NHRA’s annual stop at Chicagoland’s marquee Route 66 Raceway once again featured cream of the crop competition and premium performances….
The mid-summer event was highlighted by huge wins including Antron Brown (who raced to his third win of the season) in Top Fuel during the K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals. Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners in their respective Pro categories. The event also featured fantastic Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series sportsman racing that was highlighted by the 33rd edition running of the Jegs Sportsman All Stars event on Saturday.
Brown claimed his third Chicago win and 57th career victory with a final round performance of 3.777 seconds at 321.19 mph in his Matco Tools dragster to hold off J.R. Todd, whose SealMaster machine trailed with a 3.798 at 322.11.
“Chicago is incredible,” Brown said. “We love coming here. This is the gladiator stadium. To be able to see all the Don Schumacher Racing cars run great today and to bring home a win for our boss man Don Schumacher at his home track is just awesome.”
Brown used a consistent string of 3.7-second runs to speed past Clay Millican, Terry McMillen and Leah Pritchett and advance to the final. He dialed up another 3.7-second run to get past Todd.
“We’re starting to go in the right direction and peaking at the right time,” Brown said. “The car responds to everything that our Matco crew does to it. We’ve got to keep on going strong with the routine. We really wanted to be great here with a lot of sponsors, friends and family here. We made all the right calls and made all the right moves and now we have to focus on getting, better, better and better.”
With the win, Brown moves two points ahead of season-long leader Kalitta, who drives the rival Mac Tools dragster.
“Me and Doug are basically tied right now,” Brown said. “Hopefully we can sneak it out and get those extra bonus points for the Countdown that can hopefully help us get that title.”
In Funny Car, Beckman defeated red-hot Ron Capps in the final. Beckman posted a winning time of 3.955 at 324.05 in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger, while Capps’ NAPA Auto Parts Dodge lost traction near the start. It was Beckman’s first win of the season, 23rd of his career and first at this event.
“The car was darn near flawless today,” Beckman said. “I saw a whole lot of that NAPA front fender out there in the final and just as I thought oh-no, it disappeared. It was a great feeling watching that win light come on today.”
Like Brown’s dragster, Beckman’s DSR Funny Car also had the appearance of a 320-mph bracket car as he used a bunch of 3.9-second runs to advance to the finals with early round wins over John Hale, Courtney Force and Robert Hight.
“I thought we had so much momentum last year and we haven’t seen a winner’s circle since Reading last year,” Beckman said. “We were struggling. We’ve ran well at times this year, with four No. 1 qualifying positions and setting the national record, but we haven’t been able to put it all together.”
He cautioned that the win today simply means the Jimmy Prock-tuned team is back in the game this season, with sights set on earning their second championship title. With the win, Beckman moved into second place in the points order, 126 behind four-time season winner Capps with five races remaining until the start of the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
“This doesn’t mean we’re going to be dominant come next race,” Beckman cautioned, “but what it does mean is that we will be more confident when we tow into the gates and make more consistent runs and then you can turn up the wick and make quick runs.”
Anderson claimed his sixth victory of the season in Pro Stock, defeating rising star Bo Butner in the final round. Anderson scored his 84th career win with a final round performance of 6.644 at 209.01 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro, while Butner trailed with a 6.667 at 209.17 in his Jim Butner Auto Sales Camaro. It was Anderson’s eighth consecutive final round appearance.
“Rob Downing and the crew did a great job,” said Anderson, who also beat Dave River, Allen Johnson and No. 1 qualifier Shane Gray in earlier rounds. “We basically out raced them today and we just flat found a way to win each round. That’s what it’s all about. Couldn’t be more proud of the guys. It is certainly our hardest-fought win of the season. I am looking forward to the battle that’s coming. This Western Swing should be a real battle.”
Anderson and teammate Jason Line have now won 13 consecutive events, tying the record for most consecutive wins by a race team in NHRA history, as well as the same record in Pro Stock. The mark equals their team winning streak in 2004 as well as the Vance & Hines team streak of 13 straight wins with Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines in 2011-’12.
“We saw some teams make big progress here this weekend and we will have a new landscape coming up for the Countdown,” said Anderson, who now trails series leader Line by 80 points. “I am sure of it. We are going to have to go home and dig and work hard and get ready for the Western Swing.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines claimed his second victory of the season and 44th of his career, tying him for most victories in the history of the two-wheel class with the late Dave Schultz. He outran Angelle Sampey in the final round, clocking a 6.858 at 194.91 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, to the 6.893 at 193.40 produced by Sampey’s Precision Service Equipment/Star Racing Buell.
Hines advanced to the final with round wins over Chip Ellis, Michael Ray and Steve Johnson.
“We had a good motorcycle all weekend it was just a matter of making the straight, consistent runs that we needed to,” said Hines of his third Chicago win. “That’s what allows you to go out there and turn on four win lights. I’ve always loved this track and I always seem to excel at the hot racetracks. You have to be on top of your tune-up these days and you can’t cut anyone any slack.”
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
California’s Shane Westerfield scored a pair of wins this weekend and the coveted JEGS double-up for winning both the JEGS Allstar event on Saturday then backing it up with a win at the 19th annual K&N NHRA Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway on Sunday.
Westerfield’s win in Top Alcohol Funny Car is his second in seven final round appearances at the national event level as the Anaheim-based racer defeated Any Bohl in the Top Alcohol Funny Car final on Sunday when Andrew Bohl had trouble after leaving the line. Westerfield had a 5.528 second pass at 269.19 mph to flip on the win light. Westerfield defeated Kris Hool on a hole shot in the JEGS Allstar final posting a 5.636, 266.16 to Hool’s quicker 5.575, 261.16.
Joey Severance, the reigning Top Alcohol Dragster National Champion from Woodburn, Ore., secured the win by taking the advantage at the start against Megan Meyer and never looked back capture the win. Severance worked his way through the field and ran 5.268 seconds at 274.16 mph in his final round victory over Meyer, Spring Hill, Kan., who clocked in at 5.397 seconds, 272.34 mph. With this win Severance captured his 13th career national event win and his third this year. Severance had a strong weekend of races as he was also the runner up in the JEGS Allstars event falling to former national champion Chris Demke. Demke’s 5.264, 272.24 just nipped Severance with a 5.277, 272.01. Demke outran Megan’s dad Randy Meyer in round two of the allstars.
In the Stock final, Slate Cummings of Hammond, La, had a perfect light in winning over Ryan Herem for his sixth career win. Cummings also took home his forth JEGS Allstar trophy taking out Don Keen in Super Stock.
Matt Driskell, the No.2 qualifier in Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs.com, laid down a 6.414 second, 209.62 mph pass in the final to win over Les Feist. In the Top Sportsman presented by RacingRV.com’s it was Chad Pekrul driving his Camaro to victory in 7.098, 185.38 mph past Sandy Wilkins.
Other racers visiting the winners circle on Sunday were Brian Hyerstay, Eugene, Ore., in Comp Eliminator; Dan Fletcher, Churchville, N.Y., in Super Stock; Austin Williams, Burleson, Texas, in Super Comp; Mia Tedesco, Pittsburgh, Pa., in Super Gas; and Phil Unruh, McPherson, Kan., in Super Street.
Jegs All Stars Shine Bright!
The 2016 JEGS Allstars event took place on Saturday with a bonus purse of $124,000 offered for the race within a race that pit the top point’s earners from NHRA’s seven geographic divisions and four Top Alcohol regions against each other in the culmination of a yearlong point’s battle.
Competitors in Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Comp Eliminator, Super Stock, Top Sportsman, Top Dragster, Stock Eliminator, Super Comp, Super Gas, Super Street, Top Dragster and Top Sportsman all competed for team and individual honors and a share of the $124,000 purse. Event Sponsor, Jegs High Performance, also offered a “double-up” bonus to racers. Any Allstars representative who wins the Allstars event and goes on to win the national event will have their Allstar prize money doubled.
The JEGS Allstars Top Alcohol Regional Team championship was introduced three years ago with the best Top Alcohol Dragster and Funny Car drivers from each of the four regions going head to head as the Central Region took home the championship in 2015. They were joined by the Southeast Division Team who scored their seventh win in the JEGS Allstar team championship competition tying them with the North Central and Northeast divisions.
In the 2016 JEGS Allstar Team Championship it was the NHRA West Central Division taking their second title led by Trevor Larson who doubled up in Allstar competition winning in both the Super Comp and Super Gas categories. JJ Heber also anchored the West Central team with a win in Top Sportsman as he got past Michael Cerro.
The North Central Division finished second with a pair of individual wins by Troy Galbraith in Comp Eliminator and Joe Hessling in Top Dragster. Galbraith beat national champion Alan Ellis and Hessling downed Steven Furr.
Westerfield and Demke lead the West Region to their second Top Alcohol Regional Team Championship along with teammates Severance and Annie Whiteley.
Mick Alley, Eagle, Idaho, won in Stock to join his wife Jackie as a JEGS Allstar champion while Jonathan Anderson won in Super Street. Alley knocked out Jeff Hairington and Anderson ended Keith Mayers run.
Posted with files by NHRA Communications, Eric Lotz and Bruce Biegler
All Photos by: Bruce Biegler