Tharpe Thumps ’em in Phoenix

Jay Turner Racing made a champion-quality comeback from their pre-Pomona trailer incident, filling both lanes for the Top Fuel Harley final at the 34th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. 2017 champ Turner didn’t budge an inch when the lights came down, while Tharpe went down the track for the win.

“When Jay armed the fuel system it cycled,” said Tharpe, explaining Turner’s starting line malfunction. “If he had hit it…boom!”

Number one qualifier Turner started raceday with an E1 win over Beau Layne, while Tharpe beat Mike Scott. Turner beat Randal Andras in the semi, while Tharpe had the tough draw in Pomona winner Doug Vancil.

After taking ten whole years off from the sport, Vancil—with the help of Mike Romine—returned to Pomona as if a day hadn’t passed. Despite the layoff, and now especially with Turner’s trailer accident, Vancil is an instant championship contender.

But Tharpe put a an .042 light to Vancil’s .076. Then Vancil bobbled and—despite a strong top end charge from Doug—Tharpe  raced clean on “Maddy” to the round win with a 6.26 and set up the final with Turner.

“Best words I got are—this was done with a ton of hard work and heart,” Spevco president Tharpe said after the win. Thank you to everyone that it matters to…much love.”

Tii Tharpe with Rex Harris, Jeremy Hoy and two Maddys!

What most will likely remember from this Phoenix event is the massive John Force/Johnnie Lindberg crash. In an accident eerily reminiscent of his 2007 crash in Dallas, Texas, Force won his second round race in Sunday’s 34th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals before an engine explosion sent his PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Camaro careening into the Toyota of Lindberg

The two cars, linked together by tangled parachutes, hit one wall, then the other before coming to a stop in a cloud of smoke. As a precaution, the 68-year-old veteran was transported for further evaluation and released Sunday evening from Chandler Regional Hospital. The 148-time tour winner returned to the track to congratulate daughter Courtney, who won the Funny Car title in his absence.
In 2007, Force won his second round race in the NHRA Fall Nationals but, as his car crossed the finishline, it blew a tire, crossed into the opposite lane and collided with the Dodge driven by Kenny Bernstein.
Although the two incidents were similar, Force cited the safety engineered into the cars since his Dallas crash as the main reason he wasn’t more seriously injured this time around. At Dallas, he was airlifted out of the Texas Motorplex, underwent six hours of reconstructive surgery and several months of rehab before returning to competition.

Significantly, he won two of his record 16 NHRA titles after that accident. “My struggles continue, but I’m a big boy, I’ll fix it,” said Force who is 11th in points. “Really glad to know that Jonnie Lindberg is okay. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I think I still have another championship in me. Depending on what the doctors say, I’m gonna come out and watch Robert test his Auto Club Chevrolet tomorrow and then get ready for Gainesville.”

Courtney Force
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Courtney Force powered her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car victory ending her 43-race winless streak. Force over powered Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final round with a 3.834-second pass at 337.16 mph. Her speed bettered the track record she set during qualifying. Johnson Jr. smoked the tires to the 6.814 at 101.57.
“Every single one of my guys on the Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro has been working so hard. Today was a tough day,” said Force who last won on May 1, 2016 at the NHRA SpringNationals in Houston. “We had a 40-minute turnaround in the semifinals and didn’t have lane choice in the finals but we were able to go down there and lay down a killer number.
“Thanks to my guys. They helped give me the confidence to get in that car today. They make me feel safe in that car because of the amazing job they do on it,” explained Force who now has nine career victories. “Brian Corradi and Dan Hood, they’ve been unbelievable, getting us the No. 1 qualifier hat and then to top it off get the Wally at the end of the weekend. Pretty incredible. Definitely a great start to our season. Been looking for a win for a long time now. Feels like forever. This one definitely feels good and I know it will make my dad feel better.”
The victory puts Force second in the points standings behind only Matt Hagan who she defeated in the second round, just moments after seeing her father’s wreck.
“Hagan actually came up to me when I had to race him and told me you’re a great driver you know how to do this, just clear your head,” Force said. “I know he didn’t want me to beat him but it was really nice of him as a competitor to tell me you know what to do out here and just remember that. It’s great to have competitors out here that are so amazing and so supportive even when you have to race them.”
Force also had a win against two-time world champion Del Worsham before facing Hagan. She would have raced her father in the semi-finals but instead made a solo run.
“Coming from Pomona trying to get our heads on straight and focus on putting that behind us and have a fresh start when we come to Phoenix and then dad goes up and has a huge explosion in the lights,” said Force who recorded her first win at the Arizona Nationals. “That’s one of the things that’s out of your control. I’m glad to see that Lindberg’s okay. You have to just switch your focus and get back in your car. My dad and my crew chiefs are the ones that gave me the confidence to get back in my race car and battle it out all day long. These cars are unpredictable. We know that as drivers. You just have to go out there and fight hard.”

Two-time and reigning Funny Car would champion Robert Hight fell in the first round to Johnson Jr. after the pair both pedaled to the finishline. Hight’s 4.806 pass at 273.44 was bettered by Johnson Jr.’s 4.715 at 225.60.
“It was a racetrack that was in the 90s (temperature-wise). We’ve run 3.79 on a racetrack in the 90s so you go up there anticipating running a low .80 to win,” Hight explained. “Obviously, we didn’t make enough changes based on what we were seeing out there with the cars not making it (down the track). We needed to make a lot bigger move than we ever anticipated we needed to. If we had gone up there trying to run 3.95, we probably could have navigated it. We’ll test tomorrow (with) some new stuff that hopefully we’ll have on our car at Gainesville and get ‘em there.”
Johnson Jr. entered the Phoenix event without a 2018 round win and sitting in a three-way tie for the No. 10 ranking. Not only did he set off his first winlight of the season, but Johnson raced Terry and Doug Chandler’s Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T all the way to the final round on Sunday.

Along the way to round four, Johnson defeated Robert Hight, Richard Townsend and Shawn Langdon. In the finals, Johnson had the reaction time advantage over opponent Courtney Force, but he hazed the tires early into the run. Despite his best efforts, Force was able to power to the win with her 3.834-sec pass.

A runner-up finish propelled Johnson, and Terry and Doug Chandler’s Make-A-Wish team from tenth to fifth in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series points standings. “The car out of the box was good,” said Johnson. “Then, we had the problems on Saturday with blowing it up big, but the guys rebounded and came back strong today. We had maybe a little luck the first two rounds but everyone was smoking the tires. We kept working hard and got those round wins and laid down a nice, solid run in the semis so I was confident going into the finals. I thought we had something for Courtney. But I’m just happy that the performance of the car is kind of coming back to us. We’re still new to the six-disc [clutch] and learning it. I think the guys made big strides this weekend.”


Hagan entered the NHRA Arizona Nationals as the most recent Funny Car event champion, and 2017 Phoenix winner. The points leader struggled throughout qualifying, making only one full pull, but felt confident in the team’s abilities to turn the car around and have a successful showing on race day.

Hagan powered the Dickie Venables-tuned Sandvik Coromant Dodge Charger R/T to a 3.910-second run in the first round of eliminations, easily defeating opponent J.R. Todd. The run, which held up to be second best of the round, earned Hagan the advantage of lane choice in round two.

Hagan drew eventual event champion Courtney Force, and he believes delays during the second Funny Car session were a factor in the team’s round two woes.

The Sandvik Charger put a hole out early into the pass. Shortly after, Hagan suffered an explosion just past halftrack and Force was able to drive into the semifinals.

Despite a round two exit, Hagan remains the Funny Car points leader leaving Phoenix. “We came in and tested in Phoenix and had a really nice session,” said Hagan. “We got here and the weather changed and we changed up some blower combos and some things like that, kind of making some more horsepower than we expected. We started trying to pull some of that back and then obviously, when you start doing that, it affects everything. You change one thing and it changes ten.

“All-in-all we went through first round and I was really impressed with Dickie Venables. In the first round there were guys smoking the tires and rattling up the tree and just couldn’t get down the track. He made some really big wholesale changes to get us where we went 91 [3.91 seconds] and ended up having lane choice out there for second round, but with the delays we already had our tune-up set up. Conditions changed and there just wasn’t a lot we could do. We’re going to roll to Gainesville next and do our thing.”

After qualifying second and making two bonus point-worthy runs on Saturday, Ron Capps and the Rahn Tobler-led NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team were poised for a long day of going rounds on Sunday.

Capps, a three-time Phoenix Funny Car champion, started race day with 680 round wins, ranking him sixth on the all-time list among professional NHRA drivers. He was hoping to collect four more rounds to add to his impressive total on Sunday, but first he’d have to get through Tim Wilkerson, his round one opponent.

Wilkerson dropped a cylinder early into the run. Meanwhile, Capps drove the NAPA Dodge Charger to a straight and clean 3.908-second at 325.30-mph pass for the win. The run was the best of the round, and held up to be second best of race day.

In the quarterfinals, Capps faced Funny Car newcomer Shawn Langdon. Unfortunately for the NAPA team, Langdon took the lead almost immediately, and while Capps charged hard in an attempt to chase him down, he smoked the tires near halftrack and Langdon was able to take the win, ending Capps’ day early.

“We smoked the tires. It’s so unlike Rahn Tobler,” noted Capps. “He’s up there on the computer trying to figure out what happened. It’s part of adapting to our new six-disc clutch. It’s part of the growing pains, but we had such a great race car, and to have a chance of winning like we did, and have lane choice going back into round two, it’s been a very interesting weekend.

“It takes a little while for it to sink in because we really felt like we had a car that was capable of taking the win today. We’re disappointed. But we didn’t hurt any parts. The car is in one piece and we’re looking forward to Gainesville.”


Three-time Phoenix winner Jack Beckman had a strong showing throughout qualifying at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. He made ‘top three’ session-best runs during three out of four qualifying sessions, and earned lane choice over Richard Townsend, who was making his Funny Car race day debut in round one. Beckman was first to stand on the gas, but suffered an explosion early into the run. The parachutes deployed and the Dodge Charger came to a stop on the track. Townsend drove to the finishline and claimed the round win.

“The Infinite Hero team was going to stay and test tomorrow,” reported Beckman. “The reason we’re testing is not due to our first round explosion. We’re tracing the root cause of that and we will eliminate that. We’re testing because, even though I think we have a phenomenal and versatile car good in all conditions right now, we’ve still got some different parts and pieces, and some of our spare parts that we need to cycle through to make sure that we’re good to go for the hard push in the summer months. So, we will cross two more things off of our list before we leave here tomorrow afternoon. We will eliminate the cause of our first-round explosion and we will test enough things that we’ll roll into Gainesville with even more confidence.”

Steve Torrence

Steve Torrence powered his Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster to the Top Fuel victory with a run of 3.729 at 330.72 to take down Scott Palmer in the final round. After locking down a career-best eight victories in 2017, Torrence recorded a victory in Phoenix for the first time in his career.

“There is no easy round in this Top Fuel class anymore, you can’t take anybody lightly but it was a heck of a day with some pretty great races,” Torrence said. “The round against my dad is one that ranks up there that you remember as a high note that you remember of your career.”
Torrence qualified second on the weekend and defeated Steve Chrisman, Blake Alexander and his father, Billy Torrence, on his path to victory.
Palmer secured the No. 12 qualifying spot and took down Richie Crampton, Leah Pritchett and Greg Carrillo as he reached the first final round of his career in Top Fuel.
Top Fuel world champion Brittany Force piloted her Monster Energy dragster to a second-round finish just two weeks after a scary crash at the season-opening Winternationals. Force put up a 4.661 run at 156.12 and was out done by Billy Torrence’s 3.723 pass at 320.74
“Overall, looking at our weekend, I’m happy with it. I’m not disappointed in anything,” Force explained.  Coming back from a wreck like we did in Pomona, that first run, climbing back in that car, it’s not easy. It’s definitely tough. And especially, also doing it again in that first round. It takes you back. I think it’s a work in progress. It’s going to take some time,” said Force. “I’m happy with our Monster Energy team. We pulled out our old car, didn’t have time to test it, just took it down there and made some pretty good passes. I pulled my foot out of it on that first run. It moved around a little bit and I clicked it a little bit early. But I’d rather play it safe than end up like we did last weekend.”
Force had a first-round win against Clay Millican to put her eighth in the Top Fuel points standings.


In round one, Antron Brown was quick off of the starting line, but immediately encountered tire smoke. Lucky for Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel team, opponent Mike Salinas hit the gas early, activating the red light and fouling out.

The quarterfinals found Brown lining up next to rookie racer Greg Carrillo. Brown watched Carrillo take out teammate Tony Schumacher earlier in the day, and unfortunately for the three-time Phoenix champion, Brown would suffer the same fate. Brown hit the throttle and once again, was up in smoke before the Matco Tools dragster crossed the tree. Carrillo drove to the round win and into the semifinals.

“We got away with one there in the first round, and then we backed it off a little in the second round,” reported Brown. “We just can’t get on the right side of it right now. This Matco Tools/U.S. Army car has just been mean lately. We’re going to get it. It’s just going to take some time and putting laps down. We’re making good power; we just have to tame that beast down. Our main focus is to come back here tomorrow and test. Take it one step at a time and get back to our realm. Today should have been one of those days where we make a run to the final, put some pressure on it and move up in the points, but we let it slip away. We’ll go back and just keep working hard and try to get to where we need to be at.”

The last time Leah Pritchett had lost a round in competition at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park was 2015. The 2016 and 2017 NHRA Arizona Nationals Top Fuel champion was hoping to become the first Top Fuel driver in the 33-year history of the event to make it a three-in-a-row.

During qualifying, Pritchett ran a career-best speed of 334.15-mph during her 3.679-second Q3 pass, which was good for the No. 4 spot and lane choice versus Troy Buff on race day.

In round one, Pritchett was quick off of the line. She drove the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel dragster down the track in 3.679-secs, leading Buff the entire stretch of the track and earning a spot into round two.

Pritchett’s Phoenix win streak ended in the quarterfinals when she hit the throttle and experienced immediate tire smoke. Palmer made a relatively clean pass and was able to take the win.

“It wasn’t the weekend we were looking for, but there were some positives,” said Pritchett. “The feeling of a round win was much needed. It’s been a while and that’s what all the work is for. Those small moments that we get to enjoy going rounds. The roller coaster saga continues. When we were in the lanes for E2 for quite some time, the conditions changed more than what we were expecting and we adjusted for it trying to be as versatile as possible, but we were a little too much out of our spectrum.

“Coming out of Phoenix, having the know-how that we still do know how to get down the racetrack on race days, and be the quickest and the fastest is what’s going to propel us to Gainesville.”

After making three solid passes during qualifying, two of them session-best, Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army team were poised for a long day of racing.

The No. 1 qualifier faced newbie Greg Carrillo in round one. Schumacher has a history of coming up short against Top Fuel rookies seeking their first round win, and the ‘rookie curse’ continued in Phoenix. Schumacher had the starting line advantage but started rattling the tires early into the run. The five-time Phoenix champion pedaled it, but the U.S. Army dragster immediately went back up into smoke, and Carrillo goes on to take the round win.

“We’ve got a great team and went fast,” said Schumacher. “We got a great race car, great team, we’re getting along excellent. It’s just one of those things that’s going to happen randomly throughout the season. You’ve got to look at the luck that goes on. Antron goes out, smokes the tires and gets a red light. We go out, pedal the car and would have beat most cars out there, and get beat by a car that just goes down the track. It is what it is. You can’t be angry; this is about my 500th race. And we’ve won 83 of them. We’ve won more than anyone in the history. But we’ve lost 400 plus. At the end of the day, this is not an easy thing to go out and do. We’ve got a great team. We keep our chins up. We’re happy with all the guys; they’re doing a great job. The car is performing as well as anything we’ve seen in a long time. It’s good to be here.”

Chris McGaha

In Pro Stock Car, Chris McGaha drove to the winner’s circle with a 6.529 at 211.59 run in his Harlow Sammons Chevrolet Camaro to defeat Jason Line in the final round. He secured his sixth career victory and first since winning the Four-Wide Nationals last season in Charlotte.

“We picked up some power this offseason that we’ve been looking for but when we went No. 1 in the first round of qualifying we knew we had something that could compete,” McGaha said. “It’s really satisfying to do this as a one car team, and it’s really special to get our first win of the year.”
McGaha was the No. 7 qualifier as he was victorious against Tanner Gray, Erica Enders and Alex Laughlin as he earned his first victory of the season.
Line qualified fifth on the weekend and beat Vincent Nobile, teammate Greg Anderson and No. 1 qualifier Deric Kramer as he notched his second consecutive runner-up finish to open the year.
The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues with the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway March 15-18 in Gainesville, Fla.
Top Fuel — Steve Torrence, 3.729 seconds, 330.72 mph def. Scott Palmer, 6.449 seconds, 102.70 mph.
Funny Car — Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.834, 337.16 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 6.814, 101.57.
Pro Stock — Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.529, 211.59 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.538, 210.14.
Top Fuel Harley — Tii Tharpe, Harley, 6.337, 217.39 def. Jay Turner, Harley, Broke.
Super Stock — Justin Lamb, Chevy Cobalt, 8.513, 149.02 def. Mike Cotten, Plymouth Barracuda, 10.025, 130.99.
Stock Eliminator — Jody Lang, Chevy Malibu Wagon, 12.328, 94.78 def. Brian McClanahan, Chevy Camaro, Foul – Red Light.
Super Comp — Trevor Harkema, Dragster, 8.968, 172.08 def. Glenn Kern, Dragster, 8.927, 170.79.
Super Gas — Todd Barton, Chevy Bel Air, 9.905, 151.56 def. Val Torres, Chevy Corvette, 9.899, 159.63.
Super Street — David Kiesel, Chevy Vega, 10.895, 133.17 def. Chris Borges, Chevy Chevelle, 10.890, 137.37.
Top Dragster  — Paul Nero, Dragster, 6.760, 195.62 def. Rodger Comstock, Dragster, 6.817, 198.50.
Top Sportsman  — Bryan Warr, Chevy Corvette, 6.978, 196.22 def. Bud Preuss, Chevy Camaro, 6.851, 202.55.

Saturday: Turner Takes Over in Phoenix

Jay Turner last year at Bristol

“Not so fast,” is what defending NHRA Top Fuel Harley champion Jay Turner might be saying. A trailer incident kept Turner from the season opener at Pomona, leaving the newly un-retired Doug Vancil looking like a world beater.

But Jay Turner Racing has unloaded and owned qualifying at the 34th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. Tii Tharpe led on Friday, and the Bulldog himself took over on Saturday with a 6.26 at 216 miles per hour.

That’s not to say that Vancil isn’t right in the thick of it, right behind in second place with a 6.27 at 222. Tharpe is third with a 6.28 in what has been a stellar two days of Top Fuel Harley qualifying following a lackluster showing in Pomona. Eliminations should be equally spectacular.

Tony Schumacher

Tony Schumacher will start race day from the No. 1 Top Fuel spot on Sunday morning. Cool temperatures and prime conditions gave way to another day of quick passes on Saturday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, but no one could top Schumacher and his U.S. Army Top Fuel team.

Schumacher earned his 85th No. 1 qualifier during Friday’s opening session, leading the 19-car Top Fuel field with his record setting 3.649-second at 336.57-mph run. “It’s been an excellent weekend for the U.S. Army Racing team,” said the five-time Phoenix winner. “The U.S. Army car is extremely good and really consistent. Mike [ is comfortable. He’s calm and cool. He knows what the car is doing and he’s enjoying it.”

Schumacher collected an impressive seven bonus points en route to his sixth Phoenix pole, including closing out qualifying with another session-best effort.

“Mike backed it down on that [last] run and it did what it was supposed to do. The conditions for the last round should have produced a better run than we put up last night, but the track is just extremely good and it’s eating the cars up. They are blowing through the clutch. You hit the gas and it just chews that clutch up. Teams were trying, but they weren’t getting it done. We didn’t make the run we wanted, but we made a run quicker than everyone else did. We earned the three points, kept the number one spot and it was a great couple of days of qualifying. Now, we turn our focus to winning the race. I think tomorrow is going to be a great day. I think the fans are going to be the biggest winners. I think they are going to see an awesome race. NHRA and Mello Yello are doing a great job. This is the greatest show on earth and I’m excited to out here surrounded by an incredible U.S. Army team, ready to go get that trophy.”

Leah Pritchett qualified fourth. “The team put in some of the longest hours Friday night trying to figure out what was going on with the car,” said Pritchett. “They worked deep into the night. We had some new issues to deal with in Friday’s qualifying runs and the hard work to fix them paid off in Q3. We weren’t necessarily looking to put the strongest number on the board, it was more about just making sure everything was working right. As it turned out, we accomplished both. It’s a testament to this team’s ability to overcome adversity. This weekend didn’t start off the way we hoped it would, but everyone dug in and through great teamwork and leadership we are feeling good. We finally feel like we have our hot rod back.”

“Getting down the track today was the important thing and it ended up being one of the most impressive runs when you consider the track conditions were the hottest we’ve had all weekend. The good news is that its great preparation for what we expect on Sunday and provided us a baseline to start with tomorrow. There’s just a great feeling coming to Phoenix between the fans and finally getting back into our rhythm. We wanted to come back here and get a handle on our racecar first and foremost. Now, we can attack tomorrow trying to get it back into the winner’s circle.”

Antron Brown qualified eighth. “It was good to come out and go faster than we ever have speed wise Friday night,” said Brown. “Unfortunately, the run was just off a bit from what we wanted. We’ve been trying all weekend go somewhere between 3.69 and 3.70 in the U.S. Army/Matco Tools Dragster, but the track has been better than what we expected. When a track is this good, you you’ve got to give it all. It’s tougher than a slicker track, because this track here will break you down because it will get so tight. When it’s tight, it’s very edgy on the starting line. And the trick is to get off the starting line and once you make it 60 feet, it’s game on. I know (co-crew chiefs) Brad (Mason) and Mark (Oswald) are doing everything they can. Tomorrow it’s about being consistent. Going down the race track every time. With these conditions, everyone is going to push it and run hard, so we’re just going to try to be efficient and effective and see where it all shakes out.”

Brittany Force and her Monster Energy dragster locked in the 14th qualifying position after running a 3.828 at 253.52 in the third qualifying session. Now that she has four runs under her belt since the incident at Pomona, Force is ready to get back into winning fashion.
“After just our runs coming back from Pomona, I’m perfectly happy with that 3.82. We ended up No. 14 and we’ll run (Clay) Millican tomorrow,” said Force who has piloted her dragster to three of the last four final rounds at the Arizona Nationals. “I’m feeling good. We’ll just go out first round and go straight down there.”
The reigning Top Fuel world champion is 3-7 against Millican and is looking for her first win at the event.
Courtney Force
In the final round of Funny Car qualifying, Courtney Force powered her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car to the No. 1 qualifying position. Force’s stellar 3.826-second pass at 335.98 mph is her first No. 1 at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park and set both ends of the track record.
“That run was pretty incredible. I love being back here in Phoenix. We tested on this track just a few weeks back and had run a killer number,” said Force, who ends her streak of qualifying No. 2 at the facility for three consecutive years. “I knew coming into this race I was hoping we could lay it down again. I saw (Co-Crew Chief Brian) Corradi making some changes on the car right before we got it started. It flew down there. It felt good. I’m excited to be in that top spot and I’m really proud of my guys.”
She has 18 No. 1’s in her career and finished 2017 with seven while racing to a career best third place finish.
“We had pretty good luck getting No. 1 qualifiers last year,” Force explained. “Hoping to turn this into a win for sure. The most important thing was finding consistency. It’s a great start being in the top spot, but we’ve gotta continue to be consistent on race day. That’s pretty much the most important thing is to continue to push our team and see if we can go rounds and get in that winners’ circle.”
Force will be racing for her first win at Wild Horse Pass when she lines-up against veteran driver Del Worsham in the first round. She is 9-10 against Worsham. Her No. 1 speed is also the fastest of Corradi’s career.

Friday’s top Funny Car qualifier Jack Beckman was third on Saturday. “I’m totally thrilled with our performance,” said Beckman. “We have such a good tune-up and it doesn’t matter if the track is hot or cool. For us to get down the track three out of four times is fantastic. We pushed it on the run that we smoked them, and I’m fine with that because sometimes you have to find what’s over the edge to know how far you can push.

“We’re racing Richard Townsend tomorrow. It’s his first NHRA start and I’m excited for him. I remember mine from 12 years ago.

“When they lower the hood on the car, it’s all about win lights and I’m looking to get four tomorrow.”

Ron Capps squeezed into second. “To listen to the crew chiefs approach for the next run, and to race with Rahn Tobler is a lot of fun,” said Capps. “We’ve got the six disc clutch this year and it’s been fun to watch his [Tobler’s] process. He knew what he wanted to do after we left Pomona, and he’s done it here. Today went exactly like he thought it would. It’s really cool to watch your crew chief make these small, intricate decisions that turn into big runs like that. A smile on Rahn Tobler makes me smile. Our NAPA AutoCare guys keep giving me a great car, so the confidence grows. We jokingly would rather be in the No. 2 spot than the No. 1. We’ve won lots of races from the pole but we would much rather have one of those yellow hats than the green Mello Yello hats.”
After failing to get the Peak Coolant and Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car down the 1,000-foot course on his first two qualifying attempts on Friday, John Force drove to a 3.864 pass at 332.51 during the third qualifying session Saturday to land himself in the No. 4 spot.
“We just struggled and blew up stuff. It was a combination of so many things. Then, my car wouldn’t go down the racetrack yesterday. It wouldn’t go a hundred feet,” Force said. “I met with the crew chiefs this morning and, to see them start talking about how to figure out what we should do, was exciting. Jon Schaffer, Brian Corradi, Jimmy Prock, Chris Cunningham, Jason McCulloch, Dan Hood, everybody got on board and when they came out (of the meeting), they changed it.”
The 16-time champion will be racing Jeff Diehl in the opening round of eliminations and will be looking to increase his 8-0 streak against the driver nicknamed “The Surfer.”
Matt Hagan is ninth. “Still super confident,” said Hagan. “We’ve got what it takes to make it happen. Qualifying is qualifying. Obviously, we would’ve loved to throw down some big numbers, but I’ve won from (number) one and I’ve won from the sixteenth (qualifying spot) before. You’ve just got to be in it to win it. That’s the mentality and mindset that I have, and I feel like our whole team has that right now. I’m not concerned at all. We have a good baseline to work off of from Q1 on Friday. We’ll make some changes and go from there.”
Tommy Johnson Jr. is sixth. “I think the car is making good progress,” said Johnson. “We ran well on Friday. We’ve been having trouble with the cool conditions, but we learned something Friday night. Big explosion Q3, the car was going to run a high 80 again. It’s getting better, the progress looks good. It seems like when you have your toughest qualifying weekends, Sunday goes well. Going into tomorrow, we’re confident that things will get better and we’ll go some rounds.”
Funny Car world champion Robert Hight landed himself and the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car in the 11th position off a 3.927 pass at 329.26 from the first qualifying session Friday. Hight has struggled to get down the track since that first run.
“We’ve been dealing with some clutch issues and like last night, we were just a little off (on the set-up),” Hight explained. We went out there to run 3.80. Jimmy said it’ll either go or it won’t and if it doesn’t, it’ll go first round. I think this Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro is ready to run a big number. I’m excited about eliminations.”
Hight will face Tommy Johnson Jr. in the first round. He holds an 18-13 record against the Make-A-Wish driver and the two have split four races at Wild Horse Pass.
Deric Kramer
In Pro Stock, Deric Kramer took over the top spot after driving to a 6.522 at 210.80 run in his American Ethanol Dodge Dart during the fourth qualifying session of the weekend. He secured the first No. 1 qualifying position of his career as Kramer also chases his first-ever victory in the class.
“It feels great to get that first No. 1 qualifier, and we had a great package put together this weekend and that was able to move us to the top,” Kramer said. “There were definitely some tuning adjustments from Pomona, but we went back to our old game plan with that KB power and it was a great combination.”
Kramer matches up against Alan Prusiensky in the first round of eliminations. Erica Enders is second in the qualifying order after a 6.527 at 209.98, while Alex Laughlin sits in the third spot.
Top Fuel — 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.649 seconds, 336.57 mph vs. 16. Greg Carrillo, 4.227, 220.91; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.655, 331.85 vs. 15. Steven Chrisman, 4.089, 281.30; 3. Clay Millican, 3.664, 335.23 vs. 14. Brittany Force, 3.828, 253.52; 4. Leah Pritchett, 3.679, 334.15 vs. 13. Troy Buff, 3.809, 318.77; 5. Richie Crampton, 3.683, 325.30 vs. 12. Scott Palmer, 3.788, 326.63; 6. Billy Torrence, 3.697, 331.45  vs. 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.742, 328.78; 7. Blake Alexander, 3.705, 332.59 vs. 10. Terry McMillen, 3.740, 325.85; 8. Antron Brown, 3.712, 333.66 vs. 9. Mike Salinas, 3.737, 326.32.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Kebin Kinsley, 5.118, 136.79; 18. Terry Totten, 8.158, 69.73; 19. Terry Haddock, 10.095, 91.23.
Funny Car — 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.826, 335.98 vs. 16. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 5.089, 173.99; 2. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.844, 330.80 vs. 15. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.551, 182.82; 3. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.845, 332.43 vs. 14. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.244, 235.27; 4. John Force, Camaro, 3.864, 332.51 vs. 13. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.120, 307.79; 5. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.866, 317.27 vs. 12. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.971, 316.75; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.879, 329.91 vs. 11. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.927, 329.26; 7. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.888, 333.25 vs. 10. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.927, 329.42; 8. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.919, 324.20 vs. 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.926, 330.88.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Jim Campbell, 7.402, 91.58.
Pro Stock — 1. Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.522, 211.00 vs. 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.663, 207.94; 2. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.527, 209.98 vs. 15. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.659, 208.55; 3. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.529, 209.59 vs. 14. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.640, 209.69; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.530, 211.66 vs. 13. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.581, 209.82; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.531, 211.03 vs. 12. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.567, 210.08; 6. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.532, 210.60 vs. 11. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.553, 210.14; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.534, 211.63 vs. 10. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.550, 210.41; 8. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.542, 210.05 vs. 9. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.550, 211.39.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Joey Grose, 6.720, 206.64.

Friday: Tharpe Covers H-D Field after Q2

Tii Tharpe and Buddy Foss at Bristol in 2017

Spevco impresario and Jay Turner Racing teammate Tii Tharpe led the first day of Top Fuel Harley qualifying at the 34th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. Tharpe’s 6.280 at 221.38 miles per hour nipped Pomona winner Doug Vancil’s 6.285 at 224.06. Defending class champion Turner was just a touch behind at 6.315.

The field is a whole lot tighter this week than two weeks ago in Pomona, where Vancil was clearly the class of the field after not competing for ten whole years. Turner and Tharpe didn’t compete in Pomona following a trailer incident on the way.

Ricky House was best of the rest with a 6.47, with eighth place Lyle Newton the only bike currently on the ladder out of the 6’s.  Randall Andras sits just off the grid nearly 5/100ths behind Newton.

“We have two more rounds to do what Maddy says—’Kick it up!'” said Tharpe, referring to bike “owner” Maddy Lehman.

Tony Schumacher laid down a blazing 3.649-second at 334.65-mph pass powered in Q1, resetting both ends of the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park track records. The run not only became the quickest and fastest Top Fuel pass officially recorded at the Chandler, Arizona dragstrip, but also went down in the books as the fastest Top Fuel run in NHRA history.

As Schumacher waited to run in the final Top Fuel pairing of the day, his crew chief Mike ‘Zippy’ Neff watched competitor Clay Millican steal the speed record. Not to be outdone, Zippy turned up the wick and tuned the U.S. Army dragster to another impressive pass. Schumacher crossed the beams in 3.667-secs at 336.57-mph to earn three bonus points and reclaim top speed.

“This track is fast. This track has always shown good numbers. It’s the perfect storm. You have the right conditions; the track was good, it was smooth, they prepped it correctly, all this stuff happened and we have a car with good power,” said Schumacher, who leads the Top Fuel class in No. 1 qualifiers at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park with five previous poles.

“Everything is working right. We came here and we tested, we go to Pomona and run low E.T. every run so we are bringing a tune-up that’s already good. We’re able to fine-tune it with the air. I think the track was mid-70s, to the point where most cars were shaking. There was a 50-50 chance you were going to shake. You were either going to go shake or you were going to give it enough to fast. There’s really no in-between that.”

Top Fuel world champion Brittany Force returned to work in her Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster just 13 days after a crash at the season-opening Winternationals.
“It was ugly,” said Force of her Feb. 11 crash. “I was hurting for a few days but I feel good right now. I got in (the race car) yesterday. I think that was the best decision. I jumped in, got belted in and I felt good. I recovered pretty quickly. I’m glad to be back. You know, this is home; these racetracks are home.”
Force, who did not make a full pass, is currently in the 13th qualifying position with a 4.454-second pass at 172.72 mph.
“It’s going to take a few runs to figure out this car. It is our car from last season. The guys had to haul back to Indy (after the Winternationals), pull this car out, rebuild it and get it here in time,” Force said. “We get two more tomorrow. I’m not worried. Plus, it works better for me, getting slowly back into it.”
Jack Beckman

In Funny Car, Jack Beckman also raced to a hot start in the cold Phoenix temperatures making two bonus point-worthy ‘top three’ runs. Beckman started his weekend at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park by running a 3.895, the third quickest of Q1. In Friday’s second qualifying session, Beckman clocked a 3.845 at 332.43-mph in his Mopar-powered Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Funny Car, boosting him from third to the provisional No. 1 spot.

“We got one point for being third quickest of the first session which I thought was great, but then to come back and back that up, we actually tied Courtney [Force] for low E.T. and got it on speed. I like the fact that we were able to make back-to-back runs like that,” said Beckman of Terry and Doug Chandler’s Infinite Hero Dodge Charger tuning trio of Dean Antonelli, John Medlen and Neal Strausbaugh.

Content with Friday’s performance, the three-time Phoenix winner is confident in his team’s ability to translate qualifying success into a long Sunday of going rounds.

“When it’s this cold, the track gets so tricky. People always think colder means better, and it is to a point, but then it kind of tips over and the track gets so cold that the window for hitting that good run just gets really small.

“Usually if you have conditions like this you say ‘we won’t race in these conditions.’ Those hero runs on Friday night are kind of a throw away of data for crew chiefs because you won’t see those conditions again, but I think we’re going to see them tomorrow and again on race day. What makes me feel confident is we have great data that we’ll probably be able to use again in the next two days.”

After earning a win in Pomona to start the season, Matt Hagan currently sits in sixth in the qualifying as defending category world champion Robert Hight is seventh entering Saturday.

Courtney Force powered her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car to the provisional No. 2 qualifier with a 3.845 pass at 328.70 during Friday’s first qualifying session. Her elapsed time matched the No. 1 qualifier however, her speed landed her in the No. 2 spot.
“We pushed it on the second go to see if we could run better. Nobody technically outran us other than speed,” said Force who, if she remains in No. 2, will have qualified second at the event for four-consecutive years. “So, we’re just gonna take what we learned today and try again tomorrow. Luckily the conditions are going to be similar so we can go out there and try to fix what we were attempting in Q2 and get the top spot back in this Advance Auto Parts Camaro.”
Reigning Funny Car champion Robert Hight holds the No. 7 position heading into Saturday’s qualifying. Hight raced his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS to a 3.927 pass at 329.26 before shutting off during the second run. “It was just a set-up issue. When the track gets that cold, especially here at this place where it’s always got a lot of bite, you get shake conditions and it’s very, very tricky for Funny Cars,” explained Hight. “You gotta hit it just right and we didn’t. We were just a little on the fast side and it started shaking. We’ll do a better job tomorrow.”
John Force is sitting in 15th after the first two qualifying runs and will be looking for improvement from his 6.745 at 96.00. “We’re still struggling with my PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro,” admitted Force. “We’re having some issues, but we’ll get it fixed. Overall, good to see Brittany back in the Monster Energy car. I think it’s just what she needed. Courtney and Robert are fast. These young kids on my car are good. They’ll get me back in the game.”
Alex Laughlin last year in Bristol
In Pro Stock Car, Laughlin currently holds the top spot after driving to a 6.537 at 209.43 run in his Hot Wheels Car Care Chevrolet Camaro during his second qualifying pass of the day. He is aiming to secure his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and the second in his career.
“It’s awesome to be able to go to sleep tonight as the current No. 1 qualifier,” Laughlin said. “Obviously anything can change tomorrow, but we ran stellar times during testing and I don’t know if it’s the car or the track but I definitely hope that we are finally connecting the dots.”
Defending Pro Stock world champion Bo Butner is currently qualified ninth, as he looks to continue his 2018 success after earning a victory at the Winternationals in Pomona.
Top Fuel — 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.649 seconds, 336.57 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.655, 331.85; 3.
Clay Millican, 3.664, 335.23; 4. Richie Crampton, 3.683, 325.30; 5. Billy Torrence, 3.697, 331.45; 6. Blake Alexander, 3.705, 329.58; 7. Antron Brown, 3.717, 333.66; 8. Mike Salinas, 3.737, 326.32; 9. Terry McMillen, 3.740, 316.45; 10. Leah Pritchett, 3.755, 291.07; 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.786, 321.42; 12. Scott Palmer, 3.788, 326.63; 13. Brittany Force, 4.454, 172.72; 14. Greg Carrillo, 4.553, 176.49; 15. Troy Buff, 4.560, 164.53; 16. Kebin Kinsley, 9.187, 74.21.
Funny Car — 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.845, 332.43; 2. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.845, 328.70; 3. Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 3.866, 317.27; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.879, 328.62; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.888, 333.25; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.926, 330.88; 7. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.927, 329.26; 8. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.944, 324.20; 9. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.971, 316.75; 10. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.148, 306.67; 11. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.244, 235.27; 12. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.333, 209.59; 13. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.474, 188.81; 14. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.551, 182.82; 15. John Force, Camaro, 6.745, 96.00; 16. Del Worsham, Camry, 7.374, 93.25.
Not Qualified: 17. Jim Campbell, 7.402, 91.58.
Pro Stock — 1. Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.537, 209.49; 2. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.545, 210.54; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.546, 211.13; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.553, 210.57; 5. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.554, 209.49; 6. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.558, 210.31; 7. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.561, 210.41; 8. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.567, 210.08; 9. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.572, 210.50; 10. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.573, 209.65; 11. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.581, 209.36; 12. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.582, 208.84; 13. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.591, 209.65; 14. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.640, 208.65; 15. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.659, 208.55; 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.690, 206.83.
Not Qualified: 17. Joey Grose, 6.730, 205.94.
story and photos by NHRA, team reports and Tim Hailey

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