Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals
By Rob Geiger, NHRA.com
J.R. Todd beat class giant Tony Schumacher Sunday afternoon at Bandimere Speedway to score his first NHRA victory in just his ninth career start. Todd never trailed in the race, dismissing the three-time series champion with a 4.906 at 291.63 mph to Schumacher's 4.966 at 306.33 mph, thereby becoming the first African-American to win a Wally in the nitro categories. Gary Scelzi scored his first Funny Car win in 21 races to join Todd in the winner's circle of the $1.5 million race, the 13th of 23 on the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series. Pro Stock winner Dave Connolly and Pro Stock Motorcycle victor Andrew Hines also joined the fun to close out a weekend that ended with three new POWERade points leaders.
J.R. Todd beat class giant Tony Schumacher Sunday afternoon at Bandimere Speedway to score his first NHRA victory in just his ninth career start. Todd never trailed in the race, dismissing the three-time series champion with a 4.906 at 291.63 mph to Schumacher's 4.966 at 306.33 mph, thereby becoming the first African-American to win a Wally in the nitro categories.
Gary Scelzi scored his first Funny Car win in 21 races to join Todd in the winner's circle of the $1.5 million race, the 13th of 23 on the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series. Pro Stock winner Dave Connolly and Pro Stock Motorcycle victor Andrew Hines also joined the fun to close out a weekend that ended with three new POWERade points leaders.
"You never expect to get your first NHRA win by outrunning Tony Schumacher in the final," Todd said. "I didn't even know how to act down there. I was stunned. To beat that team straight up is almost unbelievable.
"It's been a wild weekend. It's so hard to race up here but we qualified real strong with a 4.63 that placed us No. 2. Today was a different story. It was so hot out there and I had to pedal the car every round except the final.
"A lot of teams came over to help us and we would not have made it up for the final without their help. I didn't realize I had so many friends out here. They were talking about me being the first African-American to win in Top Fuel but out here it's all equal, especially when the helmet goes on."
The hard work was worth the effort as Todd never trailed in his race against Schumacher, winning with a 4.906 at 291.63 mph to Schumacher's 4.966 at 306.33 mph in the U.S. Army dragster.
Doug Kalitta entered this race trailing Melanie Troxel by 24 points at the top of the Top Fuel championship standings. He now leads her by 22 points. Schumacher has moved from seventh to fourth in the last two races and now finds himself 209 off Kalitta's pace.
Scelzi trailed until just before halftrack after giving Cruz Pedregon a .011 to .090-second starting line advantage, but his Oakley/Mopar Dodge Charger stayed glued to the racetrack and when Pedregon ran into tire spin he was able to streak by for a fairly easy win. After detonating his motor, Pedregon eventually crossed in 5.820 seconds at 202.82 mph.
"This is a tough place to race," Scelzi said. "This weekend was the hardest we've ever had. The track temperatures were higher than anywhere we've ever been, including last year in
"It's been a long time since I've won. You get that feeling like you're the weak link, and that's not a good feeling to have. Mike Neff (crew chief) and Jim Jannard (Oakley founder) stayed behind me and kept me pumped up. I got to the final and I just decided I wasn't going to let Cruz take it away from me.
"We're not thinking about the championship yet. [John] Force and [Ron] Capps have a big lead on us. Right now we're looking at Robert Hight there in third place. If we can catch him then we can start to look further. It's a lot of points to make up but it can happen."
Pedregon's runner-up finish was costly as he lost 35 points and $5,500 to three oildown violations, one in qualifying and two on race day. Still, after winning just one elimination round in the six races since he win in
Ron Capps was the only POWERade points leader to retain his top ranking through the weekend although his first-round loss to Bob Gilbertson allowed second-place runner John Force, who lost in the quarterfinals, to gain a round on him. Capps now leads Force by just 26 points, down from 44 at the start of the weekend.
Low qualifier Line had the better can in this race but Connolly's psychic .008-second reaction time delivered a .05-second holeshot win at the top end. His 7.173 at 193.07 mph in the Skull Gear Cobalt was more than enough to hold off Line's 7.141 at 194.13 mph, which was made irrelevant by his .093-second late start.
"If you had told me six races ago that we'd be a couple rounds out of the lead I wouldn't have believed it," Connolly said. "But ever since
"This race is so important in the championship chase. That's why we come out here and test for a week just for this one event. Then we get here and it's 100 degrees and it is so hard on the crew. It was great to reward them with the win for all the work it took to get us here. The rest of the Swing should really be something."
Line took over the points lead in qualifying and padded his margin Sunday by beating former leader and three-time defending series champion
"We had an absolutely dismal qualifying effort but what a Sunday," Hines said. "The team did such a great job making the adjustments and my V-Rod went right down the track every pass today like it was on a rail.
"To come in here 28 points down and leave 28 points up is unreal. I was hoping this race would be the turning point of our season and we're looking like it really might be. This is my first win as a married man and my wife and son are here today so that makes it even more special."
This was Guidera's second final of the season. He's now 0-2 with a trophy on the line but he did move up to seventh in the POWERade points.
Hines entered the weekend 28 points in arrears to three-time former champ Angelle Sampey at the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings. His win, coupled with her second-round loss to teammate Antron Brown, moved him 28 points ahead.
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