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Veterans and First-Timers Win at SGMP

CECIL, GA (Apr. 25, 2010) — Despite racing with heavy hearts after losing one of their own to a freak early-morning accident, American Drag Racing League (ADRL) competitors still managed to turn in thrilling, record-setting performances for the Apr. 23-24, ADRL Hardee’s Georgia Drags VI at South Georgia Motorsports Park (SGMP).
Veterans Jason Scruggs and Mike Castellana led the way with wins in Pro Extreme and Pro Nitrous and Ashley Owens absolutely dominated the Pro Extreme Motorcycle class from start to finish all weekend long. Extreme 10.5 and Extreme Pro Stock produced first-time winners in Todd Moyer and Steven Boone, respectively, as did the Pro Jr. Dragster class won by Jordan Arnold in near-perfect fashion.
Raceday sadly opened with an accident in the pit area of Pro Nitrous racer Blake Housley that critically injured team co-owner Mike Walker, who was pronounced dead shortly afterward at Memorial Hospital of Adel at nearby Adel, Georgia.
In a moving pre-race ceremony before packed grandstands, ADRL President and CEO Kenny Nowling dedicated the Georgia Drags to Walker’s memory and Scruggs later donated the fourth ADRL Minuteman trophy of his career to the Walker family in victory lane.
“Mike was a great guy, someone who loved racing, loved being out here and loved his family,” the former back-to-back class champion pointed out immediately upon exiting his car after defeating Quain Stott in the Pro Extreme final. “I really felt like Mike was riding with me today and just feel like his family deserves this win after all they’ve been through today.”
Scruggs (right), who qualified his supercharged ’68 Camaro fourth, defeated Kelly Martin and Zach Barklage before getting a free pass to the Pro Extreme final after Wes Johnston’s 1953 Corvette was unable to compete in the semis due to parts breakage.
Stott, meanwhile, raced through former series champion Bubba Stanton, 2009 ADRL Rookie of the Year Jason Hamstra and Frankie Taylor to make his way to the final.Stott left first, taking a .014 advantage off the starting line, but Scruggs quickly recovered and took the win in 3.71 seconds over the SGMP eighth mile at 206.57 mph, while Stott’s 1963 Corvette finished in 3.75 seconds at 205.54 mph.
Scruggs credited his teammates, good fortune and Hoosier tires for the victory.
“We couldn’t do what we do without Hoosier tires,” Scruggs stated. “I saw Quain had left on me a little bit, but that’s when those big Hoosiers just bit in and took off. From then on, I was just along for the ride.”
Castellana (near left), part of the massive Al-Anabi Racing presence that included team owner Sheikh Khalid Al-Thani of Qatar driving in Pro Extreme for the first time on U.S. soil at Valdosta, called his fifth ADRL race title “a total team effort.”
“Really, we had five cars out here, but it’s all one team,” the new Pro Nitrous points leader said. “I would be just as happy if one of my teammates won, just like I know they’re happy for me.”
Castellana’s route to victory lane took him through Terry Housley, Johnny Pilcher and Randy Weatherford before reaching nitrous racing legend Charles Carpenter in the final, after Carpenter took out Steve Vick, Terry Murphy and John DeFlorian Jr. with his iconic 1955 Chevy BelAir.
Castellana’s ’69 Camaro moved first in the final, though, as the Westbury, New York, racer left with a stellar .009 reaction time, then ran an unchallenged 3.93 seconds at 193.52 mph after Carpenter’s car lost traction soon after the start.
“We knew we had a little bit of a performance advantage going into the final, so we just kept everything the same in order to remain consistent,”
Castellana explained.
Owens (right) also remained consistent—consistently quick—as he reset the Pro Extreme Motorcycle elapsed time record an unprecedented-in-drag-racing five consecutive times, including each time he came to the line during four rounds of eliminations, eventually lowering the mark to an unreal 4.09 seconds after a 175.25-mph win over good friend Travis Davis, who managed “only” 4.20 at 169.74 mph in the final round.
Decatur, Alabama-based Owens, aboard his brand-new Fast by Gast Suzuki, also left Valdosta with a new class speed record after going 177.81 mph in his semi-final win over Nikie Corley.
“I’ve got the easy job,” Owens insisted later. “Paul (Gast), he builds the motors, the guys back at the shop built me a great bike and all I have to do is get on and ride it. I promise you, I’ve got the easy job.”
Despite being a veteran of Extreme 10.5 racing, Moyer made it to his career-first final at SGMP and made it count with a victory over Gary White, who the previous day joined Moyer and two other drivers so far in the elite, five-member Mickey Thompson Three-Second Club for the class. White ran 3.99 seconds at 182.45 mph in his turbocharged, six-cylinder Team Titan Scion to earn the number-one starting position in the eight-car field for the Hardee’s Georgia Drags VI.
Moyer (left), the early leader in qualifying, finished in third place behind current class champion and fellow club member Spiro Pappas after three sessions, with the fourth and final scheduled qualifying round for all classes cancelled by wet weather Saturday morning.
When eliminations began, Moyer, from Pasadena, Texas, opened with a 4.12 at 178.00-mph solo pass after L.J. Wood was unable to make the call to race, then faltered with a traction-challenged 4.44 at 173.05 mph that still beat Michael Neal, who had even more problems in his own lane.
In the final, Moyer left with a solid starting-line advantage and cruised to the win in 4.02 seconds at 195.36 mph, while White struggled with transmission issues to a 4.94 finish.
“What a relief,” Moyer declared. “We’ve come close so many times before and to finally make it to a final and get the win, well, I really don’t know what to say other than this is the result of my crew’s hard work and knowledge. I work on the car, but they make all the tough decisions. I can’t thank them enough.”
Boone, from Weaverville, North Carolina, thanked last-minute backers just for getting him to South Georgia.
“Honestly, two or three weeks ago we weren’t even sure we could afford to be here and to be standing here right now with this trophy in my hand is really kind of unbelievable,” Boone said. “I have so many people to thank that I’d leave some out if I tried to name them all, but they know who they are and I’ll be calling and thanking every last one when I get home.”
The 15th-place qualifier had a relatively easy time in the opening two rounds when both Brian Gahm and Cale Aronson faltered, but Boone got the job done on
the starting line in the semis and final rounds, earning holeshot victories over Doug Kirk and Pete Berner, respectively.
“I knew Pete would be tough. He’s such a professional racer and everything he does is done the right way, so I knew I had to really get on it at the start,” Boone (right) said after strapping a .031 holeshot on Berner that allowed his 4.12 pass at 176.10 mph to edge the quicker and faster 4.09 at 177.46 package put together by Berner and his Summit Racing team.
“I never saw him, so I just kept hoping,” Boone recalled of his trip down the SGMP strip. “When I saw that win light come on in my lane I was hootin’ and hollerin’ in my helmet and my crew chief came on the radio yelling, ‘You did it! You got him!’ I mean, you always come out here hoping to win, but to actually get it done against someone like Pete, who I respect so much? It’s unreal.”
In Pro Jr. Dragster, Arnold (left) of St. Johns, Florida, put together the nearly-perfect package to win her first ADRL Jr. Minuteman trophy.
After dialing in at 8.08, Arnold left with a dead-on .000 reaction time, then ran 8.081, just one thousandth of a second over her predicted 8.08 time. Her final-round opponent, Timmy Clifton Jr., broke out with a 7.96 pass against a 7.98 dial.
“A lot of very accomplished bracket racers compete for many years and never see a run that close to perfect, did you know that?” ADRL TV reporter asked a tearfully happy Arnold as she accepted her trophy. “Young lady, that’s about as close to perfect as you can get!”
In his closing remarks from the winner’s circle, Nowling told fans and racers: “This is without a doubt the toughest event we’ve ever had to get through with the ADRL and you have all been part of it and made it one of our most memorable.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to Mike Walker’s family and to see the way they responded to such unexpected adversity should serve as an inspiration to us all.”
(ADRL/Tocher photos)
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