Rivenbark Headlines PDRA Fall Nationals Winners

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Kevin Rivenbark (far lane) outran Melanie Salemi (near lane) to win the Pro Boost portion of the PDRA Fall Nationals. (Roger Richards Photo)
Kevin Rivenbark (far lane) outran Melanie Salemi (near lane) to win the Pro Boost portion of the PDRA Fall Nationals. (Roger Richards Photo)

HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Points leader Kevin Rivenbark secured his second victory of the season in Moroso Pro Boost at the PDRA Fall Nationals presented by $hameless Racing at Darlington Dragway Saturday night.

The win helped the 2016 world champion pad his points lead as the series heads to the season finale, the PDRA World Finals presented by Pro Line Racing and $hameless Racing, in two weeks.

The low qualifiers in the PDRA’s four other professional classes parlayed their Friday success into Saturday victories, as Jim Halsey (Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous), John Montecalvo (Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock), Wes Distefano (Schwing America Pro Outlaw 632 presented by East Side Auto Transport) and Paul Gast (Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle) won as well.

In the sportsman class final rounds, Dewayne Silance defeated Jamie Fowler in MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman, Norris Willis defeated Bill Yates in Top Sportsman 32, Nick Hamilton defeated Carson Brown in Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster, Brooke Hall-Gary defeated Blake Denton in Top Dragster 32, Mia Schultz defeated Makayla Stevens in Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster presented by Knoxtown Products, and Lane Morgan defeated Connor Shields in Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster. Michael Morton won the Edelbrock Bracket Bash.

Rivenbark gained considerable ground in his pursuit of a second Pro Boost world championship when he marched through an all-star line-up of opponents to claim his second win of the season.

In the final round, he left first with a .008 reaction time in his ProCharger-boosted GALOT Motorsports ’69 Camaro and held off Melanie Salemi and her .014 light in her roots-blown Purple Reign ’68 Firebird. Rivenbark reached the eighth-mile mark first with a 3.643-second pass at 206.42 mph, followed closely by Salemi’s 3.655-second run at 205.48 mph.

“I think every round, having an eight-car field, there was not a round that was given to anybody,” Rivenbark said. “It was unbelievable the lights we had. I think this is one race I can say there’s not a round I felt like I had given to me. Randy [Weatherford] had some bad luck next to me, but if he didn’t have that it would’ve been a tight race also because he’s running very well so far.

“I think overall it was a great race,” Rivenbark added. “It put us around 290 points over [Kris] Thorne going into Virginia. Makes me feel a little better and breathe a little better, but it’s still anybody’s game. Anything can happen.”

The Fall Nationals included bracket racing in multiple classes, but somehow, Halsey’s 3.60-second Pro Nitrous ’68 Camaro was the most consistent race car on the property. He drove his Brandon Switzer-tuned, Fulton-powered Camaro to four consecutive 3.62-second runs in eliminations, capping it off with a 3.626-second pass at 207.85 mph to defeat two-time world champion Tommy Franklin’s 3.641-second run at 206.90 mph in the final round.

“It’s kind of like a dream come true,” Halsey said. “If we could’ve set the record, that would’ve been icing on the cake. We made some good runs today, just not quite good enough [to set the record]. We’re very, very happy.”

The Extreme Pro Stock final round was a battle between a seasoned Mountain Motor Pro Stock veteran, Montecalvo, and a rookie, Johnny Pluchino. Pluchino, the 2018 Pro Outlaw 632 world champion, left first in his father John’s Strutmasters.com ’13 Mustang, but Montecalvo in his drove around his 4.158-second pass at 175.85 mph with a 4.075-second run at 176.89 mph.

It was a familiar position for Montecalvo, who experienced similar success with his Sonny’s-powered ’18 Camaro at the PDRA Northern Nationals in Ohio in July. He left Ohio with the points lead, and clinched his first PDRA world championship with the Darlington victory.

Distefano was an immediate standout in Pro Outlaw 632 when he made his debut at the season opener in April. He reached the final round there, and again two races later at the Mid-Atlantic Showdown in Maryland.

After grabbing his first No. 1 qualifier award Friday night, Distefano earned his first event win Saturday night. He drove his Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro around Chris Holdorf’s holeshot advantage to win with a 4.17-second run at 174.55 mph over Holdorf’s 4.303-second pass at 163.76 mph.

Cool weather conditions and a tightly prepped track helped Gast set and reset the Pro Nitrous Motorcycle elapsed time record on his way to the event win in his second PDRA appearance of the season. In the final round, Gast’s Fast By Gast Hayabusa was ahead of Chris Garner-Jones and his Jones Racing Hayabusa from start to finish. Gast ran a 4.234-second run at 169.88 mph, while Garner-Jones went a 5.794 seconds at 84.08 mph.