An elite field of racers traveled from across the United States and Canada converged in South Carolina to add their names to bracket racing history by conquering the first World Drag Racing Alliance (WDRA) Summit World Championships presented by SunCoast Performance. Summit Racing Equipment was the title sponsor for the quarter-million dollar Sportsman Drag Racing Series, which rewarded local bracket racers who qualified to compete at the end-of-the-year championship event. Every qualifier received $500 cash to aid in offsetting the travel costs, and each round the payouts multiplied, eventually reaching thousands of dollars in each class. Box and No Box champions earned $20,000 each, while the Sportsman and Junior Dragster champions left with $10,000 each.
Clear blue skies, sunshine, and a steady wind spread throughout the host track, Darlington Dragway, on Saturday as drivers prepared for five rounds of competition where each opponent had already accumulated the word Champion on their racing resume. WDRA President Skooter Peaco explained the skill it takes to qualify for the WDRA Summit World Championships, saying, “The amount of talent gathered together this weekend from across the US and Canada is incredible. We founded the WDRA to specifically support the bracket racers and the tracks they call home. This weekend was a dream realized for us, and a lot of memories were made for our racers and their families.”
The No Box class consisted of both footbrake competitors and bottom bulb racers leaving with a transbrake but without the assistance of a delay box. The quarterfinalists included Brandon Iamele, Kaden Jenkins, Jeff Kerl, Allan Holloway, Mike Howell, Donnie Hagar, Tommy Duff, and Charlie White. Four advancing drivers met in the semifinal, and the first pair resulted in Iamele launching and quickly watching his win light illuminate when Howell left a red light shining on the tree. Duff was .004 and ran two above his dial beside Hagar, who was .005 and two above also, but Hagar got to the finish line by five thousandths to advance into his second consecutive final round of the event.
Two Northern natives face off in the South with $20,000 and a WDRA World Championship title on the line. Empire Dragway track champion Iamele ran dead on after his red light start, while Hagar was .028 green to take the win while representing US 131 Motorsports Park. Hagar added World Champion to his incredible 2023 season, which included his second consecutive No Box track championship, the Million Dollar Drag Race main event victory, and the Laris Motorsports Insurance free $5,000 win. Over two days, Donnie Hagar turned on the win light eleven rounds in a row in an impressive show of talent deserving of the WDRA No Box World Championship, WDRA Rod trophy, and Champion Card.
The Box class eventually dwindled to eight remaining drivers in a mix of door cars and dragsters: Matthew McDaniel, Parker Dotson, Jared Ledford, Kevin Crawford, Rodney Gomes, Jared Micetich, Kevin Knight, and Jeff Sobczynski. The winners would return in round four, where Crawford was .006 red to advance McDaniel, who broke out on the solo shot. Knight also left the line too soon while Ledford was green and ran dead on to advance in an attempt to become a World Champion for the second year in a row.
The Northern door car versus Southern dragster final featured McDaniel from Farmington Dragway staging his father’s dragster beside the wheel standing Camaro of Ledford, who traveled from Mid Michigan Motorplex. All the anticipation was over on the starting line when Ledford was .009 red in front of McDaniel, who was .021 and ran dead on his 4.66 dial for the prestigious win. Matthew McDaniel earned the $20,000 purse, WDRA Rod trophy, WDRA Champion Card, and most importantly, WDRA Box World Champion title during his first trip to a world final event.
One of the most interesting classes on the property was the Junior Dragster division, where drivers from the ages of eight to eighteen earned the chance to battle on the big stage. The quarterfinalists included Evan Muchler, Samantha Chatwood, Alex Selleck, Stephen Rodgers, Phillip Jones, Grace Varner, and Wesley Clark on the bye run. Four kids turned on their respective win lights and returned for the semifinal when Muchler was .011 on the tree and ran one above to take the .005 margin of victory over Chatwood, who was .028 and dead on with a three. Clark went .010 red to end his day while Selleck slowly made his way down the track and ran 11.99 off his 11.97 dial for the win.
It was an all-Michigan final round when Muchler from US 131 Motorsports Park lined up beside Selleck, who was representing Mid Michigan Motorplex. The younger driver left first with a .032 light and soon became a World Champion when Muchler turned on the dreaded red light by one ten-thousandth of a second and coasted across the finish line. Alex Selleck became the WDRA Junior Dragster World Champion at only eight years old and picked up $10,000 cash and the eight-pound WDRA Rod trophy as a third-grade student. Winning was no surprise to the juvenile driver as he earned the Mid Michigan track championship for the second year during his racing career, which has only been two years so far.
Footbrake competitors in what is considered the slower side of the field these days clashed in the Sportsman class, where Brad Perkins, Jeff Taylor, Virginia Bohanon, Brandon Cox, and Robbie Philbeck created the quarterfinal round. Only three drivers kept their hopes of winning alive and advanced into the semifinal. Perkins was .007 red in his 11-second Chevrolet to advance Philbeck, who was .015 red, leaving second in his Mustang. Cox cruised his large Lincoln down the eighth mile with a .007 reaction time on his bye run.
Drivers from Pennsylvania and North Carolina met in the $10,000 Sportsman final round as Cox from Keystone Raceway Park pulled up beside Philbeck, who was representing Union County Dragway. Cox was dialed 11.17 and left with a .040 light, but Philbeck patiently waited to crush his third amber with a .002 reaction time and ran one above for the win. Robbie Philbeck captures the WDRA Sportsman World Championship, WDRA Rod trophy, WDRA Champion Card and ten thousand dollars, which he says is the highest-paying win of his career.
Four WDRA World Champions, each representing different WDRA member tracks from Michigan, South Carolina, and North Carolina, have made history during the new sanctioning body’s inaugural season. The event atmosphere embodied everything that is great about the drag racing community and the connections made within the sport.
Even though there could only be one winner in each class, the sportsmanship among drivers was evident through high fives and congratulations in the winner’s circle celebrations. Peaco remarked, “We couldn’t be prouder of the Alliance right now and all we accomplished together this weekend.”
For more information on the WDRA and Summit Sportsman Drag Racing Series, visit our website at www.racewdra.com.