Sunday's AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals live photo gallery
Sunday, September 23, 2012

News and views from the 
AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals
Last update:  4:40 p.m.
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Race-day notes

Qualifying was a boon to most of the incoming points leaders. In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher (pictured) was able to expand his slim lead over teammate Spencer Massey from 10 to 16 points, and Ron Capps' three bonus points in Funny Car were three more than second-place Mike Neff scored.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, the Hectors — Arana Sr. and Jr. — scored 16 and 15 points, respectively, in qualifying, and points leader Eddie Krawiec netted 10 and second-place Andrew Hines just nine in the first race since NHRA added 10 pounds to the minimum weight of their Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidsons.

The biggest boost came in Pro Stock, where Allen Johnson was perfect in his Mopar Dodge, getting the maximum 12 points for having the quickest car in each of the four rounds plus the eight points awarded the No. 1 qualifier. Those 20 points were double the amount scored by second-place Jason Line.

“We’re hitting on all cylinders, and we have a very consistent strategy right now,” said Johnson. “I’m trying to make good, clean, safe runs on every run, without pushing it at all, and we’re still right up front. Hopefully, we can take that strategy and work the eliminations on Sunday. If we need a little more, we’ve got a little more and can push the envelope a little bit, and that’s a really good feeling right now.”

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Current points standings
Top Fuel: Tony Schumacher 2,212; Spencer Massey 2,196; Shawn Langdon 2,195; Antron Brown 2,176; Doug Kalitta 2,143; Morgan Lucas 2,133; Brandon Bernstein 2,126; Steve Torrence 2,126; Bob Vandergriff Jr. 2,085; David Grubnic 2,075

Funny Car: Ron Capps 2,267; Mike Neff 2,191; Jack Beckman 2,190; Robert Hight 2,144; Cruz Pedregon 2,127; Courtney Force 2,120; Johnny Gray 2,113; John Force 2,104; Tim Wilkerson 2,103; Jeff Arend 2,095

Pro Stock: Allen Johnson 2,259; Jason Line 2,246; Vincent Nobile 2,177; Greg Anderson 2,141
Erica Enders 2,135; Mike Edwards 2,127; Ron Krisher 2,097; Larry Morgan 2,093; V. Gaines 2,085; Jeg Coughlin Jr. 2,063

Pro Stock Motorcycle: Eddie Krawiec 2,255; Andrew Hines 2,244; Hector Arana Jr. 2,196; Hector Arana Sr. 2,185; Scotty Pollacheck 2,124; Karen Stoffer 2,115; Michael Ray 2,107; LE Tonglet 2,095; Shawn Gann 2,093; Matt Smith 2,086

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Don Schumacher Racing Top Fuel teammates Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher both have special Motorplex memories in their vaults because, interestingly, both won their first NHRA national event at the Texas supertrack in 1999: Brown on a Pro Stock Motorcycle at the track’s Spring event and Schumacher in Top Fuel at the track’s Fall event.

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Fellow Texans Spencer Massey and Texan Steve Torrence will square off in the opening round of Top Fuel.

"We wish we could've done better in qualifying so we didn't have to run someone like Steve in the first round, but it will be a great first round for the fans,” acknowledged Massey. “It's my home race, and it's also Steve's home race. We both want it really bad.”

Massey, who saw his first pair of Top Fuel dragsters go down the track at the inaugural event here in 1986 and who won the track championship in Jr. Dragster, has had more than 40 friends and family members this weekend. "You don't get a break," he said. "Between all of the great fans here, from the race car needing my time and attention, and my friends and family, it has been busy, but it's so nice to have them here. It would be even better if we can go out and get that win with them here."

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Another Texan, former Texas A&M University student Brandon Bernstein, has been battling blower-belt problems on his entry, losing the all-important belt on both runs yesterday, a trend he hopes does not continue into his first-round race with Doug Kalitta.

"It's a horrible feeling, especially on race day, because you know whoever is next to you is probably going to go around you," he said. “This problem is starting to reach ridiculous levels right now. It's not dropping cylinders or smoking the tires; it's just taking the teeth off the belt and throwing them off."

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John Force’s $100,000 payday yesterday for winning the NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout in Funny Car boosted his career winnings in bonus events alone to $1,160,500. In 1999, Force  won the single biggest payday in NHRA history taking home $210,000 when he defeated Bob Vandergriff’ Jr.'s Top Fuel dragster at the Winston Showdown in Bristol.

Although he is a seven-time winner at the Motorplex, Force hasn’t won a national event here since 2005, two years before his car came apart at 300 mph and crashed into Kenny Bernstein’s Dodge, sending the 15-time champ to the hospital and a long and painful recovery.

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Alexis DeJoria made her nitro Funny Car debut here last year and would love to celebrate her anniversary with a win. The Motorplex was also the site of Jeg Coughlin Jr.’s Pro Stock debut in 1997. He qualified No. 7 and defeated the late Scott Geoffrion in round one before losing to Jim Yates in round two. Coughlin won the Pro Stock title here in 2002 and also has earned runner-up finishes in 2000, 2003, and 2008. In 16 appearances at Texas Motorplex, Coughlin has a round-win record of 20-12.

A Track Walk opened the morning as AAA Insurance Funny Car driver Robert Hight walked the famed all-concrete quarter-mile with Texas fans, who continue to flock into Texas Motorplex in anticipation of final eliminations.

  Last night's annual Drag Racing Association of Women auction drew a full house to the Motorplex's Champion Club to bid on items of both nostalgic and current interest.

Emcee/auction master Bob Frey once again presided at the affair, which raised more than $96,000 to help the benevolent association that supplies aid and comfort to drivers and their families in time of need.

[11 a.m.] Morgan Lucas (above) opened Top Fuel eliminations with a bang, setting the new low e.t. with a 3.816 blast in his GEICO dragster to defeat defending event champ Bob Vandergriff Jr.

That mark lasted deep into the round before Spencer Massey (left), who qualified an uncharacteristic 10th — his only second bottom-half effort of the season — beat fellow Texan Steve Torrence with a 3.814.

Six of the eight winners bettered their best run of qualifying in round one.

Second-round pairings (lane choice first): Shawn Langdon vs. Antron Brown, Lucas vs. J.R. Todd, Massey vs. Tony Schumacher, and Brandon Bernstein vs. Khalid alBalooshi.

[Noon] Defending event champ Cruz Pedregon's Snap-on Toyota ran 4.105, low e.t. of the opening round of Funny Car, and earned second-round  lane choice by just .002-second over Mike Neff, who defeated Pedregon's brother, Tony, with a 4.107, the second-best run of the round. Other second-round pairings (lane choice first): Courtney Force vs. Bob Tasca III, Matt Hagan vs. Tim Wilkerson, and Ron Capps vs. Jack Beckman.

[12:20 p.m.] Indy champ Dave Connolly (above) continues to roll on with the IDG Cobalt, leading a bottom-half revolt in which four of the slower-qualified cars collected round-wins in the opening stanza. Connolly upset Mike Edwards with a 6.616 but will have a tough chore in round two with low qualifier Allen Johnson, who has lane choice. (Below) Texan Rodger Brogdon was another giant killer, beating Charlotte champ Jason Line on a holeshot, 6.60 to 6.58. He'll have lane choice against Richard Freeman, who upset Ron Krisher. Other second-round pairings (lane choice first): Vincent Nobile vs. Greg Anderson and Erica Enders vs. Jeg Coughlin Jr.

[12:40 p.m.] Pro Stock Motorcycle veteran Mike Berry (above) scored just the second round-win of his season when he upset Chip Ellis on a first-round holeshot, 7.01 to 6.96. Even more elated was Redell Harris (below), who not only qualified for the first time in five outings this year but got a free pass in round one when No. 2 qualifier Hector Arana Sr. broke on startup. Second-round pairings (lane choice first): Hector Arana Jr. vs. Michael Ray, Andrew Hines vs. Berry, Karen Stoffer vs. Harris, and Eddie Krawiec vs. LE Tonglet.

[1:25 p.m.] Antron Brown (above) defeated low qualifier Shawn Langdon in round two of Top Fuel and took over third place from him in the process. Morgan Lucas will have lane choice against Brown in the semifinals. In an even bigger match, Spencer Massey (below) defeated teammate Tony Schumacher to pass him for the points lead. Massey will have lane choice against Brandon Bernstein in the semifinals.

 [1:40 p.m.] (Right) Points leader Ron Capps exulted after beating teammate Jack Beckman, who was third place in points behind him, by just .003-second in round two of Funny Car to help protect his lead.

Bob Tasca III (above) upset low qualifier and fellow Ford runner Courtney Force to advance to the semifinals for just the third time this season.

Cruz Pedregon will have lane choice over Tasca after running 4.169, low e.t. of the round. Defending Funny Car season champ Matt Hagan ran 4.17 and will have semifinal lane choice against his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Capps.

[1:50 p.m.] Vincent Nobile (above) eked past Greg Anderson by .004-second in round two of Pro Stock and his 6.590 will give him lane choice against teammate and No. 1 qualifier Allen Johnson. Richard Freeman (below) got past Rodger Brogdon to reach his first semifinal in Pro Stock. He'll face Erica Enders, who will have lane choice.

[2 p.m.] Michael Ray advanced to the Pro Stock Motorycle semifinals on the second-round red-light of low qualifier Hector Arana Jr. He'll take on Andrew Hines (below), who had low e.t. of the round at 6.903. On the other side of the ladder, Hines' teammate Eddie Krawiec will pick his lane against Karen Stoffer's GEICO Suzuki team.

  [3 p.m.] The Top Fuel title will boil down to Don Schumacher Racing teammates Spencer Massey (above) and Antron Brown (left).

Massey, runner-up at this race last year, defeated Brandon Bernstein in a pedalfest with a 4.27 to increase his points lead, and Brown ousted Morgan Lucas to take over second place from Tony Schumacher.

If Brown defeats Massey in the final round, the two will be tied atop the points leaderboard. 

  [3:10 p.m.] Much to the chagrin of the 10 Funny Car drivers in the Countdown playoffs, the Funny Car final will pit two drivers not participating in the playoffs, Matt Hagan (above) and Bob Tasca III (left).

Hagan and crew chief Tommy DeLago beat points leader Ron Capps, 4.20 to 4.22, and Tasca took out Cruz Pedregon on a holeshot, 4.29 to 4.26.

[3:15 p.m.] Pro Stock points leader Allen Johnson (above) will have final-round lane choice over Erica Enders (below) after running 6.590 to beat Vincent Nobile in the semifinals. Enders ran 6.623 to defeat Richard Freeman.

[3:20 p.m.] The Harley-Davidsons' reign of terror ended in Dallas because, for the first time in 12 races stretching back to the final two events of 2011, neither world champ and points leader Eddie Krawiec nor teammate Andrew Hines will be in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final round. Karen Stoffer (above left) beat Krawiec on a holeshot, 6.998 to 6.980, after cutting a .009 light, and Michael Ray (above right) reached his second final of the year by besting Hines, 6.96 to 6.97.


Prior to the final rounds, the fans enjoyed a mini-Cacklefest of Texas entries parked on the return road in front of the main grandstands. 

[4:40 p.m.] Jim Whiteley became the first Lucas Oil driver to officially clinch a season championship, locking up the Top Alcohol Dragster national championship with a final-round victory over his primary rival, Chris Demke.

[4:45 p.m.] Tommy Phillips became the sixth driver to win in two classes at multiple events, following up his Super Comp/Super Gas double at the 2009 JEGS Cajun SPORTSnationals with a similar triumph here. He scored in Super Gas with a final-round conquest of Jimmy Lewis, then drove his Super Comp dragster (pictured) pass Austin Williams to complete his second double. Edmond Richardson (5), David Rampy (4), Pat Austin (2), Jeff Taylor (2), and Jody Lang (2) are the only other drivers with multiple doubles. The feat has now been accomplished 23 times by 12 drivers and three times already this season.

Second-generation Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Michael Ray, far lane, picked up his first Wally when he outlasted Karen Stoffer in the final. Ray left the starting line first, then outran Stoffer, 6.92 to 7.02.

Allen Johnson wasn’t contested for much his 6.59-second run in the Pro Stock final when Texas native Erica Enders spun the tires on a 6.83. The Mopar driver extended his points lead with his fifth Wally of 2012.

In a battle of non-Countdown drivers, Bob Tasca III, far lane, earned his first win of the year and fourth in the nitro Funny Car ranks, outpedaling reigning world champion Matt Hagan, 4.82 to 5.02.

Antron Brown, near lane, rebounded from a disastrous playoff start, scoring his fifth win of the season in a 3.89 to 3.94 final opposite teammate Spencer Massey. He and Massey are now tied atop the Top Fuel points standings.

The Full Throttle winners, from left, Antron Brown, Allen Johnson, Bob Tasca III, and Michael Ray.

Saturday's AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals live photo gallery

Friday's AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals live photo gallery