Thanks to some help from a rival team, Johnny Pluchino was able to make it to the finals of the Mountain Motor Pro Stock division at the National Hot Rod Association’s New England Nationals during the weekend of July 5-7.
“I have to give a big shout out to Team Aruba and their driver Trevor Eman or we would have not been able to make it out for the final round,” said Pluchino, second-generation driver of the Strutmasters.com entry.
During Pluchino’s second round victory over John Konigshofer, the hood scoop flew off the Strutmasters.com Ford Mustang. The hood flung around at over 220 miles an hour and completely destroyed.
“The Team Aruba guys loaned us one off their car and even came over to help us cut it and get it to work on our car,” Pluchino explained. “It just shows you the level of sportsmanship in our sport. I am very thankful for the Team Aruba guys and what they did for us.”
Moving on to the finals
In the finals, Pluchino faced the event’s fastest qualifier John DeFlorian Jr. of Saint Louis. DeFlorian got an easy victory when Pluchino took off too soon (by 0.010 seconds) and red-lighted at the starting line. DeFlorian’s winning pass was 6.297 seconds at a top speed of 224.28 miles an hour for machines with 800-plus cubic inch engines.
“I came to the line with an aggressive mindset,” said New York native Pluchino after the second event of his career in the big block machines. “This is our last NHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stock event this season. I really wanted to win it for Strutmasters.com. We knew DeFlorian was a little faster than us. I figured I needed to beat him off the line to have a chance. The light just came up red and that ended our day.”
Pluchino’s next appearance for Strutmasters.com is July 18-20. The Professional Drag Racers Association event takes place at Dragway 42 in West Salem, Ohio.
“We feel pretty good about how things are going,” said Pluchino, “We’re hitting our stride and going to Ohio to bring back some trophies.”
Second-generation driver Johnny Pacino took a moment at Bristol Dragway recently to explain the differences between the mountain motor pro stocks versus the regular NHRA pro stock vehicles. “They’re very similar chassis-wise,” said Pluchino. “Transmission-wise they’re five speeds still just like the 500 H Pro Stock cars. As far as a clutch we do have to manually shift them as well. The big difference is 500 cubic inches for them versus 825 cubic inches for us. So we have roughly have about 450 to maybe 500 more horsepower than they do.” Pluchino then explained the difference that makes in driving the vehicles. “The front end stays up a little bit longer,” he said. “You got that much more power there. It’s a little bit more aggressive. The tires shake that much harder, so they’re very aggressive cars. You do have to drive and you’ve got to manhandle them a little bit. They’ll go 225-227 miles an hour instead of your 212-213 mile an hour that the 500-inch cars go.” See the video here:
The Nitro granny Jeanette Thornley was a highly interested observer when the Top Fuel motorcycles took the track at Thunder Valley Nationals in Tennessee recently. “This weekend the Top Fuel Harleys are here competing with the national event competitors so we’re here taking it all in,” said Thornley. “As you know that’s my next step is on that Top Fuel Harley. We’re learning and growing. We’re supporting some of our friends out here.”
Strutmasters.com Top Fuel dragster driver Audrey Worm was busy signing autographs at Bristol Dragway recently. It was there she learned she had a new name with some fans. “They came over this morning and they said I saw you on TV last night ‘You’re Strutmasters.com girl!’ They didn’t really know my name but it’s important that they know that I’m the Strutmasters.com girl. I’m just glad to be out here and we’re having a good time with these Bristol fans.” See her video here:
The Nitro Granny Janette Thornley broke through and delivered her first victory for sponsor Strutmasters.com June 30 in the American Motorcycle Racing Association event in Bowling Green, KY.
She defeated Dennis Waldron of Owings, MD with a quarter-mile pass of 7.521 seconds. She claimed a top speed of 168.14 miles an hour in the Pro Fuel Motorcycle final round.
“It was definitely a huge relief to finally take home the trophy,” said Thornley. “We were shut out in 2018 and only went to one final round. This was our second finals of the season and our first victory. It feels pretty amazing.”
However, Thornley said the mechanical issues that spoiled her chance at winning the first two events of the year were nonexistent at Beech Bend Raceway. “We finally got to see what we could do with our equipment operating up to par. I went to bed on Saturday night not feeling good about my performance on the bike. However, when it counted on Sunday, we were able to deliver the goods.”
The Oregon native was the Pro Fuel Motorcycle’s fastest qualifier. She hit 169.32 miles an hour in a 7.518-second pass on a custom-built drag racing motorcycle with a 121cc Harley Davidson engine.
Thornley was the AMRA Pro Fuel Series champion in 2017. The “Nitro Granny” rides for her family-owned Dream Chaser Racin’ out of Statesville, NC. Her other accomplishments include:
2017 American Drag Racing League Pro Fuel Championship
2017 American Motorcycle Racing Association Lady Racer of the Year
2016 NHRA Harley-Davidson Drag Racing Series Pro Fuel Champion
2016 Female Racer Of The Year By Horse Power & Heels
2015 NHRA Harley-Davidson Drag Racing Series Pro Fuel Champion
Second-generation racer Johnny Pluchino of Oakdale, NY continued his dominance of the Pro Outlaw 632 series in the PDRA Summer Nationals June 30 in Valdosta, GA.
Pluchino hit a top speed of 164.27 miles an hour in 4.322 seconds on the South Georgia Motorsports Park one-eighth mile drag strip for his third PDRA victory of the season in the Strutmasters.com machine with a 632 cubic engine, normally-aspirated engine.
Runner-up Chris Holdorf was faster (4.306 seconds and 166.68 mph). However, the Strutmasters.com driver gained a hole shot victory because of a superior reaction time at the starting line — just 0.046 seconds.
“The PDRA people are tired of me dominating, so they added another 50 pounds of weight to our car with absolutely no warning,” said Pluchino, the 2018 series champion. “I won my semi-final round by just one-thousandth of a second. Holdorf was faster than me in the finals, but we still won anyway.”
Pluchino pulling double duty
Pluchino pulled double duty in the searing Georgia heat that topped out at 95 degrees with high humidity. He drove a second entry in the Extreme Pro Stock division. However, the eventual Extreme winner Steven Boone of Weaverville, NC knocked him out in the first round.
Rain and storms delayed the races on Friday and Saturday. The weather pushed the final rounds to their rain date of Sunday, June 30.
“The heat and humidity was just brutal,” said Pluchino. “But taking a trophy home always makes it worth it. I know we couldn’t do it without great sponsors like Strutmasters.com, that is for sure.”
The clock is ticking for Audrey Worm and her chance to make history at drag racing’s highest level. And there’s no time to waste.
With an early onset of Parkinson’s disease chipping away at her father’s health, Worm has accelerated her dream of joining icon Shirley Muldowney as the only female owner/drivers of an NHRA Top Fuel Dragster.
“I’m sure everybody thinks I was crazy for jumping into the nitro car so quickly,” said Worm about the move into machines that exceed 300 miles an hour. “I don’t have time to wait because I want to make sure my father can enjoy this with me.”
The wheels are in motion for the twenty-seven-year-old Pennsylvania native to follow a path blazed decades ago by Muldowney in the National Hot Rod Association’s premier circuit.
Controlling her own destiny
She recently acquired backing from Strutmasters.com, a family-owned North Carolina suspension company. The support at least ensures she can get to the track for the rest of this season. She is actively searching for a much larger partner to help her contend for victories and championships in 2020.
“I am still pinching myself this is all coming together,” said Worm, who resides in the small community of Grantville off Interstate 81. “It’s tough enough just to make the leap from the Nostalgia Dragsters to Top Fuel, but now there is an extra layer in this taking on the responsibilities of being a team owner.”
Worm says instead of “shopping for stuff like a pair of jeans that fit,” she has been busy working the NHRA pits for a good used 25-foot rail dragster and a supercharged engine that produces upwards of 11,000 horsepower.
“It’s going to be a pretty big mountain to climb,” she acknowledged, “but I am so ready for this challenge. This is all I’ve ever wanted since I was eight years old. Being the team owner just allows me to control my own destiny.”
Audrey joins the big leagues
Worm stuck her toe in the waters of the big leagues in 2018 when she drove in nine Top Fuel events for Michigan-based Leverich Family Racing in an unsuccessful bid for the NHRA’s Rookie of the Year award. She qualified to race at six of the nine events and advanced past the first round once.
“My first season was a huge challenge,” said Worm. “I was pretty upset when we didn’t win the rookie award, but my Dad sat me down and did what he does best. He gave me a lot of encouragement and reminded me the best was yet to come.”
This season, Worm has qualified at every event she’s entered. She continues to top her career bests in elapsed time and top speed in the nitromethane-burning dragsters. “I feel like I am about 90 percent of the way there, but I know that last ten percent is the hardest.”
Friends and competitors
Worm said many in the sport have offered advice, even engine parts and other equipment to help her compete. The biggest friendship that has evolved, Worm noted, has been with Brittany Force – the 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion.
“Brittany says us girls have to stick together,” said Worm about the middle child of Funny Car legend John Force. “She and I are probably the closest of any of the other lady drivers. All of them have been great to me. Brittany and I just hit it off the most because of our situations. We’ve both been around the sport since we were kids and just want to make our dads happy.”
With a laugh, Worm added: “Ironically, both of our dads are named John. They have gotten together a few times and they both get emotional and start crying when they talk about their daughters.”
Racing for a cause
Both her father and grandfather were stricken with Parkinson’s Disease. Worm said her passion for drag racing is exceeded only by her determination to bring awareness to the debilitating disease.
“To be able to race for Parkinson’s Disease awareness is huge to me,” said Worm, who works with PD patients when she is not racing. “I want to race as a tribute to Dad and all others battling this.”
Worm said she is the “true definition of a Daddy’s girl. Like any family, we didn’t always get along when I was younger. But when I got old enough, I would go out to his fabrication shop and hold the frame tubes he was welding together. I was afraid I would get burned, but I did it to spend time with my dad. It seems we’ve always had the drag racing to keep us together.”
Her father was a fabricator of 169 front-engine Nostalgia Dragsters before he was slowed by PD. He took his daughter to the nearby Maple Grove (PA) drag strip when she was eight years old.
“That day changed my life,” she said. “I was hooked and it’s all I ever wanted to do since. Dad built my Nostalgia cars and has done everything for me. I just want him to be there with me and live the dream of racing in NHRA Top Fuel with our own team. I want to do it for him. And we don’t have any time to waste.”
Strutmasters.com Top Fuel driver Audrey Worm continued her rise to prominence in Bristol. Though she drew a tough first-round matchup in former world champion Antron Brown, she put down a good clean run at one of the season’s biggest events.
Worm explained that even though she didn’t win her round, the competition brought out the best in her.
“I definitely had to be on my A game with Antron,” said Worm. “He is killer on the light and all I kept telling myself was, ‘Just don’t red light but try to tree him.’ It was actually my personal best light. It was a 96 and normally they’re about 180 so I was happy with that. We had a good run.” Worm has seen her profile rise quickly recently.
Audrey Worm star on the rise
She won her first round win at the 2019 NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. Soon after, she laid down a three-second pass at the Virginia Nationals in Richmond. Soon after, she picked up support from Strutmasters, wearing the logo for the first time in Bristol.
Strutmasters.com was well represented during the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals June 14-16 at one of the most scenic stops on the NHRA trail — historic Bristol Dragway nestled in the mountains of eastern Tennessee countryside.
Strutmasters.com newest driver Audrey Worm
Audrey Worm of Grantville PA qualified 13th in the Strutmasters.com Top Fuel Dragster from the shops of Leverich Family Racing. This left her with a first-round match up with fourth-fastest qualifier Antron Brown, a former NHRA champion with 50 Top Fuel victories.
Worm had a solid reaction time of .096 seconds at the start, but Brown got the advantage with a .064-second RT and won with a pass at 3.863 seconds and 318.24 miles an hour. Worm averted a skirmish with the wall on the bumpy Bristol track and pulled out a 4.082-second run. She hit a top speed of 271.79 miles an hour before shutting it down early in the 1000-foot race.
“We found some things after that run and I know we can go a lot faster,” said Worm during an autograph session with throngs of fans in attendance. “We are encouraged that our time would have been good enough to win in several of the other first round matchups, but you have to give Antron and his team credit. Proud of all our Strutmasters.com team. They did an awesome job. We are knocking on the door of winning some rounds.”
Mike Salinas of San Jose, CA topped reigning series champion Steve Torrence of Longview, TX in the Top Fuel event finals at Bristol. Salinas hit 325.69 miles an hour, completing the final pass in 3.836 seconds.
Johnny Pluchino makes his 1/4 mile debut
Second generation driver Johnny Pluchino made his quarter-mile debut in the Strutmaster.com Ford Mustang in an exhibition of Mountain Motor Pro Stock cars at Bristol. The Mountain Motor cars are hence named for their massive engines – ranging from 818 to 840 inches of cubic displacement. The regular NHRA Pro Stock Class features engines at 500 cid.
Pluchino qualified third in a stellar field at Bristol with a quarter-mile pass at 6.364 seconds, just over 220 miles an hour. The New York native had a mechanical issue just seconds prior to his first elimination run that prevented him from showing his hand.
“We were so disappointed for all the folks at Strutmasters.com,” said Pluchino. “We were extremely happy with how consistent the car was in qualifying. We ran 220 miles an hour both times we completed a run. As it turned out, that would have been fast enough to be in the hunt for a victory here today.”
The 2018 PDRA Pro Outlaw 632 World Champion added: “We learned a ton of things this weekend. Once we get it all put together, we are confident we can be a factor at this level.”
Virginia driver Todd Hoerner prevailed in the Mountain Motor Pro Stock event at Bristol with a pass at 6.425 seconds at 219.36 miles an hour.
The “Nitro Granny” shows support for her Strutmasters family
The Nitro Granny, Janette Thornley of Statesville, was in attendance at Bristol, but did not participate in the Top Fuel Harley event for the fastest motorcycles that race in NHRA.
“Just here learning and gathering as many details as we can,” said Thornley, who is seeking to become the first female rider in the Top Fuel Harley class with backing from Strutmasters.com. “We’re going to continue chasing wins on our Pro Fuel bike and test some with the Top Fuel bike. The Top Fuel bikes are 25 to 30 miles an hour faster, but I look forward to the challenge.”
Til Tharpe of East Bend, NC, prevailed at Bristol in the Top Fuel Harley class with a run at 6.426 seconds and 218.90 miles an hour.