MONDAY - NEFF SCORES THE VICTORY AT MAPLE GROVE RACEWAY; ALBALOOSHI AND GAINES ALSO WINNERS
Funny Car racer Mike Neff kept his championship hopes alive by racing to victory Monday at the rain-delayed Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel) and V. Gaines (Pro Stock) also were winners at the fourth of six playoff events in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.
Neff defeated veteran driver Johnny Gray with a time of 4.030 seconds at 317.94 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to earn his fourth win of the season, and his first of the year in the playoffs. With the win, Neff closed in on new series leader Jack Beckman, who set a national record and advanced to the semifinals over the weekend in his Schumacher Electric Dodge Charger. Neff trails Beckman by 54 points and Ron Capps is in second place, 23 back of Beckman with only two races remaining in the season.
“You have to have it all right to get a win any more,” said Neff, who defeated Tony Pedregon, Jim Head and John Force to advance to the final. “The biggest thing is it will be exciting. I want to be able to head out west with a chance. It would be a downer if we were out of it at this point. It is nice to be alive for the championship.”
In Top Fuel, rookie driver alBalooshi earned his first career victory with a winning performance of 3.910 at 312.42 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster, defeating current points leader Antron Brown in the final round. alBalooshi defeated Spencer Massey, Ike Maier and teammate Shawn Langdon en route to the victory. He becomes the first Middle Eastern driver and only the third driver from outside North America to win a Full Throttle Series race, joining Australian David Grubnic and Kenji Okazaki from Japan.
“I give my team owner, the crew guys and all the people who work with us thanks for making this win,” alBalooshi said. “I try my best, and I know that everybody on the team is trying their best, and finally, I won my first race.”
Brown increased his series lead to 104 points over second place Massey by setting a national record time of 3.701 seconds in his pink Matco Tools dragster during his semifinal victory over Brandon Bernstein.
In Pro Stock, V. Gaines powered his Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger to victory for the first time since 2008 with a performance of 6.515 at 212.26, while final round opponent Dave Connolly fouled with a red-light start. The fourth win of Gaines’ career moves him up to sixth in the Countdown to Championship points standings. Gaines beat Warren Johnson, Greg Anderson and Jason Line before taking out Connolly in the final.
“We didn’t qualify for five of the first of seven races, but then we started making improvements and began to run better and better,” Gaines said. “We were a bit worried about running in cold weather conditions because you know that we’re from Denver where it is 5,000 feet high. We were really uncertain. But we showed this weekend that we can compete in the cold weather, and we’re just ecstatic.”
Pro Stock points leader Allen Johnson and his Team Mopar/ J&J Racing Dodge Avenger was eliminated in the second round with a red-light start, but the Tennessee driver left the event with an 82-point lead over defending world champ Line.
Due to more rain showers moving into the Reading area on Monday afternoon, the Pro Stock Motorcycle final round between the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson duo of Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec was postponed until the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, Oct. 25-28. Prior to the final round, Hines set the national record for elapsed time in this class at 6.720, which earned him a 20-point bonus towards the championship.
“That 6.72 was the best run of my career,” Hines said. “I had my best 60-foot time, but if I had run the back half like Eddie, it would have been a 6.70. I’m glad to get the record because this is probably the last time we’ll see it set this year. It’s not going to happen in Las Vegas and it would take some extraordinary conditions for it to happen in Pomona. Those 20 points could come in handy at the last two races.”
SUNDAY - AUTO-PLUS NHRA NATIONALS ELIMINATIONS POSTPONED UNTIL MONDAY DUE TO PERSISTENT RAIN SHOWERS
Persistent rain showers forced NHRA officials to postpone the completion of eliminations for the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway until Monday at 11 a.m.
Nearly two rounds of racing was completed in Top Fuel, while only one round was finished in Funny Car and Pro Stock before rain showers moved into the area Sunday afternoon.
In Top Fuel competition, series leader Antron Brown posted a national record time of 3.722 seconds and advanced to the semifinals, along with Brandon Bernstein and rookie Khalid alBalooshi. Racing will begin Monday with the final second round pair in Top Fuel, Shawn Langdon vs. Doug Kalitta.
In Funny Car, Jack Beckman improved his national record performance to 3.986 seconds with a first round win over Mike Smith and will meet points leader Ron Capps in a critical second round match up in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship. Title contender Mike Neff, John Force, Johnny Gray and defending champ Matt Hagan also will race in round two.
In Pro Stock, championship contenders Allen Johnson, Jason Line, Erica Enders and Greg Anderson all advanced to the second round. All four rounds of racing remain in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
In addition to the completion of eliminations in the four NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series classes, three NHRA Lucas Oil Series categories will be completed as well, including Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car and Competition Eliminator.
Gates will open at 8 a.m. All Sunday tickets will be honored for admission on Monday and kids 15 and under will be admitted free. Tickets for purchase will be available for $25. All parking will be free.
SATURDAY - BECKMAN SETS NATIONAL RECORD, LANDS NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITION; GRUBNIC, LINE AND KRAWIEC ALSO TOP QUALIFIERS
Funny Car title contender Jack Beckman set a national record en route to his fourth No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday at the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
David Grubnic (Top Fuel), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the fourth of six playoff events in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.
After a dominating performance during Friday’s qualifying runs, Beckman powered his Schumacher Electric Dodge Charger to a time of 4.003 seconds in Saturday’s first qualifying attempt, which was quick enough to certify his 3.989 effort from Friday as an NHRA national record. Beckman, who now trails series points leader Ron Capps by only 17, will earn a 20-point bonus if he hangs onto the record following the completion of Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations.
"We want to win the championship,” said Beckman, who will face Mike Smith in the opening round of eliminations. “Some people would tell you they want to win at all costs and I’m not one of those people. We want to win because we did everything right out there and we want the other cars to be at their prime. We’d like to do it the right way.”
Cruz Pedregon was second with a performance of 3.997 at 320.58 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry while Mike Neff was third in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang with a 4.017 at 318.84. Points leader Capps will start eighth in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger after qualifying with a performance of 4.055 at 317.64. Countdown contender Tim Wilkerson, who had charged from 10th to fifth in the points standings during the first three playoff races, failed to qualify for eliminations in his Levi Ray & Shoup Shelby Ford Mustang.
In Top Fuel, Grubnic drove his Rocky Boots dragster to a performance of 3.728 at 327.11 mph to earn his first No. 1 qualifying position this season and first since 2008. His time tied the quickest Top Fuel run in history, and he could certify it as a national record during Sunday’s eliminations when he opens against Canadian driver Ike Maier.
“It’s good to be back in the No. 1 spot,” Grubnic said. “When I started with Connie [Kalitta] in 2004, we were No. 1 qualifier five times that year, and so it’s great to be back in that position. Not only that, but [teammate] Doug Kalitta running 331 miles per hour side-by-side with me. It’s great for the team, great for Connie, great for all the guys that work on the car, and great for our sponsors.”
Morgan Lucas, who qualified second with a 3.733-second effort in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster, set the Top Fuel national elapsed time record on that run. Series points leader Antron Brown was 11th in his Matco Tools dragster with a 3.758 at 325.14 while Spencer Massey, currently second in the standings, was eighth with a 3.763 at 321.12. Four-time Maple Grove winner Tony Schumacher qualified third in the U.S. Army dragster with a 3.736 at 325.14.
In Pro Stock, defending world champion and event winner Jason Line raced to his seventh No. 1 qualifying position of the season, 31st of his career in his Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro with a time of 6.515 at 212.36. Line will race Shane Gray in the opening round.
“Tomorrow should be interesting, and fun to watch,” Line said. “Especially if it’s cold out and we could set a new national record. Those 20 points could really come in handy.”
Pro Stock points leader Allen Johnson was sixth with a 6.545 at 211.49 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger and title challenger and St. Louis winner Erica Enders was second in her GK Motorsports Chevy Cobalt with a 6.538 at 211.30.
Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Eddie Krawiec rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to his fourth No. 1 of the season with a performance of 6.821 at 196.19, bringing his career total to 13.
“I have a good race day bike,” said Krawiec, who will meet veteran rider Craig Treble in the first round. “I think it’s just consistently getting it down the track, getting it off the starting line and going. I’m going to do the best I can. I am just going to look for good green lights and I think the rest will come.”
Krawiec’s teammate Andrew Hines was second on his Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson with a 6.824 at 195.85, while the father and son Lucas Oil Buell duo of Hector Arana Sr. and Hector Arana Jr. head into eliminations third and fourth.
FRIDAY - BECKMAN SETS TRACK RECORD, LANDS QUALIFYING LEAD; LUCAS, GAINES AND KRAWIEC ALSO LEAD FRIDAY QUALIFYING
Jack Beckman raced to a track record performance Friday to lead Funny Car qualifying at the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), V. Gaines (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the fourth of six races in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
After winning at St. Louis last weekend, Beckman continued to gain momentum as he became the third Funny Car driver in history to dip into the three-second zone by posting a career-best effort of 3.989 seconds at 320.58 mph in his Schumacher Electric Dodge Charger. If he can post a time during the rest of the weekend at 4.029 seconds or quicker, Beckman will certify the time as an NHRA national record and receive a 20-point bonus.
When Beckman was getting ready to stage for his second qualifying attempt of the day, NHRA Safety Safari officials shut he and Jeff Arend’s cars off due to oil on the racing surface. They had to go back to the pits and refuel their cars and ended up running at the end of the Funny Car session. The brief delay ended up working out for Beckman.
"I’m just happy we’re solidly qualified,” Beckman said. “That’ll give us some session bonus points. It’s just nice to know it appears that we have our hot rod back. We had to tow back to the pits after we were shut off, put a brand new clutch in the car and they got me belted in the pits. It’s just stunning to see the guys faced with so much challenge on that run, step up, get it perfect and come up here and run that good.”
Mike Neff was second in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang with a 4.017 at 318.84 and Alexis DeJoria was third with a 4.032 at 319.07 in her Tequila Patron Toyota Camry. Robert Hight qualified sixth and set a track record speed in his Auto Club Ford Mustang at 321.81 mph. Series points leader Ron Capps was 18th in his NAPA Dodge after his car lost traction on both qualifying attempts.
Lucas powered his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster to a performance of 3.760 at 326.95 to lead the Top Fuel category. This would be his fifth top qualifying position of the season, eighth in his career if his performance stands after Saturday’s final qualifying rounds (11 a.m. and 2 p.m.).
“To be completely honest, as good as a run that 3.760 is, (A) if I had driven it straight and (B) if the belt had stayed on, it probably would have run a 3.74 or a 3.75,” Lucas said. “But I still wouldn’t have thought that a 3.76 would have stayed as the No. 1 time, especially with the way that the other cars ran in the first session.”
Shawn Langdon was second in the Al-Anabi Racing dragster with a 3.762 at a track record speed of 328.38 and title contender Spencer Massey was third with a 3.763 at 324.90. Series points leader Antron Brown was 11th in his Matco Tools dragster with a 3.844 at 317.87.
In Pro Stock, veteran driver V. Gaines is the leader after pushing his Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger to the top spot with a run of 6.544 at 209.62. If the time holds it would be his first career No. 1 qualifying position.
“We actually might have gone a little quicker, but I misjudged the finish line and shut off 6.4-seconds into the run,” Gaines said. “But that really hurt the speed more than the elapsed time.”
Points leader Allen Johnson was second with a 6.545 at 211.49 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger and title challenger and defending world champ Jason Line was third in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro with a 6.553 at 211.86. St. Louis winner Erica Enders was fourth in her GK Motorsports Chevy Cobalt with a 6.560 at 211.00.
Points leader Eddie Krawiec rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying order with a performance of 6.821 at 196.19, which would be his fourth of the season and 13th of his career.
“We went down through there and made a good lap,” Krawiec said. “Hector Arana Sr. went out and made a better run (in the first session), so we went back, looked at data, just changed a little bit on the set-up. We were a little overaggressive about 30 or 40 feet out on the first run, so we actually took a little lock up weight out of it to make the bike transition smoother through the early part of the run. It worked out for us.”
Arana Sr. was second with a 6.834 at 194.46 on his Lucas Oil Buell, while Andrew Hines was third on his Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson with a 6.853 at 195.93.
THURSDAY - WET CONDITIONS GET THE BEST OF THURSDAY SCHEDULE
Persistent wet weather prevented Sportsman racers from making any qualifying passes Thursday and the beginning of the 28th annual Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway was postponed to Friday.
Gates on Friday will open at 8 a.m. with Sportsman qualifying beginning at 8:45.
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