Force, Brown, Ellis and Line Take Carolina Nationals
(CONCORD, NC - SEP 18, 2016 - RIS) Bracket Busting Sunday? zMAX Dragway holds a contest for the media to see who can predict the day's results best, but today proved to be a bracket-breaker for many as Tony Schumacher spun the tires on his Army Top Fuel racer, allowing Cameron Ferre to beat the champion and become undefeated in his first ever NHRA Top Fuel race. Australian Wayne Newby beat Shawn Langdon when Langdon had his tires spin halfway down the strip. Pat Dakin beat out JR Todd in Todd's haze of tire smoke, and Doug Kalitta, beat Ike Maier in about the only clean pair of Top Fuel's first round. Leah Pritchett beat Richie Crampton but had an engine failure and pulled to a halt with flames coming out of the car. Steve Torrence beat out Scott Palmer in a pedal fest and Antron Brown took advantage of a tire smoking pass by Clay Millican to advance to round two.
Funny Car was almost as fraught as Top Fuel, with four pairs decided with tire smoking runs by round losers. Tommy Johnson Jr had a solo run when Bob Gilbertson's engine failed to start on the line but he hazed the tires at mid-track. Matt Hagan beat out Courtney Force with Force's car yawing back and forth after center track. Alexis DeJoria crossed the centerline of the track, earning a DQ and giving John Bojec his first round win in FC. Jack Beckman's tires hazed at mid-track, handing the round win to Del Worsham. Ron Capps easily beat John Hale when Hale's tires never found grip and smoked right off the line. Robert Hight and Cruz Pedregon had the makings of a good race but Pedregon's tires lost traction at the hit of the throttle. John Force beat out Dave Richards and Tim Wilkerson had an easy win when Chad Head's car slowed at mid-track.
Pro Stock champion Eric Enders-Stevens had an uncharacteristic weekend and failed to qualify for the Countdown's first round. Chris McGaha beat Drew Skillman in the first pairing, with Bo Butner advancing from winning over Matt Hartford. Jeg Coughlin beat Allen Johnson with a 6.687/206.76 pass and Alex Laughlin advanced over Kenny Delco. Shane Gray, Jason Line, Greg Anderson and Vincent Nobile all moved to the second round.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Steve Johnson beat top qualifier Jerry Savoie with a hole shot to advance to the second round of eliminations. Jim Underdahl used another hole shot to beat out Matt Smith, Underdahl's .008 reaction time just one of several 'psychic' lights in the round. Chip Ellis beat Shawn Gann, and Angelle Sampey used a perfect .000 reaction time, combined with a broken motorcycle to beat out Mark Paquette when his bike slowed more than hers.Andrew Hines overcame a .009 reaction time by Melissa Surber to advance, then LE Tonglet drove around Cory Reed's .002 reaction to win his pair. Karen Stoffer had a hole shot win over Eddie Krawiec and the final pair had Hector Arana Jr handed a solo pass when his father's bike broke in the other lane before they could stage.
Round Two of eliminations started under a cloud when the glue sprayer failed behind the water boxes and repairs took a few minutes. Steve Torrence and Wayne Newby started the round with their pairing, the win going to Newby when Torrence's car quit accelerating at about the 600 foot mark and Newby's 3.849 was enough to win.
Cameron Ferre could not bring his car back to the line for the second round, handing Pat Dakin's crew a bye run, shutting off just past 300 feet and coasting to a single win. Doug Kalitta brought his No. 1 qualifier to the line next to Leah Pritchett, with Kalitta's crew chief Jim Oberhofer bringing a 'relax and have fun' to the win with 3.817/320.13 to beat out Pritchett's pass. The fourth pair in quarter finals had Brittany Force and Antron Brown facing off for the fourth position in the semis with the four-wide winner Force losing to the champion by a thousandth of a second.
John Force headlined the first pair in Funny Car quarter finals, with Tim Wilkerson in the other lane. Force won after Wilkerson's car overpowered the tires, wasting a better reaction time than Force's .394 - a time that would embarrass most beginner drag racers. In spite of that, Force won the round to advance. This led to a lane swap by Robert Hight's crew, sending Ron Capps into the left-hand lane, where Wilkerson had his problem. Capps' lane assignment made no difference as his 3.983 beat Hight's 4.008 with a car length win at the stripe. John Bojec faced up against Del Worsham in the third pair, with Bojec fouling with a red light on the start, handing Worsham the win with a 4.045 pass. Top qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr lined up with Matt Hagan to his left, the Don Schumacher Racing pair going against Worsham, with the Make-A-Wish car advancing on a 3.970 pass over Hagan's Freightliner car.
Pro Stock had Greg Anderson paired with Indy winner Chris McGaha with Anderson winning with a quicker ET over McGaha's hole shot launch. Jason Line and Bo Butner fired off next, with Line, teammate with Anderson, in the left lane. Identical reaction times of 0.040 left the decision up to power and Line's 6.642 edged out Butner's 6.67x pass. Vincent Nobile and Jeg Coughlin Jr lined up next, with both engines coming out of the Elite shops. Nobile left first, but didn't need the edge, with a pass of 6.660 beating out Jeg's 6.705 ET. Shane Gray and Alex Laughlin lined up to decide the final quarter final outcome, with Laughlin's 6.681 ET and .105 reaction still getting to the finish line ahead of Gray, whose Camaro had a minor problem just off the line and a slow sixty foot time.
Pro Stock Motorcycle had Jim Underdahl beat Karen Stoffer with a 6.956 ahead of Karen's 7.011. Angelle Sampey paired up with Hector Arana Jr but his reaction time wasn't enough to beat her horsepower as she drove around him for the round win. Chip Ellis took advantage of a shifter problem for LE Tonglet to win the round, leading to Steve Johnson's pairing with Andrew Hines as the final pair. Johnson's reaction time advantage was not enough, with Hines advancing to the semis.
Semi-Finals began with theTop Fuel pairing of Wayne Newby, surprise winner of a couple of rounds, going up against Doug Kalitta, top qualifier in the nitro rails. The track temperature at round start was 122°. Both engines dropped cylinders but Kalitta's car held on for a 3.879 ET against Newby's 4.096 for the round win. Antron Brown lined up as the only Don Schumacher Racing car left in the event, against Pat Dakin's hot rod. Dakin's first TF race was in 1971 but his engine dropped cylinders and Brown went on to win at 3.879/311.85.
In Funny Car, Tommy Johnson Jr lined up next to Del Worsham's with Johson powering to the win over Worsham at 3.949 against 3.990. The next pair matched up John Force against point leader Ron Capps, with the winningest driver in NHRA in the left lane powering to a win at 3.957/323.27 against Capps' 4.003/317.51 to advance to a John Force Racing vs Don Schumacher Racing final round in his 246th final round appearance.
Pro Stock had Alex Laughlin behind Greg Anderson by seven thousandths at the line with Anderson taking the win easily. Jason Line and Vincent Nobile lined up with Line grabbing a reaction time advantage of two hundredths, on his way to a 6.630/209.20 pass, beating Nobile's 6.646/209.30 pass.
Pro Stock Motorcycle's first semi-final pair went to Andrew Hines at 6.955 over Jim Underdahl's 6.972, setting up the match between Angelle Sampey and Chip Ellis for the finals slot. Angelle had to sit up on her bike and Chip Ellis went on to a 6.890 win to advance to the finals.
Pro Stock Motorcycle opened the final rounds, with the TV broadcast setting the schedule. Chip Ellis and Andrew Hines lined up for the Wally, Chip on the left and Hines to the right. Ellis drove around Hines by .007 after giving away the starting line advantage, taking the Wally home at 6.874 against Hines' 6.908.
Pro Stock's pair was another KB Racing benefit, with Line and Anderson each carrying a Wally trophy home but Line beat out his teammate and event top qualifier.
Funny Car's pairing of fast qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr and John Force matched the two titan teams of Don Schumacher Racing and John Force Racing for the gold Wally winner's trophy on the best track conditions of the day. Force has never won the Fall race at Charlotte, but today he drove around Johnson for the win, 3.946 vs 3.987 for his 146th final race win.
The final round in Top Fuel featured top qualifier Doug Kalitta matched with Antron Brown, the tool sponsored cars (Matco and Mac) lined up and Kalitta left first but Brown drove around to win by about .04 second in his twelfth Countdown win, fifth of the season and 45th career win.
We'll be back with more photos and quotes as soon as possible.
Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.