Sunday's Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals photo blog
Sunday, October 07, 2012

News and views from the 
Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals
Last update: 5:25 p.m.
Click for latest post

Race-Day Notes 


Record-setting weekend: With a forecast calling for cool temps and some overcast skies, many expected new records, and the nitro classes have already delivered. Both e.t. marks and the speed record in Funny Car have been reset. In Top Fuel, Morgan Lucas is the current national e.t. record holder with his 3.733 that was backed up by an earlier 3.760, which has him primed for the 20 additional points that come with an e.t. record, but he is certainly not secure in that position. David Grubnic ran quicker than Lucas yesterday in qualifying, posting a 3.728, and if he can back it up, he leave with the record and the 20 bonus points. Several other drivers also have back-up runs for a record should they run quicker today. In Funny Car, Jack Beckman is currently in possession of both the e.t. and speed mark thanks to his 3.989 at 320.58 mph, both of which were backed up by subsequent runs. Interestingly, the speed record has actually been reset twice during the weekend. Courtney Force briefly held the mark when she powered to a 319.60 on her final attempt, but Beckman got his back up a few pairs later to take the record from the rookie driver. As is the case in Top Fuel, there are several other drivers who posted potential back-up passes in qualifying should they go quicker today. The skies are overcast and temps are cool, making that a realistic scenario.


Tough outing: Tim Wilkerson, who was one of the shining stars of the first three Countdown races, rocketing from 10th up to fifth with a series of late-round finishes, had a major setback when he was unable to make the field here. The DNQ has already dropped him two spots in the standings, and the racers behind him are within striking distance. Wilkerson was briefly in the field with his 4.273, but points leader Ron Capps, who had an equal number of struggles, was able to find his mojo on the final pass, posting a 4.055 to get up in the top half of the field and bump Wilk out.

Jockeying for position: Though he was making solid runs in the 6.5s during the weekend, Greg Anderson’s speed was down significantly on all his runs, creating a lot of buzz, but Anderson had a simple explanation for the anomaly: He was trying to qualify in a way that gave him a shot at points leader Allen Johnson early in eliminations. “We were just trying to get into position to have a better shot at A.J.,” said Anderson in explaining his shutting off early during qualifying. “That didn’t work out, but the bottom line is we’ve still got two great Summit Chevrolets that can go on and win.”

Champs already crowned: With a forecast calling for the potential of rain today, NHRA officials made the call yesterday to complete some of the action in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, and Super Gas were all completed last night (Comp and the two alcohol classes will finish today). Bryan Worner took top honors in Super Stock, outlasting Anthony Bertozzi. Craig Marshall ran right on his dial to defeat Kelly MacKay in the Stock final. Jack Sepanek paired a .008 light with an 8.93 to better Chase Fahnestock in the Super Comp title round. Alan Kenny won the father-son Super Gas final, getting the nod when son Jason red-lighted.

Manzo’s quest for 100: Frank Manzo’s quest for his 100th win is still on today here, where he has enjoyed incredible success. Manzo has won the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals 12 times, including 11 of the last 12.

The morning kicked off with a track walk in honor of Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins. The well-attended walk was led by a couple of the cars that have been on display in the car corral this weekend, including this replica of the car that won the very first Pro Stock event contested.

[10:30 a.m.] Though the morning started out dry, a small weather system has moved into the Reading area, much to the chagrin of everyone in attendance, including NHRA Chief Starter Mark Lyle. The rain has activities on hold for now, but officials hope to get the race in today.

[Noon] The NHRA Safety Safari presented by AAA is out on the Maple Grove dragstrip, working their magic to get the track dried and prepped for the opening round of competition in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. The current plan is to begin racing at 1 p.m.

[12:30 p.m.] Earlier today, three special awards were handed out. Antron Brown's Matco Tools team was named Best Appearing Crew for their special pink uniforms, shown here on crew chiefs Brian Corradi, left, and Mark Oswald. Other winners were Super Gas runner Earl Nichols (Best Appearing Car) and Top Alcohol Dragster competitor John Finke (Best Engineered Car).

[1:15 p.m.] Though the start was delayed a couple of hours, racing is now under way at Maple Grove Raceway, and the cool, overcast weather is making for some great quick action. All four of the Top Fuelers in the first two pairs recorded 3.7-second times, including Khalid alBalooshi, near lane, who defeated Spencer Massey in the opening pair on a 3.75 to 3.77 count.

[1:30 p.m.] As has been the case all weekend, a large crowd of fans have converged on Maple Grove Raceway to check out the super-quick, action-packed eliminations day.

[1:30 p.m.] In an abbreviated pre-race ceremony, NHRA's Graham Light, right, and Maple Grove Raceway's Lex Dudas, left, continued the weekend-long celebration of Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins by announcing the retirement of Jenkins' competition number, 100. On hand for the presentation were, from left, Joe Lepone, Larry Lombardo, and Jenkins' niece, Sara Dixon.

[1:45 p.m.] In a major shocker in the opening round of Top Fuel, Ike Maier got the win against low qualifier David Grubnic. Grubnic's car smoke the tires. Maier was also a little off-pace with a 5.69, but it was enough to get the win.

[1:45 p.m.] The cool conditions yielded many strong 3.7-second runs, including five 3.74s that were the quickest runs of the first round in Top Fuel. Shawn Langdon was the best of the bunch with a 3.741, and that earned him lane choice against Doug Kalitta next round. Other second-round pairings (lane choice first): Khalid alBalooshi vs. Ike Maier, Morgan Lucas vs. Antron Brown, and Tony Schumacher vs. Brandon Bernstein.

[2:20 p.m.] There were upsets aplenty in the opening round of Funny Car, which was quite wild with several double pedalfests. First Jim Head (below) outmaneuvered Alexis DeJoria in the wild opening pair, winning with a 7.17, then Todd Lesenko (right), who reset his career best to a 4.125 yesterday to qualify for the field, got the nod over No. 2 qualifier Cruz Pedregon, winning in a 4.29 to 4.73 decision.

[2:20 p.m.] Jack Beckman continued to dominate the Funny Car field, resetting the national record with a 3.986 that was three-thousandths quicker than his qualifying time. Beckman is the first driver to run in the threes more than once, and the run gives him lane choice over Ron Capps in a monster second-round match that will determine which driver will leave the event as the points leader. Other round-two pairings (lane choice first): Johnny Gray vs. Matt Hagan, John Force vs. Todd Lesenko, and Mike Neff vs. Jim Head.

[2:50 p.m.] The Summit Racing team was the star of the opening round of Pro Stock with a pair of 6.48s on winning passes. Jason Line (below) was the better of the two with a 6.482, the second-quickest run in NHRA history. Line also recorded the third-best speed ever, 213.69. Greg Anderson (left) also got a 6.48 ticket, this one with a seven on the end.

[2:50 p.m.] If the magic number in Top Fuel was 3.74, Pro Stock's was 6.52. There were five 6.52-second runs in the opening round, including a 6.522 by Jeg Coughlin Jr. that tied Dave Connolly for the quickest of the five. Coughlin will have lane choice against Erica Enders next round. Other round-two pairings (lane choice first): Jason Line vs. Ronnie Humphrey, Greg Anderson vs. V. Gaines, and Connolly vs. Allen Johnson.

[3 p.m.] Just as they were preparing to fire the first pair of Pro Stock Motorcycles for the opening round, a light rain began to fall, bringing out the umbrellas and putting things temporarily on hold.

[3:30 p.m.] The NHRA Safety Safari is out on the track in full force, drying the racing surface and preparing it for more quick, close eliminations action. Right now, the estimated start time is about 4:15 p.m., when Top Fuel round two will take place. UPDATE [4:10 p.m.]: Racing has resumed.

[4:20 p.m.] Antron Brown reset the Top Fuel national e.t. record — potentially giving him 20 extra points — when he posted the quickest run in NHRA history, a 3.722, in his second-round victory over Morgan Lucas. Shortly after Brown finished his run, rain began falling again, putting things on hold temporarily.

[4:30 p.m.] Before rain began again, three of the four Top Fuel pairs in the second round were completed. Khalid alBalooshi (left) defeated Ike Maier to earn a spot in his first semifinal. Brandon Bernstein (below) ran a strong 3.736 to trailer Tony Schumacher. Bernstein will face Antron Brown in the semi's, and, despite his strong run, will not have lane choice.

[5:25 p.m.] After completing the opening round in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock and three of the four pairs in the second round of Top Fuel, the rain returned to Maple Grove Raceway, forcing officials to postpone the remainder of the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals to Monday morning. Racing will begin at 11 a.m. with the final pair in the second round of Top Fuel.

Friday's Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals live photo gallery
Saturday's Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals photo blog