The richest Pro Modified drag race on the planet took place this past weekend on Bradenton Motorsports Park’s 1/8th-mile dragstrip. There were 61 invited entries on-site, all vying for the $10,000 prize for low qualifier and the massive $100,000 award to the eventual winner of the race. The allure of that big money, the practicality of having a weekend of running prior to the start of the NHRA’s Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals season opener in Gainesville, together with the opportunity to best the best in this class enticed racers from all over the country – and beyond – to show up and play.
Jason Camp, who led all qualifiers both Friday and Saturday nights, earned the Mike Janis Superchargers Low Qualifier bonus $10,000 prize for lowest ET in the Outlaw Pro Mod class. He also collected $2,500 from Gene Pilot and Pilot Racing. The PDRA Pro Boost standout, driving the “Hells Bells” 1969 Camaro was quickest and fastest at 3.626 seconds at 205.91mph after four bouts of qualifying to earn one of 32 spots in the field. He set that time and speed in the second, Friday night session. There was a random chip draw to set the first-round pairings for Sunday eliminations and for all rounds behind the first.
Come Sunday, Camp’s glory didn’t last. As with most drag races, things have a tendency to change on race day. Camp, like every No. 1 low qualifier at this race failed to make it out of the first round. Who did that leave to earn the spoils? Why, it was the No. 32 qualifier, the final driver to make the field, who earned the big money once all five rounds were complete.
Canadian Pro Mod racer Spencer Hyde won the fourth Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod presented by J&A Service, defeating PDRA Pro Boost star Kurt Steding in the winner-take-all final round, decided by thousandths of a second. It took a lap in the 3.60 second-range to make the field and Hyde was able to do just that. As rounds progressed, Hyde and his screw-blown “Jack and the Green Stock” 1969 Chevrolet Camaro proved that when it’s your day, it’s your day!
After he charged through four rounds of competition to reach the finals, using his acknowledged driving prowess and his machine’s performance, Hyde drove around Steding to pull ahead with a 3.643-second victory at 205.51mph to burst Steding’s bubble, even though the runner up had a round at 3.652 at 207.15. Hyde pulled out a 0.005-second margin of victory to earn the vaunted $100,000 winner-take-all prize.
While he knew that once he was in the show, “We could run our game and we could run with everybody,” Hyde said. “This is unbelievable,” he wanted the sell-out crowd to know. “We proved that with a volunteer crew of guys that are high school buddies and buddies from back home. So many people to thank – first off, my mom and dad! Everybody on my whole crew showed up. I want to thank my fiancee. We almost didn’t make the final qualifier Saturday night,” he explained. “We swapped and engine right before we raced and we got it back together and bumped ourselves back in,” no easy feat with 60 other hungry drivers and cars on the massive grounds.
In the first round, as first pair out of the gate, Hyde got lucky when Tommy Gray fouled at the start line. He had to run early again in the second round and cut an .035-second reaction time, running 3.719 at 205.10 to beat fellow Canadian Eric Latino on a hole shot win. Hyde performed a second hole shot win in the third round, putting Marcus “The Axeman” Birt back on his trailer with a 3.675 at 205.07 to Birt’s 3.667 at 205.79. Finally, a third straight hole shot advantage, paired with a 3.655 at 205.07 allowed Hyde to move past No. 3 qualifier Jason Harris, who ran 3.646 at 205.47.
Even after bumping his way into the field with that newly-installed engine in the final qualifying run Saturday night, Hyde kept his humble pie working as he accepted the inaugural Scott Oksas Trophy, named after the late winner of the 2019 WSOPM. “I don’t know if you can say we’re at the top,” Hyde stated. “There were 61 cars and 59 of them went quicker than 3.83. There were 55 cars within a tenth of a second. It’s absolutely wild. No one can complain about the rules. I can tell you that. This is huge for us. I’m not very big. I can’t play football. This is our Super Bowl for sure!”
In accepting this new trophy, he praised his crew, including tuner Mark Savage. “I knew if we were in the field, it was anybody’s race,” Hyde explained. “We struggled with the car all weekend and we finally got our hot rod back in Q4. And we just picked away at it. Mark Savage,” he said, “did an unbelievable job. That was a personal best!”
Runner-up Steding was first-leaver in all five rounds of elimination, driving his Todd Tutterow-tuned, screw-blown P2 Contracting 2020 Camaro. The No. 20 qualifier survived a first-round pedal-fest with reigning Mid-West Drag Racing Series Pro Mod champ Dustin Nesloney, driving 4.426 over 4.456. After that, Steding put his head down and routed J.R. Gray in the second round, took out Tutterow in the third and beat No. 31 qualifier Kenny Lang in semifinal pairings.
In the Mountain Motor Pro Stock Invitational, John Montecalvo’s consistency paid off, when he won the inaugural $hameless Racing Mountain Motor Pro Stock Invitational presented by Seminole Paving. He earned $25,000 when he defeated fellow class veteran Elijah Morton, running 4.092 at 175.43 to Morton’s 4.85 at 164.07. XFWD Challenge was an anticlimactic final round, when No. 2 qualifier Rafa Famania earned an automatic DQ as an early leaver, while No. 7 qualifier David Ego’s 1989 Honda Civic coasted to a 33.668 at 23.75 to take the win. In the David H Davies Racing Factory Stock Classic, Lenny Lottig qualified No. 2 and raced to victory, collecting $15,000 for his three days of racing.
There was a Pro Mod Second-Chance Shootout for the cars that didn’t make the field, after WSOPM officials added a $10,000-to-win Chicago-Style Second-Chance Shootout for the 16 quickest non-qualifiers. Although she experienced some setbacks in qualifying with her team’s newly-built screw-blown Al-Lee Installations Camaro, Melanie Salemi took advantage of this opportunity to win the five-figure check over Steven Whitely. An all-Florida final round in Top Dragster went to Holmes Beach’s McKenna Kitterman over John Tolisano from Palm City, earning $10,000 for her efforts, while Virginian Brooks McMath took the $5,000 Super Pro Shootout to a foul from final round opponent Craig Schober.
By Anne Proffit