Saturday's AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals live photo gallery
Saturday, September 22, 2012

News and views from the 
AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals
Last update: 5:45 p.m.
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Day three of the 2012 AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals — the first official day of Fall, by the way — is promising to be another glorious Lone Star sunshine kind of day, with temperatures again in the 90s and clear, blue skies. Sportsman racers, like former world champ Amy Faulk (below), are continuing their eliminations leading up to a big day for the Full Throttle teams, including the Traxxas Nitro Shootout in Funny Car for a $100,000 top prize. The first round of the shootout will be contested during the day's first qualifying session at 11 a.m. in what many are expecting to be the best atmospheric conditions of qualifying. A second session is set for 2:30 p.m.

While the racers are flexing their muscles on the Motorplex's all-concrete quarter-mile, fans are showing off their stuff in the U.S. Army Strength In Action zone, where they can put themselves to the test.

There's also all kinds of family fun thanks to the event sponsor and host, AAA Texas, which stages a game show-like contest, challenging fans and families to complete roadside-type tasks under the watchful eye of a time clock.

Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Jerry Savoie, absent from the NHRA Full Throttle Series tour for the past three races, has returned to action with his White Alligator Racing team. Savoie sat out the Brainerd event due to a short engine inventory, then had to stay home in Cut Off, La., to ride out Hurricane Isaac with his young alligator charges, and then missed the Charlotte event to attend an awards banquet for his son, Gerald. "But we're back this weekend, and we've got the Suzuki all ready to go," said Savoie, currently qualified No. 12 with a 7.027 best. "Mark [Peiser, crew chief] says we have two good Suzuki engines and two more for the Buell, and we may stay and test the Buell on Monday for St. Louis.  We're good to go, and it'll be up to me this weekend to do my job."

Prior to their first qualifying session, AAA-sponsored drivers John and Courtney Force and Robert Hight took part in a Q&A session with fans.

[11:20 a.m.] Veteran Pro Stock Motorcycle pilot Chip Ellis (above) rode Harry Lartigue's Kuryakyn Buell to a 6.925, a solid improvement over his Friday best of 6.980, to move into the No. 5 spot.

Ellis' run was also was the fifth best of the first session, behind the Hectors and the Harleys.

Hector Arana Sr. (left) held onto the top qualifying spot he earned Friday, running 6.862 at 196.24 mph (top speed) aboard his Lucas Oil Buell to better the 6.884 of his son, Hector Jr., and the respective 6.887 and 6.892 passes of Harley-Davidson riders Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines.

[11:45 a.m.] Allen Johnson reset both ends of the Pro Stock track record with a 6.550 at 211.99 mph, breaking Jason Line's year-old mark of 6.553 and the 211.49 established Friday by Mike Edwards in solidifying his spot atop the field and the points standings. He earned the maximum nine bonus points available in qualifying so far.

Erica Enders was right behind A.J., posting a 6.557 in her GK Motorsports Cobalt for Pro Stock's No. 2 spot.

[Noon] After disappointing, tire-smoking runs of 6.62 and 7.14 Friday, Charlotte Top Fuel champ Shawn Langdon hammered the Al-Anabi silver dragster into the No. 1 spot on the opening pass of the third session with a 3.827.

Although he improved on his Friday best of 3.911 and his 3.886 was the second-quickest time of the first Top Fuel session, Texas native Spencer Massey and the FRAM team remained in the No. 10 spot.

Great weather has brought a packed house to Texas Motorplex for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals.

  The combatants in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Cars were introduced prior to the first round, which was held in conjunction with the event's third qualifying session, on what Ennis, Texas, Mayor Russell Thomas has proclaimed Traxxas Nitro Shootout Day in the city. From left, Jeff Arend, John Force, Johnny Gray, Ron Capps, Robert Hight, Jack Beckman, Mike Neff, and Courtney Force will be fighting for the $100,000 top prize and a handsome trophy (left).

In round one, Capps beat Courtney Force and will face Gray, who beat Neff, in round two. Capps' 4.133 was low of the round, Courtney's 4.199 was second best and would have won any of the other pairings.

On the other side of the ladder, Arend beat Hight in a pedalfest but will cede lane choice to John Force, who defeated Beckman.

[1:30 p.m.] Blake Alexander, driving the Paul Smith-tuned Monte Carlo Funny Car that Jon Capps drove to the semi's at this event last year, posted a 4.188 that was the second-best pass of the round behind Ron Capps' 4.13.

[2:45 p.m.] Veteran alcohol racer Jay Payne, who crashed his Top Alcohol Dragster at this race back in 1990, had another rough Texas outing when his Peak Mustang went out of control and bashed the guardwall in his lane hard. Payne was unhurt, and, although qualified, it's very unlikely he will make the first-round call later today.

[3:15 p.m.]  Ron Capps (above) will take on John Force (right) in the final round of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout in Funny Car.

Capps defeated Johnny Gray with a 4.201 to earn final-round lane choice over Force, who beat Jeff Arend with a 4.23.

Arend's DHL team was in a tough place entering the Traxxas semifinals — which also was the event's final qualifying session — when they were qualified just 16th with an easily beatable 4.78 and had to temper its enthusiasm at a chance at winning $100,000 with ensuring that they qualified for Sunday's final eliminations to continue their quest in the Countdown playoffs. Arend's losing 4.25 got him solidly in the show.

[3:35 p.m.] Hector Arana Jr.'s Lucas Oil Buell laid the proverbial smackdown on the Pro Stock Motorcycle field with a dazzling 6.852 to take the qualifying lead away from his father on their final qualifying pass. It's his second No. 1 of the season.

Hector Sr. was second quick in the round with a 6.897, and Andrew Hines' Harley was third with a 6.911.

Hector Sr. gained six points on class frontrunner Eddie Krawiec in qualifying and Hector Jr. made up five points. Krawiec leads teammate Hines by just 11 points and Hector Jr. by 59.


[3:40 p.m.] Last year, despite not qualifying for Countdown, Pro Stock's Kurt Johnson opened the playoffs with a win in Charlotte and a runner-up here, but 2012 is a different story; the 40-time winner has DNQ'd at both events this year. 

Richard Freeman's pretty Forum Energy Technologies Camaro qualified solidly for the Pro Stock field with a 6.60.
Allen Johnson remained No. 1 with his earlier 6.550 to gain the maximum 12 session bonus points.

[4:35 p.m.] Doug Kalitta and the Jim Oberhofer-led Mac Tools Top Fuel team qualified No. 3 — his third top three finish this season — and set top speed at 322.34 mph. Kalitta won this race in 2002 and was runner-up in 2001.

J.R. Todd qualified the Total Equipment and Service Top Fuel dragster an impressive No. 4 with a best of 3.839. He's now qualified for all five events he has attended this year in the second Bob Vandergriff Jr. Racing entry.

[4:55 p.m.] Robert Hight, who won the Fall Nationals in 2006 and again in 2009, will get a shot to maintain that every-third-year ratio after qualifying his AAA Insurance Mustang on his final shot, going from outside the field to No. 15 with a last-ditch 4.257. Hight has been No. 1 qualifier three times here in 2009, 2008, and 2006.

  It was a pretty good Saturday in Texas for Team Force; John Force won the NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout, defeating Ron Capps in the final, and his daughter Courtney collected the second No. 1 qualifying honor of her rookie season.

(Above) John Force, near lane, defeated Capps in the final round, 4.21 to 4.22, to claim the $100,000 first prize presented to him (left) by Traxxas' Mike Jenkins, second from left.

Friday's AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals live photo gallery