Far Behind, Hines Catches a Break

story by Tim Hailey and NHRA and team reports, photos by Tim Hailey

Andrew Hines was throttled off the line by Michael Ray’s .005 light. “He was beat when we left the line,” said Ray. But then Ray’s Star Racing Buell broke the tranny, allowing Hines’ Screamin’ Eagle/Vance &Hines Harley-Davidson to get by for his fourth race win of the season in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle—this one at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway near Denver.

“Up here, every little move is compounded because you don’t have enough power to overcome mistakes like short shifts or body movements,” Hines said, not mentioning his thumping by Ray at the tree. “This place also throws your mental timing off. You have to be focused, and thankfully, I had a V-Rod that went straight down the track. I lived here [in Colorado] for 10 years, and this place is very special to me. I made my first laps here, and I love this facility. I love the fans and the scenery. We might have had an advantage when we lived here, but lately, the Arana’s have dominated. They’ve been No. 1 in qualifying for the last three years.”

J.R. Todd earned his first Top Fuel win of the season and first since 2008. Todd, driver of the Optima Batteries dragster, trailed Brittany Force at the start of the run but was able to defeat the driver of the Castrol Edge dragster with a run of 3.878 seconds at 317.87 mph to the losing pass of Force at 3.968 at 297.35. This is the second win at Bandimere Speedway for Todd who claimed his first career NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series win at the facility in 2006. Todd defeated Terry McMillan, Steve Torrence, and Larry Dixon en route to the final round.

“These things are hard to come by whether you are full time or part time,” said Todd. “I knew at the time I got the opportunity to drive for the Kalitta group it was probably the best opportunity I was ever going to have to win one of these things.”

With the victory, Todd moves from 10th in points to the eighth with only four races left until the Countdown to the Championship, which begins in Charlotte in September. “I’m pretty solid now but I want a cushion,” he continued. “I want to make the Countdown because after that, anything can happen. We were fortunate enough to put a little distance on the guys behind us and gain on the ones in front of us.”

In Funny Car, Hight’s Auto Club Ford Mustang was able to defeat team owner John Force for his fifth win of the season and 34th of his career. In the championship round, Hight won with a 4.166 at 306.05 to the losing effort of 5.953 at 121.42. Hight raced to six consecutive final round appearances early in the season but hadn’t raced to the finals in the past six events. “We were doing well and then we had some bad luck but even when we were winning we were getting some luck,” said Hight, the 2012 Funny Car world champ. “In 2012 I won four races to start the season then it took another year to get another win. Stuff like that was crossing my mind because it isn’t easy to win out here.”

Hight and his team also have reason to celebrate, as they became the first of the Funny Car competitors to secure a position in the Top 10 for the Countdown to the Championship. “I’m looking forward to the Countdown; we’re solidified in there now,” he said. “This car and this whole team is perfection. That’s what we’re all about and we want to show it. We came out with a brand new car this weekend. Usually new cars drive me crazy because everything in them is different. But, my guys are so good, if they hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have known it was a new car.”

In Pro Stock Car, Allen Johnson continued his mastery on the mountain as he defeated his teammate Jeg Coughlin for his fourth win of the season and sixth at Bandimere Speedway. Johnson, driver of the Magneti-Marelli Dodge Dart, won the event when Coughlin red lit at the start of the race. Johnson went on to record a pass of 6.930 at 198.61 in his eighth consecutive final round appearance at the facility.

“This team just continues to find a way to do it,” said Johnson. “We want to win here for Mopar. My guys step up, I step up when I need to. It is just a confidence thing, it’s a want to thing, it is deep in our gut and we just keep doing it.” His four wins ties Erica Enders-Stevens for the most wins in the category thus far this season.

ROUND ONE — Hector Arana, Buell, 7.255, 184.60 def. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.259, 183.15; Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.277, 183.17 def. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 7.539, 177.91; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, broke def. Adam Arana, Buell, foul; Michael Ray, Buell, 7.299, 180.91 def. Mike Berry, Buell, foul; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.218, 186.05 def. John Hall, Buell, 7.299, 183.19; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 7.201, 186.64 def. Charles Sullivan, Suzuki, 7.453, 177.95; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.224, 185.08 def. Angie Smith, Buell, foul; Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.323,
183.22 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, foul;
QUARTERFINALS — Ray, 7.284, 183.44 def. Pollacheck, 7.585, 178.28; Hines, 7.246, 184.60 def.
Underdahl, foul; Johnson, 7.258, 182.58 def. Krawiec, 7.240, 184.85; H. Arana, 7.266, 185.74 def.
Arana Jr, 7.245, 185.84;
SEMIFINALS — Ray, 7.290, 182.75 def. H. Arana, foul; Hines, 7.231, 184.98 def. Johnson, 7.282, 182.01; FINAL — Hines, 7.246, 184.35 def. Ray, 9.033, 103.64.

ROUND ONE — Antron Brown, 3.903, 311.56 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.899, 313.51; Steve Torrence, 3.902,
319.75 def. Steven Chrisman, 4.599, 184.22; Larry Dixon, 3.966, 268.49 def. Clay Millican, 4.747, 170.45; Jenna Haddock, 4.276, 232.71 def. Tony Schumacher, 4.792, 182.16; Bob Vandergriff, 3.940,
310.84 def. Spencer Massey, 4.026, 286.19; Richie Crampton, 3.949, 310.63 def. Shawn Langdon, 4.174, 300.13; J.R. Todd, 3.969, 297.61 def. Terry McMillen, 4.569, 190.22; Brittany Force, 4.304,
212.93 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 5.258, 135.88; QUARTERFINALS — Force, 3.990, 303.84 def. Haddock, 4.166, 270.75; Vandergriff, 3.942, 308.92 def. Crampton, 4.252, 217.25; Todd, 3.938, 308.00 def. Torrence, 3.946, 302.21; Dixon, 4.107, 272.39 def. Brown, 4.331, 220.19; SEMIFINALS — Force, 3.923, 313.66 def. Vandergriff, 8.369, 68.90; Todd, 3.912, 300.26 def. Dixon, 3.936, 304.80; FINAL — Todd, 3.878, 317.87 def. Force, 3.968, 297.35.

ROUND ONE — John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.157, 306.40 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, foul; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.171, 308.50 def. Todd Simpson, Chevy Camaro, 4.452, 242.32; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.245, 286.25 def. Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.469, 229.27; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.161, 295.79 def. Terry Haddock, Chevy Impala, 8.906, 84.76; Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.224,
301.07 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.782, 194.94; Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.335, 250.18 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.810, 222.84; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.238, 298.47 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.348, 258.67; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.200, 281.60 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.930, 172.61; QUARTERFINALS — J. Force, 4.202, 305.36 def. Hagan, 4.832, 190.46; Capps, 4.239, 299.13 def. C. Pedregon, 4.259, 290.63; Hight, 4.226, 285.59 def. C. Force, 4.287, 290.94; Wilkerson, 4.248,
287.05 def. Beckman, 4.262, 270.48;
SEMIFINALS — J. Force, No Time, 308.43 def. Capps, 4.185, 303.91; Hight, 4.115, 309.70 def.
Wilkerson, 4.146, 305.98;
FINAL — Hight, 4.166, 306.05 def. J. Force, 5.953, 121.42.

ROUND ONE — Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 6.971, 198.09 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, foul; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.976, 197.54 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.992, 197.65; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.968,
197.31 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, foul; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.976, 197.94 def. Matt Hartford, Dodge Avenger, 6.971, 198.12; Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.940, 198.44 def. Deric Kramer, Avenger, 7.008, 196.82; Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.933, 199.23 def. Tommy Lee, Ford Mustang, 7.091, 194.04; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.931, 198.61 def. Steve Kalkowski, Pontiac GXP, 7.218, 188.73; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.933, 198.47 def. Larry Morgan, Mustang, 8.839, 109.72; QUARTERFINALS — Coughlin, 6.944, 198.44 def. Anderson, 6.971, 197.65; Connolly, 6.992, 196.70 def.
Enders-Stevens, 6.962, 198.06; Johnson, 6.959, 198.50 def. McGaha, 6.974, 197.22; Line, 6.932,
198.32 def. Nobile, 6.979, 197.48;
SEMIFINALS — Johnson, 6.952, 198.64 def. Connolly, 7.015, 195.28; Coughlin, 6.931, 198.76 def.
Line, 6.924, 198.64;
FINAL — Johnson, 6.930, 198.61 def. Coughlin, foul.

EARLIER: H2 on Top of the Mountain

Hector Arana Jr (near lane against H1 in Chicago) is strong in Denver

Hector Arana Jr. will lead the Pro Stock Motorcycle field into eliminations on Sunday for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals as the No. 1 qualifier with his run of 7.178 at 186.72, which are both Bandimere Speedway track records. It is his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and the fourth consecutive No. 1 qualifying for the Arana family at the facility. Hector Arana took the top spot in 2011, Arana Jr. was the top of the field in 2012, and Adam raced to No. 1 in 2013. “It’s a great accomplishment,” Arana said. “It’s nice to know you have a good setup on the mountain. It’s a big deal, even though it’s a one-off race, but it’s pretty awesome to be good at this race. To be able to score four No. 1s in a row — and all three of us have one — that’s pretty cool.”

Arana was the quickest in each of the first three qualifying sessions with a track-record run of 7.178 seconds at 185.97 mph to secure the No. 1 spot. He also set the track speed record in Q2 at 186.72 mph. “We have a motor combination that has been really consistent,” Arana said. “We have only been doing minor maintenance but other than that nothing has changed, so we have really been able to fine-tune everything and dial in the motor.”

Arana’s speed on Friday enabled he and crew chief Dan Gonzalez to experiment Saturday, and while he didn’t improve on his e.t., he’s confident heading into eliminations. “We were trying a couple of different things since we ran so well on Friday,” Arana said. “We ran really well on that last pass and we have a good setup for tomorrow.

“We will just take it one round at a time. To be consistent we need to just watch the weather. The weather seems to be doing some different things. We need to watch the weather to make sure we make the correct changes that are needed to be and stay consistent as possible. We need to watch every little thing and go from there.”

Arana will line up against No. 16 qualifier Charlie Sullivan in the first round tomorrow. Sullivan qualified for the race with a pass of 7.419 seconds at 177.84 mph. “I have not raced him,” Arana said, “but you cant take any of these guys out here lightly.”

Kwick Eddie Krawiec, who leads the points in the category, qualified third and will face Johnny “Balls” Hall on Sunday.

Tony Schumacher raced to his first No. 1 qualifying position of the year and his career first in his storied career at Bandimere during Top Fuel qualifying. In his U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster, Schumacher earned the No. 1 qualifying position on Friday with a pass of 3.823 seconds at 319.75 mph. No driver was able to best the effort and Schumacher retained the No. 1 qualifying position, which is the 73rd in his career. He will face Jenna Haddock who makes her career first Top Fuel start on Sunday.

“We went down the track four times, we made it to the finish line four times,” said Schumacher. “Two runs were better than the other two but we are still getting there and a lot of people are struggling. The key is to take the horsepower we have, and this is a hard place to make horsepower, and we have some good power and slide it on down through there.”

Points leader Doug Kalitta qualified his Mac Tools dragster in the bottom half of the field in 11th, which is the first time the team qualified lower than eighth this season. Kalitta will face Antron Brown who qualified sixth in the first round on Sunday. Steve Torrence qualified in the No. 2 position in his Capco Contractors dragster with a run of 3.831 at 322.96. This is his best qualifying position in seven races and will face Steve Chrisman in the first round on Sunday.

John Force, the most recent Funny Car event winner, captured his third No.1 qualifying position of the year and his first since the Phoenix event with a run of 4.049 at 318.93. Force has six career wins at Bandimere Speedway, which leads the category. He will pilot his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang against Jeff Diehl in the first round of eliminations. “I got a great race car, and I’ve got more energy and more fire,” Force said. “We came out and won the opening race after winning the championship and we thought it was going to be a cakewalk but then we got totally lost for a half of a year. Now working with Mike Neff, John Medlin, the whole brain trust, Jimmy (Prock) has found his way. He is back to where he was.”

Robert Hight, teammate to Force, secured the second seed with his run of 4.055 at 313.15 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang and will face Todd Simpson on Sunday. Cruz Pedregon, the 2013 event winner, qualified fourth in his Snap-On Tools Toyota Camry and will race Terry Haddock in the first round.

Jason Line, in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro, powered to the No. 1 qualifying position during the final qualifying session on Saturday, with a run of 6.924 at 198.70. It is his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and his second at Bandimere Speedway. He will face Steve Kalkowski in the first round of eliminations. “I can’t tell you how hard everybody has been working at the shop,” said Line. “It’s been a tough grind but we are tired of running bad and tired of losing. At some point, you get kicked enough and you get up and do something about it. We are definitely at that point. I didn’t think we could be No. 1, but I knew that we would be good.”

Points leader Erica Enders-Stevens drove her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro to the No. 3 starting spot with a 6.934 at 198.61 and will face Larry Morgan when eliminations begin. Allen Johnson has five career wins at the facility and qualified second with a run of 6.928 at 198.90. He will battle Tommy Lee.

Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 35th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 7.178, 186.72 vs. 16. Charles Sullivan, Suzuki, 7.419, 177.84; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.198, 185.61 vs. 15. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.333, 184.35; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.208, 185.95 vs. 14. John Hall, Buell, 7.313, 182.26; 4. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.230, 184.88 vs. 13. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.301, 184.50; 5. Michael Ray, Buell, 7.234, 184.90 vs. 12. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.299, 181.86; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.235, 183.15 vs. 11. Adam Arana, Buell, 7.281, 183.84; 7. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.245, 184.02 vs. 10. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 7.266, 183.87; 8. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.247, 184.02 vs. 9. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.251, 185.54.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Freddie Camarena, 7.429, 183.00; 18. James Surber, 7.497, 177.58.

Top Fuel — 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.823 seconds, 319.75 mph vs. 16. Jenna Haddock, 4.557, 203.83; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.831, 322.96 vs. 15. Steven Chrisman, 4.173, 271.19; 3. Larry Dixon, 3.848, 319.22 vs. 14. Clay Millican, 4.171, 277.89; 4. Bob Vandergriff, 3.861, 316.82 vs. 13. Spencer Massey, 3.989, 306.53; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.868, 315.34 vs. 12. Richie Crampton, 3.957, 280.54; 6. Antron Brown, 3.868, 310.63 vs. 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.933, 298.40; 7. Terry McMillen, 3.887, 319.14 vs. 10. J.R. Todd, 3.923, 313.07; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.893, 316.01 vs. 9. Brittany Force, 3.902, 314.02.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Rob Passey, 4.792, 200.65.

Funny Car — 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.049, 318.39 vs. 16. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 5.279, 283.79; 2. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.055, 313.15 vs. 15. Todd Simpson, Chevy Camaro, 4.645, 197.25; 3. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.071, 310.77 vs. 14. Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.537, 205.72; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.078, 304.80 vs. 13. Terry Haddock, Chevy Impala, 4.465, 279.50; 5. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.087, 311.92 vs. 12. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.164, 304.39; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.102, 308.21 vs. 11. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.153, 304.32; 7. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.111, 312.42 vs. 10. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.151, 303.64; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.111, 311.41 vs. 9. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.113, 301.81.

Pro Stock — 1. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.924, 198.70 vs. 16. Steve Kalkowski, Pontiac GXP, 7.254, 190.22; 2. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.928, 198.90 vs. 15. Tommy Lee, Ford Mustang, 7.068, 195.11; 3. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.934, 198.61 vs. 14. Larry Morgan, Mustang, 7.019, 196.16; 4. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.937, 198.73 vs. 13. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, 6.993, 197.25; 5. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.937, 198.44 vs. 12. Matt Hartford, Avenger, 6.984, 197.86; 6. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.944, 198.15 vs. 11. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.979, 196.90; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.949, 197.80 vs. 10. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.978, 197.62; 8. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.969, 198.03 vs. 9. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.977, 197.88.