Weatherford Headlines Top PDRA Qualifiers

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Randy Weatherford powered to the No. 1 qualifying spot during the PDRA Olson Memorial World Finals. (Tara Bowker Photo)
Randy Weatherford powered to the No. 1 qualifying spot during the PDRA Olson Memorial World Finals. (Tara Bowker Photo)

DINWIDDIE, Va. – Moroso Pro Boost newcomer Randy Weatherford broke the 3.50-second barrier and set a new class record on his way to the No. 1 qualifying spot Friday night at the PDRA Brian Olson Memorial World Finals at Virginia Motorsports Park.

Weatherford’s ProCharger-boosted WS Construction ’19 Camaro recorded a 3.597-second blast at 209.14 mph.

The other standout No. 1 qualifiers after two sessions in the professional classes are Jim Halsey in Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous, Chris Powers in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock, Jeremy Huffman in Schwing America Pro Outlaw 632 presented by Precision Chassis and Chris Garner-Jones in Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle. Mo Hall topped the field in Atomizer Racing Injectors Outlaw 10.5 presented by Drag 965.

The PDRA’s sportsman classes also set their fields after two qualifying sessions. The No. 1 qualifiers are John Benoit in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman and Brian Bednar in Lucas Oil Top Dragster.

In the Jr. Dragster classes, the low qualifiers are Destiny Taylor in Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster presented by Thornton Motorsports with a perfect 7.900 pass, and Mallory Logan in Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster with her .001 reaction time.

Weatherford laid the groundwork for his record-setting Pro Boost pass in pre-race testing Thursday evening, firing off a 3.600-second run in similar conditions. With tuning by Pro Line Racing’s Steve Petty, Weatherford stepped up to a 3.597 seconds at 209.14 mph to close out Friday qualifying.

“It ran a .60 the day before in testing,” Weatherford said, “and we felt like we lost some in the 60-foot since I went in deep, and it showed on the board when we put the .59 up there. It’s working. The car works good. I’m starting to get used to the car and I’m cutting better lights. I think I can win this race. The opportunity is there, I just have to walk through the door.”

The Pro Boost rookie will take on Bubba Turner in the opening round of eliminations Saturday. Eric Gustafson, in his ProCharger-boosted Coast Packing Company ’69 Camaro, qualified No. 2, followed by championship contender Kris Thorne in his twin-turbocharged Thorne Site Development ’17 Corvette.

Nitrous Pro Modified veteran Halsey entered the World Finals with his sights set on clinching his first Pro Nitrous world championship. The Maryland-based driver came a few points closer to accomplishing that goal when he drove his Brandon Switzer-tuned, Fulton-powered ’68 Camaro to a 3.622-second run at 208.07 mph to qualify No. 1 for the third time this season.

“For the championship fight, it really helps us in points,” Halsey said. “I think we were 297 ahead of Tommy [Franklin]. I think this puts us at 304, so it kind of gives us another round to play with if we need to. But looking at the qualifying sheet, I’d have to race Tommy second round anyway, so that could be go or no-go right there.”

Halsey will start race day with Dane Wood in the other lane. Defending world champion Jason Harris qualified No. 2. No Prep Kings star Lizzy Musi followed closely in third.

With John Montecalvo essentially clinching the Extreme Pro Stock world championship when he made his first qualifying pass, the rest of the field moved their focus to winning the event and attempting to run the first sub-4-second pass in class history. While no one met that mark, Powers came very close with his 4.007-second run at 179.52 mph in the ATI Performance/Liberty’s Gears ’14 Camaro.

“We just try to go out and make some good, clean runs all weekend,” Powers said. “We tried to put a little more in it with the clutch and make a good, perfect run. We left a little bit on the table, so we’ll try to finish it up tomorrow and get it in the 3s. It would definitely be a huge accomplishment for us. We’d love to go 3.99 for Craig Liberty and ATI and show off the good products they put out for us.”

Powers, who is currently No. 2 in points, will take on Extreme Pro Stock rookie Justin Kirk in the first round. Mountain Motor Pro Stock veteran Brian Gahm sits second, just ahead of 2017 Pro Outlaw 632 world champion Dillon Voss.

The naturally aspirated Pro Outlaw 632 entries thrived in the cool Friday evening conditions, as a trio of all-motor cars topped the qualifying order. Huffman led the way in his Johnny on the Spot Heating & Cooling ’10 Cobalt, qualifying No. 1 for the first time with a 4.219-second run at 166.89 mph.

Huffman will line up against Vinny LaRosa in the first round. Defending world champion and points leader Johnny Pluchino qualified No. 2. Veteran doorslammer wheelman Tony Gillig steered his Madcap-powered Gillig-Wagner Motorsports ’96 Oldsmobile Cutlass to third.

The Pro Nitrous Motorcycle championship battle is the tightest of all of the pro classes going into Saturday eliminations. No. 2 in points Garner-Jones gained a handful of points on defending world champion and points leader Ronnie Smith by qualifying No. 1 with his 4.031-second run at 173.05 mph.

Garner-Jones earned a first-round bye with his No. 1 qualifying effort. Brunson Grothus, on his Indocil Art ’14 Suzuki, qualified No. 2, followed by class veteran Terry Schweigert.

The World Finals is one of three PDRA races on the Atomizer Racing Injectors Outlaw 10.5 National Championship Series schedule. Mo Hall qualified No. 1 in his nitrous-assisted, Fulton-powered ’07 Corvette with a 3.855-second run at 192.99 mph. Tim Essick ended up No. 2, followed by Lou Sciortino in third.

Consistent low qualifier Benoit came topped PDRA Top Sportsman qualifying with his 3.752-second run at 201.10 mph in his nitrous-assisted ’17 Camaro. Benoit held around a tenth over No. 2 qualifier Jeremy Creasman. Cheyenne Stanley sits third.

Bednar took his supercharged FTI Performance ’09 Spitzer dragster to the top spot in Top Dragster on the strength of a 3.695-second run at 196.99 mph pass. A pair of centrifugally supercharged dragsters followed Bednar, with Michael White second and Kathy Fisher third.