NHRA’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series annual touchdown at the fabled Texas Motorplex both spread and tightened World Championship chases…..
Popular DSR team driver Antron Brown increased his points lead in Top Fuel by racing to victory at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals. Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also winners in their respective categories at the 22nd event of 24 on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
The AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals is the fourth race of the six-race NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Brown, the No. 1 qualifier, sprinted to a 3.744-second pass at 321.12 mph in his Matco Tools dragster to defeat Steve Torrence’s 3.750 at 323.12 in his Capco Contractors dragster. This is Brown’s 61st career win, seventh of the season and third at the Texas Motorplex. He extended his lead over second-place Doug Kalitta by 150 points with the win. Brown outlasted Chris Karamesines, Kalitta and J.R. Todd in the earlier rounds.
“We had a great drag race out there,” said two-time and reigning world champion Brown. “It could’ve went either way. We were both close on the tree, but we snuck one out there. Nobody is blowing people out anymore. The only way you win is by inches. To win that final was monumental for our team. We needed to do that. We’re still not done working yet.”
Torrence raced past Clay Millican, Phoenix winner Leah Pritchett and three-time 2016 winner Shawn Langdon en route to his seventh final round appearance of the season. The runner-up finish bumped Torrence up to fifth in points.
Hagan pushed his Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T to a 3.913 at 327.03 to beat points-leader Ron Capps’ 3.906 at 322.19 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T on a holeshot in the Funny Car final round. Hagan, who won at Dallas in 2010, claimed his fourth victory of the year and 22nd of his career. The Virginia cattle rancher moved to third in points, trailing Capps by 88 and second-place Tommy Johnson Jr. by 24. He defeated John Bojec, Houston winner Courtney Force and No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight in the earlier rounds.
“That was a huge round,” said Hagan, a two-time world champion. “It’s just unfortunate that we’re facing [Ron Capps] so late in rounds. In Reading I had him in the semi’s and he spanked me on the tree, and this time I was able to get a little payback. I actually try to minimize everything out of my control and just focus on leaving on time, keeping it in the groove, and turning on the win light, and let the rest take care of itself. We can’t worry about who might mess up or how many rounds someone might go; we just need to do the best job we can and turn on as many win lights as we can.”
Capps, who has five victories in 10 final rounds this year, outlasted two-time 2016 winner Tim Wilkerson, fourth-place Jack Beckman and reigning world champion Del Worsham in the earlier rounds. Capps became the 15th driver in NHRA history to appear in 100 final rounds.
In Pro Stock, Skillman notched a 6.661 at 209.36 in his Ray Skillman Auto Group Chevy Camaro to knock off Alex Laughlin’s 6.708 at 208.30 in his Gas Monkey Garage Chevy Camaro. Skillman, who won earlier this year in Brainerd, Minn., tallied his third career win with the performance. This was his first final round appearance and win at Dallas. The 2015 Rookie of the Year award winner moved to sixth in points. He eliminated Chris McGaha, points leader Jason Line and Shane Gray in the earlier rounds.
“We have struggled so badly with this race car,” said Skillman. “We were lost, and going into the Countdown that’s the worst time of the year to be lost. We had some luck on our side this weekend. I drove decent, and the car at least went. We’re going the right direction, I think. We need to test again. We’re going to get back out there. We’re going to hit these last two races hard, so that’s where we’re going to go.”
Laughlin, who claimed his first career victory recently in St. Louis, raced past five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., Shane Tucker and second-place Greg Anderson. Laughlin did not qualify for the Countdown to the Championship.
Krawiec rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.880 at 196.36 in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final round to cross the finish line before Jerry Savoie, who posted a 6.856 at 196.76 on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki. Krawiec claimed his fifth win of the season, 36th of his career and second at the Texas Motorplex. Krawiec beat Karen Stoffer, Hector Arana and LE Tonglet to appear in his seventh final round of the season.
“Anytime you’ve got to race [Savoie], you’ve got to be focused,” said Krawiec, who now has a 17-point lead over teammate Andrew Hines. “As a matter of fact, you have to be focused for just about anybody out there. When you look at this category as a whole right now, it’s some of the best racing that there could be. You see LE (Tonglet) came up from nowhere and took Andrew out, then I’ve got to run him, and we run almost neck and neck with each other. You have to be on your game every single round here, no matter who you’re racing and who’s in that other lane.”
Savoie, an alligator farmer from Louisiana, beat Krawiec in the final round at Dallas one year ago. Savoie qualified No. 1 and sprinted past Joe DeSantis, Matt Smith and Englishtown, N.J., winner Angelle Sampey before losing to Krawiec.
The NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship continues at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Oct. 27-30, with the NHRA Toyota Nationals.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Fans were in celebration as multiple home state winners were crowned in the action packed AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex. Champions were recognized in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car, as well as Comp Eliminator, Stock, Super Comp and the rest of the classes that encompass the nationwide series.
In Top Alcohol Dragster, Bradley Thompson scored his first win in just his second start, getting the victory on Shawn Cowie’s final-round red-light. Thompson’s debut came at this event last year, where he failed to qualify. Bradley, a local Texan hailing from Vernon, registered a victory pass of 5.299 seconds, 268.17 mph. Cowie, Surrey, B.C., hit a runner-up pass of 5.666 seconds, 229.31 mph.
In an all Californian Top Alcohol Funny Car finale, Sean Bellemeur, who scored his first win at the Fall Nationals last year in the Bartone Bros., entry, successfully defended his event championship by defeating John Lombardo Jr. in the final round. Bellemeur, Placentia, Calif., scored a victory pass of 5.527 seconds, 236.84 mph. Lombardo, Brea, Calif., who had mechanical issues at the starting line, made a subpar pass of 10.104 seconds, 98.76 mph. Lombardo however, was able to prevent Jonnie Lindberg from clinching his second straight season championship by defeating him in the semifinals.
The postponed Top Alcohol Dragster and Funny Car finals from the Protect the Harvest NHRA Northwest Nationals in Seattle were also completed this weekend. In the funny car finale, Shane Westerfield, Anaheim, Calif., ran 5.569 seconds, 267.53 mph to defeat Nick Januik, Las Vegas, who posted a runner-up pass of 5.608 seconds, 261.32 mph.
Newly crowned 2016 NHRA Lucas Oil World Champion Joey Severance, Woodburn, Ore., pulled out the victory in a very close Top Alcohol Dragster finale against Chris Demke, Tujunga, Calif. Severance hit a winning run of 5.281seconds, 273.33 mph as Demke was nearly neck-and-neck with him, running 5.329 seconds, 272.12 mph.
In the Comp Eliminator final round Keith Hall, Ravenna, Texas, was able to outlast Dick Maris from Montgomery, Texas, in a battle for state bragging rights. Both ran nearly five-tenths under their index but Maris left early with a red light foul start.
In the all Texas, Top Dragster final round presented by RacingRVs.com, Scooter Hampton, Odessa, Texas had an easy victory, Roger Massey, Gilmer, Texas red lit at the starting line. Hampton registered a victory run of 7.178, 190.75.
The Top Sportsman final round presented by RacingRVs.com also left little to confusion as to who the victor was. Jeff Koron, Hays, Kan., cruised to victory running 6.398, 200.83; Danny Nelson, Batesville, Ark., red lit at the starting line.
The other drivers visiting the winner’s circle (including three Texas champions) were James Caro, Houma, La., in Super Stock; Rusty Hall, Sweeny, Texas in Stock Eliminator; Jeremy Demers, Carroll, Iowa in Super Comp; Christopher Best, Plano, Texas in Super Gas; and Chase Huffman, Blanchard, Okla., in Super Street.
Posted with files by NHRA Communications and Keith Yazdanseta
All Photos by Randy Anderson