Travis Harvey is hoping his stay on top in Summit Racing Equipment Top Sportsman lasts one more night.
Right now, Harvey is the driver to beat at Summit Racing Equipmentâ€™s Top Sportsman â€œClash of the Titans,â€ a special one-race event during the American Drag Racing Leagueâ€™s (ADRL) U.S. Drags V at Virginia Motorsports Park.
He went a remarkable 4.141 at 173.43 miles per hour in the massive 35-car Summit Racing Top Sportsman field on Friday, jumping to the top spot of the 32-car qualifying field that will pay out a Top Sportsman record $10,000 to the winner.
â€œThis is a pretty huge event and since itâ€™s $10,000 on the line and Summit was putting it on, I really wanted to come out,â€ said Harvey, who won Dragstock VIII in 2011. â€œI tried to put together a run in the 4.10s and thatâ€™s what it did.
â€œThat was really good for the conditions. You have to be smart and know what the track can take. We test a lot and this car is really good in the heat.â€
Other qualifying leaders of the U.S. Drags V after a rain-shortened Friday include Jason Scruggs (Pro Extreme), Jim Halsey (Pro Nitrous), Brad Brand (Mickey Thompson 10.5), Dave Norris (Pro Extreme Motorcycle), Elijah Morton (Extreme Pro Stock) and Mike Castellana (Aeromotive Pro Modified).
Rain washed away one qualifying session for every class, while only three classes (XPS, PM, TS) were able to get in two qualifying runs because of the inclement weather.
That weather also bumped Saturdayâ€™s action at VMP to an earlier starting time. Racing will start at 9 a.m. with the completion of the second qualifying session. A third qualifying session will follow, with eliminations for the U.S. Drags V and the Summit Racing Equipment Top Sportsman â€œClash of the Titansâ€ slated to begin at its previously scheduled 3:30 p.m.
Harvey will hope to keep his top spot, but he will have incredible company. Thirty-four of the 35 cars ran in the 4-second range and Harvey knows it will take a monumental effort to win the $10,000 prize.
â€œIâ€™m really thankful for the ADRL and Summit for putting on a race like this. Itâ€™s pretty awesome to have (35) fast cars like this,â€ Harvey said.
â€œYouâ€™re going to have to keep up with the weather and keep the car running well, but youâ€™re also going to need some lucky rounds. Thereâ€™s some really good competition out there, thatâ€™s for sure.â€
Jason Scruggs laid down arguably the most impressive run of Friday as track temperatures approached 140 degrees, delivering a 3.674 at 206.13 mph in sweltering heat to take the No. 1 qualifying spot in Pro Extreme. It put Scruggs on a good path as he tries to become the first PX driver to win in consecutive years at VMP.
â€œI like to go first, that way I donâ€™t have to watch anybody else,â€ Scruggs said. â€œI was shooting for a 3.70 or a 3.69, and it went a tad better than I thought. It really came together for us. For the conditions, that was a great run and we were very happy with that.â€
Mick Snyder, who is trying to become the first PX driver in ADRL history to win three straight races, went 3.705 in his Powersource Transportation Corvette, while Brandon Pesz is third with a 3.71.
Scruggs wasnâ€™t sure what to expect in the heat, but he has always held VMP in high regard.
â€œVery rarely do you get a track that hot, but even though it was hot, the track was in pretty good shape. We feel like weâ€™ve got a pretty good car in any conditions,â€ Scruggs said.
â€œVirginia Motorsports Park didnâ€™t get ADRL Track of the Year (in 2011) for nothing. This facility and track is definitely one of the best we run on. This track has been pretty good to us, too.â€
In just one pass, Jim Halsey might have gotten the turnaround he had been hoping for in Pro Nitrous.
As one of only a small number to get his car down the track in some tricky conditions, Halsey went a solid 3.905 at 193.16 mph.
â€œWeâ€™ve been testing the last five weeks and the last two were in 90-degree weather, so thatprobably gave us an edge. This last three weeks testing have been good and we learned a lot of stuff not to do,â€ Halsey said. â€œThe track was very good considering the temperature, but I think thereâ€™s more in (the car).â€
Jim Laurita was right behind with a 3.928, as was Robert Patrick and his 3.934. Even with the early-season struggles, Halsey has only one goal coming into the weekend at VMP.
â€œWe come out to win and thatâ€™s not going to change. If I didnâ€™t think we could win, I wouldnâ€™t be here,â€ Halsey said.
Morton was more than happy to wait through the lengthy rain delay after the end result gave him his first No. 1 qualifying spot in 2012 in Extreme Pro Stock.
Todd Hoerner and his Sonnyâ€™s Racing Engines EFI-powered Jerry Bickel Race Cars 2012 Camaro was the first to take advantage of the cooler weather after the rain, running a 4.078 at 176.24 mph.
Morton then followed minutes later with an identical 4.078 but his faster 176.77 mph pass gave him the top spot and left him feeling good in his new Jerry Haas Race Cars Mustang after some early-season struggles.
â€œThat did feel good. Weâ€™ve been digging around the yard and I found my mojo,â€ Morton said. â€œSome new JRi Shocks helped us and our guys are getting the program straight. Weâ€™ve dug hard, found some things and itâ€™s working.
â€œIt felt good when we left and that was an awesome feeling.â€
Joining Summit Racing Equipment Top Sportsman and Extreme Pro Stock as the only classes to get in two qualifying sessions, Mike Castellana jumped to the top spot in Aeromotive Fuel Systems Pro Modified with a 3.965 at 192.80 during his second run.
Castellana improved slightly on his first pass and he will try to remain unbeaten in theclass on Saturday.
â€œIt was a decent run. (Crew chief) Shannon (Jenkins) and the guys got a hold of the track on that second pass, but we donâ€™t really see temperatures like this too often,â€ Castellana said. â€œOur goal was to just go down, get qualified and go from there. We were pretty happy with the run.â€
Dave Roemer is currently second with a 3.976 and Jeff Naiser is right behind with a 3.984.
Dave Norris impressed with a huge season-best for him in Pro Extreme Motorcycle, running a standout 4.168 at 169.40 mph.
Casey Stemper and Eric McKinney ran a pair of 4.18s in a terrific side-by-side pass to sit second and third, respectively.
In what proved to be a difficult qualifying session in Mickey Thompson 10.5 during the peak afternoon heat, Brad Brand had the top run, going a 4.245 at 170.32 mph. Brand and his jet-black â€™07 Mustang was the only car to remotely make it down the track, as everyone else struggled with two qualifying sessions still remaining.
Chris Holbrook is the top qualifier in the SuperCar Showdown class, running a 5.85 at 116.48 mph.
In Pro Junior Dragster, Josh Phelps is currently on top after running a 7.909.
(Photos by ADRL/Richards)