HOW CAN THAT NOT BE GOOD ENOUGH? - Shawn Langdon needed a break, and by the time he got down the Bristol Dragway strip to start eliminations for the Ford Thunder Valley Nationals, Bob Vandergriff clearly couldn't catch a break. Langdon advanced with low elapsed time of the weekend, 3.796 seconds at 318.44 mph. Vandergriff lost despite posting the second-quickest E.T. ever at this facility (3.801 seconds) and top speed of the meet at 324.81 mph. Langdon's first comment after climbing formt he race car was that he was hoping he could relay some of the relevant data to Al-Anabi Racing teammate Khalid alBalooshi, who was farther back in line, awaiting his run against Doug Kalitta. "Cloud cover makes ofr a good track," Langdon added.
MY TWO DADS - Tennesseean Clay Millican dashed Steve Torrence's hopes for a third victory in four races, winning their opening-round match with a 3.872-second, 316.84-mph pass in the Parts-Plus Dragster. Millican, of the West Tennessee burg of Drummonds, said on this Fathers Day, "I want to win for my daddy."
He also extended a shout-out to Ray King, a man he called "my second daddy." King was the gasket guru who was director of marketing for Federal-Mogul/Fel-Pro and is the one Millican has said was responsible for him getting his first chance to drive professionally. King was vice-president of TCI -- Torque Converter Incorporated, a sponsor for many sportsman-level racers. Felpro, based in Skokie, Illinois, bought TCI and hired King right away. That business acquisition led to Millican's move from NHRA's Super Comp class and IHRA's now-defunct Modified class ("a poor man's Comp Eliminator," as he described it) to drag racing's elite Top Fuel dragsters.
"They had an Employee Day," Millican said. "I carried my car up there, started it up, revved the motor up." And that's when the Fel-Pro owner's son, Peter Lehman, saw that he and Millican could become way more than just a local bracket racer. He knew they could become successful business partners. It wasn't just the way Millican fired up the race car. It was the way he fired up the employees standing around watching the spectacle. Lehman and Millican formed a successful partnership that delivered five of Millican's six IHRA championships.
Today Millican has plenty of fans at Bristol Dragway, and they will be watching closely as he meets Terry McMillen, another former IHRA racer.
UNDERDOG IS TOP DOG - Terry McMillen has had some engine problems in previous races, and he had another one in the first round against Cory McClenathan. But McMillen, the underdog who grabbed the No. 3 qualifying position, took advantage of McClenathan's troubles in the left lane and blazed down the right lane in 3.872 second at 316.84 mph to earn only his third round-win of the season and first in three races (since he beat Khalid alBalooshi at Atlanta).
The excitable Elkhart, Ind., resident and owner-driver of the Amalie Oil / UNOH / Motor State Dragster, said his motor "is not happy at all. We'll put this thing back together. This is Sunday, and if we got to put a motor in after every round, then we'll put a motor in after every round. We'll figure it out."
He got some extra time -- 52 minutes, to be exact -- to prepare for the quarterfinals, as did Shawn Langdon and Clay Millican who ran in front of him. McClenathan oiled down the track in the Santo Rapisarda-owned dragster.
TODAY COULD BE THE DAY - Each of the first three winners in Sunday's eliminations -- Shawn Langdon, Clay Millican, and Terry McMillen -- is seeking his first NHRA Top Fuel victory.
LAGANA CHALLENGES SCHUMACHER - Tony Schumacher, won despite Dom Lagana giving him a close side-by-side race and recording his best numbers of the weekend at 3.931 seconds, 312.13 mph. "That Lagana team, those guys, you don't mess around with thtem," Schumacher said after winning with a 3.799-second, 322.96-mph run in the U.S. Army Dragster.
ODD EVENTS IN BOTH LANE - Scott Palmer didn't have a chance against top qualifier Antron Brown. His car, leaking some kind of fluid, never moved when the light went green. Brown, in the Aaron's Dream Machine/Matco/Army/Toyota Dragster, didn’t know for a few seconds what his solo-pass performance was officially, for no E.T. or speed popped up on the scoreboard. After about 30 seconds, a 3.939, 311.49 appeared on the screen. He'll face Shawn Langdon in the quarterfinal round.
KALITTA ADVANCES - Kalitta Air Dragster driver Doug Kalitta said he had his eye on a Traxxas radio-control car earlier this morning, but he reacted quickly once he had to focus on the Al-Anabi car of opponent Khalid alBalooshi. After using a 3.797-second E.T. at 323.97 mph that topped his qualifying time (3.835) and speed (321.81), Kalitta said, "We're just happy to get dwn the track. Hat's off to Jim O. [crew chief Jim Oberhofer]."
UGLY BUT EFFECTIVE - Neither Hillary Will and Bruce Litton would have a stunning elapsed time, as both were in trouble and smoking the tires and pedaling early. But Litton survived the ugly pass with a winning 4.692-second E.T. in his Lucas Oil Dragster. He lost the blower belt and said doing so at the outset of the run means "1,000 foot of agony." He will meet Doug Kalitta in the next round.
UNPREDICTABLE BUT FAST -Spencer Massey's FRAM/Prestone Dragster, like some unpredictable Thoroughbred, acted up a bit after winning over a traction-troubled Dave Grubnic. "In the shutdown area, it spun and sputtered. These Top Fuel cars have a mind of their own," Massey said after his victory in 3.82-seconds at a 324.98 mph that reset the track speed record. Massey and Schumacher will meet for the fourth time this year in the second round.
'FIRST-CLASS RACE' - Tony Schumacher and Spencer Massey put on a sensational side-by-side display, and Schumacher prevailed with a 3.818-second E.T. and 323.66 to Massey's 3.821, 317.12.
We lost last week by a thousandth. We lost the race before that by a thousandth. Those are critical points. And Spencer, [he's] the points leader." He said when two Don Schumacher Racing cars meet, "all bets are off. No team orders. The fans just got to see a first-class race." As his sponsor/marketing partner, the U.S. Army, celebrates its birthday this weekend, Schumacher encouraged fans to "send our love to the soldiers who are missing their kids today."
'TAKING WHAT WE CAN GET' - After Doug Kalitta reached his fifth semifinal with a victory over Bruce Litton, he said, "We're taking what we can get here. This is a great crowd, great atmosphere." Kalitta used a 3.797, 323.97 to Litton's 3.917, 307.93 that was a huge improvement from his opening-round winning numbers.
'POISED AND ATTACKED' - Antron Brown said his Mark Oswald- / Brian Corradi-tuned Aaron's Dream Machine Dragster "stayed poised and attacked" against Shawn Langdon. He won with a 3.825, 323.35 to Langdon's too-close-for-comfort 3.847, 320.43. Said Brown, "You got to have some luck behind you. That team's tough. That's as tough as they come. I feel good to get past that round."
'HOW COOL IS THAT?' - The three circles on Clay Millican's uniform Sunday, he said, represent the message "I love you" and that the message is directed to his father. Millican turned in a 3.860-second E.T. at 316.52 mph. McMillen's Cinderella story ended with some more blow-up parts and a 4.589, 178.97 showing. "How cool is that? Another semifinal for this Parts Plus team," Millican, a Tennessee native, said. He said he's concerned about staying in the top 10 for the Countdown.
LONG WAIT - Dom Lagana said his next race in the Service Central Dragster will be in August at Brainerd, Minn., but said he's always ready to get back on the track if more funding becomes available sooner.
PRACTING - Brittany Force will test her dragster Monday here at Bristol Dragway. Meanwhile, Funny Car driver/four-car owner John Force, who said of his contingent, "We all got spanked," said he gave Don Schumacher a Fathers Day present. "Schumacher got a personal gift from me -- all my hot rods went out first round."
MAGNFICENT - Public-address announcer Bob Frey called No. 4 Doug Kalitta's match-up with No. 1 qualifier Antron Brown "a magnificent run." And it was, as Kalitta won with a 3.831-second E.T. at 320.51 mph to Brown's 3.872, 322.88. Said Kalitta afterward, "If you're going to run with the big boys, you've got to beat 'em. Hopefully Tennessee's our spot."
WHERE HAVE WE HEARD THIS BEFORE? - Tony Schumacher set up a reprisal in the final round of his one-time rivalry with Doug Kalitta by eliminating Clay Millican. The pair in this semifinal match-up has a combined 13 series championships, seven for Schumacher in the NHRA and six for Millican in the IHRA.
Looking ahead to his fifth final-round appearance of the season, Schumacher said of himself and Kalitta, "We're both running good, and neither of us has won this year." Neither won last year, either. Kalitta's last victory was in July 2010, at Denver. Schumachers' was several races later, in October, at Las Vegas.
Both want to earn a berth in the Traxxas Shootout that will be part of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals this Labor Day weekend. "For the Traxxas Shootout, this is a big run for both of us," he said.
Schumacher said he has been "gifted with a chance to run in the final." Referring to DSR teammate Antron Brown's defeat to Kalitta, he said, "It's hard to see you teammate get beat -- but it ain't that hard -- we're going to the final."
He said his new DSR-built chassis is "one of those cars that's going to be the fastest car we've ever run," once crew chief Mike Green and team get to make all the tweaks hey need to make. "We're getting closer and closer."
SCHUMACHER BACK IN GROOVE - Tony Schumacher snapped a 32-race winless streak in the U.S. Army Dragster with a victory by the almost the smallest of margins against Doug Kalitta, whose own drought extended to 40 events. Schumacher scored on a holeshot, using a better reaction time to win with a 3.819-second E.T. to Kalitta's 3.802 in the Kalitta Air Dragster. Schumacher, celebrating Fathers Day and the Army's 237th birthday, became the points leader for the third time this season with his semifinal victory over Clay Millican. He joined Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) in the winners circle.
CAPPS STAYS HOT - Ron Capps made one big statement to start eliminations in Funny Car, knocking off Courtney Force for the second straight race.
How he did it was more impressive, running a 4.06 at 310.48 mph, giving him the low E.T. of the weekend in Bristol. Force stayed with him early, but had some trouble near the finish line en route to a 4.376 at 213 mph.
"There are some pretty stout cars back there, but Rahn Tabler gave me a heck of a car for that run," Capps said.
DSR OFF AND RUNNING - Jack Beckman made it back-to-back strong runs for Don Schumacher Racing, putting together the fastest pass of the weekend with a 4.072 at an eye-opening 313.66 mph.
Tim Wilkerson was all over the track and never had a chance against Beckman, who made the second straight, quick and fast pass for the DSR team.
"That felt good. When you have a track like this, you can really get after it," Beckman said.
NO UPSETS HERE: No. 1 qualifier Bob Tasca III had no upsets to worry about in the first round as No. 16 qualifier Blake Alexander struggled to a 6.525 at 99.80 mph.
Tasca, meanwhile, stayed solid and consistent, running a 4.122 at 311.77 mph. It didn't match his top qualifying run, but it was more than enough to move on.
"It was a solid run. We had a tough competitor there, so we'll take it," Tasca said.
DEJORIA NABS FIRST UPSET OF ELIMINATIONS - Round wins have been too few and far between for Alexis DeJoria in 2012, but she did just enough for a first-round upset win against Mike Neff, the No. 2 qualifier entering eliminations.
DeJoria, the No. 15 qualifier, didn't put together a perfect pass, going 4.29 at 231.99 mph, but did enough to beat Neff and his 4.425 at 226.96 mph to satisfy crew chief Del Worsham.
"Anytime you win, its' pretty exciting. Alexis is moving on and she's a tough driver. She showed a lot of heart there and drove well," Worsham said.
DeJoria was just as pleased.
"I'm pretty happy. We haven't won a round since Gainesville. I'm just amazed right now," DeJoria said.
PEDREGON WINS MARQUEE MATCHUP - John Force and Tony Pedregon had met 81 times before Sunday's first round of eliminations. Pedregon took the 82nd and it was a huge one, too, as it was his first round win of 2012.
Both cars met trouble, but Force ran into it first after a great .009 reaction time, limping to a 4.875 at 159.85 mph. Pedregon ended with a 4.542 at 209.14 mph, holding off Force at the end of the track.
HAGAN MOVES ON - it's been a frustrating 2012 for Matt Hagan, but he had a first-round win to smile about in Bristol, running a 4.134 at 308 mph to send Cruz Pedregon home.
Pedregon had the slight lead at the 330-foot mark, but ran into trouble - ending with a 4.883 at 162.12 mph - and Hagan pulled away for the victory.
"I'm just glad we got this. We've got a big race and we want to do well for everybody. Our guys are really working hard,” Hagan said.
AREND SETS UP KALITTA -KALITTA: Team Kalitta will have one car in the semifinals after Jeff Arend followed DeJoria's victory with a 4.136 at 30.282 mph to beat Jim Head and his 4.908 at 166.33 mph.
It was a relatively straight run for Arend and his DHL car, setting up a great quarterfinal race with DeJoria.
"It's going to be a good battle. We've both got great cars," Arend said.
GRAY KEEPS ROLLING, KEEPS DSR STREAKING - Johnny Gray is hoping for a second straight win in Funny Car and he kept DSR rolling on Sunday, too.
DSR went a perfect 4-for-4 in the first round, and Gray gave John Force Racing a rare winless opening round, knocking off Robert Hight with a 4.091 at 312.86 mph. The rematch from the semifinals from Englishtown against went to Gray, while Hight's 5.036 at 155.60 wrapped up a thoroughly frustrating first for team Force.
"I was nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof racing against Robert, but we'll see what we can do second round," Gray said.
DSR VS. DSR DELIVERS BEAUTY - The Don Schumacher Racing pairing of Matt Hagan and Jeff Beckman delivered a spectacular side-by-side duel to kick off the quarterfinal Funny Car session, with Jack Beckman taking the win with a 4.100 at 310.70 mph.
Matt Hagan had the slight edge at the starting line and finished with a 4.14 at 299.40 mph, but Beckman had enough to track him down, advancing to the semifinals.
"It was pretty close. I was hoping their front end wasn't going to peak out ahead of us, and it's pretty cool to be moving on. We've got a chance to get a win," Beckman said.
CAPPS GETS SCARE, KEEPS ROLLING - Tony Pedregon gave Ron Capps everything he could handle in the quarterfinals, but Capps shrugged it off and kept right on rolling, delivering a winning 4.109 at 306.53 mph.
Capps won by a mere .006 after Pedregon had a dynamite .017 reaction time. He gave it an admirable effort, finishing with a 4.172 at 306.12 mph, but Capps was not thwarted en route to another semifinal berth.
"There was a lot going on at the starting line and you have to block it out. He's a gamer and very, very good, so this was a good win," Capps said.
GRAY PUTS 3RD DSR CAR IN SEMIS - It wasn't pretty, but Johnny Gray didn't mind, knocking off No. 1 qualifier Bob Tasca III with a 4.225 at 295.14 mph.
Chalk it up as an opportunity wasted for Tasca, the No. 1 qualifier, after he smoked the tires before the 300-foot mark, ending with a disappointing 6.245 at 109.64 mph.
Gray will give up lane choice to Ron Capps, but he also inches closer to his second straight win in Funny Car.
DEJORIA MAKES IT A FIRST - By just .001, Alexis DeJoria is in the Funny Car semifinals for the first time in her career.
From the No. 15 qualifier position, DeJoria's underdog run on Sunday continues, running a 4.172 at 302.35 to squeak by teammate Jeff Arend and his 4.182 at 301.67 mph.
It ended up being a marvelous side-by-side race between the two Team Kalitta drivers, but it was DeJoria who narrowly prevailed (by less than a foot) to head into uncharted territory in her Funny Car career.
"When we're up there, you just want to win. My guys are amazing and congrats to the DHL team (of Arend) as well," DeJoria said.
CAPPS GETS REVENGE, MOVES TO FINALS - AGAIN - This advancing to the finals thing is starting to become routine for Funny Car standout Ron Capps.
In Bristol, Capps advanced to his sixth straight final, going 4.093 to beat DSR teammate Johnny Gray in a great side-by-side race.
Gray went a solid 4.107 at 305.93 mph, but he couldn't replicate his win against Capps in the finals from two weeks ago in Englishtown. Capps was quicker off the starting line with a .063 reaction time and never let Gray go around, continuing his remarkable run of finals appearances.
"Johnny ran a great race. I can't tell you how excited I am to drive this NAPA car. I'm living my dream right now," Capps said.
THE MAGIC CONTINUES FOR DEJORIA - The glass slipper still fits for Alexis DeJoria and so do the runs of firsts for the Funny Car driver who came into eliminations as the No. 15 qualifier. That hasn't mattered during eliminations on Sunday in Bristol.
Jack Beckman pedaled late in their semifinal pass and it was once too many as DeJoria slipped past with a tremendous 4.159 at 301.27 mph to advance to her first Funny Car final.
Beckman was out first by a large margin, but the pedal job limited him to a 4.378 at 293.28 mph, and DeJoria was all smiles crossing the finish line first.
"That was an excellent run. It was amazing. The left lane hasn't been the best but we've gone down a couple times and I'm going to the finals right now. I'm so amazed right now," DeJoria said.
DeJoria will give up lane choice to Capps in the finals.
CAPPS CRUSHES CINDERELLA'S HOPES - In his sixth straight final, Ron Capps added one more dominant run to his 2012 resume, ending Alexis DeJoria's storybook Sunday in Funny Car.
In what was a dead-even race early on, Capps delivered a straight and strong run, one that has symbolized his 6-race hot streak, going 4.076 at 312.35 mph.
DeJoria broke traction and smoked the tires around 300 feet, finishing with a 5.232 at 144.15 mph.
It was still a standout weekend for DeJoria, who advanced to her first Funny Car final with what will be a memorable weekend for her in Bristol.
Capps, though, didn't allow DeJoria to finish off her Cinderella story, winning his second race in 2012 with his third run in the 4.00s in eliminations.
CALL HIM HOLESHOT HUMPHREY - In the first meeting in eliminations for Ronnie Humphrey and J.R. Carr, Humphrey did his work immediately, winning the race thanks to a .052 holeshot.
Humphrey finished with a 6.711 at 205.13 mph, holding off the quicker Carr, who ran a 6.697 at 204.20 mph. Carr, though, had a .095 reaction time, falling by nine feet.
ENDERS WITH THE CHASEDOWN - Hoping to replicate - and perhaps even top - her runner-up performance from Bristol a year ago, Erica Enders chased down Rodger Brogdon, going 6.670 at 206.51 mph to advance by just more than a foot.
Brogdon had the slight advantage at the start and ran a 6.682 at 205.91, but Enders caught him at the 1,000-foot mark.
"We've had a little bit of trouble this weekend, but we're hoping to turn our luck today," Enders said.
BREAKING THE TIE - V. Gaines and Ron Krisher were 8-8 in eliminations against each other heading into Bristol, but Gaines took the momentary lead thanks to his 6.699 at 205.69 mph.
Krisher and his .033 reaction time gave him an early edge but his 6.708 at 206.10 mph couldn't hold off Gaines for more than 300 feet.
WALKING THE LINE - Jason Line was dominant at both ends against the legendary Warren Johnson, running a 6.682 at 205.69 mph to set up a quarterfinal matchup with V. Gaines.
Line's .050 reaction time gave him the early lead and this race was never in question, as Johnson finished with a 6.696 at 205.54 mph.
K. JOHNSON GETS A GIFT - Vincent Nobile was a little too anxious on the light and Kurt Johnson will gladly take the gift, moving to the quarterfinals after Nobile went red by .014.
Johnson had a strong reaction time of .020, but will give up lane choice to Enders after running 6.689 at 205.44 mph.
DIFFERENT CONDITIONS, SAME RESULT - Allen Johnson said the conditions were different on Sunday in Bristol than at any other point this weekend.
It didn't matter in the first round, though, as the No. 1 qualifier stayed hot, running a 6.656 at 206.99 to beat Shane Gray and his 6.716 at 204.42.
Johnson's Mopar continued as the dominant car in the class, putting together the quickest and fastest run of the round.
EDWARDS STAYS HOT AT BRISTOL - Mike Edwards can now claim 13 straight round wins in Thunder Valley thanks to a fantastic all-around performance in a first-round win against Larry Morgan.
After an .025 reaction time, Edwards turned in a solid 6.664 at 206.57 mph, which was more than enough to keep Morgan and his 6.701 at 205.38 mph at bay.
HOLESHOT HEAVEN FOR COUGHLIN - In what was perhaps the marquee matchup of the first round, Jeg Coughlin Jr. delivered a superb holeshot upset win, sending points leader Greg Anderson home after the first round.
It was a huge win for Coughlin, who had a .027 reaction time, making his 6.684 at 206.23 stand up. Anderson had a 6.671 at 205.91 mph, but fell by 1/2-car length after his .065 start at the line.
LINE DOES ENOUGH - Jason Line still doesn't have his new Summit Racing 2012 Camaro locked in, but he knows the potential is there.
It didn't have an incredible run in the Pro Stock quarterfinals, but his 6.706 at 205.82 mph was enough to beat V. Gaines and his 6.710 at 205.41 mph at bay.
Line was helped by a .046 reaction time and Gaines never truly challenged Line and his new Camaro.
"It's going to be an awesome race car, it really is," Line said.
ENDERS INTO SEMIFINALS - For the weather and track conditions, Erica Enders delivered a solid quarterfinal run, putting together a 6.667 at 206.04 mph to oust Kurt Johnson and his 6.703.
Enders passed Johnson by 330 feet, though she will give up lane choice in the semifinals.
EDWARDS OUSTS COUGHLIN ON TREE, IN RACE - Mike Edwards didn't let Jeg Coughlin win this one on the tree. In fact, it was Edwards who turned the tables on Coughlin, thanks to a .017 reaction time. Edwards led throughout and turned in a strong 6.669 at 206.42 mph, rolling to an impressive victory.
Coughlin knocked off points leader Greg Anderson in the first round, but couldn't repeat the effort against Edwards, going 6.695 at 206.16 mph.
A. JOHNSON STAYS HOT - Leave it to the hottest driver in the class of late to steal the show in the quarterfinals.
Johnson delivered a 6.657 at 207.24 mph, the quickest and fastest pass of the round, to leave Ronnie Humphrey behind.
Humphrey ran a 6.694 at 205.44 mph, but Johnson remains deadly consistent heading to the semifinals.
EDWARDS LEAVES NO DOUBT - Mike Edwards continued his starting line dominance this weekend in Bristol and now he's on the cusp of his fourth straight Pro Stock win in Thunder Valley.
His 15th straight round win in Bristol came after he routed Erica Enders in the semifinals, thanks in part to a brilliant .007 reaction time.
That essentially handed the win to Edwards, who went 6.680 at 206.54 mph. After Edwards' awesome start, Enders pushed the clutch in early, finishing with a 7.372.
"We're putting some stuff together. We'll see what we can do in the finals," Edwards said.
JOHNSON STAYS AHEAD OF PACK - Allen Johnson continues to roll, advancing to the finals with an impressive 6.659 at 206.67 to beat Jason Line and his 6.677 at 206.54 mph.
Johnson also remains the best car in Pro Stock going into the finals, putting together a complete run - thanks to a great .018 reaction time - to set up a finals between the top two qualifiers in the class.
Johnson will have lane choice against Edwards in the finals.
AS CLOSE AS IT GETS, BUT EDWARDS GETS 4TH STRAIGHT - Well, Mike Edwards got his fourth straight win in Thunder Valley in Pro Stock, but it couldn't have been any closer in an absolute outstanding final between Edwards and Johnson.
In a virtual dead-heat, Edwards barely - and we mean barley - knocked off No. 1 qualifier Allen Johnson, who had been the dominant driver all weekend, by going 6.674 at 206.16 mph. Edwards, who was remarkable on the starting line on Sunday, had his best reaction time of the weekend with a .005 and he needed every bit of it in an absolute dead-heat.
Johnson was nearly as good at the starting line thanks to a .018 reaction time and finished with a 6.661 at 207.05 mph.
But by the slimmest of margins it wasn't enough, giving Edwards, the No. 2 qualifier, his 16th straight round win in Bristol.
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