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2017 NHRA FOUR-WIDE NATIONALS - CHARLOTTE NOTEBOOK

 

 

       

 

SUNDAY NOTEBOOK

TORRENCE CONQUERS THE DSR MACHINE IN CHARLOTTE - Steve Torrence was motivated by a memory Sunday at zMax Dragway.

One year before beating Tony Schumacher in the final of his debut race in 2012, Torrence said he received some advice from rival team owner and drag racing power broker Don Schumacher.

“We sat down and he told me that I can’t do this on my own and be competitive with these multi-car teams,” Torrence said. “I’ll just be honest with you, it pissed me off. And I’m here to tell (Schumacher) that I can, and we have, and we’re going to continue to do so.”

Torrence proved his point in style at the Four-Wide Nationals by winning his first race of the season in a talent-stacked final.

With a run of 3.783-seconds at 323.89 mph, he defeated Don Schumacher Racing stalwarts Leah Pritchett and eight-time world champion, Tony Schumacher along with Terry McMillen. It was the ninth career win and first Four-Wide victory for Torrence, who admitted that the victory had a special taste considering the other finalists.

“This is at the top of the list,” Torrence said. “It’s the same the same as winning a race that you had to pedal it every round or you had to win it on holeshots. This is a driver’s race. We race 24 races a year and in one of them we race four-wide. It’s completely different. You’re mentally challenged and you are doing everything you can.”

Torrence said that there is no way to simulate what a driver experiences in the unique format where multiple bulbs are flashing.

“It’s difficult to stay focused and be on the tree because there are two more bulbs and that’s two more than you see for the rest of the year,” said Torrence, who finished second in the 2015 Four-Wide Nationals. “I told my guys that I’m going to be last one to stage on every one of these laps just so I know which bulb I’m on.”

Schumacher ran a 3.874 in the final, with Pritchett (3.796) and McMillen next in line.

In the post-race press conference, Torrence paid tribute to his team member Justin Crossley whose mother died Saturday night. Crossley was not with the team Sunday.

“You spend every weekend with these guys and they become your family,” Torrence said. “We’re like brothers and I trust these guys with my life. You form that bond and when anybody is down, you support them. We told [Crossley) that we would be getting the trophy for him. I’m very fortunate to have my mom at all the races. It makes you take a look at what you have and not take anything for granted.”

Embracing the role of giant killer, Torrence said he was eager for the next event on May 5-7 in Atlanta. The DSR juggernaut has dominated the Top Fuel ranks so far this season.

“Man, I wish we were racing somewhere tomorrow,” Torrence said.  “We’ve got a bad- ass race car right now. To beat Tony and Leah in that last race, that’s what it’s all about.  Somebody needed to beat those DSR (Don ‘Schumacher Racing) cars and we figured it might as well be us.” Allen Gregory

CAPPS MAKES IT TWO IN A ROW WITH FOUR-WIDE VICTORY - After a decent start to the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello season, reigning world champion Ron Capps is rolling now.

The veteran driver, who pilots the NAPA Dodge for Don Schumacher Racing, won his second race in a row, his latest victory came Sunday at the Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway.

Capps clocked a 3.933-second elapsed time at 322.65 mph to defeat Jack Beckman (3.959), J.R. Todd (4.103) and Matt Hagan (8.820). Beckman and Hagan are Capps’ DSR teammates, while Todd is in his first year driving a Funny Car for Kalitta Motorsports.

This was Capps first career victory at the Four-Wide Nationals and the 52nd of his career. Capps won at the Spring Nationals April 23, beating Robert Hight in the finals.

“Some of these drivers that they don’t like it (the Four-Wide Nationals), they should stay home next time,” Capps said. “This is a fun race. It’s at the beginning of the season, it doesn’t impact the Countdown later in the year. I think it would be cool to have an all-star Four-Wide, another one. This is fun event. It changes everything, your mentality the way you approach the track and approach each round. Not very many times that you that many drivers pop out of their cars at the other end of the track smiling win or lose.”

When Capps advanced to second round he was second in the quad, losing on a holeshot to John Force, which didn’t sit well with Capps.

“I made it loud so he could hear me and he deep staged me and rolled in, and it gets under his skin when I mess with him like that, it’s fun,” Capps said. “Joe (Castello) was interviewing me and asked him about Robert Hight and if he was in my quad. They just went 88 and it was the quickest of the round and Joe was fumbling through his paperwork trying to interview me and the microphone was getting lower and lower so I just grabbed it. I said I will finish this interview and then I turned around and Force heard me and he’s yelling at the TV and at Amanda (Busick) and he’s yelling about this and that and taking hit hat off and screaming and doing his John Force thing, which is fun to watch, so I thought I would take over. I went over to interview him and as you saw, thank God it wasn’t live TV because we would all been in trouble. He’s fun. We mess around a lot and we have fun, and it was John Force. He got called the GOAT and didn’t understand what GOAT meant. He thought it had something to do with a GOAT. I had to explain it to him, it is the Greatest Of All Time, it’s a compliment. Ricky Carmichael, Jeremy McGrath, Dale Earnhardt, Mario Andretti, it’s the greatest of all time. But, you know him, he’s goes off on a tangent about being called an animal and sometimes you have to explain it to him, but that’s also have the fun.”

Although Capps has reached the winner’s circle for two straight weeks, he’s not boasting.

“I have a great race car,” Capps said. “There are people in this room who could drive that race car that aren’t race car drivers. I’m joking a little bit, but I really feel that way. It’s an incredible race car to drive. Rahn Tobler (Capps’ crew chief) gives me confidence and I just try and go there and not mess up. It’s great to win the Four-Wide, but we are going to Atlanta where NAPA headquarters and we just took the points lead, and I get to go the Coca-Cola Champions dinner for the first time ever and I’m looking forward to that Thursday night.” Tracy Renck

MCGAHA FINDS WINNERS CIRCLE AT FOUR-WIDE NATIONALS - There have been times when Chris McGaha has shown that he and his team are championship contenders in NHRA’s Pro Stock class.

Lately, however, that hasn’t been the case.

That changed Sunday when McGaha drove to the winners circle at the Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway in Charlotte, N.C.

McGaha claimed the victory in his Harlow Sammons Camaro with a 6.591-second time to edge Greg Anderson (6.614), and Shane Gray (6.648). Drew Skillman clocked a 6.597-second lap, but was disqualified with a redlight.

This was McGaha’s fifth career Pro Stock national event, but his first since the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis last year. This was the sixth different Pro Stock winner in as many national events so far, this season.

“They are all special in their own way,” said McGaha about his national event wins. “The first one at Sonoma (Calif.) was pretty sweet. I waited too long and then to get another one right behind it, each one of them has their own story. This one, I felt like should have been my first. In 2014, we had a dominant car, but the car eventually shook and blew our motor up. That motor never really has recovered until this week. I thought I was going to take a six-week break and not come back to Norwalk and now everybody in the pits is screaming Atlanta (May 5-7). I don’t know. I’m going to have to sleep on it still. Even my wife has said we are going to Atlanta. I wasn’t going to Atlanta, I just wanted to take time off and work in the shop and hang out with the kids, no other reason. No financial reason. It’s hard for us to get places, so I was going to take a break and work on the dyno. That’s really where I like to be, but now it looks like we have some momentum. To win in this game, you have to have power. To keep it going, we probably need to go one more week and see how it goes. The problem is if that one breaks the other one I have right behind isn’t that good.”

The state of Pro Stock has been fragile the past two seasons, especially with car counts, which is something that isn’t lost on McGaha.

“That has crossed my mind, lying in bed at night,” he said. “I will wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning thinking about cylinder heads. That has crossed my mind that I do have an obligation (to the class), and then I tell myself you know what I’m not the one who killed it either. They got it to this position. This is fun, but it is a hobby. That’s what they say is wrong with the class, there are too many hobbyist over there playing, and maybe there is but that’s the nature of the beast at this point. I have raced for a long time. My kid (who is 15, turning 16 in December) wants to race as well and I already have him set up for a Comp deal starting next year. I may even run two cars at Dallas this year, run a Comp car and a Pro Stock car, just so that car gets on the track and then say there you, there’s the keys let’s see what you got. We’re going to keeping coming as long as they keep opening the gates, but we may make just pick and choose our battles.” Tracy Renck

TONGLET WINS FIRST RACE WITH NEW TEAM - LE Tonglet entered the 2017 Pro Stock Motorcycle season with a new team and renewed hope.

That hope has turned into happiness for the 2010 Mello Yello champion.

Tonglet claimed his first win in the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals with a final round pass of 6.864 seconds at 195.00 mph in his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki.

It was also Tonglet’s initial victory for Jerry Savoie’s White Alligator Racing operation. The chemistry between Tonglet and fellow Louisiana native, Savoie, was evident throughout the weekend.

“We talked a lot,” Tonglet said. “Jerry is a great rider and he’s got a lot of runs under his belt along with race wins and a championship. When anyone has a championship, you always want to listen to them.”

Tonglet said Sunday’s result is just a preview of things to come for the White Alligator group directed by crew chief Tim Kulungian.

“It’s going be a bad-ass team once we get going,” Tonglet said. “This was only the second race for this team. It’s going to be a long year for everybody else.”

The final offered an illustration of just how funky and mind-blowing the Four-Wide setup is for competitors.

Three-time world champion Eddie Krawiec, who finished as the runner-up for the fourth straight year, posted the quickest time at 6.821 but he apparently lost his focus on the starting line after the Scotty Pollacheck bike left before the start light came on. Four-time event winner Andrew Hines was also thrown off his game by the bizarre start, finishing third with a 6.902.

“Really, I didn’t’ even know what was going on,” Tonglet said. “Everybody asked me what happened and I was asked that they meant. It was just another round of racing. Then I heard somebody say that another rider left before the tree. Somebody deep staged, and then the tree came down and it messed those other two guys up pretty bad. I’m just very fortunate.”

Tonglet said he took pride in defeating the proven Harley-Davidson combo of Krawiec and Hines.

“Whenever you beat even one of the Harleys it’s a huge statement because they are the two fastest and most consistent bikes out here. This one means a lot,” Tonglet said.

The low-key Tonglet has often been praised for his strong mental approach. His steady nerves were key Sunday.

“With the four-wide, you have to be prepared for anything,” he said. “You just have to concentrate because if you lose your train of thought it’s going to be bad.”

The conquest by Tonglet can be used an example of what can happen if a racer sticks to his dream. After winning the 2010 NHRA Mello Yello world title as a rookie, Tonglet endured a five-year drought before winning last season at Sonoma.

“We were not ready to quit, but it sucked going to the races,” Tonglet said. “It’s pretty cool to win today because they only have this (Four-Wide) race one time a year. In the past, we always had bad luck in the first two rounds. For everything to go right in eliminations is huge. And to have this one on the trophy stand means a lot.”

Tonglet explained that Kenny Koretsky, his longtime supporter with the Nitro Fish brand, provided the networking in the Tonglet and Savoie connection. During his drought, Tonglet was forced to rely on older parts as he scrambled for more sponsor help.

“Kenny told us that Jerry had a great program and that he was running good,” Tonglet said. “Everything just kind of fell in place and I couldn’t be happier. Tim has been working real hard on the bike and we’re all just jelling. Today was a huge confidence builder. And whenever a rider has confidence, it’s bad for everyone else.”

Tonglet said his team showed its potential by overcoming a No. 8 qualifying spot.

“It’s unbelievable what we’ve come through just in this weekend alone,” Tonglet said. “Tim said if the bike leaves the line, it’s going to run the number. We were strong in the first round, and it was just hauling butt the rest of the day. Tim and Jerry have great bikes and a great program. Everything is fast.  I’m just happy that I’m the monkey pushing the button.” Allen Gregory

SATURDAY NOTEBOOK – HOT DAY YIELDS LITTLE IMPROVEMENT, BUT IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCES

UNENVIABLE RECORD - Clay Millican knows how to win. In fact, he's captured 51 professional wins under the IHRA sanction. Additionally, Millican once won an IHRA Modified Eliminator drag race after showing up to race without an engine in the car.

Millican is also a six-time series champion.

For all of his success, Millican has never won an NHRA event, and it's largely because of one aspect.

"I won all those championships; it was an 8-car field, so it took three rounds to win the race," Millican explained. "As a Top Fuel driver, I have never won four rounds of competition in one event."

Millican, who enters Sunday as the No. 1 qualifier at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals with a 3.716 elapsed time best, will only need three round wins if he hopes to leave zMax Dragway with his first-ever NHRA championship trophy.

"I've won three rounds a lot, and we’ve actually done really well here," Millican said. "The NHRA doesn’t call it a final round, but I’ve been in the last quad the last two years. I count those as final rounds even though I don’t want that record of most runner-ups even though I’m charging up on that."

For the record, Millican has eight NHRA runner-up finishes to his credit. He's tied for third place with Tony Schumacher for the most before winning an event. He's just one away from a three-way tie for third.

"I’m third on the all-time runner-up list, a record I do not want," Millican admitted. "I want to turn on the win light three times on Sunday."

Millican, also the No. 1 qualifier in Houston, likes his chances on Sunday

“I know every time we show up at the race track we can win,” Millican said. “With this car and this team, every time we go I think we can win the race.”

Millican will try to earn his first NHRA career victory when he opens elimination against Terry Haddock, Shawn Langdon, and current Top Fuel points leader, Leah Pritchett.

Making the back-to-back pole positions impressive, Millican understands he and his team are doing this successful without the aid of multiple teams.

"I have to remind myself that we are this small team running up against these big teams," Millican added.

TWO TIMER - Following Millican's lead, Jeg Coughlin Jr. has back-to-back No. 1 qualifying positions this season with a run of 6.578 at 210.24 to pace the 16-car Pro Stock field. He will line up against John Gaydosh, Drew Skillman and Vincent Nobile.
 
“The goal today was obviously to try and remain No. 1 in the field and then also finish No.1 in both of the sessions,” Coughlin Jr. said. “I think this puts us in good position for tomorrow for running this four-wide.”


THE SUBSTITUTE - If there’s one thing Chad Head has learned it's the importance of quick reactions, even if he’s not in the race car.

Head, on Wednesday evening received a call from Kalitta Motorsports Team Manager Jim Oberhofer telling him his services were needed as a substitute driver to fill in for Alexis DeJoria who was sitting out the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals to deal with a family matter.

“I’m honored to fill in for the weekend,” Head said. “She’s been doing a great job this year. She’s got a great race car, it’s a great crew. Obviously I haven’t driven a car since Pomona, I’ve only driven for one person in my entire life.”

Head announced earlier this season he would not be returning to drive the Head Incorporated Funny Car, owned and tuned by his father Jim Head. He joined Kalitta Motorsports earlier this season as the team’s Director of Safety.

“I’ve got a little bit of butterflies but it’ll be okay,” Head admitted. “There’s great people over here and it’s a very safe car. I feel very comfortable. I’m proud that Alexis could do what she needs to do away from the race track because racing will always be here. But she needs to hurry up and get back here because this is her team and it’s her race car and it’s not the same without her.”

Head scoffs at the notion he’s a hired gun for the weekend.

“I’m hired to work with the Kalitta group, so this is like the bottom end guy got hurt and you need to go do the bottom end,” Head explained. “Trust me it’s a privilege to drive a race car but this is a position and on a race team there are several positions and one of them is a driver.”

Hired gun or not, the Four-Wide Nationals is a tough race to make a return after being out of the cockpit for six months.

“Yeah, but if you’re in Lane One you look at bulb one, if you’re in Lane Two you look at bulb two,” Head said with a smile. “Some of these guys like Force and some of these other guys that time out and get lost, I really struggle with how that happens. But now watch me go out and do something stupid.

“We might go out and make a great run but she could probably make a better run in that car because number one, she’s a great driver and number two she’s 60 pounds lighter than I am. So it just won’t be the same. But our goal is to do the best we can, represent Patron, represent Kalitta, Toyota, all of these great sponsors here and be safe and just wait for her to come back.”

THE GATOR IS A CHAMP - Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Jerry Savoie earned his 10th No. 1 qualifier of his career with a run 6.824 at 196.24 on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki from Friday’s qualifying session. He will race against Steve Johnson, LE Tonglet and Scotty Pollacheck in the first round of eliminations.
 
“I’m pretty confident,” Savoie said. “Tim has a good handle on this thing; this bike is a machine. It is predictable. You make a change; it responds. That is what you want in a racing bike. It’s when you start to take fuel and add fuel it doesn’t respond."

 

FULL CIRCLE - Australian Shane Tucker's bid to become a true American Pro Stock racer came full circle this weekend.

Tucker, who plans to run 14-races this season, opened his 2017 tour at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals with a new in-house engine program.
 
“I’m really excited about running our own stuff this year,” Tucker said. “It’s been a long time coming to run our own program. My dad has always built our engines back in Australia and to run our own stuff this year will be really rewarding. I hope we can get some good results; it’ll be that much sweeter when we do.”

Tucker qualified No. 15, recording a 6.758 elapsed time at 204.14 miles per hour. He will race in a quartet with Erica Enders, Tanner Gray and Alex Laughlin in Sunday's first round.
 
“Our whole idea and end goal going into this was running our own program but it’s just taken longer than expected,” Tucker said. “We get to call the shots on the tuning side of things now. The Elite group definitely gave us opportunities to make calls when we rented from them last season but our goal has always been to run our own stuff. We think the time is right to do that and we’ll see how it goes.”

Tucker also unveiled MEGA Racing as an associate sponsor this weekend.
 
“I have a great relationship with some of the other racing teams that MEGA Racing has been associated with in Australia, including V8 Supercars and Australian GT racing,” Tucker said. “After meeting some of the MEGA Racing team, it’s great to be involved with a company so passionate about its brand and communicating its message through several motorsport disciplines including Pro Stock racing. There will also be further announcements shortly regarding sponsorship for some of our friends that run a Pro Stock team back in Australia, so stand by. I’m excited to be a brand ambassador for MEGA Racing because it’s a really good fit for me and everyone at Rob Tucker Racing.”

STILL THE ONE - Courtney Force’s track elapsed time record from Friday evening held up Saturday for her third No.1 qualifier of the season. She raced her Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro to a 3.851 at 323.27, while teammate Robert Hight took second in his Auto Club Chevy Camaro and her father and team owner, John Force, is third with his PEAK Chevy Camaro.
 
This is John Force Racing’s first one, two, three qualifying order since Topeka 2014. Courtney Force went on to win that race for JFR.

“I’m really excited we’ve been able to keep that No. 1 spot and really proud of my team,” Force said. “I think it’s awesome that our Chevy Camaro is flying down the race track. I’m really proud of my guys and for this entire Advance Auto Parts team. It’s a really cool feeling to be in the top spot, but obviously our goal tomorrow is going rounds and picking up those points.”
 
Courtney Force will face Jonnie Lindberg, J.R. Todd and Bob Tasca III at the line. Hight will square up against Jim Campbell, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Jack Beckman.

LANGDON STARTS EIGHTH - Shawn Langdon nailed down the eighth-quickest spot of the final qualified field, putting the Global Electronic Technology Top Fuel Dragster into the field with a 3.760, 318.84 pass.

"We have been progressively making better runs, just trying to get ahold of the track," said Langdon, competing in his second event of the season. "We have made good runs in each lane, so we have confidence for tomorrow. I feel good driving right now; I have a lot of confidence in the Global Electronic Technology team. Tomorrow could be our day."

Langdon joined Kalitta Motorsports as a driver two weeks ago.

SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE - Tim Wilkerson hasn't been feeling the love from his racecar this season, scoring only one round win this season headed into this weekend.

If any weekend has the potential for a get-better affair, it's the special race where contestants run four abreast to the thousand-foot mark. Last year Wilkerson got the nod over second-place Cruz Pedregon with a 3.967-second pass at 315.56 mph.
 
Wilkerson admits he's found a comfort zone in racing the unusual event.
 
"There are a few tricky things about it, but at this point, [the four-wide format] doesn't bother me," Wilkerson said. "It's neat for the fans, and we want to win it, just like we do every other race. It's a special trophy to have in your collection, and I'm happy to have the one I got last year."

Wilkerson heads into Sunday's eliminations as the fifth quickest with a 3.903, and will match up against Matt Hagan, Bob Bode and Pedregon.

KALITTA STRONG - Doug Kalitta qualified second in Top Fuel, which puts him in the top three in four of six races.

“Being second definitely improves our odds for the first round tomorrow,” said Kalitta. “The first round of qualifying today (Q3) was pretty tricky. It was a little bit of an eye opener for everybody with all the tire smoke. That was good, though. We have to be ready if we see something similar tomorrow – and my Mac Tools Toyota boys will be ready.”

 

THE HOME TEAM ADVANTAGE - There's no place home. At least this is how Greg Anderson and Jason Line see it, as twice during the season they will sleep in their own beds each night.  

The KB Racing shop, where their teams are based, is just down the road in Mooresville.
 
Anderson, with two Four-Wide Nationals wins and a fall victory, and Line, the defending event champ and two-time fall Charlotte winner, have each scored more Pro Stock victories at zMAX Dragway than any other currently competing. In fact, they are the only active Pro Stock drivers to have won more than one event at the pristine facility.

Last season, Line won the race with a 6.565-second pass at 211.33 mph, while KB Racing-powered Bo Butner clocked a runner-up finish with a 6.591, 210.77. Anderson was the No. 1 qualifier at the event based on an impressive 6.576 at 210.41.
 
"We know zMAX Dragway well, we test there a lot and know the racetrack inside and out," said Anderson, who holds the track record with a powerful 215.48 mph run he made in 2015, prior to the rule change that mandated electronic fuel injection (EFI) in place of carburetors. Teammate Line put Summit Racing parts and pieces to good use with a killer 6.455 in 2015 to set the national record for elapsed time as well as the track record.

Of note, Line has the quickest pass on record in the new era of EFI with a 6.476 recorded in Gainesville this year, and Anderson recorded the fastest speed since the introduction of EFI, also set in Gainesville, with his booming 214.59 mph pass.
 
"I ran fast in Charlotte when we tested two weeks ago, and I have no reason to believe I won't be fast there this weekend and have a chance to win," said Anderson, noting that KB Racing has had a car in the final round at each race so far this year, but also reflecting on the fact that there have been five different winners in the first five races of 2017. "You have to run great and drive great to win in this class, but that's the way it should be. You feel good when you win because it's a He-man challenge these days. It's not easy, but that's the way we like it. We certainly aren't lacking for car-quality in this class."

 

BEST START - Troy Coughlin Jr. was fifth quickest after four sessions with a 3.729, 321.73 best. He will match-up in Sunday's first round with Steve Torrence, Scott Palmer, and Dom Lagana.

"The SealMaster Toyota group is doing a great job jelling," Coughlin said. "We are calling it our second race this year, and everybody is coming into their own. We are starting to see the progress. The team is ready for raceday. It is my first time with the 4-Wide, so we will keep our cool and focus on the task at hand."

The fifth starting spot is a new career-high start for Coughlin Jr.
 

 

ON THE MEND - John Gaydosh raced his way into the Pro Stock field just two weeks after knee surgery.
 
“I injured my knee last summer and thought I was fine," Gaydosh said. "But the week before Gainesville I re-injured it stepping out of a rig. When we got back from the race, I had to have ACL reconstruction surgery.”
 
Gaydosh has exceeded doctor’s expectations in his recovery. His doctor cleared him to drive just one week after surgery, and he has already returned to work this week.
 
“I have such a passion for this sport that I will fight and chew my way to be out here driving a Pro Stock,” Gaydosh said. “My doctor calls me his ‘Super Patient.’ He was shocked when I showed up to my follow-up appointment without crutches and able to move my knee around."

 

FRIDAY NOTEBOOK – FRIDAY AT THE FOUR WIDES DELIVERS BIG TIME

BABY GIRL DELIVERED - Courtney Force ensured the thousands of race fans sitting in the grandstand named after father knew the 16-time champion's baby girl had the race car to beat on Friday.

Force did so by establishing a track elapsed time record of 3.851-seconds at 323.27 mph during the second qualifying session.  
 
“Excited to be one, two and three coming out here,” Force stated. “This is also a pretty important track for us. It’s so crazy from a driver’s standpoint, but it’s so much fun and puts such a challenge on everyone that I think this track makes everyone a better driver. A lot of people make mistakes here, and I think a lot of people really have to be on their A-game when you come to a track like this.”

Team Force scored the top three spots in Funny Car qualifying with Robert Hight, qualifying second at 3.873 at 333.91 and team owner, John Force, was third with a 3.889 at 323.43.

CLAY DOES IT AGAIN - Clay Millican is on a roll as he leads Top Fuel qualifying with a 3.716, 325.77 during the second session.  He was the No. 1 qualifier in Houston where he was defeated by Steve Torrence in the semifinals.
 
“It’s just crazy that we’re at the front of the field these last couple of weeks,” Millican said. “The car is just running well, and it’s not hurting itself which is very important to be able to have those consistent runs.”

And in Millican’s world, consistency is king.

“Really and truly, it’s the team working on consistency,” Millican said. “Last year, we wanted to run 3.6-second (passes). This year, we said we wanted to take a little step back but get down the track more. … It’s just crazy that now we’re at the front of the field. If it’s 100 degrees tomorrow, I’m OK with that because we’ll stay No. 1.”

A CHARITABLE WEEKEND - Millican also spends the race weekend in Charlotte helping out a charity close to his heart: the B.R.A.K.E.S. program formed by one-time race rival, Doug Herbert.
 
“I always look forward to coming into Charlotte early to participate in the B.R.A.K.E.S. golf tournament and taking part in their pancake breakfast on Saturday,” Millican said. “I love working with a charity that does so much to help keep our kids safe on the road.
 
Millican is also sponsored by Great Clips, and in celebrating “Hair Stylist Appreciation Day” on Sunday, Great Clips stylists are on hand to do ‘crazy hair’ for NHRA fans who visit the display.

SPEED MERCHANT – Robert Hight’s record 333.91-mph pass was the quickest in the track’s 10-year history.

 

REKINDLING MEMORIES - Jeg Coughlin Jr. admits he's never forgotten the feeling.

A decade has passed since the last time the six-time NHRA champion scored back-to-back No. 1 qualifying efforts.

If his 6.578-second pass at 210.24 mph from Friday night can hold through Saturday's final two qualifying sessions, he can successful experience the fun all over again.
 
"To be No. 1 in both Friday sessions really starts to trump what we accomplished last weekend in Houston," Coughlin said. "Hopefully, that's a sign of more good things to come. I'm just really pleased that we made two really nice laps today. The guys are working hard and it'll be fun to come out here tomorrow and put a third and then a fourth run together."

After qualifying No. 1 and racing to a runner-up finish in Houston, Coughlin and crew picked up right where they left off this weekend at zMax Dragway, opening with a 6.590 at 210.11 mph in the first session before logging their run of record in the early evening.
 
"The first run today was pretty smooth," he said. "I was a little aggressive in a couple of the gear changes, which cost us a little performance, but it was still decent.
 
"In Q2 we went from Lane 1 clear out to Lane 4 and when I let the clutch out the thing wanted to make a left-hand turn on me. It was still accelerating and digging really hard so I made a very stern correction to the right and then a quick counter to snap it back in the groove and it held so I took it down through there.
 
"I didn't guess we'd improve on the 6.59 from earlier having gone through that early in the second run but, obviously, the air was a little better and the track was better and we were more efficient with the tune-up. I guess I found a fun way down the racetrack, and we were able to stay No. 1."

BROTHER ACT - Jeg isn't the only Coughlin with a No. 1 by his name at this race. Brother Troy was tops in J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series action after coaxing a 5.770 at 254.95 mph out of his JEGS.com C7 Corvette.
 
Coughlin isn't quite sure how he ended up on top of the timing sheets at the midway point of professional qualifying, but he's not complaining one bit.
 
"We'll take it," Coughlin said of his 5.770 at 254.95 mph pass to earn Coughlin the top slot. "I don't know how this happened because we ran almost the exact same numbers as we did in Houston last weekend under pretty similar weather conditions and all the supercharger guys that were way ahead of us in Texas have all dropped off quite a bit. It seems odd, but hey, we're No. 1 for now.
 
"It's exciting because this is the first four-wide race ever for the J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series and, at least for now, we're No. 1, so I'm happy for the guys and everyone back at JEGS in Ohio. It's a great day."
 
Drag racing four abreast with a Pro Modified car is a foreign experience for Coughlin.
 
"There's certainly a lot going on. You see all these cars pulling up behind each lane and there is twice as much noise and twice as many burnouts. It was a lot to take in, but it was really exciting at the same time. I was buzzing."

CORRALLING CHAOS - There were 58 qualifying attempts.

The bump spot was .03 quicker than the quickest ever field after only two sessions. And those were just two minor details of the J&A Services Pro Modified NHRA Four-Wide Nationals debut.

There were no timeouts, and no cones harmed in the 16 qualifying quartets competing in Friday's sessions.

The cherry on top of the chamber of commerce day NHRA's most volatile doorslammer class was six-time Pro Modified champion and pioneering legend Scotty Cannon on the PA providing color commentary with announcers Brian Lohnes and Joe Castello.

Cannon was taken aback by their four-wide proficiency.

"The guys impressed me," Cannon said. "I was really proud of them. The new guys and veterans made it look easy. I loved watching it; the only thing better than this would be eight-wide. Take the guardwalls down, and it would get real interesting."

Troy Coughlin made himself a statistical note by pacing the first day of four-wide drag racing with a 5.770 elapsed time at 254.95 miles per hour. Former Top Fuel driver Khalid al-Balooshi sits on the bubble with a 5.922.

Past NHRA Pro Modified champion Von Smith, experiencing his first four-wide procedure and doing so with a combination he's never raced before, a turbocharged '69 Camaro.

"It wasn't as intimidating as it was entertaining," Smith said. "I didn't know what to expect and figured I was going to stage first and then have to wait for everyone. It turned out to be the other way. I think it went pretty smooth, honestly."

"Just something different out of the normal," added Pro Modified's winningest driver Shannon Jenkins. "It just took a run or two to get the procedure smoothed out. It wasn't bad at all."

Smith admitted the top end experience provided a few challenges because unlike the professional categories, the Pro Modifieds turn to the right to exit the track in a much different scenario.

"When you pile up four cars on the Pro Mod side [exit], and it's narrower, it made for some interesting moments," Smith said.

Low qualifier Coughlin was most impressed with the most important aspect of the show – presentation.

"For today being our first time four wide, I'm really happy to see how everyone performed," Coughlinnsaid. "No one timed out, no one crashed or oiled down the track. I think we put on a great show and the fans let us know how much they appreciated it.

DEFINING DOMINATION - Don Schumacher Racing is already experiencing a banner season many teams would love to have, and the 24-race tour hasn't even reached the halfway point.

DSR's Leah Pritchett and Ron Capps took home wins last weekend in their respective categories at the NHRA Springnationals outside of Houston.
 
So dominant thus far, DSR has led the points standings in Funny Car and Top Fuel after every event. It's no wonder as DSR has won nine of the possible 10 nitro titles this year and increased its win total to 302. With a combined record in eliminations of 74-23 (69 percent), nine of those 23 losses were to DSR teammates.

GATOR BAIT - Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Jerry Savoie sits in the No. 1 qualifier position with a 6.824 pass at 196.24 on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki. He was the No. 1 qualifier at Gainesville earlier this season.
 
“We take it race by race and focus on our program,” Savoie stated. “One thing you’ll learn about my crew chief is that he doesn’t think about tomorrow. He doesn’t think about round two when he’s in round one. Whatever the conditions are at that time is when he makes the adjustments.”

 

ENDERS IS FIRST DAY STRONG - Two-time world champ Erica Enders is in second with a 6.583 at 210.08 run


ARANAS OVERCOME ADVERSITY - Calamity on the track is always a challenge, but an off the track issue can present another battle in itself.

Leaving the season-opening NHRA Gatornationals, there was plenty of optimism for Lucas Oil veteran Hector Arana Sr.
 
"The first race gave us a direction we needed to go with the bikes and the engines so we got back home and went to work," Arana said. "It felt like we'd have lots of time to not only work in the shop, but maybe even go testing.
 
"Everything was going really well and then out of nowhere the dyno crashed. We had an engine on there and it just stopped. We took it apart best we could but it was something beyond what we could fix so we had to have it repaired. That took two weeks. So much for having any extra time."
 
Working with new crew chief Jim Yates, the two-time Pro Stock world champion, the Lucas Oil team, which includes Arana's oldest son Hector Jr., spent the down time going over their Buells from front to back. When the dyno was back in working order, they immediately put it to use.
 
"Everything is squared away now," Arana said. "We did have enough time to do everything we needed to do so I guess if the dyno needed to die, it was best it did during the longest break we have on the schedule.
 
"It's still early in our season. Pro Stock Motorcycle does 16 races and this weekend is only the second one. Still, you don't want to give away anything so it's important we do well this weekend. We are 100-percent ready for the race."

EDDIE IS CRUISING - Eddie Krawiec, a three-time world champion, sits in second position with a 6.835 pass at 196.93 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson

 

HOMETOWN FAVORITE - Greg Anderson ran a 6.587 at 209.79 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro for third.

 

BETTER DAYS AHEAD? - This isn’t the start to the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock season Allen Johnson had in mind.

The veteran driver, who won the 2012 NHRA Pro Stock world championship, has yet to win a round this season, posting an 0-5 record.

Through the season’s first five events, he’s 11th in the points standings. Johnson also has struggled in qualifying as he has been near the bottom of the ladder each event. His best qualifying performance was 11th at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., the season’s third race.

Johnson is coming off a first-round loss to eventual race champion Bo Butner at the SpringNationals in Houston, April 23.

Butner clocked a 6.523-second lap to defeat’s Johnson 6.567-second run. To Johnson’s credit he did see a positive in the losing run made by his Dodge, which carries the primary sponsor of Marathon Petroleum Corporation.

Johnson’s reason for optimism comes from the fact he qualified No. 13 in Houston with a best run of 6.645 seconds at 207.94 mph, and his car improved greatly in its elapsed time in first round.

“We’re definitely are at a disadvantage with the Dodge combination, but we figured out some stuff out, E1 there at Houston with some gremlins we’ve had. We picked up eight hundredths and four mph in the first round and I think you will see us a little better at Charlotte.”

Johnson was No. 13 after two sessions in first-day qualifying at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals with a 6.657, 208.23.

“We’re more optimistic about Charlotte because we found some gremlins in that last run at Houston,” Johnson said. “We picked up a good, solid four hundredths on the field there, so I think you will see us do a little better there in Charlotte. We will have to wait and see. The Four-Wide racing is OK once a year for the hype.”

Johnson, who had one win last season at the Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Denver, July 31, finished eighth in the season points standings.

Johnson has finished in the top 10 in the points every year since 2005, highlighted by his 2012 championship.

AIR DOUG STRONG ON FIRST DAY - Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools dragster are second with his pass of 3.718 at 325.77.

 

HULKING FIRST DAY - Funny Car points leader, Matt Hagan, is fourth with a 3.898 at 331.28 pass in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T.

 

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