Weatherford Leads The Way At Darlington

Randy Weatherford (PDRA photo)
Randy Weatherford (PDRA photo)

HARTSVILLE, S.C. — Pro Boost newcomer Randy Weatherford took his centrifugally supercharged WS Construction ’18 Camaro to the No. 1 qualifying spot to start off the Professional Drag Racers Ass’n Fall Nationals presented by $hameless Racing at Darlington Dragway Friday night.

The former Pro Nitrous driver fired off a 3.663-second pass at 204.64 mph to lead the field in his Moroso Pro Boost debut.

Also qualifying No. 1 in the professional classes were Jim Halsey in Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous, John Montecalvo in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock, Wes Distefano in Schwing America Pro Outlaw 632 presented by East Side Auto Transport and Paul Gast in Drag 965 Pro Nitrous Motorcycle.

After two of three qualifying sessions, the provisional low qualifiers in the PDRA’s sportsman categories are John Benoit in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman with a 3.832 at 198.33 in his nitrous-assisted ’17 Camaro and Jody Stroud in Lucas Oil Top Dragster with a 3.711 at 201.16 in the supercharged “Zombie” Spitzer dragster.

The provisional low qualifiers in the Jr. Dragster classes are Brooks McMath in Coolshirt Pro Jr. Dragster presented by Knoxtown Products with his 7.906 elapsed time and Logan Westmoreland in Gilbert Motorsports Top Jr. Dragster with a .0013 reaction time.

Longtime nitrous Pro Modified driver Randy Weatherford rolled into his PDRA Pro Boost debut with confidence after running well at the Shakedown Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park in September. While that race was held in cooler conditions, Weatherford and his ProCharger-boosted WS Construction Camaro were able to run at the front of the pack in the heat at the Fall Nationals, posting a 3.663 at 204.64 in the third session.

“The car is doing everything we want it to do,” Weatherford said. “It’s running up front. Pro Line has given me an excellent car and it shows on the track. What can I say about [Steve] Petty over there? He knows how to tune them. I’m happy with this thing. I think I’ve found a home.”

Championship contender Kris Thorne follows Weatherford in the No. 2 spot with a 3.696 at 218.34 in his twin-turbocharged Carmack Engineering ’16 Corvette. Melanie Salemi rounds out the top three in her roots-blown “Purple Reign” ’68 Firebird with a 3.705 at 201.16.

Points leader Jim Halsey continued his string of successful runs in the heat Friday when he closed out the final qualifying session with a 3.671 at 206.42 in his Brandon Switzer-tuned, Fulton-powered ’68 Camaro. Halsey felt good about the performance, but he was already looking ahead at the chance to run deeper into the 3.60s in Saturday eliminations.

“It’s been pretty miserable – I can’t wait for tomorrow when it’s nice and cool,” Halsey said. “We’ve been good in the heat. I think that helps us a little bit, but No. 2 is a .68, so it’s not that big of an advantage.”

While the racers in the PDRA’s other professional classes have had opportunities to race at standalone races since the PDRA Northern Nationals in Ohio in July, the Extreme Pro Stock class has been on the sidelines since then. Points leader John Montecalvo picked up right where he left off after winning the Ohio race, steering his Sonny’s-powered ’18 Camaro to a 4.077 at 176.13 under the lights.

Maryland race winner Todd Hoerner qualified No. 2 in the Zarella family’s TT Motorsports ’14 Camaro with a 4.09 at 177.24, followed closely by Elijah Morton and his 4.098 at 175.44 in the Morton Brothers Motorsports ’18 Camaro in the No. 3 spot.

With two runner-up finishes this season, Wes Distefano has been having a strong rookie year in Pro Outlaw 632 with his Musi-powered $hameless Racing ’68 Camaro. The Michigan-based driver – and presenting sponsor of the Fall Nationals – added another highlight to his season scorecard with his first No. 1 qualifier award in the class after running a 4.243 at 172.02.

Chris Holdorf chased Distefano with a 4.284 at 166.11 in his nitrous-assisted C&C Pumping Services ’53 Corvette to qualify No. 2, while Jeremy Huffman represented for the naturally aspirated contingent, using a 4.29 at 164.17 in his ’10 Cobalt to grab the No. 3 spot.

Motorcycle drag racing veteran Paul Gast admittedly struggled with the 135-degree track during the first qualifying session, but he drew upon his years of experience – and recent success at a motorcycle race at Darlington – to make the right adjustments for the evening sessions. He rode his Fast By Gast Hayabusa to a 3.993 at 177.94 to qualify No. 1 for the second time this season.

Gast took the No. 1 spot away from three-time world champion Eric McKinney, who recorded a 3.998 at 177.10 aboard his McKinney Motorsports Hayabusa just minutes before to end up No. 2. Chris Garner-Jones qualified No. 3, just missing the 3-second zone with a 4.017 at 173.95 on his Jones Racing Hayabusa.