NHRA MILE HIGH NATIONALS - SAME DAY COVERAGE
The second half of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season kicks off with the first of three consecutive weekends of racing and one of its greatest challenges. Teams travel high and deep into the Rocky Mountains to more than 5,800 feet, where the altitude plays havoc with everything.
BATTLE OF NITRO TEAMMATES FAVORS BECKMAN, FULLER; SMITH, JOHNSON ALSO SCORE
Top Fuel points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller handled teammate Whit Bazemore in Sunday's final of the 28th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway to win for the second time this year.
In Funny Car, "Fast Jack" Beckman did the same thing, beating his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps to claim his first Wally of 2007.
Pro Stock victor Allen Johnson and Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Matt Smith joined them in the winner's circle.
Bazemore got the jump on Fuller in the Top Fuel final, leaving with a .077-second start to Fuller's .106-second launch. But Fuller had passed his stablemate before they crossed the halftrack timers and went on to win with a 4.683 at 312.93 mph in his Wagner CAT dragster to Bazemore's 4.770 at 308.35 mph in the Matco Tools rail.
"There's something about this win. It's almost like it makes me feel legit," Fuller said of his fifth career victory. "We're still looking for a full-time sponsor and we're down a couple of crew guys and probably don't have all the parts we need in reserve, but we're still one of the quickest cars every round."
The POWERade Series standings now show Fuller 144 points ahead of Larry Dixon, who moved into second place earlier in the day. Bazemore moved into the Countdown to the Championship field and is now in a tie for seventh place overall.
Neither driver had lane choice in the semifinals but Bazemore got past Tony Schumacher and Fuller outlasted Larry Dixon.
Beckman earned lane choice with his huge semifinal win over a red-lighting John Force and that might have made the difference in the final as his Mail Terminal Services Dodge Charger R/T was able to creep away from Capps' Brut Test Drive Dodge Charger to take the win with a 4.932 at 312.86 mph to Capps' 5.001 at 307.86 mph.
"I think our car and our team should have won three races by now," Beckman said. "I replaced Whit Bazemore over here and the guy, I mean tomorrow he could get back in a Funny Car and be one of the top three drivers in the class. I'm on a steep learning curve and I've definitely been the weakest link so to get our first win of the year is huge."
Combined with second-place points earner Robert Hight's unlikely loss to Scott Kalitta in the quarterfinals, Capps was able to pad his Funny Car points lead to 154 with his sixth final-round showing of the year. Beckman padded his seventh-place perch in the Countdown rankings as he now leads eighth-place Cruz Pedregon by 90 markers.
Given up for a dead a few races ago, 14-time champion Force is just 16 points behind Pedregon in ninth place.
Johnson has four other Pro Stock wins to his credit but this one might be the most meaningful. Earlier this year Johnson's father Roy, who builds his motors, suffered two heart attacks at the Phoenix event. Amazingly, he returned to work three days later. Sunday his motor carried his son through a 7.132-second pass at 192.47 mph that was good enough for the win.
"Everything you can do, we've done this weekend," Johnson said. "You couldn't ask for more. That one race in Phoenix was a set-back for all of us but Dad's come back better than ever and we've been a win waiting to happen ever since.
"We've tested our butts off and the guys have put in some real long hours at the shop. I feel like we've come together as a team. Going into the final we knew Ron would be tough because they'd been running strong all day. We might have got a break because I only went 192 so we probably wounded our motor, but Ron broke a transmission early on so we got the win."
The POWERade standings now show Johnson in fourth place. His final round record improved to 5-6, while Krisher fell to 5-8 with a trophy on the line.
Smith pushed his lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle to triple digits after running the table in Denver -- racing from the No. 1 qualifying position to the victory circle on his Torco/Skull Gear S&S Buell V-Twin. It was his second win of the year in six final-round showings.
This one was over at the starting line when U.S. Army racer Angelle Sampey left early by -.047 seconds to disqualify herself. Smith raced through the scoreboards with a 7.400 at 177.81 mph just to be sure.
"I had to get a monkey off my back," Smith said. "We have been getting to the finals but we couldn't finish the deal it seemed like. We've had parts failures that have cost us a couple of wins at least. We broke a piston in Round 1 but luckily Mike Berry had red-lit or we'd have been done right then. You just never know, I guess. It all worked out today."
Smith now leads Sampey by 104 points. Sampey leads third-place runner Andrew Hines by 85 points. Smith is 4-6 in finals, while Sampey drops to 41-24.
Sunday's final results from the 28th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. The race is the 13th of 23 in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel -- Rod Fuller, 4.683 seconds, 312.93 mph def. Whit Bazemore, 4.770 seconds, 308.35 mph.
Pro Stock -- Allen Johnson, Dodge Stratus, 7.132, 192.47 def. Ron Krisher, Chevy Cobalt, 16.720, 48.95.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Matt Smith, Buell, 7.400, 177.81 def. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, foul.
Competition Eliminator -- David Rampy, Bantam Roadster, 8.690, 112.59 def. Will Hatcher, Dragster, foul.
Stock Eliminator -- Gary Stinnett, Chevy Camaro, 11.534, 112.93 def. Ryan McClanahan, Pontiac Firebird, 11.005, 120.61.
Super Gas -- Kevin Moore, Chevy Roadster, 10.534, 148.62 def. John Steffen, Chevy Corvette, 10.497, 141.39.
Super Street -- John Dexter, Chevy Camaro, 11.515, 133.57 def. Troy Grant, Chevy II, 11.533,
Final round-by-round results from the 28th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the 13th of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series:
ROUND ONE -- Whit Bazemore, 4.858, 256.60 def. Bob Vandergriff, 5.287, 225.00; Larry Dixon, 4.790,
310.41 def. Doug Kalitta, 4.791, 302.82; J.R. Todd, 5.257, 270.32 def. Doug Herbert, 12.505, 60.43;
Mike Strasburg, 5.395, 210.57 def. Melanie Troxel, 6.060, 213.50; Rod Fuller, 4.781, 310.91 def.
Morgan Lucas, 4.941, 304.87; David Grubnic, 4.806, 302.69 def. Cory McClenathan, 4.895, 267.43;
Tony Schumacher, 4.805, 320.13 def. Clay Millican, 7.482, 112.43; Hillary Will, 4.753, 309.77 def.
Brandon Bernstein, 6.655, 144.41;
QUARTERFINALS -- Bazemore, 7.396, 106.21 def. Strasburg, foul; Schumacher, 4.840, 310.55 def. Todd,
5.267, 230.72; Dixon, 4.910, 291.13 def. Grubnic, 5.210, 268.97; Fuller, 4.951, 247.61 def. Will,
SEMIFINALS -- Fuller, 4.762, 299.93 def. Dixon, 4.924, 262.74; Bazemore, 4.771, 295.01 def.
Schumacher, 4.806, 316.38;
FINAL -- Fuller, 4.683, 312.93 def. Bazemore, 4.770, 308.35.
ROUND ONE -- Jeff Arend, Chevy Impala, 5.153, 293.66 def. Kenny Bernstein, Dodge Charger, 8.948,
95.53; Ron Capps, Charger, 5.078, 299.13 def. Del Worsham, Impala, 5.148, 291.70; Tony Pedregon,
Impala, 5.128, 272.01 def. Mike Ashley, Charger, 6.117, 167.91; Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 5.085,
303.23 def. Gary Densham, Impala, foul; Jack Beckman, Charger, 5.060, 292.14 def. Tommy Johnson
Jr., Impala, 5.776, 181.94; Jerry Toliver, Toyota Solara, 5.156, 293.28 def. Jim Head, Solara,
7.015, 128.91; John Force, Mustang, 5.114, 301.60 def. Gary Scelzi, Charger, 5.394, 250.04; Scott
Kalitta, Solara, 7.030, 183.32 def. Tony Bartone, Chevy Monte Carlo, 7.012, 233.44;
QUARTERFINALS -- Kalitta, 5.161, 277.94 def. Hight, 5.616, 196.22; Capps, 5.048, 308.00 def.
Toliver, 8.647, 87.84; Beckman, 5.121, 294.95 def. Arend, 5.180, 286.13; J. Force, 5.142, 293.60
def. T. Pedregon, 5.265, 265.27;
SEMIFINALS -- Beckman, 5.054, 307.58 def. J. Force, foul; Capps, 5.091, 299.00 def. Kalitta, 5.856,
FINAL -- Beckman, 4.932, 312.86 def. Capps, 5.001, 307.86.
ROUND ONE -- Greg Anderson, Pontiac GTO, 7.122, 194.44 def. Justin Humphreys, GTO, 7.145, 193.60;
Ron Krisher, Chevy Cobalt, 7.084, 194.16 def. Jason Line, GTO, 7.135, 194.27; Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt,
7.114, 194.38 def. Larry Morgan, Dodge Stratus, 7.178, 194.16; Warren Johnson, GTO, 7.207, 191.48
def. Dave Connolly, Cobalt, 8.818, 104.07; Richie Stevens, Stratus, 7.120, 194.32 def. Erica
Enders, Stratus, 7.164, 193.68; Kenny Koretsky, Cobalt, 7.122, 193.74 def. Max Naylor, Stratus,
7.122, 193.96; Allen Johnson, Stratus, 7.099, 195.31 def. Greg Stanfield, GTO, 7.144, 193.07; Kurt
Johnson, Cobalt, 7.114, 194.46 def. Jim Yates, GTO, 7.114, 194.58;
QUARTERFINALS -- Koretsky, 7.124, 194.04 def. Coughlin, 7.132, 194.72; W. Johnson, 7.150, 193.54
def. K. Johnson, 7.143, 194.44; A. Johnson, 7.102, 194.80 def. Anderson, 7.112, 194.44; Krisher,
7.097, 194.30 def. Stevens, 7.123, 194.21;
SEMIFINALS -- A. Johnson, 7.086, 194.58 def. W. Johnson, 7.147, 193.07; Krisher, 7.074, 194.04 def.
Koretsky, 7.118, 194.24;
FINAL -- A. Johnson, 7.132, 192.47 def. Krisher, 16.720, 48.95.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
ROUND ONE -- Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.454, 180.24 def. Peggy Llewellyn, Buell, foul;
Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 7.436, 178.66 def. Chris Rivas, Buell, 7.447, 178.78; Geno Scali, Suzuki,
7.468, 179.59 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.508, 176.74; Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.501, 177.23 def.
Craig Treble, Suzuki, foul; Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.380, 180.38 def. Hector Arana, Buell, foul; Antron
Brown, Suzuki, 7.460, 178.73 def. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.412, 181.96; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki,
7.523, 179.54 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, foul; Matt Smith, Buell, 15.731, 47.83 def. Mike
Berry, Suzuki, foul;
QUARTERFINALS -- Guidera, 7.654, 173.38 def. Brown, foul; Smith, 7.415, 179.02 def. Krawiec, 7.437,
181.20; Sampey, 7.435, 179.25 def. Stoffer, foul; Ellis, 7.387, 180.09 def. Scali, 7.438, 179.37;
SEMIFINALS -- Sampey, 7.480, 177.09 def. Guidera, 19.488, 35.85; Smith, 7.433, 178.95 def. Ellis,
FINAL -- Smith, 7.400, 177.81 def. Sampey, foul.
Point standings (top 10) for NHRA professional categories following the 28th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the 13th of 23 events in the NHRA
POWERade Drag Racing Series -
1. Rod Fuller, 977; 2. Larry Dixon, 833; 3. Brandon Bernstein, 821; 4. J.R. Todd, 785; 5. Tony
Schumacher, 767; 6. Bob Vandergriff, 648; 7. (tie) Whit Bazemore, 641; David Grubnic, 641; 9.
Melanie Troxel, 589; 10. Cory McClenathan, 570.
1. Ron Capps, 965; 2. Robert Hight, 811; 3. Mike Ashley, 726; 4. Tony Pedregon, 720; 5. Gary
Scelzi, 679; 6. Jim Head, 678; 7. Jack Beckman, 647; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 557; 9. John Force, 541;
10. Tommy Johnson Jr., 526.
1. Greg Anderson, 1,081; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 997; 3. Dave Connolly, 885; 4. Allen Johnson, 756; 5.
Jason Line, 749; 6. Kurt Johnson, 626; 7. Larry Morgan, 596; 8. Richie Stevens, 581; 9. Warren
Johnson, 579; 10. V. Gaines, 562.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Matt Smith, 734; 2. Angelle Sampey, 630; 3. Andrew Hines, 545; 4. Karen Stoffer, 509; 5.
Chip Ellis, 463; 6. Craig Treble, 425; 7. Chris Rivas, 382; 8. Steve Johnson, 372; 9. Antron
Brown, 369; 10. Peggy Llewellyn, 362.
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TROXEL, HIGHT, JOHNSON, SMITH, HOLD ON TO NO.1 SPOT AFTER RAIN DELAYED SATURDAY QUALIFYING AT DENVER
Melanie Troxel, Robert Hight, Allen Johnson, and Matt Smith -- remained in control of their respective categories as NHRA racers got a bonus nighttime session of qualifying after weather delayed Saturday's qualiflying session at the 28th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA nationals at Denver's Bandimere Speedway.
Hight survived the most attacks as the Funny Car contingent collectively shot for the moon -- his 4.862-second elapsed time was even equaled by "Fast Jack" Beckman -- but he held on for his fifth pole of the year. The Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle classes were done well before the rain came and little changes occurred from top to bottom.
This was Hight's fifth low qualifying effort of the season, which leads the Funny Car class. The driver of the Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang has maintained second place in the points despite missing the Houston race following the death of teammate Eric Medlen.
"I didn't think that 4.86 would stay in because with that long weather delay we basically ended up with a bonus night session," Hight said. "I saw Beckman run my exact E.T. and I thought for sure someone else would be quicker.”
"This mountain is the great equalizer, but I feel as though I have a great team behind me, led by Jimmy Prock. We'll be ready to race and I hope to go some rounds tomorrow."
Mike Ashley of Team Torco followed Hight and Beckman in third place with a 4.889.
Jerry Toliver started the final session on the bottom of the qualifying sheet. By the end of the round he was all the way up to the No. 4 slot with a 4.893 at 319.60 mph. Unfortunately, his Rockstar Toyota Solara ended up on its' side in the top-end sand-trap after Toliver's 'chutes came out late.
"We just took delivery of our back-up car today so we'll be ready to race no matter what," said Toliver, who was unhurt in the accident.
After a wild final session where drivers were bumping in and out after virtually every pair, Ashley Force, Cruz Pedregon, and Tim Wilkerson all ended up outside the 16-car field. Wilkerson was top qualifier at the last event in Bristol, where Pedregon raced to a runner-up finish.
Troxel is doing everything she can to erase the memory of five first-round losses in a row, qualifying No. 1 in Top Fuel for the first time this season in her Vietnam Veterans/POW-MIA dragster. The Littleton, Colo., native used her 4.610 at 322.42 mph from Friday night to earn the podium.
"There's been some talk about the No. 1 qualifier not winning on race day but we're looking forward to taking our shot at changing that," Troxel said. "Growing up here, I couldn't think of a better place to turn our season around. We have a win and a runner-up this year, but aside from that we've only won one other round. You've got to be able to get past that first round to be a contender. I feel very fortunate that we've been able to hold on to that No. 8 spot in the Countdown to the Championship."
Dave Grubnic cranked his Zantrex-3 dragster up Saturday and almost took the top spot from Troxel when he posted a 4.612 at 314.97 mph in the final session. POWERade points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller slipped to third with a 4.615 at 319.75 mph.
Team Mopar Pro Stock racer Johnson secured the third No. 1 qualifying award of his 259-race career in the perfect place -- the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals -- with his Friday night pass of 7.032 at 195.73 mph in his Dodge Stratus R/T.
"I was just talking to Dad [engine builder Roy Johnson] and he said this is a dream come true for us and he's right," said Johnson, who ran a 7.049 and a 7.088 Saturday. "For him especially, with his heart problems and all from earlier this year, he's still put in so much work to make us faster. He was dead on the table in Phoenix and three days later he was at the shop working."
The top of the ladder is all Mopar blue as Johnson's team driver Richie Stevens has his identical racecar right behind his boss in the No. 2 position after a best of 7.035 at 195.05 mph.
Smith's fourth low qualifier of the year in Pro Stock Motorcycle, courtesy of a Round 3 pass of 7.347 at 179.92 mph, means he's had the quickest bike at half the races this season. Now the Torco Buell rider and current POWERade points leader will try to improve on his 1-4 final-round record.
"We've got to start winning more races," Smith said. "We're winning lots of rounds but we're just having weird things happen to us in the final round. Today's a great example. We ran the 7.34 in the first session and then broke a crank trigger in the second session and the bike just quit. That could have easily happened in the first round of eliminations and we would have been done."
First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the 28th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the 13th of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday.
Top Fuel -- 1. Melanie Troxel, 4.610 seconds, 322.42 mph vs. 16. Mike Strasburg, 4.886, 309.91; 2. David Grubnic, 4.612, 327.82 vs. 15. Cory McClenathan, 4.819, 308.43; 3. Rod Fuller, 4.615, 319.75 vs. 14. Morgan Lucas, 4.797, 311.56; 4. J.R. Todd, 4.617, 312.57 vs. 13. Doug Herbert, 4.765, 300.33; 5. Tony Schumacher, 4.630, 322.96 vs. 12. Clay Millican, 4.714, 298.73; 6. Brandon Bernstein, 4.646, 318.84 vs. 11. Hillary Will, 4.681, 316.90; 7. Doug Kalitta, 4.650, 320.05 vs. 10. Larry Dixon, 4.670, 308.99; 8. Bob Vandergriff, 4.659, 311.49 vs. 9. Whit Bazemore, 4.662, 318.99.
Funny Car -- 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.862, 314.02 vs. 16. Gary Densham, Chevy Impala, 5.020, 289.63; 2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.862, 313.88 vs. 15. Tommy Johnson Jr., Impala, 5.013, 296.24; 3. Mike Ashley, Charger, 4.889, 311.34 vs. 14. Tony Pedregon, Impala, 4.948, 308.28; 4. Jerry Toliver, Toyota Solara, 4.893, 319.60 vs. 13. Jim Head, Solara, 4.946, 299.60; 5. Del Worsham, Impala, 4.893, 318.09 vs. 12. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.934, 315.27; 6. John Force, Mustang, 4.895, 317.12 vs. 11. Gary Scelzi, Charger, 4.932, 311.99; 7. Kenny Bernstein, Charger, 4.916, 309.20 vs. 10. Jeff Arend, Impala, 4.925, 306.05; 8. Tony Bartone, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.922, 300.26 vs. 9. Scott Kalitta, Solara, 4.924, 311.49.
Pro Stock -- 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Stratus, 7.032, 195.73 vs. 16. Greg Stanfield, Pontiac GTO, 7.109, 193.63; 2. Richie Stevens, Stratus, 7.035, 195.34 vs. 15. Erica Enders, Stratus, 7.109, 194.27; 3. Kenny Koretsky, Chevy Cobalt, 7.047, 195.03 vs. 14. Max Naylor, Stratus, 7.096, 194.52; 4. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 7.053, 195.59 vs. 13. Jim Yates, GTO, 7.092, 194.27; 5. Dave Connolly, Cobalt, 7.054, 195.28 vs. 12. Warren Johnson, GTO, 7.091, 194.21; 6. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 7.058, 195.59 vs. 11. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 7.077, 195.00; 7. Ron Krisher, Cobalt, 7.058, 194.74 vs. 10. Jason Line, GTO, 7.076, 195.73; 8. Justin Humphreys, GTO, 7.068, 194.72 vs. 9. Greg Anderson, GTO, 7.075, 194.94.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.347, 180.24 vs. 16. Mike Berry, Suzuki, 7.487, 177.77; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.382, 180.55 vs. 15. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.482, 179.30; 3. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.393, 182.30 vs. 14. Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.470, 180.62; 4. Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.394, 179.04 vs. 13. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.450, 177.70; 5. Geno Scali, Suzuki, 7.397, 181.15 vs. 12. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.445, 177.67; 6. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.402, 178.47 vs. 11. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.425, 182.01; 7. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 7.403, 179.42 vs. 10. Chris Rivas, Buell, 7.417, 178.35; 8. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.405, 182.28 vs. 9. Peggy Llewellyn, Buell, 7.416, 177.39.
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TROXEL, HIGHT, JOHNSON AND SMITH PACE FIELD IN DENVER
Denver's own Melanie Troxel picked the perfect race to lead the Top Fuel qualifying field, racing to the top of the 28th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals Friday night with a 4.610 at 322.42 mph.
Troxel, who hails from the Denver suburb of Littleton, Colo., used the last pass of the day to set her mark, joining Funny Car's Robert Hight, Pro Stock's Allen Johnson, and Pro Stock Motorcycle's Matt Smith on Bandimere Speedway's provisional low qualifier podium.
The last four cars in Top Fuel had to wait out a 10-minute rain delay and perhaps that gave Troxel and crew chiefs John Stewart and Lance Larsen just enough time to fine-tune their set-up. The waiting was well worth it as Troxel's Vietnam Veterans/POW-MIA dragster managed to nudge into the No. 1 slot by five-thousandths of a second.
"I can't think of a better place to do this then my home track and I hope this turns our whole program around," said Troxel, who is racing in just the third event with her new crew chief duo. "You've got to get that chemistry going with the team. We're basically starting over with a new team and a new car. We've done well as far as not DNQing or making any big mistakes but we haven't yet seen the performance we all know is there.
"Mom's here running interference for me with all the family members needing tickets and all that. Everyone, with the exception of one uncle, lives right around here so it's a lot of fun to do well at this race. I was born here and lived her for 30-something years before I moved to Indy so this will always be a special place for me."
Rod Fuller had the lead until the last pairing with his earlier 4.615 at 319.75 mph in the Wagner CAT dragster. His second run appeared to be even better, at least incrementally, but around half-track he started hiking his front tires in the air and was forced to shut his car off to avoid a blowover.
The John Force Racing organization continues to gain strength as team driver Hight followed John Force's Bristol win from last Sunday with a top qualifying effort here. Hight led both Friday sessions in his Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, opening with a 4.962 at 297.81 mph before dipping to a 4.862 at 314.02 mph in the evening.
"The team's on a roll," Hight said. "You know, I like it when we have all these races in a row. I'm still pretty new to this driving deal so when you race every weekend you kind of stay in that race mode. If I have any time off I feel like I get rusty."
Mike Ashley was next in his Torco Race Fuels Dodge Charger, clicking off a 4.889 at 311.34 mph. Del Worsham followed with a 4.897 at 318.09 mph in his Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Chevrolet Impala SS.
Force was fifth with a best of 4.929, while his daughter Ashley ended up 14th with a 5.187 in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
Tony Bartone had a wild ride after completing his 5.058-second, 290.94-mph second-round pass. Despite bending the handles almost completely off, Bartone couldn't get his parachutes to deploy and his Lucas Oil Monte Carlo slid sideways at the top end but still slid into the sandpit. The car rolled over once before coming to rest on its' side. Bartone was uninjured.
"I've never had a ride like that," said Bartone. "I had a guy run into me one time in Alcohol Funny Car but this one was the worse. I was sitting in there feeling pretty discombobulated for a minute. We'll exam the chassis and do all we can to continue racing."
It seems fitting that Mopar Racing teammates Allen Johnson and Richie Stevens have their Dodge Stratus R/T's first and second on the Pro Stock qualifying grid at their title sponsor's main event. Johnson used a track-record elapsed time of 7.032 at 195.73 mph to gain his early lead, with Stevens following close behind with a 7.035.
"Life couldn't be any better," Johnson said. "Mark [Ingersoll, crew chief] made the perfect call on mine and Richie's cars and they just ran great. We tested here before Chicago and ran well then so this isn't a total surprise."
POWERade points leader Smith continues to impress in Pro Stock Motorcycle, knocking Round 1 leader Geno Scali off the provisional pole with a 7.376 at 178.57 mph in the evening session. Smith and his Torco Buell have earned low qualifier honors three times this year, including the last stop for the bikes in Norwalk, Ohio.
"This is my first time on the mountain tuning the bike myself," Smith said. "Before, I've always been riding for someone else. It's weird; no one would give me a tune-up. I asked around but no hints. The first run was a roll of the dice and I slipped the clutch quite a bit. I tightened that up for the second round and we made a nice run."
Scali and his Performance Machine Suzuki recorded the only other 7.3-second pass of the day, as he was clocked at 7.397 at 181.15 mph in the opening round. Harley teammates Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines followed on their Screamin' Eagle V-Rods in third and fourth, Krawiec with a 7.411, Hines with a 7.412.
Results Friday after qualifying for the 28th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, 13th of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday's final eliminations.
Top Fuel -- 1. Melanie Troxel, 4.610 seconds, 322.42 mph; 2. Rod Fuller, 4.615, 319.75; 3. David Grubnic, 4.630, 327.82; 4. Tony Schumacher, 4.630, 322.96; 5. Doug Kalitta, 4.650, 311.85; 6. Larry Dixon, 4.670, 306.12; 7. Hillary Will, 4.687, 316.90; 8. Clay Millican, 4.714, 294.31; 9. J.R. Todd, 4.723, 292.90; 10. Brandon Bernstein, 4.728, 315.64; 11. Bob Vandergriff, 4.741, 311.49; 12. Doug Herbert, 4.765, 291.01; 13. Whit Bazemore, 4.766, 307.86; 14. Morgan Lucas, 4.849, 311.56; 15. Cory McClenathan, 4.863, 308.43; 16. Mike Strasburg, 4.886, 309.91.
Funny Car -- 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.862, 314.02; 2. Mike Ashley, Dodge Charger, 4.889, 311.34; 3. Del Worsham, Chevy Impala, 4.897, 318.09; 4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.900,
313.37; 5. John Force, Mustang, 4.929, 316.08; 6. Gary Scelzi, Charger, 4.968, 298.60; 7. Jeff Arend, Impala, 5.006, 298.87; 8. Gary Densham, Impala, 5.020, 267.48; 9. Tony Bartone, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.058, 290.94; 10. Ron Capps, Charger, 5.059, 257.19; 11. Tony Pedregon, Impala, 5.087, 302.55; 12. Tommy Johnson Jr., Impala, 5.135, 285.05; 13. Jim Head, Toyota Solara, 5.165, 277.20; 14. Ashley Force, Mustang, 5.187, 282.30; 15. Cruz Pedregon, Impala, 5.189, 280.66; 16. Tim Wilkerson, Impala, 5.290, 279.27.
Pro Stock -- 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Stratus, 7.032, 195.73; 2. Richie Stevens, Stratus, 7.035, 195.34; 3. Kenny Koretsky, Chevy Cobalt, 7.047, 195.03; 4. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 7.053,
195.59; 5. Dave Connolly, Cobalt, 7.054, 195.28; 6. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 7.058, 195.59; 7. Ron Krisher, Cobalt, 7.061, 194.74; 8. Justin Humphreys, Pontiac GTO, 7.068, 194.72; 9. Jason Line, GTO, 7.076, 195.73; 10. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 7.081, 194.77; 11. Warren Johnson, GTO, 7.091, 194.21; 12. Jim Yates, GTO, 7.093, 194.24; 13. Max Naylor, Stratus, 7.096, 194.52; 14. Greg Anderson, GTO, 7.098, 194.91; 15. Erica Enders, Stratus, 7.110, 193.99; 16. Greg Stanfield, GTO, 7.118, 193.35.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.376, 180.24; 2. Geno Scali, Suzuki, 7.397, 181.15; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.411, 182.28; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.412,
179.76; 5. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 7.430, 179.42; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.445, 176.35; 7. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.459, 176.35; 8. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.462, 180.04; 9. Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.470, 180.62; 10. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.498, 175.32; 11. Chris Rivas, Buell, 7.501, 177.35; 12. Mike Berry, Suzuki, 7.520, 177.56; 13. Peggy Llewellyn, Buell, 7.520, 176.79; 14. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.528, 178.26; 15. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.535, 178.07; 16. Tom Bradford, Buell, 7.537, 175.52.
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EVENT PREVIEW - Three-time champ Sampey influenced Llewellyn and many others to drag race
It was 11 years ago at Bandimere Speedway in Denver that Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Angelle Sampey made her NHRA professional debut. More than a decade, three championships, and 41 wins later, the most of any woman in NHRA history, the end product of that debut is still being felt heading into this weekend's 28th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.
With seven women competing for a POWERade Series world championship this season, including three in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category, Sampey is far removed from the days of being the lone woman competing on a motorcycle. But Sampey says those first few years were not easy to get through.
“It's been like a roller coaster I guess,” Sampey said. “In the beginning of my career, it was hard. There were a lot of people I raced with in the beginning that would have preferred I not race against them. They would say a lot of crude things and it was pretty ugly in the beginning.”
Competing as the only female in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category can be difficult for any person, and Sampey says there were many times that she questioned what she was doing.
“It was hard and there were a lot of times I wanted to quit,” Sampey said. “But I realized that was exactly what they wanted me to do, so I just kept going. Then, when the wins came, that's when all the ‘ups' came.”
Sampey's first few years in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category had a huge effect on future drivers in the NHRA, much like the trail Top Fuel pilot Shirley Muldowney had blazed years earlier. One of the competitors inspired by Sampey's lead was Peggy Llewellyn, now riding the Klement Racing Buell. Competing in her first full season in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Llewellyn says it was watching those first few years of Sampey's career that sparked her interest in NHRA drag racing.
“Ever since I saw Angelle's debut, I knew it could be something I could do as well,” Llewellyn said. “And now, to actually be doing it; it's just like a dream.”
Competing week-in and week-out against both male and female riders, Llewellyn says that when she gets up to the line for a run, it doesn't matter who's in the opposite lane competing against her. It's something she's picked up from her female sisters at the races.
“Whoever is in the next lane, it doesn't change anything for me,” Llewellyn said. “The competition is tougher than it's been in years, but once the helmets go on, it doesn't matter who you are. You have to run your lane and do your job and at the end you either get the win light or you don't.”
“The competition is awesome now,” Sampey said. “It doesn't matter if it's (defending series champion) Andrew Hines or Peggy Llewellyn. Each rider is just as competitive. Whether it's a guy or girl, each rider has every chance each week to win that race because the field is so competitive. You say: ‘That girl is just as competitive as I am and wants to win just as much as I do.'”
With two wins in 2000 and 2001, as well as it being the track where she made her professional debut, no other driver is more excited about returning to Denver this year than Sampey.
“That's where it all started for me,” Sampey said. “I really love that track and the track owners. The Bandimeres are the most awesome track owners. They make each driver feel real special. The track is so beautiful and the fans are great. It's just so awesome to be racing on the side of a mountain.”
Though she has never competed at Bandimere Speedway, Llewellyn is just as excited to get her first taste of Denver.
“From what I hear it's totally different than any other track, so I'm just going to take what everyone else says and just see what happens,” Llewellyn said.
Reflecting on the past 11 years, with a large barrier broken for all women competing in the POWERade Series, Sampey says there's one last goal that she hopes to accomplish before the end of her career.
“I want to be the winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle rider,” said Sampey, who needs just five more victories to pass Dave Schultz. “I want to drop the female part from the title and just be the winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle rider.”
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