Fallen Patriots NHRA Route 66 Nationals Sunday Notebook

09 Jul 2017
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
Chicago

Preview | Features | Photos | Results

ELIMINATION RECAPS

B_Alexander.JPGTOP FUEL E1 (12:33 p.m.): Antron Brown threw down the best run of the first round, but the highlight came in the form of rookie Top Fuel pilot Blake Alexander earning his first career round-win. Alexander beat Tony Schumacher with a holeshot thanks to a .020 light and will face Steve Torrence, another very tough customer, in the second round. T.J. Zizzo, a part-time racer, had the second-best run of the round (3.793) and will face off against Brittany Force in the second round. 

Second round pairings (lane choice first): T.J. Zizzo vs. Brittany Force; Steve Torrence vs. Blake Alexander; Antron Brown vs. Leah Pritchett; Clay Millican vs. Shawn Langdon

jimcampbell.jpgFUNNY CAR E1 (12:58 p.m.): How about a little upset action on a Sunday afternoon? Jim Campbell got his first win since all the way back in race No. 3 in Gainesville by beating the No. 1 qualifier, Robert Hight. That books him a date with defending champion Ron Capps in the second round and helps Campbell’s case for getting into the Countdown. Alexis DeJoria, another driver looking to climb into the Countdown, also picked up a round-win by beating Cruz Pedregon, whose hold on 10th place is in jeopardy. J.R. Todd picked up an upset win over Courtney Force, his first round-win since Topeka. 

Second round pairings (lane choice first): Ron Capps vs. Jim Campbell; Alexis DeJoria vs. Matt Hagan; Jack Beckman vs. Tim Wilkerson; Tommy Johnson Jr. vs. J.R. Todd. 

delco.jpgPRO STOCK E1 (1:09 p.m.): Six of the top eight qualifiers advanced to the second round in Pro Stock with the most notable exception being five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., who shook the tires in his JEGS.com Camaro and lost a close battle to No. 13 qualifier Kenny Delco. Chris McGaha, the No. 8 seed, also dropped a close race against two-time world champ Erica Enders. Low qualifier Greg Anderson was the only driver to venture into the 6.5-second zone with a 6.595 in his win against Val Smeland. Points leader Bo Butner was also solid with a 6.605 in his win against Mark Hogan.

Second round pairings (lane choice first): Bo Butner vs. Vincent Nobile; Tanner Gray vs. Drew Skillman; Greg Anderson vs. Erica Enders; Jason Line vs. Kenny Delco

karen.JPGPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE E1 (1:28 p.m.): In one of the most shocking developments in all of the Pro classes, Matt Smith fouled out against No. 14 qualifier Eddie Krawiec in the first round of Pro Stock Motorcycle. Smith made the quickest run of the round with a 6.820 but did not advance after a -.007 red-light start. The round’s other big upset came when Karen Stoffer defeated five-time champ Andrew Hines on a holeshot, 6.943 to 6.922. Several Pro Stock Motorcycle riders made their best runs of the weekend in round one, including reigning world champ Jerry Savoie, who downed Chip Ellis with a 6.819. Scotty Pollacheck, Angie Smith, and Mike Berry also made it to round two.

Second round pairings (lane choice first): Jerry Savoie vs. Karen Stoffer; LE Tonglet vs. Scotty Pollacheck; Hector Arana Jr. vs Angie Smith; Mike Berry vs. Eddie Krawiec

zizzo.jpgTOP FUEL E2 (2:16 p.m.): The storybook day for T.J. Zizzo continued as he took down Brittany Force in the second round and posted the best run of the session in the process. His 3.787-second pass gives him lane choice against points leader Steve Torrence, who ended Top Fuel rookie Blake Alexander’s Cinderella story. They’ll meet up in the semifinals, as will Clay Millican and Antron Brown after Leah Pritchett hazed the tires against her Don Schumacher Racing teammate. Zizzo’s semifinal appearance is his first since Seattle in 2013. 

Semifinal round pairings (lane choice first): T.J. Zizzo vs. Steve Torrence; Antron Brown vs. Clay Millican.

wilk.jpgFUNNY CAR E2 (2:26 p.m.): Don Schumacher Racing’s stranglehold on Funny Car continued as three of the four floppers from the Brownsburg, Ind., shop qualified for the semifinals. Matt Hagan posted the best time of the round (4.006) to beat Alexis DeJoria, who had a cylinder out halfway down the track. Tim Wilkerson is the only pilot with a shot to upset the DSR blockade. Wilkerson took down Jack Beckman in the second round and will face Tommy Johnson Jr. in the semifinals with a shot to reach the final for the first time since Atlanta earlier this season. 

Semifinal matchups (lane choice first): Matt Hagan vs. Ron Capps; Tommy Johnson Jr. vs. Tim Wilkerson

erica.jpgPRO STOCK E2 (2:33 p.m.): Erica Enders didn’t have the best car in the quarterfinals, but once again the two-time world champ found a way to get the job done with a 6.649 to 6.614 holeshot win against low qualifier and recent Norwalk runner-up Greg Anderson. While Anderson lost, his KB Racing teammates Bo Butner and Jason Line advanced with wins against Vincent Nobile and Kenny Delco, respectively. Drew Skillman also put his Elite-powered Camaro into the semi’s when he defeated Tanner Gray, 6.622 to 6.639.

Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): Drew Skillman vs. Bo Butner; Jason Line vs. Erica Enders

L_Tonglet.JPGPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE E2 (2:40 p.m.): LE Tonglet is halfway to his fourth win of the season following an impressive 6.843 to 6.881 win against Scotty Pollacheck in the quarterfinals. Tonglet will have lane choice in the semi’s against Karen Stoffer, who scored an impressive win over reigning champ Jerry Savoie. The other side of the ladder will feature a battle between Eddie Krawiec and Hector Arana Jr. with Arana having lane choice thanks to his 6.882 win against Angie Smith.

Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): LE Tonglet vs. Karen Stoffer; Hector Arana Jr. vs. Eddie Krawiec

antron.jpgTOP FUEL SEMIFINALS (3:32 p.m.): Things took a turn for the familiar in the semifinals as Steve Torrence and Antron Brown took care of business against T.J. Zizzo and Clay Millican, respectively. This is the third time the pair have met in a final round this season; the pair have split the Wallys so far, which makes their Chicago meeting the rubber match. Will the gold statue go back to Texas or to Don Schumacher Racing in Indiana? We know Brown owns the win-loss record against Torrence, but Steve-O has had the best dragster in the field this season.

tommy.jpgFUNNY CAR SEMIFINALS (3:38 p.m.): On the day NHRA remembered the life of Terry Chandler, one of the cars she helped fund will race in the final round. Tommy Johnson Jr., the driver of the Make-A-Wish car, beat a tire-smoking Tim Wilkerson to reach the final round in Chicago. He’ll meet Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps, who beat fellow DSR Funny Car driver Matt Hagan. That means for the 12th time this season the Funny Car Wally will go back to the Brownsburg, Ind., shop of DSR. Johnson had the best pass of the round (4.015), which is also the best time he’s laid down since the second qualifying session. 

PRO STOCK SEMIFINALS (3:40 p.m.): Erica Enders will race against Drew Skillman in the final round after a pair of thrilling side-by-side races in the semi’s. Enders advanced to her third final of the season when she outran Jason Line by six-thousandths, 6.649 to 6.654. Enders won her first race of the season last month in Epping. Skillman will have a chance to become the ninth different Pro Stock winner of the season after a 6.625 to 6.621 holeshot win against points leader Bo Butner. Enders and Skillman have not raced against each other this season.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE SEMIFINALS (3:46 p.m.): Red-hot LE Tonglet will race in his fourth final round in the first six events of the season following a 6.843 to 6.904 win over fellow Suzuki racer Karen Stoffer. Tonglet’s final-round opponent will be former Chicago winner Hector Arana Jr., who topped Eddie Krawiec with a 6.844 to make the final for the second time this season.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE FINAL (4:42 p.m.): LE Tonglet can rightfully lay claim to the unofficial title of hottest driver in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series after earning his fourth national event win in six starts this season. Tonglet, the 2012 world champion, picked up career win No. 14 when he stopped Hector Arana Jr. and his Lucas Oil Buell in the final, 6.835 to 6.878. Tonglet won for the third time at Route 66 Raceway following his back-to-back victories in 2011-12.

PRO STOCK FINAL (4:48 p.m.): There have now been nine different Pro Stock winners in the first 13 events of the 2017 season after Drew Skillman stopped Erica Enders in the final round. Skillman got off the starting line with a competitive .013 reaction time and drove to a 6.627 for the win in his Gray Motorsports-powered Camaro after Enders slowed to a 6.655. Skillman now has 10 national event wins, including four in the Pro Stock class. Skillman also defeated Enders for his first Pro Stock victory at the 2015 St. Louis event.

FUNNY CAR FINAL (4:54 p.m.): Ron Capps picked up his career-best sixth Funny Car win on the season with a 4.026-second pass. The driver of the NAPA car came from the No. 9 spot in the field to roll through two of his teammates, first Matt Hagan in the semi's, then Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final, to extend his lead on the flopper field. Capps left first, .055 to .159, and only extended that lead down the strip. 

TOP FUEL FINAL (4:57 p.m.): It was a good day for the points leaders in the nitro classes as Steve Torrence captured his fifth victory of the season and slightly improved his record against Antron Brown to 3-22 in the process. A terrific side-by-side drag race featured both Top Fuel pilots leaving two-thousandths apart and Torrence beating Brown down the track by .007-second. 

LUCAS OIL SERIES SPORTSMAN FINALS
TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER
Megan Meyer def. Joey Severance
TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR
Sean Bellemeur def. Shane Westerfield
COMPETITION ELIMINATOR
David Rampy def. Brian Hyerstay
SUPER STOCK
Aaron Stanfield def. Greg Stanfied
STOCK
Brad Burton def. Justin Picillo
SUPER COMP
Luke Bogacki def. Nick Folk
SUPER GAS
Luke Bogacki def. Mike Sawyer
SUPER STREET
Dan Fletcher def. Greg Ventura
TOP DRAGSTER presented by Racing RVs
Zach Sackman def. Shanna Snyder
TOP SPORTSMAN presented by Racing RVs
Mark McDonald def. Todd Ewing

FEATURES

After a big explosion in Epping, Terry McMillen and the Amalie team looked vulnerable for the first time all season. The Top Fuel squad had one of the most consistent cars in the field and had been getting better as the season had progressed, but with Shawn Langdon gaining and Scott Palmer and Troy Coughlin Jr. not going away, it was poor timing for McMillen’s mishap.

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Now, four races removed from the blowup, the Xtermigator team looks poised to lockdown a spot in the Countdown with six races to go. Don’t worry, McMillen isn’t counting his chickens before they’re hatched; far from it, in fact. But he knows he’s got a great team and a great dragster that’s back to its old self.

“I think now that we pretty much know what we’re going to the starting line with, and we’re all comfortable with it. We know it’s going run what [crew chief Rob Wendland] says it’s going to run,” said McMillen. “Rob says it’s going to run 3.75, it’s going to run 3.75. I think from that standpoint, it’s something we’re actually predicting whereas before it was kind of a crapshoot.”

That confidence matters this deep into the season as McMillen holds his destiny in his hands. He’s 121 points ahead of Langdon and 13 ahead of Coughlin and Palmer. That’s a slim margin, and certainly not one that makes him comfortable, but his crew has given him the confidence that he can seal the deal. 

“When you talk about confidence, we went out a built a brand-new car, went to Pomona, and never tested, never did anything, and brought it out of the trailer and ran a 3.75,” said McMillen. “When you look at that, it’s just a compliment to the team. I felt very confident getting in the car knowing these guys put it to the car, knowing it’s the same people and the same leadership. It’s all about good leadership and good teamwork.” 

McMillen has another big matchup in the first round today: Langdon. He beat Langdon on a holeshot in Norwalk, which gave him a little more breathing room in the fight for a Countdown spot, and the Kalitta Motorsports driver is surely looking for revenge. 

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After the first day of qualifying, Clay Millican found himself in an unfamiliar spot: on the outside of the 16-car field. His 5.811 and 7.04 passes put him behind Chris Karamesines’ 4.69-second run. It took until his final run on Saturday to get in, and when he did qualify, he did it in style: with a stellar 3.739 pass that eventually made him the No. 3 driver in the Top Fuel field.  

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The Top Fuel veteran picked up his first career win two races ago and, after the media frenzy that followed, feels things are starting to get back to normal. That’s music to the ears of crew chief David Grubnic, who wants to focus on the team’s real goal: chasing a championship. 

“He’s just like, 'OK we’ve got this done, now let’s start doing it over and over and over again,' ” said Millican. “He was seriously more about getting that done than I was.”

That’s out of the way now, and the Parts-Plus/Great Clips crew got it done with a chassis they pulled out in Epping. Their previous car had more than 400 runs on the back half and was well past its prime. That led to unpredictability according to both Millican and Grubnic. 

“The other car we ran, it had situations to where we’d smoke the tires, and I’d blame myself, that I’d misread read the track or something,” said Grubnic. “Then starting in Atlanta this year we’d started to see a pattern develop, and it did it more often. We went out and changed cars, and we got consistency back.”

Setups that had been reliable in the past stopped being reliable, and that’s what motivated the change. That might sound familiar if you’ve followed the sport closely this season. It’s that same reasoning that caused Ron Capps and Rahn Tobler to change cars back in Bristol. 

Finding more consistency is likely the key for Millican to become a serious contender for a Top Fuel championship. He entered Chicago in seventh place, just 39 points behind Brittany Force. Points will reset to fixed spots in six races as the Countdown begins. Every rung Millican climbs up the latter is critical, so going rounds is critical. 

“Our goal at the start of the year was to go into the Countdown top five, and we’re just out of sixth right now, so we definitely gotta go a bunch of more rounds,” said Millican. “We gotta go out there and win more races; that’s the ultimate plan.”

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blakealexander_0.jpgSmax Smith and Blake Alexander have at least two things in common, and no, it’s not their country of origin nor their age. Both drivers got their first Top Fuel round-win this year, and they both got it against the same opponent: Tony Schumacher. Alexander left first against “the Sarge” with a .020 light and won via a holeshot.

Alexander is racing in just his second Top Fuel competition but has a handful of round-wins in Funny Car, where he got his racing start. He runner-upped against Matt Hagan in Charlotte in 2013 in a flopper but wants to get as much time behind the wheel as possible; that’s why he’s driving a dragster under the Del Worsham banner for the second time this season.

Alexander set a career-best on Friday with a 3.882 pass, but you can bet his 3.94-second run on Sunday will stand as the highlight of his very young Top Fuel career. Well, unless he takes down points leader Steve Torrence in the second round. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 

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Jack Beckman has made three-straight finals, won two of them, and will attempt to make his fourth-straight final round for the second time in his career. The last time “Fast Jack” made it to four finals in a row was way back in 2008 when he advanced to finals in Brainerd, Reading, Indy, and Charlotte. 

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Beckman won in Reading and Charlotte that year by beating Frank Hawley and Cruz Pedregon. His losses came at the hands of Pedregon and Robert Hight. This year two of his finals have come against teammate Ron Capps, while his most recent win, in Norwalk, came against Hight. Maybe this Sunday he’ll get a chance to go up against Pedregon again. 

The Infinite Hero car pilot can also go back to back in two different ways in Chicago. Beckman won in Norwalk two weeks ago and won in the Windy City last season. He beat a familiar foe, Capps, last season by .561-second in one of his two victories.

Beckman came just .005-second away from qualifying No. 1 days after the backer of his Infinite Hero car, Terry Chandler, passed away after a valiant battle with cancer. With a new chassis that’s been making stout runs this weekend, Beckman just might have the car to get to the final and win, again. He’s got Tim Wilkerson in the first round. 

"Everyone at DSR wants to win this trophy for Terry, and I can't tell you how much it especially would mean to my team and Jack's," said Johnson, who won at Chicago with Terry in 2015.

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R_Hight.JPGRobert Hight didn’t expect to stay as the No. 1 qualifier on the back of his 3.851-second run in the second qualifying session. A pair of runs in the six-second range of Saturday where he hazed the tires weren’t pretty, but they didn’t impact his qualifying position, either, as nobody else could break through.

“Leaving here last night, I would have bet anybody that if we didn’t run today or this night session that we would not be No. 1,” said Hight, after qualifying wrapped up Saturday. “A lot of people missed it today, including us, but we also missed it during the day, and we’re going to have to get it together tomorrow because the night runs are over.”

Still, the data Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock picked up by challenging the track during Saturday’s conditions is still valuable. Sometimes it takes going out and seeing how far a track can be pushed before you can learn how far you need to reel it back in.

“[Jimmy Prock] said we kind of know our limit,” said Hight on the third qualifying run. “You want to go down the track every run and get three points every run, but if you don’t test that limit and find out what that limit is, you might find out what it is on Sunday.”

Hight has been on the wrong end of some of that type of learning experience on more than a few Sundays, but he’s also been victim to bad luck. He fell to Jack Beckman in the final round in Norwalk two weeks ago due to a clutch malfunction and has runner-upped twice this season. 

The driver of the AAA car faces off against Jim Campbell in the first round this afternoon. 

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Alexis DeJoria had plenty of ground to make up in the Funny Car points race after missing three races to tend to family matters. The driver of the Tequila Patron car still has her work cut out for her, but the Eastern Swing finished with DeJoria gaining more points than any of the other contenders for the bottom of the Countdown spots, save for Cruz Pedregon. 

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DeJoria picked up 173 points during the four-race swing, one less than Pedregon and 36 more than Del Worsham. She’s still in 14th with five races to go but only needs 50 points to catch up with 10th-place Pedregon. Given her current rate (42.33 points per race), she’ll end up with just shy of 614 points. At the beginning of June, we speculated she’d need around 867 points to make the Countdown. We, uh, were way off. 

But if every other driver continues at their same pace, DeJoria will still end up three spots and 67 points out of a Countdown spot, while Jonnie Lindberg will sneak into 10th over Pedregon and Worsham. Things get a little bit better if you look at how things went during the Eastern Swing. Assuming Pedregon, DeJoria, Lindberg, Worsham, and Campbell pick up points at the rate they did during the four in a row, DeJoria will end up in 11th place and 52 points behind Pedregon. 

In either scenario, it’s clear DeJoria needs better results. Two round-wins in four races isn’t going to cut it unless the rest of her competition goes winless the rest of the way, and even then, that relies on the Tequila Patron car qualifying well. Back-to-back spots in the top half of the field (seventh in Bristol and Norwalk) is a good start, but DeJoria desperately needs to go deeper than the second round to feel comfortable as Indy approaches. 

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allenjohnson.jpgAlthough Allen Johnson did not qualify in the top half of the Pro Stock field, he can’t feel too bad about his No. 10 ranking since his Marathon Petroleum Dodge was progressively quicker on each of the four qualifying runs. Johnson opened with a 6.668 and eventually worked his way to a 6.610 in the final session Saturday afternoon.

“We got better every run, and the car is working good,” Johnson said. “We just are trying to figure out how to match up with those top two or three guys. They’re killing us in the first eighth-mile of the track, but we’re right with them in the second half of the track. If we can figure out how to pick up in the front half of the track, we can be right there with them the whole time."

Johnson got off to a rough start this season with no round-wins in his first seven events, but he’s managed to cobble together three win lights since Topeka, and he’s moved back into the top 10 for the first time this season following his win against Chris McGaha in Norwalk.

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The KB team does many things well, but when it comes to qualifying, there isn’t a team in any class that can match their recent record of success. In Chicago, Greg Anderson qualified No. 1 for the 89th time in his career, and KB drivers have claimed the top spot at nine of 13 events so far this season. Anderson isn’t one to overstate his achievements, but he couldn’t help but boast about the strength of his 6.564 run.

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“That run I made right there was as close to perfection as you can get,” said Anderson, who claimed a total of 10 bonus points in qualifying as one of the top cars in each session. "I really felt good going down the racetrack, and I thought to myself when I got her in high gear, ‘I think I have the pole in this one.’ It felt that good. My crew chief, Rob Downing, he hit the bull's-eye.”

For all the good things happening for the KB team, Anderson couldn’t help but express the sadness that the entire sport is feeling following the loss of Terry Chandler, who was well known throughout the drag racing community and the sister of former Funny Car racer Johnny Gray, the aunt of Pro Stock driver Shane Gray, and great aunt of Pro Stock rookie Tanner Gray.

“I told Johnny a couple days ago that we're all going to be racing for second place this weekend, because Terry is going to have her hand on Tanner's race car this weekend,” said Anderson. “Just like I expected, Tanner Gray went to the pole on Friday. [Saturday], his race car didn't run like it should have, so he ended up losing the pole, but I know he'll do great [Sunday]. It's a special weekend, and we're all here to honor Terry Chandler. She was a great lady, and we wish she was here. But we're all racing for her. We might be racing for second, but if that's true, second is going to feel like a win to me."

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Allen Johnson wasn’t the only Pro Stock driver to make four progressively quicker runs during qualifying. Erica Enders also appears to be trending in the right direction after driving her Melling-backed Camaro to a best of 6.600 to qualify No. 9. Enders, opened with a 6.652, but her Elite team nit-picked the setup on each run and saw a consistent improvement.

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“We're certainly not exactly where we want to be because we'll most likely be starting race day in the first pair out, and we definitely won't have lane choice,” said Enders. “I'll still bet on my Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports guys every time. We definitely used all four qualifying runs as test sessions, really on all four of our team cars, so we've acquired a lot of data and gotten better every run even if it's just by a little bit, so we are directionally correct at the moment, and I hope that trend continues [Sunday].”

Even though she isn’t starting in the top half of the field, Enders can take a lot of positives from qualifying. For one, she was slated to face teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the first round, but Coughlin made one of the best runs in the final session to move into the No. 4 spot and change the pairings. She can also benefit from the tune-up changes made to Coughlin’s car, as well as the cars of teammates Vincent Nobile and Alex Laughlin.

“The way the car ran in the last round, it leads us to be optimistic,” Enders said. “I think we can make some pretty significant improvements. I'm hungry for another win.”

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In the see-saw battle for the top spot on the Pro Stock Motorcycle ladder, Hector Arana Jr. finished second to low qualifier LE Tonglet, but the Lucas Oil Buell rider did earn a nice consolation prize when he turned in top speed of the meet with a 197.33-mph blast on his Jim Yates-tuned V-twin. Starting from the No. 2 spot, Arana has his best starting spot of the 2017 season.

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“Setting a track record is cool, especially here because I like this track a lot,” said Arana. “It's not something you set out to do, but it's neat when it happens. Any time we can bring extra attention to Lucas Oil and Lucas Oil Racing TV, it's a good thing.”

Arana has also had to adjust to racing without his father, Hector Sr., who remained at home in Indiana. Hector Sr. was forced to park the team’s second Buell entry after recent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. He is expected to be out until mid-September

“We are really excited to be running so well,” the younger Arana said. “I miss my father being out here. This will be my first race day without my father. It's going to be weird. It's definitely different. He's not going to be on the line when I run. I won't be able to watch his runs or sit with him in the staging lanes and talk strategy. Even though he's at home, he was still able to help the team out. He's got little treasures hidden in the trailer, and he was able to tell us where to find one of them, and we put it in the bike and she woke up.

“It's good that he is still able to help out, and he's been calling non-stop, so it's good,” Arana added. “It's just been super-quiet, and I don't really like it, but we gotta do what we gotta do until he gets back.”

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C_Reed.JPGWhen Cory Reed and teammate Angelle Sampey decided to form their own Team Liberty Racing team, they knew that there was going to be a significant learning curve. Still, their goal of qualifying both bikes at every event seems reasonable, and they are perfect on the 2017 season, but just barely. Sampey starts final eliminations in Chicago from the No. 15 spot, while Reed finished on the bump in the all six-second field.

“We’re using Cory’s bike as the test bike,” Sampey said. “We don’t have a dyno, so the only time we can see if anything works is here at the races or if we go testing. We know we may suffer a little bit if we go the wrong direction, but we’re willing to do that to learn. Our whole team is willing to learn and make this benefit us in the long run.”

“The streak of getting both of our PSE/Team Liberty Racing Victory Magnums qualified is still alive,” Reed added. “Round one of qualifying was really great, and then the rest of them weren’t spectacular. It’s nice coming off the trailer and going fast, but we’ve been trying some new stuff to change it up and see what this new bike likes.”

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Mike Berry won his first elimination round since the 2015 Las Vegas race on his MB Precision entry when he stopped Steve Johnson, 6.890 to 6.931. Berry, who builds his own engines and tunes his S&S-powered Buell, has shown steady improvement this season, including a solid No. 11 qualifying effort this weekend.

“We keep chipping away at it, and it’s finally paying off,” said Berry. “I made some good runs in Norwalk two weeks ago, and we ran pretty well here. For us, the big deal is keeping the bike together. When we’re not breaking parts, we can get good data, and that gives us something to tune with. I’m not surprised we ran 6.89. I did that a few years ago. I’m just surprised that it took us this long to get back there.”

Berry’s win came at the expense of veteran Johnson, who was celebrating his class-leading 400th NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle event.

PHOTOS

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Steve Johnson became the first Pro Stock Motorcycle racer to compete in 400 events. The clown prince of the two-wheel class made his first start at the 1987 Englishtown race and has rarely missed an event ever since.
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During an emotional pre-race ceremony, the Don Schumacher Racing and Gray Motorsports team gathered for a moment of silence to remember Terry Chandler.
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Racing with a renewed sense of purpose this weekend following the loss of team backer Terry Chandler, Tommy Johnson Jr. reached the final round in the Schumacher team’s Make-A-Wish Dodge.
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The SealMaster NHRA Track Walk celebrated NHRA’s past and present with 16-time Funny Car champ John Force joined by Wayne and Karen Minick, the son and daughter of late Funny Car pioneer Pat Minick of Chi-Town Hustler fame.

 

PREVIEW

Here are the brackets and first-round pairings for all four Pro classes.

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