O’Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals
by Phil Burgess, NHRA.com
Statements were made Friday at Texas Motorplex in the first day of qualifying for the 23rd annual O'Reilly NHRA Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals as the incoming points leaders in the Countdown to 1 playoffs were pushed off the top of the qualifying sheets by their points-trailing rivals. Larry Dixon, Robert Hight, and Eddie Krawiec -- fourth in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock Motorcycle, respectively -- and third-place Pro Stocker runner Jeg Coughlin grabbed the top positions halfway through qualifying at the second of six events in the Countdown to 1. Both ends of the track record in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle were broken in the first session and, in one case, improved upon in the second as the Pros got their first shots at the Motorplex's fabled all-concrete racing surface.
Statements were made Friday at Texas Motorplex in the first day of qualifying for the 23rd annual O'Reilly NHRA Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals as the incoming points leaders in the Countdown to 1 playoffs were pushed off the top of the qualifying sheets by their points-trailing rivals. Larry Dixon, Robert Hight, and Eddie Krawiec -- fourth in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock Motorcycle, respectively -- and third-place Pro Stocker runner Jeg Coughlin grabbed the top positions halfway through qualifying at the second of six events in the Countdown to 1.
Both ends of the track record in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle were broken in the first session and, in one case, improved upon in the second as the Pros got their first shots at the Motorplex's fabled all-concrete racing surface.
"Too bad we donít run the races on Friday night; we've obviously got that part down," said Dixon, who was the No. 1 qualifier at the last two races by lost in the second round on both occasions. "That was a great run for us, and obviously Donnie [Bender] and Todd [Smith] are making the right calls on the tune-up. The next step would be to not smoke the tires on raceday.
"We've had so many changes this year with the cars being heavier, a new tire, and now 1,000 foot, so itís a learning experience with every run, and comparing our guys to Alan Johnson or Tom Richards, they donít have as much experience, so I think theyíre doing a phenomenal job."
Brandon Bernstein took over the No. 2 spot with a 3.842-second blast at 315.19 (top speed) with the Budweiser dragster, just ahead of Hillary Will, who ran 3.849 in Ken Black's dragster. Non-Countdown players Bob Vandergriff Jr. (3.861) and J.R. Todd (3.874) are sandwiched around Cory McClenathan (3.866) in the fourth through sixth positions. First-session leaders Steve Torrence (3.879) and Schumacher (3.880) finished in seventh and eighth.
Joe Hartley grabbed the final provisional spot in the field with a 12th-quickest 3.903, one spot below NHRA Top Fuel rookie Spencer Massey, who ran a 3.902 on his first and only pass so far in NHRA competition.
Countdown contenders Doug Herbert, David Grubnic, and Doug Kalitta are among the six drivers trying to earn a spot in the final field tomorrow.
"That was an unbelievable run," said Hight, whose 4.14 was second-quickest in the opening session. "It was perfectly straight and ran 267 mph at [660 feet]; it was flying. It's really huge to outqualify the rest of the drivers in the Countdown, which we also did in
"I couldnít have asked for a better day with two good runs, but even though it's a year later and everything is different, coming back here still brings back those bad memories, even though we did win here in 2006. We also won Indy that year, as we did this year, so maybe everything is lining up."
Force holds the second position based on her superior speed after both she, in her Castrol Mustang, and Del Worsham, in the CSK Impala, ran 4.092; Force's top-end pace was 304.46 to Worsham's 303.03. Melanie Troxel took the third spot with the R2B2 Dodge at 4.096 while another speed battle settled the next two spots, as Jack Beckman's 4.099 edged Tim Wilkerson's similar number by a 300.00 to 299.66 edge for the fifth spot.
After two straight DNQs, John Force made a triumphant return to Texas Motorplex a year after his near-career-ending crash here with an opening lap of 4.15 that was, to the raucous cheers of the crowd, temporarily the best run of the first session but ultimately ended up fourth. Force, whose team had adopted Hight's tune-up, ran an improved 4.109 in the evening pass and wound up seventh after a quick session.
Jerry Toliver holds the final spot in the 12-car leader group with a 4.126. Among those not qualified are Countdown participant Mike Neff and former world champ Gary Scelzi, who has won this event previously in Top Fuel (1998) and Alcohol Funny Car (1992).
"We thought we could run .62 on that run, so we left a little on the table," he admitted. "The conditions improved a little bit by the time we ran and we could have been more aggressive, but by no means are we disappointed. The Countdown is on and consistency is going to be king.
"So far we've obviously had a great car to be No. 1; we've made two very good runs, very straight and uneventful from behind the wheel, and ran 6.63 on both of them. Fast and consistent is what we're after, and so far it looks like it's working out."
Jason Line improved three-hundredths in the evening session to jump the Summit Pontiac from fifth to second with a 6.632, the best pass of the round, and teammate Greg Anderson improved by a like number with a 6.638, matching A.J.'s first-session pass but getting the higher position due to his superior speed. Dave Connolly's Charter Communications Cobalt grabbed the fifth position with a 6.640.
Warren Johnson, 2008's top speed monopolizer, went 207.72 in the first session to break Greg Anderson's three-year-old mark of 207.40, and improved upon that mark with a 208.26-mph clocking in the evening. W.J. is qualified No. 10 with a 6.655.
"That second session was a little screwy," admitted Krawiec, who is trying for his third No. 1 position of the season. "A lot of people anticipate better air when it gets darker and cooler out, but if you monitored the weather station, you'd see that although the air was getting better a lot of the other things that really make it good air were coming up, counter-reacting on itself. It wasn't as good as everyone thought.
"I'm just going out there trying to make consistent laps, whether the No. 1 qualifier comes or not. Of course, we'd like to have those eight points," added Krawiec, who is just 42 points out of first place. We'd like to carry forward the momentum from our
Hines' V-Rod remained second with his afternoon 6.98 and Chris Rivas' Drag Specialties Buell was the only other two-wheeler in the six-second zone. Chip Ellis holds down the fourth spot with a 7.00, followed a few thousandths back by Hector Arana. POWERade points leader Matt Smith is sixth at 7.044.
Red-hot Steve Johnson, second in points and winner of the two most recent events, rebounded from a transmission-troubled shut-off opening pass of just 25 seconds to post a 7.13, but still did not finish up the day's quickest 12 riders, meaning he'll have to fight his way into the field tomorrow. The 12-bike cutoff was unchanged from the first session at 7.109, held by Angie McBride.
Return to the Home Page