Words compiled from press releases courtesy NHRA Communications
Mike Neff raced to his fourth Funny Car victory of the season Sunday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway near Chicago.
Del Worsham (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
With the win, Neff gave Ford its milestone 200th NHRA Funny Car victory as he powered his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a performance of 4.246 seconds at 293.22 mph to defeat Jeff Arend, who posted a 5.168 at 186.54 in his DHL Funny Car.
“The heat is what was hard for everyone out there today,” Neff said. “It was a challenge. With the conditions it was one of those races where you have to get your car down the racetrack if you want to win. It’s a tribute to our Ford Mustang body. It’s a great car and we have great preparation by the team because the car is so consistent right now.”
Top qualifier Neff defeated Justin Schriefer, Bob Tasca and Jack Beckman in the first three rounds with a string of consistent 4.20-second performances.
“I’m feeling pretty good right now,” said Neff, who increased his series lead to 172 points over second-place Beckman. “We’ve been going to a lot of finals, and that’s like training. You get in a groove and now, everybody is feeling good.”
Worsham raced to his fifth victory of the season in Top Fuel, powering his Al-Anabi Racing dragster past David Grubnic in the final round. A three-time Funny Car winner here, Worsham joined Gary Scelzi as the only drivers to win in both nitro categories at Route 66 Raceway when he posted a 3.978 at 299.40 to hold off Grubnic’s Kalitta Motorsports machine, which trailed with a 4.055 at 294.50.
“What a day we had here,” said Worsham of his 30th career victory. “It started off not so good. We went down the track only one time out of four in qualifying, but when you have a guy like Alan Johnson (team manager) in your corner, you’re never out of it. It showed the depth of our team. To win for the fifth time this year is like a dream come true. When the whole [switch from Funny Car to Top Fuel] was announced I had mixed emotions. It was (team owner) Sheikh Khalid’s call and now he looks like a genius. I just feel very lucky to be in this spot. I never expected that we’d be able to do so much so soon this year.”
Anderson earned his second victory of the season and 67th of his career, denying Erica Enders her first win in her fourth career final round. Anderson took his first Route 66 Raceway victory with a holeshot victory as he drove his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP to a 6.670 at 207.18 to cross the finish line in front of Enders, who had a quicker, but losing, 6.659 at 206.89 in her ZaZa Energy Chevy Cobalt.
“When the track temperature is 135 there is not a lot of traction and it becomes a crew chief’s race,” Anderson said. ”The driver has to find a way to make it happen too. I don’t know how it worked out, but it did. This was the last track I hadn’t won at and now I have, so that’s cool at least until we go to someplace new.”
Anderson beat Steve Spiess, Rodger Brogdon and Shane Gray to advance to the final round from the No. 1 qualifying position.
“My boys saved me all day and then I got lucky and did something as a driver,” said Anderson, who moved into second place in the series standings, 54 points behind leader Jason Line. “At least for one weekend I held the girl [Enders] off. I was scared to death racing her in the final. Don’t get me wrong; it is going to happen this year. She is the real deal and she’s going to win many races. I just didn’t go in the record books as being the first one to lose a final to her.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Tonglet rebounded from a DNQ at the last event to claim his second victory of the season and pick up his second consecutive win at this event. He pulled away from Chip Ellis in the final with a 7.047 at 188.46 on his Nitro Fish Suzuki. Ellis, whose last final round was in 2008 at Englishtown, N.J., finished in 7.153 at 185.49 on his Kuryakyn/Lartigue Racing Buell.
“We are back to our old motor from the end of last year,” said Tonglet, the defending Full Throttle Series world champ. “We had a bad race in Englishtown and blew up all of our motors so we had to get Vance and Hines to fix them all. We were just hoping to qualify after Norwalk. We were confident here after qualifying number three. For the final it stepped up and almost made a perfect run.”
Tonglet, who raced past Angie Smith, David Hope and Matt Smith in earlier rounds, said he had a lot of support from the Route 66 Raceway spectators.
“It means a lot to win here again,” said Tonglet, who earned his first career victory here one year ago. “Chicago is awesome. The fans are coming by the trailer now more often and they all know we are the world champs. To win here two years in a row is awesome.”
Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Eddie Krawiec lost in the second round and now leads Karen Stoffer by six points. Tonglet moved into a tie for fourth with three-time world champ Andrew Hines.
While the warm summertime conditions provided a bit of a challenge for crew chiefs and drivers to make the correct tune-up decisions for their hot rods, the climate proved to be a great atmosphere for the thousands of Chicagoland fans who flocked to the track over the race weekend. New Route 66 Raceway track president Scott Paddock enjoyed his first NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series experience.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the four days of racing we saw this weekend at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals,” Paddock said. “Today’s gorgeous weather was the perfect backdrop for Greg Anderson’s first-ever win at Route 66 Raceway, as well as the other outstanding winners: Del Worsham, Mike Neff and LE Tonglet. A big thank you to the city of Joliet and to our fans for their tremendous support along with the NHRA, who continues to be a terrific partner to work with. We look forward to bringing back all the excitement of the NHRA Nationals in 2012.”
Defending Pro Stock world champion Greg Anderson claimed his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals, ending a drought of 43 races without a top spot that dates back to the 2009 season.
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car) 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.
Anderson took his fifth No. 1 at Route 66 Raceway and the 74th of his career with his Friday run of 6.586 seconds at 209.14 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP.
“It’s great to be a No. 1 qualifier again after a 43-race drought,” Anderson said. “I can’t explain why it happened, but I know that we have a real good car now, and we’re very pleased with that. In the past, we’ve usually turned our program around by switching cars. But when you do that, you never really solve the problem. This time we decided to stick with it and get this thing sorted out, and I’m glad that we did. It’s more personally gratifying this way.”
Anderson will face Ronnie Humphrey in the first round of eliminations as he tries to claim his first win at the Chicago track, the only one on the circuit where the four-time champ has not visited Winner’s Circle.
“I don’t know why I have never won at this track,” Anderson said. “It’s a beautiful facility, and I always enjoy coming here. It’s always something crazy that has happened that has kept us from winning here in the past. I don’t think that we’ve pressed too hard or anything like that. I can tell you that my teammate Jason Line certainly likes this track [with his three wins here]. Getting the No. 1 qualifying position is a good way to start off. Maybe this weekend we can finally make it all happen here.”
In Top Fuel, FRAM/Prestone dragster driver Massey claimed his second No. 1 of the season and third of his career with his performance of 3.819 at 319.29 from Friday. He will meet local favorite TJ Zizzo of nearby Linconshire in the opening round and try to push his amazing streak of consecutive runs without smoking the tires to 41, and if possible, 44 by the end of the day.
“I’m very happy that we qualified No. 1,” Massey said. “Extending our streak of runs without smoking the tires to 40 is cool, but qualifying No. 1 is better. I’ve got this great opportunity to drive again, and I’m loving it. I want to be like the “Greek” [Chris Karamesines], and be driving until I’m in my 80s. Things couldn’t be better for us right now. (Crew chiefs) Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler have got our car running like a machine now. That’s what Tony Schumacher told me wins races – you have to be like a machine. When you smoke the tires, you are beating yourself. You have to depend on the car in the other lane to smoke its tires or run slower than you, and that’s not the way to win races.”
Neff, who is leading the Funny Car series point standings while serving as both driver and crew chief for his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, took his fifth top qualifying position of his career and first since 2009 as no one bettered his Friday run of 4.110 seconds at 298.01 mph.
“We anticipated that the conditions would be cooler than they were last night, but it never unfolded that way,” Neff said. “I think that’s why you saw several cars go up in smoke during their runs. When it came time for us to run as the last pair, we knew we had nothing to gain by going after it, so we backed it down some to make sure that we could get down the track.”
Neff, a three-time winner this season, will race Justin Schriefer in the first round. He says the hot and steamy track conditions expected Sunday will favor a veteran driver.
“I think that a driver like John Force, who has a lot of runs under his belt, has the advantage over a driver like me, who hasn’t been in many pedaling duels,” Neff said. ”So as a tuner, I will do what I can to play it safe and try to make sure that we don’t smoke the tires during eliminations.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. earned his second consecutive No. 1 of the season by riding his Lucas Oil Buell to a 6.950 at 191.65. The rookie rider will face veteran GT Tonglet in the opening round.
“I’m just having a good time,” Arana Jr. said. “That new motor we have is killer and I’m just having fun with it. If the conditions got better this afternoon, I knew I’d improve as well. This is two No. 1 qualifiers and now we have a great shot at getting that Wally tomorrow. I need to take it one round at a time. I messed up in Ohio (Norwalk) because I got too confident and thought about the final round before I even got there. I need to think about the first-round first.”
Spencer Massey raced to the qualifying lead in Top Fuel Friday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
Mike Neff (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event at Route 66 Raceway near Chicago.
Massey powered his FRAM/Prestone dragster to a performance of 3.819 seconds at 319.29 mph and continued his impressive early season streak of consecutive runs down the dragstrip without losing traction or suffering a mechanical failure to 38. The streak started during qualifying at the Atlanta event in May.
“I have to think about before each run because it’s so many runs in a row,” Massey said. “This track has always been killer and there’s been great numbers put down here so I figured this thing could run an 82 or 83 and if it stuck it was going to make it. It surprised me with an 81, but I’ll take an 81 and a No. 1 anytime.”
“Todd and Phil (crew chiefs) they don’t really know how to back it down that much,” Massey said. “Not only does it go down the racetrack, but they are killer numbers. That’s unbelievable. For any kind of nitro car that’s been this many runs in a row, that’s impressive and they aren’t just running down the track with conservative numbers, but they are really getting after it. It is just a testament to Todd and Phil and this Don Schumacher Racing team.”
Series leader Neff posted a 4.110 at 298.01 in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to top the Funny Car lineup.
“The conditions did come around a lot for that second session and the track cooled of about 20 degrees,” said Neff, who hasn’t qualified No. 1 since 2009 Brainerd. “That is pretty much where we thought we would run. The asphalt is still pretty new out there. We spun the tires real hard when we hit the asphalt. We were being a little more conservative here tonight knowing that tomorrow night we will have much better conditions than we had tonight. I just wanted to get down the track and make sure we were qualified for tomorrow. Tomorrow night we will have a better chance to run quicker with better conditions.”
Anderson, who hasn’t qualified No. 1 since 2009 Sonoma, led Pro Stock with a 6.586 at 208.97 in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP.
“It’s not official yet, but it feels good for a night anyway,” Anderson said. “If we can get lucky and hold on tomorrow, it will be the first time (we’ve claimed a No. 1 qualifying position) in over a year. That’s a little odd for me I guess. This class is tough and it is a knock-down, drag-out brawl every weekend. There’s tough cars and tough drivers and you never know who’s going to run low and win an event, so it’s just a great class right now and it’s fun to be a part of.”
Rookie rider Arana Jr. paced the Pro Stock Motorcycle category with a 6.950 at 188.86 on his Lucas Oil Buell as he is seeking his second straight No. 1 qualifying effort.
“I’m finally getting some seat time, getting comfortable on the bike,” Arana Jr. said. “It’s all coming together. We have a new motor, Gracie, named after my mother. That’s all we’ve done. We’ve stayed consistent, and it’s paid off.”