Mello Yello Playoffs Heated after St. Louis
Antron Brown continued his Top Fuel dominance at Gateway Motorsports Park and Courtney Force raced to her second consecutive Funny Car victory in the 3rd round of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs – the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals….
Dave Connolly won again in Pro Stock while Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) and Mike Knowles (Pro Mod) produced first time national event victories.
Force outran championship rival Matt Hagan in the final round to move to within 30 points of the series leader, her dad, 16-time world champ John Force.
She raced past her father in the semifinals and then used a performance of 4.094 seconds at 313.44 mph in her Traxxas Ford Mustang to hold off 2011 world champ Hagan’s Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger, which trailed with a 4.121 at 309.77.
“It’s pretty awesome, for sure,” said Force who became the first woman in NHRA history to win back-to-back races in Funny Car.
“I’m proud of my guys for giving me a great race car,” she continued. “We got things turned around at the right time. Right here at the start of the Countdown to the Championship is when we need to have a consistent race car, and I think that’s what we’ve got so far. To have back-to-back wins and make a move in the Countdown is just huge for us. We need to create a gap between us and everyone behind us and climb our way up to catch dad if we want to win this championship. That’s what we have our eyes set on right now.”
Courtney also defeated Bob Tasca and Del Worsham in earlier rounds. It was her fourth victory of the season and seventh win of her career. It is the first time that a father and daughter have held the top two spots in the points standings.
“Everyone is so tough in this class that I’m definitely going to savor this moment with dad and I at Nos. 1 and 2,” Force said.
Hagan moved to third in the points order with his second Countdown final round appearance. He sits 42 points back of the leader.
In Top Fuel, Brown put his team back in the championship conversation by racing past defending world champ Shawn Langdon in the final round. Brown pulled away in his Matco Tools dragster with a 3.844 at 315.42, while Langdon’s Al-Anabi Racing dragster slowed near mid-track and finished in 4.035 at 279.38.
“This was a big day for us,” said Brown, who defeated Brittany Force, Terry McMillen and Steve Torrence to advance to the final. “We came into this race knowing our backs are against the wall. We’ve just been struggling at the last four races. We’ve been working hard, but no matter what we do, our car wasn’t cooperating with us. We got it back. It didn’t do exactly what we wanted it to do in the last two rounds, but it was close, and we were competitive to actually pull off this win today.”
It was the third straight and fourth overall win at this event for Brown, who moved to fourth in the standings, 80 points back of series leader Tony Schumacher, who was upset by McMillen in the first round.
“St. Louis has always been a good turning point for us,” Brown said. “The more pressure that’s on us and the more our backs are against the wall, the more focused our team gets to do what we need to get the job done. It shows you how brutal this class is. All these Countdown boys are playing hard. We’re back in that fighting mode. With three races left, we have to keep pushing to do what we need to do.”
Langdon moved to second in the standings with the runner-up finish and now trails Schumacher by 57. Semifinalist Torrence is third in the standings 71 back of Schumacher.
Connolly took his second consecutive Pro Stock win in a photo finish over series points leader Jason Line. Connolly’s Charter Communications Chevy Camaro clocked a 6.562 at 211.53 to edge Line’s Summit Racing Equipment Camaro at the finish line, which posted a 6.565 at 211.66.
Connolly defeated Chris McGaha, V. Gaines and top qualifier Erica Enders-Stevens en route to the fourth win in a row for the Gray Motorsports Pro Stock team, which includes victories by his teammates Shane Gray and Jonathan Gray.
“The four wins in a row; that’s what’s most impressive to me,” Connolly said. “That tells you the depth of Gray Motorsports. I’m having a blast racing with them this year. We’re getting breaks and everything is going our way. This is a humbling sport; it can turn on you any time. We’re going to enjoy the wins as they come.”
With the win, Connolly cut Line’s points lead to 26. He says that final round meeting was a huge one to win.
“It’s a two-for-one,” Connolly said. “If Jason would have won he’d be up by three rounds. Instead we cut it back to one. We’ve got to stop him from going rounds.”
Louisiana Alligator farmer Savoie earned his first career Pro Stock Motorcycle victory by outrunning series points leader Andrew Hines in the final round. Savoie rode his Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki to a winning performance of 6.871 at 196.53 while Hines’ Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson trailed with a 6.881 at 193.57.
It was the third final round appearance of the season for Savoie, who is not eligible for the Countdown. He defeated Craig Treble, John Hall and Hector Arana Jr. to advance to his fifth career final.
“We had a good bike all weekend,” Savoie said. “It’s all good. Drag racing is a family thing. It’s amazing that the whole Pro Stock Motorcycle pit was so happy for me. I always said if I ever won one of these I would retire. Well, I lied.”
With the runner-up finish Hines increased his series lead to 57 over second place Eddie Krawiec.
The NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship continues Oct. 2-5 with the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.
Event Essentials: NHRA AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals (Sep. 26-28th, 2014)
|Low ET:||Doug Kalitta||3.758|
|Top Speed:||Tony Schumacher||326.16|
|Low ET:||John Force||4.022|
|Top Speed:||John Force||319.52|
|Low ET:||Erica Enders-Stevens||6.511|
|Top Speed:||Erica Enders-Stevens||213.03|
|Pro Stock Motorcycle|
|Low ET:||Eddie Krawiec||6.803|
|Top Speed:||Hector Arana Jr||197,88|
|Low ET:||Don Walsh||5.824|
|Top Speed:||Don Walsh||252.90|
Breaking Though in Pro Mod!
Mike Knowles raced to his first career victory in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series Sunday at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis.
Knowles, who qualified 14th, outran former world champion Von Smith in the final round to earn the win. Knowles used a quicker reaction time in his supercharged Knowles Transportation ’68 Chevy Camaro and a final round performance of 5.934 seconds at 244.65 mph to take the victory over Smith, whose supercharged Dr. Moon/Al-Anabi Racing ’69 Camaro posted a quicker, but losing 5.929 at 241.80.
Knowles advanced to his second career final round appearance with round-wins over Steven Whiteley, Kevin Fiscus and Todd Tutterow.
“It’s incredible,” Knowles said. “I’ve got my family here and that’s what it’s all about. They’ve chased me around state to state. We’ve finally done it. For my crew – it’s just fantastic.”
With the win, Knowles moved to 10th in the points standings. Series points leader Rickie Smith, who lost in the semifinals to Von Smith, holds a 76-point lead over Troy Coughlin. Mike Janis sits 77 points back in third place.
The NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season-finale is the NHRA Toyota Nationals, Oct. 30-Nov. 2, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown!
Greg Kamplain scored the win in Comp Eliminator while Bob Mandell Jr. picked up his second win in as many weekend at this weekend’s AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park outside St. Louis.
Kamplain, Brownsburg, Ind., save his quickest pass of the weekend for his final round matchup with Jim Greenheck, Schofield, Wis., clicking off a 6.874 second lap at 193.74 mph for the win. Greenheck was out first with a perfect .000 second reaction time but Kamplain had a great .008 light himself in picking up his 4th NHRA national event win and second in Comp.
Mandell, Culleoka, Tenn., was coming off a win in Top Sportsman last weekend at the NHRA JEGS Northern SPORTSnationals and continued his run in his ’55 Bel Air. He worked his way through eliminations and outran Ryan Kuykendall, Florissant, Mo., in the final with a 6.710 second pass at 197.59 mph.
Phillip Oakley was also looking to repeat his win from a week ago as he faced off with John Strassweg in Top Dragster. Oakley was out first but Strassweg was right behind him and took home his first national event trophy with a 6.607 second lap on his 6.55 dial at 189.42 mph. Oakley slowed to a 6.885 in his loosing efforts.
Former NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series National Champion Joe Santangelo, Marlborough, Conn., captured his 8th national event win knocking out Brett Speer, Little Falls, Minn., in the Super Stock final and Tyler Wudarczyk, Wakarusa, Kan., grabbed his first win beating Ryan Montford, Wichita, Kan., in Stock.
Rustin Mayse and Jason Kenny rounded out the weekend winners as Mayse, Grandview, Texas, defeated fellow Texas racer and former Super Gas National Champion Jeff Lopez in Super Comp. Kenny, Kutztown, Pa., drove his ’03 Corvette to the winner’s circle in his 9.868 seconds, 161.77 mph win over Nick Folk, Durand, Ill.
The following are the final results from the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park:
Greg Kamplain, Dragster, 6.874, 193.74 def. Jim Greenheck, Chevy Camaro, 7.289, 185.66.
Joe Santangelo, Chevy Camaro, 9.199, 116.74 def. Brett Speer, Camaro, foul.
Tyler Wudarczyk, Chevy Nova, 11.307, 103.62 def. Ryan Montford, Chevy Camaro, foul.
Rustin Mayse, Dragster, 8.905, 175.71 def. Jeff Lopez, Dragster, foul.
Jason Kenny, Chevy Corvette, 9.868, 161.77 def. Nick Folk, Camaro, foul.
John Strassweg, Dragster, 6.607, 189.42 def. Phillip Oakley, Dragster, 6.885, 204.79.
Bob Mandell Jr., Chevy Bel Air, 6.710, 197.59 def. Ryan Kuykendall, Dodge Stratus, 9.081, 102.04.
Posted with files from NHRA Communications
Photos by Ron Lewis, courtesy of NHRA, and Bruce Biegler