PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, L.E. Tonglet emerged victorious with a 6.824 at 195.76 in his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki to defeat Matt Smith’s pass of 6.882 at 195.31 in his Victory Polaris Magnum. Tonglet notched his 13th career victory and third of the season.
“I didn’t see any win lights throughout qualifying, but seeing them on Sunday is what matters and we are happy with the results,” Tonglet said. “This is huge for us and our position in the points standings, so getting as many wins as possible is definitely our goal.”
Tonglet has now reached three final rounds in five events this season, winning all three of those appearances. He defeated Melissa Surber, Steve Johnson and Hector Arana Jr. before the final round.
Matt Smith got the first-round win over a red-lighting Joe DeSantis. His next wins were over Mike Berry (6.876/196.50 to 6.916/192.77) and Scotty Pollacheck (6.872/195.48 to 6.969/186.30)
Tonglet jumped to first in the Pro Stock Motorcycle points standings and Eddie Krawiec fell to second after falling in the first round to Joey Gladstone.
Steve Johnson’s Suzuki took the E1 win over the Buell of Chip Ellis (6.907/193.74 to 6.890/193.93) but met Tonglet in the second round.
Arana Jr. got the first-round win over Karen Stoffer.
After finishing as runner-up at the last Pro Stock Motorcycle tour stop in Englishtown, NJ, Hector Arana Jr. was hoping to take his Lucas Oil Racing TV Buell one step further at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals. Instead, he ended his day in the semifinals, a respectable result that lifted him to within 11 points of a top-three perch in the Mello Yello championship points.
He got past Karen Stoffer (6.867/194/69 to 6.924/193.16) and five-time world champ Andrew Hines (6.846/197.36 to 6.925/193.02) before falling to Tonglet in the semifinal.
"Not a bad race at all," Arana Jr. said. "We're going rounds, we're running fast, the bike is very consistent and we're right there where we want to be in relation to the field. We need to keep working hard and find that little bit extra and we'll be up there challenging for the top spot.”
Tim Wilkerson (far lane) handed Bob Tasca the first-round win by crossing the center line from the left lane.
Perfection, elusive but often needed to win in the NHRA, fell in Bo Butner’s lane in the Pro Stock final of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.
Butner cut a .000 light and ran 6.601 seconds in the Jim Butner Auto Sales Chevrolet Camaro SS to win on a holeshot over KB Racing teammate Greg Anderson. The margin of victory was .0018 of a second (about 7 inches).
“It was just a great day. We made four pretty consistent runs and was good when I needed to be,” said Butner, who has reached the final round five times this season. “That was my first triple-zip light in a final in any class. He had a faster car and he was making better runs, so the only shot you have is to leave first. I’m not known for that yet, but I’ve been working on it.”
Chevrolet drivers have won every Pro Stock race this season, led by Butner with three victories. Butner increased his points advantage through 12 of 24 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events.
Anderson dispatched KB Racing teammate and reigning NHRA Pro Stock champion Jason Line in the semifinal. It was the 71st time they faced off in eliminations.
Butner, the No. 2 qualifier, ended the Cinderella story for John Gaydosh Jr. in the semifinals. Gaydosh, who underwent knee surgery earlier this year, did not qualify last weekend at Bristol, TN, as the Pypes Performance Exhaust Chevrolet Camaro SS lost an engine.
Gray Motorsports provided an experimental engine for Gaydosh to use this weekend, but the car had to be retrofitted to accept the power plant.
Part-time racer Gaydosh was the No. 14 qualifier of 16 entries, and the team received the Edelbrock Never Rest Performer of the Race award. Gaydosh got past No. 3 qualifier Drew Skillman (Ray Skillman Chevrolet Camaro SS) in the first round and five-time Pro Stock champion and No. 6 qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the quarterfinals.
“This is awesome,” said Gaydosh, who reached the semifinals for the first time in 78 career Pro Stock races. “Without Shane Gray without Johnny Gray, we wouldn’t have been here this weekend. I can’t thank Shane, Johnny and the whole Gray Motorsports company for all they’ve done to help us get out here. It’s awesome that they are so kind to us and they know my struggles and they know how bad I want to do this. And I really appreciate everything they do for us.”
Gaydosh added, “Thanks, Brad, for everything you’ve ever done for me to keep me out here racing."
Gaydosh received word early in the week that longtime crew member and mentor Brad “Pop” Wallace had passed away. Gaydosh entered the race as a tribute to Wallace.
Coughlin’s 6.567/210.64 took the win over Alex Laughlin’s 6.676/209.26.
Jeg Coughlin Jr. bowed out of the action earlier than expected in the second round when his JEGS.com/Elite Performance Camaro shook the tires so hard just off the starting line that Coughlin had to give up the run.
“Hard to say what happened at this point," Coughlin said. "We ran that 6.56 in Round 1 and that was third quickest out of the 16 cars running that session, so we came back up for E2 full of confidence. We just didn't make the right decisions. I think the guys were trying to be conservative. Nothing against John Gaydosh but we had him covered from a performance standpoint by a good bit.
"The car kind of rolled out, stopped the tire and just started shaking. It was a very disheartening feeling from behind the wheel, especially here in front of our hometown crowd." He continued, "It wasn't the track, or the car, or the people; we have a solvable problem and that's good news because we can fix it. We've got the data so we maybe need to figure out how we got in that position and avoid it in the future."
Tony Schumacher and his U.S. Army team led by crew chief Mike Green and assistant crew chief Phil Shuler debuted a new U.S. Army Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Friday and made progress with the machine throughout the weekend. The eight-time Top Fuel world champion was seeking his second triumph of the 2017 season and second of his career in Norwalk. After qualifying eighth, Schumacher opened Sunday by defeating Mike Salinas with a pass of 3.789 seconds at 326.56 mph to earn the 796th round win of his career. The victory resulted in “The Sarge” taking on top qualifier Doug Kalitta in the second round. Schumacher was hoping to duplicate his Norwalk victory over Kalitta in the second round of the 2014 NHRA Nationals, but Sunday in their 85th career meeting, he lost traction and smoked the tires just before the midway point of the run allowing Kalitta to take the win.
“That was the first time we really spun the tires that far down the track. We know what is going on. We have to fix what is going on,” said Schumacher. “We have all been frustrated, but we’ve been doing this a long time. We’re halfway through the year and we’ve won championships a lot of different ways. The big picture is still in focus. None of us like to lose. We will figure it out, no matter how hard we have to work at it.”
After getting the first NHRA win of his career last week at Bristol, Clay Millican drove his Parts Plus/Great Clips/UNOH dragster to the quarterfinals this week.
Millican came into race day qualified No. 6 with an elapsed time of 3.741 at 322.19 mph. In Round One, he took on Scott Palmer, who broke off the line and Millican took the win with a 3.775/311.63.
In Round Two, Millican faced Steve Torrence for the fifth time in the last seven races. The two dragsters were very close most of the race, but Millican’s dragster dropped a cylinder and put a hole out. Torrence took the win, 3.792/326.79 to 3.872/312.86.
“It’s been an amazing four-race swing,” said Millican. “Last year on this four-race swing I don’t think we won a single round and we tore up a lot of parts. Here we are in Norwalk and we just wrapped things up. We won our first race and we didn’t hurt any parts or any motors. All the guys worked their tails off these last four weeks.”
Jack Beckman crossed the finish line in the final round in 4.073 seconds at 311.85 mph as Terry Chandler's Infinite Hero Foundation Funny Car exploded. He exited safely and got the win over Robert Hight.
“We were planning to bring out a new car anyway to test here tomorrow (Monday) so we’ll just go back to the pit and strip whatever’s left off this one,” said co-crew chief Neal Strausbach, who collaborated with Dean Antonelli and John Medlen to send Beckman down the track four times Sunday with less than stellar times in the ever-changing weather conditions that included 4.060, 4.078, 4.074 and 4.073 in the championship round.
The Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Powered by Pennzoil muscled down the track while Hight blew smoke not far off the starting line.
"I don't know that we're going to spend a whole lot of time soul searching about why we struggled here, because we left with the trophy," said Beckman, who won for the third time at the track and the 26th of his career. "We should look at that stuff, but I think we're going to dive in with that brand-new race car and figure out what it needs.”
The event in Norwalk closed out the "June Swing," consisting of four races throughout the month. Norwalk was the team's third final round in a row and second win in two weeks.
The win was the 11th in 12 events for DSR and the 310th for DSR since 1998. Qualifying left the four DSR Dodge Charger R/Ts in the top half of the 16-car bracket and after each won their opening races the quartet battled in an intrasquad scrimmage in the second round where Beckman eliminated pole winner Matt Hagan (Mopar Express Lane) and Tommy Johnson Jr. (Make-A-Wish) defeated points leader Ron Capps (NAPA Auto Parts) to mark only the third time this season that Capps did not advance to the semifinals.
Auto Club of Southern California driver Robert Hight put together another strong performance with his Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car, but fell short of his first victory of 2017.
Robert Hight over Jim Campbell in the first round.
Hight had the two quickest elapsed times of race day, 3.913 seconds at 329.85 mph in beating Jim Campbell in the first round and 3.925 seconds at 328.62 mph in beating Bob Tasca III in the semifinals. His second-round run was quick, too, 3.978 at 321.73 mph, to beat Alexis DeJoria.
But an issue with the clutch caused Hight’s Auto Club car to shake and get sideways in the final round, and he had to lift the throttle. Hight has made it to two finals and four semifinals in 2017 but is still looking for his first victory.
“It’s not from lack of effort,” Hight said. “We’re working hard. I spent four weeks on the road with these guys. I’ve seen how much they want it, how hard they’ve been working, and they’ll continue it. We’ll get there.”
The rest of the JFR Funny Cars had a frustrating weekend also. Courtney Force did not even qualify for the Norwalk race, qualifying 17th. Dad, John Force, took the first-round win over Dale Creasy, but fell to former Ford teammate Bob Tasca III 4.006/323.58 to Force’s 4.047/301.00.
Results compiled by Kay Burk
Photos by Ron Lewis
Steve Torrence powered his Top Fuel dragster to victory Sunday, June 25, at the 11th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park. Jack Beckman (Top Fuel), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also winners at the 12th of 24 events on the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
Steve Torrence won his fourth race of the season with a holeshot victory over No. 1 qualifier Doug Kalitta. Torrence’s CAPCO dragster ran down the thousand feet in 3.743 seconds to Kalitta’s quicker 3.736, but Torrence’s .004 quicker RT (.051 to .062) made the difference.
Sunday Torrence beat rookie Troy Coughlin Jr., Clay Millican and Brittany Force to get to the final. It was his 12th career win in Top Fuel and his fourth in the last seven races.
The fact that he now leads the points over three Don Schumacher Racing teams is a source of great pride for the Texan. He leads Leah Pritchett by 50 points, Antron Brown by 81, and Tony Schumacher by 215 points.
After suffering a tough first round loss to his teammate in Bristol, Doug Kalitta was looking for redemption at his home track.
The redemption started early. Kalitta earned five of the possible six bonus points in resetting his own track elapsed time record with a 3.709 second pass on Friday evening. This time, Kalitta's run would hold through Saturday's qualifying efforts and Kalitta would have his first no.1 qualifier of the season and 48th of his career. It was his third straight and fourth in the last five seasons at Norwalk.
Pritchett and the Papa John's Pizza dragster was the only one of the DSR Top Fuel trio to advance to the semifinals where Pritchett lost to event pole winner and runner-up Doug Kalitta.
"We're constantly learning with our power. We're confident we make some of the highest amount of power in comparison to our competition, which is a testament to the success in the cooler weather conditions,” said Pritchett. “So our overall fuel setup still needs some proper fine-tuning, fine discovery. They're still discovering how to harness that power in these hot conditions."
Brittany Force and Steve Torrence are both tuned by Alan Johnson.
Brittany Force’s TF dragster ran 3.772/324.98 to defeat Pat Dakin’s 3.832/293.60 in the first round. After that run the Monster Energy team found a problem in the ignition, resulting in multiple warmups and forcing the team to tow the car to the staging area right before the run.
Force hopped in the car later than expected, forcing her to change her pre-race routines. But once she got on the track, Force took care of business. Despite trailing early, she put together another solid performance with a pass of 3.808 seconds at 325.53 mph, while McMillen fell behind with a 3.859/291.32 after dropping cylinders near half-track.
VOLUME XIX, NUMBER 6 - JUNE 2017
DRAGRACINGOnline will be published on or around the 8th of each month and will be updated throughout the month.
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