photos by Tim Hailey with reports from NHRA and others
Eddie Krawiec will be #1 qualifier when Charlotte eliminations are run in Dallas
NHRA officials announced today that the continuation of eliminations for the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals, round one of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs, will be completed during qualifying rounds at next weekend’s AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas. Three rounds of racing remain for both Top Fuel and Funny Car and all rounds remain for Pro Stock Motorcycle. Four pairs of Pro Stock cars also need to complete their first round runs.
Persistent rain showers moved into the Charlotte area on Sunday afternoon and halted racing after only the first round in Top Fuel and Funny Car had been completed. Four pairs of cars in Pro Stock had finished and the rain began to fall just as the NHRA Safety Safari was cleaning up the racing surface following a crash during Pro Stock eliminations.
In Pro Stock racing, Shane Gray, Jeg Coughlin, Jason Line and V. Gaines all won their opening rounds. Gaines, whose Dodge Dart went out of control and crashed past the finish line in his round win over Allen Johnson, was uninjured in the incident and he will be allowed to use a replacement car for the continuation of eliminations. Four first-round Pro Stock pairs remain, including Erica Enders-Stevens vs. John Gaydosh; Jonathan Gray vs. Rodger Brogdon; Vincent Nobile vs. Larry Morgan; and Dave Connolly vs. Shane Tucker.
Top Fuel quarterfinal pairings are J.R. Todd vs. Spencer Massey; Billy Torrence vs. Tony Schumacher; Steve Torrence vs. Leah Pritchett; and Morgan Lucas vs. Khalid alBalooshi. The quarterfinal pairings in Funny Car are Dave Richards vs. John Force; Bob Tasca vs. Ron Capps; Robert Hight vs. Jeff Arend; and Matt Hagan vs. Tim Wilkerson.
Jim Laurita used a holeshot start to upset No. 1 qualifier Steven Whiteley in Saturday’s first round of eliminations for the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals. Laurita used a reaction time advantage and powered his vintage nitrous-injected Switzer Dynamics Camaro to a winning performance of 5.927 seconds at 240.17 mph to defeat Whiteley’s quicker Y-Not Racing ’68 Camaro, which finished in 5.907 at 245.85.
Prior to the first round of eliminations, Whiteley earned his first career No. 1 qualifying position with a performance of 5.875 seconds at 246.26 mph.
In another first round upset, Von Smith defeated series points leader Rickie Smith. Von also used a reaction time advantage to take the win over the local fan-favorite. Von’s supercharged ’68 Al-Anabi Racing Camaro left first and finished in 5.963 at 239.65, while the defending world champion from nearby King, N.C. posted a quicker, but losing 5.929 at 244.38 in his nitrous-injected ’68 IDG Camaro.
Other first round winners included Mike Janis, Bill Glidden, Danny Rowe, Steve Matusek, Don Walsh and Troy Coughlin. Second round pairings include Laurita vs. Janis; Glidden vs. Matusek; Rowe vs. V. Smith and Walsh vs. Coughlin.
With one round of pro nitro eliminations complete, fans attending today’s event at zMAX Dragway are entitled to a 50-percent credit for a one-day ticket to either NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at zMAX Dragway in 2015.
EARLIER: Krawiec Takes Over #1 at zMax
Eddie Krawiec took his seventh top qualifying position of the season in Pro Stock Motorcycle and the 21st of career with a 6.849 at 194.30 on his Screamin’ Eagle / Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson t the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals. It is Krawiec’s second No. 1 at this event and he will face first-time qualifier Brian Pretzel in the opening round.
“We came out and made a good run on Friday and that set the tone for the weekend,” said Krawiec, who also has some momentum on his side following a win at Indy two weeks ago. “We just need to build on what we’ve done in qualifying. We’ve had a great bike all year but we don’t have as many wins as I feel we should. We’ve learned that even if you’ve got the fastest bike, you won’t always win. As a rider, I need to do my job and keep the bike performing well.”
Friday qualifying leader Hector Arana Jr. dropped to second in the final order with a 6.876 at 195.48 on his Lucas Oil Buell. Past zMAX winner Steve Johnson qualified third on his Suzuki with a 6.893 at 193.77. Andrew Hines, the two-time defending winner at this event and the playoff top seed, qualified fifth on his Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson and will face Indy runner-up Jerry Savoie in the opening round.
Alexis DeJoria, J.R. Todd and Erica Enders-Stevens raced to No. 1 qualifying positions in their categories Saturday. It is the fourth time this season and the seventh time overall that two female drivers have earned No. 1 qualifying positions at the same race. DeJoria and Enders-Stevens, who are both among the favorites to win world championship titles in their classes, also shared the No. 1 qualifying stage earlier this year at Atlanta Dragway.
DeJoria claimed her second No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car and continued her recent momentum following her Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory Sept. 1 in Indianapolis. She posted a qualifying best of 4.090 at 300.53 in her Patron XO Café Toyota Camry to take the top spot. She will seek her fourth win of the season and second in a row when she meets Dave Richards in Sunday’s noon eliminations.
“It’s only our second No. 1 so it’s really exciting for our team,” DeJoria said. “(Crew chief) Tommy (DeLago) and the guys have got a real good handle on the race car and they’ve managed to get us down the track more often than not. The consistency has helped us get round wins and get better. I am really excited about our chances at this race.”
Enders-Stevens raced to her third No. 1 qualifying position of the season by improving on her Friday effort with a Saturday-best of 6.568 at 210.37 in her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro. She will go for her fifth victory of the season when she lines up against John Gaydosh tomorrow.
“We picked up 10 points on Jason (Line, points leader) which is so crucial with only 24 rounds of racing left,” Enders-Stevens said. “Hat’s off to my team for giving me such a consistent race car. The track was pretty tricky this afternoon being as hot as it was and they nailed the tune-up. I’m really excited going into Sunday.”
DeJoria was followed by Robert Hight in the final Funny Car qualifying order with a 4.108 at 308.14 in the Auto Club Ford Mustang, while Friday top qualifier Matt Hagan dropped to third overall with his 4.114 at 304.25 in his Rocky Boots/Mopar Dodge Charger. Funny Car playoff top seed John Force, who is riding a six-race final round streak, qualified ninth with a 4.141 at 287.66 in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang and will face daughter Courtney Force in the opening round.
In other Pro Stock qualifying, Vincent Nobile rallied to qualify second in his Mountain View Tire Camaro with a 6.579 at 209.88 and Dave Connolly qualified third with a 6.582 at 209.39 in his Charter Communications Camaro. Countdown top seed Line qualified sixth in his Summit Racing equipment Camaro and he will race Chris McGaha in the first round.
In Top Fuel, Todd powered his Optima Batteries/Advance Auto Parts dragster to a performance of 3.804 seconds at 317.64 mph in the final session to score his first No. 1 of the season and fourth of his career. Todd will open eliminations against Clay Millican.
“It’s been a fun weekend driving this Optima Batteries car,” said Todd, whose lone victory this season came at Denver in July. “We can go nowhere but up from 10th (in the Countdown playoffs), so now it’s up to me to do my job tomorrow and I think we’ve got a horse for ‘em.”
Indy runner-up Torrence qualified second in his Capco Contractors dragster with a 3.810 at 317.57 and Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta qualified third in his Mac Tools dragster with a 3.831 at 318.62.
EARLIER: Hector Jr leads Day 1 at zMax
H2 is #1 at zMax
Hector Arana Jr., who enters the Countdown as the third seed, rode his Lucas Oil Buell to a 6.876 at 195.48 to lead Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying for the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway. “This means a lot as far as my confidence goes,” Arana Jr. said. “It’s all about confidence. I know I have the equipment to take me to the winner’s circle, but confidence is the key.”
Steve Johnson, the 10th seed and a former winner of this event, qualified second on his Suzuki with a 6.893 at 193.77 and recent Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner Eddie Krawiec was third on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with a 6.901 at 191.67. Countdown top seed Andrew Hines, the two-time defending winner here, was sixth on his Harley-Davidson with a 6.951 at 191.38.
Steven Whiteley raced to the qualifying lead Friday in Pro Mod. Whiteley powered his supercharged Y-Not ‘68 Chevy Camaro to a leading performance of 5.875 seconds at 246.26 mph. Danny Rowe qualified second in his supercharged Agave Underground Tequila ’68 Camaro with a 5.894 at 246.08. Indy No. 1 qualifier Don Walsh was third with a 5.919 at 249.35 in his turbocharged late model Camaro.
Series points leader Rickie Smith, a native of nearby King, N.C. and winner of the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis two weeks ago, qualified fifth in his new nitrous-injected IDG ’68 Camaro, posting a run of 5.968 at 245.00.
Matt Hagan powered his 10,000-horsepower Rocky Boots/Mopar Dodge Charger to the top of the Funny Car qualifying order with a performance of 4.114 seconds at 304.25 mph. The 2011 world champ, who finished second in points last season but failed to win a race in the regular season and sits seventh in points, is looking to change that trend in the post-season. “I don’t think this No. 1 qualifier will hold tomorrow,” Hagan said. “We may get some cloud cover tomorrow so everybody is going to try to step up and they all have good data to work from. We are thankful to get two great solid runs down the racetrack. Hopefully we can go some rounds on Sunday. It’s the Countdown right now and every point counts. I’ve seen championships won or lost by one or two points. So every one of them counts.”
Hagan, a cattle rancher from nearby Southwestern Virginia, is a two-time winner at ZMAX Dragway and became the first to break the four-second barrier in Funny Car at the track in 2011. His milestone time of 3.995 seconds is commemorated with a sign on the retaining wall near the starting line. “I have a lot of history here at zMAX both good and bad,” Hagan said. “It’s cool to come here and see your name on the side of the wall. We’ve had some big boomers here and ran some killer speeds here. All my friends and family are only two hours down the road and they all come out here to cheer me on. That makes it that much more special.”
Ron Capps, a winner at this race in 2012, qualified second with a 4.123 at 297.35 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger. Non-Countdown contender Jack Beckman qualified third in his Valvoline Dodge with a 4.124 at 305.22. Funny Car top seed John Force sits sixth in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang with a 4.141 at 287.66.
In Top Fuel, No. 10 playoff seed JR Todd led the Top Fuel field with a 3.828 at 310.34 in his Optima Batteries dragster. “I definitely expected to see some low 80s out there, but I’m happy to get three bonus points,” Todd said. “We started No. 10 in the Countdown so we need every point that we can get. There’s nowhere to go but up.”
Todd, who earned a regular season victory at Denver, was pleased to move to the front of the order after coming in last after the first qualifying session when the blower belt flew off his car early in the run. “When you break like that it sets the tone for the weekend and we were fortunate to rebound,” Todd said. “You never know what to expect from [owner and tuner] Connie Kalitta. He’s smart and he’ll push only as hard as he needs to. If it’s warm tomorrow, that (run) may hold up, but I think we’ll see some low 3.80s or maybe even a high .70 from the Al-Anabi or Schumacher teams. Heck, we can run 3.7s if we hit it just right.”
Defending world champ Shawn Langdon qualified second in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster with a 3.840 at 317.05. The third spot went to non-Countdown campaigner Billy Torrence, who led after the first session with a 3.846 at 319.75 in his Capco Contractors dragster. Countdown top seed Doug Kalitta sits ninth after the first two sessions, posting a first-day best of 3.872 at 317.94 in his Mac Tools dragster.
Four-time regular season Pro Stock winner Erica Enders-Stevens, who enters the playoffs in the No. 2 spot, raced to the front of the order in the factory hot rod class with a 6.591 at 210.11 at the controls of her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro. “It’s just a really good start,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’m proud of my team. We struggled the last couple of weeks in Brainerd and Indy, and in our test session in St. Louis. It’s very refreshing to see that Ol’ Red is back to herself.”
After dominating much of the regular season, Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team decided to skip two Western Swing stops – Sonoma and Seattle – to focus on R&D work at the shop to prepare for the Countdown. Meanwhile, Jason Line went on a tear and moved around her to take the top seed entering the playoffs. She says her team is ready to put that brief slump behind them and move forward. “We just have to do our job day in and day out, and make every little point count,” Enders-Stevens said. “We had a team meeting this morning, where we discussed our goals for the Countdown… It’s the small steps on the way to the big goal. We’re just going to keep our heads down and stay focused. This is not a bad way to start though.”
Defending world champ Jeg Coughlin was second in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart with a 6.602 at 209.33 and Dave Connolly qualified third in his Charter Communications Chevy Camaro with a 6.603 at 209.23. Red-hot Line, who closed the regular season by winning three of the final four races, qualified fourth in his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro with a 6.607 at 209.59.
Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday’s eliminations are scheduled for noon.
Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the seventh annual Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway, 19th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and first of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.876, 195.48; 2. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.893, 193.77; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.901, 191.70; 4. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.925, 192.17; 5. John Hall, Buell, 6.940, 192.44; 6. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.951, 191.38; 7. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.957, 192.44; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.968, 191.08; 9. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.977, 192.69; 10. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.983, 192.36; 11. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.987, 189.23; 12. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.991, 188.86. Not Qualified: 13. Shawn Gann, 7.038, 190.11; 14. Brian Pretzel, 7.276, 183.15; 15. Michael Ray, 7.785, 124.72; 16. Hector Arana, 13.327, 58.94.
Pro Modified — 1. Steven Whiteley, Chevy Camaro, 5.875, 246.26; 2. Danny Rowe, Camaro, 5.894, 246.08; 3. Don Walsh, Camaro, 5.919, 249.35; 4. Steve Matusek, Camaro, 5.941, 245.18; 5. Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.968, 245.00; 6. Mike Janis, Camaro, 5.979, 242.89; 7. Bill Glidden, Ford Mustang, 5.979, 236.55; 8. Von Smith, Camaro, 5.983, 238.68; 9. Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, 5.996, 240.94; 10. Troy Coughlin, Chevy Corvette, 6.017, 246.17; 11. Eric Latino, Camaro, 6.019, 241.02; 12. Dan Stevenson, Camaro, 6.026, 237.34; 13. Jim Laurita, Camaro, 6.031, 230.76; 14. Kevin Fiscus, Mustang, 6.045, 243.50; 15. Jason Hamstra, Mustang, 6.045, 238.89; 16. Bob Rahaim, Camaro, 6.068, 237.25. Not Qualified: 17. Jim Whiteley, 6.072, 235.27; 18. Jim Bell, 6.087, 218.37; 19. Gerry Capano, 6.092, 236.13; 20. Mike Castellana, 6.097, 234.66; 21. Chip King, 6.106, 243.72; 22. Kenny Lang, 6.116, 237.21; 23. Michael Biehle, 6.127, 243.55; 24. Jay Payne, 6.180, 236.05; 25. Chris Juliano, 6.190, 229.51; 26. Doug Winters, 6.264, 214.76; 27. Mike Knowles, 6.344, 230.76; 28. Harold Martin, 8.222, 119.87.
Top Fuel — 1. J.R. Todd, 3.828 seconds, 310.34 mph; 2. Shawn Langdon, 3.840, 317.05; 3. Billy Torrence, 3.846, 319.75; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.847, 316.30; 5. Spencer Massey, 3.851, 319.37; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.852, 320.58; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.867, 315.27; 8. Antron Brown, 3.869, 311.27; 9. Doug Kalitta, 3.872, 317.94; 10. Morgan Lucas, 3.887, 278.46; 11. Leah Pritchett, 3.889, 305.91; 12. Richie Crampton, 3.891, 311.05. Not Qualified: 13. Bob Vandergriff, 3.895, 314.09; 14. Terry McMillen, 3.904, 314.53; 15. Brittany Force, 3.908, 306.67; 16. Pat Dakin, 3.912, 302.14; 17. Ike Maier, 5.596, 189.66; 18. Chris Karamesines, 5.890, 107.63; 19. Clay Millican, 6.479, 85.83.
Funny Car — 1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.114, 304.25; 2. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.123, 297.35; 3. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.124, 305.22; 4. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.126, 306.46; 5. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.140, 305.91; 6. John Force, Mustang, 4.141, 287.66; 7. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.155, 288.21; 8. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.162, 305.84; 9. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.185, 292.77; 10. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.194, 276.24; 11. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.208, 303.03; 12. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.363, 231.75. Not Qualified: 13. Bob Tasca III, 4.820, 169.68; 14. Chad Head, 4.868, 166.01; 15. Cruz Pedregon, 6.267, 107.25; 16. Dave Richards, 10.478, 79.08; 17. Bob Gilbertson, broke.
Pro Stock — 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.591, 210.11; 2. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.602, 209.33; 3. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.603, 209.23; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.607, 209.59; 5. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.609, 208.94; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.609, 208.49; 7. Richie Stevens, Camaro, 6.610, 209.23; 8. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.615, 209.52; 9. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.618, 209.85; 10. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.637, 207.66; 11. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.641, 209.20; 12. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.649, 209.20. Not Qualified: 13. Rodger Brogdon, 6.664, 207.78; 14. Larry Morgan, 6.701, 206.67; 15. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.703, 207.24; 16. Shane Tucker, 7.038, 159.25.