THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE, BRAD PLOURD WINS THE 2020 GATORS

Words by Phil Hutchison and Photos by Phil Hutchison and Auto Imagery

2020 Gatornationals Competition Eliminator champ and second generation racer Brad Plourd is no stranger to the NHRA winner’s circle, having success in nearly every NHRA class with 21 career wins. Plourd, who calls Holy Pond, AL home, and is the son of Division 6 racer Bernie Plourd, notched his second career Comp win in Gainesville, FL. Plourd was piloting the  AA/AM of owner Harry Schwartz racing out of Pensacola, FL.    

Having the quickest car in the show can be good or bad, often depending on the driver. Unlike most bracket racing, Competition Eliminator allows the driver to go as far under the index as they wish. But, if a driver goes too quick they can be hit with a CIC (Competition Index Control) penalty. At the Gators Plourd was spotting his competition from as little as one second to as much as three seconds on the tree. Making each race a catch up affair. 

“Obviously for me with the faster car, it’s easy to see how far in front my competition is,” Plourd said. “Unlike racing in Super Comp. You just have to sit there at the tree and wait for your time to go. Then you have to reel them in and win by as little as possible. If you cross the line in front, you win, there’s no breakout. On the other hand you’re trying to save as much index as possible.”

During eliminations, Plourd stayed on the good side of his index for nearly the entire race. Only during his semifinal win over Jim Kimbrough C/ED was Plourd assessed a penalty and it was only for 0.02 seconds on his 6.94 index. Which in Competition Eliminator is not a big deal when you have car that can easily run under the index. The AA/AM had been on a roll since the week before at the Baby Gators, a D2 LODRS event run in conjunction with the Gators. 

“We had a good light in the semis and that’s what saved us,” Plourd said. “I had a 0.015 to Kimbrough’s 0.071 and I could have snugged it up a little better and not hit the index, but it’s the semis, if you cross the finish line first, you’re in the finals. Kimbrough got hit hard in the first round against D'agnolo (Pete D'agnolo’s E/SMA Chevy) and that hurt him and we had the advantage there.” 

Plourd went on to defeat the A/SMA Stratus of Wes Leopold in the finals with his worse RT of the day, a 0.059 to a better 0.026 light of Leopold but the AA/AM’s 0.574 under 6.346 was better than Mopar’s 0.504 under 7.956.

Plourd qualified #12 with a 6.336 in conditions that were not as good as the previous week at the Baby Gators where the car ran a career best 6.17 qualifying No. 1. “The weather was way better last week,” Plourd said. “We were a little behind at the national event. The guys running carbs can adjust to the air better than we can. We have so many things to adjust like the main jet, timing, and boost; we were a little behind with the tune up. It took us a few runs to get back to where we were the week before.” 

Before the finals against Leopold, Plourd was posting bracket like reaction times during eliminations.

“We had a good weekend as far as reaction times. You see a lot of racers with fast cars in Comp and are a bit lazy in the early rounds as far as getting off the line as they know they can catch the slower car since they have a few tenths on them and slack off the tree,” Plourd said. “I don’t believe in that. I don’t let myself back off on the tree.  I believe in being solid on the tree and get through the rounds you should. Keep it clean and not use any index. You cannot afford to give up index with a bad light.“

“Comp is unbelievably crazy.  So much luck involved. Often I am not thinking about who I’m racing in the first round. I’m looking at who I might race in round three.”  

The ’23 Model T was built by Spitzer Chassis in 2010 and is powered by a blown destroked hemi measuring 380 cubic inches with BAE heads. “The smaller motor lets us get a lot of RPM. The transmission is a Lenco Drive, which means using a torque convertor, as the car does not have a clutch. We have a trans brake that leaves off a two-step, and I shift it twice going down the track using air buttons. The car leaves the line around 6,000 RPM.” 

How Plourd, who grew up in the Seattle area, moved to Avon Indiana, then to Alabama is quite a story. NHRA Pro and fellow Super Comp racer Shawn Langdon talked Plourd, who had a successful racing career in the Pacific Northwest, into moving to the Midwest as there was more racing opportunities. While living in D3 Plourd drove a variety of cars including a Jegs Super Comp dragster and one of his most successful, the Lucas Oil-sponsored dragster. A partnership, which led to a lot of NHRA wins. Later, Plourd made the move to Alabama after meeting his future wife Katie who just happened to live in Alabama. Now how did Plourd get the driving job in the altered? 

Plourd continues, ”Long story short, Harry wanted to upgrade his motor combination in the car from a Donovan to the hemi we run now. Sean Brown, who lives in Calgary Alberta Canada, along with Les Davenport, who raced back in the day with my dad, built Harry the motor and Sean later joined the team.  After running mid six-second times with the Donovan, the new motor went a 6.19. Rodney Rosenstiel was driving the car then and is still with the team. Sean had been friends with my dad in NHRA Division 6 and when Rodney decided to get out from behind the wheel, they had a couple of people in mind to take over and they called me first. I said I would love to drive the car as it was so fast. My wife Katie was a little concerned about the speed of the car, but she agreed to the idea. We raced Bowling Green and Indy and ended up winning the US Nationals in our first year.” 

“We have a great crew with Harry owning the car. Robert Roeloffzen and Rodney Rosenstiel taking care of the car when we are not on the road.  The Hemi needs a lot of maintenance between races. And of course, Sean Brown who flies to the races and tunes the car.”

Plourd thanks Lucas Oil for supporting him for over ten years in addition he would like to thank Faron Lubbers at Hoosier Tires, NGK Sparkplugs, GRP connecting rods, PAC springs, and BTE transmissions along with Coan Engineering for their convertors. “I also want to thanks my wife Katie and my son Paxton for letting me do what I love. Along with my in-laws Richard and Pam Yeager and my mom and dad, Ronna and Bernie. ”