WINNERS VISIT VICTORY LANE AT PDRA CAJUN NATIONALS
GILLIAM, LA (May 3, 2015) -- Beneath a full moon shining
brightly over the flatlands of northwestern Louisiana, Jason
Scruggs and Mike Castellana scored victories May 2, in Pro
Extreme and Pro Nitrous, the top two classes in the
inaugural PDRA Cajun Nationals at Thunder Road Raceway Park,
near Shreveport. It marked a welcome change for both former
class champions as neither had previously reached victory
lane with the all-eighth-mile Professional Drag Racers
Association since its inception early last year.
Also picking up pro class wins were Gerry Capano with a
career-first title in Pro Boost and reigning class champ
Eric McKinney with his third-straight Pro Extreme Motorcycle
event title. Meanwhile, sportsman class victories went to
Ronnie Davis with his first PDRA Top Sportsman crown and
Mike Greene also with his first PDRA Top Dragster win.
Brooke Heckel and Scottie Taylor also prevailed in Pro Jr.
Dragster and Top Jr. Dragster, respectively.
Jason Scruggs, from Saltillo, MS, started from the
number-four slot on the 16-car NAS Racing Pro Extreme list
after running 3.57 seconds at 217.63 mph in qualifying his
'69 Camaro. Brandon Snider was the top qualifier after going
a career-best 3.54 in his own '69 Camaro.
Scruggs got progressively quicker and faster with each
elimination-round win, opening with a 3.59 at 212.83 to beat
Todd Tutterow, winner of the previous PDRA race last month
at Rockingham, NC. Next came a stripe-to-stripe,
3.57-at-217.14 win over Mustafa Buhumaid, who won the season
opener in March at Ennis, TX. In the semi finals, Scruggs
met up with Snider and overcame a sizable .042 holeshot to
win in 3.54 seconds at 218.37 mph. "I was a little slow on
the tree against Brandon, but he shook and our car went a
.54, so that was lucky," Scruggs admitted.
That left only the final and NAS Racing driver Badir Ahli
between Scruggs and his first PDRA trophy. Ahli, who started
his '69 Camaro sixth after a 3.60 at 211.93 qualifying run,
had beaten Don Wootton, Frankie Taylor and Wesley Jones in
the preliminary rounds.
With lane choice for the final, Scruggs went against the
grain and went with the right lane, despite having a little
trouble seeing the starting tree from that side.
"I lost lane choice for the semis, but when we went a .54 in
the right lane I decided to just stay there for the final
against Badir. I was having a little trouble seeing the tree
from the right lane, though, because of a bar near the
window, so I was having to stick my head out to the right
side of the cage just to see it. That's what made me late
against Brandon," he explained.
Last year, in the PDRA's first season, Scruggs was
number-one qualifier at five of eight races; however, never
managed to win any of them. This year, he opened the
schedule with a number-three qualifier at Dallas and started
number one in Rockingham--but lost both times in the opening
round of eliminations.
That all changed at Thunder Road. Ahli left first with a
.013 holeshot and Scruggs was still behind at the 330-foot
mark, but at the 660-foot finish line he held a .031
advantage, which translated to a 3.53-seconds pass at 219.08
mph, or about half a car length for the win over Ahli's 3.57
at 208.94-mph effort.
"I was beginning to think I was jinxed," Scruggs said later.
"And when you start trying too hard bad things happen, so
I'm happy to finally get that out of the way and now we can
just go race and have a good time."
With a 3.82 pass at 192.25 mph, Mike Castellana qualified
his Speedtech '69 Camaro ninth at the PDRA Cajun Nationals.
Leading the way in the Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous class
was Jay Cox with a 3.73 run at 200.68 mph, which stood up as
low ET and top speed for the weekend.
In eliminations, Castellana raced through Jim Sackuvich, Pat
Stoken and Travis Harvey to reach his first PDRA final
round, going up against five-time finalist and two-time
winner Tommy Franklin. After qualifying third, Franklin had
ousted defending class champ Jason Harris, John Camp and
current back-to-back NHRA Pro Mod champion Rickie Smith from
his side of the ladder.
In the final round, Castellana left with a .017 advantage
off the green, then ran 3.79 at 197.83 to edge out
Franklin's 3.78 at 195.87 by .011, or less than three feet
at the finish line.
"I honestly couldn't tell who won at the end, but then I saw
my win light was on," the New York native said. "I actually
thought he won, I really couldn't tell."
Crew chief Shannon Jenkins said Castellana drove "perfect"
in the final and the win reflected a true team effort.
"We've been trying some new stuff and it's starting to come
together," he said. "Hopefully this is just the start of a
lot more races like this for us."
Castellana echoed that thought. "We knew if we could get it
all together we would have a car that could win. Shannon did
an awesome job putting everything together," he said.
The weekend at Thunder Road Raceway could not have gone any
better for Gerry Capano and his Greenville, DE-based team.
After running a then-career-best 3.86 at 193.68 mph to
capture his first Precision Turbo Pro Boost pole, Capano and
his supercharged '63 Corvette remained consistent and got
even quicker and faster through four rounds of eliminations.
He opened with a 3.87 at 193.77 win over Californian Scott
Oksas in round one, then posted 3.82 at 193.63 to beat John
Strickland in round two. Next was a 3.81 pass at 193.40 that
overcame a huge .120 holeshot by Tylor Miller in the semis
and sent Capano on to face Strickland's teammate Kevin
Rivenbark and his '67 Mustang in the final round. Rivenbark,
who started from the number-six position, had put Brian
Hicks, Steve Summers and Ric Fleck on the trailer in the
Rivenbark, who had won twice in two prior PDRA final-round
appearances, moved first with a .041 reaction time, but his
.026 advantage was soon erased as Capano ran a straight and
smooth 3.80 at 194.18 mph to handily defeat Rivenbark's
back-pedaling 3.91 at 192.30 combination.
"Man, this is awesome," Capano excitedly declared upon
exiting his car at the top end of the track. "I have to
thank my crew and sponsors and especially my wife, Heather,
for all of their hard work. We've never had a day like this
before. The car just went A to B and got the job done. He
got out on me a little there, but once we got to the 330 I
didn't see him anymore. It's just awesome!"
PRO EXTREME MOTORCYCLE
With so many first-time victors at Thunder Road Raceway, it
was left to multi-time class champion and defending Drag 965
Pro Extreme Motorcycle champ Eric McKinney to represent the
veteran winners at the Cajun Nationals. The Hamersville,
OH-based rider kept his perfect record in 2015 intact with
his third number-one qualifier and third event win in as
"Man, it's not really the way we want to get it but a win's
a win," McKinney said after making a 4.07-seconds solo pass
at 175.50 mph in the final round.
He had been scheduled to face teammate and tuner Ashley
Owens in the final, but at the end of Owens' semi-final win
over Terry Schweigert, his bike's steering jammed at the top
end and its front tire slid sideways as the bike leaned
over, scraping the right frame rail along the track in a
150-mph shower of sparks.
"We had just run and I was by the scales when Ashley came by
with the sparks flying," McKinney described. "It wore a hole
in the bottom of the frame and knocked the exhaust off, so
there's no way he could've run.
"I really don't want to win like that, but we had a good
weekend here," he continued. "Sometimes it seems like we
have to overcome a lot of stuff but the bike ran really good
all weekend here; no problems at all."
An influential figure in Top Sportsman after many years in
the IHRA and NHRA, Ronnie Davis was instrumental in getting
PDRA to adopt the class and served as a sounding board to
series officials regarding rules and procedures. However,
until the Cajun Nationals securing that first PDRA win had
proven elusive for the golf cart dealer from Suwanee, GA.
"I like to have at least one win with everyone I ever race
with and this was the only one I was missing, so we got that
and now we're ready to roll," Davis said after defeating
defending class champion Dan Ferguson in the final round.
Davis qualified second behind rookie Tricia Musi with a
3.99-seconds pass at 181.11 mph in his '63 Corvette, then
beat Cheyenne Stanley, had a second-round bye, and outran
Earl Folse in the semis. Ferguson, meanwhile, started fifth
and defeated Keith Hollenshead, Musi, and Bob Gulitti to
reach the final.
In the final, Ferguson left with an excellent .004 light,
but broke out with a 4.08 pass against his 4.09 dial in
while Davis posted a .034 reaction time, then ran 4.09
against a 4.07 dial for the win.
"I really didn't think there was any way it could go quicker
than 4.09 so I ran it out the back door," said Ferguson, who
won the 2015 PDRA season opener at Dallas in March. "All I
had to do was dump it at the finish line, so I gave that one
Davis revealed his engine was hurt before the second round,
but it lasted just long enough to secure the win.
"We hurt a lifter in the second round, patched that up and
we ran the semi finals, then we repatched it up for the
final and it was squeaking so bad up there that Todd
Tutterow came up giving me the broke signal with his hands
before we ran," Davis said with a laugh. "I was already
doing pretty good in the points here so this should really
help us out, too. We're really happy about that."
Another first-time winner got the job done in Dart Machinery
Top Dragster at Thunder Road, as Mike Greene of Burleson,
TX, survived from the number-11 qualifying spot to beat
number-12 starter Derrik Sholar in the final.
Greene qualified his 598 BBC-powered '08 Undercover dragster
with a 4.13 pass at 171.31 mph and dialed in at 4.13 for
three of his four elimination rounds. He ran 4.18 against
the .13 in his first-round win over Louisiana's own Michael
Kile, then went 4.14 on the 4.13 dial in to beat Jeb Adams,
who broke out by a hundredth in round two. In the semis,
Greene dialed in at 4.12 and ran another 4.14, but won
courtesy of an excellent .006 reaction time after Cody Moore
ran dead on his 4.18 dial.
That left only the final, where a 4.16 against his 4.13 dial
in got the job done for Greene as Sholar also broke out by a
hundredth under his 4.22 dial in.
In the Huddleston Performance Junior Dragster ranks,
fourth-place qualifier Brooke Heckel of Cove, TX, won the
7.90 index Pro Jr. Dragster class with a 7.90 run at 80.72
in the final over number-nine starter Preston Tanner, who
broke out at 7.89 and 80.78 mph.
The Huddleston Top Jr. Dragster final saw Scottie Taylor,
son of PDRA Pro Extreme star Frankie Taylor, take the win
with an 8.97-seconds pass at 72.91 mph on an 8.95 dial in
over number-one qualifier Mia Schultz, who dialed in at 8.79
and ran 8.80 at 75.88, but left .077 later than Taylor off
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