Sampey, Vreeland Lead in Gainesville

Pretty impressive when a brand new combination goes straight to number one in the first qualifying round of the season. But that’s what three-time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Angelle Sampey did with her new Vance & Hines/Mission Foods four-valve Suzuki today at the 52nd annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

Let’s put this in perspective. It’s been many years since Angelle’s had to hit the narrow shift point margins of a Suzuki. There are numerous adjustments small and large yet to be made on the bike, including trimming the windscreen so it doesn’t pinch her hands against the handlebars with the wheel turned. That’s just an example.

The black, Hayabusa-bodied bike wasn’t even carrying the wheel in any impressive fashion, it was just getting down to business—6.746 at 196.67 mph kinda business, with a 1.043 60 foot time and 4.290 eighth mile ET. If it holds, it would be the 52nd career top spot for Angelle.

Here’s the pass:

This was a team that was basically parked after losing Harley-Davidson sponsorship in November and then got stuck behind supplier delays with the new 4V Suzuki Hayabusa-bodied platform.

Matt Smith sporting longer hair than Ive seen on him in….ever?

Defending champ and event winner Matt Smith wasn’t far off Sampey’s pace with his well-honed S&S-powered EBR, checking in at No. 2 thanks to a 6.768 at a class-best 199.82. Smith went off the track with a broken left front brake rotor, burning holes in his shoes after a 600-foot Flintstone drag—all according to tuner Steve Nichols. Steve added that the Red Rocket sustained only “minor damage.”

Hector Arana Jr. is currently third with his run of 6.817 at 198.32.

For many teams, it looked like the first qualifying round of the year, and many ran into serious troubles getting down the track—including Chris Bostick, Pablo Gonzalez, Michael Phillips, Jerry Savoie, and Steve Johnson.

I’ll have more info for you on Saturday.

Pro Stock Motorcycle

1. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.746, 196.67; 2. Matt Smith, EBR, 6.768, 199.82; 3. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.817, 198.32; 4. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.821, 193.90; 5. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.828, 195.31; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, EBR, 6.863, 197.22; 7. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.884, 195.28; 8. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.912, 194.21; 9. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.920, 196.39; 10. Marc Ingwersen, Buell, 6.948, 193.54; 11. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.982, 192.30; 12. Jianna Salinas, Suzuki, 6.987, 188.65; 13. Cory Reed, Suzuki, 6.988, 191.02; 14. David Barron, EBR, 7.149, 189.07; 15. Lance Bonham, Buell, 7.212, 187.08; 16. John Hall, Buell, 7.405, 137.37. Not Qualified: 17. Chris Bostick, 7.471, 153.61; 18. Pablo Gonzalez, 9.550, 89.30; 19. Michael Phillips, 15.790, 31.89; 20. Jerry Savoie, broke; 21. Steve Johnson, broke.

Rich Vreeland

AHDRA Top Fuel Harley champ Rich Vreeland saw his steady A-B consistency pay off with provisional #1 with a 6.638 at 191.87.

Sitting #2 is Billy Jack with an impressive 6.681 at 206.35.

As in PSM, there were some first round struggles in TFH. Mitch Brown apparently pre-staged more deeply than planned and rolled through the beams when staging. Tim Kerrigan looked from the other lane and both lights lit red without a bike leaving the line.

Tii Tharpe’s motor went “pop!” in the burnout and he shut off.

Others blew the tire off.

Funny Car

Ron Capps put together a pass of 3.895-seconds at 329.02 mph in his 11,000-horsepower NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to lead Funny Car.

It would be the former world champ’s 26th career No. 1 qualifier if it holds, and a noteworthy one after longtime crew chief Rahn Tobler retired in the off-season. Capps is working with Dean Antonelli and John Medlen in 2021, a pair of proven crew chiefs in the Don Schumacher Racing camp who helped send Capps to the top on Friday.

“I talked about testing last week and how it went that first time with this team, and it just feels great,” Capps said. “We ran two 3.89s at testing last week, so it’s almost like we can dial-in a bracket car here so far. I’m honestly tickled. I just want to make the whole team proud. We already knew this was a great car. This is a team that battled for a championship the past few seasons and won a lot of races. There’s not a lot I can do other than be myself and drive the car the best I can. I just wanted the car to prove itself, and let Guido and John Medlen do their thing. There are so many things that are different to adjust to, but I’m getting more comfortable in the car. Unloading with a provisional No. 1 qualifier is great. What a perfect time to go up and show up.”

Alexis DeJoria is currently second in Funny Car with a 3.914 at 324.28 and Tim Wilkerson sits third after his pass of 3.917 at 324.28.

1. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.895, 329.02; 2. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.914, 324.28; 3. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.917, 326.32; 4. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.955, 325.61; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.971, 322.50; 6. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.998, 318.24; 7. Chad Green, Mustang, 3.998, 310.70; 8. Paul Lee, Charger, 4.033, 306.19; 9. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.091, 292.14; 10. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.308, 209.62; 11. Bobby Bode, Mustang, 4.402, 206.54; 12. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.452, 212.86; 13. John Force, Camaro, 4.456, 207.94; 14. John Smith, Charger, 4.490, 185.21; 15. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.546, 185.56; 16. Mike McIntire, Camry, 4.587, 188.94. Not Qualified: 17. Blake Alexander, 5.186, 143.31; 18. Terry Haddock, 7.221, 99.56.

Top Fuel

Steve Torrence, who has won the last three Top Fuel world titles, wasted little time asserting control in a class he has dominated in recent seasons thanks to his blast of 3.699 at 324.90 in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster. If it holds, it would give Torrence, who also won in Gainesville last season, his 28th career No. 1 qualifier. Torrence was the only driver to reach the 3.60s on Friday, as veteran Doug Kalitta took the second with a run of 3.746 at 307.37. Brittany Force, making her first appearance in the class in more than a year, currently sits third after a solid run of 3.747 at 330.47.

1. Steve Torrence, 3.699 seconds, 324.90 mph; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.746, 307.37; 3. Brittany Force, 3.747, 330.47; 4. Shawn Langdon, 3.749, 323.89; 5. Billy Torrence, 3.758, 296.11; 6. Josh Hart, 3.768, 324.44; 7. Clay Millican, 3.787, 317.94; 8. Mike Salinas, 3.807, 320.89; 9. Arthur Allen, 3.960, 265.64; 10. Mike Bucher, 4.029, 301.00; 11. Joe Morrison, 4.294, 224.06; 12. Antron Brown, 4.308, 187.18; 13. Doug Foley, 4.959, 146.34; 14. Krista Baldwin, 5.343, 125.74; 15. Justin Ashley, 5.700, 111.86; 16. Scott Palmer, 6.545, 94.33. Not Qualified: 17. Leah Pruett, 6.567, 94.57; 18. Todd Paton, broke.

Pro Stock

Erica Enders picked up right where she left off a year ago, as the back-to-back Pro Stock world champ made a strong run on Friday in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, going to the top with a run of 6.528 at 210.77. Enders picked up her fourth world title a year ago and started her 2021 impressively as the 29-time event winner looks for her first career win in Gainesville. If it holds, it would also give Enders her 23rd career No. 1 qualifier. Greg Anderson is currently in the second spot after going 6.536 at a Friday-best 211.30 and Deric Kramer took the third spot with a 6.540 at 210.08.

1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.528, 210.77; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.536, 211.30; 3. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.540, 210.08; 4. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.543, 210.11; 5. Troy Coughlin Jr., Ford Mustang, 6.543, 209.85; 6. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.544, 210.18; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.549, 210.83; 8. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.555, 209.72; 9. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.557, 209.72; 10. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.558, 208.59; 11. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.563, 209.92; 12. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.569, 208.71; 13. Bob Benza, Camaro, 6.579, 209.85; 14. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.586, 209.43; 15. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.598, 210.08; 16. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.603, 208.55. Not Qualified: 17. Richie Stevens, 6.615, 206.89; 18. Fernando Cuadra, 6.629, 208.46; 19. Alan Prusiensky, 6.726, 199.20; 20. John Callahan, 7.982, 190.70; 21. John Gaydosh Jr, 13.126, 69.36.

story by Tim Hailey and NHRA, photos by Hailey

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