Antron Brown piloted his Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster to victory on Sunday at the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.

John Force (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners in their respective categories at the 19th event of 24 on the 2016 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. The NHRA Carolina Nationals is the first race of the six race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Brown claimed his 59th career victory, and fifth of the season, with a 3.763-second pass at 319.29 mph in his dragster to defeat Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools machine, 3.811 at 320.28. It is Brown’s second consecutive win at the NHRA Carolina Nationals, the opening event of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. In 2015, Brown went on to win the Top Fuel World Championship.

“I’m dreaming right now, someone needs to come and pinch me,” Brown said. ”When you come here, this is the way you want to start the Countdown off. Qualifying didn’t go the way we wanted it. We just kept digging. That was the key, to keep digging. The track was the hottest that we have had all year long. We knew it was going to be tricky. We navigated down it and we did what we had to do.”

Before picking up the victory over Kalitta, Brown faced down Clay Millican, Brittany Force, and Pat Dakin. Kalitta, the No. 1 qualifier, had to defeat Ike Maier, Leah Pritchett and Wayne Newby to reach the finals. Brown remains on top of the points with Kalitta in second.

Force, a 16-time world champion, powered his PEAK Antifreeze Chevy Camaro Funny Car to a 3.946 at 324.05 pass to defeat No. 1 qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr. and his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T’s 3.987 at 315.71 run for his 146th career win, third of the season and second overall at zMAX Dragway. The win propels Force into third in the points standings.

“It’s stadiums like this that really create the magic in your heart and you really want to race and we had a good day,” Force said. “I’ve got a race car now that I can race with and when you have a race car and you’re on your game, I ain’t great, but I’m good. But when I’m on my game, I can win.”

On his way to the win, Force defeated Dave Richards, Tim Wilkerson, and points leader Ron Capps. Johnson Jr. raced past Bob Gilbertson, national record holder Matt Hagan and defending champion Del Worsham before facing Force. Despite a semifinal exit, Capps maintains the points lead. Johnson Jr. is now fourth.

For Line in Pro Stock, this is his eighth win of the season.  He raced his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to a winning pass of 6.621 at 209.39 to defeat Summit Racing Equipment teammate Greg Anderson and his Camaro’s losing run of 6.639 at 209.20.

“It was a great day for us,” Line said, “To be sitting here is a great feeling. It’s a great way to start the countdown. If you want to win the championship you have to come out smoking and somehow we were able to do that today.”

Line, a two-time world champion, powered past Shane Tucker, teammate Bo Butner and Vincent Nobile before defeating Anderson who picked up wins against Alan Prusiensky, Chris McGaha and Alex Laughlin in the earlier rounds. The teammates remain one and two in the points standings, respectively.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Ellis rode his PiranaZ/Pippin Motorsports Buell to a 6.879 at 194.88 to defeat points leader Andrew Hines and his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley Davidson’s 6.908 at 193.49 in the final. Ellis has seven wins in his Pro Stock Motorcycle career. His last win came in Englishtown, N.J. in 2008.

“I’m ecstatic with our performance today,” Ellis said. “I did get a couple breaks today against Angelle when her bike broke and LE had some issue or else he probably would have beat us. As a racer, some days you just have a feeling where today’s the day and today’s the day.”

In the earlier rounds, Ellis defeated Shawn Gann, LE Tonglet and No. 1 qualifier Angelle Sampey to reach the finals. Hines rode past Melissa Surber, Steve Johnson and Jim Underdahl before falling to Ellis. He maintains the points lead and Ellis jumps to the number two spot.

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing will continue at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., Sept. 23-25.



Doug Kalitta secured the Top Fuel No. 1 qualifier Saturday at the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals, the first race of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, at zMAX Dragway just outside of Charlotte, N.C.

Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also secured No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the 19th event of 24 on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Kalitta piloted his Mac Tools dragster to a 3.721-second pass at 325.77 mph on Friday night that held up through Saturday’s two rounds for his fourth No. 1 qualifying position of the season, 47th of his career and first at zMAX Dragway. His first opponent in Sunday’s eliminations will be Ike Maier.

“Anytime you can start from pole position is great in my book,” Kalitta said. “We’ve won from there before. Some people wonder if it’s a jinx but my team, we’re good with low qualifier. Getting the green hats are great and just build momentum and excitement for when we get here tomorrow.”

Brittany Force raced herself into the No. 2 position and will face Chris Karamesines in round one. In third is eight time world champion Tony Schumacher, his opponent will be Cameron Ferre. Reigning champ and Countdown to the Championship No. 1 seed Antron Brown qualified seventh.

Johnson Jr.’s Funny Car track elapsed time record run of 3.876 at 323.43 in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T held up from Friday’s qualifying. It is his first No. 1 qualifier of the season and 14th of his career. In the first round of eliminations Johnson Jr. will line up against Bob Gilbertson.

“Whenever you go out and run a good run on Friday night it allows you to play and kind of experiment on Saturday,” Johnson Jr. said. “The conditions are usually so much different. It’s kind of what we’ll see on race day so you have a chance to play a little bit while some of the other guys are still trying to move up in the field or get qualified. So it’s definitely an advantage to make a good run Friday night.”

No. 1 Countdown to the Championship seed Ron Capps qualified in second and will line up against John Hale. Sixteen-time world champion John Force found himself in the No. 3 spot and his opponent will be Dave Richards. Defending world champion Del Worsham qualified 12th.

Anderson secured his sixth Pro Stock No. 1 qualifier of the season, 86th of his career, with a 6.578 pass at 210.50 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro during the third round of qualifying. Anderson will be racing for his second Carolina Nationals win. In the first round of eliminations Anderson will face Alan Prusiensky.

“It’s been a great season so far but this is a new season,” Anderson said. “This is the Countdown, it’s a whole new season to us and it doesn’t matter what we’ve done up until now. You’re going to have to earn your keep or go home. We don’t want to have a magical year like we’ve had so far go up in smoke so we want to do the best job we can and hopefully walk away with a title at the end of the year. Tomorrow is going to be a great day of racing. You can’t win the Countdown in the first race out but you can lose it.”

Anderson’s Summit Racing Equipment teammate, Jason Line, qualified second and will see Shane Tucker in round one. Qualified third is Vincent Nobile who will race Curt Steinbach in the first round of eliminations.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Sampey raced her Star Racing / Precision Service Equipment Buell to a 6.815 pass at 196.02 in the third round of qualifying on Saturday to secure the No. 1 qualifying position. This is Sampey’s third consecutive No. 1 qualifier, fourth this season and 49th of her career. She will face off against Mark Paquette in the first round of eliminations.

“Its perfect timing. We definitely want to be the best we can on every run,” Sampey said. “I want to be the best every run. I want to be the best on Friday, the best on Saturday and the best on Sunday. That’s the way to do it. I think we’re in the groove now. The bike is running really well, the crew is working really well, I’m driving much better, so it’s all coming together. We’re having a good time.”

Eddie Krawiec qualified No. 2 and will face Karen Stoffer and Jerry Savoie, who qualified third, will match up against veteran Steve Johnson. No. 1 seed and reigning world champion Andrew Hines secured the No. 6 position.

Eliminations at the NHRA Carolina Nationals will begin at noon at zMAX Dragway.

Sunday's first-round pairings for eliminations for the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway, the 19th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel -- 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.721 seconds, 327.11 mph  vs. 16. Ike Maier, 3.988, 291.63; 2. Brittany Force, 3.729, 324.67  vs. 15. Chris Karamesines, 3.985, 297.29; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.730, 325.14  vs. 14. Cameron Ferre, 3.932, 313.37; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.732, 323.27  vs. 13. Scott Palmer, 3.929, 315.78; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.741, 328.14  vs. 12. Wayne Newby, 3.802, 322.04; 6. J.R. Todd, 3.741, 325.37  vs. 11. Pat Dakin, 3.791, 320.89; 7. Antron Brown, 3.742, 320.89  vs. 10. Clay Millican, 3.767, 319.82; 8. Richie Crampton, 3.744, 320.51  vs. 9. Leah Pritchett, 3.765, 323.74. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry McMillen, 3.994, 267.59; 18. Paul Noakes, 4.403, 210.57.

Funny Car -- 1. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.876, 323.43  vs. 16. Bob Gilbertson, Chevy Monte Carlo, 6.592, 104.19; 2. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.878, 324.20  vs. 15. John Hale, Charger, 6.010, 194.30; 3. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.881, 331.04  vs. 14. Dave Richards, Ford Mustang, 4.115, 309.56; 4. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.887, 324.67  vs. 13. John Bojec, Toyota Solara, 4.016, 292.58; 5. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.904, 327.82  vs. 12. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.963, 318.99; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.911, 323.97  vs. 11. Chad Head, Camry, 3.956, 320.05; 7. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.912, 323.66  vs. 10. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.940, 318.54; 8. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.934, 322.81  vs. 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.940, 323.81.

Pro Stock -- 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.578, 210.50  vs. 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.751, 204.88; 2. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.581, 210.44  vs. 15. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.732, 207.30; 3. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.593, 210.28  vs. 14. Curt Steinbach, Camaro, 6.723, 206.04; 4. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.595, 210.37  vs. 13. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.699, 206.83; 5. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.597, 210.47  vs. 12. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.657, 208.42; 6. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.603, 209.04  vs. 11. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.651, 208.17; 7. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.606, 210.11 vs. 10. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.641, 208.36; 8. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.614, 209.79  vs. 9. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.641, 209.10.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Erica Enders, 14.169, 207.56.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.815, 196.02  vs. 16. Mark Paquette, Buell, 6.993, 191.13; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.843, 194.60  vs. 15. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.973, 193.57; 3. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.850, 195.39  vs. 14. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.968, 192.49; 4. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.855, 195.03  vs. 13. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.967, 192.08; 5. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.867, 195.96  vs. 12. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.913, 192.66; 6. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.869, 194.02  vs. 11. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.905, 192.58; 7. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.871, 195.65  vs. 10. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.878, 194.21; 8. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.876, 194.86  vs. 9. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.877, 195.73.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Mike Berry, 7.014, 191.10; 18. Angie Smith, 7.022, 189.07; 19. Chaz Kennedy, 7.069, 187.31; 20. David Hope, 7.170, 186.02; 21. Lance Bonham, 7.246, 182.11; 22. Brian Bognuda, 7.255, 182.26.


Tommy Johnson Jr. sprinted to the qualifying lead in Funny Car on Friday at the NHRA Carolina Nationals, the first race of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also provisional leaders in their respective categories at the 19th event of 24 on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Johnson Jr. pushed his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to a track elapsed time record of 3.876 seconds at 323.43 mph. Johnson, who has a win in Bristol, Tenn., is competing for his first No. 1 qualifier of the season, and 14th of his career.

“It just shows how determined they are how much we want this and the Countdown and how on top of it they are,” said Johnson Jr. “You have to be aggressive and take the championship, you can’t wait for it to come your way. Really happy with the performance and still shocked. We ran an .87 and I thought the low would be about an. 85.”

Countdown to the championship No. 1 seed Ron Capps currently holds the second spot and 16-time world champion John Force is third. Reigning world champion Del Worsham is currently 12th.

Kalitta piloted his Mac Tools dragster to a 3.721 at 325.77 for the Top Fuel qualifying lead. Doug has three No. 1 qualifiers this season and three wins. The facility is one of two tracks on the NHRA circuit that Kalitta has yet to record a No. 1 qualifier.

“The conditions are definitely good out there,” said Kalitta. “The track is in great shape so they are doing a great job with it. With the cooling off and then watching everyone in front of us with a bunch of .73s and .74s. I was going down there hoping we were going to be in front of those guys. Hats off to my guys. It was a great set-up for the conditions.”

Brittany Force, a three time winner this season, is second heading into day two of qualifying and eight-time champion Tony Schumacher is third. No. 1 seed and reigning world champion Antron Brown is sitting in the No. 7 spot.

Line holds the qualifying lead in Pro Stock with a 6.581 at 210.41 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro. Line, the No. 1 seed heading into the Countdown to the Championship, has six No. 1 qualifiers this season, and 47 in his career.

“It was a good run for us,” said Line. “I think there was probably a little more left. That’s the good news. I’m very happy. I can sleep well tonight. All-in-all a very good day.

“This race really is a must win, it really is. I think it’s huge. You have to have a good showing here no matter what. Maybe you don’t have to win, but you at least have to make it to the final round. I think it’s a huge deal and obviously starting off in a good qualifying position is the way to start that.”

Vincent Nobile sits in the second position with Shane Gray in third. Line’s teammate and the No. 2 seed, Greg Anderson, is currently in seventh.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Savoie raced his White Alligator Racing Suzuki to the top spot with a 6.850 at 195.19. Savoie, an alligator farmer from Louisiana, has five No. 1 qualifiers in his career and is looking for his first of the season, as well as his first victory at zMAX Dragway.  

“We should be really good this weekend,” said Savoie. “Tomorrow’s another day. Take it day by day and don’t put yourself under a lot of pressure. The main thing is to go have fun and try to win.”

Angelle Sampey, Englishtown winner, is currently qualified second and Chip Ellis sits in the third spot. Top seed and defending world champion Andrew Hines is in fifth.

Qualifying at the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals continues on Saturday at 12:45 p.m. and the fourth and final session at approximately 3 p.m.

Friday's results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway, 19th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday's final eliminations.

Top Fuel -- 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.721 seconds, 325.77 mph; 2. Brittany Force, 3.729, 324.67; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.730, 325.14; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.732, 323.27; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.741, 328.14; 6. J.R. Todd, 3.741, 325.37; 7. Antron Brown, 3.742, 317.94; 8. Richie Crampton, 3.744, 320.51; 9. Clay Millican, 3.767, 319.82; 10. Pat Dakin, 3.791, 320.89; 11. Leah Pritchett, 3.809, 317.27; 12. Wayne Newby, 3.815, 318.39. 

Not Qualified: 13. Scott Palmer, 3.895, 315.78; 14. Ike Maier, 4.102, 277.43; 15. Paul Noakes, 4.461, 209.69; 16. Cameron Ferre, 4.873, 150.15; 17. Terry McMillen, 5.037, 146.77.

Funny Car -- 1. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.876, 323.43; 2. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.878, 324.20; 3. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.881, 331.04; 4. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.887, 324.67; 5. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.904, 327.82; 6. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.912, 323.66; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.921, 321.50; 8. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.939, 321.50; 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.940, 323.81; 10. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.940, 318.54; 11. Chad Head, Camry, 3.956, 311.77; 12. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.963, 318.99. 

Not Qualified: 13. Dave Richards, 4.093, 309.56; 14. John Bojec, 4.179, 234.57; 15. John Hale, 4.599, 194.30.

Pro Stock -- 1. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.581, 210.41; 2. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.593, 210.28; 3. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.595, 210.18; 4. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.597, 210.44; 5. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.603, 209.01; 6. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.606, 209.88; 7. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.609, 210.50; 8. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.641, 209.10; 9. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.641, 208.36; 10. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.646, 209.79; 11. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.651, 208.17; 12. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.659, 207.24. 

Not Qualified: 13. Erica Enders, 6.678, 207.56; 14. Curt Steinbach, 6.699, 206.04; 15. Shane Tucker, 6.777, 206.64; 16. Alan Prusiensky, 6.801, 203.89; 17. John Gaydosh Jr, 7.362, 168.01.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.850, 195.19; 2. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.861, 195.82; 3. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.864, 195.03; 4. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.867, 195.96; 5. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.869, 194.02; 6. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.871, 194.83; 7. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.876, 194.86; 8. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.884, 194.21; 9. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.892, 192.82; 10. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.894, 195.73; 11. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.905, 192.58; 12. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.937, 192.66. 

Not Qualified: 13. Karen Stoffer, 6.959, 192.17; 14. Mike Berry, 6.980, 191.10; 15. Angie Smith, 6.986, 189.07; 16. Mark Paquette, 7.014, 190.03; 17. Shawn Gann, 7.027, 191.92; 18. Steve Johnson, 7.076, 191.08; 19. David Hope, 7.203, 186.02; 20. Lance Bonham, 7.227, 180.07; 21. Brian Bognuda, 7.261, 180.50; 22. Chaz Kennedy, 7.351, 185.03.



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