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AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals Saturday Notebook

Robert Hight, Steve Torrence, Bo Butner, and Eddie Krawiec qualified in the top spots and will lead their respective fields into Sunday battle at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals.
14 Oct 2017
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
Dallas

 Preview | Features | Results | Photos

QUALIFYING ROUNDS RECAPS

​​​​​​tonglet.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE Q3 (1:25 p.m.): Eddie Krawiec had the best run for the second time in three sessions with a 6.877 and added another point to his lead over LE Tonglet, who had the second-best run with a 6.892 aboard his Suzuki. After a pair of troubled runs Friday, Matt Smith showed that his electric-blue Polaris can still be a force, jumping up to a 6.908 for the third-best pass of the frame and into the top half of the field. David Hope sits on the bump spot with a 7.180 with one session to go.

tanner.jpgPRO STOCK Q3 (1:45 p.m.): After a less than spectacular Friday in which he lost his first qualifying run to breakage, rookie sensation Tanner Gray jumped back into the fray with 6.627, best of the session. Jason Line was just a tick behind with a 6.628 while qualifying lead Bo Butner was third best with a 6.631. Gray’s run moved him to third, behind points leader Greg Anderson’s 6.626 and Butner’s runaway-leading 6.588 from Q2. With one qualifying session to go, Shane Tucker sits in the bump spot with a 6.730.

leah.JPGTOP FUEL Q3 (2:16 p.m.): She didn’t improve on her run in the first qualifying session, but Leah Pritchett captured three qualifying bonus points with a 3.78-second pass. That means Steve Torrence won’t capture all 12 bonus points this weekend; though he could still get 11. That’s because his 3.79 run got him two bonus points in the third session. Brittany Force came in behind him with a 3.801. Pritchett is holding onto the quick half of the field, while Troy Buff (3.974) has the bump spot. Terry Haddock is on the outside looking in with a 4.012.

jforce.jpgFUNNY CAR Q3 (3:01 p.m.): Despite warm conditions, five Funny Cars made runs in the 3-second range. That includes 16-time world champion John Force, whose 3.957 earned him three bonus points and the No. 9 qualifier spot. He was followed by Bob Tasca (3.968), who earned bonus points again, but stood on his run from the first qualifying session. Robert Hight (3.975) also made his first 3-second run of the weekend to round out the top three of the third session. Matt Hagan and Cruz Pedregon also made runs in the 3s, while Jeff Diehl, Robert Schwab, and Todd Simpson are on the outside looking in. 

angie.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE Q4 (4:40 p.m.): Eddie Krawiec went low again in the final session, upping his total bonus points to 10 of a possible 12, plus the eight points for qualifying No. 1 to boost him lead on second-place L.E. Tonglet to more than a round. Krawiec’s 6.876 was just ahead of Harley teammate Andrew Hines’ 6.878 with Angie Smith a surprise third in the session at 6.885. 

First-round pairings (lane choice first): Eddie Krawiec vs. David Hope; Jerry Savoie vs. Gunner Courtney; Andrew Hines vs. Mark Paquette; Scotty Pollacheck vs. Steve Johnson; Angie Smith vs. Mike Berry; Matt Smith vs. Melissa Surber; L.E. Tonglet vs. Joey Gladstone; Hector Arana Jr. vs. Karen Stoffer.

line.jpgPRO STOCK Q4 (5 p.m.): Jason Line had the best run of the final qualifying session, a 6.622 from his blue Summit Camaro, two-thousandths ahead of Tanner Gray’s 6.624 but Bo Butner, who had the session’s third best pass (6.628) not remained atop the field with his Friday 6.588 but earned enough points to retake the lead in the standings by two points over teammate Greg Anderson, who could only muster a fifth-best 6.630 that session.

First-round pairings (lane choice first): Bo Butner vs. Shane Tucker; Jason Line vs. Alan Prusiensky; Tanner Gray vs. Deric Kramer; Greg Anderson vs. Larry Morgan; Erica Enders vs. Kenny Delco; Alex Laughlin vs. Allen Johnson; Brian Self vs. Chris McGaha; Jeg Coughlin Jr. vs. Drew Skillman

steve.JPGTOP FUEL Q4 (5:29 p.m.): Steve Torrence earned another three points (11 of the 12 points on the weekend) with a 3.728-second pass, capturing his first pole at the Texas Motorplex. Leah Pritchett (3.748) and Antron Brown (3.75) also earned bonus points in a quick session, which featured 10 3-second runs. First-year Top Fuel driver Blake Alexander got into the field as the No. 16 qualifier with a 3.842, edging out Troy Buff. That’ll get Alexander a meeting with Torrence in the first round. Terry Haddock jumped into the field with a 3.841, a career best by five-hundredths of a second, and will race Tony Schumacher. 

First-round pairings (lane choice first): Steve Torrence vs. Blake Alexander; Tony Schumacher vs. Terry Haddock; Antron Brown vs. Shawn Reed; Doug Kalitta vs. Kebin Kinsley; Doug Kalitta vs. Terry McMillen; Brittany Force vs. Scott Palmer; Shawn Langdon vs. Clay Millican; Richie Crampton vs. Billy Torrence.

FUNNY CAR Q4 (6:05 p.m.): Robert Hight outran everyone else by six-hundredths of a second in the fourth session to earn his eighth No. 1 qualifier of the season. His 3.871-second pass bested Ron Capps’ 3.872 pass on Friday night, earning him three points and pole position. Tim Wilkerson (3.938) grabbed two points, and Courtney Force (3.957) earned the solo bonus point for the second and third best times of the session. Jim Campbell hung onto the No. 16 spot, while Jeff Diehl, Robert Schwab, and Todd Simpson all missed out on the 19-car field. 

First-round pairings (lane choice first): Robert Hight vs. Jim Campbell; Ron Capps vs. Del Worsham; Jack Beckman vs. J.R. Todd; Jonnie Lindberg vs. Matt Hagan; Tim Wilkerson vs. Cruz Pedregon; Courtney Force vs. Daniel Wilkerson; Tommy Johnson Jr. vs. John Force; Bob Tasca vs. Alexis DeJoria. 

FEATURES

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Tony Schumacher’s 3.692 pass Friday night has him qualified No. 2, and the two bonus points he picked up moved him into a tie for fifth place with Clay Millican. Obviously, it’s not the No. 1 spot that Schumacher and the Army team have occupied – usually at the end of the season – but it’s start. The duo sit 146 points – or more than seven rounds with 12 rounds remaining – behind points leader Steve Torrence.

“It goes without saying that it would be incredible to wipe out the entire deficit and then hit Vegas and Pomona on equal ground,” he said. “It’s not exactly mathematically possible, but we could certainly take a big chunk of it back. The way the U.S. Army team has shown its ability to perform in the most clutch situations, anything is possible. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time and, if that happens, odds are we can at least take significant chunks out of the points deficit over these last three race weekends.”

“The U.S. Army team has an excellent history at all three of these remaining tracks, and we’ve obviously had the privilege of being a part of some really historic moments over the years. With that, I can honestly say that we’ve always been a team that has raced for wins, regardless of the points. Points are something that we have absolutely no control over, other than eliminating that car in the other lane each and every time we pull up to the starting line.” 

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leah.jpgLeah Pritchett will be the first to admit that she’s had a disappointing post-season, tumbling from third entering the Countdown to seventh halfway through the six-race showdown. She’s scored just two round wins and had her last two outings ended by the same guy, points leader Steve Torrence. After a four-win, two-runner-up regular season for the Papa John’s team, there hasn’t been much joy since their semifinal finish in Indy.

"You can't sugarcoat in any sense of a way the loss in the second round,” she said. “Give credit where credit's due, Steve had basically one of the most legit, unbeatable packages for that round. We're going to do exactly what we've done all year: analyze, pick it up, move on to the next race. 

It ain't over yet, but the hill just got a lot steeper, but that’s what he season has prepared us for. It’s prepared every driver, but right now it’s what champions are made of. It’s going to take legendary stuff for us to do what we need to do to get back on the heels of Steve and Antron [Brown] and Doug [Kalitta], but it’s not impossible, so that’s what we’re focusing on. Whatever the elements are, it doesn’t matter. Its drag racing and something I’ve dreamed of and our team lives for.”

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When Billy Torrence came out to race in 2015, he competed in all six Countdown to the Championship events. That wasn’t possible this season because things have been too busy at Capco Contractors. That’s a good problem to have, of course, but Torrence took time out of his packed schedule to take part in the final three races of the NHRA season. 

“I always enjoy getting to come out and race at least in the Countdown and possibly eat a few qualifying points up and help the cause,” said Torrence. “It looks like they’ve got me a good car, and I just want to come out and have some fun.”

If there’s one thing the Capco Boys are well stocked in, it’s fun. After his first two passes, Torrence is ninth with a 3.771-second pass. His son, Steve, is qualified No. 1 with a 3.682 while searching for his first Top Fuel win at Texas Motorplex. Billy is out trying to play spoiler for the rest of the field while trying to help his son get his first-ever Top Fuel Championship. 

That’s come at the same time as Steve’s role at Capco has expanded. Steve has worked at the family business since it started 24 years ago, when Torrence was just 10 years old. 

“He’s a project manager is what he does, and we have two or three big projects,” said Billy. “He has his laptop here and he was working (Friday) morning. I’ve tried to take some of that off him, but there’s so much you’ve got to do. Steve has really come to the front the past couple of years and he has a big role in it.”

billy_0.jpgThis is just the third race Billy has been able to attend this season, but he’s gotten regular updated from his wife, Kay Torrence, who is a fixture on the NHRA Drag Racing tour. He also records the shows on FS1 to watch after the fact. He doesn’t mince words when he talks about how impressed he has been by the entire team this season. 

“This is a one-car family team that has gone toe-to-toe in what I call billionaire’s row,” said Torrence. “Steve has certainly been a tremendous asset to the team, but he has had a dad-gum car under him that has been flawless every time. Having that knowledge has propelled Steve to the next level. 

“He is hands down the best leaver in the business. Some of the races, like in Atlanta, where they didn’t have lane choice, Steve’s driving 200 miles an hour, and he’s driving around a bump and putting people on the trailer. He’s done a tremendous job, and that’s not to diminish what anyone else has done. It’s humbling – I’ve teared up several times. I’m proud of ‘em and proud for ‘em. It’s the same way as it is at my business.” 

Now the Torrences will race together to try to bring a title home to Kilgore. 

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capps2.JPGGo ahead and add “amateur weatherman” to Ron Capps’ resume. While the driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Funny Car was working in Hawaii (don’t we all wish our lives were so hard), he was constantly checking the weather ahead of the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals. 

“We watched the weather like a 90-year old lady that’s been retired for 30 years with nothing to do,” said Capps. “It’s funny how much you start thinking about so many little things. I’ll bet if you look at my Google search, you’ll see ‘Ennis, Texas weather’ a minimum 50 times. I’d check it in the morning, the afternoon, whenever I could get a moment.”

Capps hasn’t qualified No. 1 this season, but he has picked up eight wins this season. That’s because the Rahn Tobler led team doesn’t put much stock in the hero runs that usually take place during Friday night qualifying. The warm conditions during Friday qualifying, on the other hand, were exactly what Capps and Tobler were looking for. 

“I always say the cool conditions, like what we’re going to see on Sunday, level the playing field,” said Capps. “A so-so crew chief can run good and have it stick to the track. The cream will rise to the crop when it’s hot, and that’s why I always brag about Tobler. We race good in those conditions, so I’m not gonna lie to you, I was happy when I saw that 90 and 92 on Friday and Saturday. Then all of a sudden, I saw that 69 on Sunday and said, ‘oh man.’”

The NAPA car still runs a five-disc clutch, while many of the high-performing cars in the class (read: the world-record holding Funny Car of Robert Hight) run a six-disc clutch. That can help lead to quicker passes and faster speeds. That’s not exactly what the Capps and Tobler team are looking for. 

“For whatever reason they run better speed,” said Capps. “Speed will get you a record, but it won’t get you 20 points, and it won’t get you a championship. So, it’s e.t’s and win lights. I wish it was going to be 90s on Sunday, but with that being said, we ran good (in cool conditions) in St. Louis and we ran right with Jimmy Prock every run.”

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tasca.JPGBob Tasca is making his eighth and final appearance on the NHRA Drag Racing tour this season in his Ford Mustang. The driver wants to get back to a full-time schedule and is on the hunt for a sponsor to get there, but has been a threat to go rounds while racing on a part-time basis. He’ll be back, one way or another, next year.

“At some point, my stuff is getting old and my inventory is getting low,” said Tasca. “I’ve really fed this thing with stuff I’ve had from 2014. So, you know, I’ve gotta look at mounting bodies and front-halving cars. I’ve been able to run real cheap because I’ve had the inventory. I had 10 engines when I quit racing (full time) and I’m down to three.”

In spite of less-than-fresh inventory, Tasca has four round wins in seven races this season, including one run to the semi’s. That, in addition to a boisterous personality and being the flagship for Ford on the NHRA circuit makes him something of a fan favorite. 

“I’ve been taking pictures all morning with Ford fans and they’re eagerly anticipating the company’s return to NHRA,” said Tasca, who is a longtime dealer in his home state of Rhode Island. 

If Tasca returns to Funny Car on a full-time basis, it’s going to be to chase a championship. That’s the mindset he wants to bring if he races in all 24 events next year. 

“If I come back full-time next year, you can put it in ink, I’ll be running for a championship,” said Tasca. 

The Tasca family has never had a shortage of two things: Fords and confidence. 

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schwab.jpgIt’s been a long road for Robert Schwab back to the cockpit of his nitro Funny Car, but the Aussie native and longtime Utah resident is back in the hot seat this weekend. A protégé of Aussie flopper hero Graeme Cowin, he made his debut in the class in Denver on 2004, a one-off appearance with a surprise semifinal finish, then ran five races in 2005 but battled blower-belt woes that kept him from qualifying.

Determined to do it right and do it his way, Schwab sat out the next decade, building his engineering business in Papua, where he supported a large mine with American interests, and the wherewithal and knowledge to compete in the class. 

“During those 10 years, I studied every nut and bolt on these cars, every tuning adjustment,” he said. “I’m very passionate about understanding the car., and I want to do it my way. Before I would talk to guys like Del [Worsham] and Bill Miller and ask for advice, but this I want to know why those changes are made and make those decisions myself.”

schwab2.jpgSchwab is dedicated to making his operation work. He drives not just the car but the rig as well and tunes the car, using an elaborate, self-engineered, and interconnected sets of Excel spread sheets to advise him on everything from jet settings to gasket thicknesses.

Phil Burkart competed in Schwab’s car at the first three events this season, but Schwab is back at the controls for what he’s calling a “test and tune” opportunity before heading to the Las Vegas event. Depending on his own efforts behind the wheel this weekend, he may drive in Las Vegas or turn the butterfly back over to Burkart.

“The whole goal is to make this car self-sustainable, and the best way to that is to rent the seat out to someone who wants to drive a Funny Car,” he said. “Phil is participating by driving the car shows people what it can do. When I came to the United States 30 years ago, my goal was to run a nitro Funny Car; we’re doing that, just not sustainably yet.”

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lump.jpgBrian “Lump” Self is enjoying his time behind the wheel of the third Elite Motorsports Camaro, having gone from spinning wrenches to taking over the controls of the purple Chevy in Reading after Vincent Nobile bowed out. The Comp-racing veteran and former Pro Stock Truck driver got his first round Pro Stock win lights in St. Louis, where he went to the semifinals. It’s been quite a quick and meteoric rise.

“I’d done a lot of testing the last few years for the team, usually whenever Erica [Enders] couldn’t make it, so I’ve got a lot of laps in a Pro Stocker, just not many with people in the bleachers and a car in the other lane.”

Although not a household name to fans, he’s well known throughout the pits to everyone who calls him by his interesting nickname, bestowed upon him as a child and a name that followed him throughout his life.

“It was a friend of my father’s, who was about a big around as I was tall, and he said, ‘Look at that little lump,’ and it’s stuck with me, even in high school. I played basketball and baseball, state tournaments, everywhere we went I was ‘Lump.’ If someone calls the shop and asks for Brian, I know it’s someone new. Someone hollers ‘Hey Brian’ as I’m walking through the pits, I might not even turn around. That’s why I put it on the [racercar] door instead of Brian.”

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delco.jpgKenny Delco is a long way from his New York base, but he’s a big fan of the last three races on the schedule, which explains why he has both of his Camaros – the second driven by fellow New Yorker Val Smeland – at Texas Motorplex this weekend. 

“Once you’re in Texas you might as well go to Las Vegas, and once you’re in Vegas you’re only a few hours from Pomona, so why not?” he reasoned. “It’s the drive home you don’t want to think about.”

As a self-financed team, Delco controls almost every aspect of his operation, including wheeling the massive 18-wheeler across the country, not necessarily to save cost but to protect his assets.

“When I’m in the truck, I know it’s not flying down the road with some kid behind the wheel,” he explained. “If I see a rest stop and it doesn’t look like the truck is going to fit easily, I’ll bypass it and go to the next one.”

Delco, who’s been racing in Pro Stock since the late 1980s, gets his power from another Pro Stock vanguard, Frank Iaconio, and tuning help from Jamie Yates, son for former Pro Stock champ Jim Yates (who works with the Arana family in Pro Stock Motorcycle).

A veteran of the carburetor wars, he leaves the touchy and “cumbersome” tuning of the fuel injection to Yates and concentrates on the rest of the car and in continuing to mentor Smeland. Right now the best engines are in Delco’s car and as soon as Smeland gets some more experience, Delco will be able to put two good bullets to work and double his data-gathering ability.

How old-school is Delco? Consider this: Delco and John Force are the only two Pro drivers on the grounds this weekend who competed at the first Dallas event in 1986.

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butner3.JPGBo Butner insists he’s just enjoying himself, and doesn’t care who comes out on top at the end of the Pro Stock season. It’s hard to argue with the unflappable racer, who took over No. 1 spot in the Countdown on the back of his six bonus points on Friday. That’s as perfect a Friday as a racer can have in NHRA Drag Racing (short of setting any records, in the process, of course). 

“If you noticed, our car seems to improve every run because our guys work hard at it,” said Butner. “We’ve got the smartest group, and we brought in Mike Edwards, which didn’t hurt anything.”

Butner, who races as a part of the three-headed Ken Black Racing squad, tied Greg Anderson on points to take over the points lead. He leads Anderson in head-to-head matchups, the first tiebreaker, and said he’d be happy with anyone on that team taking home the championship. That’s standard teammate talk, but the way Butner says it is convincing. 

“Racing them is fun, but it’s more fun to race with them,” said Butner. “To be considered part of that team, which I’ve been watching since I stepped foot in a bracket car… just to be with these guys, is awesome. And (team owner) Ken Black, too. I talked to him after that run and he said, ‘you even shocked me with that run.’”

He also seems to be racing with more confidence as of late. Ever since picking up that first career win in Houston, Butner has been racing at another level. He has four wins this year in nine final round appearances and is in the thick of the title fight. 

“I have 100 percent confidence in my car, and in my group,” said Butner. That leaves 1 percent of me. I have no worries, I just go up there and do my job.”

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mcgaha.jpgSaturday the 14th turned out to be a marked improvement for Chris McGaha after a cursed Friday the 13th qualifying outing. McGaha’s potent Chevy broke the head off a valve on his burnout in the opening session then shook hard and had to shut off in Q2, leaving him outside the field heading into Saturday’s final two sessions. 

“We knew two weeks ago we might have problems,” McGaha only semi-joked. “When we saw that qualifying was on Friday the 13th, we knew. If you looked at our logbook you’d know, too. We even thought about not running and people were laughing at us like it was a joke, but, no, it’s the real deal. We’ve broken motors on the 13th run on tires, we’ve had clocks malfunction on us. You name it. The 13th of anything is bad news to us.”

McGaha took care of business quickly in Q3 with a 6.651 that moved him into the field in the No. 10 spot, with hopes to move up in Q4.

"We’re still behind the eight ball and will need another couple of runs to catch up and I think we can do better than that, but at least I got on the page,” he said.

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Weather affects everybody in NHRA Drag Racing, but it particularly hurts the naturally aspirated Pro Stock Motorcycle class. So, while many racers fancy themselves as amateur weather watchers, it wasn’t a surprise to hear Eddie Krawiec say he was watching the weather a week ahead of the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals. 

“We were looking at the weather a week ago and it certainly wasn’t going to be in the 90s, but as long as we don’t have rain, it’s all good,” said the provisional No. 1 qualifier. “We can deal with that. (The heat) affects the way our motorcycles run, being naturally aspirated, it takes away some of the horsepower that you can make. We just made the proper adjustments that we thought. 

“The track has been very good for us. This is just one of those situations where we have more grip than we have power. And that’s because you’re dealing with the heat. This is very wet air for Dallas. There’s a lot of water, a lot of grains. That affects us too being naturally aspirated. Everybody has to deal with the same conditions. The best tuner wins. 

Krawiec says the Harley-Davidson Street Rods respond better to heat now than they did in the past thanks to some tuning work done by riding partner Andrew Hines. That seems to be shown in recent results. The rider didn’t get the win in temperate conditions at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals two weeks ago, but he did score back-to-back-to-back victories in warm temps preceding it. 

“Before when we would get to these conditions we were dreading it because we stunk,” said Krawiec. “Over the last year basically, Andrew spent a lot of time on the dyno and we made a lot of dyno pulls to refine our tune up. And it’s shown that in hot conditions we can run well. And before, there were a couple of bikes that could run well and we were a few hundredths off them. Now, we’re equally as fast, if not faster.”

Still, Krawiec knows where his bread is buttered: cool weather. That might be coming on Sunday, if the current forecast holds. That’s no guarantee of course, but if the Harley-Davidson rider can hold onto the No. 1 spot, and keep picking away at this tune-up… well, that will put him in a very good spot entering raceday. 

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Matt Smith knows that time is running down on his Pro Stock championship hopes and even perhaps his time in the class. The veteran rider and former world champ sits seventh in the standings and more than 140 points behind the leader, but with just three races to go, he’ll need to convert the performance potential that his Polaris Victory Magnum has shown into winner’s circle appearances. 

He’s qualified in the top half of the field at the last nine events, including No. 1s in Norwalk and Sonoma and a third as recently as two weeks ago in St. Louis, where he went to the semifinals, but he’s winless this season in three final-round appearances.

“We’ve got the power and the bike, we just haven’t had any luck on Sundays,” he said. “We just can’t seem to get a break. Seems like everywhere we go we end up racing the guy who goes on to win the race. It gets real tough starting in the second round because there are eight really good bikes out here and if they all make it to the second round, there’s no easy draw.”

Smith found out earlier this year that his partnership with Polaris wouldn’t be extended into 2018, so he and wife Angie, who rides the team’s second bike, have been on the hunt for new sponsors.

“We know we can do this and do it well for just $200,000, which is not a bad deal for someone to be part of a championship team for 18 races,” he said. “We’ve been trying but just haven’t been able to put anything together. I want to do this, but I just can’t spend my own money to do it. I'm going to give it until Dec. 15 then make a decision.”

Smith has had offers to ride or tune other bikes, and even offers to compete in Pro Mod, where he has competed sporadically this year with his father, multi-time Pro Mod champ Rickie Smith, but his heart remains with the two-wheeled class.

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gunner.JPGA year after making his debut at the Texas Motorplex, Gunner Courtney has learned a lot about the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. The second-year rider is competing in his sixth event, and third of the season, and is in the No. 15 qualifying spot after three sessions. 

“It’s a tough class,” said Courtney. “I raced Arenacross before this, and I raced Jr. Dragster all my life. I got into big cars after that and it was too slow. It was fun to go out and race, but I wasn’t going fast enough.”

After getting burned out by the rigors of Motocross, Courtney switched over to Pro Stock Motorcycle. He said there are some transferrable skills, but there are also a handful of things he needed to unlearn when switching from one two-wheeled machine to another.

“Body english, it’s a lot,” said Courtney. “I’d say it helps. A bunch of the stuff carries over. It’s like half and half of what carries and what doesn’t. The way you ride, the way you stand on the bike, stuff like that.”

He’s also learned plenty about the mechanics of the bike, both through trial and error and from other riders and tuners in the Pro Stock pits. 

“Last year, I knew nothing about these bikes,” said Courtney. “Now, I can take one of these bikes apart, put it back together. I learned from mistakes, putting it together wrong. GT Tonglet helped a lot, too. So did Stoffer and Underdahl, they’ve been overly nice.”

The best way to learn about riding: Getting on the seat. He’s doing that this weekend. 

PHOTOS

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A strong crowd turned out Saturday, packing the grandstands at Texas Motorplex for the final dramatic day of qualifying.

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The pits were packed, too, as fans sought out their favorite drivers and teams in NHRA’s world-famous open pits.

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AAA-sponsored Funny Car racer Robert Hight joined NHRA’s Alan Reihnart to teach some fuel-racing basics in the popular Nitro School segment.

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Alexis DeJoria, who earlier in the week announced her retirement from driving at the end of the season, is sporting pink on her Tequila Patron Toyota in support of Breast Cancer Awareness.

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Deloria was joined by Courtney and Brittany Force, Angie Smith, Melissa Surber, and Erica Enders for a special “ladies only” autograph session supporting BCA.

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The traditional Mello Yello autograph session was stocked with stars, including former Pro Stock champ Erica Enders, Funny Car rookie Jonnie Lindberg, Countdown Top Fuel competitor Terry McMillen, and red-hot Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Scotty Pollacheck.

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With two Torrences in Top Fuel competition this weekend, the unloading was twice the work in the Capco camp.

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Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson was among the guests taking part in interviews for a special Sunday edition of NHRA Today.

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Harley-Davidson Pro Stock Motorcycle riders Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec also took part in an autograph session at the Harley display.

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Alcohol Dragster driver David Sheetz had his hands full during his final qualifying attempt. Despite an earlier 5.56, Sheetz did not make the tough field. (animated gif)

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Jeff "the Surfer" Diehl had high hopes of qualifying for the Funny Car field but missed by one spot.

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Eddie Krawiec captured his fourth No. 1 qualifying spot of the season in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

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Texas Top Fuel independent Terry Haddock rejoiced after fighting his way into the field with a career-best 3.841 on his final pass in the Diesel Tech Services entry.

PREVIEW

S_Torrence.JPGThe start to Steve Torrence’s weekend couldn’t have gone much better. The Texan picked up six bonus points en route to snagging the provisional pole. Torrence has never won a Top Fuel race at Texas Motorplex, nor has he qualified No. 1; he’s looking to accomplish both of those feats so he can leave Ennis, Texas the same way he entered it: in first place. Accomplishing the latter seems relatively simple given today’s weather forecast. It’s slated to be another warm day in the Lone Star State, making his 3.682 a tough target. There’s still plenty to race for, including more bonus points. Racers like Leah Pritchett, currently qualified No. 8, will be looking to add points and move up the ladder, while Clay Millican (No. 10 with a 3.773) is looking to get into the quick half of the field. 

R_Capps.JPGRon Capps has eight wins this season without a single No. 1 qualifier to his name. But on Friday night, he and crew chief Rahn Tobler made the best run of the second session, a 3.872, to get to the top of the field. The conditions, namely a warm race track, played right into the duo’s hands, earning Capps three points. A duo that struggled mightily on Friday (and is not accustomed to doing so) is that of Robert Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock. Hight didn’t make it down the track on either of his two passes on Friday night, and is currently qualified in the No. 14 position. J.R. Todd is in an even more tricky position, as the first-year funny car driver has not yet qualified for the Funny Car field after suffering a mechanical failure in his first run. 

B_Butner.JPGAs the saying goes, “little points matter,” and Bo Butner proved that Friday by earning all six qualifying-session bonus points by having the best run of both sessions. The six points he earned allowed him to make up the three-point deficit he had entering the event behind Greg Anderson, who earned three bonus points, and thus the KB Racing the enter the final day of qualifying exactly tied in points. Butner outqualified Anderson and the rest of the field by nearly four-hundredths of a second – 6.588 to 6.626 – and, with more hot weather forecast for the day, Butner’s No. 1 should stick through the final two sessions.

E_Krawiec.JPGPro Stock Motorcycle points leader Eddie Krawiec earned four of a possible six bonus points Friday, leading Q1 and finishing third in Q2 while his closest pursuer, LE Tonglet, picked up two markers, giving Krawiec an 18-point edge in the standings. Tonglet, whose qualifying efforts of late have not been up to par, would love to keep that lead under 20 points – a round’s worth of racing – as he tries to retake the points lead he had entering the Countdown to the Championship. Between qualifying leader Krawiec’s Screamin’ Eagle Harley Street Rod and sixth-ranked Tonglet’s NitroFish Suzuki is a good mix, with Jerry Savoie and Scotty Pollacheck (Suzuki), Hector Arana Jr (Buell), and Andrew Hines (Harley).

 

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