O’Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals
J.R. Todd ended Tony Schumacher's reign of terror in Top Fuel, and Greg Stanfield scored an emotional first victory in Pro Stock for team owner Greg Hill to highlight final eliminations at the 23rd annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec at Texas Motorplex, the second of six events in NHRA's Countdown to 1 playoffs. Todd ended Schumacher's amazing win steak at 31 rounds and seven straight NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series victories. Tim Wilkerson earned back his points lead in Funny Car by defeating then-points leader Tony Pedregon in the final, and Chris Rivas defeated points leader Matt Smith to claim the win in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
J.R. Todd ended Tony Schumacher's reign of terror in Top Fuel, and Greg Stanfield scored an emotional first victory in Pro Stock for team owner Greg Hill to highlight final eliminations at the 23rd annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec at Texas Motorplex, the second of six events in NHRA's Countdown to 1 playoffs. Todd ended Schumacher's amazing win steak at 31 rounds and seven straight NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series victories.
Tim Wilkerson earned back his points lead in Funny Car by defeating then-points leader Tony Pedregon in the final, and Chris Rivas defeated points leader Matt Smith to claim the win in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Todd, who has suffered through about as disappointing a season as the 2006 rookie of the year could have imagined in his worst nightmare, having scored just five round-wins this year, pushed the John Stewart-tuned Lucas Fuel Treatment dragster to his first win in more than a year, since the 2007 event in Houston, upsetting the heavily favored Schumacher on a holeshot in the final, 3.912, 309.84 to 3.910, 310.64. Three of Todd's six wins have been against Schumacher in the final round.
"Tony's the toughest guy out here, and if you beat him, you've accomplished something," said Todd. "I was pretty jacked up anyway, but racing him you know you have to leave first because Alan Johnson makes big horsepower, and Tony doesn’t usually beat himself. When I heard the fans chanting my name, that was pretty special. I'm kind of choked up.
"The way our year's gone, I didn't think it was ever going to turn around. Every race, we'd be gaining ground in qualifying and thinking, 'This is going to be it, finally,' and then get out there and struggle first round, and if we won first round, we couldn’t get back second round. When we got past second round today, I knew we had some momentum. Getting Jimmy Walsh onboard has been the turning point for us."
En route to the final, his first since the 2007
Schumacher's final-round loss ended the greatest run in the history of Top Fuel; he had been unbeaten since the
"I was real embarrassed with my performance last weekend in
"In the final, we didn’t want to leave anything on the table; I'm over pussyfooting down the racetrack. We were going to go as fast as the racetrack was going to let us."
Wilkerson entered the event with four wins already on his 2008 ledger and had to survive a weird first round with fellow Countdown driver Ron Capps after power was lost to the Christmas Tree just as they were preparing to stage. Both drivers shut off their mounts on the starting line and, after the problem was rectified, restarted them in place, staged, and raced. Wilkerson and the Levi, Ray & Shoup team then beat Bob Tasca III and comebacking John Force to reach the final, the 19th of Wilkerson's career.
"Beating John Force and then beating Tony Pedregon, they're both champions; to be the champion, you've got to beat the champions, and that's our goal," added Wilkerson. "We're not going to back down from that goal. This is the first step towards redeeming ourselves after
Pedregon, who like Wilkerson was a four-time winner this season, defeated Jeff Arend, low qualifier Robert Hight, and, in what was then a battle for the top spot in points, Jack Beckman in the semifinals on a holeshot, 4.276 to 4.261, to reach his 67th final round.
Stanfield was a man on a mission in
"Mr. Hill lost his father three or four months ago as well, and this whole team has been through so much that this is just a tragic loss," said Stanfield. "It was a real emotional win because it's been hard this weekend for him. I hope this will make his day better, and if I can, I'm going to try to personally deliver this trophy to him."
Stanfield, who barely made the Countdown to 1 and entered the race in 10th place, made up a lot of ground – and did it the hard way – by upsetting former champ Jason Line on a monster holeshot in round one, 6.66 to 6.63, and points leader Kurt Johnson in round two before besting rookie of the year contender Rickie Jones in the semifinals. With his final-round victory, he's now sixth in points.
"Our goal this year was to win a race and finish in the top 10 -- we're not even looking at the championship; if it happens it will be a miracle – so I feel like we've accomplished our goals," he said. "We've struggled and struggled, so hopefully this is a turnaround. It's been an emotional ride, and there's even been a point where I thought I needed to stop and take a couple of races off, but everyone wouldn’t let it happen. We actually found a problem this morning that I don’t want to divulge, and the car picked up a ton. I consider 'Jeggie' to be the best in our class. I don't know if I've even beaten him in Pro Stock – I wore him out quite a bit good in Super Stock -- so I know I had to get in there and give it everything I had. If it was red it was red, but I wasn't going to be late, like I was in
The final-round appearance was Stanfield's seventh in Pro Stock without a previous win – including two runner-ups this year, in
Coughlin, the defending Pro Stock world champ, surged into the points lead he last owned 17 races ago, in March in
Rivas, who scored his first win earlier this season in
"It’s a whole new system we have to learn, and learn from each run. All we needed was a little bit of data, and look at today, we were the number-one bike all the way to the final. We still have a few little hiccups; my lights today [.176, .117, .026, and .091] were horrible -- you usually can't win races with lights like that – so there's still some learning to do. The e.t.s were making up for it, though."
Rivas ran in the 7.0s in all three pre-final rounds --7.01, 7.03, and 7.07 -- by racing past Junior Pippin and Hector Arana, then partially spoiled Smith's day by beating his girlfriend, Angie McBride, in the semifinals, then ruined it in the final.
Reigning NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ Smith built on his incoming points lead by racing to his 20th final round aboard his Nitro Fish Buell. Smith defeated defending event champ Peggy Llewellyn in round one with a 7.02 and chased down Chip Ellis' holeshot in round two with a 7.09 to win by just .008-second before squaring off with low qualifier Eddie Krawiec and his Screamin' Eagle Harley in the semifinals. Smith was first off the line and won on a holeshot and again by just eight-thousandths of a second, 7.115 to 7.111.
Lucas Oil Sportsman titles went to Jim Whitely (Top Alcohol Dragster), Von Smith (Top Alcohol Funny Car), David Rampy (Comp), Jerry Emmons (Stock), Richard Pierson (Super Comp), Tommy Phillips (Super Gas), and Greg Parson (
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