2017 NHRA FALL NATIONALS - DALLAS NOTEBOOK
BRITTANY FORCE MAKES STATEMENT IN TEXAS - There was no need for Brittany Force to search for her championship challengers Sunday at the FallNationals.
All she had to do was glance over in the next lane.
“We had Doug Kalitta and Steve Torrence, the two people in front of us in the standings,” Force said. “Everyone has been struggling trying to take them down. They’ve been killing it.”
Force was not only able to slay those Top Fuel titans in her Monster Energy dragster, she came home with a Wally by winning the event.
With a Texas Motorplex elapsed-time record of 3.681-seconds at 326.87-mph in the finals, Force bettered the 3.693 at 326.56 pass of Shawn Langdon. Force also moved post Kalitta in the points and into second place behind Torrence with her third victory of the season.
“When we pulled up there I felt confident that we were going to turn those win-lights on,” Force said.
There was serious drama before the final, as the second round featured one of the most chilling sequences of the NHRA Mello Yello season. As fans rose to their feet in horror, Torrence’s machine slammed into the concrete guard wall when the left rear tire on his dragster exploded at a speed in excess of 320 mph.
“The Lord was looking out for us,” Torrence said. “I felt the tire go. The car went left and then right. After that first hit, when it knocked the front end off, I was just along for the ride.”
Torrence not only emerged from his dragster unscathed, he grabbed the win over Richie Crampton with a holeshot and was able to return for his semifinal battle against Force with a new Morgan Lucas Racing chassis.
Force ended that inspiring comeback story, executing a pass of 3.685 at 327.43 to the 3.728 at 323.35 of Torrence.
“I’ve said it all year long,” Torrence said. “I wouldn’t trade these Capco guys for anyone. To get the back-up car assembled and to have it run 3.72, you don’t know how incredible that is. The only thing better would be if we’d won the round. But give credit to Brittany, she did her job.”
Force watched the Torrence crash on the replay screen at the top end.
“It was scary looking,” she said. “The fact that (Torrence) jumped out of that car and put his hands up was pretty impressive. And to see that team pull out that spare car and make a run, that was a lot of work. They battled.”
But Force won this war, chopping her deficit to Torrence to 37 points.
“It’s been quite a day,” Force said. “A lot needed to happen and it seemed to work in our favor.”
While Robert Hight also took the Funny Car win to complete a John Force Racing sweep, Brittany Force said she had no secret to her success.
“Really, it was all about us going rounds,” Force said. “That’s what we needed to do, and then we were able to take down Langdon and win the thing. This is huge. It’s a Countdown race. And we’re still climbing that ladder.”
The Countdown resumes Oct. 27-29 with the Toyota Nationals at Las Vegas. Torrence is the defending event champion.
“We’re exactly where we needed to be – standing here in the winner’s circle,” Force said. ”We have two more races left and we’re going after it.” Allen Gregory
HIGHT TIGHTENS CHAMPIONSHIP RACE WITH DALLAS WIN - The drama to see who will win the 2017 NHRA nitro Funny Car championship intensified Sunday in Dallas.
Robert Hight beat Ron Capps in the finals at the FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex.
The victory left Hight 24 points behind Capps, the reigning world champion, with two races to go in Las Vegas (Oct. 26-29) and Pomona, Calif. (Nov. 9-12).
Hight clocked a 3.877-second run at 332.34 mph to edge Capps’ 3.927-second at 329.18 mph lap.
“This was huge,” Hight said. “Getting that No. 1 (qualifying) spot (Saturday night) was big so that we had lane choice (Sunday) even though I think you could have won from either lane just about every round. It was a lot cooler (Sunday) than what we faced in qualifying, but as a driver you have to be ready for everything. I had a lot of confidence with Jimmy Prock and Chris Cunningham tuning this thing because it doesn’t smoke the tires a lot. We had a monster run in the first round, 3.82 (seconds), 338.60 (mph). We had a pretty good head wind. They were saying it was like 20 mph. If we wouldn’t have had that, that had the possibility of being the first 340 mph run.”
Hight, who drives a Chevy for John Force Racing, captured his fourth win of the season and 41st of his career.
Hight’s victory parade was comprised of wins over Jim Campbell, Alexis DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson and Capps.
“A round win is worth 20 points, but truthfully that round win (over Capps) for us was worth 40 points because we were 44 back going into the final round had we lost that’s 64 and win and it brought back to 24 with two races left,” Hight said. “That was big. We needed that one. We would’ve been pretty bummed leaving here over three rounds back.”
Hight is chasing his second world championship, his first came in 2009.
“I’ve never seen a more focused individual than Jimmy Prock,” Hight said. “You could set our trailer on fire and he’s still going to be staring at that computer trying to figure out what he wants to do the next round. Nothing rattles him. It doesn’t matter that (Rahn) Tobler (Capps’ crew chief) and he are friends, none of that matters. That’s how you have to be as a driver. They have the points lead and he has the No. 1 on the side of his car and they have a great team and we have to go do our job to get it back. There have been four Countdown races and each of us have won two. The game is on.”
Hight is thrilled he and Capps are locked in this battle with just two races remaining.
“Anything can happen,” Hight said. “There’s still a lot of racing left. We are going to Vegas next with its high altitude and we make a lot of horsepower and I like our chances there, but it’s not going to get any easier. We have to focus and work hard and we can do this. I know we can.” Tracy Renck
LINE STAYS IN CHAMPIONSHIP HUNT WITH DALLAS PRO STOCK WIN - Jason Line has never won back-to-back Pro Stock world championships in his career.
Well, the veteran driver of the Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro has given himself a chance to double up, thanks to crucial win Sunday at the FallNationals at Texas Motorplex.
Line captured the victory in the finals when his opponent Drew Skillman record a red light.
“There’s no question it’s not over and they are going to have to pry that No. 1 off the window,” Line said. “I kind of like it on there and I think we will try and keep it.”
That win made the points race very interesting for the Ken Black racing teammates – Line, Greg Anderson and Bo Butner.
Anderson is atop the points, but only leads Butner by 15 points and third-place Line by 30. There are two races left in the season, Las Vegas (Oct. 26-29) and Pomona, Calif. (Nov. 9-12).
This was Line’s 47th win of his career – which includes championships in 2006, 2011 and 2016 – and the second of the season. Line’s other win came at the Winternationals in Pomona, Calif.
“I test something every run, I’m a tinker and unfortunately that gets me in trouble and it takes Rob Downing and Mike Edwards to bring me back to reality,” Line said about his gap between wins this year. “The Countdown format, the way that it is, now is what matters. We are peaking at the right time and hopefully I will give Bo and Greg and everybody else something to think about the next couple of weeks. It should be fun.”
Line’s victory march consisted of wins over Alan Prusiensky, Alex Laughlin, Brian Self and Skillman. This was Line’s third career win at Dallas to go along with his titles in 2011 and 2013.
Line did draw criticism from Texas Motorplex owner Billy Meyer about his actions after his win.
“Billy Meyer called me a moron because I put my cowboy hat on backwards and I told him I’m from Minnesota and we don’t know how to wear cowboy hats and then he accused me of not being able to spell moron. I will never forget this day,” Line said. “To me, it was do or die this weekend. If I didn’t win here this weekend, the chance of winning the championship was slim and none and slim just checked out of town. I really had to win and I was lucky enough to win. With two races left, it’s crunch time. I hate pressure. I can’t stand it and I’m going to have to figure out how to harness that and doing better job handling the pressure. I like really boring, big points leads and that’s out the window. I’m going to have to step it up and it’s going to be a battle.” Tracy Renck
KRAWIEC AUTHORS DREAM WEEKEND IN TEXAS - On paper, everything went right for points leader Eddie Krawiec at the Texas Motorplex.
The Bayonne, New Jersey, native posted the lowest elapsed time and top speed for the FallNationals, earned the No. 1 qualifier, and then recorded his sixth win of the season.
But the rider known as “Steady Eddie” felt he was capable of more in his powerful Harley-Davidson.
“I usually pride myself in the way I drive in the Countdown, but today I drove horrible and struggled to get off the starting line,” Krawiec said. “This was one of those days where the team carries you a little bit.”
Krawiec's final round pass of 9.336 seconds at 92.62 mph was still good enough to defeat defending world champion Jerry Savoie, who fouled out due to a red-light.
“In my opinion, we didn’t deserve to win based on tuning,” Krawiec said. “We got lucky for those last two rounds.”
The string of good fortune for Krawiec began in the first round when LE Tonglet, Krawiec’s primary challenger in the championship, was upset by Joey Gladstone. Krawiec navigated his way through the field by adapting to a strong crosswind that he said reached 25 mph at times
“The wind played a huge role,” Krawiec said. “You could see that a lot of guys were definitely struggling to get down through there. “
Following his second round triumph against Karen Stoffer, Krawiec struggled to straighten his bike out in the shutdown area.
“I had to yank the bike hard,” he said.
With the help of crew chief Matt Hines, Krawiec was able to counter the wind by establishing a baseline in the left lane while also solving some gremlins with clutch tune-up.
Krawiec then held on to record his 42nd career victory, which ranks third in class history.
“With the caliber of motorcycles in our class right now, almost anyone that qualifies can possibly win,” Krawiec said. “We need to have good reaction times because the margin of error gets much smaller.
“The rider, crew chief and tuner all must do their jobs. If you get all that working in your direction, you’re going to be running up front.”
Entering the final two events of the season at Las Vegas and Pomona, Krawiec has a 107 point lead over Tonglet in the championship standing.
“Leaving here kind of sets the tone for how that championship is going to shape up,” Krawiec said. “I probably put more pressure on myself to do really good. You need to capitalize. For me I would say I had a perfect weekend for how it worked out. This was the opportunity for me to grab the ball and run with it. I think that was more of my drive for today. Lucky enough for me, I had a great motorcycle under me.” Allen Gregory
SCHUMACHER STARTS FROM NO. 2 POSITION – Tony Schumacher, the pilot of the U.S. Army dragster, will start in the No. 2 spot Sunday and will match up against Terry Haddock.
Schumacher will try and create some of his old magic at the Texas Motorplex. He has a track record six wins (1999, 2004-05, 2009, 2010, 2014), and one Runner-ups 1 (2008).
Schumacher struggled with runs in Saturday’s qualifying, but he’s upbeat about race day.
"The weather change should not be the issue everyone is talking it up to be," Schumacher said. "We've got all kinds of data, but you just look at the track and the grip when the time comes and adapt. We'll go out there and try to run fast. We've got a good car.”
Through qualifying, Schumacher moved up to fifth in the points standings.
DEFENDING CHAMP BROWN GETS REED – A year ago, Antron Brown won at Dallas, beating Steve Torrence in the final round. Sunday he will try and win again – beginning in round one when he takes on Shawn Reed.
Brown, who qualified No. 3, has three wins at Dallas, one in Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1999 and two in Top Fuel 2012 and 2016.
“We ran right where we wanted to, even though we dropped a hole and I shut off a little early,” said Brown, who will be looking to repeat his 2016 FallNationals title on Sunday. “Besides that, we ran right where we wanted to, but we lost that one (bonus) point.
“I could’ve legged it out and actually outrun our teammate and get two points instead of one. It is what it is. Tomorrow’s where all the big points are made, so we have to be poised and get after it. We’ve got our work cut out for us the way these other cars are running, but I feel confident in our Matco Tools/U.S. Army/Toyota team to go out there and do what we do. We’re in the middle of a fight and we’ve got to fight hard.
“It’s going to be really different out there (with Sunday’s weather) where the cars are going to run hard, run fast, run quick, and we’ve got to be ready for that change. The first round is going to be crucial for everybody to run hard and run good.”
BRITTANY FORCE IS NO. 5 – Qualifying for the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex didn’t exactly go as planned for Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster driver Brittany Force.
Yet, here she is sitting in the No. 5 spot heading into race day, ready to fight for her third victory of the season.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit, but we ended up qualifying No. 5, and that’s a pretty solid place to be,” Force said. “We run Terry McMillen tomorrow, and the conditions are going to be completely different from what we’ve had so far this weekend, so it’s really going to be a throw-down for everyone, and we’re hoping to go all day tomorrow.”
Force’s best pass of the weekend was 3.747 seconds at 282.95 mph, the lower speed indicative of what could’ve been an even better pass. And her run of 3.801 seconds at 324.90 mph in Saturday’s first qualifying session was perhaps Force’s best, as it was run in the Texas heat and was the third-quickest of the session – earning her one bonus point.
But while temperatures were in the 90s for Friday and Saturday, NHRA teams will face much different weather on race day. The forecast high for Sunday is only 70 degrees, meaning elapsed times and speeds could reach national-record levels.
And it could be a benefit for Force.
“We run better in cooler conditions,” Force said. “I think it should be good for us. We do better in the cooler weather.”
Force races No. 12 qualifier Terry McMillen in the first round Sunday. His best pass was 3.813 seconds at 311.85 mph.
CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES CONCERN CAPPS – Fire officials said Saturday afternoon that wind gusts up to 45 mph across Northern California could further spread the massive blazes that have been ravaging the region for almost a week.
Strong winds kicked up overnight in the central Napa Valley region, Cal Fire protection deputy director Dave Teter said at a news conference Saturday afternoon.
As expected, those increased winds caused some fires to spread and triggered evacuations in Sonoma County and elsewhere.
Saturday’s winds are forecast to be similar to those that stoked the first flames Sunday night, which since mushroomed to more than 15 fires that have scorched 220,000 acres, destroyed an estimated 5,700 structures and caused at least 38 deaths.
Reigning nitro Funny Car world champion Ron Capps knows all too well about California fires, being a native of the state.
“I grew up there (in Northern California), but I live in the San Diego area now,” Capps said. “I have a lot of friends up there and so far they are OK. In the past when we have had those big fires in the San Diego area we’ve gone through the mandatory evacuation and it was scary because you had very little time to grab what’s most important to you. A few of those times I was gone either at a race and the last big fire I was at a photo shoot for NAPA. I had to take a flight home and my wife had to decide what to grab and what not to grab and we had to go stay in a hotel room for three days. It can be tough. I have a few racing friends who I talked to up there and they got out OK and they are alive, but some of them lost their shops and their cars. It’s very scary.”
DSR ROUNDUP – Jack Beckman turned in a third-place effort in the Infinite Hero Dodge and earned five bonus points overall, while Tommy Johnson Jr.'s Make-A-Wish-branded Dodge Funny Car will start from the seventh spot. Last year's event winner, Matt Hagan, qualified an uncharacteristic 13th in the Mopar Pennzoil Dodge from DSR. He defeated Capps in an all-Mopar final in 2016.
The qualifying sessions were conducted under primarily hot and humid conditions, but overnight rains are expected to lower temperatures to the mid to high 60s by Sunday afternoon
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN – Jim Campbell, who drives for Jim Dunn, will be racing on Sunday from the No. 16 qualifying spot. While Dunn made it into the field, Jeff Diehl (No. 17), Robert Schwab (No. 18) and Todd Simpson (No. 19) were on the outside and didn’t make the show.
DANIEL WILKERSON READY FOR RACEDAY – The Wilkerson family has long been involved in drag racing, and for young Daniel – son of Funny Car veteran Tim – racing has been part of his entire life. On Sunday at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, the younger Wilk will be gunning for the trophy from the cockpit of a nitro-breathing beast. Although his 300+ mph Funny Car isn't sporting the Summit Racing Texas special paint scheme that he started the weekend with, the Springfield, Illinois-based racer hopes to do well in front of friends and family in celebration of the new Summit Racing facility now open in nearby Arlington.
Daniel was wheeling his way down the racetrack on quite a pass in the first round of qualifying. It was so good, in fact, that he reset his career best numbers with his 3.987-second blast at 311.13 mph. A big boom and a bunch of flames extinguished the joy he might have felt under different circumstances, and the amiable young driver was forced to sit out the remainder of qualifying as his chassis was repaired and one of his dad's Funny Car carbon fiber bodies was set-up for Sunday in Dallas.
"I robbed Peter – which would be Tim – to pay Paul – which would be me – to where I have enough stuff together to run tomorrow," said Daniel, who is qualified in the No. 11 position and will race Courtney Force in round one. "The team came together and helped, and we worked on our car all through qualifying. During the third session, we started it and had a few sensors that weren't working, so I went back and fixed those. I had to switch out the computer, and as soon as I was done I walked up to watch Q4. We could have probably rushed and been able to make that session, but at this point, we have one blower and one intake. We decided it was best to save it for race day.
"I just want to thank everyone at Summit Racing Equipment for giving us the opportunity to race here this weekend, and I want to encourage everyone in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to stop by that Arlington store. It's pretty awesome. It's a shame we won't have that beautiful Summit Racing Texas Funny Car body tomorrow, but we're still so proud to represent such a great company. Summit is like family to us, and it means a lot that they have supported us this weekend and wanted us to run this car to commemorate the new store. This is a weekend we'll never forget."
Daniel's dad made several good passes throughout qualifying, including a best 3.909-second pass at 326.00 in the second round. He is qualified No. 5, his best since he claimed the pole in Bristol earlier this year, and he will race Cruz Pedregon in round one. Wilk is chasing his first win of the season and entered the race No. 9 in the Funny Car standings.
"I'm focused on making my car win some rounds," said Wilkerson. "I don't want to end up ninth or tenth in the championship if I can help it. We got good positioning here, so I'm excited about it. Yesterday, we just focused on doing what we were supposed to do, and we worked on our junk to make it go. I'm real proud of the guys here; they've been really good and spent a lot of time helping get everything back together correctly with Daniel's car. Hopefully, tomorrow it just rustles down through there. Daniel is really into this, and he already looked at the ladder and said, 'I'll see you in the finals, old man.' I thought that was cute. We'll see what happens."
COURTNEY FORCE QUALIFIES SIXTH – Courtney Force knows the difference between two days of qualifying and Sunday’s AAA Texas FallNationals at Texas Motorplex will be about as different as day and night.
After two days of qualifying in ambient temperatures in excess of 90 degrees – with track conditions exceeding 119 degrees – race day conditions are expected to be considerably cooler, with first-round eliminations expected in the mid-60s.
That means there’s no clear favorite to win the 22nd Funny Car race of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and fourth of the annual Countdown to the Championship.
Which may be perfect for Force, driver of the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car. She’s been strong in the heat and good in cooler conditions as well this season, and with her new pink livery, hopes to put the car into the winner’s circle for the first time this season.
She’ll try to do it from the No. 6 qualifying position. Her best run came Friday afternoon, when she notched two bonus points with a pass of 3.928 seconds at 331.94 mph. After two subsequent runs in which she slowed once, then smoked the tires on another, Force was on a good final run before the pan pressure shut the car off before she coasting to the top end. Still, she managed the third-quickest run of the session – 3.957 seconds at 308.64 mph.
Force will face off against No. 11 Daniel Wilkerson, who had a best run of 3.987 seconds at 311.13 mph.
“We’re excited going into race day,” said Force, the 2014 race winner. “We didn’t have the consistency we were looking for through qualifying, but the conditions are going to change tomorrow; it’s going to be a lot cooler than what we qualified. It’s going to be a whole new game plan, and we’re going to see where the Advance Auto Parts team is going to go.
“We’re in the middle of the Countdown to the Championship, so we’re going to have to give it all we got. We hope for a long race day. I’m also excited to see my teammate (Robert Hight) go to the No. 1 spot in the AAA Texas car,” added Force, referring to Hight’s late-pass that netted him the top position by one thousandth of a second.
JOHN FORCE IN AT NO. 10 – John Force said the No. 10 position for Sunday’s AAA Texas FallNationals at Texas Motorplex isn’t where he wanted to qualify, but he remains optimistic in going rounds on race day.
The 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car champion set the quickest time of Saturday’s early afternoon session – and the third of four qualifying sessions over two days – with a pass of 3.957 seconds at 327.90 mph in his PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS. That netted him three bonus points.
Force nearly showed improvement in the final round. He had a strong launch but lost a cylinder by 300 feet. Still, he turned in a time of 3.962 seconds at 316.15 mph.
“We ran that .95 and thought we’d be OK, but dropped a cylinder in the last run and went .96,” said Force, who has seven victories and 71 elimination-round wins at Texas Motorplex. “Not where I want to be, but PEAK pays me to win, so I’m going after it.”
Force’s No. 10 position pits him against fellow Countdown to the Championship contestant Tommy Johnson Jr., the No. 7 qualifier. Johnson – whose pass was 3.930 seconds at 327.59 – is only eight points behind Force, sixth in the points standings.
Force, who made it to the semifinals in the most recent race at Gateway Motorsports Park earlier this month, said he wants to add another semi appearance this weekend – and for good reason.
“One thing I do like is that if I make it to the second round, we’ll likely get (points leader Ron) Capps, and he’s the guy we need to take out,” Force said.
A second-round appearance will would also give him his 100th elimination-round at Texas Motorplex.
ENDERS MAKES PROGRESS – Ever since her Elite Motorsports race team began to experience a performance downturn a few months ago, two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders has been testing the wheels off Richard Freeman's Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.
It appears all of that extra work, along with some reconfigured parts dreamed up by car builder and crew chief Rick Jones, are paying off big for the 22-time national event winner.
Enders posted four very competitive runs during qualifying for this weekend's 32nd annual AAA Texas NHRA Fallnationals -- a 6.651, 6.634, 6.652 and finally a 6.629 at 207.72 mph -- to qualify a lofty fifth on the elimination grid. It's her best qualifying effort since the Seattle race, which was six national events ago.
"This weekend has definitely been a big step in the right direction," Enders said. "No surprise but we tested again in Noble, Oklahoma, earlier this week, with both my car and my teammate Jeg Coughlin's car, and we did really well, which gave us a little extra confidence coming in here.
"Rick did some things to the cars after St. Louis and they're working much better, so we certainly have a lot of optimism. We definitely felt like we had a much better handle on these Rick Jones Chevy Camaros after the test but you never know until you come here and run them against a pro field. Now we have, and the results are very promising."
Enders will open eliminations against part-timer Kenny Delco, who qualified 12th with a 6.659, 208.07 mph. Enders and Delco have not raced one another this season.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
NO CHANGE AT TOP IN Q3 – With the temperature outside hot, it came as no surprise that no one was able to knock Eddie Krawiec off his top spot in the qualifying ladder with his 6.860-second run Friday.
Actually, Krawiec had the fastest run of Q3, posting a 6.877-second run at 194.77 mph on his Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson.
Since the U.S. Nationals, the last race before the six-race Countdown to the Championship, Krawiec has qualified no worse that fourth – that was at Reading, Pa. – and he has won three of the last four races. Krawiec had his three-game winning streak stopped when he was beaten by LE Tonglet in the second round at the last race at St. Louis.
POLLACHECK MAKING NOISE OF LATE – This season, veteran Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Scotty Pollacheck joining the Extended Protection Suzuki team run by Greg Underdahl and Gary Stoffer.
Pollacheck has had a strong season, qualifying for the six-race Countdown to the Championship in the No. 7 spot.
Since making the Countdown, Pollacheck has been turning some heads. He qualified No. 5 at Charlotte, captured his first career No. 1 qualifying spot at Reading, Pa., and was fourth on the qualifying ladder at St. Louis.
More importantly, Pollacheck has made it to the semifinals at the last two races – Reading and St. Louis – before losing to Vance & Hines teammates Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines.
Those performances helped him move up to the No. 6 position in the point standings. Pollacheck’s best career finish in the season points standings was sixth in 2014.
ARANA JR. IS UPBEAT ABOUT SUNDAY – Hector Arana Jr. will have a great chance to exact some revenge in Sunday's opening round of eliminations when he faces Karen Stoffer for the second race in a row. Arana fell to Stoffer in the opening round of the last national event in St. Louis and he knows he needs to avenge that loss to keep this year's championship hopes alive.
"I usually never look to see who I'm racing because it really doesn't matter who is in the other lane if we do our job right," Arana said. "But I was told it was Karen so we'll prepare as we normally do and hopefully we'll get the win this time around. Maybe I owe her one after St. Louis. Either way, we need to win Round 1 and go a bunch more rounds tomorrow, no matter who we're racing."
Arana actually had never lost to Stoffer until two weeks ago, with his lifetime mark against the veteran now at 8-1. Just as it was in St. Louis, Arana has lane choice as the No. 8 qualifier, with his 6.900 at 192.80 mph besting her 6.914 at 193.02 mph. Stoffer is qualified ninth at this event.
"We are qualified, which is always the first goal," Arana said. "We need to be happy about that. We also are qualified on the top half of the ladder, which is always the second goal. We have reasons to be optimistic.
"We've really done a lot of brain-storming this weekend, going through all of our notes, figuring out what's going on with our Buell run after run so we have a good handle on it for tomorrow. We're not running as well as we have been for most of the year so we'll keep pecking away at it tonight."
So far this weekend has been pretty hot but the weather is forecast to cool considerably overnight, which could help the naturally aspirated motors used in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
"Tomorrow is going to be a totally different ballgame with the weather but regardless I think we'll have a handle on it," Arana said. "We're going to learn from our four qualifying runs, keep our heads on straight and move forward with a winning attitude. And I've got to do some expert driving tomorrow also.
"Once again, I'd like to send out special thanks to my sponsors: Lucas Oil, NGK Spark Plugs, CP Pistons, all the others. They are the ones that allow us to come out here and do this. We are truly blessed to be able to drag race at this level. Sometimes you have your ups and downs. You just have to go through them, take them as they come and enjoy every second of it."
SARGE MAKES SOME NOISE – While points leader Steve Torrence was setting a record Friday at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex, 8-time world champion Tony Schumacher was making some noise of his own.
The Sarge qualified his U.S. Army dragster in the No. 2 spot with a 3.692-seconds pass at 327.66 mph run.
"It was an outstanding run considering there's an incredibly fine line between going for it too much and not enough in these conditions on this track tonight," said Schumacher, the winningest Top Fuel driver in Texas Motorplex history with six event titles. "We made an extremely good run and theirs (Steve Torrence) was a little better. They're No. 1, we're No. 2."
With the run, Schumacher moved up to fifth in the points standings 146 points behind Torrence.
Torrence leads fourth-place Brown by 99 points and Schumacher, who moved up into a tie for fifth, by 146.
Brown qualified in the provisional No. 3 position with his 3.696-second elapsed time at, 329.91 mph in the second session.
"It was an outstanding run considering there's an incredibly fine line between going for it too much and not enough in these conditions on this track tonight," said Schumacher, the winningest Top Fuel driver in Texas Motorplex history with six event titles. "We made an extremely good run and theirs (Steve Torrence) was a little better. They're No. 1, we're No. 2."
PRITCHETT IN MIDDLE OF PACK – Leah Pritchett has a super, strong regular season, winning four races and having two runner-up finishes, but the Countdown to the Championship has not been kind to her.
Through three Countdown races, Pritchett, the driver of the Don Schumacher Racing Papa John’s Pizza dragster had dropped to seventh in the points entering the event at the Texas Motorplex.
Pritchett couldn’t get things clicking Friday, qualifying the provisional No. 8 spot with a 3.767-second run at 323.89 mph.
"We're behind, no doubt about it, but we have the capability of finishing out the season in a spectacular and marvelous fashion," she said. "This is a time where we have to show we're champions on and off the track.
"Everybody talks about digging deep and our whole team wants to shine our brightest. We see the cup as half-full and not half empty."
PAPA JOHN IN CHARITY CHALLENGE – Papa John's founder and chairman John Schnatter drove his classic 1971 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 to victory over Leah Pritchett Friday evening in the last Charity Challenge race of the season but Pritchett took the series by a 3-1 margin with her supercharged Gen III HEMI in a 2017 Dodge Challenger configured for drag racing.
DSR owner Don Schumacher and Schnatter each contributed $20,000 at each Charity Challenge and raised $100,000 for the Infinite Hero Foundation and $40,000 for the Riley Hospital for Children Foundation.
BRITTANY FORCE WANTS MORE – Brittany Force qualified in the No. 5 provisional qualifying spot sits in the No. 5 spot after two qualifying rounds of the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals with the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster, despite not making a perfect run in either session Friday at Texas Motorplex.
Force’s best run was 3.747 seconds at 282.95 mph, though the speed was nearly 40 mph slower than usual, an indication that her car slowed in the lights.
“We’re getting the car down there and putting a decent number on the board,” Force said. “No. 5 is not a bad place, but it’s not where we want to be this far into the Countdown. We want to be making solid passes and we want to be No. 1 right now to get as many points as we can. We get two runs (Saturday) in the heat, and that’s when it’s really going to matter. This Monster team, we’ll get it figured out. I’m not worried; we’ll pull it together.”
With three races left in the Countdown to the Championship – including Dallas – Force is third in the points standings, 83 out of the lead of Torrence.
ALEXANDER IS NO. 16 – Blake Alexander confirmed to CompetitionPlus.com, he will be racing in the Top Fuel class in NHRA’s national events in Dallas – this weekend – and the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals (Nov. 9-12) in Pomona, Calif.
Alexander will be driving the Pronto Auto Service Centers-sponsored dragster owned by Del Worsham. This is the same dragster Alexander drove in Englishtown, N.J., in June and Chicago in July.
“This is exciting to get back out here,” Alexander said. “I know Del has been working hard at Dexter Tuttle’s shop and Del and Dexter are going to tune the car in Dallas and Pomona. They are chipping away at it to try and make the car better and competitive. I feel more comfortable driving a dragster after a long layoff than Funny Cars. The dragster is a lot of fun like the Funny Car but Top Fuel is more straightforward and less violent. I still have a lot to learn, and am having a lot of fun with Del, Chuck, and the whole Worsham-Fink crew."
The Dallas race Friday through Sunday at the Texas Motorplex will have special significance for Alexander since the National PRONTO Association is headquartered in nearby Grapevine. Alexander was No. 16 in the qualifying ladder with a best run of 4.520 seconds.
“We have like 350 people coming throughout the weekend to entertain and I want to make sure everybody is having a good time and all the people who work at the headquarters who have not got to see NHRA drag racing yet, get to see it up close and personal and enjoy it,” Alexander said.
The last time Alexander drove was at the Route 66 Nationals July 9 in Chicago, and he captured his first career Top Fuel round win against 8-time world champion Tony Schumacher on a holeshot. Alexander lost in the second round to eventual race champion Steve Torrence.
“That felt good,” Alexander said about defeating Schumacher. “I was just trying to do my part and I was able to cut a great light (.020).”
Prior to competing in a Top Fuel dragster this season, Alexander was driving in the nitro Funny Car ranks.
Alexander’s career-best performance in a nitro Funny Car is his runner-up finish at the 2013 spring race at Charlotte, N.C., when he lost to Matt Hagan in the finals.
Alexander made his first career nitro Funny Car start in 2011 at Reading, Pa.
Thanks to his victory over Schumacher, Alexander can put on his resume that he’s won rounds in Top Fuel and Funny Car not something that many racers have done.
“That’s cool to have won rounds in both classes, but I want to win more than just one round (in Top Fuel),” he said.
Alexander acknowledged he’s looking forward to racing in Pomona next month.
“I grew up in Southern California and it’s great that I get to race at the track I first went to as a child and saw Kenny Bernstein, and Blaine Johnson and guys like that race,” said Alexander, who was born in Glendora, Calif., and grew up in La Verne.
Alexander also said he’s already has preliminary plans for the 2018 season.
“We are working toward running more races next year in Top Fuel,” he said.
GOOD AND BAD – The good news for Daniel Wilkerson in the first round of qualifying Friday was he clocked a career-best 3.987-second run at 311.13 mph. The bad news was when the son of veteran driver Tim Wilkerson got to the finish line his engine exploded and the body of his Funny Car blew to pieces.
Daniel’s run left him No. 9 in qualifying after Friday, while his father was in the No. 4 position with his 3.909-second run at 326.00 mph.
BECKMAN LOOKING FOR FIRST DALLAS WIN – Jack Beckman, the 2012 world champion, began his quest for his first career victory at Dallas with a strong start.
Beckman qualified No. 2 with his 3.873-second lap at 332.34 mph in the second qualifying session.
Beckman arrived in Dallas fifth in the points in his DSR Infinite Hero Dodge and his best career finish at Dallas is two runner-up efforts in 2009 and 2015.
“I went to the first national event there in 1986 and at the 21 venues we race at, there is no location that I want an NHRA Wally trophy from more than Dallas," Beckman said. "I've won in Super Comp at Pomona. I've won at Indy. Dallas is 100 percent at the top of my list. That's the one that I want the most. I don't care about points. I want to win Dallas."
Beckman's father, known to many as "Slow Bob" Beckman in contrast with his son's "Fast Jack" handle, has been a Texas resident for nearly 30 years. The younger Beckman would like nothing more than to present his dad with the Wally and the coveted black cowboy hat for winning the FallNationals.
"Obviously there's a component to move up in the standings, but I won't care about points when we pull into the Motorplex. I want to win Dallas more than any other race."
COURTNEY FORCE SOLID – Courtney Force, who is third in points, qualified No. 5 on Friday, as the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS made a best pass of 3.928 seconds at 331.94 mph. It marked the team’s first race with the new pink livery, designed to bring awareness to breast cancer and supporting the Young Survival Coalition.
“I’m really proud of my team as we’ve kicked off the weekend with a pair of bonus points that first session,” Courtney Force said. “Looking forward to tomorrow; we’re going to push this car and see if we can run it a little quicker in qualifying. Great start to the weekend.”
Team owner John Force was No. 11 in his PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS, with a second-round pass of 4.215 seconds at 221.31 mph.
AAA Texas driver Robert Hight sits in the No. 14 spot with a best run of 4.471 at 191.00 mph.
Hight is chasing his first world championship since 2009.
TJ HAS DECENT FRIDAY – Tommy Johnson Jr. has an amazing season a year ago, finishing a career-best second in the points standings. He came to Dallas seventh in the points and he’s trying to make a move in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger.
With his 3.930-second run at 327.59 mph in the second session which left him sixth in the provisional qualifying ladder.
"Realistically, we have to win the next three races to have a shot at the Championship," Johnson said.
"But it can be done so you can't throw in the towel and give up now. We have our work cut out for us. There's no reason we can't do it. It's going to be a tough battle."
HAGAN STILL STRUGGLING – Two-time world champ Matt Hagan came to Dallas with high hopes trying to change his luck of late.
Hagan arrived at Texas Motorplex fourth in the points and the defending race champion.
Hagan’s best run Friday was a 4.283-second effort, which left him in the No. 13 position.
"The thing about me is I don't ever want to give up," Hagan said. "I come back from a run and it blows the tires off and I pedaled it seven times when I probably should've pedaled it four. The guys ask me why I pedaled it so many times and I say because the other guy hasn't crossed the finish line yet. It ain't over. That's my mentality. And you have to have that. It's not over 'til it's over. We just have to fight hard and see where things land.
"It's going to be a Pennzoil race for us and I'm coming in early to do spend time with them. I'm just looking forward to it. I love racing this racecar and I'm just looking forward to getting in there and doing what we do."
It has been a challenging year off the track for Hagan and now crew chief Venables, who lost his mother, Nedra, last week.
"Unfortunately, Dickie's mother passed away recently and he's going to have that on his mind. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. I understand all about that. This year has been a tough year as far as that goes. I lost my grandfather and my brother this year. I get it.
"I still want to get up on the wheel and drive. I know that he'll be ready to tune this thing. We all have a lot of stuff going on in our lives and hopefully we can all come together and focus and do big things in Texas."
Hagan has two wins at Dallas – last year and in 2010.
MECHANICAL WOES – During the first qualifying session of Pro Stock, Tanner Gray, Chris McGaha and Allen Johnson all had problems.
Gray, the rookie phenom who drives the Gray Motorsports Camaro, had his car quit on the burnout.
McGaha didn’t have much better luck than Gray as his Camaro stopped running before he could stage.
Johnson, the former world champion, who announced at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, that he was retiring at the end of the season, slowed during his run after a severe tire shake and made to the quarter-mile mark in 21.095 seconds.
While these drivers struggled, Ken Black’s teammates – Bo Butner, Greg Anderson and Jason Line rolled their Camaros off the trailer and were No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 in the qualifying ladder.
Butner remained No. 1 after Friday and Greg Anderson (6.626 seconds) was No. 2 and Erica Enders (6.634) was third. Line was ninth at (6.639).
Gay rebounded to qualify No. 7 at 6.637 seconds, Allen Johnson was 10th at 6.658 seconds. McGaha was on the outside looking with a best time of 13.506 seconds.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
KRAWIEC STILL ROLLING – Back at the U.S. Nationals, Eddie Krawiec believed his team – Vance & Hines Harley Davidson motorcycle – was going to make a run at the championship in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.
Well, he’s right. He arrived at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis with a 16-point lead in the points over second place LE Tonglet and 72-point advantage over his teammate Andrew Hines.
Krawiec held the top spot after the first qualifying session with a 6.860-second run.
It is worth noting, Krawiec has two career wins at Dallas in 2013 and 2016. Tonglet has one Dallas victory in 2010 during his world championship season. Hines won at the Texas Motorplex in 2014. Actually, Matt Hines, the crew chief for Krawiec and Hines’ motorcycles also was a Dallas champ in 2000.
Krawiec stayed in the top spot after Friday.
Defending world champion Jerry Saovie is in the No. 2 spot with is 6.873 pass at 194.35 on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki and Scotty Pollacheck rounds out the top three.