The two best drivers in each of drag racing's top three professional classes went head-to-head in an all-star finale to the 15th annual O'Reilly Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX. In the end, the slightly better cars of Larry Dixon, Tony Pedregon, and Greg Anderson emerged victorious and those drivers celebrated wins in Heartland Park Topeka's winner's circle.
The three POWERade points leaders all managed to turn aside their closest pursuers in the standings with Dixon beating Doug Kalitta by a 4.53 to 4.57 margin, Pedregon turning aside a tire-smoking Whit Bazemore, and Anderson driving around Kurt Johnson for a 6.80 to 6.84 win.
For the second successive Top Fuel final, the best two dragsters raced with Dixon avenging his loss to Kalitta one week ago in Englishtown, N.J. As expected, this race was close from one end to the other with Dixon edging ahead at the lights with a 4.534 at 327.82 mph to Kalitta's 4.575 at 324.20 mph.
This was both Dixon's third final-round appearance in a row and his third consecutive trip to this event's final round. He now has four wins on the season and 29 in his career. Kalitta, a two-time winner this season, moved into second place in the POWERade points and moved his career final-round numbers to 13 wins and 15 runner-up finishes.
"All weekend long everyone's been coming up to me and saying, 'How come you never win here?' I've been like, 'I don't know, we're sure trying.' So now I can finally say that I have won here," Dixon said. "[Crew chief Dick] LaHaie had won here and half the crew had won here, now I'm part of the club. I can hang with them and talk about the good times in Topeka.
"We had a perfect racecar today. I knew it was good and I just concentrated on not screwing anything up. We were the last pair to run and I saw Tony Pedregon win right in front of us. Usually, when he wins, we win so I was like, 'Right on Tony!'
"Kalitta is so tough. The last two finals in a row it's been us against them. You have to be right on to beat them. Last week they had the best car and this week our car was better, just by a little bit. It was a great final and it's great to win the close ones like that."
Dixon's Miller Lite rail was steady all day, posting a 4.53 against Chris "the Golden Greek" Karamesines, a 4.55 opposite Paul Romine, and a 4.54 against Darrell Russell, to help him reach his 53rd career final.
After struggling in qualifying, Kalitta and the Mac Tools camp came to life on race day with impressive 4.5-second wins over John Smith, Cory McClenathan, and six-time champ Kenny Bernstein. Kalitta's win over Bernstein extinguished the hoped-for beer-bash final between Dixon and returning icon Bernstein, who is subbing for his injured son, Brandon. "Sorry, but I don't feel bad at all about beating Kenny," Kalitta said after his semifinal win. Top Fuel results
For the sixth race in a row, Pedregon and Bazemore squared off in eliminations with Pedregon improving to a 4-2 mark against his biggest rival. This one started side-by-side with each driver staying next to his opponent for the first half of the track. But Pedregon started to pull away from there while Bazemore began to haze his tires, winning with a 4.848 at 320.66 mph to Bazemore's 5.126 at 252 mph.
Pedregon now has three wins in a row at Heartland Park Topeka and is a perfect 5-0 in final rounds this year. This is the first time in five tries that he's won a race after securing the No. 1 qualifying position.
"I said last year that if I won here again I'd buy property and start building," Pedregon said. "I've already had three offers. We certainly have won a lot here. I'm not superstitious and maybe it's just a coincidence; I don't know. What I really think is that this is a great facility and we're a high-horsepower team that runs well at great racetracks like this.
"We raced a lot of tough cars today including [Bazemore's]. Our goal heading towards a championship is to beat all the guys in the way and certainly [Bazemore] is in the way. We talk a lot back and forth in the media but the truth is I respect that group a lot. The stuff in the press and on TV is just part of the business. I know they're not going away."
Low qualifier Pedregon rambled to his 24th career win by trailering Dale Creasy, Gary Scelzi, brother Cruz Pedregon, and Bazemore. His slowest pass of the day was a 4.88, which his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang posted in Round 2.
Englishtown winner Bazemore and his Matco Tools teammates stayed in top form with their fourth final-round showing of the season and eighth consecutive race where they at least reached the semifinals. Bazemore dispatched Bob Gilbertson, Tim Wilkerson, and Gary Densham before facing Tony Pedregon in the final.
John Force left the tree early in Round 2 and drew a red-light disqualification for the second race in a row. It is the first time in his 25-year career that Force has had more than one red-light in a season.
"I've changed my [starting line] routine," Force said. "I'm not doing it by automatic reaction any more. I can't stage deep because of the new lights. I have to think about that and I've never had to think before, I just did it.' Funny Car results
Racing in his third consecutive final round, Anderson posted back-to-back victories for the first time this year with a five-foot win over Kurt Johnson. K.J. had a cosmic .009-second reaction time to Anderson's .029-second launch, but Anderson's horsepower was too much for Johnson to handle as the POWERade points leader caught and passed his friend well before the finish line.
The final numbers had Anderson crossing the stripe in 6.808 seconds at 202.94 mph - both the quickest and fastest pass in track history - to Johnson's 6.845 at 202.88 mph. Eight-time national event winner Anderson now has a perfect 2-0 final-round mark against K.J. this season.
"I'm whipped, absolutely whipped," Anderson said. "That was a great final. I had to drive around him and it's a darn good thing I set the track record right then because I sure needed it to win. I love racing Kurt. We're like brothers and you always race your family and friends harder than anyone else. We were door handle to door handle all the way down the track. I peeked over when I put it in top gear and it was hard to tell who was winning.
"What a day. To beat Jeg Coughlin, Warren Johnson, and Kurt Johnson all in a row is unreal. The sun came out and usually that's an advantage for me but it wasn't today. We struggled in low gear and we didn't really get it figured out until the fourth round. Winning again is so special. This feeling, it's hard to describe."
Both Anderson and Johnson kept their elapsed times in the low 6.8-second range all day. Anderson's Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am posted a 6.82 against V. Gaines, a 6.83 opposite reigning series titleholder Jeg Coughlin Jr., and a 6.81 versus six-time champion and former boss Warren Johnson. ACDelco Chevrolet Cavalier pro Kurt Johnson beat JR Carr and two-time champion Jim Yates with a pair of 6.83s and Mike Edwards with a 6.82. Pro Stock results
Saturday's home page
Friday's home page