Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals photo blog
Sunday, September 16, 2012

News and views from the 
O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals
Last update: 10:30 p.m.
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Weather change: A small weather system moved through the area overnight, dropping temperatures and setting up what could be a quick day of racing at zMAX Dragway. The system also produced a little rain, but officials expect eliminations to be completed today, though the start may be slightly delayed.

Vincent Nobile
Jack Beckman

Let the shuffling begin: With the tight margins between the top 10 drivers, everyone knew there would be some shuffling in the standings this weekend. That has already begun based on qualifying. Based on qualifying points, Vincent Nobile moved around Erica Enders for fourth in the standings, leading by just four points. In Funny Car, Tim Wilkerson's strong qualifying effort has moved him into a tie with Jeff Arend for ninth. These changes are likely just the first of many in the standings this weekend.

Countdown contender matches: The points will be impacted immediately in all classes when several Countdown runners face off in the opening round. In Top Fuel, Bob Vandergriff Jr. meets Steve Torrence and Tony Schumacher races David Grubnic. Funny Car features three Countdown-contender races: Robert Hight vs. Jeff Arend, Mike Neff vs. Johnny Gray, and Courtney Force vs. John Force. Allen Johnson meets Jeg Coughlin Jr. in Pro Stock round one, and Ron Krisher faces Larry Morgan. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, points positions will be on the line when Karen Stoffer squares off with Shawn Gann and Eddie Krawiec takes on LE Tonglet.

Qualifying streak continues: Jack Beckman has a nice little qualifying streak going that he extended here. Beckman has qualified in the top two for six straight races, dating back to Denver, when he earned his first No. 1 start this year.

Qualifying streak ended: In his previous four appearances at zMAX Dragway, Jason Line was the Pro Stock low qualifier, but that streak ended when Vincent Nobile outran the defending world champion Friday night and earned his first career pole. Line starts today from the second spot.

Today's scheduled later start time of noon allows fans to come early and spend a little extra time in the pits with their favorite drivers as well as checking out the many other attractions the open pits have to offer every ticket holder. Throughout the weekend, fans have been visiting the National DRAGSTER trailer to get their photo taken in front of a custom background featuring the Tree and a dragstrip. Fans who stop by the attraction can then go online and see themselves on the cover of ND and share the image with friends online and through social media.

(Left) A small but pesky weather system that came into Charlotte area over night has kept the NHRA Safety Safari presented by AAA on their toes. They began track drying early this morning and had the track nearly dry when the skies once again opened and light rain began to fall. As of 12:25 p.m., things were in a hold pattern, but we are expecting to complete the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries today. Rain delays are the perfect opportunity for racers to do a little bench racing, and this morning 15-time Top Alcohol Funny Car national champion Frank Manzo has been holding court in the pit of Top Fuel racer Terry McMillen (below). UPDATE (2:45 p.m.): Track drying under way.

[3:55 p.m.] After a series of rain delays and a lot of great work by NHRA's Safety Safari, activity is picking up, and we are getting close to the start of the opening round of eliminations. An abbreviated pre-race ceremony, in which the four No. 1 qualifiers, including Pro Stock Motorcycle's Andrew Hines (right), were introduced along with event dignitaries. As pre-race was going on, the Top Fuelers pulled into the lanes (below).

[4:25 p.m.] In the opening pair of Top Fuelers, Bob Vandergriff Jr. won a crucial first-round match with fellow Countdown contender Steve Torrence, and he did so on a holeshot, turning a .073 to .095 lead at the Tree into a 3.831 to 3.824 victory.

Tony Schumacher, the 2008 winner at this event, paced the opening round of Top Fuel with low e.t. of the weekend, 3.793, that easily got the better of a tire-smoking David Grubnic. Schumacher will have lane choice over Morgan Lucas in round two. Other second-round pairings (lane choice first): Bob Vandergriff Jr. vs. Shawn Langdon, Doug Kalitta vs. Brandon Bernstein, and Spencer Massey vs. Khalid alBalooshi.

[5:05 p.m.] Cruz Pedregon set a new Funny Car standard for the weekend when he powered his Snap-on entry to a 4.035 to defeat brother Tony, who had troubles early, in the opening round. Pedregon's time was two-hundredths quicker than the rest of the field.

He may not be in the Countdown, but reigning Funny Car world champ Matt Hagan proved he may be a thorn in the title contenders' sides during the playoffs. Hagan posted a 4.057, the second-quickest run of the round, to put Bob Tasca III on the trailer. Hagan will have lane choice over Tim Wilkerson in round two. Other second-round pairings (lane choice first): Cruz Pedregon vs. Ron Capps, Jack Beckman vs. Jeff Arend, and John Force vs. Mike Neff.

[5:25 p.m.] Reigning Pro Stock world champ Jason Line posted low e.t. of round one, running a 6.576 en route to victory over Frank Gugliotta, who had troubles early and faded.

There were a couple of surprises in the opening round of Pro Stock. Both Greg Anderson (pictured) and Erica Enders encountered problems during their runs and had to click off their cars early, opening the door for Shane Gray and Warren Johnson, respectively. Gray and Johnson will race in the second round; Johnson has lane choice. Other second-round pairings (lane choice first): Vincent Nobile vs. Dave Connolly, Allen Johnson vs. Mike Edwards, and Jason Line vs. Larry Morgan.

[5:35 p.m.] The Vance & Hines Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson team continued to set the pace in Pro Stock Motorcycle, clocking the only 6.8-second runs of the first round. Eddie Krawiec (pictured) was tops with a 6.871, and teammate Andrew Hines posted a 6.899.

Scotty Pollacheck was one of two riders from the bottom half of the Pro Stock Motorcycle ladder — Shawn Gann was the other — to advance out of the first round. Pollacheck defeated teammate John Hall, and in the process, Pollacheck moved up one spot in the standings to fifth. Pollacheck faces Eddie Krawiec, who will select his lane, in round two. Other second-round matches (lane choice first): Andrew Hines vs. Gann, Hector Arana Sr. vs. Matt Smith, and Hector Arana Jr. vs. Michael Ray.

[6:15 p.m.] Spencer Massey (below) set a new Top Fuel low e.t. for the weekend, clocking a 3.777 when he dispatched Khalid alBalooshi. Massey will have lane choice over Tony Schumacher, who ran an equally game 3.788 against Morgan Lucas, in the semi's. On the other side of the ladder, No. 1 qualifier Shawn Langdon (right) picks his lane against Brandon Bernstein. Langdon ran a 3.796 while Bernstein ran 3.822.

[6:30 p.m.] The magic number of Funny Car round two was 4.06: All four winners posted 4.06-second times. Jack Beckman, left with crew chief Todd Smith, had one of the quickest of runs with a 4.063. Beckman will select his lane against Mike Neff, who was two-thousandths slower, in the semi's.

Funny Car points leader Ron Capps continues to add to his tally by making it to the semifinals. Capps won his second-round match with Cruz Pedregon with a 4.064, but that wasn't enough to earn him lane choice for the semi's because his teammate Matt Hagan posted a best-of-the-round 4.062.

[6:55 p.m.] Shane Gray inspects his car after it went out of control and made contact with the wall near the finish line during his second-round race with Warren Johnson. Gray was uninjured in the incident, but his car sustained significant damage.

Pro Stock No. 1 qualifier Vincent Nobile is still in contention for the event Wally after he bested Dave Connolly in the second round. Nobile faces quasi-teammate Allen Johnson in the semi's. Johnson has lane choice.

Warren Johnson is a surprise semifinalist in Pro Stock after he got around Erica Enders and Shane Gray. Johnson will face Jason Line, who has lane choice, in the semi's.

[7:05 p.m.] The Pro Stock Motorcycle semifinals come down to the Harleys vs. "the Hectors." On one side of the ladder, Andrew Hines (right) takes on Hector Arana Sr., and he selects his lane thanks to his 6.871 clocking in round two. The other pairing pits Eddie Krawiec, who ran low e.t. of the weekend, 6.846 in round two, against Hector Arana Jr. (below).

[7:45 p.m.] Indy winners Tony Schumacher and his U.S. Army team (left) will have a chance to win two in a row after he blasted to a 3.749, the best time of the weekend by a bunch, to defeat teammate Spencer Massey in the semi's. Schumacher will select his lane against Spencer Massey (below), who earned the right to run for his first Top Fuel Wally when he ran a 3.803 to beat Brandon Bernstein in the semifinals.

[7:55 p.m.] Like Top Fuel's Tony Schumacher, Indy Funny Car champ Mike Neff (right) has the opportunity to earn another Wally after he topped Jack Beckman in their semifinal match. Neff, who clocked a 4.050 will give up lane choice to Ron Capps (below), who went 4.047 in his victory over Matt Hagan.

[8:05 p.m.] Jason Line (left) was once again the quickest Pro Stock driver in the semifinals, matching his qualifying time of 6.554 to trailer Warren Johnson. Line faces points leader Allen Johnson (below), who went wire to wire against low qualifier Vincent Nobile in the semi's.

[8:10 p.m.] The Vance & Hines Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson winning streak will continue because the final is all Harleys. Eddie Krawiec (pictured) is the favorite entering the final after he posted a 6.831 vs. the 6.858 of teammate Andrew Hines.

[10:30 p.m.] Andrew Hines, far lane, scored his second straight Pro Stock Motorcycle title when he defeated teammate Eddie Krawiec in the final. Hines left the starting line first, .010 to .018, and turned the advantage into a 6.862 to 6.858 holeshot win.

Jason Line, near lane, visited the winner's circle in Charlotte for the first time ever when he got the better of points leader Allen Johnson in the championship round. In the odd final, both cars wiggled at the hit, but Line was able to recover quicker and win on a 7.51 to 11.80 count.

Ron Capps extended his Funny Car points standings lead when he drove his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge, near lane, past Indy champ Mike Neff. Capps recorded his fourth straight 4.0-second run, a 4.067, en route to victory.

Racing in his seventh Top Fuel final, Shawn Langdon, far lane, finally broke through to earn his first Wally in the class. Though Tony Schumacher had the advantage on the starting line, Langdon was able to drive around him to win in a 3.785 to 3.808 decision.

The O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals winners, from left, Jason Line, Andrew Hines, Shawn Langdon, and Ron Capps.