Drag Illustrated Issue 176, May / June 2022 - Page 28

Dirt

Making a Statement

Melanie and Jon Salemi break down Pro Boost record performance at PDRA East Coast Nationals By Nate Van Wagnen

Melanie Salemi ’ s string of jawdropping runs in Pro Boost at the PDRA ’ s season-opening East Coast Nationals didn ’ t come as a surprise to Salemi or her team , which includes her husband and tuner , Jon Salemi . Driving Eddie Whelan ’ s ’ 19 Camaro known as “ Purple Reign ’ s Side Piece ” with a tried-and-true rootsblown Hemi and 5-speed Liberty combination , Salemi recorded the five quickest passes in Pro Boost history , validating the team ’ s offseason testing and R & D .

Going into Friday qualifying at GALOT Motorsports Park , the Pro Boost record was a 3.591 set by Kurt Steding in his Todd Tutterow-tuned , screw-blown P2 Contracting Camaro at the 2021
World Finals last October . Salemi lowered the record in all three qualifying sessions , running 3.585 , 3.578 , and 3.568 in succession .
“ My guys have been going crazy for what seems like over a year now , testing and R & D ,” Melanie said , starting to explain the back story behind the record runs . “ We flip-flopped between the roots blower and the screw blower last season . Not that we didn ’ t have a handle on [ the screw-blown combo ], but I lost races by thousandths . We finished the season strong with the screw blower at the Snowbirds at Bradenton [ winning in Outlaw Pro Mod ]. We ’ ve been on the dyno with roots blower stuff . In 2018 , we set the record at the World Finals with the same combination we have here with a . 62 . Multiple years later and lots of testing and innovation , it ’ s kind of paid off .”
“ We ’ ve worked our asses off ,” Jon added . “ In the last two and a half months , Mike Stawicki and myself , between our engine and customers ’ engines , we ’ ve made probably 45-50 pulls on the dyno . We didn ’ t stop racing all winter long .
We had the screw blower on it then , but I don ’ t care what you ’ re doing , if you ’ re running your car down the racetrack , you ’ re learning .”
Part of Salemi ’ s offseason R & D included a test session at GALOT , which along with a 3.62 in Thursday night testing , gave Jon the confidence to go after the record in qualifying .
“ We tested here a couple weeks ago and went back-to-back . 57s in similar conditions on a much warmer racetrack ,” Jon said . “ I knew that was there . All I tried to do was go out there and make consistent runs [ Friday ] because that ’ s what wins races and that ’ s what we ’ re here to do .”
Melanie qualified No . 1 out of 24 Pro Boost entries , topping Todd Tutterow and Johnny Camp ’ s pair of 3.615s and Scott Wildgust ’ s 3.616 .
“ It ’ s a huge accomplishment for my team ,” Melanie said . “ I ’ ve won races , I ’ ve qualified No . 1 before , but this one is really an eye opener for all of us . It ’ s refreshing . It ’ s awesome that we finished the year strong , and hopefully we can start the year strong .”
The Melanie Salemi Motorsports team is a collaborative effort that along with Melanie and Jon includes car owner Eddie Whelan , chassis builder and co-crew chief Jim Salemi of G-Force Race Cars , and Mike Stawicki of MSR Performance .
“ Along with Eddie Whelan , Al-Lee Installations , and those companies and individuals , we could never be where we ’ re at ,” Jon added . “ After only winning one round in the PDRA last
year , we made sure that we were not going to suck this year . We ’ ve tested and thank God it worked out the way that it did today . I couldn ’ t be more happy .”
The barrage of 3.50-second runs continued in eliminations , where Melanie ran a 3.573 on a first-round single , as opponent Bob Glenn couldn ’ t make the run . In the second round , Salemi fired off a 3.570 , the quickest pass of eliminations , though Stan Shelton used a . 010 reaction time and a 3.602 to win on a holeshot .
The Salemis were obviously hoping to go deeper into eliminations , but the weekend was successful on multiple fronts .
“ This is all fun and we always try to keep it fun ,” Jon said . “ Even when we had a miserable last year , we laughed , we had fun . It ’ s why we ’ re here . At the end of the day , we love drag racing . We don ’ t care what kind of drag racing , as long as we ’ re doing it . Just the vibe that ’ s been here , it ’ s been sick . It ’ s so cool . And our family is here . We do this as a family . Anybody that ’ s not our family that ’ s here with us , they ’ re now our family . That ’ s the important part .” DI
PHOTOGRAPHS BY TARA BOWKER
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