Brainerd’s Best @ NHRA Lucas Oil Nationals

Ron Capps overcame a dramatic qualifying incident and came back on Sunday to earn his third Funny Car win of the season during at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota….  Spencer Massey (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) were also winners in their respective categories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.

Capps, driving his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger, defeated his Don Schumacher Racing partner with a run of 4.063 seconds at 312.28 mph to Hagan’s losing pass of 4.095 at 312.78 in the tightly contested championship round. Capps rebounded to win for the 41st time in his career after failing to qualify for the previous event in Seattle. His team also overcame an engine explosion during qualifying on Saturday in Brainerd that forced the team to use a backup Funny Car body for eliminations. Capps knocked off Del Worsham, Jack Beckman and Tim Wilkerson to reach the final round.

“That is the nature of our sport and for sure the Funny Car division,” said Capps, who earned the 11th Funny Car win for Don Schumacher Racing in 2013. “It is a fun class but that final round just epitomizes how tight our category is right now. You have to be on your absolute best and I wasn’t today as a driver but Rahn [Tobler, crew chief] made up for it and man, wow, what a weekend.”

Ron Capps beat his racing stable mate Matt Hagan in yet another all Mopar & DSR  fuel FC final round.

Ron Capps beat his racing stable mate Matt Hagan in yet another all Mopar & DSR fuel FC final round.

With the win, Capps was able to secure his entry into the Funny Car field for the Countdown to the Championship, also moving to second in the points standings. Capps joined Hagan, who was previously qualified for the six-race playoffs, as well as Johnny Gray, Cruz Pedregon, John and Courtney Force as drivers who all earned berths during the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Defending world champion Beckman also earned the seventh slot in the Traxxas Shootout.

Massey piloted his Battery Extender/Schumacher Electric dragster to a fourth win this season in Top Fuel when he powered to the victory over Clay Millican. The win for Massey, who moved to second in points with his 14th career win, was well deserved after an engine fire in the first round of eliminations forced the team to replace many components on the car. Massey overcame the difficulties and in the finals posted a winning pass of 3.811 at 322.11 to Millican’s 3.856 at 320.66, giving Massey his first career NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series win at Brainerd International Raceway. Massey also knocked off Brittany Force, Tony Schumacher and Khalid alBalooshi to reach the championship round.

Clay Millican had an outstanding Top Fuel effort at BIR - placing R/UP and setting both Top Speed and Low ET

Clay Millican had an outstanding Top Fuel effort at BIR – placing R/UP and setting both Top Speed and Low ET

“We just hadn’t had any luck here,” said Massey, who had never won a Top Fuel round at BIR before Sunday. “I won in Top Alcohol Dragster [1998], but this is a completely different category and I’ve always lost in the first round. I wanted to see that win light come on for the first time in Brainerd. I would have been happy no matter what happened in the second round because we got that round win, but we obviously wanted to keep going on.”

With his run to the finals, No. 1 qualifier Millican and his Parts Plus dragster team were able to secure a position in the Countdown to the Championship along with GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster pilot Morgan Lucas, leaving only two spots remaining.

In Pro Stock, points leader Edwards recorded his first win at Brainerd International Raceway and his fifth of the season with the victory over V. Gaines in the finals in his Interstate Batteries/I am Second Chevy Camaro. Edwards defeated Gaines with a run of 6.629 at 208.68 to the trailing run of 6.665 at 208.84, capping off a memorable day that also included wins against Greg Stanfield, Vincent Nobile and defending world champion Allen Johnson.

Mike Edwards recorded his 5th win of the season to take the event's Pro Stock crown.

Mike Edwards recorded his 5th win of the season to take the event’s Pro Stock crown.

“Finally getting a win here is pretty special,” stated Edwards, who earned his 39th career win. “I’m not sure, but I don’t think that I’ve ever been past the second round here before. We weren’t really that fast this weekend, but we managed to stick around, and I’m so proud of my guys because they really stepped it up. We had ignition problems during qualifying and really didn’t know if we had it fixed or not before today’s eliminations. We swapped ignition systems, engines, and we swapped everything. But it worked out, so we’re happy.”

The field for the Pro Stock racers in the Countdown to the Championship was filled as Rodger Brogdon earned the final available position on Sunday.

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to action with the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis Aug. 28-sept. 2.

Event Essentials:  2013 Lucas Oil Nationals (Aug. 15-18th, 2013) Brainerd MN.

TOP FUEL Name ET MPH Career Win
Winner: Spencer Massey 3.811 322.11 14th
R/UP: Clay Millican 3.856 320.66  
Low ET: Clay Millican 3.773    
Top Speed: Clay Millican   326.63  
Bump Spot:   3.921    
FUNNY CAR Name ET MPH Career Win
Winner: Ron Capps 4.063 312.28 41st
R/UP: Matt Hagan 4.095 312.78  
Low ET: John Force 4.027    
Top Speed: John Force   319.45  
Bump Spot:   4.207    
PRO STOCK Name ET MPH Career Win
Winner: Mike Edwards 6.629 208.68 39th
R/UP: V. Gaines 6.665 208.84  
Low ET: Vincent Nobile 6.580    
Top Speed: Mike Edwards   210.21  
Bump Spot:   6.744  
Sportsman Class Winners: Name ET MPH
Top Alcohol Dragster Gord Gingles 5.313 264.65 
Top Alcohol FC Frank Manzo 5.568 261.42
Top Sportsman Larry Demers 7.630 179.90
Competition Bruno Massel 7.958 120.04
Super Stock Jim Thune 10.68 122.48
Stock Bill Feist 11.23 128.05
Super Comp Tommy Phillips 8.910 168.16
Super Gas Kevin Dyck 9.888 161.30
Pro Stock Snowmobile Louie Wirbel 8.327 154.94


Canadian’s Are First again in TAD!

Defending Central Region champ Gord Gingles (from Manitoba) upset reigning national champ Jim Whiteley for his first career national event victory in Top Alcohol Dragster, and Frank Manzo rode a string of 5.50s to what surprisingly is his first national event win all year in Top Alcohol Funny Car.

In the final, Gingles left with a .030-second lead and crossed the finish line first by the same amount when both drivers ran almost identical e.t.s – 5.313 for Gingles and 5.314 for Whiteley, who lost for just the sixth time in 26 career national finals. It marked the 2nd straight NHRA national event win of the season by a Canadian car in the TAD class — complimenting Shawn Cowie’s recent victory at Seattle.

Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing blown-alcohol dragster and Gingles’ Manitoba-based Bull A/Fueler qualified 1-2 and ran within a hundredth of a second of each other all day. Following a first-round single Saturday afternoon when Dr. Jerry Powell was unable to appear, Gingles ran a 5.28 against many-time national event champion Marty Thacker in round two. Earlier in that round, Whiteley made the only other run in the 5.20s in eliminations, a 5.277 that held up for low e.t., to cover Robin Samsel’s 5.43.

Gord Gingles gave Canada's it's 2nd consecutive national event win in the TAD category

Gord Gingles gave Canada it’s 2nd consecutive national event win in the TAD category

Gingles grabbed the upper hand in the semifinals with a 5.30 win over Randy Meyer, who taken out Mark Taliaferro on a huge holeshot the round before, 5.50 to 5.33. Whiteley followed one pair later with a close 5.31 to 5.36 decision over Topeka winner Alan Bradshaw in a battle of former national champs.

In the final, Gingles, who had the best reaction time of the event, .026, in the second round, got the jump on Whiteley, .061 to .091, and won by half a car-length despite Whiteley’s six-mph faster speed, 270 to 264. Whiteley also set top speed of the meet at 272.83 mph in qualifying.

In Top Alcohol Funny Car, Manzo won the Minnesota race for the second year in a row, the fourth time in five years, and the seventh time overall, including the inaugural event in 1982. What might have been a side-by-side final ended when Dale Brand, Manzo’s nemesis this year, banged the blower at about the 500-foot mark. Manzo cruised to his 100th Top Alcohol Funny Car win and 101st national event title overall with a 5.56, his third mid-.50 of the day, as Brand slowed to a 6.88 at 118 mph.

“The car has been trying to turn the corner for about a month now, but I ruined it every chance I got,” Manzo said. “This time, I decided to let the car win the race for me, and it did.”

Frank Manzo roared to his 100th TAFC class win!

Frank Manzo roared to his 100th TAFC class win!

The victory was Manzo’s 40th in a row in national event finals, three times more than any other driver in any class in drag racing history. His last national event runner-up was to Jay Payne at the 2006 Winternationals.

Brand eliminated Lance Van Hauen in round one with a 5.62 and Payne in the quarterfinals with a 5.59, then shut off to a 5.66 at just 220 mph on a semifinal single that may have been his most impressive run of the weekend. Manzo, who lost to Brand at the Gatornationals and in the final round of the Cordova regional this year, tested the track on his first-round, single, then took out Annie Whiteley, who narrowly fouled, in round two, and 2011 Brainerd winner Kris Hool, who gave him his best race of the weekend in the semi’s, with times of 5.55 (low e.t.), and 5.57.

The win moved Manzo up to sixth in the national standings, 71 points behind leader Tony Bartone. “I’m pretty far behind,” he said. “It’s going to be tough.”The event saw three first time NHRA National event winners with Bill Feist leading the way in Stock Eliminator followed by Kevin Dyck in Super Gas and Larry Demers in Top Sportsman.  Feist, Maple Grove, Minn., took an early lead in his ’69 Mustang which forced Chris Knudsen to breakout by .017 seconds.  Feist ran 10.232 on his 10.22 dial at 128.48 mph.

Dyck, drove his ’12 Corvette to the win when Russ Ginger left early with the red light foul start.  Michael Chitty, Ames, Iowa, left early as well handing Demers his first win.  Demers, Carroll, Iowa, ran his ’06 Cobalt to a 7.630 second lap at 179.90 mph.

Jim Thune, Big Stone City, S.D. used a holeshot to take the early lead, and held on to beat home state racer Jason DeForrest, Andover, Minn., in Super Stock. Thune’s 10.681 second pass beat the quicker DeForrest at 9.550.

Tommy Phillips scored his 29th career NHRA National event win in a close one over Jim Paulson in Super Comp.  The pair left the line together with Phillips taking the win at the strip by about three feet.

A pair of hitters faced off in the final of Comp Eliminator as defending NHRA Lucas Oil National Champion and event champion Bruno Massel met up with Arnie Martel.  It was over at the start when Martel left early giving the win to Massel.

Bruno Massel won in Comp driving his ultra-cool Turbocharged Chevy

Bruno Massel won in Comp driving his ultra-cool Turbocharged Chevy

The final trophy of the weekend went to Louie Wirbel in Pro Stock Snowmobile.  Wirbel has been the event runner-up the last three years but closed the deal this year against Ron Bray.  The Marion, Mich. Racer went 8.327 at 154.94 mph to Bray, Anoka, Minn., at 8.440, 149.81.

BIR's unique Pro Stock Snowmobile eliminator featured Louie Wirbel vs Ron Bray in the final.

BIR’s unique Pro Stock Snowmobile eliminator featured Louie Wirbel vs Ron Bray in the final.

Posted with files from NHRA Communications & Eric Lotz

All Photos by:  Jim Kampmann