Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals Sunday Notebook

News, notes, quotes, and photos from final eliminations at the Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
07 May 2017
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
Atlanta Dragway

Features | Results


Leah PritchettTOP FUEL E1 (11:16 a.m.): The track record was shattered in a quick round one of Top Fuel when points leader Leah Pritchett wheeled the Papa John’s dragster to a 3.699 in her win against Terry McMillen, who was the quicker qualifier and had lane choice. Antron Brown and the Matco Tools team rolled out a brand-new chassis after discovering a crack in their frame last night. Brown wasted no time getting acquainted to his new pipe with a 3.702 in his win over Troy Coughlin Jr. Charlotte winner Steve Torrence also continued his recent hot streak with a 3.753 in his win against Smax Smith. Other round-one survivors included Bob Vandergriff Jr., Clay Millican, Doug Kalitta, and Shawn Langdon, who scored his first round-win as a member of the Kalitta Motorsports team. 

Round 2 pairings, (lane choice first): Bob Vandergriff Jr. vs. Tony Schumacher; Doug Kalitta vs. Clay Millican; Leah Pritchett vs. Antron Brown; Steve Torrence vs. Shawn Langdon. 

Robert HightFUNNY CAR E1 (12:05 p.m.): Ron Capps’ quest for a third-straight win continued when he stopped J.R. Todd in a tough round one match-up. Capps made his best run of the event with a 3.901 after Todd smoked the tires early. Jack Beckman didn’t get down the track in qualifying, but he recovered in round one with a 3.958 to score a win over teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. Courtney Force ran 277-mph to the eighth-mile but only 273 at the finish line after she shut off early in her win over Jeff Diehl. The quickest run of the round came from Robert Hight, who posted a 3.882 in his win against Chad Head. Defending Atlanta winner Matt Hagan also powered past Cruz Pedregon with a sold 3.887 in a battle of two-time champions. John Force, Tim Wilkerson, and Dave Richards also moved into the quarterfinals.  

Round 2 pairings (lane choice first): Tim Wilkerson vs. Jack Beckman; Ron Capps vs. John Force; Matt Hagan vs. Dave Richards; Robert Hight vs. Courtney Force 

Shane and Tanner GrayPRO STOCK E1 (12:30 p.m.): Chris McGaha, who made the decision to attend the Atlanta race only after winning last week’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, scored a huge win when he topped four-time world champion Greg Anderson, 6.545 to 6.561, in a battle that would normally be reserved for the later rounds. The first battle between Shane Gray and his son, Tanner, went to Tanner, who left first and drove to a competitive 6.564 for the victory. Elite teammates Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Erica Enders both moved into the quarterfinals. Coughlin stopped Shane Tucker with a 6.560, and Enders caught a break when Alan Prusiensky fouled in his Dodge Dart. Enders’ team had to change engines before the first round, and the two-time champion was slightly off the pace with a 6.629. All eight of the top qualifiers advanced, including Drew Skillman, Jason Line, and low qualifier Bo Butner, who made the best run of the round with a 6.537. 

Round 2 pairings (lane choice first): Bo Butner vs Vincent Nobile; Tanner Gray vs. Drew Skillman; Chris McGaha vs. Jeg Coughlin Jr.; Jason Line vs. Erica Enders

LE TongletPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE E1 (12:39 p.m.): NHRA Four-Wide Nationals winner LE Tonglet lowered the boom in the first round of Pro Stock Motorcycle eliminations with a 6.811 on his Nitro Fish Suzuki to take a win against Cory Reed, who fouled. Tonglet's run was the quickest of the event, thus far. Reed’s teammate, Angelle Sampey, cut a nearly-perfect .005 reaction time, but it wasn’t enough to secure a win against rookie-of-the-year contender Joey Gladstone, who won with a 6.886. Harley-Davidson teammates Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines both advanced. Krawiec, who won his first race in Atlanta in 2009, won with a 6.821 after Steve Johnson broke, and Hines punched his ticket to the quarterfinals with a 6.868 after Angie Smith fouled. Seven of the top eight qualifiers advanced including Chip Ellis, Hector Arana Jr., and reigning world champion Jerry Savoie. 

Round 2 pairings (lane choice first): Scotty Pollacheck vs. Chip Ellis; Hector Arana Jr. vs. Jerry Savoie; Eddie Krawiec vs. Joey Gladstone; LE Tonglet vs. Andrew Hines

Doug KalittaTOP FUEL E2 (1:43 p.m.): Tony Schumacher’s U.S. Army team replaced an engine between rounds and returned to record a 3.755 in their win over Bob Vandergriff, who fireballed an engine for the second-straight round. Schumacher is now in the semifinals for the sixth time in seven events this season. Doug Kalitta drove his Mac Tools dragster to a 3.779 win against Clay Millican and in the process became just the ninth NHRA Pro driver to win 600 elimination rounds. Four-Wide Naitonals champ Steve Torrence extended his win streak to five rounds when he stopped Shawn Langdon, and in the best race of the round, Leah Pritchett outran teammate Antron Brown, 3.723 to 3.754. The semifinals will feature four of the top five ranked drivers in the class coming into the weekend. 

Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): Tony Schumacher vs. Doug Kalitta; Leah Pritchett vs. Steve Torrence 

Tim WilkersonFUNNY CAR E2 (2:04 p.m.): The marquee match-up in Funny Car between Ron Capps and John Force delivered all the excitement that Atlanta fans expected with Capps squeezing out a narrow win by seven-thousandths of a second, 3.952 to 3.960. Capps is joined in the semifinals by his teammate, Matt Hagan, who rolled to a 3.962 in his win against Dave Richards. Robert Hight reset his own Atlanta Dragway track record with a 3.880 in his win against teammate and low qualifier Courtney Force, who shut off early. Tim Wilkerson continued his march towards a spot in the top 10 following a 3.991 win against Jack Beckman’s Infinite Hero Dodge. Wilkerson last won the Atlanta race in 2015. 

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

Jeg Coughlin Jr.PRO STOCK E2 (2:11 p.m.): Erica Enders used a starting-line holeshot to get the best of reigning world champ Jason Line and reach the semifinals. Enders gained a .04-second advantage off the starting line and held on for a 6.578 to 6.563 victory. Enders’ Elite teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. followed suit with a holeshot win over Chris McGaha, 6.594 to 6.575. Tanner Gray also reached the semifinals with a more conventional 6.584 to 6.607 win against Drew Skillman, and low qualifier Bo Butner tied Line for the quickest pass of the round with a 6.563 and needed all of it when he edged Vincent Nobile’s Mountain View Camaro by just a thousandth of a second. Butner will now face Coughlin in a rematch of the Houston final two weeks ago. 

Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): Erica Enders vs. Tanner Gray; Bo Butner vs. Jeg Coughlin Jr. 

Scotty PollacheckPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE E2 (2:22 p.m.): There are three Suzuki entries and one Harley-Davidson remaining after a competitive quarterfinal round in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Charlotte winner LE Tonglet is in the semifinals, along with his teammate, Jerry Savoie, and fellow Suzuki rider Scotty Pollacheck. Tonglet made the quickest run of the round with a 6.805 in his win against five-time world champ Andrew Hines, who was off-pace with a 6.894. Pollacheck used a holeshot to take a 6.933 to 6.915 win over Chip Ellis, and Savoie rode his White Alligator Suzuki to a 6.847 in his win against Hector Arana Sr., who fouled. Factory Harley rider Eddie Krawiec rounds out the semifinals following his 6.826 to 6.960 win against Joey Gladstone. 

Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): LE Tonglet vs. Scotty Pollacheck; Eddie Kawiec vs. Jerry Savoie

Steve TorrenceTOP FUEL SEMIFINALS (3:20 p.m.): The 83rd head-to-head battle between Doug Kalitta and Tony Schumacher went to the U.S. Army team after Kalitta’s Mac Tools dragster hazed the tires downtrack. Schumacher, looking to win at Atlanta Dragway for the first time in his career, turned on the win light with a 3.758, 320.13. Schumacher, who has now been to the final in four of the first seven races this season, will be paired with last week’s Four-Wide Nationals winner Steve Torrence, who defeated Leah Pritchett with a 3.769, 324.83. Torrence has now been to three final rounds in three weeks, counting his runner-up finish in Houston. Torrence defeated Schumacher in the final quad of the Four-Wide Nationals, but Schumacher won in their only other meeting of the year, in the semifinals of the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. 

Ron CappsFUNNY CAR SEMIFINALS (3:33 p.m.): Tim Wilkerson moved into the final round for the first time this season and the 38th time in his career following a tire-smoking victory against two-time world champ Matt Hagan. Wilkerson could only muster a 4.426 in his Levi, Ray & Shoup Mustang, but it was more than enough to get past Hagan, who smoked the tires instantly in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge. Wilkerson can get into the Traxxas NHRA Nitro Shootout if he can get past Ron Capps, who is seeking his third-straight victory. Capps won his 10th straight round with a 3.968, 318.77 in the Rahn Tobler-tuned NAPA Dodge after Robert Hight blazed the tires and slowed to a 4.899. Wilkerson and Capps have not raced yet this season. 

Erica EndersPRO STOCK SEMIFINALS (3:40 p.m.): Erica Enders reached her first final round in more than a year after when she defeated upstart Tanner Gray in the semifinals. Enders got off the mark first with a .002 light and won the race on a holeshot, 6.611 to 6.600. In order to get her first win since the 2015 fall Las Vegas event, Enders will have to get past Houston winner Bo Butner, who stopped Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the other half of the semi’s. Butner left first and ran 6.583, 211.49 for the win after Coughlin’s Camaro got loose at halftrack. Butner defeated Enders in their most recent meeting in the second round of the Las Vegas event. If Enders can win the final, she will become the seventh different winner in seven events this season. 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE SEMIFINALS (3:42 p.m.): The Pro Stock Motorcycle Wally will be going to Louisiana after teammates Jerry SavoieJerry Savoie and LE Tonglet won their semifinals matches. Tonglet, the winner a week ago in Charlotte, rode to a 6.839 to 6.889 victory over Scotty Pollacheck’s Suzuki Extended Protection bike, while Savoie knocked out three-time world champ Eddie Krawiec, 6.819 to 6.859. Savoie will have lane choice in the final. For Tonglet, this will be the 16th final-round appearance of his career, while Savoie is looking for his seventh win in 17 finals.

Mike Castelllana
PRO MOD FINAL (4:07 p.m.):
After a wild day of eliminations in the NHRA J&A Services Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, Mike Castellana earned his second title in as many weeks when he defeated Stevie “Fast” Jackson on a holeshot in a great side-by-side final round, 5.776 to 5.772. The final was held in Georgia but had implications across the globe since Jackson’s car is owned by the Bahrain-based Bahrain1 team, while Castellna’s AAP Camaro backed by the Qatar-based Al-Anabi team. Their rivalry in International drag racing is well-known. Castellana’s weekend began with a trip in the sand trap, but his car was not seriously damaged. En route to the final, Castellana drove to wins over Kevin Rivenbark, Sidnei Frigo, and Gainesville winner Steven Whiteley. Castellana was also the top qualifier with a 5.717, the second-quickest run in the history of the series. Jackson earned his spot in his first NHRA final by stopping Shane Molanari, Harry Hruska, and Todd Tutterow.  

David Rampy
won for the 94th time in his career when he wheeled his Skillman Auto Group Camaro to a final-round win over Jeff Longhany, who fouled. Rampy, who is fifth in wins behind John Force, Frank Manzo, Dan Fletcher, and Warren Johnson, also enjoyed a great day in the Super Street class, where he earned a semifinal finish. Rampy has four prior Atlanta Dragway wins in 1990, 1992, 1998, and 2003, all of them in Comp Eliminator. Here is a list of Lucas Oil Series champions from the Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals.

Super Stock: David Rampy def. Jeff Longhany
Stock: Jimmy Hidalgo Jr. def. Jerry Emmons
Super Comp: Luke Bogacki def. Tony Helms
Super Gas: Ray Miller III def. David Tatum III
Super Street: Doug Wood def. Jeremy Hancock
Top Dragster: Joe Fisher def. Kevin Brannon
Top Sportsman: Sandy Wilkins def. Vince Hoda

Pro Stock Motorcycle final
LE Tonglet, far lane, went back to back for the first time in his career when he defeated his teammate, Jerry Savoie, in the first all-Suzuki final round since the 2015 Englishtown race. A week after winning the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, Tonglet struck again when he rode his Nitro Fish Suzuki to a 6.843, 194.34 for the win. Tonglet got off the starting line first with a .007 light but didn’t need it after Savoie’s White Alligator Suzuki broke early in the run. Tonglet’s career record in final rounds now stands at an impressive 12-4. 

Pro Stock final
PRO STOCK FINAL (4:51 p.m.):
The Pro Stock class crowned its first repeat champion of 2017 when Bo Butner wheeled his KB Racing Camaro, far lane,  to a 6.569, 211.26 to hold off two-time champion Erica Enders, who grabbed a slight lead at the start and ran a 6.593, 210.97 in her Elite Motorsports Camaro. After eight-runner-up finishes, Butner won his first national event in Pro Stock two races ago in Houston. After a round-one loss last weekend in Charlotte, Butner, who made his Pro debut in Atlanta two years ago, is now 15-5 in round-wins this season. Butner was also a runner-up in the Stock Eliminator class at Atlanta in 2009.

Funny Car final
FUNNY CAR FINAL (4:57 p.m.):
The “firsts” continue for NAPA Funny Car driver Ron Capps. After winning his first Mello Yello Funny Car championship last year, Capps won three-straight races for the first time in his career when he defeated Tim Wilkerson in the final round. Capps grabbed a .07-second advantage at the start and never trailed. He won on a holeshot with his 3.991, 317.79 holding off Wilkerson’s 3.978, 316.60. This is the sixth time that Wilkerson and Capps have raced in the final round and Capps is now 4-2 in those battles. 

Top Fuel final
TOP FUEL FINAL (5:01 p.m.):
Steve Torrence joined fellow Charlotte winners LE Tonglet and Ron Capps with his second Top Fuel title in as many weeks when he got the best of archrival Tony Schumacher in the final round. Torrence, who is now 4-1 against the U.S. Army driver in final rounds, drove his Capco Contractors dragster to a 3.745, 320.81 for the win after Schumacher’s car slowed at halftrack. After a slow start to the season, Torrence has now been to three-straight final rounds with a runner-up in Houston to go with his Atlanta and Charlotte wins. Torrence has a 16-5 record in elimination rounds on the young season. For Schumacher, the loss was a bitter pill to swallow since Atlanta Dragway remains the only track on the tour where he has not won. Schumacher now has five runner-up finishes in his career in the Peach State.  


Antron Brown
If you believe in numerology — and with a stats-based sport like drag racing, many do — you might as well hand Antron Brown the Top Fuel winner’s check right now. The reigning world champ has won the Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals each of the last three times the race was run in odd-numbered years at Atlanta – 2015, 2013, and 2011.

Even if you’re not buying the odd-year success, consider this: Over the last five-plus seasons, Brown has 31 victories — almost double the total of the next highest Top Fuel driver, teammate Tony Schumacher, who has 16.

Interestingly, Brown's path to another odd-year victory here will be behind the wheel of a brand-new car that has never been run. Brown's team found cracks in chassis on the car with which he qualified No. 3, and they elected to pull out the spare, which has never been run.

The new car served Brown well on its maiden voyage, registering a 3.70 that was ultimately the second-best time of the round.

“It was pretty awesome,” said Brown. “I couldn’t be more proud of my team, especially all the credit goes back to the guys in our fab shop. First lap down the track, the car drove really, really nice. I’m just stoked.”


Tony Schumacher
Another race day in Atlanta, another year of asking, “Is today the day Tony Schumacher finally wins at Atlanta Dragway?” The track outside of Atlanta is the only one on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour at which the eight-time world champion has not visited the winner’s circle. Though he has not won the Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals, Schumacher has advanced to four final rounds, in 2000, 2008, 2011, and 2012.

“You know, I really don’t care because it really doesn’t matter. Yeah, I want to win it,” sadi Schumacher. “This U.S. Army team wants to win each and every weekend. I guess that’s the only thing to talk about when we’re talking about Atlanta. What are people going to do when we finally win there? Will they ask me what kind of a dancer I am? That’s how important of a question it isn’t. It’s almost a dumb question. We’ve got a great U.S. Army car right now — probably the best car we’ve had for Atlanta. We’ve been in the finals there before and just haven’t won. In all reality, we’ve got a great race car and a great race team. We’ll just go out and do our job. Maybe 30 or 40 years from now, we’ll look back and see that we’ve done great stuff across the board. When I’m strapped into the U.S. Army car this weekend and the light comes on, the only thing I’m going to be thinking about is hitting the gas and getting down the racetrack, just like I do during every run, each and every weekend. I don’t go up there and say, ‘Why don’t we win here?’ ”

Based on yesterday’s qualifying, Schumacher appears to have a great shot of crossing “Win Atlanta” off his to-do list. Schumacher enters today in the No. 1 spot after posting a 3.736 in yesterday’s second session. That came after a solid 3.77 in the first session.


Bob Vandergriff Jr.
Bob Vandergriff Jr. picked up a round-win in the first pair out today, defeating Scott Palmer, but it came at a cost. As Vandergriff approached the finish line, the engine in his Valvoline-backed dragster let go in a ball of flames. The explosion was strong enough to leave the blower askew atop the engine. [animated gif]

“It was a pretty good bang. The car was running good up until that point,” said Vandergriff, who ran a 3.78 on the pass that earned him lane choice in round two against Shawn Langdon. “We hate to start the day off like that for the Valvoline team, but we’ve got a lot of my friends and family out here, so it’s good to get a round-win.”


Leah Pritchett
“Those 3.69s never get old, and to be honest, 326, we haven’t run that mph in a minute, and it actually just barely made it to the finish line. Hat’s off to Todd, Scott, Joe, and the entire Papa Jon’s team — everybody it takes to put these magnificent beasts of a weapon together.” — Leah Pritchett, after setting a new Atlanta Dragway track record at 3.699 in the first round


Tony Schumacher
Things got a little hot for Top Fuel No. 1 qualifier Tony Schumacher during his first-round match against Brittany Force when an air line came loose in the engine in Schumacher's U.S. Army dragster, leading to a top-end engine boomer. The good news is Schumacher was still able to get the win. The bad news is he slowed to a 5.19 and gave up lane choice for round two.


Ron Capps
Ron Capps
kept his chances of winning three in a row alive when, in the first pair of Funny Cars to hit the track today, Capps made his best run of the weekend, a 3.90, to easily defeat J.R. Todd, who spun the tires early and slowed to a 9.85.

“You don’t take [round-wins] for granted,” said crew chief Rahn Tobler. “I don’t even know really what it is right now. We’re just happy to get by first round. That’s an awful tough opponent.”

Added Capps, “Great run. I love going first pair, just get it out of the way and throw a number on the board and let those guys go after it. The bigwigs are here from NAPA, so we want to show off a little bit.”


Jack Beckman
After struggling on the two qualifying runs yesterday and placing 14th in the order, Jack Beckman’s team turned a corner in the first round, posting a 3.95 to defeat teammate Tommy Johnson Jr., who smoked the tires.

“This is a sport where you don’t necessarily have to be good; you just have to be good enough,” said Beckman. “You’re only beating one car at a time, except Four-Wides. That gave us data to the finish line. This is a tricky racetrack. There’s a lot of things as a driver you’re not normally used to doing, so hold on. It could be a long day, I hope.”


Matt Hagan
“That Dickie Venables for you. I’ll tell you what, he’s got it together. We were up there trying to figure out which lane to go down and didn’t really know, and he finally made the call at the last minute. I think he did a really good job of picking that right lane.” — Matt Hagan, on running a then-track-record 3.887 after a last-minute lane swap in the first round


Robert Hight
Moments after Matt Hagan and crew got everyone’s attention with a track-record 3.887, Robert Hight’s Jimmy Prock-led crew one-upped Hagan with a 3.882 that stood as low e.t. of the round and a new track e.t. record.

“Yesterday wasn’t a good day for us,” said Prock. “We broke a rocker arm first run, dropped a cylinder second run, and made some pretty good changes for today, so hopefully we’re going in the right direction.”

Hight gave all the credit to his team, saying, “Jimmy Prock and the Auto Club team earned that. As much problems as we had yesterday, you never get down as a driver when you have that team behind you. You just have all the confidence in the world that they’re going to fix this thing, and they did. Great job, and that’s not even the best lane.”


Dave Richards
Dave Richards
picked up the third round-win of his young career when he outmaneuvered Jim Campbell in a race where both teams had troubles on their passes.

“That was definitely a slugfest, but it feels good to get a round-win,” said Richards. “When I went out there and shook a little bit, I said, ‘Oh no.’ I still didn’t see him and just got back into it a little bit. I’m just happy to be out here.”


Jeg Coughlin Jr.
Following last weeks’ tough loss at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Jeg Coughlin Jr. is looking for a “get-well” weekend in Atlanta. Coughlin wasn’t able to secure his third straight low qualifier award, but he’ll happily take his No. 4 starting spot, as long as it is accompanied by a couple of Sunday round-wins.

“With Friday being completely rained out and just getting two runs here [on Saturday], we feel pretty fortunate to qualify in the top half of the field,” said Coughlin. “Both of our runs were very consistent and quick, so we feel like we can run well against anyone in the other lane. We’ll start with lane choice and do our best to maintain it throughout the day, should we be fortunate enough to advance.”

Should Coughlin reach the semifinals, he will also make history by tying Bob Glidden for round-wins. Glidden won 597 rounds during his Hall of Fame career, while Coughlin currently sits at 595. Glidden’s career record of 597-221 was accrued in just 319 starts while Coughlin’s record currently stands at 595-312 and the Southern Nationals is his 388th Pro Stock event.


Erica Enders
After a couple of disappointing early exits the last two weekends, Erica Enders is going rounds today, but things haven’t exactly been 100 percent smooth for her and her Elite team. It began this morning when troubles forced them into a mad thrash to get ready for round one.

“I went to fire this Camaro this morning, and we had an issue big time, so we swapped engines and had to swap intake manifolds as well,” said Enders after her first-round win against Alan Prusiensky. “There was a lot of thrashing going on in our pit area this morning, so that wasn’t necessarily how we wanted to start our day. I’ll take that round-win.”


Drew Skillman
After struggling for the better part of this season, Drew Skillman’s team has been making progress the last couple of weeks. After debuting a new car in Houston, Skillman went to the final four last weekend in Charlotte, and yesterday a solid qualifying effort placed Skillman second on the ladder. Skillman continued to show potential in the first round when he posted a 6.57 en route to victory over Mark Hogan, though Skillman noted the run possibly could have been better.

“We were making a little bit of a conservative run there in the first round,” said Skillman. “We just wanted to get a little bit more data. We had a short qualifying sessions.”


Hector Arana Sr. and Jr.
Lucas Oil teammates Hector Arana Sr. and Jr. enter today hoping to reverse their fortunes after going a collective 0-for-4 in eliminations rounds at the first two events. Qualifying has not been an issue for the father-son duo, who have both secured spots in the top half of the field at all three races. Eliminations, however, have been another matter. Hector Sr. last visited the winner’s circle two years ago in Atlanta, and he was the top qualifier in both 2010 and 2012. The veteran rider is convinced that past experience will help the team overcome their slow start.

“Any time you have a dragstrip where you’ve done well in the past, it gives you that extra feeling of being relaxed,” said Hector Sr. “You have positive thoughts in your head instead of, ‘Oh no, that’s where such-and-such happened.’

“When I think about how to prepare for Atlanta, the first thing I do is check the weather. The weather always plays a role wherever we go, but I’m not sure it changes as much from hour-to-hour and day-to-day as we’ve seen in Atlanta. Because of that you have to be prepared for anything. You have to look at past runs you’ve made in humid conditions, hot conditions, cooler conditions, running on a green track right after rain, all of it. This place is a good test for your abilities as a crew chief.”

This season, the Aranas’ crew chief is two-time Pro Stock world champion Jim Yates, who is also a two-time winner at Atlanta Dragway.

“Jim’s been a big help already, and as he becomes more familiar with the bikes and how we’re a little bit different than the cars he drove and tuned in the past, he’ll become an even bigger help,” Arana Sr. said. “We all work together: me, Jim, my son Hector Jr., we all talk about what we think will work. That’ll never change.”

Hector Jr. and Hector Sr. enter today’s eliminations slotted Nos. 4 and 6, respectively, and a strong Saturday showing, during which both ran 6.86s, has them feeling good about their chances of improving the race-day records.

“It was a hustle to make it out here,” said Hector Jr. after his 6.86 in the final session. “We made a change for both bikes, and we actually didn’t get to do everything we wanted to do, and we still went in the right direction. For both bikes to go 6.86 — I went 6.866, and he went 6.867 — that just goes to show how awesome these motors are and how awesome my dad is doing at the shop. We’re making good calls, and we’ve got both bikes going in the right direction.”


Jerry Savoie
One of the best races of the first round in any class was the match between reigning world champion Jerry Savoie and Matt Smith, which was decided by just .0026-second in Savoie’s favor.

“I could hear him all the way down the track,” said Savoie. “You know, Matt, he’s like his dad, ol’ Tricky Rickie. He’s going to rev it up on you and try to mess with your mind a little bit, but all this goes to the crew. Matt’s one hell of a racer. I’ve been struggling first round. Man, I’m just glad to get through this one. Look out everybody.”


Joey Gladstone
Joey Gladstone
kept his streak of winning the first round at each event this year alive when he bested three-time world champion Angelle Sampey in the opener here. While all the first-round wins have been great, this one had added meaning to Gladstone because it came against one of his heroes.

“Angelle’s been my hero since day one,” said Gladstone. “It’s just such an honor to be on the same racetrack as her, and she’s such a tough competitor. I had to stay out of my own head and not go red but not go too green. I’m sure she must have Treed me because I could see her for a while. I just had faith in my horsepower and my shift points, and we got around her.”


Jeremy Hancock
One of the highlights of the final day of the Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals came very early in the day when Super Street racer Jeremy Hancock put together a rare perfect run during the third round of that categories eliminations, which was the first thing down the track today. Racing Brian Funderburk, Hancock hit the Tree with a .000 light, then wheeled his ’74 Vega to a dead-on 10.900 to turn on the win light.


Larry Morgan
Former Pro Stock racer Larry Morgan, who made his Pro Mod debut in Houston, went for a wild ride during the second round of eliminations here. Racing Todd Tutterow, Morgan’s entry made a move to the centerline shortly after he left the starting line, and the car sashayed back and forth spinning around multiple times and taking out three cones. Other than the foam blocks, Morgan did not hit anything else, and he got out of the car under his own power.