Five seasons after winning his second Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous world championship, Tommy Franklin is a Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) world champion yet again. Driving his Musi-powered “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro, Franklin won four races in six final-round appearances during the PDRA’s 10th anniversary eight-race season to secure his third world championship.
Franklin started the season with a runner-up finish to the four-time and outgoing world champion, Jim Halsey, at the Summit Racing Equipment East Coast Nationals presented by FuelTech at GALOT Motorsports. He grabbed his first win of the season over Marcus Butner at the DeCerbo Construction American Doorslammer Challenge presented by Callies at Summit Motorsports Park.
Two races later, Franklin started a three-race winning streak when he defeated Halsey in the final round at the Northern Nationals presented by Talbert Manufacturing at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park. He beat longtime competitor Jay Cox in the final round at the next two races, the Red Line Oil Carolina Nationals at Darlington Dragway and ProFabrication DragWars at GALOT, to take over the points lead with one race left in the season. He qualified No. 1 for the second consecutive race at the Pro Line Racing Brian Olson Memorial World Finals presented by ProCharger at Virginia Motorsports Park before meeting Cox in the final for the third race in a row. He secured the title when Halsey lost in the first round. Franklin was going for the class E.T. record in the final, but he got out of shape and had to lift in the runner-up effort.
“I say it all the time – that group of racers in Pro Nitrous is just awesome,” Franklin said in the championship winner’s circle. “Jay Cox just put a string of runs together and got me there in the final. We got a little greedy and wanted to go for the record. Got over up on the wall and had to get out of it. But it feels good to be able to win the championship again against the competition level that we have. I think this is one of the most competitive classes in drag racing.”
The Tommy Franklin Motorsports team went into the World Finals with three drivers eligible for a world championship. His oldest daughter, Amber, went in as the defending world champion in M&M Transmission Pro 632, and her fiancé, Blake Denton, was the points leader in Afco Racing Super Street presented by Menscer Motorsports. Amber’s younger sister, Ashley, was competing in Coolshirt Systems Pro Jr. Dragster presented by PRP while also making her “big car” debut in Edelbrock Bracket Bash presented by COMP Cams. Amber ended up third in Pro 632 points, but Denton pulled through to win the Super Street title.
“It gets hectic, but everybody on our team does their job,” Franklin said. “To be able to go out here and win together, that’s what it’s all about. You imagine trying to win two of them at the same time, and we’re out here trying to win four of them at the same time. It’s a blast, man. That’s what we do it for. We do it all together. Work ourselves to death. It’ll take us a couple days to recover from this one.”
The 2023 championship season was a milestone year for Franklin in more ways than one. He was one of the original founding partners of the PDRA when the series was formed in 2014, and the Franklin family has seen it through to its 10th season.
“There’s a lot of emotions there,” Franklin said. “We set out with something that was just a choice we had to make to keep racing. A group of us got the PDRA started, and here we are 10 years later. There’s always the nay-sayers and everything like that. I’m done listening to them. I know what we put on. I do know that the PDRA staff and the PDRA events and PDRA racers are the best out here, and I don’t care what anybody says about it.”
Adding to the emotions of his third championship was the fact it’s his first title since the passing of his father, Roger “Rodie” Franklin, last year.
“I can’t say I didn’t try just as hard any other year, but I dedicate this win to my dad,” Franklin said. “He was my biggest fan. To be able to do it after losing him, that meant a lot to me. I had some extra drive in me to push it, and I felt like I probably drove the best I’ve driven in my career, honestly. And there’s a lot of better drivers out there. But I did my part when I needed to. I was happy, but I think I had some help with that.”
Franklin credited the team’s partners, like Pat Musi Racing Engines, Jerry Bickel Race Cars, Red Line Oil, Menscer Motorsports, Brisk Spark Plugs, Ty-Drive, and ProFab. He also thanked his team for their efforts throughout the season.
“This car is just awesome right now,” Franklin said. “At the end of the day, my crew is who does this. I’m just the guy that sits behind the wheel. Hat’s off to them. Jeff Pierce has been on board with us and just does an excellent job. Chris, Todd, Chase, my family, ‘Big Brown,’ Blake, Amber, Wesley – everybody. Thank you to everyone that supports the PDRA – media, our staff, our crew, and every person that helps out on this car. It’s a great group effort for everyone out here. I’m thankful for what we get to do and to be competitive doing it.”
The PDRA will celebrate its 2023 world champions during the annual PDRA Championship Awards Banquet on Friday, Dec. 9 in Indianapolis.