2006 NHRA LUCAS OIL NATIONALS - COMPLETED EVENTS
Rounding out the Sunday winners were Tommy Johnson Jr. in his Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo (Funny Car), Dave Connolly in his Skull Shine Chevy Cobalt (Pro Stock) and Antron Brown on his U.S. Army Suzuki (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Bernstein shook off a forgettable Western Swing, where he failed to win a single round, with a stunning victory in his Budweiser dragster over the three-time and defending champion Schumacher, who went into tire-spin at half track. The pilot of the U.S. Army dragster was competing in his fifth consecutive final round, two short of his own NHRA Top Fuel record for consecutive final rounds (7).
SUNDAY - BERNSTEIN IMPROVES FINAL-ROUND RECORD TO 11-3 WITH TOP FUEL WIN OVER SCHUMACHER AT LUCAS OIL NATIONALS; Tommy Johnson Jr., Dave Connolly and Antron Brown round out Lucas Oil winner's circle
(8-13-2006) - Brandon Bernstein upset three-time series champion Tony Schumacher Sunday in the Top Fuel final of the $1.6 million Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals for his third victory of the season. Bernstein's 4.510-second pass at 329.34 mph was enough to dismiss the hottest driver on the NHRA tour, who smoked his tires a few hundred feet down Brainerd International Raceway.
Rounding out the Sunday winners were Tommy Johnson Jr. in his Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo (Funny Car), Dave Connolly in his Skull Shine Chevy Cobalt (Pro Stock) and Antron Brown on his U.S. Army Suzuki (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Bernstein shook off a forgettable Western Swing, where he failed to win a single round, with a stunning victory in his Budweiser dragster over the three-time and defending champion Schumacher, who went into tire-spin at half track. The pilot of the U.S. Army dragster was competing in his fifth consecutive final round, two short of his own NHRA Top Fuel record for consecutive final rounds (7).
"We knew we needed to run something in the final against Schumacher because he'd been running so well," said Bernstein, who improved to 11-3 running for the money in his career. "I figured we'd have a low 4.50 and that's what we did. We made up some serious ground in the points today. I really believe we have a car that can contend for the title. There are still seven races left. If we stay consistent like this anything can happen."
Schumacher defeated Top Fuel point leader Doug Kalitta in the second round and he was able to make up 45 points on Kalitta to move into a second-place tie with Melanie Troxel (81 points back). Six races ago, Schumacher was in eighth place and was 336 points off the pace.
Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. defeated reigning series champion Gary Scelzi, who also lost traction during his final-round run. Johnson saved his best pass of the event for the final, running a 4.741 at 321.73 mph to take the win and set low E.T. of the meet. Scelzi got a small jump at the lights in his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger, but was soon battling tire shake and smoke and could only watch as T.J. zipped away for the win.
"I saw sprinkles on the windshield when I was backing up from the burnout and I stepped on it because I was so ready to race I wanted to get it done," said Johnson, who recorded his first multiple win season since 1999. "This win is a credit to the crew. It was a long wait and then we had 65 minute rounds so it was a thrash."
Johnson previously won at Phoenix this season and Sunday's win moved him into sixth place in the POWERade Series standings. At the top of the Funny Car points there was little movement in spite of the fact that leader Ron Capps lost in the first round to Bob Gilbertson. His closest pursuer, John Force, once again lost in the quarterfinals so the spread is 48 points heading to Memphis for the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals Aug. 18-20.
In Pro Stock, Dave Connolly stole one away from current points leader Jason Line on a four-hundredths of a second holeshot, winning with a slower 6.74 to Line's 6.73.
Connolly's reputation as a starting line expert definitely paid off Sunday as he tag-teamed the powerful Summit Racing team of Greg Anderson (who red-lighted in the semis) and Line (who lost on a holeshot in the final). Connolly had a .013- to .052-second starting line advantage for a three-hundredths victory over Line.
"Luck was going our way today," Connolly said. "With Greg going red and then Jason maybe thinking about it too much, I guess any time you can get in a driver's head a little bit it always helps. They still have the cars to beat but we're staying with them the best we can."
Line's third final-round showing in the last four races helped him increase his lead in the Pro Stock points from 64 to 83 points over his Pontiac GTO teammate Greg Anderson. Connolly remains in third, 108 points behind Line.
Antron Brown took the POWERade points lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle by winning his 16th career race and second this season, this one over Steve Johnson. After a runner-up finish at the last event in Sonoma, Calif., Brown made sure he took care of business here with a 7.108 to 7.159 win over 20-year veteran Johnson.
"I'm really proud of Steve Tartaglia," Brown said. "It's just his second year as a crew chief and he's hanging with all the big boys. Any one of the top four bikes can win the title this year. It's going to be exciting."
Brown's teammate Angelle Sampey was disqualified after her first-round win over Ryan Schnitz when she was found to be five pounds light at the scales. The miscue dropped her from second to fourth in the points.
Brown, meanwhile, moved from fourth to first and now leads Andrew Hines by 15 points. Chip Ellis is third, 45 points behind Brown.
Final finish order (1-16) for professional categories at the 25th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. The $1.5 million race is the 16th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
1. Brandon Bernstein; 2. Tony Schumacher; 3. Rod Fuller; 4. Morgan Lucas; 5. Melanie Troxel; 6. Doug Herbert; 7. David Grubnic; 8. Doug Kalitta; 9. Hillary Will; 10. David Baca; 11. J.R. Todd; 12. Larry Dixon; 13. Scott Weis; 14. Bob Vandergriff; 15. Joe Hartley; 16. Cory McClenathan.
1. Tommy Johnson Jr., Chevy Monte Carlo; 2. Gary Scelzi, Dodge Charger;
3. Jim Head, Dodge Stratus; 4. Del Worsham, Monte Carlo; 5. Tim Wilkerson,
Monte Carlo; 6. John Force, Ford Mustang; 7. Bob Gilbertson, Stratus; 8. Eric
Medlen, Mustang; 9. Mike Ashley, Stratus; 10. Cruz Pedregon, Monte Carlo;
11. Phil Burkart, Monte Carlo; 12. Tony Pedregon, Monte Carlo; 13. Gary
Densham, Monte Carlo; 14. Ron Capps, Charger; 15. Robert Hight, Mustang;
16. Bob Bode, Monte Carlo.
1. Dave Connolly, Chevy Cobalt; 2. Jason Line, Pontiac GTO; 3. Greg Anderson, GTO; 4. Allen Johnson, Dodge Stratus; 5. Larry Morgan, Stratus; 6. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt; 7. Mike Edwards, GTO; 8. Greg Stanfield, GTO; 9. Jim Yates, GTO; 10. Kenny Koretsky, Stratus; 11. Tom Lee, Cobalt; 12. Tom Martino, GTO; 13. Dave Howard, Cobalt; 14. V. Gaines, Stratus; 15. Richie Stevens, Stratus; 16. Warren Johnson, GTO.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
1. Antron Brown, Suzuki; 2. Steve Johnson, Suzuki; 3. Tom Bradford; 4. Ryan Schnitz; 5. Chip Ellis; 6. Matt Smith; 7. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki; 8. Marco Andreano; 9. Shawn Gann, Suzuki; 10. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson; 11. Chris Rivas; 12. Craig Treble, Suzuki; 13. Geno Scali, Suzuki; 14. Joe DeSantis, Suzuki; 15. Matt Guidera; 16. Angelle Sampey.
Sunday's final results from the 25th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. The $1.5 million race is the 16th of 23 in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel -- Brandon Bernstein, 4.510 seconds, 329.34 mph def. Tony Schumacher, 7.098 seconds, 126.52 mph.
Funny Car -- Tommy Johnson Jr., Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.741, 321.73 def. Gary Scelzi, Dodge Charger, 7.387, 112.75.
Pro Stock -- Dave Connolly, Chevy Cobalt, 6.743, 204.17 def. Jason Line, Pontiac GTO, 6.737, 205.22.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.108, 186.85 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.159, 187.60.
Top Alcohol Dragster -- Bill Reichert, 5.244, 275.00 def. Arthur Gallant, 5.331, 272.23.
Top Alcohol Funny Car -- Frank Manzo, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.625, 259.71 def. Cy Chesterman, Monte Carlo, 7.228, 118.41.
Super Stock -- Dan Fletcher, Chevy Camaro, 10.043, 132.33 def. Abe Loewen, Pontiac Grand Am, 9.514, 131.18.
Stock Eliminator -- Peter Biondo, Chevy Camaro, 10.933, 115.86 def. Jamey Picht, Pontiac Gran Sport, 11.359, 114.77.
Super Comp -- Terry Edwards, Dragster, 8.922, 165.29 def. Clarence Mayo, Dragster, 8.867, 175.59.
Super Gas -- John Blezien, Pontiac Firebird, 9.895, 159.49 def. Dan Smith, Chevy Camaro, 9.888, 133.03.
Final round-by-round results from the 25th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, the 16th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series:
ROUND ONE -- Doug Kalitta, 4.599, 322.73 def. David Baca, 4.582, 322.58; David Grubnic, 4.570, 324.36 def. Hillary Will, 4.577, 326.24; Morgan Lucas, 4.597, 314.09 def. Cory McClenathan, 11.552, 86.46; Melanie Troxel, 4.562, 327.66 def. J.R. Todd, 4.622, 314.61; Tony Schumacher, 4.476, 331.85 def. Joe Hartley, 8.588, 95.48; Doug Herbert, 4.613, 320.51 def. Larry Dixon, 4.700, 307.23; Brandon Bernstein, 4.614, 315.19 def. Scott Weis, foul; Rod Fuller, 4.863, 224.17 def. Bob Vandergriff, 5.972, 171.05;
QUARTERFINALS -- Lucas, 4.607, 312.06 def. Herbert, 4.620, 319.52; Bernstein, 4.519, 330.80 def. Grubnic, 5.002, 306.53; Fuller, 4.584, 321.42 def. Troxel, 4.565, 327.59; Schumacher, 4.565, 322.27 def. Kalitta, 6.598, 135.63;
SEMIFINALS -- Schumacher, 4.482, 329.42 def. Fuller, 4.544, 321.88; Bernstein, 4.545, 332.10 def. Lucas, 4.687, 252.28;
FINAL -- Bernstein, 4.510, 329.34 def. Schumacher, 7.098, 126.52.
ROUND ONE -- Jim Head, Dodge Stratus, 4.814, 325.85 def. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 5.034, 224.70; Tommy Johnson Jr., Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.817, 321.96 def. Gary Densham, Monte Carlo, 4.877, 302.14; John Force, Mustang, 4.754, 320.51 def. Phil Burkart, Monte Carlo, 4.825, 325.14; Tim Wilkerson, Monte Carlo, 4.805, 325.14 def. Tony Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 4.858, 311.56; Bob Gilbertson, Stratus, 4.813, 311.05 def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.890, 299.66; Gary Scelzi, Charger, 4.815, 323.27 def. Cruz Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 4.812, 322.81; Del Worsham, Monte Carlo, 5.411, 221.52 def. Mike Ashley, Stratus, foul; Eric Medlen, Mustang, 4.785, 322.88 def. Bob Bode, Monte Carlo, 5.467, 193.71;
QUARTERFINALS -- Scelzi, 5.819, 222.11 def. Gilbertson, 5.826, 258.17; Johnson Jr., 4.768, 320.05 def. Medlen, broke; Worsham, 4.899, 309.77 def. Force, 5.360, 204.73; Head, 4.829, 322.58 def. Wilkerson, 4.972, 267.96;
SEMIFINALS -- Scelzi, 4.787, 323.81 def. Head, 4.830, 311.49; Johnson Jr., 4.772, 322.73 def. Worsham, 6.073, 165.29;
FINAL -- Johnson Jr., 4.741, 321.73 def. Scelzi, 7.387, 112.75.
ROUND ONE -- Mike Edwards, Pontiac GTO, 6.786, 202.79 def. Tom Lee, Chevy Cobalt, 6.799, 203.28; Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.768, 203.52 def. Jim Yates, GTO, 6.783, 203.00; Greg Stanfield, GTO, 6.793, 202.58 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Stratus, foul; Dave Connolly, Cobalt, 6.770, 202.79 def. Tom Martino, GTO, 6.809, 203.16; Jason Line, GTO, 6.760, 203.68 def. Kenny Koretsky, Stratus, 6.797, 202.85; Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.796, 203.12 def. Dave Howard, Cobalt, 6.813, 201.82; Greg Anderson, GTO, 6.769, 203.95 def. Richie Stevens, Stratus, 6.820, 202.94; Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.782, 202.55 def. Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.850, 203.06;
QUARTERFINALS -- A. Johnson, 6.763, 203.49 def. Morgan, 6.754, 203.77; Connolly, 6.750, 203.40 def. Stanfield, 6.783, 202.06; Anderson, 6.726, 204.57 def. Edwards, 6.775, 203.37; Line, 6.725, 204.45 def. K. Johnson, foul;
SEMIFINALS -- Connolly, 6.761, 203.61 def. Anderson, foul; Line, 6.737, 204.51 def. A. Johnson, 6.776, 203.19;
FINAL -- Connolly, 6.743, 204.17 def. Line, 6.737, 205.22.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
ROUND ONE -- Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.201, 185.64 def. Chris Rivas, Buell, foul; Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.154, 184.50 def. Shawn Gann, Suzuki, foul; Matt Smith, Buell, 7.176, 184.90 def. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.187, 185.84; Tom Bradford, Buell, 7.140, 186.92 def. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.982, 167.66; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.143, 187.60 def. Joe DeSantis, Suzuki, 7.222, 185.00; Marco Andreano, Buell, 7.956, 128.93 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, foul; Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.082, 187.76 def. Geno Scali, Suzuki, 7.207, 183.49; Ryan Schnitz, Buell, 12.313, 67.22 def. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, DQ'ed;
QUARTERFINALS -- Johnson, 7.151, 183.00 def. Andreano, foul; Schnitz, 22.260, 30.80 def. Stoffer, foul; Bradford, 7.080, 187.99 def. Smith, foul; Brown, 7.104, 186.05 def. Ellis, 7.111, 184.85;
SEMIFINALS -- Johnson, 7.173, 186.77 def. Schnitz, 7.381, 179.97; Brown, 7.128, 185.38 def. Bradford, foul;
FINAL -- Brown, 7.108, 186.85 def. Johnson, 7.159, 187.60.
Point standings (top 10) for NHRA professional categories following the 25th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, the 16th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series -
1. Doug Kalitta, 1,158; 2. (tie) Tony Schumacher, 1,077; Melanie Troxel, 1,077; 4. Brandon Bernstein, 1,042; 5. David Grubnic, 934; 6. Rod Fuller, 909; 7. Larry Dixon, 859; 8. Morgan Lucas, 758; 9. Hillary Will, 710; 10. Cory McClenathan, 708.
1. Ron Capps, 1,175; 2. John Force, 1,127; 3. Tony Pedregon, 985; 4. Eric Medlen, 983; 5. Robert Hight, 946; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 938; 7. Gary Scelzi, 935; 8. Whit Bazemore, 819; 9. Del Worsham, 707; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 672.
1. Jason Line, 1,149; 2. Greg Anderson, 1,066; 3. Dave Connolly, 1,041; 4. Jim Yates, 896; 5. Kurt Johnson, 853; 6. Mike Edwards, 849; 7. Allen Johnson, 841; 8. Larry Morgan, 760; 9. V. Gaines, 746; 10. Greg Stanfield, 714.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Antron Brown, 730; 2. Andrew Hines, 715; 3. Chip Ellis, 685; 4. Angelle Sampey, 679; 5. Ryan Schnitz, 548; 6. Matt Smith, 521; 7. Karen Stoffer, 509; 8. Tom Bradford, 503; 9. Matt Guidera, 482; 10. Craig Treble, 429.
NEWSMAKER OF THE DAY: Angelle Sampey, rider of the Don Schumacher-owned U.S. Army Suzuki
Angelle Sampey, making her 145th consecutive bike event, was disqualified following her first-round victory over Ryan Schnitz. Sanctioning-body officials said her bike was too light, but an angry Sampey denied the charge.
"They're throwing me out and I don't understand it," she said. "We didn't do anything wrong. Now everybody's going to say my team cheating, and my team is not cheating. They're working so hard."
Sampey said she met the post-race minimum weight requirement of 615 pounds. "I was 615 pounds without the helmet," she said.
The decision cost Sampey, who entered the race second in points, a chance to gain valuable ground on leader Andrew Hines, who fouled out in the first round against Marco Andreano. "The window of opportunity was open, but it just slammed down on me," she said. "It's tough to take this, I have to tell you. It's so hard to explain the fact that before the race we were spot on with the weight and then we came up five pounds short afterwards.
"I'm just going to have to put this out of my mind and start thinking about Memphis next weekend. With five races to go [n the bike-class season], there's certainly time for me to rebound." She left Brainered fourth in points.
Not only was she clearly disappointed for her Steve Tartaglia-led crew, but she also was frustrated that she would have to wait another year to try for that elusive first victory at Brainerd International Raceway. The three-time series champion has earned 40 victories but none at BIR. "This was my chance," she said, but she conceded, "I'll get over it."
Seeing teammate and best pal Antron Brown win the Pro Stock Motorcycle trophy and take the points lead made her feel better. But she's 51 points behind Brown.
As for Schnitz, he advanced to the semifinals when Round 2 opponent Karen Stoffer had a red-light disqualification. Schnitz got no more help Sunday, lost in the semifinals to Steve Johnson.
Getting crowded at the top -- Brandon Bernstein's third victory of the year moved him to within 116 points of leader Doug Kalitta in the standings, but he's just 35 behind teammates Tony Schumacher and Melanie Troxel, who are tied for second place. The two Don Schumacher Racing drivers are 81 points off the pace.
Great bet in final either way -- It's hard to say who would have been a better bet in the final round statistically.
Brandon Bernstein earned his 11th career victory in 14 career final rounds. He was 8 of 9 at the end of 2005 and perfect in his first two final-round appearances this year, at Houston and Columbus. After final-round losses (to Doug Kalitta at Topeka and Tony Schumacher at St. Louis), he rebounded and is 3 for 5 this season so far.
On the other hand, Tony Schumacher's fifth consecutive final round put him two short of his record of seven. He and his U.S. Army Dragster set the record at the final seven events of last season.
No. 1 hex continues -- Schumacher's final-round defeat to Brandon Bernstein and John Force's loss to Del Worsham in the second round of Funny Car action kept alive the unpleasant streak for No. 1 qualifiers in the nitro classes. No top qualifier has won yet.
Had her fill of Fuller -- Rod Fuller has been a pain to Melanie Troxel this season, although they had met only twice before Sunday. He beat her and her Torco-Knoll Gas/Skull Shine Dragster in the final round at Phoenix, the second event of the season, but she held onto her points lead. The Valvoline/David Powers Dragster driver eliminated Troxel in Race No. 6, at Bristol, en route to a final-round finish. Again, though, she held onto her points lead.
By the Brainerd race, she had lost the lead to Doug Kalitta, but Fuller didn't do her any favors in this third head-to-head match-up. He won in Sunday's second round on a holeshot. He used a better reaction time (.082 of a second to her .107) to win with a 4.584-second elapsed time at 321.42 mph to her quicker and faster 4.565/327.59.
So she couldn't take advantage of Kalitta's loss to teammate Tony Schumacher in the next pairing. Consequently, Schumacher used his final-round appearance to pull even with Troxel for the No.2 spot in the standings. Both are now 81 points behind Kalitta.
"We had a real close race with Hot Rod (Fuller), and, unfortunately, when you have those close races, they are going to be decided more times than not by reaction time," Troxel said. "I felt like I left well, but it's one of those things that didn't show up in the reaction times. We would much rather go up and lose a close race than make a mistake.
"We definitely had a very good and consistent race car here this weekend," she said, referring to her No. 5 qualifying position. "So that feels good going into Memphis. We won't lose any ground in trying to catch Kalitta, which is good, but now we're tied with Tony Schumacher. We're still in a great position to have a shot at that championship, and we have a very consistent car. We just have to stay where we are and try to take advantage of opportunities when they come along."
What if . . . ? -- A victory at Memphis for StriVectin-SD Dragster driver Dave Grubnic would make the Top Fuel title chase even more juicy. He will enter this next weekend's event at Memphis trailing No. 4 Brandon Bernstein, Sunday's winner, by just 108 points. An extra 100 points for Grubnic could scramble things with only six races left in the season. And it would make the U.S. Nationals even more supercharged.
No change -- Nos. 7-10 stayed the same. In order, they are Larry Dixon, Morgan Lucas, Hillary Will, and Cory McClenathan. The four are separated by 151 points.
Helping others -- J.R. Todd’s string of races without a first-round loss ended at six Sunday in the Torco-Knoll Gas/Skull Shine Dragster.
"We just didn't have enough steam," Todd said after losing a close race to Melanie Troxel after a long rain delay. "The track was real good and so was the weather, and Jimmy [crew chief Walsh] tuned it up . . . but it wasn't enough.
"We missed a round in qualifying Saturday, and, looking back on it, that made a big difference today," Todd said. "That would've given Jimmy another run on the tune-up and we could've run better today. Except for that one time here, the car is going down the track like it should and the crew is getting better and better."
After he dropped out Sunday, ESPN TV broadcasters Mike Dunn and Paul Page invited Todd to the studio to add to their commentary. Todd took them up on it, but first he went by former boss Bob Gilbertson's Funny Car pit and helped the short-handed team get ready for its second-round run.
Fuel-system glitch -- Larry Dixon's weekend looked promising, with a No. 3 qualifying position in the Miller Lite Dragster. But his car dropped a cylinder and slowed to a run of 4.700 seconds at 307.23 mph, allowing Doug Herbert to sneak around for a narrow victory with a 4.613-second pass. "We had a fuel-system malfunction, and the motor dropped a cylinder and the car slowed down," crew chief Donnie Bender said.
Lucas has much to celebrate -- Morgan Lucas ended his streak of six Round 1 defeats Sunday -- a happy way to celebrate the start of his third anniversary of professional driving and his 101st elimination round in 47 consecutive races.
John Stewart and Ronnie Thompson, crew chiefs for his Lucas Oil Dragster, got him past a tire-smoking Cory McClenathan in the opening round and Doug Herbert in the quarterfinals. But he was a victim of eventual winner and close friend Brandon Bernstein in the semifinals.
"We finally feel like we have gotten closer to our tune up and a lot closer than we have been since the early part of the year," Lucas said. "The car ran right with [Bernstein] and then it hiked the front end up in the air around 500 feet of the run. The last stages of the clutch were coming through, making the front end hang up there for a little while, but it shot over to the right. If we were going to get by Bernstein I had to try to steer as best as I could and eventually got it back over in the groove. By that time, it was too late and you lose a lot of ground when you're running all over the racetrack. Even our incremental numbers up to 1,000 feet at that point were better. Then it shut off suddenly when the burst panel went out, but we were still on our best run ever.
"We are proud of the fact we made it to the semifinals and we held our stance in the points," Lucas said. "It may not mean anything at this stage, but I think at the end of the year maybe it will all add up."
Added Lucas, "It's one of those milestones you don't really think about until you have to. It's a pretty big deal for me. Not too many people can say that they have qualified in all the races in a class, especially in their first two years of driving. I'm pretty pumped and we set it and we're down to the point where it will only get better. I think things are heading that way. I think our car is starting to shine and we need to get the finesse going and make the numbers right to get all the proper data that we need and be smart and race smart."
And singers want to be actors -- Top Fuel driver J.R. Todd used to work on the Funny Cars of Bob Gilbertson and Frankie Pedregon, and he said he still might like to drive one of the floppers someday. "I love Funny Cars," Todd said Sunday. "I wouldn't mind getting back in the seat one day."
Milestones -- Winner Tommy Johnson recorded his 20th career final round, which was the 200th round win of his career. The Phoenix winner is perfect in two final-round appearances this year.
'We don't have ignition!' -- Winner Tommy Johnson had few problems in advancing his Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo to the semifinals with convincing victories over Gary Densham and Eric Medlen. But, Johnson said, "we had an ignition problem before the semifinal. When we went to fire the car, it wouldn't start. We had to change the ignition. Then to go out and run 4.77, that was great. We'll figure out what the problem was later, but Mike [crew chief Green] and the guys did a fantastic job."
Johnson said, "I felt confident coming into eliminations. To run 4.81 out of the box and then run three 4.70s and low E.T. of the race is awesome. This is all the team. They did a great job today. With just 65 minutes in between rounds, the guys really busted their butts today. They earned it."
Favorites fall -- Capps, the No. 3 qualifier, wasn't the only favorite eliminated in the first round. In the bottom half of the ladder, Tim Wilkerson beat No. 2 Tony Pedregon, and Jim Head defeated No. 7 Robert Hight.
Aggravated Capps still leads -- Ron Capps kept his points lead, despite his second straight opening-round loss. His good pal, Bob Gilbertson, beat him, but Capps wondered out loud if Gilbertson's dawdling on the starting line might have caused the Brut Dodge Charger its engine problems.
"We sat at the starting line for a long time, waiting on Bob over in the other lane to get to the starting line, and it may have just burned too much fuel, " Capps said. "It's been one of those days. It was some kind of parts failure or it ran out of fuel because all of a sudden it got very ugly and very lean. And when it does that, it really burns parts up."
He added, "It's part of building a memory bank on some of the guys you race against. You've got to make sure you just do the right thing up there. All we can do is pack up and go to Memphis." He further philosophized, "If everything were perfect all the time it really wouldn't be that much fun, because it keeps you busy trying to figure out why things happen."
Crew chief Ace McCulloch said that on inspection afterward, "it had a pretty good hole rubbed in the fuel line" and said he couldn't tell if that happened during the run.
Capps said that when he returned to pits and looked at the computer with McCulloch and team consultant Dan Olson, "it looked like it kind of ran out of fuel out there. It burned the No. 1 piston out of it pretty good. Ace is hard at work trying to figure out why."
McCulloch said immediately after the run, "I'm hoping Del [Worsham] can help us." Worsham did, eliminating Force -- Capps' closest challenger in the standings -- in the quarterfinals.
"It's unfortunate," Capps said of his own fate, "but we're still in it, with Force being eliminated in the second round." Capps leads Force by 48 points, with seven races left.
Force can't capitalize -- John Force was able to narrow the gap between himself and leader Ron Capps by 22 points. Force – a 10-time winner at Brainerd International Raceway – struck the tires against Del Worsham in the second round.
That ended Force's streak of never having lost a round of racing at Brainerd International Raceway.
Top qualifier Force dumped nemesis Phil Burkart in the first round with what at the time was the quickest run of the weekend (4.754 seconds). But a burned piston in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang ended his day in the next round.
"We picked up another round on Capps, and we proved that we have a real fast hot rod," Force said. "Looks like this points race is going to go down to the wire and we're going to be one of those with a chance to win it. That's all you can ask for."
It might irritate him to know that Worsham was there for the taking. On the burnout as he prepared to race Force, Worsham's Checker-Schuck's-Kragen Chevy Monte Carlo apparently broke a piston. On the launch, what was left of that piston began to disintegrate. By half-track, it was fairly vaporized. For at least half of his lap against Force, Worsham was running on seven pistons.
"Can you believe that?" Worsham asked. "It sounded funny, but you have to go. I was ready, and it was still running, so let's get it on. We got out there, and I knew it was hurt, but it was still running. I just kept my foot down and when we crossed the finish line I saw the light on the retaining wall blinking. I was like 'Wow, we won. I wonder what's wrong with the car?' and by that time it was popping and banging pretty badly. What's stunning to me, is that we ran 4.89 like that. We ran 4.89 on seven pistons. Not seven cylinders, like when you drop one, but with basically nothing in one of the holes.
"I'm not at all opposed to winning a few rounds in strange ways," Worsham, who lost in the next round, said. "Hey, we beat John Force again today, and anytime you do that you've had a good day."
Bad news for '05 BIR champs -- Eric Medlen was unable to give himself a third straight Wally statue from Brainerd for his 33rd birthday gift. Moreover, he didn't make it past the quarterfinals. A supercharger drive belt broke on his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang.
Said Medlen, whose BIR winning streak ended at nine rounds, "I stepped on the gas, and it broke a blower belt. We're still trying to figure out why it happened. It was pretty disappointing, because I think we had a car that could've won it."
It was a disappointing day for defending champions, as Tony Schumacher denied defending Top Fuel event champion Doug a chance for a third BIR victory in four years. Kurt Johnson red-lit himself out of contention in Pro Stock action. And GT Tonglet failed to make the Pro Stock Motorcycle field.
Depths for Hight -- Robert Hight, who has been strong all year in the John Force-owned Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, dropped out in the first round and fell from fifth to sixth in the standings. "We're just having a lot of things happen that usually don't happen. It seems like all at once," he said after failing to advance beyond the second round for the sixth straight race. "All you can do is go on down to Memphis and try to do better."
What does a rain delay mean? -- Del Worsham explained the effect of the nearly three-hour rain delay this way: "When it's raining all morning, you kind of turn your brain off and zone out, because you can't stay amped up and tense. My wife, Connie, and I were just relaxing in the motorhome when we heard some cars warming up. I got going and pretty soon we were buttoning the car up and pushing back. You go from being a couch potato to ratcheting up the emotions in a split second."
Great weekend anyway -- Runner-up Gary Scelzi, bidding for a second victory in four events, lost in the final to red-hot Tommy Johnson Jr. and the 4.741/321.73 Johnson got from his Skoal Chevy Monte Carlo. Scelzi smoked the tires on his Don Schumacher-owned Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger and settled for a 7.387/112.75 performance.
"It just got fast early and never got back under control," Scelzi said. "It had too much tire speed from the hit of the throttle. It never made the corner where the knock-down timing takes over. It was already going too fast and just blew [the tires] off.
"Zippy [crew chief Mike Neff] kept calling each run Test Run No. 2 [or] Test Run No. 3, because we have some new parts on it and we're just kind of feeling our way. It looks really good, but we're still not quite there yet," he said.
"We're not going to throw away a runner-up. And Tommy's .74 was pretty damned stout," Scelzi said. "That would have been hard to beat. I don't think we had a .74 lined up. We were going to try to run .77, .76, and that wouldn't have done it. Overall, it was a good weekend.
He actually lost one position today and is seventh in the standings.
Perley returns -- Jeff Perley, co-crew chief for finalist Jason Line, rejoined the KB Racing/Summit Equipment Pontiac GTO team at BIR after missing the previous race in Sonoma to be with wife Leslie for the birth of daughter Delayna Addison Perley.
Delayna was born at 6:56 p.m. Tuesday, July 25, weighed seven pounds, 11 ounces, and was 20 inches long. Both Mom and Baby are healthy. And Delayna's older brother Griffin, who's 18 months old, found out that Delayna wasn't going away and has adapted well.
You blinked -- In a second-round battle of Pro Stock class headliners from Minnesota, Jason Line won as Kurt Johnson red-lighted, throwing away a 6.771-second pass in his ACDelco Chevy Cobalt. Line ran a 6.725-second elapsed time, which was low E.T. of the round for the second time Sunday.
Line, from the small town of Wright, near Duluth, started his racing career in 1985 as a bracket racer at BIR. Johnson was born in nearby Virginia, Minnesota, and went to high school in the Minneapolis suburb of Fridley.
Anderson red-lights -- Greg Anderson, driver of the KB Racing LLC-owned, Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac Racing GTO, was alittle too eager to perform well in front of his homestate fans.The Duluth native left six-thousandths of a second before the green light, ending an exceptionally productive weekend.
He still holds onto second in the points race and is 83 behind teammate and leader Jason Line. He's 25 ahead of third-place Dave Connolly, who went on after using Anderson's red light disqualification to win the event.
"I felt good today, and the Summit Racing Pontiac was absolutely fantastic,"
Anderson said. "I thought the light was the best I had all year. I was real
relaxed but focused. Somehow I rolled the light a little bit. I don't know if it
was something I did with my foot or what. Somehow it got in the beams too deep.
I had a good reaction and it was too close – six-thousandths too close. I'm
happy in a way, because I had good concentration and I saw the light real well.
That will help me in Memphis and through the remainder of the season."
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
Wins, takes lead again -- Every time Antron Brown has taken his U.S. Army Suzuki to the winners circle, he has taken over the points lead. He did it in Atlanta in May -- also on a race day delayed by rain.
With his victory over finalist Steve Johnson and his Snap-on Tools/WyoTech Suzuki, Brown moved ahead of Andrew Hines by 15 points. Just 51 points separate first-place Brown from fourth-place teammate Angelle Sampey.
The victory also made up for his red-light loss to Chip Ellis at Sonoma.
Perfect not enough -- Chip Ellis cut a perfect light with his Drag Specialties S&S Buell V-Twin in his second-round duel with Antron Brown -- and still lost. Brown, riding the U.S. Army Suzuki, had an .002-second bulb. Brown's margin of victory was five-thousandths of a second.
Johnson speechless? -- It may be hard to believe, but after making his first final-round appearance of the season, Snap-on Tools Suzuki rider Steve Johnson of Birmingham, AL was all but speechless. Often irreverent and almost always outspoken, the president of PRO2, the organization that represents his fellow Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors in their dealings with racing's management, turned his season around in Minnesota.
"I can't say enough about the fantastic job my team, and our crew chief, Mark Peiser, did this weekend," Johnson said after losing a close final-round decision to his good buddy, Antron Brown. "Our Snap-on Tools Suzuki performed well during qualifying, and we definitely got lucky during eliminations, but when it counted the most we ran our two best elapsed times, and that's the kind of results you need if you hope to reach the winners circle.
"Because these motorcycles react so quickly when you let out the clutch it's very easy to red-light and throw a race away with a foul start. I 'pushed' the lights a little in the first round (with a 0.006-second reaction time)," he said, "but we got lucky because Chris [Rivas] redlighted. I backed off a little in the next three rounds, because I didn't want to throw this opportunity away, and it paid off.
"I knew Antron (Brown) had a good bike, and I knew he wouldn't make a mistake in the finale," Johnson said. "I got the jump on him on the starting line by so little that it didn't even matter. Today he had the better motorcycle, but we’re getting there. I think we can run with anyone, so the rest of the season's going to be really exciting for us."
SATURDAY - SCHUMACHER, FORCE, ANDERSON AND ELLIS HOLD ON FOR NO.1 QUALIFIERS AT 25TH ANNUAL LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS
(8-12-2006) - Reigning Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher continuedhis amazing second-half run Saturday at Brainerd International Raceway by qualifying No. 1 for the 25th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.
Schumacher has raced to four finals in a row and back-to-back low qualifiers to pull to within 121 points of the POWERade Series championship lead, held by Doug Kalitta.
Joining Schumacher on BIR's low qualifier podium was 13- time Funny Car champ John Force, three-time Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson, and rising Pro Stock Motorcycle star Chip Ellis. Final eliminations for this $1.6 million event are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
Schumacher didn't match his run of record from Friday -- the 4.499 at 30.72 mph that earned the U.S. Army race team its eighth low qualifier of the year and the 30th of his career -- but the 4.55 and 4.59 he did post on Saturday prove he's a solid contender for the Brainerd title.
Kalitta ceded four points to Schumacher in qualifying eighth verall with a 4.580.
"This is so much fun," Schumacher said. "Last year I had a blast watching those three Funny Cars race down to the wire for the championship. Now it looks like we're going to have the same deal in Top Fuel and I'm happy to be a part of it. The beginning of the year was heartbreaking but we knew we had a car and that we'd get it going at some point. Chasing everyone down has been a blast."
Funny Car's Ron Capps made the biggest move Saturday but his 4.778 at 320.20 mph in his Brut Dodge Charger asn't quite enough to unseat Friday leader Force's 4.773 at 323.74 mph. The Castrol GTX Ford Mustang driver now has 130 No. 1 qualifying efforts, second only to Pro Stock legend Warren Johnson's 136 No. 1 starts.
"It was very important to go down the track on that last run because it as still in the heat," Force said. "Now we know we have a car that can play on Sunday. We're just gonna go out and try to win the race."
Whit Bazemore, who won the Seattle race three weeks ago, failed to qualify for this event in his Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Charger. Anderson's No. 1 starting spot marks the eighth time this year he'll lead Pro Stock into race day. Just to make sure he'd keep the top slot, Anderson drove his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GTO through an improved 6.736 at 204.20 mph early Saturday.
"We always say these races are won or lost at the shop," Anderson said. "After Sonoma we were able to get in four really good days back in Mooresville [N.C.] to work on everything and I think we actually helped ourselves a little bit. We've certainly come into this race with a lot of confidence, especially after the ittle bit of testing we were able to do at the track by the shop."
Anderson teammate Jason Line, a fellow Minnesotan and the current points leader, also improved slightly Saturday, posting a second-best 6.753 at 203.06 mph in his identical Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GTO.
Soaring humidity readings and a strong headwind kept anyone in Pro Stock Motorcycle from challenging Ellis' Friday night pass of 7.086 at 186.41 mph. A winner of two of the last three events, Ellis has now earned five low ualifier awards this season.
"The adjusted altitude readings showed way over 3,000 feet today," Ellis said. "That, plus a 15-mph wind n your face makes a big difference.
We're happy with the Drag Specialties Buell right now. If we tune it up right and I ride right we can win this deal."
Andrew Hines, who leads Ellis by 51 points and Angelle Sampey by 33 markers, moved up to second on the grid with a third-round 7.105 at 186.82 mph on his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod. Sampey and her U.S. Army teammate and fellow title contender Antron brown both arned top-half starting slots. Sampey is sixth with a 7.134, while Brown is eighth with a 7.143.
Defending event champion GT Tonglet missed the field by five-thousandths of a second.
First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the 25th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, the 16th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday.
Top Fuel -- 1. Tony Schumacher, 4.499 seconds, 330.72 mph vs. 16. Joe Hartley, 4.826, 287.11; 2. Brandon Bernstein, 4.538, 325.14 vs. 15. Scott Weis, 4.744, 315.56; 3. Larry Dixon, 4.550, 323.97 vs. 14. Doug Herbert, 4.662, 316.82; 4. Rod Fuller, 4.558, 322.42 vs. 13. Bob Vandergriff, 4.655, 312.50; 5. Melanie Troxel, 4.564, 325.22 vs. 12. J.R. Todd, 4.647, 313.15; 6. Cory McClenathan, 4.574, 329.42 vs. 11. Morgan Lucas, 4.643, 313.80; 7. David Grubnic, 4.577, 323.27 vs. 10. Hillary Will, 4.619, 322.65; 8. Doug Kalitta, 4.580, 320.36 vs. 9. David Baca, 4.604, 321.88. Funny Car -- 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.773, 323.74 vs. 16. Phil Burkart, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.924, 317.87; 2. Tony Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 4.773, 321.04 vs. 15. Tim Wilkerson, Monte Carlo, 4.920, 306.46; 3. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.778, 320.20 vs. 14. Bob Gilbertson, Dodge Stratus, 4.908, 313.22; 4. Eric Medlen, Mustang, 4.781, 320.20 vs. 13. Bob Bode, Monte Carlo, 4.897, 308.28; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Monte Carlo, 4.796, 321.27 vs. 12. Gary Densham, Monte Carlo, 4.892, 313.88; 6. Gary Scelzi, Charger, 4.797, 321.12 vs. 11. Cruz edregon, Monte Carlo, 4.863, 315.56; 7. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.799, 316.97 vs. 10. Jim Head, Stratus, 4.859, 317.05; 8. Mike Ashley, Stratus, 4.827, 323.19 vs. 9. Del Worsham, Monte Carlo, 4.835, 319.98.
Pro Stock -- 1. Greg Anderson, Pontiac GTO, 6.736, 204.20 vs. 16. Richie Stevens, Dodge Stratus, 6.785, 203.00; 2. Jason Line, GTO, 6.753, 203.80 vs. 15. Kenny Koretsky, Stratus, 6.783, 202.82; 3. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.762, 203.77 vs. 14. Dave Howard, Chevy Cobalt, 6.775, 203.40; 4. Tom Martino, GTO, 6.762, 203.16 vs. 13. Dave onnolly, Cobalt, 6.772, 203.03; 5. V. Gaines, Stratus, 6.764, 203.49 vs. 12. Greg Stanfield, GTO, 6.771, 203.31; 6. Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.764, 203.00 vs. 11. Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.771, 203.61; 7. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.767, 203.68 vs. 10. Jim Yates, GTO, 6.768, 202.73; 8. Tom Lee, Cobalt, 6.767, 203.25 vs. 9. Mike Edwards, GTO, 6.767, 202.33.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.086, 186.41 vs. 16. Geno Scali, Suzuki, 7.203, 185.26; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.105, 187.63 vs. 15. rco Andreano, Buell, 7.194, 183.47; 3. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.108, 187.52 vs. 14. Joe DeSantis, Suzuki, 7.186, 185.84; 4. Tom Bradford, Buell, 7.119, 187.08 vs. 13. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.176, 183.97; 5. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.131, 185.69 vs. 12. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.175, 186.67; 6. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 7.134, 185.59 vs. 11. Ryan Schnitz, Buell, 7.168, 185.92; 7. Chris Rivas, Buell, 7.141, 184.95 vs. 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.162, 185.46; 8. Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.143, 184.83 vs. 9. Shawn Gann, Suzuki, 7.146, 187.34.
FEATURE - FORDS WILL START 1-2-3 IN SKOAL SHOWDOWN FUNNY CAR BONUS RACE; Memphis Qualifying Will Determine First Round Pairings
With the completion of qualifying for the 25th annual Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, the Team Castrol Ford Mustangs of John Force, Eric Medlen and Robert Hight locked up the top three starting positions for the Sept. 3 Skoal Showdown Funny Car bonus race at Indianapolis, Ind.
Although the pairings may be effected by qualifying for this week’s 19th annual O’Reilly Mid-South Nationals at Memphis, Tenn., there likely will be no change in the makeup of the eight-car starting field.
The biggest surprise is the likely absence of defending Skoal Showdown and Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Champion Del Worsham. Although mathematically he hasn’t been eliminated, Worsham will have to qualify fifth or better at Memphis and then hope that Whit Bazemore duplicates his DNQ from the Lucas Nationals.
Already assured of joining the three Fords will be the Dodges of Gary Scelzi and Ron Capps and the Chevrolets of Tommy Johnson Jr. and Tony Pedregon.
Yet undetermined is the No. 1 seed. While it is certain to fall to one of the Ford drivers, qualifying at Memphis will have to determine which one. Hight, who has put the Automoible Club of Southern California Ford in the No. 1 qualifying position twice as often the last two years as any other Funny Car, leads Force and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang by 70 points.
If last year’s Rookie of the Year is able to hold onto the No. 1 position, it would mark the first time in 18 years that a driver other than Force has earned the No. 1 starting spot in the Showdown.
Force, drag racing’s biggest winner with 13 series championships and 120 tour victories, is a five-time former winner of the Showdown (formerly known as the Budweiser Shootout). He last won the bonus race in 2000. He has lost to Ford teammates each of the last three years, two times in the final round (2003 to Tony Pedregon and 2004 to Gary Densham). He lost to Hight in the first round a year ago.
In the history of the program, John Force Racing drivers have earned $1,467,500 with Force himself taking down $969,000, putting him in position to become the first in history to surpass $1 million.
SKOAL SHOWDOWN FUNNY CAR BONUS RACE
Current points (pending qualifying results from O’Reilly Mid-South Nationals this week at Memphis, Tenn.) – 1. Robert Hight, 3,320; 2. John Force, 3,260; 3. Eric Medlen, 3,205; 4. Gary Scelzi, 2,910; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,890; 6. Ron Capps, 2,865; 7. Tony Pedregon, 2,780; 8. Whit Bazemore, 2,740.; 9. Del Worsham, 2,600. -- Dave Densmore
NEWSMAKERS OF THE DAY: GT Tonglet, rider of the Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod ND Whit Bazemore, driver of the Don Schumacher-owned Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Charger Funny Car
GT Tonglet just about owned the Brainerd event last year -- in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, that is. He was No. 1 qualifier with the track elapsed-time record of 7.011 seconds, a record that withstood Chip Ellis' 7.086 from Friday. Tonglet beat teammate Andrew Hines in the final for the second of to victories en route to a second-place finish in the standings. But Tonglet failed to qualify -- by five-thousandths of a second. He had a 7.208-second elapsed time, and Geno Scali took the 16th and final spot with a 7.203.
Bazemore, on the bump spot after three qualifying sessions, had been bumped from the field by the time his pairing reached the starting line for the fourth and final try. He never got a chance to make a pass that might have put him in the lineup, for his car had an oil leak and was shut off after the burnout.
"It's a huge disappointment," Bazemore said after absorbing his first DNQ since the first Chicago race in 2005. "The biggest reason for the disappointment is that the run this morning we were really on par to be low qualifier for the whole weekend, but in this sport if you don't go to the finish line nothing matters. We had a parts breakage this morning and that ended up putting us in a position where things had to be perfect for the last run.
"We are very, very confident about the tune-up," he said. "There was a pinched O-ring in the car, which resulted in an oil leak and that was it.
"I'm more frustrated for the guys on the Matco Tools team because they give 110 percent every day for this team and for them not to get to race tomorrow is hard to take. And also for all the Matco Tools distributors who support us through thick and thin. They're used to having a car that wins races and we are a team that can win races," the Seattle winner said. "We had a bad weekend and we can easily come back in Memphis. Our goal is to test well at Indy, go win Indy, and win a lot at the last seven races. We're capable of doing that.
"The challenge is for everybody to keep their heads up, and stay very, very positive and believe in themselves and everyone else," Bazemore said. "I know I do, and I certainly hope they do. You hate to say, 'It's racing,' but you're going to have bad days."
Top Fuel -- Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Dragster, 4.499-second elapsed time, 330.72 mph.
"It's always nice to end up No.1 but you still have to make it pay off on race day. As I always say, Sunday we all start from scratch again. We can't let up. Just as quickly as things turned around for us, it can go back the other way again just as fast. We have to keep attending to detail with everything that we do." -- Schumacher, after securing his eighth No. 1 starting position of the season and the 30th of his career. His Friday night pass held up through two Saturday sessions, and he will face Joe Hartley in the first round Sunday. He has improved from seventh to third in the standings in the last four races.
Funny Car -- John Force, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 4.773-second elapsed time, 323.74 mph.
"It was very important to go down the track on that last run because it was still in the heat. Now we know we have a car that can play on Sunday. We're just going to go out and try to win the race." -- Force, after earning his fifth No. 1 qualifying spot this season.
Pro Stock -- Greg Anderson, Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac
GTO, 6.736-second elapsed time, 204.20 mph.
"The performance and consistency of this Summit Racing Pontiac goes to the guys that work on this car day in and day out at the shop and at the track. It isn't the drivers. Those guys are the ones who puts us at the top the field. I can't say enough about them and the job they do. I do know they don't receive enough credit. I'm not sure why we slowed that last session but the guys are looking to see if we had any problems. We still had the two quickest guys with Jason low and me second, so I am confident going into eliminations tomorrow. I would have to say that this track definitely has a home-track feel. Not only do Jason and I have a lot of family and friends here, we have developed a large number of fans over the years. This always gives you extra incentive to win. You want to do it for the hometown folks." -- Anderson, alluding to the fact that he and teammate Jason Line are qualified 1-2.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Chip Ellis, Drag Specialties S&S Buell V-Twin, 7.086-second elapsed time, 186.41 mph.
"The adjusted altitude readings showed way over 3,000 feet today. That, plus
a 15-mile-an-hour wind in your face makes a big difference. We're happy with the
Drag Specialties Buell right now. If we tune it up right and I ride right, we
can win this deal." -- Ellis, who's seeking a second straight victory.
New car nets No. 3 -- Larry Dixon saved his best
run -- a 4.550-second pass at 323.97 mph -- for last to grab the No. 3 starting
spot in the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Dragster. In his first Saturday
qualifying attempt, he clocked a 4.575-second elapsed time at 323.66 mph -- his
first 4.5-second elapsed time since the June race at Englishtown, New Jersey,
and the second-quickest pass of that session.
Dixon said earning his best start since the Las Vegas race in April made him especially happy for crew chief Donnie Bender.
"The car is responding and doing the things he wants it to do," Dixon said. "I don't believe it's the car as much as the knobs they're turning. They've turned the right knobs this weekend and the car is responding well so far."
Said Bender, "The chassis was a big deal. The old chassis was going away. A chassis starts going away around 125 runs. That car had a lot more runs on it than that. We were trying some things with the motor, but we put it back to the way it used to be and it has responded. We wanted to run a 4.57 today and it did. We wanted to run a little better on the last run and it did."
Dixon will meet Doug Herbert in the opening round of eliminations. He's 24-7 in his career against Herbert, but the two have split a pair of match-ups this season.
Back-burner battle -- Most of the Top Fuel attention has been on the frontrunners, but Morgan Lucas, Hillary Will, and Cory McClenathan -- the bottom three drivers in the class' top 10 -- have their own battle going on this weekend. Only 10 points separate eighth-place Lucas from 10th-place McClenathan (688-678). McClenathan, the No. 6 qualifier, will meet Lucas, the No. 11 starter, in Sunday's first round of eliminations.
"We have a big responsibility tomorrow," Lucas said. "We completely
understand how all the different scenarios could play out, but the one sure
thing is, if we win, we advance. And that's what our plans are for
Will is between them in ninth place with 680 points. She will face Kalitta Motorsports teammate Dave Grubnic. They hadn't met all year until the Seattle race, in which he beat her in the second round.
After settling for the No. 10 spot Saturday, Will said, "We are ready to win tomorrow!"
Not quite enough -- The two drivers who missed the field are Scott Palmer, whose 4.830-second elapsed time was four-thousandths of a second slower than Joe Hartley's anchor time of 4.826, and Luigi Novelli. "The Rodfather" had a best attempt of 4.860 seconds at 318.12. Qualifing order is based on E.T.s, but Novelli had a better speed than any of the drivers in the Nos. 11-17 spots. He had a 318.92 -- faster than No. 11 Morgan Lucas (313.80), No. 12 J.R. Todd (313.15), No. 13 Bob Vandergrift (312.50), No. 14 Doug Herbert (316.82), No. 15 Scott Weis (315.56), No. 16 Joe Hartley (287.11), and unqualified Scott Palmer (290.32).
No. 1 Blues -- The No. 1 qualifier hasn't won a Funny Car race in a full season. The last Funny Car driver to go wire-to-wire was Eric Medlen at last year's Lucas Nationals at Brainerd. This season, no one has won from the No. 1 spot in either Top Fuel or Funny Car, and only two Pro Stockers (Greg Anderson at Pomona and Jason Line at Bristol). Medlen also won from No. 1 last year at Seattle.
Brainerd still memorable -- Phil Burkart had to sweat it out Saturday, and the Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Chevy Monte Carlo driver said at the close of qualifying, "Let me just say that I've never been more thrilled to be the 16th qualifier."
Burkart, who went from dead last in the lineup Friday night to a spot the field (albeit precarious), got a break when Whit Bazemore's car was shut down with an oil leak as they sat side by side on the starting line just before their final attempt.
Will his good fortune continue? "Now we have to race [John] Force in Round 1, but I honestly think they can't be too thrilled to face us," Burkart said. They're awesome over there, and John is one of the best who ever strapped into a race car, but we've beaten those guys enough to know we can do it again."
"Both of the CSK cars have been testing while racing here, putting new stuff on the cars and trying to get qualified while doing that," he said, referring to teammate Del Worsham. "We basically had to give away both Friday sessions, as we found out where we were with the approach we're taking, and we came out here today knowing we could put some full laps on the board today. We did that, and even though we only are racing out of the 16th position, we're in the show and that's an accomplishment."
It was here at Brainerd that his career was resurrected in 2003. He was at home in upstate New York, working in his family-owned automotive shop. Although he was a licensed Funny Car driver, he had spent much more time on the sidelines than on the race tracks after his 1998 debut with only 34 race appearances in more than five seasons (including 16 DNQs). Then Del Worsham called, asking him to fill in for Arnie Karp in the team's third car at the time.
"About 24 hours later, I was on a plane headed toward Minneapolis, pretty wound up that I was getting a chance to drive such a good car, for such a great team," he said. "Brainerd is a unique place, but for me it was like the Taj Mahal and I was walking on red carpets. The whole weekend was a bit of blur, but it was awesome." He joined the team fulltime when Johnny Gray quit after the Indianapolis race three weeks later.
"It's like an anniversary for me every time I come here," he said. "I may have raced from 1998 to 2003, and even won a Wally doing it that way, but my 'real career' started in Brainerd. The dream started coming true in Brainerd."
He said his season hasn't exactly been an nightmare, but "you know the dream where you're trying to get somewhere, but you just aren't going fast enough and you can't quite get there? Well, in a lot of ways our season has been like that. It started well, and our confidence was sky-high, but then the gremlins started nibbling at us and the thousandths of a second started going the other way. We need a good outing, and we need to get back on the positive side of the close ones.
"Brainerd fits the bill, in my book. When I drive through the gate I get excited again," Burkart said. "When I do my first burnout, I remember 2003, driving a car I didn't even fit in, with towels taped to the seat to lift me up high enough to see. It's all good in Brainerd. It's where the dream started coming true. I don't make predictions, but I really think we're going to do well this weekend. I can feel it."
That could be ugly news for John Force.
'Showing promise' -- Tim Wilkerson said he's "feeling much better" after qualifying his Levi, Ray & Shoup Chevy Monte Carlo in the No. 15 position.
He started the day on the bump, but by the time he got a chance to run, he had been bumped from the field. He responded with a 4.920 to get back on the grid of 16. His final clocking of the day was a 4.926.
"On our first pass it was just about what we though it would be," Wilkerson said, "but it was just a little too slow. And it would have been a much better run on our second pass if it wouldn't have put a hole out. It was nice and fast early; in fact, it was plenty fast. We just need to figure out why it's putting a hole out, but we'll get it fixed.
"Outside of our cylinder problem, it is really showing a lot of promise," he said. "It is so smooth early in the run, it's unbelievable. I'm optimistic. We had to make some wholesale changes. The way the thing was working, it just wasn't going down a good path. It's looking like it's better now, and it's throwing us some bones. So, I'm feeling much better."
He said when he rolls up to the line against Round 1 opponent Tony Pedregon that he's "just going to try and go down the track. We're not going to try to go 70-something to try to beat him. If we go 85 to 88, I'll be happy. That's all we're going to try to do. And the track is good. The right lane is a little worse, but not enough to make a difference. We lost to Tony earlier this year, so maybe tomorrow will be our turn to get the win light."
King of Summer to reign? -- No. 4 qualifier Eric
Medlen will go for a three-peat at Brainerd Sunday in the John Force-owned
Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang.
Medlen has won six times in his career, including at the previous race at Sonoma, California, and all six victories have come in the months of July and August. He's also defending champion at next week's O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals at Memphis. Last year, he earned more points in the last half of the season than any other driver, as he moved from eighth place in the standings to fourth in just 11 races.
He kind of sloughs off his "King of Summer" nickname, for he knows that being No. 4 in the Funny Car standings as well isn't an easy spot to challenge for the title.
"It's a long way to No. 1," he said. "All we can do is go out there and win
rounds and then keep winning rounds. We can't worry about what [points leader
Ron] Capps does or what John [Force] does. All we can control is what we do with
this Syntec car.
"We've had a good, fast race car," Medlen said, "but it takes more than that to win one of these [races]. There are so many good teams out here right now with Capps and [reigning series champion Gary] Scelzi and Tony [Pedregon] and everybody that it takes four perfect runs plus a little luck to get to the winners circle."
He said the car is responding to changes his crew chief dad John and
assistant crew chief Jason Morton are making. However, he said, "It's just taken
half the season to figure everything out.
"We've started the last three years with a different combination and it just takes time to develop. You can't just sit there and wait for everybody else to catch up and go around you. You have to constantly be working to stay ahead of the pack -- and that's what we've been doing," he said.
"We had a new Mustang this year, so we had to adapt to the new body. But we also changed some motor stuff and clutch stuff and fuel system stuff. We made a lot of changes and now they're starting to pay off."
Some hope -- Del Worsham is starting to groove to the beat. Maybe that's because Fred Turner, former member of Bachman Turner Overdrive, was his guest Saturday at BIR. But the Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Monte Carlo driver started the day unqualified, jumped to the 11th spot in the first Saturday session and improved to ninth by the end of the day.
He will face former teammate Mike Ashley in Round 1.
"I said yesterday, after we smoked the tires twice, that nobody should panic," Worsham said. "I was saying that to everybody, but also to all of our partners at Checker, Schuck's, Kragen, because I know thousands of them get online every night to see how we're doing, and I wanted them to know there was a plan here. Even though we spent the night outside the field, we learned something with each run on Friday. I was very confident we'd go from end to end today, and we did. The first run got us a full-run baseline with this set-up, and it pretty much got us in the field.
"The final run, we pushed it a little, and sure enough it went right out there and improved," he said. "I'm not sure, but I think we were the only team that started that session in the field to improve. Everybody else slowed down. To do that, and to jump up to the ninth slot, gives me a lot of confidence going into tomorrow. It's getting better, run after run."
Scelzi OK with No. 6 -- Gary Scelzi was playing the percentages Saturday. "Three out of four ain't bad," the Mopar/Oakley Dodge driver said after happily accepting the No. 6 starting spot. He was referring to the fact that his Charger performed consistently in three of four qualifying passes.
He said that before this weekend, "we made some pretty big changes in the car. It looks good. We just wanted to find out where we could go and where we couldn't go in this last run, and so now we know. It made it out there quite a ways before it smoked the tires. We're really pleased, and we'll see what happens tomorrow."
He and Mike Neff-led team stopped Tuesday on the way to Brainerd at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois, for some test runs. "We found out a lot of things," Scelzi said, adding that the car "looked like it was responding better. It wasn't as finicky, and whenever Mike would make a change, it would do something. Before, it wasn't responding to the changes, so now it's responding."
He will meet Cruz Pedregon in Round 1 Sunday.
Consistent and ready -- With four consistent qualifying passes in his brand-new ACDelco Chevy Cobalt, Kurt Johnson indicated he's ready to begin defense of his Brainerd Pro Stock title. He'll do it from the No. 7 position and will face Jim Yates, whose qualifying time was just one-thousandth of a second slower.
Three of Johnson's four attempts were within four thousandths of a second of each other. His quickest -- 6.767 seconds at 203.31 mph -- came in the third overall session Saturday.
"Coming here with a completely new and untested race car, our first goal was
simply to qualify. Having accomplished that, we will now concentrate on making
our ACDelco Cobalt go faster," Johnson said. "We know what areas we have to work
on, which makes it somewhat easier. It's really quick in the first 60 feet,
which we are extremely pleased with, but now we have to work on getting it
better in second and third gear.
"Fortunately, it appears to be pretty happy," he said. "It made two straight runs today and I had four good lights, so if I can keep that up, we can go some rounds tomorrow. We'll go up there and throw everything we have at it, with everyone from the team, the car and the driver doing what they can to be perfect, leaving no stone unturned. We were able to get the job done one year ago and had a great time celebrating in the winners circle with our family and friends here in our home state, and we'd like nothing more than to do it again."
Is the Captain crazy? -- Why is Captain Chaos smiling? Kenny Koretsky has to face No. 2 qualifier Jason Line in the first round, and Line is 2-for-3 in final-round appearances in the past five races.
That's why Koretsky is smiling -- he has a berth in Sunday's eliminations. He began Saturday qualifying 17th, one position short of the grid. But he got a 6.783-second, 202.82-mph performance from his Nitro Fish Wear Dodge Stratus in his first run Saturday, and it held up for 15th.
What made it especially remarkable is that he had not driven a race car since his serious accident involving Bruce Allen 10 months ago near Dallas. And according to crew chief Eddie Guarnaccia, "We didn't test anywhere."
Guarnaccia said, "Kenny did a great job this weekend. He got into this car for the first time in 10 months and did what he needed to do to get the car qualified. Certainly we had some concerns, but he went out and made all the right decisions in the car. I'm really looking forward to Sunday."
Hair stays, Herold doesn't -- The Brainerd International Raceway crowd doesn't know what it missed Saturday evening.
Part-time Pro Stock racer Pat Herold, who sports shoulder-length hair, made a deal a couple of weeks ago with the track officials at BIR. If he made the show, the agreement went, they would accompany him to the starting line at 6 o'clock Saturday night and would shave his head.
However, Herold, of Maplewood, Minnesota, couldn't get his Bad Rat Racing entry into the field. He was last among 24 entrants.
Fans also missed seeing once again his 2005 Chevy Cavalier, the only Pro Stock car this weekend that has working headlights and taillights. The dual-purpose design keeps the car eligible to run in NMCA/street legal races. Herold's experience is in Outlaw /Quick-16 racing. He had a lease program for this race -- car builder Don Ness hooked him up with engine expert Steve Schmidt, and Herold and his crew finished putting the engine in the car Thursday night.
He isn't promising a haircut this fall, but he said he plans to compete at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals during Labor Day weekend at Indianapolis and the Oct. 6-8 Virginia Nationals at Richmond.
Bad news for Krisher -- Ron Krisher, a top-10 finisher for five of the past six seasons, continued to struggle in his new Chevy Cobalt. He took his second DNQ of the season (the first came at Las Vegas). Since reaching the semifinals at the Gatonationals in March at Gainesville, Florida, he has won just three rounds. He looked like he might be turning his luck around at Seattle, where he upset Greg Anderson by 17-thousandths of a second in the opening round. But he hasn't won a match-up since then. Although he had the third-best elapsed-time average among Pro Stock drivers in the first half of the season (behind dominators Greg Anderson and Jason Line), Krisher has a 5-14 elimination-round record this year.
Tightly bunched field -- Seven Pro Stock drivers -- from third-place Larry Morgan to ninth-place Mike Edwards -- qualified with 6.76-second elapsed times, including four with 6.767 runs.
FRIDAY - FORCE, SCHUMACHER, ANDERSON AND ELLIS TOP CATEGORIES IN FIRST DAY OF QUALIFYING AT LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS
Thirteen-time Funny Car champion and budding A&E real life television star John Force is the provisional qualifying leader at the 25th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Force drove his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang down Brainerd International Raceway in 4.773 seconds at 323.74 mph to take a big step towards his 130th career No. 1 qualifying effort.
Tony Schumacher posted a crowd-pleasing 4.499 at 330 mph to lead Top Fuel, while Minnesota native Greg Anderson and red-hot Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Chip Ellis also paced their categories the $1.6 million race, the 16th of 23 on the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Force is Funny Car's provisional low qualifier based on speed alone, as both he and former employee Tony Pedregon both posted 4.773-second passes in the second round. The difference was that Force topped out at 323.74 mph to Pedregon's 321.04 mph speed in the Q Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
"We've done good here before because there's always good air and we can make muscle," said Force, a 10-time winner at BIR. "If it stays cool like this, we'll be okay. We just haven't been able to run in the heat this year. I asked [crew chief Austin] Coil why we can't run in the heat and he said he's still figuring out the new car, the new engine, and the new clutch we've been using this year."
Schumacher, who clocked a 4.446 at 337.58 mph at last year's Brainerd event, is on top once again, this time by a sizable .065-second margin. "Contrary to popular belief, these qualifying points are important," Schumacher said. "Eventually, if you're on top enough, the extra points you get for qualifying well add up to a round. As tight as this deal is getting, a round can be the difference at the end of the year."
Schumacher's teammate Melanie Troxel seems to have found her groove again, placing the Skull Shine dragster in second with a 4.564 at 325.22 mph.
Anderson was the quickest of both Friday sessions, opening with a 6.759 at 204.11 mph before dropping to a 6.744 at 203.86 mph in the evening. He was ultimately followed on the ladder by his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO teammate and fellow Minnesotan Jason Line, who is slightly more than a hundredth back with a 6.756 at 203.46 mph.
"It's not a surprise to be here but you still got to go out and earn the right," said Anderson, who together with Line has collected 11 of 15 low qualifier awards for KB Racing this year. "It's not like we have a huge advantage. It's just a tiny one so you have to go out and work for these things. All the No. 1s, Full Throttle deals, and top speed of the meet, that's all because of the guys in the pit."
Running for his fifth low qualifier of the year, Ellis has the quickest bike on the property once again after posting a 7.086 at 186.41 mph on his Drag Specialties S&S Buell V-Twin Friday night.
"We're just rolling right along," Ellis said. "Some of the other guys out there are telling me we're making them look bad but I know that we go fast because everyone on this team works so hard. We're the first ones here and the last ones out. So unless you work harder than us, don't complain."
Saturday's final two qualifying runs will begin at 11:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
Results Friday after qualifying for the 25th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, 16th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday's final eliminations.
Top Fuel -- 1. Tony Schumacher, 4.499 seconds, 330.72 mph; 2. Melanie Troxel, 4.564, 325.22; 3. Cory McClenathan, 4.574, 329.42; 4. Rod Fuller, 4.601, 322.42; 5. Brandon Bernstein, 4.607, 323.04; 6. Hillary Will, 4.619, 322.65; 7. David Baca, 4.627, 318.09; 8. Morgan Lucas, 4.643, 313.80; 9. Larry Dixon, 4.644, 320.89; 10. David Grubnic, 4.653, 318.99; 11. J.R. Todd, 4.660, 313.15; 12. Doug Herbert, 4.679, 314.24; 13. Bob Vandergriff, 4.685, 312.35; 14. Doug Kalitta, 4.710, 313.73; 15. Scott Weis, 4.744, 315.56; 16. Scott Palmer, 5.249, 201.01
Funny Car -- 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.773, 323.74; 2. Tony Pedregon, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.773, 321.04; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Monte Carlo, 4.796, 321.1; 4. Eric Medlen, Mustang, 4.799, 320.20; 5. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.799, 316.97; 6. Mike Ashley, Dodge Stratus, 4.841, 323.19; 7. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.850, 315.27; 8. Jim Head, Stratus, 4.859, 317.05; 9. Gary Scelzi, Charger, 4.879, 316.75; 10. Gary Densham, Monte Carlo, 4.892, 313.88; 11. Whit Bazemore, Charger, 4.924, 309.13; 12. Bob Gilbertson, Stratus, 4.928, 313.22; 13. Cruz Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 4.964, 299.00; 14. Tony Bartone, Monte Carlo, 5.007, 303.43; 15. Scott Kalitta, Monte Carlo, 5.040, 308.43; 16. Tim Wilkerson, Monte Carlo, 5.070, 288.52.
Pro Stock -- 1. Greg Anderson, Pontiac GTO, 6.744, 204.11; 2. Jason Line, GTO, 6.756, 203.49; 3. Larry Morgan, Dodge Stratus, 6.762, 203.77; 4. Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.764, 203.00; 5. V. Gaines, Stratus, 6.765, 203.49; 6. Jim Yates, GTO, 6.768, 202.61; 7. Kurt Johnson, Chevy Cobalt, 6.770, 203.68; 8. Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.771, 203.61; 9. Greg Stanfield, GTO, 6.771, 203.31; 10. Tom Martino, GTO, 6.774, 203.16; 11. Dave Howard, Cobalt, 6.775, 203.40; 12. Tom Lee, Cobalt, 6.784, 203.25; 13. Dave Connolly, Cobalt, 6.790, 203.03; 14. Richie Stevens, Stratus, 6.792, 202.97; 15. Ron Krisher, Cobalt, 6.804, 201.85; 16. Mark Pawuk, GTO, 6.810, 202.45.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.086, 186.41; 2. Tom Bradford, Buell, 7.119, 187.08; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.123, 187.63; 4. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 7.134, 185.59; 5. Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.143, 184.83; 6. Shawn Gann, Suzuki, 7.146, 186.56; 7. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.147, 186.79; 8. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.162, 185.46; 9. Ryan Schnitz, Buell, 7.168, 185.92; 10. Chris Rivas, Buell, 7.175, 183.34; 11. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.176, 183.97; 12. Marco Andreano, Buell, 7.194, 183.47; 13. Geno Scali, Suzuki, 7.203, 185.26; 14. GT Tonglet, Harley-Davidson, 7.208, 185.56; 15. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.215, 182.82; 16. Mike Berry, Suzuki, 7.222, 183.54.
FEATURE: WORSHAM IN TOP MENTAL SHAPE
WITH OFF-WEEK BASIC TRAINING
Funny Car veteran Del Worsham said he felt "good-tired" after getting back to basics during his "off-week."
He and his crew took their Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Chevy Monte Carlos to a match race in Salt Lake City City after the Sonoma, California, race. Worsham said he thought he and dad/team manager Chuck Worsham would have a leisurely drive in the motorhome up to Brainerd afterward.
But because crew member Warren Bryning had to go home unexpectedly, Worsham ended up doing clutch work -- or, as he put it, "getting covered in clutch dust and sweat, busting my knuckles on the race car."
Then he and longtime crew member Steve "Fuel Boy" Brown put the pedal to the metal last Sunday night and led the team convoy of three big rigs, two SUVs, and a motorhome in a drive-till-you-drop run to northern Minnesota.
"We were the first ones to Brainerd, on Monday night," Worsham said proudly, adding that by the time he and "Fuel Boy" arrived at the track, Chuck Worsham, along in the motorhome, was "still back in Nebraska somewhere."
Worsham said the nuts-and-bolts work on the car, something he gradually has gotten away from, was fun, even if it was for only a day. As for driving the hauler, he said, "Talk about old times -- this was really a step back."
He said, "To be driving the rig across the country with Fuel Boy in the cab with me, that's about as historic as it gets on this team. Fuel Boy has been with us since before I started driving the Funny Car, so to be putting the pedal down for 1,400 miles was pretty cool, and just like old times. I still drive a lot on the tour, but only in the motorhome, so it was great to get back in there and run the rig up through the gears again.
"When Fuel Boy and I drive," Worsham said, "the last thing we ever want to do is stop. I enjoy driving, but I don't like it to last any longer than it has to, so we just put the hammer down and kept going."
This year has been an emotional drain for Worsham, who has lost elimination rounds by eyelash-thin margins and in the past seven races has had a DNQ followed by six straight opening-round defeats. He said, "We've been so close all year that it's driven us about half nuts."
Some people might think he's completely nuts for his flurry of activity during the open weekend. But Worsham said the experience has rejuvenated himself and his team: "Doing the clutch work and driving the rig just got me back in a great frame of mind. It's about the racing, and we need to get back to the old days in some other ways, too. There's some excitement on the team right now."
Former crew member Jason Bybee is filling in this weekend for Bryning.
Worsham might feel tired after he and his team sort out Friday's mess. He and teammate Phil Burkart were 18th and 19th -- worst among the Funny Car contingent -- following Friday's crucial first two runs.
He said he couldn't recall a Friday that both CSK cars were unqualified.
"We made some big decisions after Sonoma, because we were pushing the car so
hard just to keep up, but we were still losing all those heartbreakers by
thousandths of a second," Worsham said. "We were pretty much at the limit,
coming at it from that direction, and whenever we'd try to get more aggressive
we'd see that there wasn't any
more room for improvement. So after that race we turned the page a little and made some moves to give us more power and more leeway. We just didn't have any way to try it all out until we got here.
"All of a sudden, now, we're aggressive in a whole different way to 330 [feet], even though we detuned the car a bit. We could only guess how much more we were going to get out of it by making these moves, and we have to keep pulling back a little right now. We'll get it, and when we do we'll know where the right tune-up is on this set-up and we'll be able to make some big moves. I'm confident we can find the slot tomorrow, but I'm not going to panic one way or another. This is the way we have to go, and we're going to keep at it until we get this ironed out."
Said Burkart, "Our cars are tuned very much alike right now, and that was pretty obvious on those two runs. We both launched really well, and we ran very well early, but we just flat overpowered the race track just before half-track. We're making good power, and we're going to be faster once we get this sorted out, but right now the learning experience is a little painful.
"I know some people are going to panic, because we're both below the line," he said, "but we have to stay with this and we have to stay confident. ere aren't any shortcuts in this game. If you want to move forward, you have to pay the price to learn the moves. We'll get it."
NEWSMAKER OF THE DAY: Funny Car driver Jim Head
The wily veteran from Columbus, Ohio, put his 2005 Dodge Stratus in the No. 1 spot in the first qualifying session with a 4.859-second elapsed time at 313.44 mph. It was good enough only for eighth place by the end of the day, but it raised some eyebrows in this 16th of 23 races.
Head had surprised in June at Englishtown, New Jersey, earning a No. 3 berth. It has been a hit-and-miss season for Head, who was one of the first drivers to use onboard computer technology and a multi-stage clutch, both of which are commonplace in nitro-class drag racing. Only one other time in 2006 has he qualified in the top half of the ladder: sixth, at Bristol, where he recorded his second and last round-win.
Top Fuel -- Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Dragster, 4.499-second elapsed time, 330.72 mph.
"We don't want to sit on this performance. We've got work to do tomorrow to get ready for Sunday. Every point is critical, even those we get in qualifying. This team will not get caught looking ahead." -- Schumacher, staying on the attack and plotting how, as the No. 3 driver in the standings, can cut Doug Kalitta's points lead.
Funny Car -- John Force, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 4.773-second elapsed time, 323.74 mph.
"We've done good here before, because there's always good air and we can make muscle. If it stays cool like this, we'll be OK. We just haven't been able to run in the heat this year. I asked [crew chief Austin] Coil why we can't run in the heat, and he said he's still figuring out the new car, the new engine, and the new clutch we've been using this year." -- Force, who's going for his 130th career top-qualifying position and his 121st career victory this weekend.
Pro Stock -- Greg Anderson, KB Racing/Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GTO, 6.744 elapsed time, 203.86 mph.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Chip Ellis, Drag Specialties S&S Buell V-Twin, 7.086-second elapsed time, 186.41 mph.
"We're just rolling right along. Some of the other guys out there are telling me we're making them look bad but I know that we go fast because everyone on this team works so hard. We're the first ones here and the last ones out. So unless you work harder than us, don't complain." -- Ellis, the plain-talking rider from the Americus-Georgia-based G-Squared Team. He already has four top-qualifier awards this year -- four in a five-race stretch. He has won two of the past three bike events (St. Louis and Sonoma), has a 15-7 elimination-round record and is the No. 1 seed for the upcoming Ringers Gloves Bike Battle in September at Indianapolis.
Will back where pro career started -- Hillary Will calls Brainerd International Raceway "the place where I was hired for my dream job." Last year she traveled here to meet -- interview -- with Ken Black and with the Kalitta Motorsports team, and "the jury" didn't deliberate long before choosing her as the driver for the KB Racing LLC-owned, Kalitta Motorsports-managed dragster.
And Friday she made her career-first runs down the BIR quarter-mile, starting with a tire-smoking run that left her 14th in the early lineup, then jumped to No. 6 with a 4.61-second pass at 322.65 mph.
"I feel more confident driving the dragster than I have all year," she said.
And team owner Ken Black certainly is confident in his choice. "The main thing is that Jim O [crew chief and Kalitta team manager Jim Oberhofer] and I made the right the right choice. I've been nothing but impressed with Hillary as an individual and as a spokesperson for KB Racing. She has transformed from a rookie to a veteran Top Fuel driver. She has done an excellent job, learned from her mistakes, and overcome all the roadblocks that have been thrown in front of her. She just keeps getting better and better."
Black, who also owns the Greg Anderson-Jason Line Pro Stock team, said, "KB Racing LLC is in Top Fuel racing for the long haul. It took some time for us to build a sound Pro Stock team with Greg and Jason, but three consecutive championships are the fruits of that program and I know that with Hillary, Jim O, and his team that we can produce the same results in the Top Fuel end of things. We are continuing to look for a strong marketing partner, but look for this team to become highly visible down the stretch and to do even better come next season."
Oberhofer said Will "has made great strides in her first year in Top Fuel. She was then and is now still the best choice for this team. It's not an easy class. She's done a great job, and her learning curve has continued to accelerate. Being a rookie driver and under the microscope, Hillary has weathered the storm."
Will is No. 9 in the standings, and she's one of the leading candidates for the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award.
So far, so good with new dragster -- Saying that it's "important to make four good runs down the race track" and hoping to post mid-4-second elapsed times, Larry Dixon should be a pretty happy man. The driver of the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Dragster began his weekend with a 4.675-second pass at 318.62 mph to take the early No. 6 position. In the evening session, he dropped to ninth, despite a quicker elapsed time -- 4.644 seconds -- and a better speed -- 320.89 mph.
And he did it with a new dragster.
"We changed the race car following Sonoma, because we've been running that car for a year," Dixon said. "It's like changing the oil in your car. It's time. It has so many miles on it and you need to do it. I don't think it's necessarily the car as much as all the parts on the race car and how your turn the knobs that make it run well. In the middle of the Sonoma race, we started going down a different path to try and make our car better, and I think it will respond to the changes."
Crew chief Donnie Bender tuned him to three No. 2 qualifying spots in the first five races of the season, and he was a finalist at Englishtown, N.J. in June. Dixon, a two-time winner and two-time runner-up at Brainerd, is seventh in the Top Fuel standings.
Palmer bounces back -- Scott Palmer and his Grand Crown Resorts Dragster sponsor are giving away a trip for an all-expenses paid weekend to a drag race and the chance to serve as his crew member at that race. "It really is wonderful when we can treat a fan to unique inside perspective of what it takes to run a 7,000-horsepower Top Fueler," Palmer said.
If this had been the race, the contest would been initiated with an up-close-and-personal look at how to find and fix a fluid leak and the disappointment of having officials order the car shut down following the burnout.
That's what happened to Palmer in Friday's opening session, and he ended up with no recorded elapsed time. But he made the field in the evening session, anchoring the 16-car field with a run of 5.249 seconds at 201.01 mph.
Palmer and crew chose to skip the past few races on the NHRA POWERade tour in order to organize and test. Palmer made some changes to his fuel system and installed a setback blower. The improvements were immediately visible as the Grand Crown Resorts dragster tested in Tulsa and put down the best 60' and 330' times that they have run all year." We changed lots of stuff, we wanted to see what it would do when we hit the gas," said Palmer with a big smile on his face. We were certainly pleased. We have been struggling this year with little stupid stuff. Hopefully that's behind us now. We want to race."
To enter the drawing for the experience that Palmer and sponsor Grand Crown Vacation Travel are giving away, sign up at any O'Reilly Auto Parts store or visit www.ScottPalmerRacing.com and fill out an entry form. The winner will be chosen next weekend at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park.
Sewing up Skoal Showdown spots -- With just two qualifying races remaining, Robert Hight has taken the tentative No. 1 seeding for the Skoal Showdown from boss and teammate John Force. He did it by putting the Jimmy Prock-tuned Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang in the No. 1 spot six times so far this season.
The Skoal Showdown is a special Funny Car bonus race contested in conjunction with the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals during Labor Day weekend at Indianapolis. The winner will receive $100,000.
Hight, who participated in the event last year, leads No.2 Force, 3,190 points to 3,085. Force, a 22-time starter and five-time winner, has started the Funny Car shootout from No. 1 every year since 1989. So far, the John Force Racing Mustangs of Hight, Force, and Eric Medlen will be 1-2-3 in the order.
Medlen, in his first Skoal Showdown, was runner-up to Del Worsham last year.
Height of frustration for Hight -- Robert Hight seems more polished than a second-year driver. For example, he has started Funny Car eliminations as the No. 1 qualifier 12 times. That's more than twice as often as mentor, boss, teammate, father-in-law John Force, who has had five No. 1s since Hight began driving. And it's twice as many as reigning champion Gary Scelzi has had in that span.
Just the same, Hight's 12 No. 1 starts have produced just two victories -- and the last one came more than a year ago, in July 2005, at Denver.
Hight said he still refuses to acknowledge even the possibility that the top
spot might be cursed. He subscribes more to the theory of the disparity between
Friday-night conditions (track and air temperatures are optimum and the top
qualifier usually is determined) and Sunday-afternoon conditions (featuring heat
changes that mess up the equation entirely).
"That's true," Hight said. "Sometimes you'll have a car that makes one good run on Friday night and goes to the top of the ladder, but that same car might not have gone down the track in the heat. So when it's Sunday, the car with the advantage may be the car in the other lane, because he may have missed the Friday tune-up but made it down the track three other times in the heat.
"But that hasn't been our problem," Hight said. "OK, a couple of times, maybe. But we usually have been good on Friday night. But we've been good in the heat, too. We've had some problems in the first round, like when the blower belt broke (against Bob Gilbertson at Houston), but our biggest problem has been making all the necessary changes for the second round."
Of the six times he has started No. 1 this year, Hight has been eliminated in the second round four times and in the first round once. The farthest he advanced with a No. 1 start was to the semifinals, in May at Topeka, before losing to points leader Ron Capps. He has lost in the second round at each of the last four races -- and in three of those races he was the quickest of the Funny Car qualifiers.
Hight's lone 2006 victory, at the season-opener at Pomona, California, came from the No. 12 position -- the worst starting spot of his career.
Maybe he won't have to worry about it this weekend. Force was the provisional No. 1 qualifier Friday, and Hight was fifth with a 4.799-second, 316.97-mph effort.
"I know I say it every week, but we just have to do a better job on Sunday," he said. "You can't win one of these races just making one or two good runs. You have to be on your game every time."
Hanging on -- Tim Wilkerson qualified his Levi, Ray & Shoup Chevy Monte Carlo No. 1 at this event in 2004, when he set the track elapsed-time record. In 2003, he was runner-up here to Gary Densham. So he was hoping that he'd get some much-needed pleasant news this weekend.
To help his cause, he has a new engine combination and a new chassis.
"We went back to our old, old engine combination for the past 10 races and found that it didn't make any difference," Wilkerson said, "so apparently our motor wasn't the problem. Sometimes it's just the car itself, so we brought out a new slip-tube chassis. The chassis we were running was getting old and it might not be right, so we decided to change it. At the same time, we've put together a different engine combination. It's completely different from anything we've ever run.
"We know it's going to be slow going, but we decided to do everything we could to get the car turned around this year, and I'm optimistic about the changes we've made. We've done well in Brainerd in the past, and I'm anxious to get started on our turnaround, so I can't think of a better place."
The news Friday wasn't over joyous, but it wasn't awful, either. He's on the bump spot overnight with a 5.070-second E.T. and a top speed of 288.52 mph.
On his first pass, Wilkerson ran a 5.465 at 197.02 mph. Then in the evening, he improved -- but it cost him an engine.
"Everything's new, so we're trying to figure what to do with it," Wilkerson said. "On our first run, it did just about what I thought it would, but it was just too weak. On the second pass, the new fuel pump we put on it broke. And it didn't have any gas in it at the top end, so it burned it up. It made a heck of a mess of the motor. So we've got the pump all apart and we're looking at it, trying to figure out what happened. It was on a nice pass early, but it put a hole out and then the pump broke. But hopefully we'll get it fixed and go out there and try again tomorrow."
With rain in the forecast for tomorrow, Wilkerson and his crew might have plenty of time to get the fuel pump repaired.
Improving despite explosion -- Bob Gilbertson came to Brainerd on a roll. He was runner-up to Jack Wyatt last weekend at Martin, Michigan, in the Internation Hot Rod Association's Torco Race Fuels Northern Nationals at U.S. 131 Dragway.
"I feel good about going to Brainerd this year," Gilbertson said. "This is the first time in a long while that I've had a car that I think can win with, and maybe with a little luck we might be able to do just that."
He didn't have much luck early Friday, but crew, which Nicky Boninfante Jr. and Tommy Delago head, made up for it. The engine in his Autolite XP Spark Plugs/Prestone Antifreeze Dodge Stratus blew up just before half-track in the first qualifying session. Still, he was No. 14 after that run. The crew patched everything up, he improved to 12th in the night run.
Boninfante said, "I really think that Tommy and I have found what we've been looking for in the tune-up and we should be plenty strong at Brainerd. We've found a lot of little things that have made some big differences in the way the car reacts, and we're looking for some big numbers this weekend."
T.J. staying up front -- Tommy Johnson Jr.., driver of the Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo, on Sunday will help team owner Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and sponsor U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company donate a new Polaris Ranger 6x6 utility vehicle to the North Memorial Ambulance Service – Brainerd Region.
"I'm proud to be associated with a sponsor and organization that has a constant dedication to the community and a desire to give back," Johnson said. "Last year, I was able to participate in the Operation Ranger Program in my hometown of Ottumwa, Iowa. I know that Ranger was put to excellent use, as will this Polaris Ranger here in Brainerd."
The vehicle will vastly improve response time and accessibility to remote areas.
The only other thing that might help the firm that is Brainerd International Raceway's primary provider of emergency services is to have Johnson do the driving. He qualified his special edition Skoal Racing Funny Car in the No. 3 slot Friday with a 4.796-second elapsed time at 321.19 mph in the second session. He improved from the No.5 spot.
Johnson qualified second at Brainerd last August.
"It always helps to make a good run out of the box," Johnson said. "That sets the tone when you make a nice pass on your first run. That let [crew chief] Mike [Green] and the guys tune it up. They went for it, and we ran a 4.79. We had been struggling in qualifying the past two races, and it looks like we picked it up. I'm glad to be back on track."
Maybe he got some tips this past weekend from buddy Jeff Gordon. He was hanging out at the recently renamed O’Reilly Raceway Park (home of the approaching U.S. Nationals) and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR star and his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports/DuPont Chevy team.
"It wasn’t quite as stressful as racing," Johnson, who lives in nearby Avon,
Indiana, said. "It was more being a fan than anything else. I got my racing fix
in, but I also got to sleep in my bed when it was over. I'm all about racing. I
don't really care what form. It's always neat to take in another form of
motorsports and get to know the folks from other racing series. I had a good
time hanging out with Jeff Gordon and his team. They're a pretty good operation
to try and watch and pick up things from."
North Star State rules -- So far, the top half of the Brainerd Pro Stock field has four native Minnesotans, none of whom live in the state any longer. Greg Anderson and KB Racing/Summit Pontiac GTO teammate Jason Line are 1 and 2, respectively. Kurt Johnson and dad Warren Johnson are seventh and eighth, respectively.
So close -- Kenny Koretsky improved from dead-last among 24 Pro Stock entrants in his second qualifying attempt. He made the field in his Nitro Fish/ISC Racers Tape Dodge Stratus until Warren Johnson bumped him out. Mark Pawuk grabbed the 16th and final spot with two more sessions to go Saturday. Pawuk and Koretsky had identical 6.810-second elapsed times, but Pawuk nosed out "Captain Chaos" with his 202.45-mph speed to Koretsky's 202-flat. It was Koretsky's first time back in the driver's seat since his unavoidable accident last Oct. 7 with Bruce Allen at Ennis, Texas.
Nice recovery -- Warren Johnson made a mistake in his first run Friday but recovered to make the top half of the field.
His GM Performance Parts GTO rolled through the starting line beams, activating the timing clocks early and costing him valuable time on his first attempt. Even so, he used the data to make several adjustments to better suit his car to the BIR surface. He took the provisional eighth place a 6.771-second, 203.6- mph run in the evening session.
“Although we made a bad run in the first session, we certainly took a step in
the right direction tonight," Johnson said. "We had to wait a little while they
cleaned up [Tony] Rizzo’s oildown in front of us, and scrubbed a little bit off
in the early part of the run, but we’ll take this GM Performance Parts GTO from
there and keep working on it.
"If the track [Saturday] is at all like it was tonight, we should be in pretty good shape, because we were 16th-quickest in the first 60 feet on tonight's run but second quickest in the last half. Given that fact, if the weather and the track cooperate, there's no reason we shouldn’t be able to pick up the pace and get in one of the top four positions."
KJ masters stubborn car -- Kurt Johnson said his ACDelco Cobalt "has a totally different combination from what [his previous] car had, and it’s fighting me a little bit." Still, he made two strong runs to plant himself firmly in the field heading into Saturday's final two runs. He's seventh on the strength of his 6.770-second, 203.68-mph pass.
“We’ve made a few adjustments and it’s still wanting to pull to the right," Johnson said after parking his car in the field one position ahead of his father. "Even so, it made a pretty decent run tonight, and if we can improve in the bottom half, we should be in good shape. For example, we were off a couple hundredths in the first 300 feet alone, and if we’re able to pick that up, that .77 becomes a .75. It’s just a matter of executing, so we’ll make some changes to see if we can fix this thing and put it at the top of the chart.”
Edwards unqualified -- Two-time winner Mike Edwards no doubt is thankful that he has two more chances to qualify his Young Life Pontiac GTO. The two-time winner (at Houston and St. Louis), who's No. 6 in the standings, is 18th in the Brainerd order with an elapsed time that's six-thousandths of second behind that of No. 16 Mark Pawuk.
Rested -- Richie Stevens Jr. is in the top 10, just 29 points out of ninth place, in the Don Schumacher-owned Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus. He's 14th on the 16-car grid heading into Saturday's final two qualifying sessions, but he said the recent week off helped him regain some focus. He had disqualified himself with a red-light start in the previous race, at Sonoma, a start he called "a slip-up" and vowed not to repeat.
"I'm ready to get back to it. I had a week off and a lot of time to think about where we are headed as a team," Stevens said. He said crew chief/engine builder Dabid Nickens also had some time off "to work with the engines down in Texas. He needed some down-time to look over stuff. Since he's taken over the program it's been one week after the next. He has made improvements in that time, and the time off will just be a bonus.
"Brainerd (International Raceway) is going to be a good track for us. David will get a handle on the track really quickly, and we'll be competitive come race day."
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
First 7.0 this weekend -- Chip Ellis' 7.086-second elapsed time at 186.41 mph gave him the early No. 1 qualifying spot and marked the first 7.0-second pass of the weekend. In the previous race, at Sonoma, he posted the quickest pass ever for a Pro Stock Motorcycle: 6.911.
Battle continues -- If points leader Andrew Hines is waiting for either of the U.S. Army Suzuki riders to falter, he might have a wait. He qualified third Friday, behind Chip Ellis and hard-charging Tom Bradford. But the Don Schumacher Suzuki tandem of Angelle Sampey and Antron Brown are hanging right there with Hines, in fourth and fifth places, respectively, so far.
Just 61 points separate Hines from fourth-place Brown. "It's wide open right now," Sampey said. She's a 28 points behind Hines in second.
Sampey, who won three times early this season, is eyeing her first victory at
Fourth overnight with a 7.134-second run at 185.41 mph, she said, "I'm quite confident that we have a lot more left in my U.S. Army Suzuki. We want to have a successful weekend here in Minnesota. I have to win there for the first time in my career --no excuses."
Brown has won here three times since 2000 (2000, '01, '03). "Like Angelle, I feel we have plenty of room for improvement in terms of my Suzuki," he said. "Of course, the goal is to have an even better race day on Sunday. I really love racing here at BIR."
Brown said the championship "is right there for the taking. But we'll all have to be quite diligent in how we approach our jobs down the stretch. There's no room for error." He said he has done well at Brianerd, "but it's a new year and you can't take anything for granted. We've got to keep working hard and pointed in the right direction."
FEATURE: MINNESOTA NATIVES, TEAMMATES
VIE FOR BIR DOMINATION, TITLE
Three-time defending Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson was born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota, on the southern tip of Lake Superior, about 100 miles northeast of Brainerd. Teammate Jason Line grew up in Wright, just west of Duluth.
So both are familiar with Brainerd International Raceway, home of this weekend's Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. They're also familiar with this year's tight Pro Stock Powerade championship chase.
They're 1-2 in the standings in their KB Racing LLC-owned, Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GTOs. Line leads Anderson by 64 points.
"It's great to be on top for the first time in my career." Line, who lives in Terrell, North Carolina, said. "While this point chase is far from over, I would like to be on top come the end of this season. But we've got to do some winning between now and the end of the season." Naturally, he would like to start with his first professional victory at what was his home track.
"If we can keep this Summit Racing Pontiac running like it has for the past few races, then I feel we have a great chance at winning. I would not only remember a win at BIR this weekend, but if I could put this KB Racing Pontiac in the winner's circle it would go a long way in helping me in the point battle."
Anderson has other ideas.
"I’m not racing for second," Anderson said. "I'm only out here because I want to win. I want to win every round, every race, and every POWERade championship.
"Is it that easy? The answer is no, but don't count me out of this year's
championship," he said. "After all, I'm only 64 points out of the lead and
that's only a little more than three rounds of racing [with] eight races left.
There is still plenty of time left and neither my Summit Racing Pontiac GTO [nor
I] are about to give up."
Anderson led the standings for the first 12 races, also has to hold off third-place Dave Connolly, who's 58 points behind, and fourth-place Jim Yates, who's 124 points back.
"Jason and I have had the two best performing cars out there the last two or three races, and if we can continue our performance we may have to wait until the last race to see who wins. I don’t mean to sound overly optimistic, because there are a whole bunch of cars out there that have a shot at winning it all. I just like our chances. That's all I’m saying."
Line started his racing career in 1985 as a bracket racer at BIR, driving a 1968 Chevy Chevelle. After a timeout for military service in the U.S. Air Force from 1987-1991, Line resumed his racing career in 1992 behind the wheel of his 1966 Chevrolet Belair R/Stock Automatic Station Wagon. He won his first NHRA Stock Eliminator national event at Brainerd that year.
The 1993 national and Division 5 Stock Eliminator champion also won the Stock Eliminator category at the 1997 NHRA NorthStar Nationals at Brainerd driving a 1970 Buick Grand Sport D/Stock Automatic. Then he left Minnesota for North Carolina -- and left drag racing for NASCAR. He worked for five years at Joe Gibbs Racing and served as the chief dynamometer engine specialist and at-track engine tuner for 2000 NASCAR cup champion Bobby Labonte.
In 2003, Line returned to his roots when he joined KB Racing LLC as an engine tuner and dyno specialist on Anderson's Pro Stock Pontiac.
Anderson has one Pro Stock victory in three final rounds at Brainerd. That 2003 victory came at the expense of Kurt Johnson, another driver from "The Land of 10,000 Lakes." He also was runner-up to Jeg Coughlin in 2002 and Dave Connolly in 2004.
NEWSMAKER OF THE DAY -- Pro Stock car owner Kenny Koretsky
Kenny Koretsky, always the wheeler-dealer Pro Stock team owner who has earned his "Captain Chaos" nickname, has a message for his fans: "I'm back!"
"Tell my fans that Captain Chaos will be driving at Brainerd this weekend!" Koretsky said, announcing his return to the driver's seat of his blue Nitro Fish/ISC Racers Tape Pro Stock Dodge Stratus for the first time since his horrifying accident with Bruce Allen last October at Ennis, Texas.
"The fans helped me make this decision," he said. "If I had $100 for every fan who asked me when I was going to start driving again, I'd have enough money to run the team for a year."
"I'm looking forward to it. It will be interesting to see what we can do. Hopefully we'll be all right. If it feels good, I'll continue to do it," Koretsky said.
With team manager Eddie Guarnaccia continuing as crew chief, Koretsky will field just one of his two cars at Brainerd. He said, though, that Mike Thomas, who replaced him last year and has continued this season, and part-time driver Dave Northrop "will continue to drive the red Nitro Fish Dodge at selected races."
Koretsky sustained head, back, arm, and hand injuries when his car struck Allen's airborne Pontiac GTO near the finish line at the Texas Motorplex. Doctors cleared Koretsky to return sooner, but he said he decided to "keep Mike and Dave in the cars until the time was right. I feel fine physically, but I'm sure I 'll be a little nervous. It's like falling off a bike. You just get back on it."
Koretsky said he decided the time was right when he watched fellow team owner Evan Knoll having a marvelous time last weekend at the International Hot Rod Association race.
"Evan was in an accident and had injuries similar to mine," Koretsky said. "I watched him get in a Top Fuel dragster at Martin, Michigan, and make some runs. I was inspired to see him do it."
He'll start bidding for one of 16 spots in the Pro Stock field Friday in sessions scheduled for 2:45 and 5:30 p.m. (Central Time). Nitro classes are scheduled to kick off qualifying at 3:30 and 6:15 p.m.
NOTES & QUOTES
Hot Schu -- In the past four races, Tony Schumacher has climbed four positions in the standings and cut leader Doug Kalitta's margin over him by 186 points. He has taken the U.S. Army Dragster to four straight final rounds, winning twice races, during his recent hot stretch.
He arrived in Brainerd 44 points behind second-place teammate Melanie Troxel in the Torco/Skull Shine Dragster and 126 points off Kalitta's pace in the Mac Tools Dragster.
"This U.S. Army team never wavered or gave up even in the worst of times earlier this year. We kept our eye on the ball throughout, and now we're back in contention," Schumacher said. "If we're going to continue putting pressure on the teams in front of us, we have to keep performing on that kind of level."
While Brainerd's well-tended racing surface might not compare with the Route 66 Raceway quarter-mile at Joliet, Illinois, or quick Gainesville, Pomona, and Sonoma, it is where Schumacher turned in one of his best performances. He recorded the fastest speed in NHRA history -- 337.58 mph -- here last year. He also set the track elapsed-time record at 4.446-seconds, which gave him the No. 1 qualifying position and low E.T. of the meet.
Schumacher owns six of the sport's top 10 E.T.s and seven of its 10 fastest speeds.
No. 2 OK for now -- Give Melanie Troxel credit for being candid -- and at the same time for her skill in putting a positive spin on her situation. She led the Top Fuel standings for the first 12 races this season, lost it at Denver, and slogged through first-round losses throughout the entire Western Swing. But she isn't moping about Doug Kalitta's 82-point edge or the fact teammate Tony Schumacher, who had languished uncharacteristically the first half of the year, has gotten hot and is her closest challenger, within 44 points.
"We're still in a great position," Troxel said. "We're No. 2 in points. We haven't done very well in the last several races, but we've been very fortunate that Kalitta has not run away with the points. Certainly, Tony is closing in on us, but to be three-quarters of the way through the season and be second in points is still a great position to be in.
"I think if we're able to step up our program, which I know we're fully capable of doing," she said, "we'll be right back in it. We had a bad couple of races, but I think we're ready to rebound and change that.
"Honestly, the Western Swing was not very kind to us. We certainly did not live up to our own expectations," Troxel said. "I think it's reasonable for any team to hit a slump in their season, and I'm just hoping that this [past] weekend off has given us all some time to recharge our batteries, regroup, and will help us to come back out and hit it hard."
She said this track could be tricky for the crew chiefs. "This will certainly not be an easy event for us," Troxel said, "but we're looking forward to getting back out there and changing the direction of our momentum."
Tough encore -- So what is J.R. Todd going to do for August?
He called July "the most exciting month of my life." And no wonder. He burst onto the scene in his ninth NHRA race at Denver, upsetting Tony Schumacher in the final for his career-first victory. He beat Schumacher again in the Sonoma final for a second triumph in three races in the Dexter Tuttle-owned Knoll Gas-Torco/Skull Shine Dragster.
"It's unbelievable that a rookie almost swept the Western Swing," the 24-year-old from Lawrenceburg, Indiana, said. He lost to Schumacher in the Seattle semifinals and said, "When you look back on it, Schumacher stood in the way of us sweeping the Swing and we stood in his way.
"We've been on a hot streak for the last three or four races. We'll be doing our best to keep up that kind of performance and maybe we can pick up another win along the way," Todd said. "Brainerd is a good track. If we qualify well, anything can happen on race day. We already showed that."
This Lucas Oil Nationals is only the 12th race for Todd and his Jimmy Walsh-led team.
He noted that 10 of his 14 elimination-round wins have come in the last three races. And he said that's because he and the crew "have improved our maintenance between rounds and the crew members are learning their roles. Things have gone smoother and we've had fewer mistakes. Their confidence is showing. And Jimmy Walsh has the car running well. We have a car that is capable of winning more races."
When the season began, Todd and the team expected to run a limited schedule. All that changed when Evan Knoll brought SKULL Shine/Torco Racing Fuels sponsorship in May, eight races ago. Since then, Todd has logged all 14 round-wins, added 536 points to his total and improved from 19th to 12th in the standings. He has 614 points and is just 60 points [three rounds] from moving into the top 10.
Todd said he's keeping his success in perspective. "This is a humbling sport," he said. "You really can go from a hero to a zero very quickly."
Dad inspires -- Brandon Bernstein hasn't had to look far for inspiration.
The Budweiser/Lucas Oil driver knows he needs to shake off his three straight Round 1 defeats and get back to the form he showed when he won at Houston and Columbus and was runner-up at Topeka and St. Louis.
Happily for him, he's fourth in the standings, 180 points out of first place with eight races remaining in the season.
"If the cards go right, we can get back within striking distance of the championship," Bernstein said. "There's still plenty of time, especially if the frontrunners stumble."
His Tim and Kim Richards-led crew has shown it can rally. "A perfect example," Bernstein said, "was in 2003, when I suffered back injuries and Dad drove the rest of the season. He won four of the last five races and had six semifinal finishes. You can rack up a lot of points going rounds like that."
Mixed memories -- Dave Grubnic, driver of the StriVectin-SD Dragster, said he has two distinct memories of racing at Brainerd International Raceway. One was beating legend Connie Kalitta, who later became his boss. The other was far more frustrating.
"I have two memories that really stick in my mind about Brainerd," Grubnic said. "The first was in 1998, when I raced Connie for the first time in my career. I beat him in the first round, 4.74 [seconds] to 4.95. I just remember it was a great feeling taking out a legend. I had no idea that six years later he'd be my boss. I hope he's still not upset about that one." (He isn't. Kalitta evened the score with Grubnic later in 1998, in the first round of their only other match-up, at Topeka.)
Grubnic said his 2004 Brainerd appearance -- his first there as a Kalitta Motorsports driver -- brought him a third straight runner-up finish. He said that while the result certainly was commendable, "I remember thinking afterwards, ‘What have I got to do to win one of these things?' "
Can he do it again? -- Doug Kalitta has some experience defending national-event titles. This season he did so at back-to-back races in Bristol and Atlanta. In 2003 and '04, he won at St. Louis. He has dominated at Sonoma recently, winning three in a row from 1998 to 2000 and in 2004-05.
And the points leader and his Mac Tools Dragster could use a repeat of his 2005 victory at Brainerd International Raceway. "A win again this year in Brainerd would be just what the doctor ordered," Kalitta said. "Our last win was in the beginning of June [at Chicago], so we're definitely hungry to get back in the winners circle.
"We brought out a new car right before the race in Denver. All race cars have different personalities, but I think we found what the new car likes in Sonoma." He increased his advantage over No. 2 Melanie Troxel from 40 points to 82.
"There are eight races left this year, so we're a long way from knowing how it will all turn out. Our Mac Tools team fights hard to win every single round. We just want to keep concentrating on winning one round at a time, and hopefully that will keep us near the top with a chance to win it all."
No time for experimenting -- It's pretty simple for Cory McClenathan's Carrier Boyz/FRAM Boost Dragster team.
“We are out of time to experiment,” assistant crew chief Tony Shortall said, explaining why the No. 10 driver will be using the chassis that made its previous appearance in St. Louis. “We are going back to what we know works, the car we have the most data on. We’ll be able to apply that knowledge to our tune-ups. This car is easier to tune and more adaptable to the different racing conditions we’ll be seeing."
Crew chief Wes Cerny and the team had experimented with a Brad Hadman chassis made from thicker, less flexible tubing for the past three races. But, Shortall said, “We found we had to change the motor and clutch combinations more than we wanted with the new tubing. We’re down to the last eight races of the season. We need to be aggressive and push the car hard the rest of the way. We wanted to be competitive the whole year and finish in the top five."
This chassis recently had its back half replaced because of damage that occurred at St. Louis when a header pipe broke off. The pipe took out the right rear tire, sending the car across the track and into the guard wall, bending the chassis.
Said McClenathan, “We didn’t do nearly as well as we wanted on the Western Swing and we knew something had to be done. It’s tough when you start the Swing with a new, untried car. We tried our best, and I know Tony and Wes believe the stiffer chassis will work better on good tracks, but we just needed to get back to basics.”
Team owners Mark and Andy Carrier announced this past week that they have agreed to a contract extension with Honeywell Consumer Products Group.
Silver anniversaries -- This year marks the 25th anniversary of the race at Brainerd and the 25th year of nitro drag racing competition for Scott Kalitta, driver of the Kalitta Air Funny Car. He began as a Top Fuel crew member for his father, drag racing legend, team owner and crew chief Connie "The Bounty Hunter" Kalitta. Scott graduated from crewman to driver at the 1981 Winternationals, where he drove an A/Fuel dragster. He stayed in that until midway into the 1982 season, when he switched to Top Fuel.
"It's hard for me to believe that it has been a quarter of a century since I first drove a nitro car," Kalitta, 43, said. "I took a couple of years off there [1998, 2000-2001], but one thing's for sure: It has never been boring. I still love getting strapped in and going racing. I probably enjoy it more these days since the cars are quicker and faster now. It's cool that the annual NHRA event at BIR and I have 25 years in common. It's always fun going up to Minnesota and racing. The fans, especially the campers in 'The Zoo,' are always great to us. It should be a blast."
No comfortable lead -- Ron Capps literally was sick at his stomach last year when he was in the thick of the Funny Car points chase. He isn't so wound up this time, but he knows just how precarious his points lead is. "The further along the year goes, just to maintain any points lead is going to be a big deal," he said Capps.
He said he took some comfort in knowing that he and his Don Schumacher Raacing/Brut Dodge Charger have "stretched the points lead out a few times in the triple digits [122 points was his largest lead] and had some weekends when we went out early. But so did Force.
"It's not just Force right now we have to worry about. Some other guys have crept up a little bit," he said, referring to Tony Pedregon, Robert Hight, and Eric Medlen. We just need to focus on doing what we need to do."
At Sonoma, Capps lost in the first Funny Car pairing of the day to teammate and equally hungry Whit Bazemore. And his conversation immediately afterward with crew chief Ace McCulloch, he said, went something like this:
CAPPS: "It was my fault for maybe letting the car move around too much."
McCULLOCH: "Nah. It was my fault. Maybe it had a little more tire spin at half-track than it had before."
CAPPS: "No, it was my fault."
MCCULLOCH: "It was not. It was my fault."
Said Capps later, with a laugh, "We fought each other on whose fault it was. It doesn't happen a whole lot.
"We rolled into eliminations having the best car the whole weekend under all conditions. We ran pretty much better than any other car. I was confident. And that's why I think it hurt us more than anything else," he said.
"I'm getting more and more critical of what I do in the car," Capps said, "and to win championships you have to be on top of your game. The team is just doing a great job. Ace is doing a great job. I need to make sure that I do a great job to win each round."
Brainerd's famous (or infamous) "Zoo" was something Capps was looking forward to visiting. "I've always gone out to the campground at different races," he said. "It's a thing we started several years ago. We'd go out and just hang out with the campers and eat. It's funny. You go out there and they recognize you, and then they invite you in and you get to eat some of the best food and just have a good time."
Some Big Mo -- Whit Bazemore said he and his Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Charger team "definitely have some momentum" heading into this 16th of 23 events. Since the fifth race of the year, he has had one victory, one runner-up finish, and three semifinal appearances. "I like where we are," he said. "I don't think I'd want to be anyone else. I think we have the car to beat, and we still may be looked at as being a little underrated, so that's good , too. That's what this sport is about. It doesn't do any good to count points. You're going to go off against every opponent with your car tuned the best it can be tuned, without smoking the tires. That's what you try to do, whether you're 15th in the points or first in the points. It doesn't matter." Bazemore is seeking his first Brainerd victory. He has been runner-up
twice here: in 1999 against John Force, and in 2001 against Ron Capps. He was No. 1 qualifier in 1997 and 2001.
Q for Quest -- Tony Pedregon reminded the Funny Car field just how badly he'd like to have another championship trophy this year to go with his 2003 hardware. The Q Power Chevy Monte Carlo driver used a runner-up finish at Sonoma, California, to move into third place in the standings. "We've earned our place in the points, but now we have to maintain that and keep striving to move up each week," he said. "There are some really good cars we've passed, but now we have to keep the pressure on the teams ahead of us and stay consistent. We are putting the time in, so we are as prepared as we can be. We haven't won in Brainerd yet, so that is certainly extra incentive."
Looking for magic -- "We are looking forward to the race at Brainerd this weekend," Cruz Pedregon . He survived a scary fire in his Advance Auto Parts Chevy Monte Carlo during qualifying at Sonoma, prepared the back-up car, and made a gritty but losing run against eventual winner Eric Medlen in the first round that day. He has moved on to tackling the pressure of the stretch run as the series moves to Brainerd.
"Brainerd has a different atmosphere with really neat surroundings. The fans love it because of all of the big parties - it's a lot of fun," he said. "The track is special to me because my win there in 1992 kicked off our championship run that year with the first of five wins in a row. Although we've been average through the first half of the season, we're hoping to put things together there and maybe find that same magic again, particularly now since we've sorted out some things that have been causing problems."
Eight races remain on the 2006 schedule. "It seems like these last eight events are more critical than the races at the beginning of the year," Pedregon said. "Earlier in the year, if you have a bad weekend, you always feel you have time to make up for it. Teams are pushing hard to try to align themselves for a top-10 points finish or a championship run or, in our case, to try to win our second race of the year. I'm very confident we'll have our act together, qualify well, and have a good race day."
Pedregon was No. 15 qualifier at Sonoma, but he couldn't help but remember the fire that engulfed his car in Saturday's final qualifying session.
"It didn't want to go out," he said. "We had a loose fuel line in the cylinder head, which caused a domino effect with the other parts, causing the fire. I barely got out of there, as I was running out of clean air - my options were running out because the heat was overwhelming me. The NHRA Safety Safari were on their game, once again, and did their job, and I am thankful for that. Unfortunately, we lost the car. We had to pull out our backup car, which ran great, although we had a little gremlin we thought we had fixed in the past, but we didn't. But we're not going to find that problem sitting still – you have to run the car. We'll get everything freshened up and the broken parts fixed."
Cruz Pedregon was top qualifier at Brainerd in 1992, 1993, and 1998.
Birthday Boy -- "Happy Birthday to you. Celebrate in The Zoo . . ." That's what Gary Scelzi's friends can sing to him Friday.
"I'm going to be 46 years old on Friday," the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger driver said. "I'm going to be an older man, and I'm just going to use that for motivation."
Whatever works. Scelzi has one victory at Brainerd -- in Top Fuel in 1998. But Scelzi doesn't really care where a victory comes from. He just wants another one to improve from No. 6 in the standings and make his move on Robert Hight, Eric Medlen, Tony Pedregon, John Force, and leader Ron Capps.
What will it take to get back up front? "We need to start winning some races right away," Scelzi said. "It's just one of those years that there's only a couple of guys who have been able to break away and that's [John] Force and Capps. And, unfortunately, I think they've broken away far enough that all we can do is try to screw up their day."
Like so many of his fellow competitors, Scelzi said Brainerd is "tricky," adding, "They repaved it, and it seems when it gets hot here the track gets really slippery. I'm not sure what the weather is going to be like.
"Historically, we've been really good on a slippery race track," he said. "We got to Denver and ran really well on a hot, slippery race track [getting his first and only victory of the season]. We've run well in the past and somewhere we've lost it between Denver and Sonoma [with early-round losses in Seattle and Sonoma]. So hopefully we're going to get back on track, because we want to be running well and win some races before Indy, because we're concentrating everything we've got on Indy." He was referring to the U.S. Nationals Labor Day weekend.
"Obviously, we want to see Capps win it if we can't win it," he said of the championship.
"We we need to get on a roll here. Hopefully, Brainerd is going to be the turning point."
Simple goal -- Jim Yates isn't flashy. Neither is the Wiley X Eyewear Pontiac GTO driver's goal this weekend.
“We need to win the Brainerd race,” he said. Yates sounded a bit more
desperate after --- in his words -- "stupid things went wrong that cost round
wins" on the recent Western Swing.
“We’re trying to make it a race for the championship, but to stay in it we have to start winning rounds and races,” added Yates, who won in May at Columbus, Ohio.
"Brainerd has always been a special track for us. We’d like nothing better than to get back in the winner’s circle there," Yates said.
He has been racing for 17 years, has two series championships (1996-97), and has 395 career round-wins. But BIR is special because it is where in 1994 he earned the first of 25 career victories.
Mosquitoes and motorized pests -- Defending event champion Kurt Johnson won't be hanging out with the campers who make the remote Minnesota resort area near Brainerd so popular in the summertime. He knows, though, that like the revelers in "The Zoo," he'll be trying to thwart all the mosquitoes.
"At this time of year, the mosquitoes can get pretty thick up there, so we'll probably be putting on insect repellant and doing a lot of swatting," Johnson joked. He's more concerned about his pesky opponents trying to knock him from the No. 5 spot.
So taking it easy is something Johnson has no intention of doing this weekend. He indicated that he's annoyed that in the past few races he has lost by an average of less than four-thousandths of a second, which he said comes out to less than 12 inches at the finish line.
He said he can't worry about what has happened. Instead, he said, "From here on out, this ACDelco Cobalt crew is going to be swinging for the fences. That’s our game plan for the weekend – swatting and swinging in Brainerd.”
Helping him, he's hoping, is an all-new chassis -- although he's parking the
race car with which he has won six races in 10 final-round appearances, earned
four No. 1 qualifying positions, and sets personal bests. "As long as she goes
straight and true to the 330 [-foot mark], we should be fine. Our last car was
really good in the first 60 feet, which we hope to carry over into the new one,
as well as making it better in the back half.
"Our biggest concern with a new car," he said, "is figuring out its tuning window. There are a couple areas that are different with this new ACDelco Cobalt, so we’re not 100 percent sure as to how it will react. However, new tubing is usually more consistent, so if we figure out how to make it go fast, we should be in great shape."
Johnson was born in Virginia, Minnesota -- situated between the Mesabi Iron Range and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. He said his high-school class from the Minneapolis suburb of Fridle was having its reunion but that he, of course, has no time to attend.
He will be chasing his fourth victory at Brainerd International Raceway.
Staplers, canned hams, and WJ -- Jon and Joanne Knapp, public-relations representatives for Kurt and Warren Johnson, pointed out that "throughout its 148-year history, the state of Minnesota has made its share of contributions to everyday life in the United States. From Tonka Trucks and snowmobiles to staplers, Snickers and the canned ham, people of all ages and walks of life have benefited from the creative genius of innumerable Minnesotans."
Naturally, they're counting Warren Johnson, "The Professor of Pro Stock" among its legacies.
The Virginia, Minnesota, native and driver of the GM Performance Parts Pontiac GTO has rewritten the record books while advancing the technology of the factory hot rods.
This weekend, he'll be going for his fifth victory in 25 national event appearances here.
His four victories (in five final rounds) tie him with Bruce Allen and Bob
Glidden for the most wins here by a Pro Stock driver, and he has a 43-19
elimination-round record on his former home track. In his last trip here, he
recorded the 136th No. 1 qualifying position of his career -- the most among the
NHRA professional categories -- as well as both ends of the BIR track record
with a 6.698-second, 206.57-mph pass.
"Racing in Brainerd is always an experience," Johnson said. "I have people come up to me and ask if I remember them from third or fourth grade, but unfortunately I have to ask them for a hint, because we've obviously aged a little since then. Besides, I haven't seen a lot of these folks in 30 or 40 years. The good part is that, no matter what we do on the track, it's always a tremendous homecoming. Brainerd has always been one of our most popular races in terms of attendance, and I believe the spectators' enthusiasm is certain to increase even further with the new ownership that has just taken over. I expect it will be another jam-packed, action-filled event, and we might even have a little drag racing thrown in for good measure!"
Johnson will be celebrating an anniversary, of sorts. This weekend will mark one full year of competition with his current GTO. "The first time we raced this GM Performance Parts GTO in Brainerd last year, we qualified No. 1 and set both ends of the track record, which we thought was a good omen," he said. "At the same time, we weren't totally happy with how the car was set up, chassis wise. As a result, we never got as good a handle on it as we would like, no matter how much we tested, which certainly affected our performance earlier this year.
"Throughout that period, there were several people suggesting we switch to our new car, but I was concerned with moving whatever issues we had with the older chassis to the new one. Fortunately, I had some time to think things over during the Western Swing, back-tracking to the previous car, and we were able to trace things down to the components that caused our problems. Ironically, I'm not sure we could have come to this same conclusion simply by testing.
"We repaired what we needed in Seattle, and the car immediately responded. We'll take what we have found so far and fine-tune it before applying it to the new car, which will probably happen by Indy. It was just a case of getting back on course. Now that we appear to be able to apply the power to the ground properly, we can go back to working on finding horsepower."
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
Keep the party rolling -- GT Tonglet and Vance & Hines/Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson teammate Andrew Hines joined thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts for the 66th annual world-famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.
"I love Sturgis," Tonglet said. "It's just so much fun. It's a huge party that celebrates motorcycles and the people who ride them. The history of the event is amazing, and it gets more fun each year. We get to check out the AHDRA event, sign autographs at the convention center, and in general, enjoy the event. It's a great time to be a Harley-Davidson representative."
Said Hines, "Sturgis is a great event, and it's something we mark our calendars for every year. Everyone there is excited about racing and motorcycles. It's the first time we [got] to see the 2007 Harley-Davidson stuff. Last year we went on a ride to see Mount Rushmore."
Tonglet was the toast of Brainerd last season. For the first time in his young career, Tonglet won from the No. 1 spot, beating Hines in the final round and regaining the points lead. But he said he's not going to rely on what happened here last year. Although he said it "was the best race event I've had in my career" and that it "could not have been a more perfect weekend," he said, "Right now this Screamin' Eagle team needs to think about qualifying for this year's event and go from there. We need to qualify well and put ourselves in a position to win some rounds."
Will beatings pay off? -- Hines was top qualifier at the previous race in Sonoma with one of several sub-7-second passes that weekend, and although he didn't repeat his victory there, he kept his points lead.
"Sonoma was a great race because it really gave us a good idea of where we are in relation to the rest of the competition," he said. "We have spent every spare second between Sonoma and Brainerd beating on these V-Rods to squeeze every ounce of horsepower out of them. Now it's time to see if we've done our job back at the shop."
NHRA POWERADE POINT STANDINGS
(Following 15 of 23 events)
Place Driver Points
1. Doug Kalitta, Ann Arbor, Mich., Mac Tools dragster (4) 1,105 2. Melanie Troxel, Avon, Ind., Skull Gear/Torco Race Fuels dragster (2) 1,023 3. Tony Schumacher, Long Grove, Ill., U.S. Army dragster (2) 979 4. Brandon Bernstein, Lake Forest, Calif., Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster (2) 925 5. Dave Grubnic, Ennis, Mont., StriVectin-SD dragster (1) 881 6. Rod Fuller, Las Vegas, David Powers Homes/Valvoline dragster (2) 844 7. Larry Dixon, Indianapolis, Miller Lite dragster 823 8. Morgan Lucas, Riverside, Calif., Lucas Oil dragster 686 9. Hillary Will, Ypsilanti, Mich., KB Racing dragster 678 10. Cory McClenathan, Anaheim, Calif., FRAM Boost dragster 674
1. Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., Brut Dodge Charger (5) 1,139 2. John Force,
Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang (1) 1,069 3. Tony Pedregon, Chino
Hills, Calif., Q Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo (3) 948 4. Eric Medlen,
Indianapolis, Castrol Syntec Mustang (1) 928 5. Robert Hight, Anaheim Hills,
Calif., Auto Club Mustang (1) 913
6. Gary Scelzi, Fresno, Calif., Mopar/Oakley Charger (1) 841 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Avon, Ind., Skoal Racing Monte Carlo (1) 824 8. Whit Bazemore, Indianapolis, Matco Tools Charger (1) 809 9. Cruz Pedregon, Santa Rosa Valley, Calif., Advance Auto Parts Monte Carlo (1) 640 10. Del Worsham, Chino Hills, Calif., Checker Schuck’s Kragen Monte Carlo 635
1. Jason Line, Terrell, N.C., Summit Racing Pontiac GTO (3) 1,052 2. Greg Anderson, Charlotte, N.C., Summit Racing GTO (1) 988 3. Dave Connolly, Elyria, Ohio, Skull Gear Chevrolet Cobalt (3) 930 4. Jim Yates, Alexandria, Va., SeaRay Boats GTO (1) 864 5. Kurt Johnson, Sugar Hill, Ga., ACDelco Cobalt (2) 800 6. Mike Edwards, Coweta, Okla., Young Life GTO (2) 797 7. Allen Johnson, Greeneville, Tenn., J&J Racing/Team Mopar Dodge Stratus (1) 767 8. Vieri Gaines, Lakewood, Colo., Kendall Synthetic Blend Stratus 712 9. Larry Morgan, Newark, Ohio, zMax Micro Lubricants Stratus 704 10. Richie Stevens, New Orleans, Mopar/Valspar Stratus 675
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
(Following nine of 15 events)
1. Andrew Hines, Indianapolis, Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson (1) 678 2.
Angelle Sampey, New Orleans, U.S. Army Suzuki (3) 645 3. Chip Ellis, Americus,
Ga., Drag Specialties S&S Buell V-Twin (2) 627 4. Antron Brown,
Indianapolis, U.S. Army Suzuki (1) 617 5. Ryan Schnitz, Decatur, Ind., Trim-Tex
Drywall Products Buell V-Twin (1) 476 6. Matt Smith, King, N.C., Torco/Skull
Gear S&S Buell V-Twin (1) 467 7. Karen Stoffer, Minden, Nev., Geico
Motorcycle Suzuki 453 8. Matt Guidera, Rocklin, Calif., Rocklin Motorsports
Buell V-Twin 451 9. Tom Bradford, Eagle, Wis., Hal's Speed Shop/Flying Doc Buell
10. Craig Treble, Hensley, Ark., Team Tigue Suzuki 397
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