Keep up with this weekend's NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, by reading our behind-the-scenes event notebook. We bring you the stories behind the numbers and win-lights throughout the course of the weekend. Tune in daily for the latest news from the pits.












Funny Car racer Mike Ashley figured out the perfect way to get over his streak of two DNQs in a row by winning the inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals Sunday at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.

Defending series Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher also erased a downturn in his recent performances with a victory over current points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller, while Dave Connolly and Andrew Hines won in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle, respectively.

fc-winnerDSA_1184.jpg Ashley's report card from the last four races now shows a pair of wins and a pair of DNQs for his Torco/Skull Gear Dodge Charger. His victory Sunday denied final-round opponent Kenny Bernstein the chance to claim his first Funny Car win in 18 years.

Bernstein, who drove Top Fuel dragsters from 1990-2003 and returned to Funny Car this season with backing from Monster Energy Drink, got a big jump on Ashley in the final, leaving with a .059-second reaction time to Ashley's .097-second start. But Bernstein was soon lost in a cloud of smoke, which allowed Ashley to streak by for a 4.823-second, 321-88-mph victory.

"I told the team this morning to just forget about the last two races and pretend we were coming in here off that Topeka win," said Ashley, who earned his second career win. "Racing Kenny Bernstein, the ultimate professional, in the final was a real honor."

Ashley's win lifted him two slots in the points. He's now just one point behind third-place racer Tony Pedregon. Ashley had the quickest car in three of four rounds Sunday. Bernstein was the quickest in the quarterfinals.

Everyone gained on points leader Ron Capps, who lost in the first round for the second race in a row. He now leads Robert Hight by 98 points.

Schumacher was an afterthought at the start of the day after qualifying in the No. 14 position, but his U.S. Army dragster came to life in the Ohio heat and he punched his way past Brandon Bernstein, J.R. Todd, Whit Bazemore, and Fuller.

tf-winnerDSA_1193.jpg The final against Fuller was a classic run by crew chief Alan Johnson, who dug deep into his bag of tricks to tune his man to an otherworldly 4.537 at 322.04 mph. For the second round in a row, Fuller had to pedal his unsponsored rail to get down the track, only this time it was far too late as Schumacher pulled away for the win.

"Doug Kalitta is a competitor of mine and I need to beat him because that's my job, but I was kind of pulling for the guy today," said Schumacher of his 37th career win. "He's part of our family out here and he lost his dad this week so we're all hurting for him. I wanted to race him in the final so I could be the first one to either congratulate him or give him the trophy because this one belongs to him. I will present it to him as soon as I get the chance."

Despite his runner-up finish, Fuller extended his lead in the POWERade points to 98 markers over Larry Dixon. Schumacher stayed fifth overall but is now just 33 points out of second place. Bernstein and Dixon both lost in Round 1, while Todd lost in the quarterfinals.

ps-winnerDSA_1151.jpg Local hero Connolly's win over Morgan was the biggest crowd pleaser as his legion of supporters roared their approval of his 11th career win from the capacity grandstands. Morgan left first by a tenth of a second but Connolly had him reeled in very soon thereafter and simply drove away for an easy 6.660 win at 207.11 mph in his Torco Cobalt over Morgan's 6.718 at 205.54 mph in his Lucas Oil Stratus.

"What a picture-perfect weekend for our race team," Connolly said. 'The only thing that could have been better was if I could have raced Jeg [Coughlin, teammate] in the final instead of the semifinals. To come back home like this and win the race in front of all my friends and family is great. Even my mom (Elaine) was here today and she doesn't make it to many races because of her work schedule so that was cool."

Points leader Greg Anderson, the No. 1 qualifier at this event, was timed out at the starting line against Round 1 opponent Erica Enders. That allowed second-place points earner Jeg Coughlin to make up two rounds and third-place points earner Connolly three rounds on the lead.

psm-winnerDSA_1138.jpg Hines' Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod Pro Stock Motorcycle got stronger as race day progressed with the 24-year-old racer running the quickest elapsed times of the final three rounds. In the final, he gave up a reaction-time advantage to Smith but quickly zoomed by after Smith aborted his run just a few hundred feet into his pass. He won with a 6.988, his fourth six-second pass of the day.

"This was a great weekend for the entire class and all the different bikes had a chance to shine," said Hines, who earned his 10th career win. "Angelle [Sampey] was all over it on her Suzuki, Matt was No. 1 qualifier on a Buell, and we won the race on a Harley. I'd say it's pretty level right now."

It was a hard fought 20-point gain for Hines on Smith's lead in the POWERade points but he now finds himself just 108 points back in third place. Angelle Sampey is in second place, 79 points off the lead. 

Sunday's final results from the Inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park. The race is the 11th of 23 in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series:





 Top Fuel -- Tony Schumacher, 4.537 seconds, 322.04 mph def. Rod Fuller, 7.087 seconds, 114.49 mph



Funny Car -- Mike Ashley, Dodge Charger, 4.823, 321.88 def. Kenny Bernstein, Charger, 12.080, 80.40.


Pro Stock -- Dave Connolly, Chevy Cobalt, 6.660, 207.11 def. Larry Morgan, Dodge Stratus, 6.718, 205.54.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.988, 190.46 def. Matt Smith, Buell, 10.961, 70.13.

Top Alcohol Dragster -- Bill Reichert, 5.366, 269.94 def. Kate Harker, 5.268, 271.30.

Top Alcohol Funny Car -- Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 5.750, 207.50 def. Von Smith, Chevy Camaro, 5.561, 255.53.

Competition Eliminator -- David Eaton, Bantam Roadster, 6.778, 183.69 def. Sal Biondo, Chevy Beretta, 8.241, 159.91.

Super Stock -- Mike Walter, Pontiac Firebird, 10.757, 120.51 def. Ricky Decker, Chevy Camaro, 9.690, 134.12.

Stock Eliminator -- Anthony Bertozzi, Chevy Camaro, 10.501, 123.61 def. Mike Fuller, Camaro, 10.578, 123.40.

Super Comp -- Shane Carr, Dragster, 8.903, 160.48 def. Dave Dahlem, Dragster, 8.897, 157.74.

Super Gas -- Mark Horton, Chevy Corvette, 9.900, 147.10 def. Jim Hughes, Corvette, 9.904, 149.51.


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Clear, sunny weather conditions in Northern Ohio kept elapsed times and top speeds in check Saturday during the final day of professional qualifying for the inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.
All four of Friday night's professional category leaders remained in control of their respective categories, including Funny Car top gun Robert Hight, the son-in-law of 14-time world champion John Force, who posted a best of 4.713 at 313.73 mph.

fullerDSB_1160.JPG Top Fuel's "Hot Rod" Fuller (4.533), Pro Stock's Greg Anderson (6.654), and Pro Stock Motorcycle's Matt Smith (6.965) joined Hight on the low qualifier's podium at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.

Fuller scored his third No.1 qualifier of the season with his 4.533 at 323.50 mph pass from Round 2. He remains one of only three racers to have qualified fourth or higher at every race this season. This was Fuller's fifth career low qualifying effort.

“Five is my lucky number,” Fuller said. “I’m number five, five was my number in both football and soccer and I’m 5-foot-5. I’m just really impressed by this facility and the fans. The place just has a feeling of home to it, like I’m at a bracket race. I just feel really comfortable here."

Clay Millican's second-place seeding is the best of the year for the driver of the RATT -- Back for More dragster. Budweiser’s Brandon Bernstein (4.554) and SkyTel's Larry Dixon (4.561) rounded out the top four.

Considering his racecar hasn't been running on all eight cylinders, Funny Car leader Hight continues to impress in his Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, ringing up his fourth low qualifier award of the year with a 4.713 at 313.73 mph.

hightDSB_1272.JPG "With the exception of one run in Gainesville, we haven't made a full pass all year on all eight cylinders," Hight said. "It's been dropping one every pass and now it's trying to drop two. Jimmy [Prock] decided to make some giant moves today to fix that and we're really encouraged by what it showed us."

Hight's sister-in-law Ashley Force, a huge favorite among the capacity Norwalk crowd, is a strong second in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang after a best of 4.734 at 320.13 mph. Tony Pedregon follows with a third-best 4.757 in his Q Horsepower Chevrolet Impala SS.

Points leader Ron Capps is seventh in the Brut Test Drive Dodge Charger. He'll face legend Kenny Bernstein and his Monster Energy Drink Charger in Round 1.

Del Worsham barely bumped into the field in the third round in his Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Chevrolet Impala SS, running a 16th-best 4.873. The drama came when he reached the top end as his car exploded into several pieces, which relegated him to the sidelines for the final session. Nevertheless, his time held and he'll race Hight in the morning.

Even when he struggles, Anderson, the Pro Stock points leader, still tops his category. Anderson's opening pass of 6.654 at 207.59 mph earned his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO team the No. 1 qualifying position for the eighth time in 11 races this year. They've converted six of those top starts into wins. Anderson failed to make it down the track in Rounds 2, 3, and 4.

andersonDSA_0574.JPG "Spirits were high after Round 1 but it's been all downhill since then," said Anderson, who will open against Erica Enders. "We pride ourselves on consistency and we don't have it here. It's not a real confidence builder. I think we just need to forget about today. It was just a bad day at the office. We've got to move on because this is our sponsor's race and we need to do well tomorrow."

Mopar Racing teammates Richie Stevens and Allen Johnson are second and third here. Stevens' Dodge posted a 6.659, while Johnson was a thousandth back at 6.660.

Smith's third low qualifying effort of the season and seventh of his career makes the Torco Buell V-Twin rider the early favorite for Sunday's race. Only one rider, Paul Gast, bumped into the field Saturday, changing Smith's first-round foe to fellow Buell pilot Matt Guidera. Guidera's more than a tenth of a second back of Smith's 6.965 at 189.60 mph with a best of 7.084 at 185.13 mph.

smithDSB_0989.JPG "As soon as we got here I figured no one would run quicker than us so I just started trying other things out," said Smith, who tunes both his bike and that of teammate Chris Rivas. "I tried some things with the timing in the early session and scuffed in a new tire in the afternoon. I just wanted to make sure we were totally prepared for tomorrow."

Andrew Hines, who has raced to two finals in a row, has the quickest Harley-Davidson in the field with a third-best 6.995. Angelle Sampey is the cream of the Suzuki crop in fourth place with a 6.997 at 190.86 mph on her U.S. Army mount.
First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the Inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, the 11th of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday.

Top Fuel -- 1. Rod Fuller, 4.533 seconds, 323.50 mph vs. 16. Melanie Troxel, 4.666, 321.35; 2. Clay Millican, 4.538, 328.06 vs. 15. Hillary Will, 4.661, 320.58; 3. Brandon Bernstein, 4.554, 325.37 vs. 14. Tony Schumacher, 4.633, 311.92; 4. Larry Dixon, 4.561, 323.89 vs. 13. Doug Kalitta, 4.618, 320.13; 5. Cory McClenathan, 4.564, 323.89 vs. 12. Bob Vandergriff, 4.614, 312.13; 6. Scott Palmer, 4.572, 306.12 vs. 11. J.R. Todd, 4.611, 322.42; 7. Doug Herbert, 4.577, 326.56 vs. 10. Whit Bazemore, 4.607, 324.90; 8. David Grubnic, 4.583, 329.58 vs. 9. Luigi Novelli, 4.598, 322.65.

Funny Car -- 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.713, 313.73 vs. 16. Del Worsham, Chevy Impala, 4.873, 290.76; 2. Ashley Force, Mustang, 4.734, 320.13 vs. 15. Gary Densham, Impala, 4.870, 311.05; 3. Tony Pedregon, Impala, 4.757, 320.81 vs. 14. Tony Bartone, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.866, 317.49; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Impala, 4.759, 305.42 vs. 13. Cruz Pedregon, Impala, 4.862, 301.60; 5. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.773, 326.16 vs. 12. John Force, Mustang, 4.832, 315.19; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Impala, 4.775, 324.67 vs. 11. Jeff Arend, Impala, 4.830, 318.54; 7. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.775, 317.42 vs. 10. Kenny Bernstein, Charger, 4.813, 315.12; 8. Mike Ashley, Charger, 4.778, 329.58 vs. 9. Jim Head, Toyota Solara, 4.804, 318.47.

Pro Stock -- 1. Greg Anderson, Pontiac GTO, 6.654, 207.59 vs. 16. Erica Enders, Dodge Stratus, 6.705, 205.35; 2. Richie Stevens, Stratus, 6.659, 206.42 vs. 15. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.692, 206.35; 3. Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.660, 205.79 vs. 14. Jim Yates, GTO, 6.689, 206.13; 4. Dave Connolly, Chevy Cobalt, 6.663, 206.70 vs. 13. Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.683, 206.76; 5. Tom Hammonds, Cobalt, 6.664, 206.51 vs. 12. Greg Stanfield, GTO, 6.679, 205.82; 6. Jason Line, GTO, 6.667, 207.18 vs. 11. Justin Humphreys, GTO, 6.676, 206.64; 7. Max Naylor, Stratus, 6.670, 206.57 vs. 10. V. Gaines, Stratus, 6.673, 206.35; 8. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.673, 206.76 vs. 9. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.673, 206.67.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.965, 189.60 vs. 16. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.084, 185.41; 2. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.983, 191.21 vs. 15. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.077, 187.00; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.995, 191.46 vs. 14. Paul Gast, Suzuki, 7.073, 188.23; 4. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.997, 190.86 vs. 13. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.062, 191.13; 5. Chris Rivas, Buell, 7.001, 189.07 vs. 12. Geno Scali, Suzuki, 7.053, 189.60; 6. Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.005, 190.65 vs. 11. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.050, 189.36; 7. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.008, 189.76 vs.10. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.036, 190.30; 8. Peggy Llewellyn, Buell, 7.014, 190.43 vs. 9. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.017, 192.60. 


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Top Fuel points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller only made one run down Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park Friday but he made it a good one, streaking to the forefront of the inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals with a 4.533 at 323.50 mph.

Greg Anderson followed the same formula in Pro Stock, making one noteworthy pass of 6.654 seconds to lead his class. Funny Car's Robert Hight (4.713) and Pro Stock Motorcycle's Matt Smith (6.965) also shined.

One of the biggest stars of the day was the facility itself. The Bader family has the 44-year-old track in top condition and everyone from the fans to drivers to team owners talked about the facility and improvements made.

fullerDSB_0645.JPG "This place really has me pumped up," Fuller said. "It's really nice. I'd say it's one of the coolest drag strips I've ever been to. I just like the way it is a lot. My hat's off to the owners."

Fuller said his dragster was severely underpowered in Round 1, which is why he gave up on the pass and just drifted down the track. Fortunately, his crew chief Rob Flynn managed to gain enough information to make the proper changes for the night run and his 4.533 at 323.50 mph was the best the track has ever held. Clay Millican (4.538, 316.67) and Brandon Bernstein (4.554, 325.37) rounded out the top three qualifiers.

hightDSB_0616.JPG Hight's Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car looked very reliable Friday, closing with a 4.713 at 313.73 mph to pace the field. His sister-in-law Ashley Force was close behind with a 4.734, while team patriarch John Force (4.832) was 12th in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang.

"We’re qualified but we’re still dropping cylinders," Hight said. "It put two cylinders out down track on that run which is why the speed was down. It looks like we’re going to end up in the top eight (in the Countdown to the Championship), so for the next seven races, we’re going to test and try to come up with a combination that we can race with starting at Indy."

Anderson only made one run Friday, a 6.654 at 207.59 mph, and it came in the warmer early session, but it was still more than enough to put his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO in the lead position at his title sponsor's main event. Anderson stalled on the starting line in Round 2 and failed to make a pass.

AndersonDSB_0210.JPG "Something happened in the ignition and the engine didn't want to rev up," Anderson said. "We have to get the MSD guys over and figure out what's wrong. Darn it, the air was good and we felt like we could go faster, but by judging what the other car did, maybe we saved face."

Mopar racer Richie Stevens continues his hot streak of late with a second-best 6.659 at 206.04 mph in his Stratus. His teammate, Allen Johnson, was next with a 6.660, while Dave Connolly's Torco/Seelye Wright Cobalt is fourth with a 6.663.


Unhappy with his opening pass of 7.019 seconds on his Torco Buell V-Twin, Pro Stock Motorcycle leader Smith pulled out a new powerplant and managed to knock more than half a tenth off his E.T. to take over the No. 1 position with a 6.965 at 189.60 mph.

"To improve like that with a new motor in there, I'd have to say we're pretty happy," said Smith, who was fourth after the opening round. "There's a lot of water in the air right now and the corrected altitude is 1,800 feet so even though it's cool outside it was hard to make a lot of power."

Another Buell, the Drag Specialties/S&S Cycles machine of Chip Ellis, is second with a 6.983 at 189.36 mph. Andrew Hines is third on his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod with a 6.995, while Angelle Sampey has her U.S. Army Suzuki fourth with a 6.997, the last six-second run in the class.


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norwalk_logo.gifThere are plenty of reasons fans have made NHRA POWERade Series drag racing the second most popular motorsport in the United States. There’s nothing like watching two 7,000 horsepower machines rocket off of the starting line with a force stronger than a space shuttle launch. The pits are open. Racing simulators are a mainstay at every national event.

But it’s mostly because fans see themselves in the drivers.

Consider the current professional roster:

·In 2007, 24-year-old Ashley Force announced her move to one of the most powerful categories on the planet – Funny Car. When she made her debut, she and her father John became the first father-daughter pair to ever compete against each other in a professional motorsport. And fans had a front seat view of the transition through A&E’s real life television show “Driving Force.”

·In 2006, then 24-year-old J.R. Todd went from virtual obscurity to a guest on CNN when he became the first black driver to win in Top Fuel. His debut was a fairy-tale season that no one predicted, and he topped it off by earning the Auto Club Road to the Future rookie of the year award. He hasn’t disappointed fans this year either.

·Seven women are serious threats to the 2007 world championship titles in four professional categories (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Most know someone who either races in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series (a feeder series for the professionals) or wants to. Indeed, NHRA drag racing has moved far beyond the early years of flag-drop starts and rebel racing.

On June 28-July 1, the elite drivers of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series come to Norwalk’s Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park for the inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, the 11th of 23 events in the series. The newly renovated track features a state-of-the-art media center and upgraded facilities that position it as one of the top drag racing venues in the country.

Drivers are quick to voice their anticipation for bringing the hottest rivalries in drag racing to Norwalk.

“The one word that comes to mind when I think of Norwalk is unbelievable,” said Robert Hight, driver of the Auto Club Ford Mustang and 2005 rookie of the year. “The racing surface is unbelievable. The fans are unbelievable … When you can get so many people from Michigan and Northern Ohio to a race like an NHRA event you know they will be excited to see the Auto Club Ford Mustang as well as John and Ashley Force’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustangs as well as the rest of the Funny Car teams.”

The story lines coming out of the John Force Racing camp are almost as unbelievable.

In January, Ashley Force announced her intention to turn pro. She turned to teammates Robert Hight and Eric Medlen for advice. Then in March, just three months into the season, Medlen died of injuries sustained in a testing accident in Gainesville, Fla. Ashley, Robert and John pulled together to get through the grief and returned to the circuit after missing one race. The headlines didn’t stop after their return.  Surprisingly, both Robert and Ashley are sitting comfortably inside the first cut-off in the new play-off style format adopted by the POWERade Series, called the Countdown to the Championship. Incredibly, John, a 14-time world champion, has yet to crack the top 8.

News is coming fast out of the Chicago-based Don Schumacher Racing team, too. Four-time and reigning Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher, largely recognized for his U.S. Army colors, has struggled to reach the winner’s circle, earning only one victory in the first nine races. Any other world champ may be worried, but Schumacher, guided by crew chief Alan Johnson, is known for turning early disadvantages into motivation. In 2006, Schumacher earned his fourth world title with the most memorable performance in NHRA history. He needed to win the final race of the season with the final pass of the year in a national record-setting time. A perfect stage for the perfect storm was set. And he did it.

In Pro Stock, a pair of formidable challengers has finally stepped up with a serious threat to the Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac team juggernaut of Greg Anderson and Jason Line. Between the two of them, the team owned by Las Vegas businessman Ken Black has held the world championship title since 2003. Now Ohio teammates Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Dave Connolly – both known for taking advantage of their opponents at the starting line – have formed a truly formidable alliance. After 10 events, Anderson has topped the point standings with six victories, with Jeg Coughlin and Dave Connolly, respectively, standing between Line and second place.

Pro Stock Motorcycle features three women vying for a spot in the Countdown, including NHRA’s winningest female, Angelle Sampey, Karen Stoffer and Peggy Llewellyn. U.S. Army Suzuki rider Sampey, who set the NHRA national elapsed time record at 6.871 seconds over the weekend in Englishtown, N.J., has been desperate to unseat reigning world champion Andrew Hines, who rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to his third consecutive world title in 2006. So is Sampey’s teammate, Antron Brown, who would love to take the first spot in the winner’s circle in Norwalk.

The Lucas Oil Series boasts plenty of local drivers who will all compete for valuable points toward 2007 world championship titles.

SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 and 7 p.m. on June 29, and noon and 2:30 p.m. on June 30. Pre-race ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. on July 1, followed by the first round of professional eliminations at 11 a.m.

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