Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, PA, Oct. 4-7, 2012
Vance & Hines unleash the beasts in 100 feet
above sea level corrected altitude
on a Monday Raceday at Maple Grove
story, video and photos by Tim Hailey
Andrew Hines parlayed a career best 1.037 to a record 6.728 ET. He’ll have lane choice over teammate Eddie Krawiec when the rain delayed Maple Grove final is run in Q4 at Las Vegas. BIKES PHOTO GALLERY
Due to more rain showers moving into the Reading area on Monday afternoon, the Pro Stock Motorcycle final round of the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway was postponed until Q4 at the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, Oct. 25-28. That race will be between the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson duo of Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec. Prior to the final round, Hines set the national record for elapsed time in this class at 6.720, which earned him a 20-point bonus towards the championship.
“That was the best run of my career,” Hines said. “I had my best 60-foot time, but if I had run the back half like Eddie, it would have been a 6.70. I’m glad to get the record because this is probably the last time we’ll see it set this year. It’s not going to happen in Las Vegas and it would take some extraordinary conditions for it to happen in Pomona. Those 20 points could come in handy at the last two races.”
And with Harley losing two valves and growing pushrods, it could be a record that stands for quite a while.
Two races after his team’s Dallas win with Michael Ray, Matt Smith crashed the Hectors and Harleys party to make the semifinals. BIKES PHOTO GALLERY
Hector Arana Jr’s .004 light wasn’t good enough for him to stay in front of Krawiec in their semifinal pairing. BIKES PHOTO GALLERY
On Sunday, Antron Brown ran what was then the quickest pass ever—3.722—as sprinkles were clearly falling while the cars staged. That ET was obliterated by Shawn Langdon’s Al-Anabi car on Monday with a 3.71 at a whopping 334 mph before Brown reclaimed the ET mark with a 3.70. In the final against Khalid Al-Balooshi, Antron smoked the tires at the hit, spun sideways and lost. Still, he has a commanding points lead with two races left. CARS PHOTO GALLERY
Antron’s record setting ET lights up the beautiful Maple Grove countryside. CARS PHOTO GALLERY
After a struggling start to his first Top Fuel season that ganered much scrutiny and criticism, Khalid Al-Balooshi broke through with his first nitro win. CARS PHOTO GALLERY
In Top Fuel, rookie driver Khalid alBalooshi earned his first career victory with a winning performance of 3.910 at 312.42 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster, defeating current points leader Antron Brown in the final round. alBalooshi defeated Spencer Massey, Ike Maier and teammate Shawn Langdon en route to the victory. He becomes the first Middle Eastern driver and only the third driver from outside North America to win a Full Throttle Series race, joining Australian David Grubnic and Kenji Okazaki from Japan.
“I give my team owner, the crew guys and all the people who work with us thanks for making this win,” alBalooshi said. “I try my best, and I know that everybody on the team is trying their best, and finally, I won my first race.”
Brown increased his series lead to 104 points over second place Massey by setting a national record time of 3.701 seconds in his pink Matco Tools dragster during his semifinal victory over Brandon Bernstein.
With a steady sprinkle going, winners circle celebrations moved into the friendly confines of a Maple Grove barn. CARS PHOTO GALLERY
Every class had at least one record breaker, and in Funny Car it was Fast Jack Beckman. CARS PHOTO GALLERY
Mike Neff defeated veteran Funny Car driver Johnny Gray with a time of 4.030 seconds at 317.94 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to earn his fourth win of the season, and his first of the year in the playoffs. With the win, Neff closed in on new series leader Jack Beckman, who set a national record and advanced to the semifinals over the weekend in his Schumacher Electric Dodge Charger. Neff trails Beckman by 54 points and Ron Capps is in second place, 23 back of Beckman with only two races remaining in the season.
“You have to have it all right to get a win any more,” said Neff, who defeated Tony Pedregon, Jim Head and John Force to advance to the final. “The biggest thing is it will be exciting. I want to be able to head out west with a chance. It would be a downer if we were out of it at this point. It is nice to be alive for the championship.”
In Pro Stock, V. Gaines powered his Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger to victory for the first time since 2008 with a performance of 6.515 at 212.26, while final round opponent Dave Connolly fouled with a redlight start. The fourth win of Gaines’ career moves him up to sixth in the Countdown to Championship points standings. Gaines beat Warren Johnson, Greg Anderson and Jason Line before taking out Connolly in the final.
“We didn’t qualify for five of the first of seven races, but then we started making improvements and began to run better and better,” Gaines said. “We were a bit worried about running in cold weather conditions because you know that we’re from Denver where it is 5,000 feet high. We were really uncertain. But we showed this weekend that we can compete in the cold weather, and we’re just ecstatic. I wish I could say it was all because of the driver, but our car is so fantastic right now. We wanted to hang on to the No. 1 qualifying spot, but we still won the race. We’ll get the No. 1 spot sooner or later.”
Pro Stock points leader Allen Johnson and his Team Mopar/ J&J Racing Dodge Avenger were eliminated in the second round with a redlight start, but the Tennessee driver left the event with an 82-point lead over defending world champ Line. “To still have a four or five round lead in points after the weekend is great for us,” said Johnson. “Las Vegas is up next and is always a really good track for me. We won there in the spring and have great notes for that track. I feel like we are in a pretty good position with two races remaining.”
John Hall laid down Star Racing’s quickest, fastest lap ever with a 6.864 at 194.30 mph against a redlighting LE Tonglet in E1. Hall’s teammate Scotty Pollacheck’s first half numbers showed he would have left the round with that honor had his Buell not had a valvetrain failure on the big end. Hall’s bike had a simliar failure in the burnout for E2. BIKES PHOTO GALLERY
Michael Phillips faceplants the windscreen when his bike briefly shut off after launch against Hector Arana Sr. in E1. A typical starting line circus preceded, with Phillips exchanging barbs with Arana’s crewmen. Phillips erupted in anger at the top end of the track after what turned out to be a remarkably close race. BIKES PHOTO GALLERY
For whatever reason (an overnight beating perhaps?), Shawn Gann let off the throttle right as the lights came down. The result was what you see here—a .416 light against H2. BIKES PHOTO GALLERY
Chip Ellis (far lane) slaps a light and a 60 foot on Steve Johnson for the round 1 win. BIKES PHOTO GALLERY
Persistent rain showers forced the NHRA to postpone the completion of eliminations for the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway until Monday at 11 a.m. Nearly two rounds of racing was completed in Top Fuel, while only one round was finished in Funny Car and Pro Stock before rain showers moved into the area Sunday afternoon. The bikes got screwed and never turned a wheel. They were pulling into the waterbox when the first rain inerruption started, then pushed behind the fuel cars when racing resumed for a short bit.
Former biker Antron Brown posted a national record time of 3.722 seconds and advanced to the semifinals, along with Brandon Bernstein and rookie Khalid alBalooshi (!). A sprinkle started falling when Brown and Morgan Lucas staged for the pass. I thought they would be shut down but instead ‘Tron rotated the earth. Racing will begin Monday with the final second round pair in Top Fuel, Shawn Langdon vs. Doug Kalitta.
In Funny Car, Jack Beckman improved his national record performance to 3.986 seconds with a first round win over Mike Smith and will meet points leader Ron Capps in a critical second round match up in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship. Title contender Mike Neff, John Force, Johnny Gray and defending champ Matt Hagan also will race in round two.
In Pro Stock, championship contenders Allen Johnson, Jason Line, Erica Enders and Greg Anderson all advanced to the second round. All four rounds of racing remain in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
In addition to the completion of eliminations in the four NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series classes, three NHRA Lucas Oil Series categories will be completed as well, including Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car and Competition Eliminator.
When the curtains match the curtains….Angie Smith’s hat/hair combo. BIKES PHOTO GALLERY
Bacon and potatoes, bakin’ in the sun! Shawn Gann keeps warm in the Piranaz trailer, photo by John Hall
Metry in the house! Gary and GT Tonglet flank Richie Stevens and Erica Enders before E1. BIKES PHOTO GALLERY
Marvin Lutz (far lane) and Country at the hit. BIKES PHOTO GALLERY
Country tuned up for the second race with Lutz by racing Michael Phillips’ lady. Did this one wear the big man out? Did Lutz instigate this race to run down Country’s batteries? BIKES PHOTO GALLERY
The weekend’s only grudge races were run (literally) in the bike pits. Country took on Marvin “Mountain of Parts” Lutz and won 1/10th of a stack. Of course, a rerun was in order, for half again as much dough. Lutz negotiated a slightly longer course, figuring his advantage against Big Country was distance. He was right, but as Country threw his big head across the finishline, the weight transfer was too much to reverse and the big man faceplanted hard! See the outrageous video of this horrific crash created by Hot Rod Chrissy
The lumpy outline of Country’s prone body. BIKES PHOTO GALLERY
Country spent the rest of the evening bleeding over plates of cheese fries at the Maple Grove bar, and it must be said that the only pro drivers at the bar on any night were the bikers. Nearly the whole PSM field was there, other than the Harleys and Hectors.
Star Racing’s Ken “Big” Johnson presents Country with one of the new Screamin’ Eagle condoms. BIKES PHOTO GALLERY
GT Tonglet describes the size condom that Country actually needs while Craig Treble and Scotty Pollacheck agree. BIKES PHOTO GALLERY
Pink looks good on Eddie, as he hits #1 with a 6.79 in Maple Grove PHOTO GALLERY
Well, to be fair, there’s nothing about the Maple Grove race so far that qualifies as madness, with Harleys and Hectors at the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying order Saturday at the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway nera Reading, Pennsylvania. Points leader Eddie Krawiec rode the Breast Cancer Awareness Pink, Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines/Harley-Davidson to his fourth No. 1 of the season with a performance of 6.799 at 196.56, bringing his career total to 13. “I have a good raceday bike,” said Krawiec, who will meet veteran rider Craig Treble in the first round. “I think it’s just consistently getting it down the track, getting it off the starting line and going. I’m going to do the best I can. I am just going to look for good green lights and I think the rest will come.”
2nd place Andrew Hines is a fair bit behind with a 6.82. PHOTO GALLERY
Krawiec’s teammate Andrew Hines was second with a 6.824 at 195.85, while the father and son Lucas Oil Buell duo of Hector Arana Sr. and Hector Arana Jr. head into eliminations third and fourth.
Hector Arana Sr. is second with a 6.83 at 194. PHOTO GALLERY
Arana Sr. faces No. 14 qualifier Michael Phillips in the first round, as Phillips had a best run of 7.013 seconds at 189.23 mph. “Michael Phillips is a helluva rider,” Arana Sr. said. “I know he’s coming with all the tricks that he can to make sure he can try to get a win. All I need to do is don’t worry about him, let him do what he wants to do and stay focused on my lane. That’s all. Worry about Hector.
“We had a good run in the first session. I’m all pumped up. I said, ‘All right, we’ve got something we can work with.’ From there on, everything’s going backwards. It’s been really hectic.”
Arana’s bike wouldn’t shift into top gear in the second session, and he slowed to a 7.274-second run at 146.73 mph. “It felt good, and I can feel the bike accelerating,” Arana Sr. said. “I said, ‘All right, I’m on a good run.’ Then the bike wouldn’t go into high gear. I aborted the run, and we changed valve springs last night and everything.
“This morning, we ran, and it felt all right. It wasn’t what we wanted.” But then again, the Saturady morning round left most everyone disappointed. Markedly cooler track and air temps saw almost no one improve. “So we really got aggressive on the last hit. The track felt good, but we just spun the tire like a Top Fuel car. We’re behind the 8-ball, but I know what not to do tomorrow.”
Hector Arana Jr. is just behind the old man with a 6.85. PHOTO GALLERY
Arana Jr. ran into transmission troubles in both Saturday qualifying sessions and was unable to complete a full run. “We have a lot to feel good about,” said H2, never-the-less. “We qualified in the top four again, we’re both 9 Jr and Sr) on opposite sides of the ladder, and our third bike got qualified (with veteran Craig Treble). He’s got to race one of the Harleys first round, so it’s perfect. It could go really well tomorrow.” It should be noted that Treble ran an .03 Saturday, which was not quick enough for the top 12 so was throw out on Sunday. Now an .03 is not as quick as Krawiec, about also not as slow as the 7.26 he’s credited with…no doubt in an effort to face Krawiec in round 1.
Arana Jr. is confident the team can solve its tranny problems and race to the money round Sunday. “We’re just having issues,” H2 said. “Hopefully we can get it worked out for Sunday. We keep checking it, but we don’t really see anything to cause this.” Arana Jr. said the team took apart the transmission after Q3 but didn’t see any problems. “The 60-foot looked good, so hopefully tonight we can go in there and find the problem so we can say, ‘It’s fixed,’ and we’ll be able to sleep well.” Arana Jr. faces No. 13 qualifier Shawn Gann in the first round Sunday.
LE Tonglet is the quickest Suzuki, 5th with a 6.87. PHOTO GALLERY
John Hall on one of the Sovereign/Star Buells, just behind teammate Scotty Pollacheck. PHOTO GALLERY
Craig Treble is back in the seat on the Arana-rent-a-Blocker Buell and in the field at 16th PHOTO GALLERY
Ken “Big” Johnson only appears to be kissing Michael Ray on the forehead….
…but Country actually IS kissing Eddie Krawiec on the forehead! PHOTO GALLERY
Funny Car title contender Jack Beckman set a national record en route to his fourth No. 1 qualifying position of the season. After a dominating performance during Friday’s qualifying runs, Beckman powered his Schumacher Electric Dodge Charger to a time of 4.003 seconds in Saturday’s first qualifying attempt, which was quick enough to certify his 3.989 effort from Friday as an NHRA national record. Beckman, who now trails series points leader Ron Capps by only 17, will earn a 20-point bonus if he hangs onto the record following the completion of Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations.
“We want to win the championship,” said Beckman, who will face Mike Smith in the opening round of eliminations. “Some people would tell you they want to win at all costs and I’m not one of those people. We want to win because we did everything right out there and we want the other cars to be at their prime. We’d like to do it the right way.”
Cruz Pedregon was second with a performance of 3.997 at 320.58 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry while Mike Neff was third in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang with a 4.017 at 318.84. Points leader Capps will start eighth in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger after qualifying with a performance of 4.055 at 317.64. Countdown contender Tim Wilkerson, who had charged from 10th to fifth in the points standings during the first three playoff races, failed to qualify for eliminations in his Levi Ray & Shoup Shelby Ford Mustang.
In Top Fuel, David Grubnic drove his Rocky Boots dragster to a performance of 3.728 at 327.11 mph to earn his first No. 1 qualifying position this season and first since 2008. His time tied the quickest Top Fuel run in history, and he could certify it as a national record during Sunday’s eliminations when he opens against Canadian driver Ike Maier.
“It’s good to be back in the No. 1 spot,” Grubnic said. “When I started with Connie [Kalitta] in 2004, we were No. 1 qualifier five times that year, and so it’s great to be back in that position. Not only that, but [teammate] Doug Kalitta running 331 miles per hour side-by-side with me. It’s great for the team, great for Connie, great for all the guys that work on the car, and great for our sponsors.”
Morgan Lucas, who qualified second with a 3.733-second effort in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster, set the Top Fuel national elapsed time record on that run. Series points leader Antron Brown was 11th in his Matco Tools dragster with a 3.758 at 325.14 while Spencer Massey, currently second in the standings, was eighth with a 3.763 at 321.12. Four-time Maple Grove winner Tony Schumacher qualified third in the U.S. Army dragster with a 3.736 at 325.14.
In Pro Stock Car, defending world champion and event winner Jason Line raced to his seventh No. 1 qualifying position of the season, 31st of his career in his Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro with a time of 6.515 at 212.36. Line will race Shane Gray in the opening round.
“Tomorrow should be interesting, and fun to watch,” Line said. “Especially if it’s cold out and we could set a new national record. Those 20 points could really come in handy.”
Pro Stock points leader Allen Johnson was sixth with a 6.545 at 211.49 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger and title challenger and St. Louis winner Erica Enders was second in her GK Motorsports Chevy Cobalt with a 6.538 at 211.30.