Cox Takes Down Halsey In Virginia

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Jay Cox (far lane) defeated Jim Halsey in the Pro Nitrous final at Virginia Motorsports Park. (Roger Richards photo)
Jay Cox (far lane) defeated Jim Halsey in the Pro Nitrous final at Virginia Motorsports Park. (Roger Richards photo)

DINWIDDIE, Va. — Hard work and dozens of test passes between events paid off for Jay Cox as he took down defending world champion Jim Halsey in the Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous final round at the Professional Drag Racers Ass’n Proline Racing Mid-Atlantic Showdown Saturday night at Virginia Motorsports Park.

The sportsman event victories went to John Benoit in MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by Tejas Borja, Steve Furr in Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster, Stacy Hall in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman 48 and Rikki Molnar in Lucas Oil Top Dragster 48. Mike Shields picked up the win in Edelbrock Bracket Bash.

In the Jr. Dragster categories, Mallory Logan capitalized on her No. 2 qualifying position by racing to the Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster final round, where she used a holeshot advantage to win with an 8.018 to Noah Cornatzer’s 7.967, both on a 7.90 dial-in.

Lane Morgan earned the Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster win over C.J. Jenkins, with Morgan running 9.228 on a 9.04 dial-in and Jenkins breaking out with 9.01 on a 9.02 dial-in.

A year without a Pro Nitrous victory, coupled with a first-round loss at the last race in Darlington, led perennial class favorite Jay Cox to try something different. He called on a group of friends, including chassis builders Rick and Rickie Jones, to help him get out of a rut.

With guidance from his friends, Cox and his team made 33 test runs in the month between the Darlington and Virginia races.

It all paid off when Cox drove his Buck-powered Butner Construction ’69 Camaro to a 3.737-second, 200.35 mph victory over Jim Halsey in the final round. Halsey ran 4.529 at 117.46 in the runner-up effort.

“We got a bad car in the heat,” Cox said. “I didn’t show it this weekend because we were behind on tune-up stuff, but it’s a fast car. Didn’t abort a run in the heat since Rickie’s been helping me. Rickie Smith and I tested together and he’s helped me a lot, along with Jeff Pierce and Billy Stocklin. They all got me somewhat back on track. I just have to take this and build off of it. I don’t ever claim to be smart, I just work hard. The amount of work we done in the last three weeks testing, to come out here and win for my guys means more to me than anything.”

Racing out of the No. 5 spot, Cox moved past the first round with a 3.821 at 200.08 when opponent Rob Hunnicutt broke after the burnout. Cox then used a 3.76 at 199.17 to beat Billy Albert and his 3.783 at 198.96 in their semifinal match.

Halsey, the defending world champion, previously beat fellow Switzer Dynamics-equipped racers John DeCerbo and Chris Rini.

For the third race this year, a GALOT Motorsports entry went to the final round in Pro Boost. Team driver John Strickland beat teammate Kevin Rivenbark in the final round at the last race, the Carolina Showdown.

This time, Rivenbark clinched the victory for GALOT team owners Earl and Peggy Wells. Rivenbark’s Steve Petty-tuned, ProCharger-boosted ’69 Camaro recorded a 3.694 at 201.73 to beat Pro Nitrous champion-turned-Pro Boost rookie Jason Harris and his 3.713 at 201.22.

“It would’ve been better if it was John and I [in the finals] again, but sometimes things happen,” said Rivenbark, the 2016 and 2019 world champion. “He’s still in the points lead, though, and I should’ve moved up to second or third. Overall, it’s been a great year so far even with all this COVID mess going on. The few races we have had this year, I think we’ve done well. It’s always great to win for Mr. and Mrs. Wells, and we appreciate them giving us the opportunity to do this.”

Rivenbark went slightly quicker and quicker as the day went on and conditions improved. First, a 3.769 victory over Don Tolley, then a 3.700 on a second-round single. He dipped into the 3.60s with a 3.698 at 201.73 to defeat Johnny Camp’s 3.719 in the semifinals.

Even with the second-quickest car in qualifying, Johnny Pluchino knew he needed to step up for the Extreme Pro Stock final round against JR Carr, who has two low qualifier awards and an event win since debuting a new car this season. Driving his father John’s Kaase-powered Strutmasters.com ’13 Mustang, Pluchino grabbed a major advantage on the starting line and never looked back as he powered to a 4.079 at 177.14. Carr slowed to a 4.323 at 163.08.

Dillon Voss was down a few small numbers compared to Wes Distefano in the first two rounds of Pro Outlaw 632 competition, but the 2017 world champion pulled out all the stops for the final round against Distefano. Voss in his Voss-powered Race Star Pro Forged Wheels ’17 Corvette drove around Distefano’s holeshot and 4.284 at 170.06 with a 4.259 at 168.47.

Outlaw 10.5 star Tim Essick missed the first Pro Street event in May, but he made up for it by winning the second-ever PDRA Pro Street race. Driving his home-built, ProCharger-boosted “Brown Sugar” ’18 Mustang, Essick knocked off low qualifier Ron Hamby in the final round. Essick left first and ran a 4.797 at 172.89, while Hamby slowed to a 9.331 at 45.83.

Elite Top Sportsman low qualifier John Benoit carried over his quick performance from Friday qualifying into consistent performance Saturday. In a battle of Buck-powered Camaros, Benoit ran a 3.888 on a 3.85 dial-in in his ’17 model next to Dewayne Silance’s 4.148 on a 4.05 dial in his ’68 model to deny Silance his second consecutive event win.

Even Elite Top Dragster defending world champion Kellan Farmer couldn’t stop Steve Furr on his undefeated run, which extended to three consecutive event victories after Farmer went red to Furr in the final round. Furr in his centrifugally supercharged American dragster broke out with a 3.912 on a 3.92, but Farmer’s red light negated his 3.994 on a 3.99 dial in his nitrous-assisted Racetech dragster.