was able to borrow a spare from fellow competitor Neal Wantye that helped the former Marine earn his first PDRA trophy after reaching his second-straight Pro Extreme final.
After qualifying third with a 3.58-seconds pass at 211.10 mph, behind only pole sitter Bubba Stanton (3.53/217.18) and Dubai racer Badir Ahli (3.56/213.84), Snider ran 3.63 to win his first elimination round over Randell Reid, whom he’d lost to in the final a month earlier at Martin, Michigan. Snider, from Atmore, Ala., then got quicker with each successive trip to the starting line in his ’63 Corvette.
A 3.60 at 209.49 dispatched Terry Leggett from round two before Snider went 3.57 at 210.90 to win in the semis against Ahli, who left with a -.113 red light. That set up a final-round match against number-four qualifier Tommy D’Aprile, who steered his Mel Bush-owned ’05 Corvette to preliminary wins over Eric Dillard and a redlighting Todd Martin before advancing from the semis with a holeshot win over Stanton.
After posting nearly identical reaction times, D’Aprile ran 3.60 at 208.30 mph, but it was Snider’s 3.56 at 209.95 that took the win home to Atmore, Alabama.
“This was a collective effort,” Snider insisted later. “First of all I want to thank God; He already knew who was going to win this race; Tommy and I were just here for the ride.
“But I have to thank Neal Wantye for helping me out, Ken from Motorsports Unlimited, Jimmy Crenshaw, Michael Elsberry, Steve Holloway, all my crew, Joey Martin; these guys just did what they had to do and I just drove it, man. I had the easy job.”
EXTREME PRO STOCK
Just as he was at the previous PDRA race a month earlier in Martin, Mich., Brian Gahm was quickest in Extreme Pro Stock qualifying for the PDRA U.S. Drags with a 4.06 pass at 177.44 mph in his 2013 Mustang. John Montecalvo placed second at 4.09, Dean Goforth was third at 4.10, while his son and points leader Cary Goforth finished up the top half of the eight-car field with a 4.11-second pass at 177.49 mph.
All but Dean Goforth advanced from round one of racing, but it was Cary that went the distance for the win, beginning with an epic, three-minute staging duel in round one with John Pluchino, then taking out Gahm in the semis to meet sixth-place qualifier Lester Cooper in the final.
Cooper took a slim .008 lead with his ’09 Mustang off the start and made his quickest run of the weekend at 4.18 and 172.30 mph, but Goforth’s 2014 Camaro laid down a 4.10 at 176.67 to earn his third PDRA win of the year.
“You know, I hate that Dad lost to him in round one, but Lester keeps going to these finals and he’s going to win one of them one of these days,” Goforth pointed out. “We struggled a bit with my car this weekend, but my guys kept working at it and working at it and I feel fortunate to be standing here right now. This one wasn’t easy, but then, none of them are. This is a tough class.”
Through qualifying and eliminations Wallace, NC’s Kevin Rivenbark kept going quicker each round in his supercharged ’67 Mustang until securing his first PDRA Pro Boost win with a 3.86-seconds pass at 191.40 mph in the final against Florida’s Joe Baker. Rivenbark’s teammate and crew chief Todd Tutterow paced a Pro Boost record 23 entries with a 3.84 at 191.51 in qualifying, followed by Baker, NHRA regular Mike Janis and Rivenbark at the head of the 16-car race-day field.
In eliminations, Rivenbark exactly matched his 3.92 qualifying pass to beat Jim Bell’s twin-turboed Camaro, then improved to 3.90 in beating Tommy D’Aprile’s blown ’62 Chevy Bel Air, and improved again to run 3.89 in the semis to defeat Tutterow and his supercharged ’69 Camaro.
Baker, meanwhile, drove his supercharged ’53 Studebaker past Tommy Gray, Andy Beal and Janis in a very tight semi final that saw Baker edge ahead of Janis’ blown 2013 Camaro by just three-thousandths of a second at the eighth-mile stripe.
It wasn’t nearly that close in the final, however, as Baker’s ride shook the tires for the first time all weekend and coasted to a 5.70 lap at just 83 mph.
“I didn’t see Joe, so I didn’t know what happened to him at all,” Rivenbark said. “But it feels good to finally get out of the semis and win one. Hopefully this is the start of something big and we can get after it in the points now, too.”
PRO EXTREME MOTORCYCLE
After the fields were tentatively set by two rounds of qualifying on Friday (July 26) at Virginia Motorsports Park, only past class champion Ashley Owens in Pro Extreme Motorcycle was able to force a change at the head of the lists in Saturday’s last-chance qualifying session with a stellar 4.05-seconds pass at 174.37 mph in the heat of the day on Saturday.
In one of the most dramatic races of the event, Owens fell in the opening round to teammate and points leader Eric McKinney, however, after both riders posted identical 4.090 runs, with McKinney’s .014 starting-line advantage translating to the same margin of victory 660 feet later. Two-time class champion McKinney then beat Jay Fisher in the semis to reach another former champion in Billy Vose for the final.
Vose, who qualified sixth for the eight-bike field in his first PDRA appearance, scored a first-round win over Canada’s Terry Schweigert, then beat Ron Procopio with a 4.08 pass in his own semi-final match to earn lane choice over McKinney.
When the green light flashed, Vose took a .018 lead off the start, then led stripe to stripe, going 4.11 at 172.32 mph to beat McKinney’s 4.17 at 146.50 package after his bike’s engine broke shortly before the finish line.
“We like to use a scuffed tire and our last tire had some 60 or 70 runs on it and it was starting to chunk on us, so we were on a brand-new tire here,” Vose explained later. “That’s why we were slow in qualifying (4.15/171.69), but I felt like if we could get it scuffed in time we’d be okay and that’s what happened.”
TOP SPORTSMAN/TOP DRAGSTER
Aaron Glaser, the most recent PDRA Top Sportsman winner from Michigan last month, continued his momentum with a career-first three-second pass (3.987/181.57) to earn the number-one spot in Virginia, but it was number-six qualifier Bruce Thrift standing tall with the winner’s hardware when the racing was over.
While Glaser lost in the opening round, Thrift successfully turned back challenges from Tim Lawrence, number-two starter Ronnie Davis, and John Lassiter before beating close friend Glenn Butcher for the win after Butcher redlighted by nine thousandths in the final.
In Top Dragster Derrik Sholar started from the 13th qualifying slot, then drove his 2008 Race Tech car past Alan O’Brien, a redlighting (-.001) Danny Payne and Craig Sullivan to set up the final against 14th-place qualifier Travis Harvey.
Both drivers dialed in 4.19 to set up a heads-up start, where the race was ultimately decided as Sholar left with an excellent .006 reaction leading to a 4.201 pass, while Harvey ran on the number with a 4.194, but his .022 at the tree translated to a nine-thousandths deficit at the finish line.
With the win in Pro Jr. Dragster, Preston Tanner of Renssalaer, Ind., finished one position better than his result in the Michigan PDRA race last month, while Willowbrook, Ill’s. David Roloff won a double-breakout Top Jr. Dragster final.