JFR team member Robert Hight delivered a very timely FC victory during yesterday’s NHRA Lucas Oil Nationals….
Hight earned his first win of the season during the weather plagued but extremely speedy NHRA race held in Minnesota, an event which included numerous new NHRA national speed records!
Australian import Top Fuel racer Richie Crampton, Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners of the penultimate regular season race in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
When it came to crunch time Robert Hight and the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team did not get over-confident or complacent at the 34th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. As the No. 6 qualifier Hight had to work his way through a tough trio of drivers to reach his 54th career final round against Tommy Johnson Jr. From the second round to the winner’s circle Hight drove his Chevy Funny Car quicker and faster than he had in his career and he got the win with a solid 3.956 seconds in front of Johnson Jr’s 4.130 second run.
“We had a really good Chevrolet Camaro. It was running good and we were running a little quicker than Tommy Johnson Jr. I felt good but when you have these kinds of conditions you just never know what you are going to get. This Auto Club Chevy was a handful to drive today. We changed a bunch of things on the car and it is carrying the front end. I am not going to get cocky. The DSR cars have been dominant and really good. I would say we closed the gap this weekend but we have a lot of work to do,” said Hight, after picking up his first win at Brainerd International Raceway in eleven tries.
The win was Hight’s first of 2015 in his second final round appearance and it came on the final day he could clinch a guaranteed spot in the lucrative Traxxas Nitro Shootout. Hight will join teammate John Force as the second Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car driver in the current seven car field. The eighth spot is open to a fan vote and lottery selection.
“Brainerd has been a horrible race for me; the worst one on tour. To finally get a win here will give me a little confidence coming back here next year. Bristol was a killer for me too for a while. We got in the Traxxas Shootout with that win which is big. To have my name mentioned with Don Prudhomme and Cruz Pedregon that is impressive,” said the 35-time tour winner.
Hight moved into a three-way tie for fourth all-time in Funny Car wins with Don Prudhomme and Cruz Pedregon. The win was also the 240th Funny Car win for John Force Racing.
In the first round Hight had to pedal his Chevy Funny Car to get around veteran driver Ron Capps. Hight took the win 4.172 seconds to 4.373 seconds. It was Hight’s slowest elapsed time of the day.
Over the course of the next two rounds Hight lowered his career best time from 3.974 seconds to 3.935 seconds in his second round win over Brian Stewart to 3.928 seconds in his semi-final win over Tim Wilkerson. Hight also ran his fastest speed ever in competition in the second round, 325.69 mph. With all the performance milestones it was receiving the trophy from Charlotte Lucas at the top end that stuck with Hight.
“It was huge. They are a great family and they have put some much into this sport. Look at all these sportsman cars. They are the reason that class is out there. To be affiliated with Lucas Oil is great and we put the big Slick Mist decals on our race cars this weekend and it is just great to have them as a partner,” said Hight. “It was cool to double up with Richie another Lucas Oil Car even though he beat that Monster Top Fueler. He is a great champion.”
Hight moved up from 9th place in the Mello Yello point standings to a solid 8th place and the 2009 Funny Car champion is only seven points out of 7th place. Most importantly Hight is 152 points away from the 11th spot heading into the final regular season race.
NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car teams took advantage of the cool overcast weather conditions at Brainerd International Raceway to reset all four national records in those categories. Among the records, Antron Brown set the Top Fuel elapsed time record at 3.680 seconds and Jack Beckman set the Funny Car mark at 3.901 seconds. National speed records were set by Spencer Massey (332.75 mph) and Matt Hagan (329.58). Hagan also recorded the quickest Funny Car time in history at 3.879 seconds, and Shawn Langdon posted the quickest Top Fuel time with his 3.664-second effort, but neither driver was able to certify those times as national records per NHRA rules.
But it was the consistent performance of Crampton’s Aaron Brooks-tuned Lucas Oil dragster that took the event victory in Top Fuel when he held off Brittany Force in the final round. Crampton crossed the finish line first with a career-best time of 3.695 seconds at 325.30 mph to deny Force her first career victory, as her Monster Energy dragster trailed with a 3.771 at 293.79.
“This race is going to go down in the history books,” Crampton said. “It was just some amazing racing today and there were some super-fast racecars out there. I keep forgetting that I ran a (3.69) in the final, because winning the event is so important. You want to carry momentum into the Countdown. The last two rounds today showed what kind of racecar we have and we are right where we need to be for Indy and for the Countdown.”
Crampton, who defeated teammate Morgan Lucas, Larry Dixon and Langdon en route to the final round, moved to third in the points standings with his sixth career victory. Tony Schumacher remains in the series lead, 53 points ahead of Brown, who earned a 20-point bonus for setting the elapsed time record.
“Winning the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals when you drive the Lucas Oil car is exactly what you want to do,” Crampton said. “I just wanted to do that so badly for [team owners] Forrest and Charlotte [Lucas]. There is nothing cooler than getting the Wally from Charlotte at the end of the racetrack.”
Enders moved back into the series points lead in Pro Stock by claiming her fifth victory of the season and 17th of her career. She used a quicker reaction time and a final round performance of 6.552 at 210.34 in her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro to take the win over rival and local favorite Jason Line, who posted a quicker, but losing 6.541 at 211.06 in his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro.
Enders outran Mark Hogan, Bo Butner and red-hot Chris McGaha, who had won the last two races, to advance to the final round. She now holds a 16-point lead over four-time world champ Greg Anderson heading into the final race of the regular season.
“This is a really crucial time in our season, especially heading into Indy (in two weeks), where it’s worth points and a half, so it’s a great time to get that momentum to swing back to our side of the fence, and I’m so proud of my team,” Enders said. “It’s an amazing win for my group. It’s really exciting for me because it’s hard not to get frustrated collectively as a group when things aren’t going your way, but that’s what makes our team work so great. We don’t allow ourselves to get down in the dumps and just dig deep and play with all our heart.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Krawiec took his third consecutive victory of the season by racing past teammate Andrew Hines in an all-Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson final round. Krawiec finished in 6.844 at 194.30 to take his 30th career victory and second at BIR, while Hines clocked a 6.894 at 190.06 in the runner-up effort.
“I have a great motorcycle under me,” said Krawiec, who beat a murder’s row of past world champions in Hector Arana, LE Tonglet and Matt Smith to advance to the final round.
“We’ve just lacked consistency,” Krawiec continued. “I’d say since Denver we’ve really gotten into the groove and figured out what the motorcycle wanted. I’ve been fortunate enough to go to three final rounds and win all three and also win the NHRA Pro Bike Battle in Sonoma, so I’m on a pretty good roll. Hopefully it’s not too early because after Indy is when you really want to get on a roll like this, but hopefully I can continue it all the way through to the end of Pomona.”
With the win, Krawiec increased his series lead to 166 over Hector Arana Jr.
A bunch of drivers secured berths into the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship at this event, including Crampton and Larry Dixon in Top Fuel; Johnson Jr., John Force, Del Worsham and Ron Capps in Funny Car; Allen Johnson, Larry Morgan, Shane Gray and Jonathan Gray in Pro Stock; and Krawiec, Arana Jr. and Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown (Final round results):
In Top Alcohol action, Mark Taliaferro upset heavily favored Joey Severance for his second win in five final round appearances, in Top Alcohol Dragster. Chris Foster rode a string of 5.50s to his first national event win this year in Top Alcohol Funny Car.
In the Top Alcohol Dragster final, reaction times within .003 seconds led to a great race with Taliaferro of Odessa, Texas, trailing Joey Severance of Woodburn, Ore., for the first half of the race. Taliaferro gained speed and stuck his nose out front and kept it there for the win. Both racers ran almost identical times Taliaferro, 5.292 seconds at 270.64 mph, and Severance, 5.304 seconds at 274.00 mph which made for a margin of victory of 0.0155 seconds, approximately 6 feet.
In Top Alcohol Funny Car, Foster, Davenport, Iowa, won thanks to an advantage at the starting line and pulled farther ahead down the lane to his second-ever national event win, in his fourth career final round appearance. Foster faced off against Jay Payne, Claremont, Calif., and posted a winning run of 5.686 seconds, 259.11 mph in his ’15 Mustang. Payne drove to a 5.694 second, 260.16 mph lap for his runner up finish.
Gene Mosbek, Elk River, Minn., took the stripe by 0.0230 seconds (approximately 5 feet) in a double breakout defeating Curtis Hieb, Chamberlain, S.D. This was Mosbek’s 5th career Wally trophy, first in Super Stock to go along with four previous wins in Stock. Mosbek’s last wins in Minnesota were in 1983 and 1985 in Stock.
Other racers visiting the winner’s circle this weekend were Randi Lyn Shipp, Floyd Knobs, Ind., in Stock Eliminator; Luke Bogacki held a starting line advantage for his 9th National event win, his 5th win in Super Comp; and Brian Folk, Durand, IL took his 11th National event trophy and 7th in Super Gas.
The following are the final results from the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway:
TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER
Mark Taliaferro, 5.292, 270.64 def. Joey Severance, 5.304, 274.00.
TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR
Chris Foster, Ford Mustang, 5.686, 259.11 def. Jay Payne, Chevy Camaro, 5.694, 260.16.
Gene Mosbek, Plymouth Savoy, 10.239, 128.08 def. Curtis Hieb, Ford Mustang, 9.947, 134.74.
Randi Lyn Shipp, Pontiac Firebird, 10.568, 124.69 def. Jeff Adkinson, Chevy Camaro, foul.
Luke Bogacki, Dragster, 8.929, 165.64 def. Gary Stinnett, Dragster, 8.930, 186.79.
Brian Folk, Chevy Camaro, 9.865, 151.32 def. Russ Ginger, Dodge Aspen, 9.821, 163.06.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
Glenn Hall, Arctic Cat, 8.165, 158.86 def. Scott Hagen, Ski Doo, 8.439, 148.74.
Posted with files from Elon Werner, NHRA Communications, Mandi Ramirez and Bruce Biegler
All photos by: Jim Kampmann