Two broken engines, one botched burnout, and the added burden of acting as his own crew chief weren't enough to prevent Chris McGaha from winning his eighth-career Pro Stock race and ending a winless drought that extends back to last year's New England Nationals in Epping. McGaha overcame all the adversity that was thrown his way before driving and tuning his Harlow Sammons Camaro to a 6.620 to a 6.668 win over Alex Laughlin in the final.
McGaha's issues began during qualifying, where he damaged a pair of his 500-cid Pro Stock engines yet still managed to earn his best starting spot of the season with a 6.560 that was good for the No. 3 spot. McGaha parlayed his qualifying effort into a consistent effort in eliminations. Opening with a win over Wally Stroupe, McGaha cruised to a 6.604 in the quarterfinals after Greg Anderson shook the tires. McGaha's biggest challenge came in the semifinals where he was paired with points leader Bo Butner. A tough task became even more difficult when McGaha botched the burnout procedure. He managed to coax a 6.610 out of the car to take out Butner, who slowed to a 6.650 after his KB-powered Camaro shook the tires.
Laughlin started from the bottom half of the field in his Havoline Camaro yet managed to reach his fifth-career final with wins against Rodger Brogdon, Jason Line, and five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. Like McGaha, Laughlin also had a strange day, at least as far as Pro Stock races are concerned. Laughlin got a free pass in the quarterfinals after Line fouled and then survived a tire-shaking pedal-fest against Coughlin in the semifinals. Laughlin nursed his Camaro to the finish line with an 8.79 to Coughlin's 9.33.
Laughlin is still looking for his first win of the season, but its hard to say his 2019 campaign has been anything other than a rousing success. Through the first seven events, he's got two runner-up and three semifinal finishes and he's 14-7 on race day. Last year, Laughlin competed in 22 Pro Stock races and won just ten elimination rounds.
PRO STOCK CHAMPION CHRIS McGAHA: “This all started with a bad light in first round. I probably should have been trailered by Wally Stroupe in the first round because I was so late. In the second round I was a little better. I was still late, but I had no idea that Greg [Anderson] shook the tires. We just dragged the same car up there round after round. It was much like a bracket car where we didn’t want to change a thing.
“Now that botched burnout was bad. These things are sensitive and I went out and stuck the tire. I backed up, apparently not enough, and stuck the tire even worse. I was laughing and I figured I’d probably done enough damage to clutch so I went ahead and staged. I thought it’s either gonna go or it’s not and somehow it did. The next thing we knew we were in the final. We just did our normal service and went back up there.”