Scores by former NHRA World Champions were made in all contended Professional class categories during the event held east of Atlanta at Commerce GA.
In nitro, Mopar-brand racer Matt Hagan earned his first win of the season and Doug Kalitta earned his second consecutive season Top Fuel victory. Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also victorious at the seventh event of 24 on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
Hagan’s win ended his winless drought and was the 19th of his career. Driving his special “Rocky Boots” edition Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, Matt defeated teammate and fellow Dodge Charger R/T driver Jack Beckman in the all-Mopar NHRA Funny Car final round.
It was a dominant weekend for the Mopar-powered Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car squad, with Hagan, Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. combining to put three Mopar Dodge machines in the semifinals at Atlanta Dragway. Beckman claimed the pole on Saturday and all four DSR Dodge drivers qualified in the top half of the field. Hagan also reset both ends of the track record on Sunday after Beckman accomplished the feat during Friday qualifying.
“Congratulations to Matt Hagan for his first win of the year in the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T,” said Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar), FCA – Global. “Everyone at Mopar is proud to see the DSR team’s hard work and perseverance payoff with a national title at Atlanta.”
The No. 2 qualifier, Hagan began eliminations by blasting to a track-record run of 3.906 seconds (low ET) at 329.02 mph (top speed) in a defeat of Chad Head. Hagan was also quickest of the round in the quarterfinals, posting a 3.926/327.19 in a win over Del Worsham.
In the semifinals Hagan used a 3.939/325.06 (once again quickest of the session) to beat points leader Courtney Force to the stripe and set up a HEMI vs. HEMI duel with Beckman.
In the final round, Hagan’s 3.965/314.90 was more than enough as Beckman smoked the tires and tried in vain to recover, slowing to a 8.073/79.59. Hagan moved to ninth in the points, with Beckman jumping from sixth to the second spot.
“We went back to what we know,” said Hagan, who won Funny Car world championships in 2011 and 2014. “Setting low ET of every round today, I would say that (crew chief) Dickie (Venables) has a pretty good handle on it. We all knew it was just a matter of time before we figured it all out.”
Now overall points leader Doug Kalitta powered his Mac Tools dragster to a 3.801-second pass at 323.19 mph to defeat Kalitta Motorsports teammate J.R. Todd’s 3.780 at 320.66 in his SealMaster dragster on a holeshot in the final round.
That was Kalitta’s 40th career victory and third at Atlanta Dragway. Amazingly, the margin of victory between Kalitta and Todd was .0000, making it the closest Top Fuel race in NHRA history!
It was the first time since 2006 that two Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel cars decided a final. Kalitta sprinted past Terry Haddock, eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher and reigning world champ Antron Brown in the earlier rounds.
“I really didn’t think I had won,” said Kalitta, the Top Fuel points leader. “The last couple of rounds I didn’t see the win light on the wall. J.R. went blowing by me at the end there and I got around the corner and I was very relieved, to say the least. Jim (Oberhofer, crew chief) and my Mac Tools guys have been busting their butts all day long and we were hungry to do well in front of the sellout crowd here in Atlanta.”
J.R. Todd beat Kyle Wurtzel, two-time 2016 winner Brittany Force and 2013 Top Fuel world champ Shawn Langdon before racing Kalitta in the final. Todd is fifth in the Top Fuel points standings.
Brown, who won in Las Vegas, is second in points in his Matco Tools Dragster. He is followed by Force and her Monster Energy dragster in third and Steve Torrence in fourth.
In Pro Stock, event sponsor Summit Racing Equipment was very pleased with the results as their two car team of Jason Line and Greg Anderson continued their domination of the class category so far for 2016.
In the championship final, Jason Line drove his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to a 6.611 at 209.75 to beat teammate Greg Anderson on a holeshot. This is Line’s fourth victory of 2016 and 41st in his career. Line has advanced to the final round in all seven races this season. This is Line’s second consecutive win at this event and third overall. The victory extends his series points lead. As the No. 2 qualifier, Line beat John Gaydosh Jr., five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin and Allen Johnson in the earlier rounds.
“We kind of whined and complained about the rules change, but I never would’ve thought that this would be the result of that,” said Line, who has only lost to Anderson this year. “It’s a great day anytime you can win in front of your sponsor. This is a very tricky racetrack. I haven’t been on an Atlanta track like this ever. We struggled hard with it, but again, I’m a little bit in awe that I’ve been able to race in all the final rounds this year.”
Anderson raced past V. Gaines in the first round, then had a second round bye before beating Kenny Delco in the third round to meet Line in the final. Anderson is second in the points standings.
Bo Butner, teammate to Anderson and Line, is third in the points standings and is followed by Drew Skillman in fourth and Chris McGaha in fifth.
Krawiec rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.824 at 196.66 to outlast Jerry Savoie’s 6.851 at 195.79 on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final. This is Krawiec’s second victory of 2016, 33rd of his career and fourth at Atlanta Dragway. He has raced in all three Pro Stock Motorcycle event finals this season and has control of the Pro Stock Motorcycle points lead. Krawiec raced to his first career victory at the NHRA Southern Nationals in 2009.
“Atlanta has treated me well,” said Krawiec, a three-time world champ. “I got my first win here and it’s one of those things where if you just feel comfortable and you’re in a groove, you’ll have confidence. For me, I think all of that has fallen into place. The track was a little tricky for us but we were able to figure out our chassis set up and as we made more laps throughout the weekend it got better and better. It was definitely a good, exciting, fun weekend for me.”
Savoie, a Louisiana alligator farmer, beat Michael Phillips, Scotty Pollacheck and No. 1 qualifier Angelle Sampey in the earlier rounds. Savoie is fourth in the Pro Stock Motorcycle points standings.
Krawiec’s teammate and reigning world champ Andrew Hines is second in points and Hector Arana is third.
Rickie on the Rebound!
Following his very wild final round incident/close call at the previous NHRA event held in Texas, wily veteran racer Rickie Smith staged a terrific comeback at Atlanta.
Racing a much repaired Chevy Camaro, Smith raced to his second victory of the 2016 season within NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals. This weekend’s Pro Mod racing is co-presented by Pro Line Racing and FuelTech. This is the third of 10 Pro Mod events on the 2016 season.
Smith, making his third straight final round appearance of 2016, powered his late model IDG Chevy Camaro to a 5.873-second pass at 248.48 mph to defeat Kevin Fiscus’ 6.072 at 243.50 in his Your Name Here 2012 Ford Mustang.
Smith, who won at the season-opening Gatornationals and posted a runner-up finish two weeks ago in Houston, tallied his 10th career victory. As the No. 1 qualifier, Smith outlasted Gerry Capano, Doug Winters and Steve Matusek en route to the final round against Fiscus. Smith is the points leader.
Fiscus, the No. 15 qualifier, beat Troy Coughlin, Kenny Lang and former Top Fuel racer Khalid alBalooshi in the earlier rounds. Fiscus now sits seventh in the season points standings.
The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series will make its fourth appearance of the 2016 season at the NHRA Summernationals, June 9-12, at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues in Topeka, Kan., May 20-22, with the NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.
Posted with files by Darren Jacobs, NHRA Communications, Mandi Ramirez & Bruce Biegler
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
In the final results from Atlanta Dragway and the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals veteran racer Dan Fletcher led the list of sportsman winners with his first win in Super Street, and 97th event win overall. Hidalgo won in Super Stock, while Louisiana racer Richard Prince won in Top Dragster.
Ed Pauley, Shelby, N.C., faced off against the veteran multi event winner Dan Fletcher, Churchville, N.Y., in Super Street. Pauley had won this race in 2014, while Fletcher, with much more experience, 96 wins in five different classes went after his first win in Super Street. Pauley left too soon and gave Fletcher his 97th win. Fletcher now has 97 national event wins, in six different sportsman classes.
Hildalgo, Donaldsonville, La., got the holeshot on Michael Volkman, Campobello, S.C., and was able to drive down the lane in his ’99 Firebird with a 9.852 second 127.62 mph lap as Volkman ran a 10.286, 129.05. This win is Hidalgo’s first in Super Stock, adding to his two previous wins in Stock. Hidalgo missed the double up win this weekend, as he was the runner-up in Stock when he left too soon giving Wes Neely, Florence, Miss., his first national event win in his fourth final round appearance.
Prince, clocked in at 6.153 sec, 229.86 mph for the win over Jeff Strickland, Red Bay, Ala., who left early with a red-light start. This was Prince’s first national event win with his second appearance in a national event final.
Joe Tankersley had a great light, but took too much stripe and gave Billy Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, his second national event win. Tankersley, Elkton, Tenn., left first and ran 8.887 sec on the 8.90 index to Torrence’s, 8.923 sec, at 189.10 mph winning pass.
Ray Miller III, Spring City, Tenn., met up with Rusty Cook, Cynthiana, Ky., in the Super Gas final that was over at the start. Cook was too quick on the tree and turned the lights red. Miller captured his second win of the year, and his fifth national event Wally trophy, with this one being his second in Super Gas. Miller has won three times at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.
In Top Sportsman, Robert Irby, Collier, Tenn., had a small advantage at the line and held off Todd Ewing, Vinemont, Ala., for his second national event win. Irby went 7.113 seconds at 189.02 mph in his ’04 Corvette to Todd Ewing’s runner up pass of 6.759 sec., 192.91 mph in a ‘00 Camaro.
All photos by Bruce Biegler & Steve Embling