FRAM/Autolite NHRA Nationals Race Recap From Sonoma
Words courtesy NHRA Communications
Antron Brown raced to his third Top Fuel victory of the season Sunday at Infineon Raceway and clinched a berth in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs.
Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Brown outran seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher for the victory, the 28th of his career. Brown’s Matco Tools dragster finished with a 3.883 second run at 314.61 mph, just in front of Schumacher’s U.S. Army machine, which trailed with a 3.919 at 311.41.
“You can’t say it went to plan because nothing is expected in this sport,” said Brown, who beat Ron August Jr., David Grubnic and Del Worsham in earlier rounds. “Tony and that Army team have been on mean lately. He’s our teammate, but deep in his heart he wants to kick our butts. It was a great drag race. We stepped it up and had nothing to lose. The car stuck and we snuck away with that win. I have been energized ever since I got here. We love coming out here to race at Sonoma. It was our day.”
Larry Dixon and Schumacher joined Brown in securing their spots in the Countdown over the weekend. Al-Anabi Racing driver Worsham maintained his series lead with the semifinal effort and now sits 82 in front of Spencer Massey. Brown moved to third with the win and Schumacher remained in fifth place.
In Funny Car, Capps claimed his first win in more than a year and the 32nd of his career when he posted a 4.145 at 303.57 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger to defeat Tim Wilkerson, who finished in 4.175 at 300.93 in his Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang.
It was the second consecutive win and third overall for Capps here at Infineon Raceway, a drag strip that he considers his home track.
“After every run I looked out in the pits today and it was like a high school reunion,” said San Luis Obispo native Capps, who entertained a lot of family and friends over the weekend. “It’s hard to win at your home track and I am glad we were able to do it today. The competition is so tough right now. With every win you start to wonder if you can win again because it is so tough to do.”
Capps beat Bob Tasca, Johnny Gray and Cruz Pedregon to advance to the final round. He said he and new crew chief Tim Richards are starting to click at just the right time.
“Tim Richards is a lot like (former crew chief) Ed McCulloch and you can get in a comfort zone,” Capps said. “He always has that intense look. He’s all business. He’s funny and a great guy when you get to know him. We are hitting our stride and it’s the perfect time to make a run for the championship.”
Series points leader Mike Neff lost in the second round but held on to the series lead and is now 63 ahead of second-place Robert Hight. With the victory, Capps moved to sixth in the standings.
Anderson took his third Pro Stock win of the season and 68th of his career with a 6.562 at 210.28 in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP, while Edwards ran 6.576 at 210.14 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries GXP in the runner-up effort.
“I’m just having a blast right now,” said Anderson, who has now won at this track four times. “It’s fun to race in our class right now because it’s a killer. Everyone is so close anyone can win once the race starts. It’s a great feeling to come out on top at the end of the day. I feel honored to race with the guys I am racing with now. I didn’t have a great day as a driver, but somehow we found a way to win each round. It was a great drag race with Mike and he’s a great champion. I respect him a lot. Somebody had to win today and today was our day.”
With the runner-up finish Edwards moved into the series points lead, 15 ahead of Jason Line, who lost in the semifinals. Anderson moved to third with the victory. All three drivers clinched berths in the Countdown with their performances this weekend.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, defending world champ Tonglet beat defending event winner Michael Phillips. Tonglet ran 7.001 at 189.76 on his Autolite/Nitro Fish Suzuki to claim his third win of the season and hold off Phillips, who finished in 7.016 at 192.63 on his Racers Edge Suzuki.
“We’ve been running really good and the season has been up and down and we’re trying to find that happy medium right before the Countdown starts,” Tonglet said. “We want to be consistent at every track. That’s our goal and that’s what it takes to win a championship.”
Karen Stoffer continues to lead the two-wheel class and clinched a spot in the Countdown this weekend along with second-place Eddie Kraweic, who trails Stoffer by five points.
John Force became NHRA’s all-time leader in No. 1 qualifying positions when he raced to the top spot in Funny Car Saturday at the FRAM / Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway.
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Force claimed his fifth No. 1 of the season and 139th of his career, which broke a tie with Pro Stock legend Warren Johnson for the most top qualifying positions in the history of the sport. Force took the top spot with a performance of 4.060 seconds at 311.99 mph in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang.
“When you can be put in the books with people like Warren Johnson and Bob Glidden from years ago it makes you feel good,” Force said. “But I am still chasing them in my mind. It’s what gets me up each day and keeps me going. I am a race car driver and it’s what I really love.”
Force was a bit emotional when he reflected on the accomplishment and all of the No. 1s he’s earned over the years, including eight at Infineon Raceway.
“I just gave credit to all of my crew chiefs at the top end,” Force said. “From [Steve] Pleuger back in Baton Rouge (1986), to [former crew chief Austin] Coil who’s not with us anymore, I wish he was but he’s on vacation somewhere right now, to Dean Antonelli and Jimmy Prock. Those guys are the reason I’m here today. There’s one person who’s been with me before my sponsors, before my crew chiefs and that’s my girls’ mother, Laurie. She’s the only one that’s been here alongside me longer than Coil and I love her for that. I’m so thankful that she was there and still is with me, she’s even here today.”
Robert Hight was second in his Auto Club Ford Mustang with a 4.084 at 311.49, while defending event winner Ron Capps was third in his NAPA Dodge Charger with a 4.107 at 305.77.
Schumacher earned his fourth No. 1 of the season in Top Fuel and 65th of his career with a 3.814 at 321.65 mph effort in his U.S. Army dragster. Schumacher didn’t have the quickest dragster in either of the two qualifying sessions today but is ready for eliminations tomorrow when he will face Steve Chrisman in the opening round.
“We just need to focus on running fast and going rounds and winning this race and continuing the momentum we started in Denver,” Schumacher said. “We’ve just got to go out there and win this race.”
Spencer Massey was second with a 3.834 at 313.88 in the FRAM/Prestone dragster and Antron Brown is third with a 3.841 at 315.19 in the Matco Tools dragster. Series points leader Del Worsham qualified seventh with a 3.893 at 311.41 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster.
In Pro Stock, Johnson logged a track record performance of 6.538 at 211.58 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger to earn his third No. 1 qualifying position of the season, 18th of his career and second consecutive at this track.
“In the morning run we made a really good run,” said Johnson, who will face V Gaines in the opening round. “We actually had to change motors because we had a little bit of a problem so we had to put in the back up motor and it really feels good to do that. We’ve got three or four that we can put in there and do about the same thing. Our team loves coming out here for the Western Swing. We always have a blast.”
Greg Anderson qualified second with a 6.551 at 209.69 in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP and Erica Enders will try to claim her milestone first victory from the third spot. She posted a 6.555 at 209.82 in her ZaZa Energy Chevy Cobalt.
Rookie rider Arana Jr. took his third No. 1 of the season in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a 6.881 at 193.99 on his Lucas Oil Buell. He had to rally to take the top spot back on his final run after Eddie Krawiec briefly stole the position late in the second session.
“I saw Eddie make his run and I was like, ‘Oh no, he just took it from me,’” Arana Jr. said. “I felt sick to my stomach and my nerves really kicked in. I was shaking, but I knew if I made a perfect run we could take it back. I let the clutch out and it fishtailed a little. Then I went through the gears and tucked as tight as I ever have and we got it back by a thousandth of a second. That was about as exciting as it gets right there.”
Arana Jr. will face Jim Underdahl in the opening round while No. 2 qualifier Krawiec will meet resurgent Chip Ellis. Andrew Hines qualified third and will face Hector Arana Sr.
John Force raced to an Infineon Raceway track record performance to lead Funny Car qualifying Friday at the FRAM / Autolite NHRA Nationals.
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Force followed his victory in Denver last weekend with a 4.060 second run at 311.99 mph in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to take the provisional No. 1 qualifying position at the scenic Northern California dragstrip. If the time holds through Saturday’s two qualifying sessions (11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.) Force will become the NHRA’s all-time No. 1 qualifying leader with 139 in his career.
“It’s a credit to (co-crew chiefs) Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas, they’ve given me a good car all year, but it’s like I said after I won at Denver, my focus has been on too many things,” Force said. “I’m excited and my guys are great, but (Tim) Wilkerson helped when he couldn’t run because the sun was in his eyes. We all waited for the sun to drop and we got it. Credit goes to the guys and this race track. The weather has been so beautiful here today.”
It was a tense moment after the run, as Force’s parachutes got tangled as he tried to slow his car, but the 15-time world champ managed to bring his machine to a stop just before the sandtraps at the end of the track.
“She was trucking on down through there,” Force said. “I stopped a foot short of the sand. I wasn’t flying when I got there, but I got on the brakes and slowed her down when I got there. The whole chute packs fell off the back on one side for some reason.”
Force credited a lucky coin he received from NASCAR team owner Jack Roush in helping him get the car stopped. He’s hoping the coin will help him win his second race in a row and continue an upward climb in the point standings as the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs approach.
“I’ve got my lucky coin,” Force said with a smile. “Roush gave it to me. I am going to carry it all weekend and see what happens. After I’ve been getting beat up all year I deserve a little luck.”
Robert Hight was second with a 4.084 at 311.49 in the Auto Club Ford Mustang and defending winner Ron Capps was third in his NAPA Dodge Charger with a 4.107 at 305.77.
Schumacher was quickest in Top Fuel with a 3.814 at a track record speed of 321.65 in his U.S. Army dragster.
“This isn’t a track where you show up at and try to be average,” Schumacher said. “The conditions were perfect. It will be hotter tomorrow. It was the run. You have to be in the top half of the field. We’ve been trying some things in testing after Chicago and it’s starting to pay off. I am as excited as I’ve been in a long time. (Crew Chief) Mike (Green) feels comfortable and that always puts the driver at ease.”
Schumacher’s teammates were second and third overall, as Spencer Massey posted a 3.834 at 312.50 in his FRAM/Prestone dragster and Antron Brown clocked a 3.841 at 315.19 in his Matco Tools dragster.
Johnson powered his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger to the top of the order in Pro Stock with a performance of 6.547 at 210.50.
“We made a really good run,” Johnson said. “The air was getting better really fast and this Hemi likes to breathe that good air. The track is awesome and that Mopar Dodge Avenger is really hauling the mail. That is about what we should have run, so everybody else is having a little bit of problems but I bet they will catch up tomorrow.”
Johnson held off a hard-charging Erica Enders for the top spot. Enders was second in her ZaZa Energy Chevy Cobalt with a 6.555 at 209.82 and Larry Morgan drove his Lucas Oil Ford Mustang to the third spot in 6.576 seconds at 209.36.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. covered the distance in 6.887 at 193.02 on his Lucas Oil Buell.
“All we did was make one clutch adjustment and the track came to us and I just rode a really good pass,” Arana Jr. said. “It was amazing. I knew it was good as soon as I dropped the clutch because it smacked me in the butt. I tucked really hard and I ran a 6.88. This new motor is amazing. Hopefully we can keep the No. 1 spot and it will have one hell of a record going and now I just need to do my job and get a win.”
Angie Smith was second with a 6.949 at 190.22 on a Buell and defending winner Michael Phillips, who was runner-up last weekend at Denver, was third on his Racers Edge Buell with a 6.950 at 193.88