Words and photos courtesy: NHRA Communications

Antron Brown raced to his fourth win of the season in Top Fuel Sunday as racing came to an end at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

Johnny Gray, Greg Anderson and LE Tonglet were also winners in their respective categories at the 15th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

Brown powered his Matco Tools dragster past fellow Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher in the final round to collect the win. His final round run of 3.844-seconds at 319.22 mph proved strong enough to secure his fourth win of the season and 29th of his career. It also moved him up to the second spot in the point standings with just one race remaining until the start of the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, a six-race playoff round to determine the world champion in each category.

“We were thrown some curveballs in qualifying when we were going for the gusto and trying to get the No. 1 spot, but the Matco team was ready for race day,” said Brown. “Mark (Oswald) and Brian (Corradi, crew chiefs) really put their heads down and gave me an incredible race car this weekend. Without a doubt, there’s no love lost with the Al-Anabi cars. We have a lot of respect for that race team and know that the championship goes through them, so we put a lot into trying to win those rounds. We’re going to stay poised and try to take our momentum to Indy.”

While Brown moved up in the point standings, Top Fuel pilot Brandon Bernstein clinched his berth in the Countdown to the Championship with his second round finish on Sunday. Only the final three spots in the Top 10 point standings in Top Fuel remain open.

In Funny Car, Pro Stock driver-turned Funny Car pilot Johnny Gray raced to his first NHRA career win. Gray’s run of 4.113 at 307.02 in his Service Central Dodge Charger was strong enough to get past Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in Gray’s second final round appearance of the season.

“I really wanted to win a race in a Fuel Funny Car,” said Gray. “I’m 58 years old, so there’s probably not a whole lot of time left. There are no words for it.”

With the win, Gray moved to within 62 points of 10th-place driver Bob Tasca with just one race left before the cutoff for the Countdown to the Championship.

The Countdown is one of those deals,” said Gray. “If Tasca has bad luck, we might have a chance. If he runs like he normally does and has good luck, we’re pretty well done. No matter what, we’re putting together a good car that we can carry into next year. The way I look at it, there are guys out there who crucified me when we weren’t running good, and we’ll see if we can’t ruin their chances at a championship.”

In Pro Stock, defending world champion and Minnesota native Greg Anderson followed up his runner-up finish in Seattle with a win against Erica Enders. Anderson drove his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP to a 6.599 at 209.26 to get his fourth win of the season and 69th of his career. The win also moved Anderson to the top of the Pro Stock point standings.

“This was a perfect weekend,” said Anderson. “On Friday, our cars were good off of the trailer. Jason (Line, teammate) and I qualified 1 and 2 and we had a ton of confidence. It all fell into place and the only dark spot was Jason losing in the semifinals. We have two good cars right now and I’m proud of our team for that. Jason and I only win races because of our team.”

Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion LE Tonglet raced to his fourth win of the season. Tonglet powered his Nitro Fish Suzuki past runner-up Hector Arana Jr. with a 6.954 at 191.27 for his ninth career win. The win also moved him up to the third spot in the point standings.

“I can’t believe what we’ve been able to do the last few races and I really didn’t think I was going to beat Hector Jr. the way he’s been running,” said Tonglet. “For him to slow down so much. I don’t know what happened. I’m just happy for us to get the win. I waited for him to go by me and he never did.”

Fellow Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors Andrew Hines, Matt Smith and Hector Arana Sr. all clinched their berths in the Countdown to the Championship with their performances during Sunday eliminations.

Saturday

Del Worsham raced to the No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel Saturday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.

Matt Hagan, Jason Line and Eddie Krawiec also took the provisional top spots in their respective categories at the 15th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

Worsham drove his Al-Anabi dragster to the top of the field with a run of 3.808-seconds at 322.04 mph. His Saturday run was strong enough to take the top spot away from Spencer Massey and earn the driver his fifth No. 1 qualifier of the season, 10th of his career and only second at Brainerd International Raceway, with his last coming his rookie season in 1991.

“There’s definitely a generation gap in there,” said Worsham, referring to his last No. 1 in Brainerd. “The Al-Anabi guys did a great job getting our car to run well in the first session today. We smoked the tires on the last run, but that was just Alan Johnson testing the parameters of what the track will hold.”

Doug Kalitta secured his spot in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, the 6-race playoff for the world championship, by qualifying his Kalitta Air dragster 13th in the field.

In Funny Car, Matt Hagan held on to the top spot in the field when qualifying ended Saturday. Hagan drove his Die Hard Dodge Charger to a 4.101 at 303.57 to secure his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and eighth of his career.

“We’ve got a good setup that works in hot and cold weather, so we’re ready for whatever tomorrow brings us,” said Hagan. “We’re just going to do our deal, race the racetrack, and try to go rounds tomorrow. We’ve been talking about luck a lot this year, and we haven’t had a whole lot of it, so we’re going to leave luck out of it. It’s a pleasure to have a special-edition car with Freightliner on the side of it, so we’re going to try to do something special with it on race day.”

Defending world champion John Force secured his berth in the Countdown to the Championship by qualifying 15th, while Don Schumacher Racing driver Ron Capps also locked in a spot in the Countdown by qualifying fourth.

In Pro Stock, points leader Jason Line took the top spot in the category away from Mike Edwards. Line’s run of 6.581 of 209.26 in his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GXP gave the Minnesota native his third No. 1 qualifier of the season and 20th of his career.

“The track was really good today and we made a couple of good runs,” said Line, a native of Wright, Minn. “If I win this thing they might give me the key to the city. (Wright) is a small town and I know they are proud. Heck, I think most of them are here this weekend. Seriously, winning this race would be the best for me.”

Krawiec stayed at the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle field with his run from Friday night. Krawiec’s track record-setting run of 6.885 at 194.463 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson was strong enough to give the rider his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and eighth of his career.

“This year I’ve lost three low qualifiers in the last session, said Krawiec. “I know it doesn’t mean a whole lot but it’s good for bragging rights. No matter, I’m happy to be up there. Saturday is more about race conditions. Friday night (qualifying) is more for glory. I did have low E.T. this morning, which shows how good our overall package is.”



Friday

Matt Hagan raced to the provisional No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car and clinched his spot in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship Friday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.

Spencer Massey, Mike Edwards and Eddie Krawiec also took the provisional top spots in their respective categories at the 15th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

Hagan powered his Die Hard Dodge Charger to the top of the field during the second session of qualifying. Hagan’s 4.101-secondn run at 303.57 mph moved him past John Force and into the provisional top spot, while his first round run was strong enough to clinch his berth in the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s 6-race playoff for the NHRA Full Throttle world championship.

“It’s great to get the DieHard Funny Car back in the provisional pole position,” said Hagan. “We came into this season expecting to set the world on fire, but it’s taken a while to get a handle on a combination that’s brand new from the (injector) hat on down. (Crew chief) Tommy DeLago has been working on it, and it’s coming along and showing a lot of promise.”

Seattle winner Tim Wilkerson currently sits fifth in the field, while 10th-place driver entering the race, Bob Tasca, sits second.

In Top Fuel, Massey drove his Prestone/FRAM dragster to a 3.835 at 322.58 in the final qualifying session of the day to take the provisional No. 1 spot. If it stands, it would be Massey’s third of the season and fourth of his career.

“We got some cloud cover before the second session, so the track cooled off and we were able to apply more power,” said Massey. “I saw Del (Worsham) run a 3.83, so I called a 3.826. It was close. Phil (Shuler, co-crew chief) reached into the cockpit to adjust something before I staged the car. He obviously liked something he saw on the track and made the car more aggressive. I asked him what he did when we got back to the pits, and he said, ‘It worked, didn’t it?’”

Three-time Brainerd winner Tony Schumacher currently sits second in the field, while defending event winner and world champion Larry Dixon currently sits sixth.

In Pro Stock, Edwards posted the quickest runs of both qualifying sessions and powered his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP to a 6.595 at 208.65. If it stands, it would be his fourth No. 1 qualifier of the season and 38th of his career.

“This is a good start to the weekend,” said Edwards. “We didn’t make a great run the first time but the last one was really nice. It’s not going to hold tomorrow. There will be some faster runs. Tomorrow the air will be better and that track will be just as good or better. Still, I’m happy right now.”

Krawiec rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to the top of the field in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a track record-setting run of 6.885 at 194.463. If it stands, it would be Krawiec’s second No. 1 qualifier of the season and eighth of his career.

“Obviously the conditions here in Brainerd are good,” said Krawiec. “We’re not really used to conditions this good here. Look around us, there are trees and green grass and lots of oxygen and that’s good for us (Pro Stock Motorycle) guys. We’ve put together a good package with our Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson’s. We were good off the starting line, and we got good valuable data off of our first run and we used that to our advantage.”