Fleck Earns First PDRA Win At Firecracker Nationals

Ric Fleck (far lane) beat Chuck Ulsch (near lane) to earn his first PDRA Pro Boost victory Saturday in the Firecracker Nationals. (Roger Richards Photo)

DINWIDDIE, Va. – Moroso Pro Boost driver Ric Fleck scored his first-ever event win in the Professional Drag Racers Ass’n Saturday night at the PDRA Firecracker Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park.

Fleck defeated points leader Chuck Ulsch, who was appearing in his fourth consecutive final round.

Past world champions Jason Harris (Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous presented by MoTeC) and John Pluchino (Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock) also won in their respective classes, as well as first-time winners Ehren Litten in Drag 965 Pro Extreme Motorcycle and Daryl Hameetman in East Side Auto Transport Pro Outlaw 632. Ken Quartuccio swept the debut of his new ’17 Corvette in Atomizer Racing Injectors Outlaw 10.5, qualifying No. 1 and winning the event.

Fleck has competed in Pro Boost since the PDRA’s debut season in 2014, posting top-five points finishes in 2015 and 2016, but he had yet to win a race or even reach a final round before the Firecracker Nationals. Fleck changed that when he took down points leader Chuck Ulsch in the final round, laying down a 3.769-second pass at 196.76 mph in the Roots-blown “Dragon III” ’41 Willys to Ulsch’s 3.791-second run at 194.24 mph. The two drivers last met in the Summer Drags semifinals in Michigan, a pairing Ulsch won en route to his first PDRA win.

“It feels good not only to win, but to go through the people we went through to get it,” Fleck said. “We went through some of the best – John Strickland, Tommy D’Aprile and Chuck Ulsch. That was a battle. The car was good. The car was really good in Michigan, but Chuck got us there. We got down here and didn’t change anything. We qualified No. 2 and (tuner) Devin Barrick kept after it all day.”

Coming off of a slump-breaking win at the Summer Drags in Martin, Mich., Harris and the “Party Time” Boone-Harris Racing ’69 Camaro were riding a wave of momentum into the Firecracker Nationals. The same strategy that carried Harris to the win in Michigan was successful in Virginia, as Harris poured the coals to his Musi-powered entry and raced to a 3.716-second run at 203.28 mph to defeat first-time finalist Tony Wilson.

“Just like at Martin, we didn’t really have the fastest car every round, but we just raced the race track and raced the opponent and it worked out,” said Harris, the 2014 world champion. “I’ve been driving good again, and it was just time in the finals to turn it up and see what it had. It worked out great for us. I just have to thank the Boone family, Danny Perry and our crew for their hard work this weekend.”

Pluchino was on a mission to redeem himself after a red light in the final round dashed his chances of winning the Summer Drags in Martin, Mich., in early June. He was able to pull off the win Saturday night as he left first in his Kaase-powered ’13 Mustang and ran 4.108 seconds at 175.75 mph alongside J.R. Carr’s 5.209-second pass at 98.48 mph in his Sonny’s-powered ’18 Camaro.

“That red light at Martin broke my heart,” said Pluchino. “That was absolutely on my mind going into the final tonight. I was .022 the round before and .022 in the final. I was on my game this weekend. I can’t say enough about my guys. It’s been a long, hot weekend, but it’s all worth it now. I love doing this, I love doing it with my son, and there’s nothing else I’d rather do.”

Despite entering the season as a true rookie in the world of slick-tired, wheelie bar-equipped motorcycle drag racing, Litten was performing like a veteran Pro Extreme Motorcycle rider as he charged to his first PDRA victory Saturday night. Litten went head-to-head with No. 1 qualifier Terry Schweigert in the final round, using a sizable holeshot and weekend-best 4.003-second pass at 183.54 mph aboard his turbocharged Williford Racing ’18 Suzuki to defeat Schweigert’s 4.04-second run at 175.99 mph.

After escaping a bizarre first round in Pro Outlaw 632, which saw three drivers break before the starting line, Daryl Hameetman was the picture of consistency in his 5-Day Shutters & Blinds ’67 Mustang. He was ready for a race in the final round, posting a 4.314-second pass at 166.31 mph, but opponent Tony Gillig encountered trouble immediately after launching his new ’96 Oldsmobile Cutlass.

Pro Outlaw 632 star Ken Quartuccio had modest goals for the debut of his new Skinny Kid Race Cars-built ’17 Camaro in Outlaw 10.5. The Pro Line-powered, turbocharged entry went into eliminations as the No. 1 qualifier and ended the day as the event winner and quickest car of the weekend with a 3.978-second run at 197.83 mph to defeat No. 2 qualifier Mike Decker III’s 5.258-second pass at 199.96 mph.

In the PDRA’s sportsman classes, North Carolinians Derrick Brown (MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman) and Chaz Silance (Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster) scored event wins, along with Wayne Rogers in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman 32 and Angela Gantkowski in Lucas Oil Top Dragster 32.

Casey Wagner defeated Connor McGee in the Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster final round, running 7.97 seconds on a 7.90 dial-in to McGee’s too-quick 7.885-second pass. Mallory Logan used a .005 reaction time and 7.946-second run on a 7.90 dial-in to beat Nyck Shirkey’s break-out 7.893-second pass in the Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster final round. Brian Mollison earned the Edelbrock Bracket Bash win over Rikki Molnar.