Line wins, resets record; Massey, Hight, Arana Jr. also score
Monday, October 03, 2011
Jason Line collected his sixth win of the season and second in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs, during a rain-delayed final round Monday at the Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also collected victories at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event. Coverage of the rain-delayed eliminations will air tonight, Monday, Oct. 3, on ESPN2HD at 9 p.m. ET.
Not only did Pro Stock points leader Line collect his second win at Maple Grove, but he also set the national e.t. record with the quickest run in Pro Stock history Monday morning as his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GXP went 6.477 seconds at 212.49 mph. Line slowed to a 6.48, 212.79 in the final, but it was enough to outrun Ronnie Humphrey, who posted a 6.53, 212.16 in his Genuine Hotrod Hardware GXP.
"That's the second time we qualified No. 1, set the record, and won the race,” Line said. “It feels really good to do that because there is a very small club of guys who've done it. I like going into the last three races with the amount of points we have because it's not as much pressure. It's not over by any means, but I wouldn't trade my position for anyone else's."
Line extended his series lead over Summit Racing Equipment teammate Greg Anderson to 181 points.
"My guys have done a phenomenal job," said Line. "I don't know what's going on, but this car can make a bad run and still go fast. The car is bad to the bone. I didn't mess it up too much, and it feels awful good right now.”
The Top Fuel final was the quickest side-by-side race in NHRA history as Del Worsham’s Al-Anabi Racing dragster recorded the quickest run in NHRA history, 3.735 at 323.81. However, Massey used a quicker reaction time combined with a performance of 3.770 at 323.12 in his FRAM dragster to take the victory.
"I just try to be consistent on the Tree no matter who I'm racing," said Massey of his fourth win of the season. "[Crew chiefs] Phil [Shuler] and Todd [Okuhara] do an awesome job tuning the FRAM dragster, and we get a lot of confidence from each other. We started off going for the record in qualifying, but at one point, we said, 'You know, let's just try to win rounds.' The car was on a string. You could have put '3.77' on the wing.
Worsham earned a 20-point bonus for his final-round run, which was quick enough to become the national record in Top Fuel. Worsham, who moved to third in the points order, posted a time earlier in the weekend that certified the run as the record per NHRA rules.
"Alan Johnson and Del Worsham did an amazing job in the other lane to make their car run as fast as it did,” Massey said. “It makes it that much sweeter of a win, in a way, for the win light to come on in our lane with a 3.77. I saw his nose out there at about 200 feet and never saw him again until I looked over after the finish line."
Massey leads the Top Fuel points standings; Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown sits 65 points back in second, and Al-Anabi Racing driver Larry Dixon is fourth.
In Funny Car, Auto Club driver Hight took his Ford Mustang to the winner’s circle for the first time in the Countdown since 2009. The 2009 world champ’s 4.06, 302.62 was just too much for Johnny Gray’s Service Central Dodge Charger as it lost traction and recorded a 9.83, 73.91.
"We know that this was our last-chance race," said Hight. "If we lose early again here, it's over. You put yourself in such a hole when you lose first round in the first few races in the Countdown. It was also in our mind that we didn't win a single round in the Countdown last year. You've got to get that off your back.”
Hight knows what it’s like to come from behind and win the championship. He did it in 2009 when he started from the 10th and final position in the Countdown, so this victory has him feeling confident even though his team is in fourth place.
"Jimmy Prock, Mike Neff, and all the teams have been working so hard and so well together to turn this car around,” Hight said. “We'd been struggling. But once Jimmy Prock's got it, he's got it. We're back in this thing. We have five wins this year. That's the most I've ever had in my career out here. It wasn't the greatest run of my career [in the final]. I got a little outside the groove and started spinning, but we got the win light. It's a great feeling to hear [co-crew chief] Eric Lane get on the radio and tell you we won."
DieHard Dodge Charger driver Matt Hagan leads the Funny Car points battle by two points over Castrol GTX Mustang driver Neff; they are followed by Snap-on Tools Toyota pilot Cruz Pedregon, who sits third.
Hector Arana Jr.
Rookie rider Arana collected his second Pro Stock Motorcycle victory of the season in a rematch of the semifinals in Dallas with Matt Smith. The rookie of the year contender ran a 6.78, 195.82 on his Lucas Oil Buell to beat veteran Smith’s 6.79, 194.24, also on a Buell.
“Right now, we have a lot of momentum,” Arana said. “My runs have been improving, and we plan to keep this streak going. This should help me for the rookie of the year and give me a good chance for the championship. I finally got to qualify No. 1 and win the race. That’s something I’ve been trying to do all year long.”
With the win, Arana moved up to second in points, 35 behind leader Eddie Krawiec. With the runner-up finish, Smith moved up to third.
The NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship continues Oct. 14-16 at the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird Int'l Raceway near Phoenix.
Friday: Brown, Hagan, Edwards, Krawiec pace opening day in Reading
Saturday: Brown sets national record en route to No. 1 spot; Gray, Line, Arana also lead fields
Sunday: Reading eliminations postponed due to weather