Ron Capps raced to his first victory of the season Sunday at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway and ended John Force Racing’s season-long stronghold on the winner’s circle in Funny Car.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Kraweic (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Capps, who used a consistent string of 4.16-second runs to take his 34th career victory, outran Robert Hight in the final round, who was trying to give JFR its seventh consecutive win of the season. Capps’ Napa Auto Parts Dodge Charger posted a 4.166 second run at 303.91 mph to take the win, while Hight’s Auto Club Ford Mustang trailed with a 4.399 at 273.44.
“We love those guys,” Capps said of Hight and his team. “[Crew chief Rahn] Tobler and Prock went to dinner here not too long ago. They’re good friends, and Robert and I are good friends. We had dinner last night and watch the UFC fight. I told them at the other end, ‘You guys bring everything I got out when I have to race you.’ I got so tired of hearing about Force [Racing] winning every race. I got tired hearing about Robert. I love him but I got tired of hearing about him on this race streak. I tweeted when they gave Will Power the first quarter Driver of the Year thing. That’s a pretty stout group of guys voting for that thing — I mean it’s Mario Andretti, ‘Snake’ [Don Prudhomme] — and it irritated me that they didn’t give him that, but I told him, ‘I’m tired of hearing about you winning.’ I know Tobler’s the same way. We go up there, and it brings everything we’ve got to race those guys, so to beat them was huge.”
Capps also beat Daniel Wilkerson, Matt Hagan and Jeff Arend to advance to the final, the 73rd of his career. It is the third-straight final round appearance for Capps since Tobler joined his team.
“This is such a great team, and right from the get-go in Charlotte, the first run reminded me how fun it can be to race again,” “I was starting to just get a little frustrated and wondered if maybe I wasn’t as good as I used to be when I was younger. It just got very difficult. When Don [Schumacher, team owner] made the move and put me with Rahn [Tobler] and John Collins, I’m telling you it was just unbelievable. I’m having so much fun right now. I’m the luckiest guy in the world to be driving this car.”
Torrence earned his first career Top Fuel victory and in the process denied Tony Schumacher from finally getting a victory at Atlanta Dragway, the only track on the circuit where the seven-time world champ has yet to win. Torrence covered the distance in 3.893 at 320.66 in his Capco Contractors dragster while Schumacher’s U.S. Army dragster lost traction early in the race and finished in 4.913 at 169.44.
Torrence, who qualified second, used a bunch of 3.8-second runs to cruise through eliminations, knocking off J.R. Todd, Bob Vandergriff and Brandon Bernstein along the way to his first career final.
“It hasn’t really even set in,” said Torrence, the 2005 Top Alcohol Dragster national champ in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series. “We’ve been working our tails off since last year at this race. This was the last race that I raced with Dexter [Tuttle] and we set out to start our own team. To kind of start the new team and get the first win here, that’s a big deal for us. We’re 10 races into this new team. Richard Hogan [crew chief], I’ve got all the confidence in the world in that guy. I told him from day one that he’s my guy, and I’ve stuck with it. This car has run really, really well. My driving, I’ve been practicing, and the seat time of just making passes in a good car has really helped me a lot. Getting this first win, it’s unbelievable. To do it here at Atlanta is awesome. This is a great racetrack. It just hasn’t caught up to me yet. Hopefully, this is the start of a lot of really good things.”
Anderson raced to his third Pro Stock win of the season with a reaction time advantage, holding off hard-charging teammate Jason Line at the finish line. Anderson took his 73rd career victory with a performance of 6.649 at 208.26 in his Summit Racing Pontiac to hold off the quicker, but losing Summit Racing Pontiac of Line, which finished in 6.618 at 209.62.
“We’re very happy as a team [about the Summit cars reaching five Pro Stock finals this year],” said Anderson, who beat Greg Stanfield, Steve Kent and Allen Johnson in earlier rounds. “It’s great to have three Summit cars in the semis. That doesn’t happen too often with multi-car teams. It just tells you that everybody is rowing the boat in the same direction and pulling their load. That’s what I’m the most proud of – assembling this team and instilling in them that it doesn’t matter which driver wins.
“It all goes back to what Ken Black does for this team. We just want to dig harder and harder every day because that’s what he is doing, going to rehab and trying to get back to walking, and he’s darn close. When you see that, you don’t want to let the man down. You want to make him proud. And when he gets back to the race track full-time, we want our cars to be running at their best.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, defending world champ Krawiec took his second victory of the season, outrunning first-time finalist Michael Ray. Krawiec powered his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a winning run of 6.905 at 195.53 to hold off Ray’s GottSpeed Racing Buell, which finished in 7.036 at 187.94.
Krawiec advanced to the final with early round wins over Michael Phillips, Karen Stoffer and Shawn Gann. It was Krawiec’s 13th career victory and second at Atlanta Dragway.
“We are just trying to get a handle on the motorcycle and working on getting it to leave well, and I think we did that this weekend,” Krawiec said. “It ran awesome and I’ve got a killer motorcycle right now.”
Robert Hight will lead John Force Racing’s quest to earn its seventh consecutive victory to open the season in Sunday’s final eliminations at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Sr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their categories into tomorrow’s eliminations as No. 1 qualifiers at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Hight, who has won four of the first six races in 2012, claimed his fourth No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday with a leading performance of 4.104 seconds at 308.35 mph in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. Hight teammates John Force and Mike Neff won the other two races to give the JFR team a stronghold on the winner’s circle this season.
“There’s a lot of cars that are bunched up there,” said Hight of the 43rd top qualifying effort of his career. “It’s going to be a tough, tough race tomorrow. I’m excited for it. You’re going to see a lot of close, side-by-side racing. When you win a race like this, it’s a little more special. You probably are going to need a few breaks along the way because anything can happen in this heat.”
Hight, a two-time Atlanta Dragway winner, will race Bob Bode in the opening round of eliminations. Hight teammate Neff, winner at last week’s event in Houston, fell victim to the tricky race conditions produced by track temperatures nearing 140 degrees and failed to qualify. It was Neff’s first DNQ since Dallas 2008.
Hight said he and crew chief Jimmy Prock went back to a baseline tuneup on the final qualifying attempt to prepare for what may be similar conditions on race day. The move was even more necessary once the team saw Neff’s Castrol GTX Mustang drop a cylinder and miss the 16-car starting lineup.
“[Prock] said, ‘We have to make a run down the track in 130-degree-plus track temperature,’ because we didn’t have that yesterday,” Hight said. “It was middle 120s. He said, ‘We’ve gotta go.’ I’ll be honest with you, I think the right lane is probably the preferred lane, so to run a .15 in the left lane there, that was a statement.”
In other first round pairings in Funny Car, No. 2 qualifier Ron Capps will race Daniel Wilkerson, Bob Tasca III will meet Johnny Gray and one of NHRA’s best rivalries will resume when two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon will meet 15-time world champ and seven time Atlanta Dragway winner John Force.
Schumacher took his first No. 1 effort of the season and 68th of his career in Top Fuel with his Friday track record time of 3.815 at a speed of 322.58 in his U.S. Army dragster. Schumacher, winless since Oct. 2010, has yet to win at Atlanta Dragway, the only track on the circuit where he has not visited winner’s circle. Schumacher will face journeyman Pat Dakin in the first round.
“We’ve got a great race car,” Schumacher said. “That last one, we just freed it up a ton to get down the racetrack, probably way over center. Being the No. 1 qualifier, we’re going to go out there and at least have a chance to run where we want to run, what lane we want, and all those good things that come with it. I’ve been saying all along we’re not going to go out and have any easy rounds, but at least it’s our choice when and what lane. We’re going to win one of these things. We’ve got a great car, a great team. We’ve just had terrible luck. If we go out and get a little luck, it will turn. It always does. I look forward to starting a winning streak tomorrow.”
In other Top Fuel first-round action, second qualifier Steve Torrence will meet J.R. Todd, third qualifier Shawn Langdon will face Clay Millican, and series leader Antron Brown will meet Doug Kalitta.
Defending Pro Stock world champ Line was the only top qualifier to improve his performance from Friday, powering his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP to a 6.607 at 209.04 to take his fourth No. 1 of the season and 28th of his career. Line will meet six-time world champ Warren Johnson in the opening round.
“It was obviously hotter out here today, but the NHRA crew did a great job,” Line said. “For a race track that was this hot, I’d say that their preparation work was phenomenal. We just tried to make good, safe runs today, and we feel very good about going into tomorrow’s eliminations. Our crew has done a great job all year long. I told [NHRA announcer Alan] Reinhart at the end of the track after the last run that I feel bad because I don’t think that I’ve held up my end of the deal. I’ve struggled to maintain the intensity it takes to be the best in this class. But I feel good about things now, and maybe this weekend will end up being a big turn-around for us.”
Several strong first round meetings are set in Pro Stock as No. 2 qualifier Allen Johnson will face four-time world champ Jeg Coughlin, series points leader Greg Anderson will meet Greg Stanfield and veterans Mike Edwards and Larry Morgan will race in a Pontiac vs. Ford showdown.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Sr. earned his second-straight No. 1 of the season and 19th of his career with his Friday run of 6.894 at a track record speed of 193.82 on his Lucas Oil Buell. Arana will race Joey Gladstone in the first round.
“I really have to give credit to NHRA and the Safety Safari for doing an excellent job this weekend,” Arana said. “We still have to learn how to tune our bike for the warmer weather. We’re going to use this data for the upcoming races because this is the beginning of the summer with the heat. I think that my bike is tapped out right now. I’m getting as much out of her as I can get.”