Defending NHRA Mello Yello World Champion Erica Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team scored another dominant victory at NHRA’s event last weekend…..
Driving a recently debuted all new race car, Erica capped off a perfect weekend when she defeated Greg Anderson in the all Chevy Camaro final round.
Enders was the quickest in all three qualifying sessions — the fourth was rained out — won the No. 1 qualifier and was quickest in all four rounds of eliminations to score her third victory of the season and take over the Pro Stock points lead.
“The last time we did this was Norwalk (Ohio) last year: We qualified on the pole and were low e.t. every round of qualifying and every round of eliminations,” Enders said. “It’s definitely a feat, especially in Pro Stock, as competitive as it is. Hat’s off to my guys; they are absolutely incredible.
“It speaks volumes of what they’re capable of when they’re given the tools that they need, and that’s what (team owner) Richard Freeman has provided them. I’m just really proud.”
Enders won for the first time in a new R&J Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro after the Elite team parked the championship-winning car of 2014.
“To be honest, I didn’t want to let go of the car I drove last year because we had such an awesome relationship,” Enders said. “We had a lot of success together. We’ve had 29 runs on this car, and it’s still very new and we’re still learning all about her. Rick and Rickie Jones built it and it’s a tremendous masterpiece, and we’re just going to get better and better.”
Enders started the day against No. 16 qualifier Mark Hogan, but her pass of 6.579 seconds at 209.10 mph was low of the round and beat his 6.855-second run at 201.58 mph. She then faced off against noted starting-line ace Jonathan Gray, who left with a .005-second reaction time, but Enders had a .013 light and then blew past Gray with a run of 6.586 at 208.78 mph, beating his 6.607 at 208.68 mph.
Larry Morgan then had a brilliant .007 light in the semi’s, but Enders ran him down with a 6.579-second pass at 208.94 mph to beat his run of 6.609 seconds at 208.68 mph.
“I missed the Tree a little bit against Larry Morgan,” said Enders, whose reaction time was .030. “I knew I was late and was looking over to see where he was. It was only a seven-thousandths margin of victory, so I guess if we had a lucky round, that was it, for sure.”
Then came rival Anderson, who had beaten Enders in the semifinals at Atlanta Dragway last weekend. This time, though, Enders ripped off a .009-second reaction time to Anderson’s .020 and then made a pass of 6.584 seconds at 209.33 mph to beat his 6.591-second run at 209.14 mph.
“He congratulated me down there,” Enders said. “He doesn’t like to lose to anybody; he’s got a very competitive spirit. We all do in Pro Stock. But everything’s cool, and I’m proud that we got the win. He got us (in Atlanta) and he outran us, so I was happy to pay him back just a little bit, but all in good fun.”
Enders now has a 59-point lead over Jason Line, who lost in the first round, after eight of 24 races.
Also winning professional categories at Heartland Park Topeka was Jack Beckman (in fuel Funny Car) and transplanted Australia racer Richie Crampton (in Top Fuel).
Jack Beckman finished off a record-setting weekend of racing at Heartland Park Topeka Sunday by claiming a victory over category icon John Force at the NHRA Kansas Nationals.
Beckman used a pair of 3.9-second runs to outrun Courtney Force and John Hale in earlier rounds and then beat Del Worsham in a close semifinal before speeding to another three-second run to oust the 16-time world champ in the final round. Prior to that, Beckman clocked three-second runs in two of the three rounds of qualifying on Friday and Saturday.
Just how quick were the Funny Cars at Topeka? There were 19 three-second runs in the entire 2014 season and just this weekend there were a total of 15. Beckman accounted for five of those.
“We had an outstanding week of racing,” said Beckman, who set the record for the most three-second Funny Car runs by a driver in a race weekend. “That’s a function of the (crew chief) Jimmy Prock tune-up, (the car) is so much fun to drive.”
In the final, Beckman held off Force with a 3.984 second run at 316.45 mph in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger, while Force trailed with a 4.002 at 324.51 in his PEAK Antifreeze Chevy Camaro. It was Beckman’s second win of the season, 17th of his career and second at HPT.
“I have all the respect in the world for John Force,” Beckman said. “It makes a difference when you race him. You’re getting a chance to play against Babe Ruth. It’s so unique in our sport, that a guy [who is] the best there has ever been in this sport, can still mix it up with us. I’ve said this before, I can’t wait to tell my grandkids I got to compete against John Force. This trophy will be extra special because it was John Force we beat in the final.”
Beckman credited NHRA’s Safety Safari for their outstanding work all weekend to keep the track race-ready throughout numerous weather delays.
“It was an odd deal, as I’ve had very few weekends like this,” said Beckman, who moved to third in the points standings, “where there are so many weather delays and you still get the entire event done on Sunday.”
A pair of Beckman teammates are still first and second in points as Ron Capps holds the series lead and defending world champ Matt Hagan is second.
In Top Fuel, Crampton drove his Lucas Oil Racing dragster to his second Top Fuel victory of the season with a 3.738 at 318.09 to hold off Larry Dixon, who trailed with a 3.787 at 308.28 in his C&J Energy Services dragster. It was Crampton’s fourth career victory and first ever at Topeka.
“It’s huge to get two wins so early in this sophomore season; it’s surreal,” said Crampton, who also won in Las Vegas in April. “Being undefeated in finals is pretty special. It says a lot about crew chief Aaron Brooks and the team. I am glad this event went ahead and I am glad we were able to put our Lucas Oil dragster in the winner’s circle.”
Crampton defeated Kyle Wurtzel, Spencer Massey and Brittany Force in the first three rounds before holding off a surging Larry Dixon in the final. It was Dixon’s second final round appearance of the season.
“I’m on top of the moon right now,” Crampton said. “There were great conditions, good enough to try to set national records. Hats off to everyone who made this happen and the Safety Safari that did a fantastic job once again. I can’t believe how many fans hung tough through this bad weather we had and enjoyed the racing with us.”
Antron Brown, who lost in the second round to Dixon, remained in the series lead, 53 ahead of defending world champ Tony Schumacher. Crampton moved into third place with the win, and trails Brown by 81.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Joey Severance and Brian Hough raced to the wins this weekend at Heartland Park Topeka and the NHRA Kansas Nationals.
Severance grabbed his eighth NHRA national event win beating out Dean Dubbin who came out of the No. 14 qualifying position to advance to his first ever national event final round. Severance, Woodburn, Ore., qualified number one and ran 5.30’s and 5.40’s on his way to the title. Dubbin upset the number two and three qualifiers in Randy Meyer and Chris Demke, and was out first on Severance in the final but Severance had too much car for the Royalton, Minn., racer as Severance blew by with a 5.334 second lap at 269.35 mph to Dubbin’s 5.578, 252.57.
In a classic 1 vs. 2 battle, Hough met up with No. 1 qualifier Doug Gordon in a close 5.531 to a 5.563 with Hough coming out on top. Hough, Junction City, Ore., ran his event best 5.056 in qualifying and kept it in the 5.50’s throughout eliminations to take home his eighth national event NHRA Wally trophy. Hough beat Nick Januik and Charles McLaws in early rounds while Gordon, Paso Robles ended Kirk Williams and Shane Westerfield’s days in round two and three.
The Harley-Davidson Drag Racing Series was also in action this weekend with the Top Fuel Harley class as Tommy Grimes added to his trophy collection knocking out Rickey House in the final round. Grimes clocked in at 6.265, 230.57 for the quickest and fastest pass of the weekend to House’s 6.597, 211.00. Grimes took out Len Darnell, who has a pair of wins this year, in the semifinals
A pair of home state racers took home the hardware including local runner Paul Winkelbauer of Topeka, Kan., who beat out Greg Parson, Whitehouse, Texas, in Super Street. Winkelbauer went 10.916, 124.50 to Parson’s 10.909 at 140.07. Wellsville, Kan., racer Matt Driskell won over Ronald Gibson, Norman, Oak., in Top Dragster with a lap of 6.721, 189.12 to Gibson’s loosing 6.952, 193.68.
In Comp Eliminator it was Lou Ficco taking the win and Peter Peery defeated Dan Fletcher in Super Stock. Ficco, Wheat Ridge, Colo., drove his ’09 GXP to a lap of 7.260, 287.63 to out run Doug Engels’ 7.225, 181.52. Peery, Bowie, Texas, clocked in at 9.936, 131.32 to Fletcher’s 10.767, 116.14.
Other winners visiting the winner’s circle were Austin Williams, Burleson, Texas, beating Darrel Goheen, Hays Kan., in Stock; Tommy Phillips, Forney, Texas, downing Steve Collier in Super Comp; Rustin Mayse, Grandview, Texas, knocking out Craig Anderson in Super Gas; and Larry Larson, Oak Grove, Mo., over Sean Dodd in Top Sportsman.
Posted with files by: Rob Geiger, NHRA Communications & Eric Lotz