NHRA’s playoff season has begun with a rousing event and popular winners at fabulous zMax Dragway last weekend…
John Force (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners in their respective categories at the 19th event of 24 on the 2016 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. The NHRA Carolina Nationals is the first race of the six race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Brown claimed his 59th career victory, and fifth of the season, with a 3.763-second pass at 319.29 mph in his dragster to defeat Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools machine, 3.811 at 320.28. It is Brown’s second consecutive win at the NHRA Carolina Nationals, the opening event of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. In 2015, Brown went on to win the Top Fuel World Championship.
“I’m dreaming right now, someone needs to come and pinch me,” Brown said. ”When you come here, this is the way you want to start the Countdown off. Qualifying didn’t go the way we wanted it. We just kept digging. That was the key, to keep digging. The track was the hottest that we have had all year long. We knew it was going to be tricky. We navigated down it and we did what we had to do.”
Before picking up the victory over Kalitta, Brown faced down Clay Millican, Brittany Force, and Pat Dakin. Kalitta, the No. 1 qualifier, had to defeat Ike Maier, Leah Pritchett and Wayne Newby to reach the finals. Brown remains on top of the points with Kalitta in second.
Force, a 16-time world champion, powered his PEAK Antifreeze Chevy Camaro Funny Car to a 3.946 at 324.05 pass to defeat No. 1 qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr. and his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T’s 3.987 at 315.71 run for his 146th career win, third of the season and second overall at zMAX Dragway. The win propels Force into third in the points standings.
“It’s stadiums like this that really create the magic in your heart and you really want to race and we had a good day,” Force said. “I’ve got a race car now that I can race with and when you have a race car and you’re on your game, I ain’t great, but I’m good. But when I’m on my game, I can win.”
On his way to the win, Force defeated Dave Richards, Tim Wilkerson, and points leader Ron Capps. Johnson Jr. raced past Bob Gilbertson, national record holder Matt Hagan and defending champion Del Worsham before facing Force. Despite a semifinal exit, Capps maintains the points lead. Johnson Jr. is now fourth.
For Line in Pro Stock, this is his eighth win of the season. He raced his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to a winning pass of 6.621 at 209.39 to defeat Summit Racing Equipment teammate Greg Anderson and his Camaro’s losing run of 6.639 at 209.20.
“It was a great day for us,” Line said, “To be sitting here is a great feeling. It’s a great way to start the countdown. If you want to win the championship you have to come out smoking and somehow we were able to do that today.”
Line, a two-time world champion, powered past Shane Tucker, teammate Bo Butner and Vincent Nobile before defeating Anderson who picked up wins against Alan Prusiensky, Chris McGaha and Alex Laughlin in the earlier rounds. The teammates remain one and two in the points standings, respectively.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Ellis rode his PiranaZ/Pippin Motorsports Buell to a 6.879 at 194.88 to defeat points leader Andrew Hines and his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley Davidson’s 6.908 at 193.49 in the final. Ellis has seven wins in his Pro Stock Motorcycle career. His last win came in Englishtown, N.J. in 2008.
“I’m ecstatic with our performance today,” Ellis said. “I did get a couple breaks today against Angelle when her bike broke and LE had some issue or else he probably would have beat us. As a racer, some days you just have a feeling where today’s the day and today’s the day.”
In the earlier rounds, Ellis defeated Shawn Gann, LE Tonglet and No. 1 qualifier Angelle Sampey to reach the finals. Hines rode past Melissa Surber, Steve Johnson and Jim Underdahl before falling to Ellis. He maintains the points lead and Ellis jumps to the number two spot.
2nd Score for Rahaim
Michigan’s Bob Rahaim raced to his third final round and his first win of the season in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the NHRA Carolina Nationals.
This weekend’s Pro Mod racing at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. is presented by the Real Pro Mod (RPM) Association. This is the eighth of 10 Pro Mod events on the 2016 season.
Driving his nitrous-assisted C7 —Rahaim raced another nitrous-assisted C7 driver Mike Castellana in the final. He recorded the win with a pass of 6.349-seconds at 207.85 to the trailing run of 9.322 at 94.55.
Prior to that Rahaim had defeated Chip King, Kevin Rivenbark, and Danny Rowe to earn his 2nd career win and his first victory since Gainesville in 2015.
“I’m very thankful to be here. I’m proud of the whole team. This was our third final and – it’s just amazing,” said Rahaim. “The crew prepared the car flawlessly and we’re just going A to B. We’re not setting the world on fire. We’re gaining points; it’s about going rounds and here we are.”
With the win Rahaim moves from third into second in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series points behind Rickie Smith who was defeated in the second round.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Competition within the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series categories was action packed during NHRA’s Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C. as champions were crowned in Top Alcohol Dragster, Funny Car, as well as Comp Eliminator, Stock, Super Comp and the rest of the classes that encompass the nationwide series.
The audience watched the Top Alcohol Dragster final round come down to the wire. Shawn Cowie, Surrey, B.C., and Rich McPhillips, Phoenixville PA, faced off at the starting line. Cowie posted a winning pass of 5.350 seconds, 268.06 mph edging out McPhillips, who made a runner up pass of 5.401 seconds, 268.81 mph.
In the Top Alcohol Funny Car finale DJ Cox Jr., Whiteford, Md., scored a winning run of 5.539 266.53 outlasting Ulf Leanders, Viksjofors SW, who recorded a runner up pass of 5.605 264.18.
In the Comp Eliminator final round Doug Doll Jr., Lancaster Pa., ran 7.438, 155.94 soundly defeating Van Puckett, Monroe Ga., 8.641, 149.53.
Fans in attendance received a treat as home state racer, C.J. McDonald, Carthage N.C., battled through 5 grueling rounds to win the Stock Eliminator final round. McDonald ran 11.990, 94.28 as Brad Ford, Gardendale Ala., fouled at the starting line.
The other drivers visiting the winner’s circle were Peter Biondo in Super Stock; Ray Miller Jr., in Super Comp; and Jason Lynch in Super Gas.
In the Top Dragster final round presented by RacingRVs.com, Bob Mandell III, Culleoka Tenn., got off to a great start at the line as he recorded a victory pass of 6.442, 206.80, marginally defeating Jeff Strickland, Red Bay Ala. 7.194, 184.83. The Top Sportsman final round presented by RacingRVs.com featured Gerard Milette, St Etienne Des Gras PQ., outrunning Jonathan Gibbs of Mooresville N.C. Miletter posted a victory pass of 7.077, 188.36 to Gibbs’ 7.443, 185.54.
Posted with files by NHRA Communications, Keith Yazdanseta & Bruce Biegler
Photos by: Bruce Biegler, Gary Nastase and courtesy of NHRA