Championship Drag Racing

Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals
Norwalk, Ohio
(June 26-29)

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Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals
New leaders emerge after frantic final session of qualifying at Summit event

by Phil Burgess,

A day that began at Summit Motorsports Park under the threat of rain and was twice interrupted by rainshowers concluded with a thunderous final hour of qualifying and racing in which the top spot changed hands in all four Pro classes to set the final qualified fields for the 2nd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals. Jason Line was the star of the show as the Summit-backed driver stole the No. 1 spot in the Pro Stock field with a last-ditch blast to secure his second pole position of the season.

Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson rider Eddie Krawiec collected his first No. 1 qualifier honors in Pro Stock Motorcycle and was joined atop the sheets by Rod Fuller in Top Fuel and Robert Hight in Funny Car.

Rod Fuller

Fuller was the last of three drivers who improved on Tony Schumacher’s first-session-leading 4.703, as his 4.622 from his Rob Flynn-tuned Cat dragster took the top spot from Cory McClenathan, who had taken it from Brandon Bernstein, the first driver to relieve Schumacher of the top spot. The pole is Fuller’s first of the season and the seventh of his career.

“This a great place to race and where we started our charge last year,” said Fuller, who set the still-standing 4.53 track record here last year in qualifying and was runner-up. “That actually was a better run than it ended up because it dropped some cylinders and slowed at the other end. Rob asked me what I wanted him to do with the tune-up, and I told him to go for it. There are only 16 cars, and I’d rather go down swinging than just make a mediocre run and qualify in the middle of the pack.

"We knew what the track was capable of, and our only hindrance was the weather, which takes away a little horsepower, but we felt we could run a 4.50, and I think it’s going to take 4.50s to win it tomorrow.”

McClenathan, whose Mike Green-tuned Fram dragster sat on the pole earlier this season in Atlanta, is second with a 4.63, while Bernstein’s Bud machine is third with a 4.644, just ahead of longtime rival Larry Dixon’s 4.647 in the U.S. Smokeless entry. World champ Schumacher ended up eighth as his final effort in the U.S. Army digger ended in tire smoke 300 feet into the run.

Doug Kalitta sits on the bump spot after two troubled runs that netted a best pass of just 7.36 from his Mac Tools rail. He’ll square off with Fuller in the first round.

Robert Hight

Hight’s Jimmy Prock-tuned Automobile Club of Southern California Mustang charged to the head of the pack with a 4.882 in the middle of the final session, improving from an earlier 5.06 to secure his second top qualifier honor of the year and the 25th of his four-year career.

“We’ve come here for a lot of years match racing, and I actually got to make a lot of runs here before I ever compete at a national event, so this place has a lot of meaning for us,” said Hight, who previously sat on the pole in Las Vegas and, like Fuller, was No. 1 here last year, “but it’s also kind of hard to get fired up and excited after what happened last week [the death of fellow competitor Scott Kalitta] because you kind of feel like, ‘How should I even be able to celebrate because there are other teams out here who don’t have anything to celebrate.

“That’s the first run in a long time that my car has made where it ran really good all the way to the finish line. It didn’t drop cylinders and was nice and clean, but it’s only one run, and we need to make four Sunday to put ourselves in the position to win. Jimmy Prock and my whole team have worked so hard because we’ve torn up a lot of motors and parts this year, but it threw us a bone tonight. Wilkerson has been running away with the points this year, but if we have a good-running racecar when they reset the points, we can run right with him.”

Ron Capps also improved in the final session, racing his Ed McCulloch-wrenched NAPA Auto Parts Charger to the No.2 spot with a 4.909 after a earlier 5.00. He’s followed in the order by points leader Tim Wilkerson, whose Levi, Ray & Shoup Chevy led after the first session but slid to third with his earlier 4.910, while rookie Bob Tasca III’s Quick Lane Mustang galloped up one spot to a 4.93.

Rookie of the year frontrunner Mike Neff, a No. 1 qualifier earlier this year in Bristol, just missed his second DNQ of the season after finishing 16th after a two-run best of 5.20. He’ll face off with teammate Hight in the opening stanza Sunday with the winner facing a possible second-round bash with their other teammate, Ashley Force.

Funny Car drivers Gary Scelzi and Melanie Troxel were disqualified from the event after NHRA Tech officials discovered loose ballast in their cars following their qualifying runs in the first session. According to page 74 of the NHRA Rulebook, “any material used for the purpose of racing must be permanently attached to the car’s body or above the rear tires. No liquid or loose ballast permitted. Discovery of loose or disguised ballast will result in the disqualification from the event, regardless of whether infraction occurs during qualifying or eliminations.”

Jason Line

Line’s last-second heroics made the day for Summit officials at their sponsored event and racetrack as he lightened the pockets and the glory of mail-order rival Jeg Coughlin. Coughlin, disappointed by his holeshot loss to Line’s Summit teammate, Greg Anderson, in the semifinals of the K&N Horsepower Challenge, led the field with a 6.726, recorded in the first session/Challenge first round, but was supplanted by Line’s 6.716 during an improvement-filled final session. Line also was the No. 1 qualifier in Madison earlier this season. This is the 15th No. 1 of his career.

“I didn’t think we could go fast enough to take over the No. 1 spot,” said Line, who ran a 6.74 in the first session. “We made a decent run this morning, but we didn’t think there was three-hundredths in it considering how the weather changed, and we’re happy to put the Summit car on the pole, and any time we can knock the yellow car off the top, it’s kind of a big deal for us.

“Now it transfers to the pressure of trying to win the race. I haven’t had much racing luck this year – if there’s been a break to be had, it hasn’t fallen in my direction – but hopefully we can turn that around tomorrow. I’m driving decent, and the car’s running good enough to turn it into victory, so maybe tomorrow is the day.”

Challenge winner Allen Johnson and his Mopar-backed Stratus jumped up from the seven hole to the No. 3 spot with a 6.729, recorded during his semifinal Challenge battle with points leader Kurt Johnson. Line’s teammate, E-Town winner and Challenge runner-up Anderson, is a disappointing ninth and will give up first-round lane choice to Mike Edwards.

Ron Krisher, who entered the final session qualified, raced his Valvoline Cobalt right to the top half of the field with a 6.732 and was joined in the field by New Mexico oilman Johnny Gray, moving from No. 18 to No. 10 with a 6.762.

Rookie Rickie Jones, who entered the final session a comfortable 11th, got moved down to the bump spot in the field with his QuarterMax/RJ Race Cars Stratus and held on with a 6.773 and will oppose Line in the first round.

Among those not making the field were Jim Yates, Friday leader Richie Stevens in Kenny Koretsky’s GXP, Max Naylor, and local favorite Larry Nance.

Eddie Krawiec

Second-year Harley rider Krawiec grabbed his first career No. 1 qualifying berth with a 7.011 in the final session, which occurred before a rainstorm put a 90-minute hold on action and conditions changed for the worse. First-session leader Steve Johnson (7.058), gunning for just his second pole, was not able to claw his way back to the top of the order and was even passed by Krawiec’s teammate, Andrew Hines, who slid into second with a 7.045

“I definitely wanted everyone else to have the opportunity to run down the track so that I could get my first No. 1 on a fair shot, so it can never be a tainted No. 1,” said Krawiec. “We’ve been struggling a bit, so we threw a lot at it that run. Andrew and Matt Hines and I sat in the trailer for about three and a half hours Thursday staring at computer sheets and data for comparable conditions and tried a lot of changes, so to come out and go 1-2 shows that hard work really pays off.

A lot of people look at it that I’m riding one of the best bikes out here, and I definitely am, but the learning curve for this bike makes it the hardest one out there to ride. Andrew and Matt Hines had the bike so well set up when I got there that I was able to get it down the track, but now I’m able to get it down the track efficiently.”

Gatornationals champ Matt Guidera sits fourth aboard the Mohegan Sun Buell with a 7.058 and is followed on the sheets by reigning NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series world champ Matt Smith (7.059) and Englishtown winner Chip Ellis (7.063).

Junior Pippin ended a two-race DNQ streak by putting his Buell into the show with a solid 7.137 in the 14th spot, while homestate rider Joe DeSantis sits on the bump spot with a 7.167 and will oppose Krawiec in the first round Sunday.

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