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AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals Sunday Notebook

Brittany Force, Robert Hight, Jason Line, and Eddie Krawiec got the cowboy hats at Texas Motorplex as the Countdown to the Championship heats up in the Lone Star State.
15 Oct 2017
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
Dallas Hero

Preview | Features | Results | Photos

ELIMINATION ROUND RECAPS

haddock5.jpgTOP FUEL ROUND 1 (11:23 a.m.): You like upsets? Then you’ll like the first round of Top Fuel eliminations. Terry Haddock got the third round-win of his career, and his second against Tony Schumacher when Schumacher had to pedal it midway down the track. Haddock ran a 4.043, which was good enough to turn on the win light and set up a race against Shawn Langdon, who took down Clay Millican in the opening stanza. Points leader Steve Torrence will get a shot at avenging his dad, Billy Torrence, who bowed out to fellow blocker car Richie Crampton in the first round. 

Second-round pairings (lane choice first): Steve Torrence vs. Richie Crampton; Brittany Force vs. Doug Kalitta; Shawn Langdon vs. Terry Haddock; Antron Brown vs. Leah Pritchett.

wilk.JPGFUNNY CAR ROUND 1 (11:54 a.m.): Dan Wilkerson scored the upset of the first round, taking down a tire-smoking Courtney Force with a 3.975-second pass. That was one of two Wilkerson wins in the first round, as his dad, Tim Wilkerson, also turned on a win light against Cruz Pedregon. The Wilkersons will race Jack Beckman and Jonnie Lindberg, respectively. Robert Hight and Ron Capps both moved on to the second round, with Hight laying down an incredible 3.828 pass to reset the track record at a speed of 338.6 mph. That’s the fifth-fastest speed of all time; Hight now owns six of the top 10 speeds in the Funny Car category.

Second-round pairings (lane choice first): Robert Hight vs. Alexis DeJoria; Tim Wilkerson vs. Jonnie Lindberg; Ron Capps vs. John Force; Dan Wilkerson vs. Jack Beckman.

tanner_0.jpgPRO STOCK ROUND 1 (12:10 p.m.): The cool conditions that descended on Texas Motorplex for raceday made a huge difference for the Pro Stockers as seven of the eight first-round winners bettered Bo Butner’s 6.588 low qualifying time led by Tanner Gray (6.532) and followed by Butner (6.535) Jason Line (6.550), Drew Skillman (6.552), Brian Self (6.561), and Alex Laughlin (6.562). based on his incremental times, Greg Anderson also had a run quicker than 6.58 but a timer malfunction didn’t give a true e.t. Only Erica Enders, who shook to a 6.70 after Kenny Delco’s red-light, was slower.

Second-round pairings (lane choice first): Bo Butner vs. Drew Skillman; Greg Anderson vs. Erica Enders; Jason Line vs. Alex Laughlin; Tanner Gray vs. Brian Self.

savoie2.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE ROUND 1 (12:30 p.m.): Reigning world champ Jerry Savoie put the bite on the field with a 6.855, low e.t. of the meet, in beating Gunner Courtney, but the news was not near as good for his White Alligator Racing teammate and championship contender L.E. Tonglet, who was upset by rookie Joey Gladstone. Points leader Eddie Krawiec moved on with a 6.885, the second best run of the round.

Second-round pairings (lane choice first): Eddie Krawiec vs. Karen Stoffer; Scotty Pollacheck vs. Angie Smith; Jerry Savoie vs. Joey Gladstone; Matt Smith vs Andrew Hines

torrence-sun.jpgTOP FUEL ROUND TWO (1:07 p.m.): Steve Torrence had a wild ride in his his dragster, after it went out of control and smacked the guardwall, and still grabbed the win light against Richie Crampton on a holeshot. Torrence walked away from the wreck under his own power after winning by .005 second, and he’ll face Brittany Force in the semi’s if the Capco team can pull a backup car out of the trailer in time. Antron Brown took down teammate Leah Pritchett to keep his championship homes alive, while Shawn Langdon got a solo run after upset-minded Terry Haddock couldn’t make the call for the second round.

Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): Brittany Force vs. Steve Torrence; Antron Brown vs. Shawn Langdon.

beckman-sun.jpgFUNNY CAR ROUND TWO (1:40 p.m.): There will be a Don Schumacher Racing car in the Funny Car final. Ron Capps beat a red-lighting John Force, while Jack Beckman got a ride into the semi’s unopposed when Daniel Wilkerson’s car broke before it had a chance to get to the starting line. Robert Hight got into the semi’s against Daniel’s dad, Tim Wilkerson, by outrunning Alexis DeJoria with the quickest pass of the round (3.865). Wilkerson got the better of Jonnie Lindberg, who smoked the tires. He’s looking for his first Wally of the season. 

Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): Robert Hight vs. Tim Wilkerson; Ron Capps vs. Jack Beckman

skillman2.jpgPRO STOCK ROUND 2 (1:55 p.m.): Drew Skillman defeated No. 1 qualifier Bo Butner with a 6.538 and will take on Butner’s teammate, points leader Greg Anderson, who ran 6.572, in the semifinals. Anderson’s other teammate, Jason Line, will also be in the semifinals on the other side of the ladder after getting by Alex Laughlin by .006-second. He’ll take on Brian Self, who beat Tanner Gray, who took a wild, slaloming ride in his defeat.

Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): Drew Skillman vs. Greg Anderson; Jason Line vs. Brian Self.

krawiec3.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE ROUND 2 (1:55 p.m.): Eddie Krawiec raced to a stunning 6.785, low e.t. by more than half a tenth, to defeat Karen Stoffer. Matt Smith and Andrew Hines engaged in a protracted starting-line burndown, then Smith beat the former world champ on a 6.84 to 6.84 holeshot to reach the semifinals. Smith will take on Jerry Savoie, who ran 6.84 against Joey Gladstone's red-light.

Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): Eddie Krawiec vs. Scotty Pollacheck; Jerry Savoie vs. Matt Smith

brittany.JPGTOP FUEL SEMIFINALS (2:54 p.m.): Brittany Force will get a shot at her third Wally of the season. She took down points leader Steve Torrence in the semifinals after the Capco Contractors team’s mad thrash got the Texan back in action in quick order after his big crash in the second round. That’s a big win for Force’s championship hopes, as she moved within four rounds of Torrence with her victory. She can get a round closer if she brings home a Wally, and a Cowboy hat. She’ll have to beat Shawn Langdon to do it as he took down Antron Brown in the semi’s with a stout 3.702. Force ran a 3.685 and will have lane choice in the final. 

hight3.JPGFUNNY CAR SEMIFINALS (3:11 p.m.): Robert Hight and Ron Capps will go head to head in the final round after a couple of very solid runs in the semi’s. Hight took down Tim Wilkerson with a 3.898, while Ron Capps beat teammate Jack Beckman with a 3.905. So, it’s a meeting between first place Capps and second place Hight and, perhaps more importantly, the crew chiefs. Jimmy Prock has had a great handle on the Funny Car driven by Hight, and the same can be said of Rahn Tobler, who tunes Capps’ NAPA Auto Parts flopper. A win by Hight can pull him within four rounds of the points leader.

line-sun.jpgPRO STOCK SEMIFINALS (3:15 p.m.): Jason Line, runner-up two weeks ago in St. Louis, reached his second straight final round and third of the season after Brian Self shook the tires and shut off in the semifinal duel. The hopes for an all-KB Racing final were dashed in the other pair when points leader Greg Anderson was defeated by Indy champ Drew Skillman. Skillman will have lane choice based on his superior semifinal performance, 6.55 to 6.59.

krawiec4.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE SEMIFINALS (3:20 p.m.): Eddie Krawiec, who opened the Countdown playoffs with back-to-back wins in Charlotte and Reading is in position for a third win to add to his points lead after beating Scotty Pollacheck in the semifinals. Krawiec’s 6.85 earned him final-round lane choice against defending world champ Jerry Savoie, who ran 6.86 to trailer Matt Smith. Krawiec has five wins on the season, Savoie one.

bruce.jpgLUCAS OIL SPORTSMAN RESULTS: In addition to the Mello Yello action in the Countdown to the Championship, Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also was contested in nine classes. Final-round results:

Alcohol Dragster
Todd Bruce (pictured) def. Megan Meyer

Alcohol Funny Car
Doug Gordon def. Annie Whiteley

Comp
Clint Neff def. William Hatcher

Super Stock
Slate Cummings def. Pete Peery

Stock
Thomas Marlow def. Jeff Lopez

Super Comp
Craig Anderson def. Ryan Herem

Super Gas
Tommy Phillips def. Jerry DeBusk

Top Dragster
Shane Eperjesi def. Wade Pennington

Top Sportsman
Greg Lair def. Aaron Philpot

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PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE FINAL (4:11 p.m.): Eddie Krawiec, far lane, collected his third win in four Countdown events and extended his points leader over L.E. Tonglet to more than 100 points after Tonglet’s teammate, Jerry Savoie, fouled in the final round. The win is Krawiec’s sixth of the season and 42nd of his career, third all time in the class.

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PRO STOCK FINAL (4:14 p.m.): Reigning world champ Jason Line, far lane, scored his first win since the season opener in Pomona, collecting the win after Drew Skillman red-lighted by .001-second. The victory is the 47th of Line’s Pro Stock career and 49th overall. Line previously won this event in 2011 and 2013 and also was runner-up in 2005.

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FUNNY CAR FINAL (4:20 p.m.): It’s Procktober after all. Robert Hight, far lane, got right back into the championship hunt by taking down points leader Ron Capps with a 3.877-second pass while the Rahn Tobler-tuned NAPA Auto Parts Dodge ran a 3.927. That gets Hight and tuner Jimmy Prock within two rounds heading into the final two races of the season. 

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TOP FUEL FINAL (4:22 p.m.): Brittany Force, far lane, earned Wally No. 3 by one-thousandth of a second. The Monster Energy Dragster outran Shawn Langdon’s Global Electronic Technology dragster by .012, driving around the Top Fuel pilot’s .011 holeshot. That gets Force within three rounds of points leader Torrence with two races to go. 

FEATURES

 

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Steve Torrence is racing for a championship, but he’s also racing with his dad, Billy Torrence, for the rest of the season. Steve qualified No. 1 while Billy finished in the No. 9 position. 

“I didn’t know what it felt like to have a child, and put somebody you loved in a race car until my dad got in it, and then I was like, ‘dad this is a terrible idea,’” Torrence said. “’You really sure you want to do this? Because that Super Comp car is great.’ But it’s great, to be able to do this with him.”

The aforementioned Kay Torrence has been a fixture on the NHRA Drag Racing tour all season, and that’s not about to change now that Billy has entered the fray. Nor is her raceday routine. 

“I told her already that since dad’s here, you can’t change anything about what you’ve been doing,” said Steve. “He’s just collateral damage over there hanging out. She’s been doing great, it keeps her busy. Typically I see her a few times through the weekend because she’s busy mingling and visiting with people everybody else, and now I think she’s making sure my dad doesn’t pull his hair out.”

If both Steve and Billy win in the first round, they’ll meet up in the second round. That would be an intriguing matchup for anyone with a ticket to Texas Motorplex on Sunday. 

“If we can get to that point, it would be fun,” said Steve. “It would also be one of the toughest races all day, because usually it’s bring it all. I look forward to that, it would be fun. We’ll see what we can do, we need to go every round possible to try to get as many points as we can.”

He holds a 55-point lead over Doug Kalitta entering raceday. Going rounds would help increase that lead. 

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Texan Terry Haddock wasn’t in the show for his homestate race when he pulled his Diesel Tech Services dragster to the starting line in Q4 Saturday, but the gutty independent powered his way into the show with career-best performances of 3.841 and 309.42.

“It’s been trying to do that all year; dumb things just happen,” he said. “We’re never financially prepared for what can happen with one of these car, so we just do the best we can with what we have. It was important for us to qualify for us because it allows us to keep going down the road to Las Vegas. We just keep trying; we’re not smart enough to give up.”

haddock4.jpgJust qualifying was half the battle, but he had to face the winningest driver in Top Fuel history, in round one in Tony Schumacher, but Haddock expressed confidence based on previous encounters with “the Sarge.”

“People forget that I beat him [at the Chicago event in 2009] and ended that long first-round winning streak he had and [ex-wife] Jenna beat him in my car in Denver [in 2014]. We’ve beat him before, so we’ll just go at him again,” said Haddock in the pits before the opening round.

That confidence proved worthy as he defeated Schumacher, who smoked the tires, giving Haddock his second round won of the season. He first, in Denver in June over Shawn Langdon, was his first since beating David Grubnic in St. Louis in 2010.

Unfortunately for Haddock and his all-volunteer crew, they were not able to turn the car around in time to make the second-round call, a shame as scheduled opponent Shawn Langdon smoked the tires on his bye run.

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reed.jpgIn his first start since the Seattle event in his home state of Washington, Shawn Reed put together a good sequence of runs in qualifying with the Hughes Oilfield Transportation/Paton Racing dragster with a trio of 3.8-second passes –- including a career-best 3.81 -– and could have had four if not for a piece of flapping blower belt that pulled the wires from the Leahy safety device at 700 feet, slowing him to a 3.92 in Q4.

Reed’s stay in eliminations was short as he fell in round one to Antron Brown, but Reed will be busy over the next few weeks. He’ll compete at the NHRA Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas, then head the following weekend to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Arizona where he’ll be driving his Pro Mod drag boat, dubbed Top Secret, on the man-made lake there in pursuit of yet another Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series  championship. All he needs to do is win the first round there to clinch the title from closest challenger Shelby Ebert's Can't Touch This boat. After that, he'll continue his westward trek, ending his rookie season at the Auto Club NHRA Finals in California.

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dwilk2.jpgThe good news for Wilkerson fans is that Daniel Wilkerson will be joining his famous father, Tim, in eliminations today, two days after his special-edition Summit Racing Texas body was heavily damaged in a blower explosion in the first qualifying session, The younger Wilkerson, competing in his first event since the 2016 Four-Wide Nationals, had run a career-best 3.98 on the pass, so the damage was doubly heartbreaking. 

The damage was not limited to the body as the chassis also took a hit, but after repairing the chassis the decision was made to use of Tim’s spare Shelby bodies –- with additional Summit signage –- so that Daniel could race on Sunday.
 
dwilk3.jpg"I robbed Peter – which would be Tim – to pay Paul – which would be me – to where I have enough stuff together to run," said Daniel, who will race Courtney Force in round one. "The team came together and helped, and we worked on our car all through qualifying. During the third session, we started it and had a few sensors that weren't working, so I went back and fixed those. I had to switch out the computer, and as soon as I was done I walked up to watch Q4. We could have probably rushed and been able to make that session, but at this point, we have one blower and one intake. We decided it was best to save it for race day.”

That best was even better and he bounced back in round one with a 3.97 that upset championship contender Courtney Force but problems after his second-round startup kept him from facing off against Jack Beckman.

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beckman2.jpgJack Beckman knows that his chances of winning a second Funny Car championship probably ended two weeks ago with a second-round loss to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps, but the driver of the Infinite Hero Dodge still has winning in mind, beginning with this weekend.

"I'm just going to be a realist, let's just look at facts and separate the emotion," Beckman said after his loss in St. Louis. "That round was our championship round. If we won that round, we stay in the race, keep earning points, and move closer to the top cars. We lost against the No. 1 car and it increased the spread. That was the biggest round of the year for us.

"Unfortunately, somebody had to come out on the losing end and that was us. So that one stings bitterly. We can't control what the cars ahead of us do in the points from here on out. We can still win 12 rounds and that's absolutely our goal."

Beckman says that a win this weekend would not only mean a lot for a move up the standings, but from a personal viewpoint, too.

"I went to the first national event [at Texas Motorplex] in 1986 and at the 21 venues we race at, there is no location that I want an NHRA Wally trophy from more than Dallas," Beckman said. "I've won in Super Comp at Pomona. I've won at Indy. Dallas is 100 percent at the top of my list. That's the one that I want the most. I don't care about points. I want to win Dallas."

Beckman's father, known to many as "Slow Bob" Beckman in contrast with his son's "Fast Jack" handle, has been a Texas resident for nearly 30 years. The younger Beckman would like nothing more than to present his dad with the Wally and the coveted black cowboy hat for winning the FallNationals. 

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hight2.JPGRobert Hight made a huge pass in the Texas heat to get his eighth No. 1 qualifier of the season. That 3.871-second run moved him a thousandth ahead of Ron Capps, earned him three bonus points, and got him on the other side of the ladder from the current Funny Car points leader. What made the run so impressive is how it compared to the other runs from the session. 

The second-best run from the final qualifying session came from Tim Wilkerson, a 3.938-second pass. That puts Hight’s pass a solid six-hundredths of a second ahead of rest of the field, a huge achievement by crew chief Jimmy Prock. 

“I wasn’t expecting that run,” said Hight. “I was expecting a 3.92, something around there, to be a solid top-half car. And you know, you start thinking we’re going to be down in the ladder, sixth, seventh, eighth with a 92. And that’s uncharted territory for us. You know, Jimmy Prock just has a handle on this car.”

This is the third-straight No. 1 for Hight, who has made a habit of collecting those green hats. That hasn’t turned into wins in the Countdown quite yet; he has one win this season as a No. 1 qualifier, but not in the playoffs. He gets Jim Campbell in the first round, but doesn’t get a crack at points-leader Ron Capps until the final at the earliest. 

“You can see a lot of times when we’ve qualified No. 1, it doesn’t matter who we’re racing, we’ll set low e.t. of raceday,” said Hight. “Prock races conditions and races the track. He doesn’t play small ball.”

These are the conditions we’ve seen Prock and Hight thrive in previously. The duo is chasing points, a Wally, and a championship. Fans are hoping to see a big number on the board in the process.

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jonnie.JPGThe Jim Head owned and tuned Funny Car driven by Jonnie Lindberg has been on a particularly good run over the past few races, culminating in a final-round appearance in St. Louis. Lindberg followed that up by qualifying No. 4 in Dallas, which didn’t exactly get him an easy matchup in the first round: two-time champion Matt Hagan.

“You go out and qualify good and you get a bad-ass in the first round,” said Lindberg. “I said I’d arm wrestle him instead.”

The Swede is never short of confidence, or good humor, but this is going to be settled on the race track. Lindberg isn’t racing for a title after missing out on the Countdown, but Hagan basically has to win the Wally at Texas Motorplex in order to stay in the title fight. 

The pair are 1-1 against each other in previous matchups. Lindberg took down Hagan in Gainesville, the Swede's first ever Funny Car race, to reach his first final round. He's still looking for his first Wally; there's no better time than as a spoiler in the Countdown to do it.

Update: Lindberg had to pedal his car, but he turned on the win light. He ended up having to wrestle somebody after all -- it was just his flopper, not Hagan. 

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anderson2.jpgThe KB Racing trio of Bo Butner, Jason Line, and Greg Anderson qualified 1-2-4, with only Tanner Gray breaking up the party in the No. 3 spot. Butner and Anderson, who swapped the points led throughout qualifying before Butner emerged as the leader, face a potential semifinal clash if both get that far. Line is on the other side of the ladder.

"The ladder is set up well for us; I'm just a little disappointed I lost bonus points this weekend," said Anderson, whose bonus point tally for the weekend was three compared to Butner’s eight. "I still can't get it out of my mind that I lost the championship by three points last year, so I better worry about the points. I lost five bonus points in qualifying, and that's disappointing, but that's not everything. You have a whole lot more points on the line [today]. Unless you get the big points, the little ones don't matter.

"We're struggling to find the tune-up with the engine, but the car is happy, and we're going to get a big weather switch. That could completely change things around. Right now, I'm welcoming that because I haven't hit it right in qualifying. Maybe that will throw me back in the game. It's going to be a duke-out, no question about it. We certainly have three fast cars, but there are a lot of fast cars out there. Man, Pro Stock is brutal right now, absolutely brutal. Every .001-second can mean the difference between bonus points or no bonus points, winning a round or not winning it. You just have to bring your A-game, baby, or you're going to go home."

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enders.jpgQualifying could not have gone much better for the Elite Motorsports duo of Erica Enders and Jeg Coughlin Jr., whose matching Camaros have struggled throughout the season. After extensive work to the chassis of both and test sessions in Noble, Okla., they hit the ground running in Enders’ native Texas,

Enders posted runs of 6.651, 6.634, 6.652 and finally a 6.629 to qualify fifth, her best qualifying effort since the Seattle race, which was six national events ago. Coughlin ended up ninth, his best showing in the last three events.
 
"This weekend has definitely been a big step in the right direction," Enders said. "Rick [Jones, chassis builder and crew chief] did some things to the cars after St. Louis and they're working much better so we certainly have a lot of optimism. We definitely felt like we had a much better handle on these Camaros. After Friday's sessions we were third overall. We didn't make a great run Saturday morning and got bumped back a couple of places to fifth but that run was still a lot better than we have been doing. The last qualifying session, which was the worst session of all four as far as conditions go, we made our best run.

jeg2.jpgDespite his ninth-place ranking, what impressed Coughlin was his passes comparative to others in his qualifying sessions.

"If the corners are up on my mouth a bit it's certainly because we're as close to the front of the pack as we've been in quite a while," Coughlin said. "We've been in the top half of the field in all four sessions here and ended up qualified No. 9, which is pretty wild. We started off No. 5, got bumped to sixth, got bumped to eighth and ended up 9th. When you've got a tight field like we've got this weekend, that can certainly happen.

"Most importantly, we've been within a hundredth and a half to two hundredths (to the quickest car) every session except for the one round Bo (Butner) ran .58 so I feel like, quite honestly, we have our racecar back. We actually feel some real excitement heading into race day, even though we'll have a tough draw right out of the gate."

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laughlin.jpgIt’s been a busy weekend for Alex Laughlin, filled with duties beyond driving his Pro Stocker and A/Fuel Dragster. Camera crews hung on his every move Friday and Saturday and the head Gas Monkey, Richard Rawlings, was also on hand to watch qualifying. All of that made Laughlin’s first-round victory over fellow Texan Chris McGaha –- a holeshot win as both ran 6.562 -– all the more enjoyable. It also was Laughlin’s first round-win since a semifinal finish in Indy over Labor Day weekend.

“This has been a huge weekend for me and all my sponsors: Gas Monkey Energy, Advance Auto Parts, and Havoline,” said Laughlin, who hails from Granbury. “It’s a home race with family and friends, and we’ve had three races in a row with s first-round loss, so we really needed this. The stress is over.”

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scotty2.JPGOne of the best stories of the second half of the season is Scotty Pollacheck. The veteran rider has improved as the season has gone along, as part of the Stoffer-Underdahl team thanks to finding his groove on a new bike with a new combination. Starting out with that team featured some growing pains.

“We had trouble making the bike go straight,” said Pollacheck. “We didn’t get the bike to go straight until Sunday in Gainesville. Once we got it going straight, it took us some time to find the baseline, so that we would know where we wanted to start anytime we went somewhere. Everything just took a little while, so it would have been good if we had a little bit of testing and had been able to take care of that before.”

That’s a relatively common problem when getting onto a new bike, apparently.

scotty2.jpg“We started with (Jimmy) Underdahl’s setup in it, and we have totally different riding styles,” said Pollacheck. “You turn the axle to make it go one way or another depending on the conditions and who’s on it. So, it turns out that where Jimmy had it set isn’t any good for me.”

The way they set up a bike depends on a handful of factors:

“It’s your weight and how you sit on the bike, and if you have any part of your body that’s out in the wind, that affects it,” said Pollacheck. “I ride differently than he does. He leaves all tucked in, and I ram forward with the motorcycle and that completely changes the motorcycle. That changes how it 60 foots. It’s little things like that you wouldn’t think make a difference, but it does. It just takes a little while to find the sweet spot with all that.

Pollacheck has moved up to sixth in the Countdown to the Championship thanks to steady riding, including back-to-back semifinal finishes in Reading and St. Louis. He has six semifinal appearances this season, but is looking to reach his first final of the season. Pollacheck has five runner ups in his career, but has not picked up a Wally yet. To chase down a championship, he’ll likely have to cross a win of his list, too.  

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eddie3.JPGEddie Krawiec earned his fourth No. 1 qualifier of the season, and in the process of doing that grabbed _ of 12 available bonus points. In that process, he increased his grasp on first place to 22 points. That means the Harley-Davidson rider is now more than a round ahead of second-place rider LE Tonglet. That’s a big deal as the chase for a Mello Yello Championship heats up. 

“As much as I want to tell you I don’t sit there thinking about little points moving forward, I do,” said Krawiec. “I want to be a points hog. I want to grab every single point that I can get moving forward. I really, the way I look at it is, just go out there and win the race. Just gain points on the individual. I’m going to do the best I can on raceday and see how this all shakes out.”

Krawiec and teammate Andrew Hines are on the other side of the bracket, which is also good news for the Harley-Davidson team. Other good news for the team: LE Tonglet and his teammate, Jerry Savoie, would meet up as early as the second round on raceday. That could have huge playoff implications. 

Of course, that only matters if Krawiec goes rounds. He bowed out in the second round one race ago, which followed a three-race win streak. His five wins this season match what he rolled out in 2016 and 2014. His last championship came in 2012, when he won eight races. If he can reel off wins in the final three races; well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Starting with six wins would be a good place to start.

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js2.jpgThis isn’t how Jerry Savoie and White Alligator Racing teammate LE Tonglet drew up their ideal bracket. If the duo both win their first-round matchups (Savoie against Gunner Courtney and Tonglet against rookie Joey Gladstone), they will meet up in the second round for the third time this season. 

“We haven’t had much luck there,” said Savoie. “I blew up an engine on Friday and put another one in, broke a vacuum on that and put a third one in and then did okay, so we’ll see how we’ll do.”

Those meetings have been split evenly so far. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Tonglet went all the way to the final in Reading after beating his boss in the second round. When Savoie took down his new teammate in the Countdown-opening race in Charlotte, he bowed out in the semifinals to points-leader Eddie Krawiec. 

This isn’t how either of the riders wanted raceday to end up, but with Savoie about six rounds out, and Tonglet a pair of rounds behind Krawiec this race is a big one. So, the goal is to get one of the two riders into the winner’s circle. 

“At my age, even last year, winning a championship wasn’t something I harped on,” said Savoie. “I’m just thankful to be here.”

Savoie is looking for his first win since Brainerd (five races ago), while Tonglet is looking to go back-to-back after capturing the crown in St. Louis. The Nitro Fish rider made a habit of that early in the season, when he won four of five races. Getting a yellow hat in Dallas would go a long way towards getting him a second Mello Yello Championship. 

PHOTOS

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The annual Drag Racing Association of Women auction is always a highlight of the event. NHRA announcers past and present, Bob Frey and Alan Reinhart, were the emcees for the Saturday night event.

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More than $30,000 was raised at the DRAW auction for the benevolent organization that helps racers in need as members of the community bid on a variety of drag racing memorabilia.

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The SealMaster Track Walk kicked off Sunday’s action. AAA driver Robert Hight and NHRA announcer Joe Castello led the parade down the famed all-concrete racing surface.

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The husband and wife team of Matt and Angie Smith, both of whom qualified for the Pro Stock Motorcycle field, walked out together during pre-race ceremonies. Matt later reached the semifinals.

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Top Fuel drivers Shawn Reed, left, and Scott Palmer clowned it up before driver introductions, but neither was able to deliver a knockout blow in their respective first-round races.

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Retiring Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria was overcome with emotion as Texas Motorplex owner (and fellow Texan) saluted her career with a special-edition cowboy hat.

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Top Fuel low qualifier Steve Torrence was welcomed by the Texas-partial crowd, but his day would take a wild turn in the semifinals.

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Torrence’s Capco Contractors dragster crashed heavily in the second round but he walked away uninjured and prepared a backup car for the semifinals.

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John Force Racing teammates Brittany Force and Robert Hight celebrated together after their respective wins in Top Fuel and Funny Car.

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Sporting the trademark cowboy hats emblematic of event winners at Texas Motorplex, Robert Hight, Brittany Force, Jason Line, and Eddie Krawiec celebrated in the winner's circle.

PREVIEW

capps3.jpgAfter two days of mid-90-degree weather, a cold front carrying rain blew through the region Saturday night, bringing much-needed relief to the teams. Race conditions Sunday are expected to reach just the low-70s, good news for performance potential but also a total rewrite for crew chiefs. Little of the data they’ve gleaned the last two days will mean much.

"It's going to be very fast, it's going to be probably very close racing, and for the fans it's going to be great side-by-side racing,” said Funny Car points leader Ron Capps, who was the No. 1 qualifier until Robert Hight stole the pole in the final qualifying session. “For the drivers and crew chiefs it's going to be throw everything you've got at it and we'll see who's left standing at the end of the day. But it's going to be a game-changer for somebody. Hopefully we can do what we did last year and improve on our points lead, but to hold onto that No. 1 spot until that last session, that is the reason drag racing's so neat. You can't count anything out until it's done. It makes the hair on your neck stand up, but in a good way. It's a lot of fun.”

 “Everybody here is going to have to throw our everything they’ve done,” Hight said. “We’re talking serious changes. They’re calling for 64 degrees at 11 o’clock, and that is going to be crusher conditions. You can’t let up. You’re going to see close to national records, if not national records. You could see the first 340 mph run here with the kind of conditions we’re going to have. It is going to be as good as we’ve had all year.”

Here are the brackets and first-round pairings from the four professional classes:

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