Championship Lead Extensions at NHRA Reading
Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon and Funny Car’s John Force both extended their points leads and edged closer to potential NHRA world championship titles by racing to victories at the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania…….
Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the fourth of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Langdon powered his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to a run of 3.779 seconds at 323.81 mph to beat defending world champion Antron Brown in the final round and close in on his first career world championship. Langdon earned his class-best sixth win of the season and seventh of his career by topping Brown and his Matco Tools dragster, which went 3.806 at 322.04 in Brown’s second straight final round appearance.
“We have a good grasp on things, but there’s two races left and anything can happen,” Langdon said. “The competition level is so tough right now so you can’t take anything for granted.”
Langdon, who qualified No. 2 and won for the first time at Maple Grove Raceway, beat Leah Pruett in an entertaining peddle-fest, Bob Vandergriff and Doug Kalitta to reach the final round and extend his Top Fuel lead to 83 points over Kalitta with two races remaining. Langdon went 3.794 at 324.67 to beat Kalitta’s 3.827 at 324.90 in a thrilling side-by-side semifinal matchup. Spencer Massey trails Langdon by 86 points in third.
“We had a little bit of luck and you need that on Sundays,” Langdon said, referencing his first round win against Pruett. “Going into the semifinals, that was a huge pressure situation. As a driver, I’m just trying to calm myself down. This Al-Anabi team knows how to win championships and I’m just trying to do the best I can. My mentality is just don’t mess anything up.”
In Funny Car, Force claimed his second straight win and extended the points lead he gained in Saturday qualifying by beating rookie Chad Head in the final round, going 4.106 at 313.37 in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. The victory gives Force, a 15-time world champion, a 65-point lead over Matt Hagan, and is his third this season and 137th in his career. Head appeared in his second career final round in his Head Racing Toyota Camry. The victory also gave Force seven victories at Maple Grove Raceway, the most for any NHRA competitor.
“You give credit where it’s due, and (crew chief) Jimmy Prock and this team is just great,” Force said. “What I look at as most exciting is the teamwork with this group. To get this win meant a lot to me, but they all mean a lot. I’ve got a good hot rod right now.”
Force beat Countdown contenders Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon, as well as Jeff Arend to move to the championship round, going as quick as 4.061 at 317.12 on Sunday. Hagan fell in the second round to Capps and will have to make up ground at the next two events to catch the red-hot Force.
“What we have right now is consistency,” Force said. “We had to beat good competition (Sunday). We stayed with our strategy and stayed with what we knew we could do.”
There was yet another dramatic finish in an all-Mopar final elimination Pro Stock showdown at the 29th annual Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals. That gave Jeg Coughlin Jr. the lead in the NHRA “Countdown to the Championship” with a title win over teammate Allen Johnson earned by just one-thousandths of a second on a holeshot : 6.616 secs 208.75 mph to 6.588 secs at 209.39 mph. The Jegs.com Mopar Dodge Avenger driver scored his second win of the six-event playoff series, the fourth of the NHRA Mello Yello series season and the 56th national title of his career.
“To come out with the points lead certainly feels fantastic, but we’ve got a lot of racing left,” said Coughlin who took over the top spot with two nationals events remaining. “We’d love to say this thing is all but over, but there’s a lot of racing left and we’re looking forward to it. To get that win in such a huge final round, that was big for us.
To advance to the final, Coughlin defeated Larry Morgan, Shane Gray and Jason Line, and with his title win relegated the previous leader, Mike Edwards, to second place with a 45 point deficit.
“Everyone at Mopar is excited to see Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) earn his second win of the playoffs and the lead in the Countdown,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “All season long there has been a lot of hard work and effort to get the HEMI-powered Dodge entries in position to defend Mopar’s Pro Stock championship. It’s great to see Mopar performance rewarded with our two drivers battling it out in a final elimination and now have an advantage in points with just two race events left.”
Coughlin had an impressive 0.004 second reaction time against Johnson’s 0.033 seconds to beat the defending Pro Stock champ at the line by 0.0017 seconds.
“I saw my win light come on and that’s when the celebration began,” said Coughlin. “The J&J team did a heck of a job to get both our cars in the finals.”
“It was a great match up and I had to dig deep but didn’t quite get it done and I’m disappointed with myself,” said Johnson who defeated Greg Stanfield, Erica Enders-Stevens and Greg Anderson on the way to facing his Mopar teammate. “We had a great car all weekend and I’m very proud of the job the Mopar Express Lane crew did with the car and engine. We’ll have our work cut out for us to try to catch and beat Jeg [Coughlin Jr.] but we’re going to give it all we’ve got.
Johnson posted an elapsed time of 6.588 seconds at 209.39 mph in his runner-up finish to Coughlin’s 6.616 second at 208.75 mph pass. It was the third time this season that the two had met in a final elimination, with this edition serving as the tiebreaker in Coughlin’s favor. Despite the loss, Johnson gained two positions in the standings this weekend, moving from sixth to fourth and is 73 points behind the new points leader. Heading into the final two events, he knows that the two Mopar entries won’t be doing anything different than they have all year long even if they find themselves battling once again on track or for the championship.
“I’m very proud of this whole team because we worked together as a team, put a HEMI in the winner’s circle and into the points lead and we’re going to keep going after it.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, points leader Matt Smith zoned in on his second world championship by beating defending world champion Eddie Krawiec in the final round. Smith rode his Viper Motorcycle Company Racing Buell to a winning performance of 6.936 at 193.32 to earn his second straight victory, third this season and 16th in his career. Krawiec went 6.965 at 190.43 in the final round on his Vance & Hines Screamin-Eagle Harley Davidson in his second final round appearance during the Countdown.
“I can’t say enough about our crew,” Smith said. “We hurt our good motor (Saturday), but things worked out for us. All in all, we beat big competitors in the semifinals and finals, extended our points lead and I’m really happy right now.”
Smith’s second career win at Maple Grove Raceway pushed his lead to 125 points against Hector Arana Jr. The King, N.C. native, who won his first world championship in 2007, beat Michael Ray, John Hall and Chaz Kenney to reach the final round.
“This thing’s not over yet,” Smith said. “I’m still looking at every round as just 20 points. But we’ll be strong, I guarantee you, in Vegas.”
Event Essentials: NHRA Uni-Select Auto Plus Nationals (Oct. 3-6th, 2013) Reading PA.
|TOP FUEL||Name||ET||MPH||Career Win|
|Low ET:||Tony Schumacher||3.767|
|Top Speed:||Doug Kalitta||326.63|
|FUNNY CAR||Name||ET||MPH||Career Win|
|Low ET:||John Force||3.987|
|Top Speed:||John Force||323.50|
|PRO STOCK||Name||ET||MPH||Career Win|
|Low ET:||Jason Line||6.573|
|Top Speed:||Jason Line||210.87|
|PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE||Name||ET||MPH||Career Win|
|Low ET:||Michael Ray||6.857|
|Top Speed:||Hector Arana||195.19|
|Bump Spot:||N/A*||*15 Bikes|
|LUCAS OIL Winners:||Name||ET||MPH|
|Super Stock||Dan Fletcher||10.57||112.20|
|Super Comp||Patrick Myers||8.908||169.38|
|Super Gas||Charlie Kenopic||9.926||144.94|
First Time Winners Highlight Lucas Oil Sportsman Racing!
Robin Samsel and Paul Noakes each earned their first NHRA National event wins at the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway for the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Qualified No. 3, Samsel ran 5.40’s in the first three rounds of eliminations to advance to his first ever NHRA national event final round. The Marion, Ind., racer went 5.470 and 5.449 in rounds one and two against Doug Foley and Richard Bourke then knocked out Rich McPhillips with a 5.499 in his semifinal match up. Samsel took the early lead over Brandon Booher in the final which proved to be the difference as he crossed the finish line ahead of Booher at 5.568 seconds, 248.25 mph to Booher’s 5.512, 258.71.
Noakes also took the win on a hole shot as his 5.612 second final round pass at 258.12 beat Mickey Ferro’s quicker 5.599 at 258.52 mph. Noakes qualified No. 2 and took out Todd Veney, Fred Tigges and John Fiorini on his way to this, his second final round of his career. He lost to Frank Manzo in the final here at Maple Grove last year.
Dan Fletcher took home his 86th national event win while Sal Biondo bagged his 17th win but his first in Stock Eliminator. The win was Fletcher’s 45th in Super Stock running 10.575, 112.20 in his ’69 Camaro in defeating Tom Sheehan who left early with a foul start. Biondo ended his slump in Stock Eliminator having settled for 15 runner-up finishes before sealing the deal against Don Pires Jr. in his ’10 Cobra Jet Mustang at 9.839 seconds, 123.94 mph to Pires’ 11.607, 99.36 mph.]
Patrick Myers, Dover, Pa., and Charlie Kenopic, Renfrew, Ont., each scored their first NHRA national event win in Super Comp and Super Gas respectively. Myers, in his first final round ever, had to run down New Jersey racer Tom Stalba with an 8.908 second lap at 169.38 mph. Stalba had the early lead but could not hold on running 8.935, 167.57. This was Kenopic’s second final round as he earned the win in 9.926 mph over Iggie Boicesco, 9.954, 163.26.\
In Comp eliminator it was Russell Joly who took home the trophy for the second time in his career running 7.407 at 165.66 mph. He defeated Calvin Hill who broke and could not stage the car for the final round.
Posted with files from NHRA Communications, Pat Caporali & Eric Lotz
Photos by: Bruce Biegler, Dave DeAngelis & Steve Embling
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