After crowning champions in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Mississippi, the World Drag Racing Alliance (WDRA) team traveled to the Southeast in preparation for the last two events of their inaugural season. Darlington Dragway would first welcome the WDRA Summit Racing Equipment Southeast Bracket Finals presented by Laris Motorsports Insurance, where the best of the best racers from eight regional racetracks competed for numerous awards throughout the weekend. Those racetracks were Cherokee Race Park, Coastal Plains Dragway, Darlington Dragway, Farmington Dragway, Greer Dragway, Kinston Drag Strip, Union County Dragway, and Ware Shoals Dragway.
Over the course of three days, racers were rewarded with their share of over $56,000 in total payouts as well as gift certificates, the coveted WDRA Rod trophy, WDRA Champion Cards, and the opportunity to compete at the WDRA Summit Sportsman Drag Racing Series World Championships presented by Suncoast Performance.
Eager and early arriving racers were rewarded with a test and tune session on Thursday, while most of the field rolled through the gates by Friday morning. The first group of drivers who wheeled their way into the winner’s circle were greeted with a $3,000 purse in the Box and No Box classes, while Sportsman and Junior Dragster winners took home a healthy portion of the proceeds.
Friday Gamblers Race
The Box Friday Gamblers Race final round was an all-dragster matchup between Shane Maddox from Greer Dragway and Matt Robinson from Farmington Dragway. North Carolina earned the bragging rights as Maddox goes .001 red while Robinson coasts across the finish line for the win. The semifinalists were Tim Ramey from Ware Shoals Dragway and Kale Hoffman from Kinston Drag Strip.
The bottom bulb class was divided into Footbrake and No Box until the last button pusher merged into the foot-swapping side for a shot at $3K. Farmington picked up their second win of the night when David Stebner took the .036 margin of victory over Lauren Edwards, who was representing Coastal Plains Dragway. Union County Dragway driver Austin Faile and Ricky Greer from Farmington were the semifinalists.
In the Sportsman Gamblers Race final round, Ronnie Forrester from Greer Dragway turned a seven-hundredths reaction time advantage into a double-breakout win over Cody Oxner, who was racing for Ware Shoals Dragway. Doug Dochterman from Union County Dragway was the lone semifinalist.
The youngest winner of the night, Anna Canfield from Ware Shoals, cut a .004 light and took .002 at the finish line for the win over Farmington’s Ava Badgett. Jadyn Price from Union was the lone semifinalist.
Saturday Gamblers Race
The home team of Darlington Dragway earned their first win of the weekend when Brian Hicks gets the $5,000 win over Ernie Humes from Farmington Dragway in the Box class. Wayne Vernon from Farmington was the lone semifinalist.
It was a Camaro versus Nova final in the No Box class as Chad Dotson from Greer footbrakes his way into the $5,000 winner’s circle after taking .0006 at the finish line beside GJ Crews from Darlington. Two Farmington racers, Ernie Humes and Mark Dudley Jr, end their night in the semifinal.
Cherokee’s Cory Smith secures his second win of the day when he defeats Ralph Deloach from Ware Shoals in the Sportsman Gamblers Race final. The semifinalists, David Leopard and Brandon Knighten, were both representing Greer Dragway.
Riley Purvis from Ware Shoals Dragway wins the Junior Dragster class when Callie Hall from Greer Dragway turns it red in the final. Darlington Dragway’s Sawyer Blevins and Branson Hutchens from Farmington are both eliminated in the semifinal round.
Sunday WDRA Main Event
The final day of the WDRA Summit Southeast Bracket Finals increased the stakes once again as the winner in each class could potentially qualify to compete at the first WDRA Sportsman Drag Racing Series World Championship event. All winners would earn the WDRA Rod trophy and WDRA Champion Card while the cash prizes ranged from $1,000 in Junior Dragster to $5,000 in the Box and Footbrake classes. As the Sportsman class is still gaining popularity, 80% of the total entry fees were hand-delivered back to the racers.
The Box Main Event final round featured two Greer Dragway dragster drivers who are used to sharing the staging lanes as well as sitting side by side in beach chairs during a yearly multi-family vacation. All the anticipation is relieved at the starting line when Shane Maddox launches with a .005 red light while Parker Dotson is .011 green to win $5K and earn a trip to the WDRA World Finals. Scottie Watts from Union County Dragway was the lone semifinalist.
When asked about the friend turned temporarily foe final round matchup, the 21-year-old said, “I knew staging up in the finals against Shane that we would both be happy for each other, no matter who won. He’s always been like an older brother to me so that took a lot of the pressure off.” Dotson comes from a bloodline full of drag racers and won’t be alone at the final WDRA event of the season. He continues, “I’m just happy to be competing in the WDRA World Finals with my brother, Will, cousin, Chad, and the rest of Team Greer!”
The last remaining No Box racer, Bob George from Darlington, made his way to the final round of Footbrake beside the Farmington Dragway wheelman, Carson Robbins. With $5,000 at stake, Robbins leaves with a 019 starting line advantage and breaks out less than George to take the win in his wheel-standing Mustang. Carl Duff from Coastal Plains Dragway was the lone semifinalist.
Robbins recalls his emotions after the final round and says, “Winning the Main Event felt amazing. I don’t get to compete like I once did with a busy life and hectic business, so to pull off a victory with the best from each track was a great confidence builder. Being the last Farmington racer standing was an honor and a privilege with the tough year the Farm had. With so much negative views and opinions surrounding the track, it’s good to bring some positive light our way and show everyone that we aren’t down and out yet!
Robbins’ racing will continue in just under two weeks as he joins the short list of drivers who earned a spot to compete at the WDRA SSDRS World Championship in Darlington. “I’m trying not to think about it too much and treat it like any regular Saturday at the races because the less I think about it, the better I do. I can’t lie though; I am pumped at the thought of being the first WDRA World Champion.”
In the Sportsman category, both drivers were nearly identical on the tree with only one-thousandth separating the reaction times. Jeff Taylor from Ware Shoals Dragway ran closer to his 7.77 dial and took the win over Ben Dixon from Farmington Dragway. Dennis Gault from Greer Dragway was the lone semifinalist.
Taylor had already secured a spot into the WDRA World Finals by winning the track championship in Sportsman, so winning the Bracket Finals was just icing on the cake. He says, “This is the biggest win in my forty years of racing. I want to give all of the glory to God.”
Onlookers were seeing double as a Darlington Dragway duo of white Mike Bos juniors dialed 7.90 made their way to the starting line for the $1,000 Junior Dragster Main Event final round. Brayden Jones was in control of the race with his .016 reaction time and ran two above his dial to take the win over one of his best friends, Mason Crews. When asked how it felt to win such an important event, Jones said, “I was very excited! In 2021, I lost in the final round of a bracket final main event, so to come back and win felt like I was able to get redemption for myself.”
Jones will return to his home track for a chance to be the first WDRA Junior Dragster World Champion and is excited to share the experience with Crews since he qualified as the Darlington track champion. Jones explains, “Win or lose, I wouldn’t have wanted to race anyone else but Mason. We are third-generation racers and have known each other since birth. Our dads grew up together racing juniors and our grandads raced together. It’s a thrill that we are both able to attend the World Championship together and hopefully with the home track advantage we will end up in the finals together again.”
Individual drivers were presented with special awards to recognize the quality of their racecars. Best Appearing awards went to Jeff Yost from Farmington in the full-bodied category, Darlington’s Joel Hubbard in open-bodied, and the junior dragster driven by Ava Jackson of Union. Best Engineered awards went to David Morris’ Camaro from Greer, Jerry Brewer’s dragster from Darlington, and Farmington’s junior dragster driver Brian Adkins.
Farmington Dragway won the Best Decorated Grandstand award while Greer Dragway occupied their stands the most and picked up the Best Team Spirit honors. Union County Dragway took home the plaque that awarded them as Best Appearing Team.
Team Captains Race
Track operators were given their fifteen minutes of fame on Saturday morning as they faced off in the Team Captains Race. The final win light shined for Ricky Edwards, thus giving the win to Coastal Plains Dragway while Alisha Greer Alexander from Greer Dragway settled for runner-up honors.
Race of Champions
Another opportunity for bragging rights came during the Race of Champions where each attending track champion would battle in their respective classes to see who the best of the best really is.
In the Box Race of Champions, Johnny Hellams from Ware Shoals earned the win over Greer’s David Hall, while Greer earned the top spot in Sportsman when Cody Spears defeated Union’s Robbie Philbeck. Cherokee Race Park drivers, Cory Smith and Rachael Williams, each earned the win in their respective classes of No Box and Junior Dragster, while Chad Dotson from Greer and Chaz Nichols from Farmington finished in the runner-up positions.
Pit Vehicle Race
Friday evening featured a pit vehicle race after completion of the Gamblers Race which filled the staging lanes with golf carts, four-wheelers, mini bikes, electric scooters, mopeds, and even a three-wheeler. After enduring round-by-round eliminations, the double Darlington Dragway finale witnessed Joe Foley turn on the final win light to defeat Britt Sinclair.
Every win light illuminated in the Main Event resulted in one point for the driver’s team and the racetrack with the most points at the end of the event would take home their own WDRA Rod trophy, a year’s worth of bragging rights, and the cash from the track operator’s pool. Greer Dragway rose to an early lead that never faltered and was crowned the first WDRA Summit Southeast Bracket Finals Team Champions with 68 points.
After advancing full-time into the track operator role this season, Alisha Greer Alexander can add another accomplishment to the rich history of success at Greer Dragway thus continuing the legacy of her father, Mike. She says, “Every bracket finals event that we have won in the past has been special, but to win the first-ever WDRA Southeast Bracket Finals is just an awesome feeling! We have some of the best drivers around and they fought their way through tough competition this weekend. I am so proud of our team.”
The home team, Darlington, came in second with 60 points while Farmington rounded out the top three with 54 points. The remainder of the points standings closed with Union County at 44, Coastal Plains at 41, Ware Shoals at 22, Cherokee at 6, and Kinston Drag Strip at 2 points.
One more event is on tap for the inaugural WDRA season where four talented drag racers will make history when they celebrate becoming the first WDRA World Champions. Eliminations will be live streamed on MotorManiaTV where the bracket racing world will certainly be watching. For more information about the World Drag Racing Alliance (WDRA), including the Summit Sportsman Drag Racing Series, visit www.racewdra.com.