NHRA Carolina Nationals Eliminations Report

Steve Torrence

(CONCORD, NC - OCT 14, 2018 - RIS) The final day of the NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by Wix Filters almost looked as if it would be continued through to Monday, but the cloudy skies never did more than a light early sprinkle that didn't affect the schedule or proceedings more than minimally. Final rounds were held under brightening skies and in almost perfect atmospheric conditions. Championship races came to Charlotte in the pro classes still in doubt and will head to the next event at The Strip at Las Vegas in two weeks before the finals at Pomona, California two more weeks down the road.
Class championships went to Steve Torrence, continuing his streak to four victories in Top Fuel, Ron Capps in Funny Car, Jason Line in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

In Top Fuel's first round, Clay Millican shook the tires right off the line and pedaled but dropped a cylinder and then grenaded the engine about half track but still won the round over Kyle Wurtzel. Millican's time was 4.405. The second pair of Leah Pritchett and Richie Crampton lined up next with Pritchett over Crampton at 3.707/324.67 over her opponent's 3.750 at 317 mph. Doug Kalitta beat out Scott Palmer at 3.718/329.42 over Palmer's 3.788 pass. Pat Dakin blew the tires off his car at the hit of the throttle, giving the next pass win to Mike Salinas' lap of 3.725/331.12. Brittany Force beat a tire smoking Audrey Worm with 3.717/323.12 for her pass. Tony Schumacher beat fellow Don Schumacher driver Antron Brown, then Terry McMillen lost to Dom Lagana's 3.716/329.42 and Steve Torrence advanced to race against Leah Pritchett by beating out the "Golden Greek" Kris Karamesines.

Funny Car Round one saw Dave Richards, John Force, JR Todd, Cruz Pedregon, Ron Capps, Robert Hight, Tim Wilkerson and Matt Hagan all advance. In Pro Stock, quickest qualifier Drew Skillman moved on to a second round bye, with only 14 cars on the property in the class. He beat tire shaking Shane Tucker to move to an unopposed second round. Also advancing were Jeg Coughlin, Jason Line, Erica Enders, Vincent Nobile, Tnner Gray and Alex Laughlin.

Pro Stock Motorcycle first round winners were quick qualifier Eddie Krawiec, Angelle Sampey, Matt Smith, Scotty Pollacheck, Chip Ellis, Angie Smith, Jerry Savoie and Andrew Hines.

The second round of eliminations had Brittany Force beat Dom Lagana at 3.702/328.54 for her pass, putting an early end to Lagana's season as he planned all along to stop after this event. "I'm so proud of all of the guys," Lagana said. "Everyone worked so hard this season. It's a shame it's the last race for us but we have something good to lick our chops about for next year.

"The Magic Dry car is great. Everything is in one piece. We had a good time and we are real excited for next year. I really can't say enough about the crew guys. They have done great. We've got something to build on, data to look at, and the car is gonna be even more awesome in 2019.". Mike Salinas beat out Doug Kalitta's 3.741/328.30 with a pass of 3.723/329.83. Steve Torrence joined the 3.71 group at 3.712/330.96 to beat out Leah Pritchett's shaky 4.222/219.76 and Tony Schumacher fired off a 3.712/330.55 pass to beat out Clay Millican.

Funny Car Round Two had John Force beat Dave Richards, while JR Todd edged ahead of Cruz Pedregon, Ron Capps stopped Robert Hight's run and Tim Wilkerson put Matt Hagan back on the hauler.

Pro Stock door slammers had Drew Skillman shake the tires immediately off the line, but two of the other pairs all were won with passes of 6.52 seconds or better: Coughlin losing to Line's 6.510, Enders beating Nobile with 6.521 and Tanner Gray beating Alex Laughlin's 6.529 by virtue of his hole shot launch with a reaction time of only .006 second while Laughlin's reaction of 0.052 was too slow for a quicker ET to overcome.

Pro Stock Motorcycles had Angelle Sampey, Matt Smith, Chip Ellis and Jerry Savoie all advance to the semi final.

Steve Torrence continued his march in Top Fuel, taking a 'baby holeshot' win over Tony Schumacher's pass of 3.718/329.42 with a slightly slower 3.728/328.38 but got to the finish line first to advance to the final round. Brittany Force, reigning champion in the class, lined up next to Mike Salinas, taking the round win with a pass of 3.708/330.07 over Salinas' 3.731/328.94.

Funny Car had John Force next to JR Todd, with Force hoping to help is driver Robert Hight in his quest for the championship. The effort came to naught as Todd beat him, 3.891 to Force's 3.968 pass in spite of a faster trap speed for Force, 331.12 vs. 326.48 mph. The second pair matched Ron Capps and Tim Wilkerson with the win light going to Ron Capps at 3.903.

Pro Stock semi-finals started with Tanner Gray against Erica Enders. Current point leader Gray cut a quicker reaction time and needed it to beat a quicker ET. Jason Line edged out quickest qualifier Drew Skillman with a pass of 6.527/211.86, earning lane choice with an identical ET to Gray's but a faster trap speed.

Pro Stock Motorcycle's first semi pairing of Matt Smith vs. Angelle Sampey went to Smith with Sampey making her worst time of the day. Smith gained the point lead with the round win at 6.869/194.86 over Sampey's 6.922. Chip Ellis won the second pair when Jerry Savoie's bike stumbled mid-track, with a time of 6.854 earning lane choice over Smith.

Classes flipped running order, with Pro Stock Motorcycle running first in the finals, with Chip Ellis red lighting and handing the win to Matt Smith. Smith parlayed his slower ET of 6.830/196.64 to a 41 point lead heading to the race at Las Vegas. 

Pro Stock's Wally went to Jason Line on a hole shot win over Tanner Gray. Line's 0.020 light gave him the win

In Funny Car, JR Todd threw away a better reaction time to hand Capps his 60thwin and third place in the points when the tires on Todd's spun about half track and Capps went on to a win at 3.890/331.24.

Steve Torrence ran to his fourth race win in a row, beating Brittany Force with a final run of the day at 3.703/329.67 to Force's lap of 3.708/329.28, padding his points lead over the field in the process.

John Davison

Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.

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Volume 2018, Issue 10, Posted 6:42 PM, 10.14.2018