DSR driver Antron Brown extended his mastery at Gateway Motorsports Park racing to his 4th consecutive Top Fuel victory…..
Del Worsham (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock), and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners in their respective categories during the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, the second of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship event near St. Louis.
Brown defeated Dave Connolly in the final round to take his 53rd career victory and his fifth win overall at the track with a performance of 3.721 seconds at 325.92 mph in his Matco Tools dragster to Connolly’s trailing run of 3.753 at 328.94 in the C&J Energy Services dragster.
“There are two words: truly blessed,” said Brown. “When [track owner] Curt Francois and [general manager] Chris Blair brought this track back [in 2011], they brought it back better than ever. You can put a slew of runs together that are quick and fast, because you’re not worried about the track not being there. The class is so competitive right now that you’re going home if you throw out a high-.70.”
The win, his sixth of the season, extended his points lead over teammate Tony Schumacher by 77 points. Larry Dixon suffered a first round loss to Billy Torrence and is 159 points behind Brown.
“We have to keep marching right now,” said Brown, who beat Terry McMillen, Shawn Langdon and Billy Torrence in the first three rounds. “We had a 200-point lead in 2012 and almost lost the championship at the end. We’re off to an incredible start. Charlotte is usually our kryptonite, but we were able to get through there this year with a good start.”
In Funny Car, Worsham continued his hot streak when he defeated Matt Hagan to earn his second consecutive victory in the playoffs. Worsham defeated No. 1 qualifier Hagan in his with a pass of 3.964 at 320.13 in his DHL Toyota Camry to the defending world champ’s losing run of 3.983 at 324.20 in his Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T. Worsham took the win in spectacular fashion as the engine on his yellow Toyota exploded as he crossed the finish line.
“It made a hard dart to the right — and it went ‘ka-boom!’ right before I got to the finish line,” said Worsham. “It blew up, the dash came up, and fire went back there. Luckily, in today’s racing, the chutes deployed themselves and slowed it down right away. In my 25 years of racing, I don’t know if I’ve ever driven a Funny Car that made that many good runs. The team assembling it, the tune-up, and what [team owner] Connie Kalitta has given us here has been unreal. When I came back to Funny Car racing – this is the dream I had.”
Worsham also earned a 20-bonus points during the event when he set a national elapsed time record of 3.899 seconds during qualifying. He now has a 90 point lead over Hagan, the two-time and defending Funny Car world champion. Jack Beckman, who entered the Countdown as the No. 1 seed carrying a ton of momentum, fell to fourth following his second round loss to Cruz Pedregon. Tommy Johnson is third in the points standings.
Pro Stock rookie Skillman raced his Ray Skillman Chevy Camaro to his first career victory when he defeated his teammate Erica Enders. It was a rematch from the final in Indianapolis, which Enders won. In this matchup, Skillman powered past Ender’s Elite Motorsports Camaro, which lost traction early in the run, with his winning pass of 6.529 at 211.63.
“This is my fourth time to the finals and I knew that Erica has been insane on the Tree,” said Skillman. “A little luck came our way and we got it done this weekend. I lost the first three finals but I don’t know how you can get frustrated when you get to a pro category for the first time and have the kind of year we’re having. This is not normal. I’m just very excited to win this today. I have a great team.”
Enders, who was in her fourth consecutive final round, increased her series lead to 113 markers over Greg Anderson.
Arana Jr. raced to his second Pro Stock Motorcycle win of the season when he defeated his father Hector Arana in the finals. Arana Jr. raced his Lucas Oil Buell to a winning pass of 6.860 at 196.50 to his father’s trailing run of 6.932 at 195.03, also on a Lucas Oil Buell. This is the first career win in St. Louis for Arana Jr. The win moves him to 34 points behind Andrew Hines and caps a significant week for the racer.
“This has been a great week; I don’t know if I could ask for anything more,” said Arana Jr. “On Monday, I pulled the trigger and asked my beautiful girlfriend [Nicole Nobile] to marry me and to get this win is just icing on the cake. I tell you what, that is a bittersweet win. I watched my dad win in the semis and I said to myself, ‘I have to win’ so we can see which one of us can take home the Wally. I want to see him win and of course he wants to see me win, but at the same time I want to beat him. We also needed this to move forward in the points.”
The third of six rounds of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs is next weekend at the NHRA Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.
A “Mob Hit” in Pro Mod!
Mike Knowles powered to his first victory of the season Sunday in the J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis.
In the final round, Knowles earned his second career victory with his winning performance of 5.901 seconds at 242.71 mph in his ’67 Ford Mustang to the losing run of 5.953 at 244.52 for two-time world champ Rickie Smith.
Knowles also defeated Mike Castellana, Steven Whiteley, and Troy Coughlin in earlier rounds. This is second career victory at Gateway Motorsports Park.
“It’s been pretty good to us, we like it. It’s fun and it’s great for the team,” said Knowles. “Friday we had some engine damage and instead of rushing back up and trying to make the run, we just stopped and regrouped and the team made some good decisions and we came back and made a good run, qualifying to get in the show, and here we are.”
Points leader Mike Janis lost in the second round to Bob Rahaim and his lead over second place racer Troy Coughlin is 28 points going into the final race of the season. The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season concludes at the NHRA Toyota Nationals, Oct. 29-Nov. 1 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Nevada.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Bogacki Remains “White Hot” : 27 Rounds….and Counting!
Luke Bogacki has won two NHRA national championships, five NHRA divisional championships, eleven NHRA national events, and countless big dollar bracket races in his illustrious driving career. Yet he’s never been on a run like this. Bogacki came into the NHRA Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, MN over a month ago in the midst of a subpar Super Comp season at the wheel of his K&N Filters backed Super Comp dragster. He won that event, his first Super Comp victory in more than two seasons. The following weekend, he backed it up with a win at the NHRA Division 3 Lucas Oil Series Event in Bowling Green, KY.
Then things started getting out of hand.
The very next weekend, he drove the same machine to victory at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, marking Luke’s first Indy title. After two weeks off, Bogacki extended his unbeaten streak in the ultra-competitive Super Comp category to an incredible 27 rounds when he won the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis.
“I don’t have any explanation for this run,” said the typically humble Bogacki. “I don’t know if this is unprecedented or not; to be honest it’s hard to imagine this streak being duplicated in the future. Not in this class. Just hearing it sounds ridiculous. 27 straight round wins? I would have told you that couldn’t happen for anyone. And now it’s happened to me of all people.”
Over the weekend, Bogacki certainly did his part. In his non-bye-run rounds, he posted reaction times varying from .009 to .018, and worked the finish line to perfection. He posted elapsed times between 8.89 and 8.91 in four of the seven competition rounds, and boasted win margins of just .001-of-a-second in round four and .003-of-a-second in a final round conquest over Jeremy Demers. En route to the final, Bogacki advanced past Chris Runnels, Phil Smida, Paul Kimble and James Gerakaris before earning a quarterfinal bye run. He then dispatched Nick Folk in the semi-finals.
“My car has just been fantastic,” he said, deflecting the praise to his American Race Cars built, K&N Filters-backed machine. “I have so much confidence in it right now, and so much confidence in myself as well. When basketball players get hot they talk about how the basket feels like it’s as big as the ocean; they just can’t miss. That’s how I feel when I stage right now. But it’s not as if I’ve been perfect. I’ve been good, and my car has been great; we’ve made a lot of really solid runs. But that doesn’t account for 27-straight. I’ve had a lot of good fortune. A lot of opponents have made uncharacteristically poor runs in the other lane, and our timing has been incredible: I’ve made good runs at the right times and I’ve gotten away with some mistakes as well.”
What the modest Bogacki won’t tell you is that he’s been a machine on the starting line. In Brainerd, he was .025 on the tree in round three. In the 24 rounds since, his worst reaction time has been .018. Over the course of the streak, he’s averaged a .011 bulb, and posted .00 reaction times in nearly half of his head-to-head matchups.
While Bogacki’s incredible run has come at the tail end of his points-earning season, it still won’t be enough to propel him to a third national title in as many years. A string of poor divisional performances early in the season will keep Bogacki from threatening current leader Kevin Brannon, though he still figures to finish the season ranked in the top-5.
Bogacki’s K&N Filters dragster is a 240” wheelbase American Race Cars chassis. Power comes from a 632-cubic inch Huntsville Engine & Performance engine. The motor features BRODIX SR-20 cylinder heads and a BRODIX aluminum block; Crane Camshaft and lifters; a Jesel belt drive and rocker arms; an APD Max Speed 1250 carburetor; a Milodon oil pan; Manley I-Beam Rods and valve springs; Wiseco pistons; Clark gaskets; Hedman Hedders with Nitroplate coating and safety tethers from CollectorTethers.com; a K&N Wrench-Off oil filter; Lucas oil; and a J&J Engine Diaper.
Bogacki transfers power to the ground thanks to a BTE Top Dragster transmission and BTE 10” torque converter, attached to an innovative CVD driveshaft from Goethe Enterprises which drives a Moser Engineering third member and Moser axles. Mickey Thompson wheels and tires round out the drive train package, along with a single Ohlins TTX-36 shock absorber and a set of Moser Engineering Pro Drag disc brakes. In the cockpit, Luke relies on Auto Meter’s multi-function data logger to monitor and record critical functions. A K&R Performance Engineering Pro-Cube delay box and switch panel control the vehicle, and operate the APD throttle stop as well as a Dixie Racing Products electric shift solenoid. Additional manufacturers that the team depends on include Dedenbear, ISC Racer’s Tape, Charlie Stewart Race Cars, Nitrous Express, California Car Cover, DragRaceResults.com, Todd’s Extreme Paint, Racer Tees, SHARP Stuff, and Fastonix Solutions.
In addition to major marketing partners K&N Filters and Racing RV’s (the title sponsor on Bogacki’s Super Gas Corvette), the Luke Bogacki Motorsports team is proud to represent associate partners Watts Auto Diesel Service, Advanced Product Design (APD), Accelerated Graphics, Bill Taylor Enterprises (BTE), Mickey Thompson Tires, American Race Cars, Renegade Race Fuels, Product Development Group (makers of Flo-Fast pumps and AirTek pressure monitoring systems), JEGS, and C.A.R.S. Protection Plus. Luke also thanked his wife Jessica, son Gary, father-in-law Jack, and all of his friends and family for their support.
Also emerging victorious during the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series portion of the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals ws Louisana’s Craig Bourgeois who scored his 4th national event win in Comp Eliminator.
Craig Bourgeois, Metairie, La., had a quick reaction time of .036 in the final round matchup with Tony Pontillo, Kenosha, Wis., running a 7.033 second lap at 173.54 mph for the win. This was Pontillo’s first appearance in a final round and was late off the line running a 6.841 second lap at 193.57 mph but could not run down Bourgeois.
Seasoned NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series National Champion Tommy Phillips, Forney, Texas, left too soon at the light and gave Brina Splingaire, North Riverside, Ill,, her third national career win in the Super Stock final; Jacob Elrod, grabbed his first national event win beating Mark Hackett, Quincy, Ill., in Super Gas.
Britt Cummings, Hammond, La., the win in Stock Eliminator defeating Fred Suiter of Defiance, Mont. Suiter in his first final round appearance left to early and went red giving Cummings his third national event win. Cummings has two national event wins in Super Comp and this is his first in Stock Eliminator.
Marco Abruzzi, Warren, Ohio, won his fifth national event NHRA Wally trophy and his first in Top Dragster defeating Andrew Johnson, Cynthiana, Ky. Abruzzi earned his first win running 7.025 seconds at 133.20 mph. He also won here in Top Sportsman in 2010.
In the Top Sportsman it was the first final round appearance for both racers. Lester Johnson, Cynthiana, Ky., in his ’55 Bel Air worked his way through eliminations and with a huge holeshot held off Glenn Butcher, Doylestown, Ohio, in the final with a 6.474 second pass at 208.62 mph.
(Posted with files and photos from NHRA Communications, Mandi Ramirez and Bruce Biegler)
Photos Courtesy of Auto Imagery, NHRA Communication and by Bruce Biegler