NHRA’s annual touchdown deep within the American heartland was a true “speed fest” with national record setting implications….
Mopar-brand star driver Matt Hagan won the fuel Funny Car division in very convincing style winning the 28th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals; wire-to-wire.
For the second consecutive race, Matt Hagan steered his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to victory in an all-Mopar final round, capping off a dream weekend with a win. Hagan also used Mopar HEMI® power to claim the No. 1 qualifier spot and set NHRA national records for time and speed at the event.
The victory was the second of the season for Hagan and 20th of his career, and the third win of 2016 for a Mopar-powered Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver. Hagan outraced DSR Mopar Dodge teammate Jack Beckman in the final for the second event in a row, and also jumped from ninth to fourth in the point standings with his first triumph at the Heartland Park Topeka venue.
“Everyone at Mopar is excited to see Matt Hagan collect his second victory of the season at Topeka,” said Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar), FCA – Global. “With back-to-back wins at the last two events, it’s clear that Matt and his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T team are rounding into championship form.”
Hagan set Funny Car national records for time and speed with a pass of 3.862 seconds at 335.57 mph during Friday qualifying to claim the No. 1 spot heading into eliminations. He opened Sunday with a 3.943/325.69 run to send home Brian Stewart, then came out on top of a close drag race with Robert Hight in round two, recording a winning 3.942/323.81 to Hight’s 3.963/325.37.
In the semis, Hagan won easily with a 3.951/324.05 pass after Courtney Force smoked the tires, setting up a rematch of the NHRA Atlanta event final against teammate Beckman, who took out Dale Creasy, DSR Make-A-Wish Dodge pilot Tommy Johnson Jr. and Tim Wilkerson to advance to his second straight money round of the season.
Heading into the final, Beckman was seven-for-seven in sub-four second passes at Topeka, with Hagan recording six runs below the four-second mark, but ironically the biggest battle boiled down to a pedal fest. Beckman smoked the tires virtually off the start, but Hagan also encountered trouble, flirting with the center line as his Mopar Express Lane machine lost traction and fishtailed. Hagan was able to get the car in and out of the throttle enough for a victorious 5.724/179.04 to hold off Beckman’s 6.560/146.75.
“I’m just tickled about the job (crew chief) Dickie Venables and all our Mopar/Rocky guys are doing,” said Hagan, who won Funny Car world championships in 2011 and 2014 with Mopar power. “When you have a fast racecar like we did it’s hard to pull it back when the sun comes out. I didn’t expect to have to pedal the racecar like I had to. It caught me off guard. We set world records for E.T. and speed and to come out here and win goes to show how hard my guys have been working.”
With his second final round of the season, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T driver Beckman closed to within 12 markers of current Funny Car points leader Courtney Force. “We have a car that made seven 3-second runs consecutively. Nobody has ever done that,” said Beckman. “We had every reason to think going up there for the final that we’d get our eighth with a good shot to get the trophy. We really feel like we have something to prove when we get to Epping (the next event).”
Also collecting wins at the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro level were Doug Kalitta in Top Fuel and Jason Line in Pro Stock.
Doug Kalitta raced to his third consecutive Top Fuel victory and had to navigate Heartland Park Topeka’s dragstrip in an ill-handling racecar to turn on the win light in the final round at the NHRA Kansas Nationals.
Kalitta’s Mac Tools dragster lost traction at the hit of the throttle and got sideways two times as he worked the steering wheel to cross the finish line in front of fellow finalist and rival Antron Brown.
“It’s one of those deals you take what you can get as quick as you can do it,” said Kalitta, who extended his series points lead to 95 over second-place Brown with the victory. “I don’t think my car ever hooked up. It was exciting. These wins don’t come easy, that’s for sure. I am just real happy to do it here at Topeka.”
It was Kalitta’s second win at Topeka and 41st victory of his career. Kalitta finished with a performance of 5.452 seconds at 238.85 mph, while Brown’s Matco Tools dragster also lost traction and posted a 5.687 at 298.60.
Kalitta said he’s had a few of those kinds of races in his career, which drivers refer to as “pedalfests,” and as a former USAC sprint car champion, he’s always up for the challenge.
“It’s a seat of your pants kind of deal and you try to stay off the centerline and not hit the wall,” Kalitta said. “I think I had it more sideways than I’ve ever had a Top Fuel car before. It finally straightened out and we were fortunate to get the win.”
Kalitta defeated Rob Passey, Clay Millican and Steve Torrence in earlier rounds to advance to the final. It was the ninth Top Fuel victory for the Kalitta Motorsports team at Topeka, including six for the late Scott Kalitta and one for Hillary Will. It is the first time in his career that Kalitta has earned three consecutive victories.
“I am definitely pretty proud of my guys and the opportunity I have got here with Connie (Kalitta, team owner),” Kalitta said. “We’ve got momentum. We want to just keep doing what we’re doing and hope it lasts as long as it can go. This is a really good car, and a really good team.”
In Pro Stock, Line captured his fifth win of the season in his eighth consecutive final round appearance, outrunning teammate Greg Anderson in the final round. Line finished in 6.664 at 207.85 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro, while Anderson’s Summit Racing Camaro trailed with a 6.687 at 207.02. It was Line’s first Topeka victory and the 42nd win of his career.
“It was the perfect weekend,” said Line, who outran Mark Hogan, defending world champ Erica Enders and Shane Gray to advance to the final from the No. 1 qualifying spot. “It was an exciting weekend for me and we didn’t mess it up. It’s a big deal to me. It’s nice to win at someplace you’ve never done well. I really can’t stop smiling right now. There were times I had good cars here but didn’t drive well. This weekend everything came together.”
Posted with files by Darren Jacobs, NHRA Communications and Bruce Biegler
Photos by Gary Nastase and Courtesy of NHRA
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Reigning NHRA Lucas Oil Top Alcohol Dragster World Champion and defending event champion Joey Severance gave a repeat performance picking up the win at the NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka. Jeff Jones grabbed his first NHRA national event win in just his second national event appearance in the Top Alcohol Funny Car class and Justin Jenkins joined Severance in defending his event title from a year ago.
Severance out of Woodburn, Ore., took out Megan Meyer who advanced to her third final round in just four events. Meyer, Spring Hill, Kan., was out first but Severance ran her down with a 5.327 second pass at 270.27 mph for his 12th career national event win. The second generation driver Meyer, clocked in at 5.445, 263.20.
Jones, Weatherford, Texas, won on a hole shot to become the 105th different winner in the Top Alcohol Funny Car class. Jones was out first by .14-seconds and held on with a lap of 5.676 at 258.32 to the quicker Clint Thompson, Kamath Falls, Ore., with a 5.576, 260.86.
In Super Stock it was Jenkins, Beatrice, Neb., extending his winning ways at Heartland Park as he outlasted the field and took out Mike Cotton, Cave Creek, Ariz. Jenkins went 9.755, 130.52 in his ’10 Cobalt to Cotton’s 10.146, 126.15 in his ’70 Barracuda. The win was Jenkins third.
Three racers joined Jones with their first wins, all coming in their first final round appearance as Trista Fenner won in Stock, Bruce Johnson in Super Gas and Scott Javers in Top Sportsman presented by RacingRV’s.com. Brenda Grubbs was out first on Fenner, Kansas City, Kan., but Fenner was better at the stripe to take the win. Johnson and Javers won by just inches as Jordan, Minn., racer Johnson ran down Duane Kohl to win by seven inches and Javers, Tea, S.D., posted a 6.815 second, 204.23 mph run to down Curt Harshfield running 7.017, 188.81 mph.
Austin Williams rounded out the winners scoring his fourth win in a row at the Kansas Nationals taking home the Super Comp trophy after knocking out Mike Green with a perfect .000-second reaction time for this ninth national event win. The former Lucas Oil Stock World Champion has won in Stock the last three year then won in Super Comp this year.
Posted by Eric Lotz