PITTSBORO, NC – In 2015, Kendal Little earned top honors in the junior dragster category at his home track, Little River Dragway in Holland, Texas. After winning that track championship, Little and his father decided to begin the 2016 season competing at the PDRA season opener in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the second closest stop to them on the tour. When that event was postponed until the Spring Drags in Rockingham, N.C. the Littles decided to make the trip east. It turned out to be a good decision.
Little not only won the postponed season opener, he won the Rockingham Spring Drags, as well. “Winning Tulsa and Rockingham in the same weekend got us off to a great start,” told Little. “So me and my dad decided to chase the series and see what we could do.”
PITTSBORO, NC – “Everything was still going wrong” is how Justin Kirk described the start of his 2016 season. Early exits marked the first half of the year for the third generation racer. He and car owners Randy and Cathy Kelly fought their dragster all season until the Kellys made a daring decision to switch cars and motors mid-season. After that Kirk began to dominate the competition, winning his first ever national event, following that up with another win and a semi-final finish all en route to being crowned the PDRA 2016 Lucas Oil Top Dragster World Champion.
“It’s really just now setting in,” told the 23 year old West Virginia native. “People start calling ya the Champ and you start to realize, ‘Hey I kinda did do something.’ It feels good to follow in the footsteps. Papaw’s done it; my dad’s done it; now I’ve done it. It’s a surreal feeling. We’ve accomplished a lot as a family. That means a lot.”
PITTSBORO, NC – Dan Ferguson never quite imagined that in three years of running the quickest and fastest sportsman doorslammer category, he’d rack up two championships and a second place finish in points. He took a leap of faith into the world of PDRA’s Ronnie Davis Top Sportsman presented by MagnaFuel and it turns out he was pretty good at it. Going to the semi-finals at the 2014 season opener in Rockingham, NC led to traveling to more, which led to a runner up, more traveling and many more round wins, which eventually earned Ferguson the 2014 Top Sportsman World Championship. To prove it wasn’t beginners luck, Ferguson came out and won the 2015 season opener in Dallas, TX continued to lead the points for much of the 2015 season, although he was edged out for the championship by Ronnie Davis.
Now in 2016, Ferguson has continued to do much of the same, taking over the points lead with a win at the second stop on the 2016 tour and never relinquishing it. With only two races left in the season, Ferguson had pulled away from the rest of the field and only needed one round win to clinch his second championship in three years, a feat Ferguson calls “unbelievable.”
PITTSBORO, NC – After a one year hiatus, the PDRA welcomed back Extreme Pro Stock with a five race schedule. The racers and organization greeted each other with open arms, welcoming the reunion. With a small schedule, XPS racers knew each run could play a major role in the 2016 PDRA Pro Stock World Championship decision.
With wins early in the season New Yorker John Pluchino and North Carolinian Richard Penland set themselves apart as championship contenders. They each continued a strong push, with Penland going to two additional finals to take the points lead over Pluchino, who had scored a runner up finish himself. By the time the season approached the last event of the year, Pluchino and Penland had pulled away from former champions, Brian Gahm, Doug Kirk and John Montecalvo.
PITTSBORO, NC – Looking at the last three championships in PDRA’s Drag965 Pro Extreme Motorcycle, one would assume that Eric McKinney has had complete and total domination. But that is only part of the story. While he walked away with the championships in ‘14 and ‘15, this year almost didn’t happen.
McKinney’s season started off well, with two final round appearances early in the year. But then, McKinney says, “We got a little sidetracked.” Chris Garner-Jones took over McKinney’s familiar number one place in points and stayed there for much of the year. “We’re always trying to be faster and progress the class,” McKinney explained. “We got behind and it was a struggle. It was quite challenging.”
Going into the final race, McKinney was still over two rounds behind Garner-Jones. “We drew it out on a piece of paper before the last race and said, ‘We have to do this to win the championship’,” McKinney added. “After the makeup race in Bradenton we were 206 points behind Chris. He had to go out first round and I had to win the race.”
Tommy Franklin Silenced Naysayers and Won it All
PITTSBORO, NC – The Nitrous Wars, both the unofficial smack talk between drivers/engine builders and the official Flatout Gaskets Nitrous Wars, were clearly beloved by fans this season. Pro Nitrous was the class to watch. It provided one of the tightest points races and competition levels of the season. There was no determining winners before the final round was run. Even the Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous presented by MoTeC World Championship title came down to the final two runs of the season. It’s the stuff dreams are made of and, for Tommy Franklin, those dreams came true.
After finishing second the first two seasons of the PDRA, Franklin nearly resorted himself to forever holding that number two badge. Jay Cox led the points for much of the year and Franklin sat in his familiar number two spot. But when do-or-die time came, Franklin turned up the heat.
Franklin and Cox were neck-and-neck in points going into the final race of the year. Both qualified well at the PDRA World Finals and worked their way through the rounds. As fate would have it, the two met in the semi-finals. With just a handful of points separating Cox and Franklin, whoever won that round would be the World Champion.
Kevin Rivenbark Won Six Events en route to Championship
PITTSBORO, NC – It was a once-in-a-career type of season for GALOT Motorsports’ Pro Boost teams. Between drivers Kevin Rivenbark and John Strickland each of the nine national event titles to be had this season went home to GALOT Motorsports. The drivers traded trips to the winner’s circle with Kevin taking the first and last three, while Strickland’s car mastered the hot weather tune ups, taking home wins during the summer months. Domination to that extent by a single team is almost unheard of in drag racing. Rivenbark, who was runner up in points the first two season of Pro Boost, credits the team’s incredible success to R&D on their lockup transmissions. The hard work was not wasted and produced nine wins and the top two finishers in points.
“It feels wonderful,” Rivenbark said of clinching the championship. “After the last two years of being number two, finally being number one kind of feels unreal. It slipped through my fingers last year. To do it this way this year, winning six of them, really is just unbelievable. I can’t fathom it sometimes.”