A good ol’ boy from South Georgia, Bruce Thrift is also one of the toughest competitors Top Sportsman has ever seen. Despite a slow start to the 2014 PDRA season, he has worked his way to the number two spot in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman points and is sitting pretty for a run at being crowned the first ever PDRA Top Sportsman Champion.
Thrift made gains in closing the gap between him and points leader Dan Ferguson when he won the PDRA US Drags in late July. According to Thrift, however, he shouldn’t have won the event. Friday night after qualifying, Thrift shaved a small piece sticking off his reactor button, not thinking about where the shaving might end up.
“I was .001 and .003 Friday night,” relayed Thrift in his recognizable southern drawl. “Then went back out there Saturday and I could not hit the tree. I was consistent, but consistently slow. After I had been .001, I can’t take 40 numbers out of the box. I finally started dumping numbers in the finals. I said, ‘Lord you got me this far, what we going to do.’ Butcher went red. We’ve run probably eight or nine times after the last few years and every time we’ve run, me or him one has been triple zero up until now. Every time it’s four or five thousandths at the finish line. Me and Glen we’ve had some good runs over the years. He’s a very tough competitor. All of them are. You’ve got an elite bunch out there. You can’t take nothing for granted. It was my day though. Honestly, I didn’t drive good enough to win. I drove better than my opponent every round, but I didn’t really drive good enough to win. The guy that messes up the least is the one that wins. When it’s your day you can’t mess it up.”
It wasn’t until Thrift was on his way home with the PDRA trophy in tow that he thought about the shaving causing a drag on his button. Further inspection at home proved his suspicions correct. Although Thrift’s reaction times could have been his nemesis, the consistency of his RJ Race Cars ‘07 GTO, helped him through the rounds.
“The car was good now,” added Thrift. “It was unbelievable. It went a .24 every time down the race track. It’s just unreal. Gene at RJ Race Cars swears that’s one of the best cars they’ve ever built. It just does whatever you ask it to do. It’s consistent whether I’m running 4.06 or 4.24. It varied like three thousandths in 60 foot the whole weekend in Virginia. Makes it where you can concentrate on what you’re doing.”
Thrift’s GTO is the same car Pete Berner drove to the 2008 IHRA Pro Stock World Championship. Thrift is counting on the GTO having at least one more Championship run left in it.
“I’ve been playing in the Quick 4, but I’m going to back down on that for a race or two. I’m going to stay on my game, using two systems to get qualified, then race on one and concentrate on going rounds. If they ain’t careful I’m going to get it [the championship]. I would love more than anything to be the first PDRA Top Sportsman Champion. All of us want that, but I like the position I’m in right now.”
As much as Thrift wants that Championship he knows he’s got his work cut out for him.
“Top Sportsman is the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life,” he continued. “You’ve got to get a reaction time and drive the finish line. You’ve got to know what your car’s going to run. It’s tough, especially now with us having to run 4.20s just to qualify. I mean, whoever would have thought you would have to go 4.20s to qualify for a bracket race. In a door car. I remember when in Pro Mod – and it hasn’t been that long ago – you were the man if you could run 4.15. Now you have Top Sportsman cars bracket racing, running 4.0s. We’ve got a good group of guys and we’re fast and that’s what it’s all about.”
At the same event where Thrift earned his first PDRA victory, history would be made as Aaron Glaser recorded the first sub-four second run in Top Sportsman, securing the number one qualifier at the US Drags with a 3.987 elapsed time.
“It’s my opinion that the PDRA, that’s your true Top Sportsman racers. They’re the elite, the baddest of the bad. We had one go in the 3’s for the first time at Virginia. That’s just what it’s all about. It was hard for me not to. I seen Don Klooster go 4.02 right in front of me at Martin and I had run 3.5 hundredths faster than him and I said, ‘oh boy there’s my three’. I reached up to the radio to tell Micky to turn my third system on, but I had a game plan going into the race so I thought ‘no, no stick to the plan.’
“The PDRA is doing a wonderful job. The fans love it. I can’t say enough good things. The trophy is just phenomenal. I’ve got one from every sanctioning body in the country. I got the Moser trophy and all, but the PDRA is my favorite. And then to get a Championship jacket with your name on it – you can tell they’re glad you’re there. They really surprised me with the jacket. That just makes you wanna get on board. The PDRA is where my loyalty is at.”
Along with the consistency of his car, Thrift pointed to PAR Racing Engines and FTI Torque Converters and Transmissions as contributors to his success. “Most of all I want to thank Mickie Miller, my crew chief. He just loves the sport. He’s never drove a car in his life, never even been in one. But he goes wherever I’m at. If I can’t pick him up on the way, he lives nine hours from me, he drives to wherever I’m at. He won’t let me give him no money or diesel fuel. He loves the technical side. He keeps me safe and makes sure I’m in the groove and heading in the right direction. And he thinks his driver is the baddest one out there.”
Next week Thrift will make the long haul from southern Georgia to Tulsa, Oklahoma to try and prove his crew chief right. With just three races left on the PDRA tour, Thrift plans to make every round count and be on top when it’s time to crown the inaugural PDRA Champions.
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