Larry Dixon, Bob Tasca III, Mike Edwards, and Michael Phillips claimed Monday victories at the rain-delayed 41st annual NHRA SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in New Jersey.
The long-awaited conclusion came after fans and racers waited patiently Sunday for five hours through a series of rain showers that hit after the semifinals, but, despite the best efforts of the NHRA Safety Safari presented by AAA, time and more bad weather prevented an under-the-lights finish.
Top Fuel finalists Dixon and Antron Brown had shared the Old Bridge winner's circle before, in 2005 when Dixon won his third of five Top Fuel titles here and Brown the second of his Pro Stock Motorcycle event crowns. This time, though, Dixon went to the trophy presentation solo after winning the rematch of last year's final, which also went to Dixon, who is 6 for 6 in finals this year after blasting to a 3.82, 320.05 to beat Brown, who went up in smoke to a 6.31, 101.94. Dixon collected win No. 54 and owns a 199-point lead on second-place Tony Schumacher.
"Trophies like these — from what I call the majors — always shine a little brighter for me," said Dixon. "Indy, Pomona, Gainesville, even Columbus back then, you want to do well. I feel blessed to be able to race on tracks like these.
"I wouldn't have wanted to be Jason [McCulloch, crew chief] or Alan [Johnson, team manager] this morning because there were so many changes that took place. We were making adjustments all of yesterday during the delay and then more today, so it comes down to a best calculated guess, and they hit it. The car ran good; credit to them."
Dixon and the Al-Anabi team locked up their spot in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs in round two with a big win over archrival Schumacher, 3.91 to 3.95, which was sandwiched between wins against Steve Chrisman, who broke on his burnout, and No. 2 qualifier Brandon Bernstein, who reached at least the semifinals for the fifth time at the last six races with his Copart dragster. The final round was the 98th of Dixon's fine career.
After Brown posted an off-pace 4.04 in the first frame — his 500th round of racing — that nonetheless got him by Scott Palmer, his Brian Corradi- and Mark Oswald-tuned Matco Tools digger ran 3.88 and 3.86 to beat Terry McMillen and Doug Kalitta to reach the final, his fourth at this event and the 51st of his combined-class career.
Bob Tasca III
Old Bridge Township Raceway Park will always hold a special place in Tasca's heart because it was here in 2007 that he collected his first NHRA Wally, in Top Alcohol Funny Car, but he'll never forget his Funny Car victory here, either. The win light came on for Del Worsham — and his crew went crazy — but that was only because the win light was triggered at the quarter-mile and not the 1,000-foot mark. E.t.s of 4.71 and 4.73 came up on the scoreboards, indications that something was amiss.
After a few seconds, the announcement was made that Tasca had reached the 1,000-foot mark first, and his sullen crew suddenly did a 180-degree emotion flip and went crazy. Tasca's true e.t. was 4.11 for his third nitro title and fifth overall on a holeshot to Worsham's 4.10. Tasca had a .027 light to Worsham's .104.
"I didn’t see the win light, and I looked out my window, and Del was right there. I said, 'Well, good effort,' and I knew we gave it our best. I got out of the car and gave Del a thumbs-up and said, 'Good job,' and I was walking back to my car with my head down when the camera crew came running up and said, 'You won!' It was just so emotional. What an amazing dominant performance by our team. I can’t thank Chris Cunningham and Marc Denner and my guys enough.
"It's hard to put words together right now. This is a special place for my family, and to win here with all of my family here is just unbelievable. These are the moments you dream about as a kid laying in bed. This is a moment I'll treasure forever. I know that my grandfather's not here, but he's looking on from above."
Tasca, runner-up this year in Gainesville, drove his special-edition FordParts.com Mustang to his fifth Funny Car final with victories over a pair of fellow Ford pilots, Ashley Force Hood and her father, John, then ran low e.t. of eliminations in the semifinals, 4.154, to end Chicago winner Matt Hagan's winning streak at six rounds.
Worsham, who scored his first victory at this event in 1991 and won again in 2005, reached his first final of the season and first since his victory at last year's Richmond, Va., event with his Dickie Venables-tuned Al-Anabi Toyota. Worsham worked his way past a pair of world champs in Cruz Pedregon and No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight with low-4.2-second passes, then turned up the wick to a 4.180 in the semifinals to defeat Jack Beckman's close 4.185 to reach his 39th final.
Edwards, who had won six of the season's first 10 Pro Stock events, added No. 7 and completed his first hat trick. He cut a clutch .012 reaction time, which pretty much meant the end for Shane Gray's hopes. Edwards blasted to a 6.59, 209.39 to beat Gray's 6.63, 209.07 to collect win No. 27. Edwards, who had never won this event, settling for runner-up honors last year and in 1998, owns an impressive 34-4 win-loss record this season.
"I was nervous this morning because you just don't know how good the track is until you get on it," said Edwards. "We changed the transmission and rear end yesterday and made some more changes today because we knew that Shane was hungry. As far as I'm concerned, he already has my vote for rookie of the year. I knew I had to have a good light and couldn't lay back, but I wasn't trying to [be .012]. I may have gotten away with one.
"Last year was a dream season with the championship, but this year is truly a dream come true," said Edwards. "I've done this a long, long time, and to experience this kind of success, I just praise the Lord for his blessings. We have a great team and committed ourselves to doing this, and it's good to see the results."
Edwards and his Penhall/Interstate/K&N Pontiac reached Pro Stock final No. 47 with relative ease from the No. 1 qualifying position, defeating Justin Humphreys, Greg Anderson, and, in a rematch of last year's final, Jeg Coughlin Jr. with low e.t. of eliminations to that point, 6.591. Including his Lucas Oil racing, Edwards has reached 49 NHRA national event final rounds.
Hot off his career-best semifinal showing in Chicago, Gray reached his first final with his Tire Kingdom Pro Stocker by defeating Warren Johnson, Bob Yonke, and his father, Johnny Gray, in the pair's first head-to-head eliminations run. Son defeated father on a 6.65 to 6.66 count to earn his first money-round berth.
Phillips took home Pro Stock Motorcycle win No. 5 and his first in Englishtown on a holeshot to cap a career weekend. He slapped a .012 light on Steve Johnson and rode to a 6.91, 194.32 to defeat Johnson's .057-launched career-best 6.88, 194.63. With the win, Phillips moved up to second place in points; Johnson sits fifth.
"I like the pressure," said Phillips, "and I knew I had to be on my game. I'm an old bracket racer, and I kept looking over to see if I could see Steve. My bike started nosing over a little, and I could hear him coming. I looked at the win light, then back at the stripe, then back at the light again, and it came on.
"It's been a great weekend to set the track record now that we've finally gotten a handle on the clutch, which has always been my biggest problem. I can't thank Craig Treble enough for coming over and showing me some things."
Phillips qualified No. 1 for the first time and had little problem reaching the final, his 10th, with three straight six-second passes aboard The Racers Edge Suzuki. He dispatched Tom Micelli, Shawn Gann, and Matt Smith, the last two each sitting up early and not making it to the finish line under power.
Johnson, defeated in the final a week ago in Chicago, wasted no time getting back to the money round with his Suzuki, running through the first three rounds with victories over Redell Harris, a red-lighting Andrew Hines, and, in a rematch of the Chicago final, LE Tonglet to reach his 16th final round. Johnson's second-round 6.91 was low e.t. of eliminations.
Von Smith fought off Mother Nature and a tough field in the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series to score his second win of the season.
In the final, Smith faced Mike Castellana, who was in his first final of the year. Smith took an early lead and never looked back. He posted a winning 5.89, 247.52 to Castellana's 6.18, 196.87.
Smith qualified near the bottom of the ladder, 13th, but strung together four solid passes in eliminations. He defeated Troy Coughlin, Scott Ray, and Raymond Commisso before the final.
Sal Biondo won in Comp and just missed doubling up when Joe Santangelo defeated him in the Super Stock final. Other Lucas Oil victories went to Monroe Guest (Top Alcohol Dragster), Frank Manzo (Top Alcohol Funny Car), Ken Miele (Stock), Brad Plourd (Super Comp), and Matt Schurman (Super Gas).
ESPN2HD will provide coverage of the rain-delayed NHRA SuperNationals final rounds during the qualifying show for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals (June 19, 7 p.m. ET) and during next weekend's edition of NHRA Race Day presented by Lucas Oil (June 20, 3:30 p.m. ET).
Friday: Cory Mac makes quickest-ever pass to lead SuperNationals qualifying
Saturday: Friday leaders maintain top spots in Englishtown