Del Worsham continued his impressive start to the season by racing to the Top Fuel victory Sunday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Royal Purple Raceway. Jeff Arend (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock), Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle), and Mike Castellana (Pro Modified) also were winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event near Houston.
With the victory, longtime Funny Car racer Worsham joined Mike Dunn as the only drivers to win this event in both nitro categories. Worsham powered away from Al-Anabi Racing teammate Larry Dixon to take his third win of the season and second in a row. He covered the distance in 3.880 seconds at 318.99 mph while defending world champ Dixon finished in 3.900 at 316.82.
After a sluggish qualifying effort, Worsham and his Brian Husen-tuned dragster got in the groove on race day and powered past Bob Vandergriff, David Grubnic and Doug Kalitta before slipping past Dixon in the final. With the victory Worsham increased his series lead to 95 over Dixon.
“This is surreal,” said Worsham of his 28th career victory. “The way the day unfolded, we had some close races and it was amazing. It was great to race Larry in the final because he’s the champion and we’re all shooting for him. The final was a heck of a race. I’ve got to give all the credit to the Al-Anabi team. I am just a small part of it. The cars are so evenly matched it’s just a matter of who’s hot at that given second. When I saw the win light come on down there I was like this is just another unbelievable day.”
Arend took the Funny Car victory when final round opponent Mike Neff fouled at the starting line in his Ford Mustang. Arend’s DHL machine crossed the finish line in 4.259 at 297.68 to take his first win of the season and third of his career.
Arend, who qualified 10th, claimed early round wins over Paul Lee, Tim Wilkerson and Bob Bode with his quickest winning time in the three rounds a 4.307. Meanwhile Neff had reeled off a string of low four teens to make the final. Arend was surprised to hear Neff hit the throttle twice in the opposite lane in the final and eventually leave before the tree turned green.
“We knew we needed a little bit of help against Mike because he was strong all weekend,” Arend said. “It was a long light and I kinda heard him go burp-burp, and I was going down the track thinking I should shut it off, but it was too much fun. You never know what is going to happen in drag racing and sometimes it surprises you. To get this win and dedicate it to Scott (Kalitta) that was huge.”
With the runner-up finish, Neff moved back into the series lead, 18 in front of teammate Robert Hight.
Rookie driver Vincent Nobile used a near-perfect reaction time of .007 of a second to earn his first Pro Stock victory. Nobile, 19, became the youngest driver to win in the history of NHRA’s 41-year-old factory hot rod category when his Mountain View Dodge Avenger finished in 6.625 at 209.72 to edge local favorite Rodger Brogdon of nearby Tomball, who posted a quicker but losing 6.624 at 208.78 in his Racers Edge Pontiac GXP.
“It was close, I didn’t even know who won at the stripe,” said Nobile, who also defeated Kurt Johnson, Jason Line and Greg Stanfield in his second career final round appearance. “Then everyone was screaming in my ear that we won. It was incredible. It’s crazy how competitive Pro Stock is. Every driver is great out here. There are no easy rounds. I race with a bunch of great people. We are definitely living on a high right now.”
Line regained the points lead in the 200 mph category with his quarterfinal finish and now holds a one point lead over Stanfield.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines claimed his first win of the season and 24th of his career by holding off Michael Phillips in the final round. Hines rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.900 at 195.14 while Phillips trailed with a 6.946 at 195.25 on his Racers Edge Suzuki. Hines defeated Chip Ellis, Jerry Savoie and Karen Stoffer to advance to the final round and successfully defend his win here from a year ago.
“To come to Houston, a track that was our nemesis for 20 years, and get two wins in a row is pretty special,” Hines said. “These pewter Wallys are really cool. Eddie (Krawiec, teammate) won his at Gainesville and I told him I didn’t want to touch it until I got one of my own. I didn’t expect to win mine this fast, but I am glad to get it. My brother Matt (Hines, crew chief) gave me a great motorcycle all weekend long and it was consistent and going perfectly straight down the track.”
Krawiec kept the points lead in the two-wheel class with his semifinal finish, and sits 18 ahead of Hines.
Mike Castellana was able to do what no one else had done the past two NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series races and defeated Khalid Balooshi in the final round.
This was the first final round appearance of the season for Castellana who was behind the wheel of his 1969 Al-Anabi Camaro with a nitrous engine. The cars were evenly matched down the course of the track but Castellana edged Balooshi with a winning time of 5.920 seconds at 243.15mph to a losing pass of 5.952 seconds at 243.28mph. He and Balooshi are teammates and this was the first time they raced each other in the finals.
With the runner-up finish Balooshi retains his lead in the Get Screened America Pro Mod Series points by 65 over Danny Rowe.
In Top Fuel, U.S. Army dragster driver Tony Schumacher posted his second No. 1 of the season and 63rd of his career based on his Friday run of 3.817 seconds at a track record speed of 323.81 mph. Schumacher will meet Troy Buff in the opening round.
With similar weather conditions expected for Sunday, two-time Houston winner Schumacher is looking forward to the challenge.
“We all have the same race track so if one (crew chief) figures it out before the others that team will have a good chance of winning the race,” Schumacher said. “Tomorrow is going to be about awesome battles. You are going to see a lot of people have to pedal the cars. When two guys blow (their tires) off at the tree it’s pretty cool. It’s game on. At the end of the day I have an incredible amount of faith in my team. We are trying to get a trophy. Those pewter trophies are looking good on everyone else’s shelf but I have a shelf too and I need to fill it. We’re just going to go out there and motor it down there and get some data in the first couple of rounds and go fast later.”
John Force earned the 137th No. 1 qualifying position of his Funny Car career with his Friday pass of 4.097 seconds at 310.27 mph in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang as slightly warmer weather conditions prevented the majority of racers in all categories from improving their performances during Saturday’s two sessions. Force will face rookie Brian Thiel in the first round of eliminations as the 15-time world champ is seeking his 133rd career victory and eighth at this track. A win by Force or either of his teammates would give the John Force Racing team its 200th NHRA victory.
“My team has given me a good car and it’s going down the race track,” Force said. “The track got a little tricky out there. I still drive my car with a brake handle and with my foot. When the crew chief tells me ‘I don’t know if it will go,’ that’s when I get excited because I know it’s in my hands and I can make some magic and get it through there. You look at some of these cars out here who got in the show. A big high-horsepower car ain’t what you need unless we get a cold front roll in here. You could call this a match racer’s race. The big dogs may step up if the cold front comes through and everybody tries to run (low numbers). Otherwise it could be anybody’s race day.”
In Pro Stock, journeyman racer Ronnie Humphrey earned his first career No. 1 qualifying position with his performance of 6.571 at 211.16 from yesterday. Humphrey, who drives the Summit/Genuine Hotrod Hardware Pontiac GXP, will face first round opponent Steve Kent, a rookie in the 200 mph category who is making his first career start.
“This is a dream that’s come true for our team and it is a team effort,” Humphrey said. “We were No. 2 in the final session today and now we need to get into race day and make it happen. I came to this race with a different plan. I quit thinking. I want to thank Jason Line because he told me to stop thinking about it so much and just go up there and have fun. Now we just have to get relaxed and go up there on race day and make some good runs.”
Tonglet claimed the second No. 1 qualifying position of his career in Pro Stock Motorcycle, as his Friday effort of 6.849 at 195.45 on his Nitro Fish Suzuki remained at the top of the 16-bike order. Tonglet will race veteran rider Steve Johnson in the first round.
“Qualifying ended on a high note when we stayed number one,” Tonglet said. “It felt good to have a performance like that at our home track. Conditions were a lot different than Friday. I’m glad we were able to capitalize on that, because it was really hot and humid Saturday. We had a bunch of people hanging around our pit area, and we’re expecting more on Sunday. We’re hoping to have a long day.”
Roger Burgess retained the No. 1 qualifying position at the end of qualifying on Saturday, his second time qualifying on the pole this year and the third time in his career during the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series event at Royal Purple Raceway.
His good fortunes were short-lived as mechanical problems in eliminations ended his weekend early when he had to shut off his turbo-charged ProCare Rx ’53 Corvette after the burnout, giving the win to 16-seeded Mike Janis.
“We had no oil pressure, and it wasn’t safe, so we shut it off. The belt on the oil pump broke. It was the right thing to shut it off,” stated Burgess. “You learn and move on. We have to be safe first, so we lived to race another day.”
Points leader Khalid Balooshi make it into the field on his third and final qualifying attempt and got a first-round win in eliminations. He will face Ed Hoover in the second round.
Other second-round pairings include Janis vs. Raymond Commisso, Mike Castellana vs. Pete Farber, and Danny Rowe vs. Donald Martin.
Three weeks after being inducted into the Texas Motor Sports Hall of Fame, John Force gave fans in the Lone Star state a great performance Friday as he raced to the No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car Friday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals at Royal Purple Raceway.
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Ronnie Humphrey (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event near Houston.
Seven-time world champ Schumacher led Top Fuel qualifying with a 3.817 at a track record speed of 323.81 in his U.S. Army dragster. His run was two-hundredths of a second quicker than teammate Spencer Massey’s second-best effort of 3.838 at 319.45 in the Prestone/FRAM dragster.
“That was pretty impressive,” Schumacher said. “I’m really not surprised at how well the car ran. Like I’ve stated for weeks, we’ve had a better car than our numbers have shown.”
The run certainly gives Schumacher, a two-time winner at Royal Purple Raceway, and his U.S. Army team led by crew chief Mike Green going into the weekend.
“We have a car that’s more than capable of winning a bunch of races,” Schumacher said. “We just need for it to run with some consistency and we’ll be more than fine.”
Force powered his Castrol High Mileage Ford Mustang to a 4.097 second run at 310.27 mph to lead the category. If his performance holds during Saturday’s final two qualifying sessions, Force will earn his third consecutive No. 1 effort of the season and inch closer to Pro Stock great Warren Johnson’s all-time NHRA No. 1 qualifying record of 138.
“I don’t drive Pro Stock so I don’t chase Warren Johnson,” said Force with a grin, who has 136 top qualifying efforts entering this event. “He is one of my heroes and I like having those records out there. I do what I do in Funny Car and that is about it.”
Force, the 15-time world champ, is more concerned with getting his first win of the season and moving up in the Full Throttle point standings.
“I haven’t had a win this year, Robert (Hight) has gotten two in the Auto Club Mustang and (Mike) Neff has one in the Castrol GTX Mustang, but I am excited to be with the young team,” Force said. “Ashley (Force Hood) started with these guys a few years back. (Co-crew chief) Dean Antonelli was taught by (former crew chief) Austin Coil and he is the best. He reminds me so much of his thinking like Austin. Teaming him up with Ron Douglas they just really get the job done. It is a young team but it is my daughter’s hot rod. She (Ashley) always lets me know that.”
Humphrey was quickest in Pro Stock with a 6.571 at 211.16 in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP. If his run holds it would be the first No. 1 of his career, at any level of drag racing.
“I have been around drag racing a long time and this is my first (qualifying lead) in any type of motorsports, so this is a new day for Ronnie Humphrey,” said Humphrey, who took the top spot by virtue of his faster speed over local favorite Rodger Brogdon of nearby Tomball, who ran an identical elapsed time. “Tomorrow’s first session should be a faster session but we’ll see what happens. I am glad day number one is over. We’ll be race ready for round three qualifying.”
Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ LE Tonglet led the two-wheel division with a track-record time of 6.849 at 195.45 on his Nitro Fish Suzuki.
“We were trying to dial in the clutch,” Tonglet said, “and it looks like it’s coming around. We are excited about it. The track conditions were not as good as you might think, but we were running big numbers out there.”
Burgess paced the field with a pass of 5.873 seconds at 247.79 seconds while behind the wheel of turbo-charged ProCare Rx ’53 Corvette.
“We found something on the first run and were able to make an adjustment. Steve [Petty] never holds back, he goes for it. Even though most people thought the track didn’t look good, he had his own opinion and exercises it. I drive what he gives me. We’ll give that one to the tuner,” said Burgess following the run. “We still have some technical issues that we are sorting through. But once it goes, it is a pleasure to drive. It’s the easiest to drive, most fun race car I’ve ever driven.”
The drivers in first and second in the Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series points standings are both currently outside the field of 16. Khalid Balooshi, winner of the first two events, is 18th with a best of only 9.516 seconds at 92.86 mph. Second in points Rickie Smith sits 20th with a pass of 13.269 seconds at 66.05 mph