race reports

NHRA Pros at Charlotte

Deck is reshuffled after first Countdown race

Results compiled by Kay Burk

Photos by Chris Haverly

Doug Kalitta (far lane) got his first win at zMAX Dragway. Richie Crampton went to the finals after his return to Top Fuel driving.


Doug Kalitta powered to his first career victory at zMAX Dragway Sunday, Sept. 17, at the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals. Robert Hight (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also victorious at the first of six playoff events during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.



Tony Schumacher (far lane) fell to Kalitta in the second round.


None of the top four Top Fuel seeds in the Countdown was able to advance beyond the second round. Points leader Steve Torrence, reigning series champ Antron Brown, national record holder Leah Pritchett and eight-time series champion Tony Schumacher surprisingly were all out of the final two rounds of eliminations.


Doug Kalitta had a great weekend at Charlotte, qualifying in the No. 1 spot with a 3.723 at 329.50 mph and winning every round to take his first ever win at zMAX Dragway. He moved into the points lead in the Countdown to the Championship.


“Getting my first win at this great facility is huge for me and for my family,” Kalitta said. “This is a great day for sure. …This is just the first (Countdown) race but it’s great momentum and this is definitely the time to make it happen. We’ll keep our heads down and stay after it.”


Even with a dropped cylinder, Kalitta got the first-round win over Chris Karamesines and defeated Tony Schumacher (3.775/325.53 to 3.791/325.61) and Clay Millican (3.784/322.50 to 3.804/313.73) to meet up with teammate Richie Crampton in the final.


Both dragsters had issues, but Kalitta drove on for 3.775 seconds at 318.39 mph to get to the finish line ahead of Crampton’s 3.876 at 306.40. It was Kalitta’s first win of the season.


In only his second start in the SealMaster Top Fuel dragster, Richie Crampton defeated Scott Palmer, Steve Torrence and Brittany Force to get to the final round.


The biggest upset was when Crampton knocked out Steve Torrence, who came into the event first in the points, and Crampton ran 3.768 at 319.67 mph to 3.782/325.30 for Torrence.

The Kalitta crew celebrates their first win of the season.

Team owner and legendary driver Connie Kalitta (right) is happy with the win.

Steve Torrence didn’t start the Countdown the way he wanted. Although he got the first-round win 3.774/323.35 to Terry Haddock’s 4.075/252.33, Richie Crampton knocked him out of the competition with a 3.768/319.67 to Torrence’s 3.782/325.30.

You don’t see side-by-side burnouts very often any more. Here are Cruz Pedregon and Tim Wilkerson during qualifying. Pedregon was up in smoke at the hit of the throttle in his first-round matchup with former boss, John Force while Wilkerson tagged the wall and moved Ron Capps into the second round.



Tanner Gray kicked off the six-race Countdown with his first win at his home track. The Denver, NC, resident took over the Pro Stock points lead with his fifth win of his rookie season.


Gray defeated drivers (Jason Line, Erica Enders, and Greg Anderson) who have a collective nine Pro Stock championships on his way to the victory with a 6.597-second pass to Anderson’s 6.616. Gray Motorsports drivers (Gray and Drew Skillman) have won the past seven races.


Gray qualified first and got past Val Smeland, Enders and Line before making it to his sixth final round of the year. Anderson has now reached eight final rounds this season, defeating Alan Prusiensky, Drew Skillman and Bo Butner after qualifying second.


Asked what he has to say to the nay-sayers about his rookie year performance, Gray said, “Look at me now. I like it when people doubt me. It makes me work harder and makes the whole group work strive to be better. I wouldn’t be here without all my guys. I’m just pumped to be here and take over the points lead. I never thought if you would have told me at the start of the year that we would take over the points lead at the start of the Countdown. The whole key is to go to Reading and stay consistent and try to keep it going.”

Greg Anderson drove his Summit Camaro to a 6.616/209.98 to 6.597/209.56 win over Bo Butner in the semifinal.



Eddie Krawiec (far lane) took home the Pro Stock Motorcycle victory with a 6.850 at 196.87 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to take down his teammate Andrew Hines in the final round. Hines ran 6.911/195.11.


Krawiec took over the points lead as he locked down his 40th career victory and fourth of this season, including his second in a row.


“This is a huge race for me because I love this drag strip and this facility, and to come out of the first Countdown race with a win is huge for me and my team,” Krawiec said. “Getting a win here is awesome, because it increases your chances to win a championship quite a bit so I’m really excited about this.”


Krawiec qualified second and beat Charlie Sullivan, Chip Ellis and Hector Arana Jr. en route to the finals.

Hines earned the No. 1 qualifier and knocked off Charlie Sullivan, Chip Ellis and Hector Arana Jr. (near lane) as he earned his third runner-up finish on the year in three final round appearances.




Top Fuel: 1. Doug Kalitta, 2,173; 2. Steve Torrence, 2,159; 3. Antron Brown, 2,135; 4. Brittany Force, 2,117; 5. Tony Schumacher, 2,115; 6. Clay Millican, 2,110; 7. Leah Pritchett, 2,108; 8. Terry McMillen, 2,051; 9. Scott Palmer, 2,042; 10. Shawn Langdon, 2,036.


Funny Car: 1. Robert Hight, 2,197; 2. Ron Capps, 2,153; 3. Courtney Force, 2,141; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,107; 5. (tie) Matt Hagan, 2,102; J.R. Todd, 2,102; 7. Jack Beckman, 2,095; 8. John Force, 2,085; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,046; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 2,033.


Pro Stock: 1. Tanner Gray, 2,206; 2. Bo Butner, 2,181; 3. Greg Anderson, 2,171; 4. Jason Line, 2,132; 5. Drew Skillman, 2,113; 6. Erica Enders, 2,092; 7. Jeg Coughlin, 2,084; 8. Vincent Nobile, 2,052; 9. Allen Johnson, 2,042; 10. Chris McGaha, 2,034.


Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 2,202; 2. LE Tonglet, 2,154; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 2,150; 4. Andrew Hines, 2,144; 5. Jerry Savoie, 2,141; 6. Matt Smith, 2,105; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,085; 8. Joey Gladstone, 2,052; 9. Karen Stoffer, 2,042; 10. Angie Smith, 2,033. 

Antron Brown (near lane) drove to a 3.794/320.66 to defeat Terry McMillen’s 3.786/321.12 in the first round. Brown lost to Clay Millican in the second with a 3.776/323.89 to Millican’s 3.754/323.35.



Robert Hight bested John Force Racing teammate Courtney Force with a .019-second reaction time and a 3.911-second, 302.75-mph run in the Funny Car finals to Courtney’s 3.980/315.19. Hight – who entered the Countdown seeded second in Funny Car points – claimed his fifth win at zMAX Dragway and his third in the NHRA Carolina Nationals.


“This is probably one of the toughest race days I’ve ever had,” Hight said. “All four drivers I faced today (Matt Hagan, Tommy Johnson Jr., J.R. Todd, and Courtney Force) are in the Countdown. I would’ve been bummed if we didn’t take advantage of all those cars dropping out early. I felt like we had to capitalize and win today. … We definitely earned this one.”


The victory was the 40th of his career and his third in the last six races. Over that span, Hight and his Chevrolet Camaro SS have also set the national record in elapsed time (3.793 seconds at Brainerd, Minn.) and speed (339.87 mph in Sonoma, Calif.)


And now, Hight and his team have the points lead.


Courtney Force was the No. 1 qualifier and she nearly took all the marbles in the event held just two hours away from Advance Auto Parts headquarters in Raleigh, NC.

“Definitely a great start for the Advance Auto Parts team coming to the home track for Advance Auto Parts,” Ms. Force said. “To come out and really show them what this sport is all about, what our team is capable of doing, to go out there and get the No. 1 qualifying position and then to have such a great, consistent race car – and go all the way to the final round in an all-JFR final at that – is pretty incredible.”


Ms. Force got the win over Bob Gilbertson in the first round, her father, John, in the second, and Alexis DeJoria in the semifinal, before her Chevrolet put out a cylinder in the final.

Although John Force Racing had a great weekend, John Force advanced just to the quarterfinals with his Chevrolet Camaro SS before falling to his youngest daughter, Courtney, in a terrific race. The two left within .002 seconds of each other, but Courtney too the win 3.934/330.07 to 3.983/325.61.


“Robert Hight does have both ends of the record with Auto Club, and Courtney’s been on that run with Robert, so her Advance car has been good,” John Force said. “Doesn’t mean we’re going to win the championship, but we’re in the hunt with two cars right up there at the top – and my dragster with Monster moved up to fourth with Brittany.”


The sixteen-time champion went on, “We’ll be testing more with Brittany in the Funny Car so we’ll be learning more and more about this combination. I won this race last year and now Robert got it done and Courtney was runner-up. We’ll go into Reading motivated.”

Matt Hagan was Hight’s first victim. Hagan’s Mopar Charger dropped cylinders nearing half-track and then pitched the burst panel after crossing the finish line.

Alexis DeJoria qualified in the top half of the field. She got past a tire-smoking Jonnie Lindberg and then Jim Campbell handed her the second-round win with a red light. DeJoria then met Courtney Force, who ended her day with a 3.957/325.06 to 3.976/322.04 for DeJoria.




official DRO sponsors

 © 1999-2017 - Drag Racing Online and Racing Net Source LLC - 607 Seib Drive, O'Fallon, MO 63366 Phone: 636.272.6301 - Privacy Policy

fficial ponsors