NHRA Summernationals Saturday Notebook

10 Jun 2017
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage

Features | PhotosPreview | Results


Hector Arana Jr.PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE Q3 (2:17 p.m.): The top spot did not change after Q3 in Pro Stock Motorcycle but the bump spot sure did. Angelle Sampey, Chip Ellis, and Steve Johnson all improved upon yesterday’s best runs to drop the bump spot from a 7.044 to a 6.914. The aforementioned riders who got into the field bumped out Matt Smith and former Indy winner John Hall, who will have one more shot to get back into the field later this afternoon. At the front of the field, Hector Arana Jr. made the best run of the session with a 6.801 to grab three bonus points. Arana Jr. just missed the top spot by a thousandth of a second. LE Tonglet was second-best with a 6.846 and reigning Mello Yello champ Jerry Savoie was also solid with a 6.855. [Detailed results]

Allen JohnsonPRO STOCK Q3 (2:38 p.m.): There was a slight improvement for many of the Pro Stock competitors in Q3 including Allen Johnson, who made the second best run of the session with a 6.582 and then immediately headed for the adjacent airstrip to fly back to Tennessee to watch his wife, Pam, compete in a Dancing with the Stars competition. Provisional low qualifier Bo Butner put three more qualifying bonus points in the bank with a 6.579 to lead the session. The only other drivers in the 6.5s were Drew Skillman, who lead off the round with a 6.591 in his Skillman Auto Camaro and Jason Line, who ran a 6.599. [Detailed results]

Steve TorrenceTOP FUEL Q3 (3:10 p.m.): Top Fuel teams basically used their third shot at the track not trying to better Antron Brown’s Friday field-leading 3.713 but working on tune-ups for Sunday’s expected heat wave. Nine drivers qualified in the 3.70s Friday but 3.80s were the order of the day here, led by Steve Torrence’s 3.837, with Brittany Force (3.845), Clay Millican (3.849), and Tony Schumacher (3.853) leading the way. Brown dropped a cylinder eatly on his pass and shut off to a 4.53. [Detailed results]

Robert HightFUNNY CAR Q3 (3:45 p.m.): John Force Racing went 1-2 under tricky track conditions on a warm surface with Robert Hight running 3.928 for low e.t. of the session and Friday low qualifier Courtney Force right on his heels with a 3.930, side by side in the final pair of the session. Ron Capps was third quickest with a 3.963 and Tim Wilkerson had the only other car in the threes with a 3.973 early in the session. [Detailed results]

Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman rode out a big bang and a little fire in the Infinite Hero Dodge during the third Funny Car qualifying session, (animated gif)

Jerry SavoiePRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE Q4 (4:46 p.m.): Hector Arana Jr., Jerry Savoie, and LE Tonglet made the three quickest runs of the final session in Pro Stock bike as the field is set for Sunday’s final eliminations. Arana Jr, the No. 2 seed in the field, scored three bonus points with a 6.818.  Savoie, who often makes mention of the fact that he prefers to race on warm days, made the best run of the final Pro Stock Motorcycle session when he rode his White Alligator Suzuki to a 6.828 to move to No. 4. Tonglet was third best with a 6.830, but his 6.800 from Friday remained the best run of the event. For the second-straight year and tenth time in his career, Matt Smith will not be a part of Sunday’s final eliminations after his 6.927 came up short of the 6.914 bump spot. Smith’s loss is a gain for rookie Kelly Clontz, who will make her first race day start aboard Greg Underdahl’s Suzuki. [Detailed results]

Round one pairings (lance choice first): LE Tonglet vs. Kelly Clontz; Hector Arana Jr. vs. Melissa Surber; Hector Arana Sr. vs. Steve Johnson; Jerry Savoie vs. Cory Reed; Scotty Pollacheck vs. Angelle Sampey; Joey Gladstone vs. Karen Stoffer; Chip Ellis vs. Eddie Krawiec; Andrew Hines vs. Angie Smith

Vincent NobilePRO STOCK Q4 (5:01 p.m.): There was just a small amount of shuffling in the field during the final session for Pro Stock competitors but the top spots did not change. Six drivers ran 6.59 including Vincent Nobile, who earned three bonus points for his 6.591, the best run of the round. Tanner Gray and Greg Anderson each ran 6.596 but Gray had a slightly faster speed (211.00 to 210.44) to earn two bonus points. Anderson spent the morning in North Carolina attending the high school graduation ceremony for his son, Cody. After a flight delay, he made it back in time to finish qualifying. Erica Enders, Drew Skillman, and low qualifier Bo Butner also ran 6.59 in their final tune-up before tomorrow’s final eliminations. [Detailed results]

Round one pairings (lane choice first): Bo Butner vs. Val Smeland; Tanner Gray vs. John Gaydosh; Allen Johnson vs. Matt Hartford; Greg Anderson vs. Kenny Delco; Drew Skillman vs. Vincent Nobile; Jason Line vs. Alan Prusiensky; Jeg Coughlin vs. Erica Enders

Brittany ForceTOP FUEL Q4 (5:35 p.m.): The resurgent Brittany Force, who qualified her Monster dragster No. 2 in Epping, had low e.t. of the final qualifying session with a 3,762 that moved her up to the No. 5 qualifying spot. Antron Brown and Steve Torrence held onto the top two spots – Brown had the round’s second-quickest pass with a 3.783 -- as only Troy Coughlin Jr. also was able to improve, charting a 3.800. [Detailed results]

Round one pairings (lane choice first): Antron Brown vs. Blake Alexander; Shawn Langdon vs. Scott Palmer; Brittany Force vs. Troy Coughlin Jr.; Steve Torrence vs. Smax Smith; Terry McMillen vs. Clay Millican; Doug Kalitta vs. Dom Lagana; Tony Schumacher vs. Leah Pritchett

Matt HaganFUNNY CAR Q4 (5:55 p.m.): Epping champ Matt Hagan saved his best for last, running a 3.952, a run matched by points leader Ron Capps, to highlight the final Funny Car session. Tommy Johnson Jr (3.954) and teammates Courtney Force and Robert Hight (both at 3.977) also found the threes despite a warm track. Force remained atop the field with her Firdya pass to earn her fifth No. 1 qualifying spot of the season. [Detailed results]

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

Saturday recap: Brown, Force, Butner, Tonglet lead pro fields at Summernationals


Clay Millican
Clay Millican and the Stringer Performance team is hoping that a new car, which debuted last weekend in Epping, will help carry Millican and his Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster to his first career win this weekend.

The new pipe replaced a well-used chassis that had carried Millican down the track more than 350 runs times before being replaced in the two weeks between the Topeka and Epping events.

“I’m proud of the team for getting the car change done so quickly,” said Millican. “We all headed back to our ‘Nitro Barn,' in McLeansboro [Tenn.] after Topeka and got to work. The guys were very prepared and organized so the changeover went smoothly. I got in there and helped put the driver’s compartment together so I didn’t have any surprises come Epping.”

Millican would be doubly thrilled if his breakthrough NHRA victory came at this historic event.

“If you were to think of our drag races in golf terms, Englishtown is a major,” he explained, “People would probably say Indy is the Masters, so I would say Englishtown is like the U.S. Open. I think it is a must-win race. Every year I’m very proud to have the opportunity to try and win the NHRA equivalent of the U.S. Open. I look at Englishtown as a race you want on your resume.
“We know there is a lot left in this car. We can push it a little harder than we did in New Hampshire. We made three consecutive runs down the track in this new race car. It looks very, very promising.”


Scott PalmerScott Palmer’s world tour – his first full-season schedule – continues this weekend, and now that his Tommy Thompson Motorsports/CatSpot dragster is reeling off steady, competitive elapsed times, the veteran driver is turning to the other component of any run: his reaction times.

At the urging of championship frontrunner and tuning partner Steve Torrence, Palmer has begun to whittle away at his lights.

“I’ve been pretty horrible this year,” he admitted. “I’ve had a couple of lights in the [.]100s this year. Steve bought me a pair of high-dollar driving shoes, the kind he wears, that are really comfortable. He’s been working with me on my lights, things like getting my foot in a better position, and it’s really helped. It’s already paid off since he started helpimg me in Epping, I’ve been down into the [.0]70s. My goal here is to get down into the [.0]60s.”

With Sunday expected to produce hot weather and even hotter track temperatures, the big teams will have to dial back their power or risk smoking the tires, like Tony Schumacher did in round one last weekend in Epping.

"This is one of those races where if we can get through the first round – which will probably be fast -- I really feel like we have a chance to win the race," said Palmer. "We have to make sure we get through there safely and everything we learn today will help us in the later rounds.”


Tony SchumacherThis is historically a tough section of the schedule for Tony Schumacher, who (as if he needs to be constantly reminded) has never won in Atlanta, has just one career win in Topeka, only two in in Epping, and just one in Englishtown (2008). Although he reached the final in Atlanta for the fifth time in his career, he lost in round two in Topeka and round one in Epping.

After an aborted first run Friday, the Army team ran a six-cylinder 3.76 in Q2, a run punctuated by a blower backfire that nonetheless gave the team some momentum.

“We’ve been struggling a little bit the last couple of weeks but we made it down there that time,” said Schumacher. “That was the good news. The bad news was it was down two-and-a-half or three cylinders and blew the blower off of it. We were super aggressive that first run but the car didn’t do what it was set up for, so we made drastic changes for that second run and it got down the track but blew up. In the big picture, we’re getting back to where we will want to be when it matters most.”

Schumacher’s last Englishtown victory came in his 2008 championship season in which he recorded seven consecutive event wins (Denver through Charlotte), made 11 consecutive final-round appearances, and a record 15 event titles en route to what was his sixth season title.

Last year’s final-round appearance at Englishtown (a runner-up to Steve Torrence) was the first time since 2008 that Schumacher had won more than two Sunday elimination rounds at the track.


Dom LaganaIf there’s anything like a hometown favorite team in Top Fuel, it’s definitely the Lagana brothers’ Nitro Ninja machine, which is based less than 90 minutes away in Scarsdale, N.Y. Brother Dom is driving this weekend, his second straight with the backing of CatSpot litter on the side as a quasi-teammate to Scott Palmer.

Dom’s been coming to Englishtown for more than just his nearly 32 years, as he was in the stomach of his mother, Marie, as she supported her husband and Dom’s father. Bobby Sr., as he raced his Twilight Zone Funny Cars. As soon as he was old enough, about five or six, Dom was working on his dad’s machines.

“I love this place,” he said. “It was pretty much our hometrack; here, Epping, and Reading, but this was the main one. We’ve got a lot of friends and family. Just look at the crowd. You’ve got no problem finding our pit area this weekend.”

Lagana sat out Q1 Friday then pounded out a stout 3.82 in Q2. He’ll run both sessions today to gain hot-track knowledge for Sunday’s anticipated scorcher of a day. Last year, only a handful of cars made full runs in eliminations Sunday.

“Hopefully it gets really hot and nasty tomorrow,” he said with a chuckle. “If it does, .80s will win this thing. If you remember how this race went last year, it was a real driver’s race. That’s fun racing.”

Although he has a couple of match races booked, this event will probably be Lagana’s last national event in the car. Tripp Tatum is going to drive the car in Norwalk and newly-licensed Ashley Sanford is hoping to drive the car later this year, perhaps even at Indy. Lagana hopes to be back on the track in Reading, in his Funny Car; if that happens, he’ll be carrying the CatSpot logo there as well.


Robert Hight
Robert Hight set the track speed record Friday with a blast of 332.43 mph in the Auto Club Chevy but his 3.880 fell a few ticks short of the No. 1 spot held by teammate Courtney Force’s 3.862. Hight is still on a high from his No. 1 qualifying effort last weekend in Epping, which was the milestone 50th of his career, tying him with the legendary “Snake,” Don Prudhomme, for No. 1 qualifying efforts in the Funny Car category.

“That’s pretty cool,” Hight said. “Fifteen years ago, I never would’ve thought my name would’ve even come in the same sentence as Don Prudhomme’s. He’s one of the greatest of all time. To have my name in the record books with Don Prudhomme is pretty surreal. It’s harder and harder to get these No. 1 qualifiers.” 

Hight’s 50th ranks him 13th all time among all classes (tied with three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Angelle Sampey), eighth overall in the nitro classes, and third in Funny Car behind teammate and car owner John Force (155) and Cruz Pedregon (61). 

Hight’s first No. 1 came at the 2005 Gatornationals, in just his third career start, and he collected No. 25 at the 2008 Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk. The fact that it took him just three years to collect the first 25 (including a personal-record nine in 2006), but another nine to get the second 25 is testament to how tough the class has become.


Del WorshamDel Worsham’s been fighting a niggling clutch problem that first cropped up last weekend in Epping, and, has been the case for the last three events, he’s trying to figure things out single-handedly in the absence of his father, nitro-tuning veteran Chuck, who’s home recuperating after surgery to remove cancer from his bladder and prostate, complicated by a bout with sepsis.

Although Del hopes his father will be back on the road with him for the Western Swing, he’s on his own trying to figure out why the clutch system is not working properly, turning runs that should be mid-3.90s into mid-4.0s, like his two runs Friday.

“With the same exact setup, we went 3.94 in Epping; yesterday it went 4.04. We’re losing it all from 60 feet to 330. I don’t know if it’s something I’ve [messed] up mechanically or it’s the [flow-control] valves sticking or a problem with the [clutch] control module, but it’s just getting too much clutch pressure. I’ll probably just open everything wide open [for Q3] and see what happens, and if it smokes the tires, I can start working my way back to the problem.”

It’s been a long summer already for Del, who also drives the team’s 18-wheeler. After the three-week “Southern Swing” (Houston-Charlotte-Atlanta) it was off to Indy for a test session that convinced him to bring out a new car for Topeka. After Topeka, it was back to Southern California for a match race near San Diego, then back to Epping, then off to Maple Grove Raceway to get Blake Alexander licensed, then back to Englishtown. Inbetween, he’s built five engines in six days to keep up with the maintenance now that his Lucas Oil Toyota is making full runs.

It's a far cry from his gig last year with Kalitta Motorsports, where he was just the driver.

“I went from flying in [Connie Kalitta’s] Lear jet and eating sushi to driving the truck and begging for a burger,” he said. “But I’m loving it. When I decided to do this with my dad this year, my wife told me, ‘I don’t want to hear you complaining about how hard it is,' and it is hard, but I’m happy to be doing it and racing with my dad. I can’t wait for him to get back.”


Cruz Pedregon
Cruz Pedregon is flying a new franchise-themed "Own It" paint scheme for title sponsor Snap-on on his Toyota this weekend – and the first of four this season -- and the two-time former champion and crew chief Aaron Brooks hope to be creeping back into shape to own racedays soon, too.

After qualifying with a 3.89 in Epping, they ran a pair of 3.95s in the first two rounds – the first, at a career-best 328 mph, beat Tim Wilkerson for their first round win of the season and the second not quite good enough to get past Courtney Force – then followed with a pair of threes on their first two Summernationals qualifying passes, the second of which was a 3.91.

"That 328-mph pass, the fastest in my career, was all the momentum we needed to get us psyched for [Englishtown]," Cruz says. "Qualifying in the top half of the field and those two good runs on race day told us the changes we've made this season are paying off.”


Tim Wilkerson
Tim Wilkerson was one of the stars in Q3 with a 3.97 from his Levi, Ray & Shoup machine, negotiating a 124-degree track with finesse to record a 3.973.

"I think that’s going to be a pretty good run for the session, but I think the track’s a little better than everyone is giving it credit for,” said Wilkerson, whose early-season run was only bettered by three other drivers. “It’s really hard to go backwards [detune] with how fast these cars are running.

“That’s a good thing about not having a fast car like me,” he added self-mockingly. “

The solid run was a far cry from his inglorious exit in the first round in Epping, where he suspects that a stuck clutch flow caused him to smoke the tires at the hit against Cruz Pedregon. He weren’t able to directly trace the problem – “It looked like it had already blown the piece of debris out that was stuck in there. We couldn't get any of them to leak, so we disassembled the entire unit, cleaned everything, and started over," he said – and hit the ground running in E-Town with a 3.944 in Q1.

"We still have to figure out how to run in the 3.80s again, but I think we know why we haven't, and we're working on getting that back," said Wilkerson. "It's a long time before Indy yet [the last race of the regular season where the Countdown field is set], so I feel OK.”


Allen Johnson
Greg Anderson isn’t he only Pro Stock driver who is going to miss a qualifying run today in order to fulfill a family commitment. Anderson headed to North Carolina this morning to attend the high school graduation for his son, Cody and now Allen Johnson plans to sit out Q4 in order to fly back to his home in Greenville, Tenn. Because his wife, Pam, is competing in the 9th annual Dancing with the Tri-Cities Stars competition. Johnson will make his run in Q3, get out of his Marathon Petroleum Dodge, and head quickly to the airfield adjacent to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. He will then board Elite team owner Richard Freeman’s plane and make the two-hour trip home.

“I have a plane but Richard’s is a bit faster and time is of the essence,” said Johnson. “I should be there before 5:30, though and then I should get back here sometime after midnight as long as everything goes according to plan.”

Johnson should not have to worry about his qualifying position after driving his Hemi-powered Dodge to a fourth-best 6.567 yesterday. At the time, Johnson called it the best run he’s made since the switch to EFI last year. A glance at his computer data confirmed that notion.

“For sure, that was my best run; we got all of it,” he said. “We were this good last week in Epping but I didn’t make a run that was this good. In the first round, the car blipped a little and I got distracted and we just didn’t’ show what we were capable of. I think we’ll be better on Sunday and I don’t think that missing that final run is going to affect us too much.”


Tanner Gray
Tanner Gray
felt that is should be him, and not Bo Butner, who made a trip to the Leslie Lovett Memorial Media Center last night as the provisional low qualifier in Pro Stock. Gray’s best run was a 6.555, four-thousandths behind Butner’s 6.551.

“I hit the [rev limiter] chip on both of my runs and that was every bit of four-thousandths; probably more,” said the rookie of the year candidate. “I’ve had a rough week. I lost the final in Epping and then flipped my kart on Wednesday night when I was leading the race at our local dirt track. Now, I come in here and I all of a sudden, I can’t drive. I’ve got to figure it out because I expect a lot more from myself. I really try to be a perfectionist.”

Last week in Epping, Gray qualified No. 1 for the first time in his brief career but he declined to wear the traditional green hat that is awarded to the low qualifier in each pro class because he adheres to the time-honored superstition that green is a bad luck color for race cars drivers.


Vincent NobileFor the first time in his career, Vincent Nobile drove two cars at a national event. In addition to his regular gig as the driver of Nick Mitsos’ Mountain View Tire & Auto Service Camaro Pro Stocker, Nobile also drove Vinny Barone’s A/Street Roadster in Comp Eliminator. Nobile qualified solidly for the Pro Stock field but his stay in Comp was brief after Barone’s car wounded an engine in round one against low qualifier Pat Ross.

“It was fun to drive but we didn’t run like we’d hoped,” said Nobile. “The car hasn’t been out in a couple of years and we never had a chance to test it. It’s a shame. This is our home track and I would like to have done a bit better.”

After three qualifying sessions in Pro Stock, Nobile is seeded No. 8 after a 6.607 in the Mountain View entry.

“We’re making progress with the Pro Stock car,” Nobile said. “Slow progress, but it’s progress just the same. We just need to fix a few issues and we should be quicker. We’re definitely better than we have shown so far this year.”


Angie SmithLast season, Angie Smith failed to qualify in seven of 16 events and won just a single round of competition on her Victory Gunner. After returning to a Buell-bodied entry this season, Smith has already seen a significant improvement in her results. In the first three events of the season, Smith has qualified No. 9, No. 10, and No. 13 and she’s headed for perhaps her best qualifying effort of the season this weekend with a 6.866 that is eight heading into Saturday’s two runs.

“That [6.866] was a good run but it could have been better,” said Smith. “I might have left .01 or .02 on the table. The bike deal with this Buell is that I’m very comfortable on it. It’s hard to explain but I just feel much better when I ride this bike. My head is clearer and I’m making better runs because I’m not worried about whether the bike is going to go straight or not. With my old bike, I had to make a perfect run and I think that made me a better rider.

“So far, I’ve out-qualified Matthew and that makes me feel good because he’s a world champion and he’s made thousands more runs than I have. I mean, I wouldn’t be too upset if he came around me but I like to think I can improve as well. Let’s put it this way, I sucked so bad the last two years that I’m grateful anytime I can be around on Sunday for [rider introductions].”

Smith also noted that she plans to sit out Q4 in order to preserve parts for Sunday’s opening round. The weather forecast, which calls for increasing heat and humidity, helped make the decision because Smith feels there will be little chance for improvement as the day goes on.


Angelle Sampey
Angelle Sampey
was absent from last night’s second qualifying session while her Liberty team worked to fix the V-twin engine she broke earlier in the day. The loss of a run was especially frustrating for Sampey since the defending Englishtown winner is currently not in the quick 16-bike field.

“Thankfully, we didn’t hurt too many parts because we don’t have much in the way of spares,” said Sampey. “We have one stock engine left and parts of another very good one and we worked last night to sort of combined them to make one good engine. That’s all we have, though. If I break another engine, we’re probably done for the weekend unless I can fix it.”

Given the circumstances, one would figure that Sampey would be tempted to qualify the bike on Q3, and then sit out the final run if her position is safe. However, she insists that isn’t the case.

“Oh hell no. That’s not what we’re planning on doing,” she said. “We need as many runs as we can get with these bikes. I certainly don’t plan on sitting out unless we absolutely have to. My biggest concern is getting into the field. That’s been a problem lately. I hate having to wait until Saturday just to get into the field. It creates a lot of stress.”

Sampey ran a 7.137 at just 152 mph yesterday and believes that she can run a low 6.9, even with the warm and humid conditions that are present today.

“I ran a 6.91 a week ago testing in Georgia and it was every bit as hot as it is here today so I know we’ve got it in the bike,” she said. “If the engine had held out just a bit longer on the first run yesterday I would have run probably 6.95 and I’d be pretty safe in the field.”


Hector Arana Sr.
By now, it is very obvious that Lucas Oil Buell riders Hector Arana Sr. and his son, Hector Jr., made productive use of the month off since the last Pro Stock Motorcycle event held a month ago in Atlanta. Hector Jr. is currently No. 2 with a 6.801 and Hector Sr. is nipping at his heels with a third-quickest 6.823. When it comes to improving their performance, the Arana’s can point to several factors including the addition of two-time NHRA Pro Stock champ Jim Yates, who joined the team as a crew chief/advisor earlier this year.

“We had that month off after Atlanta but my big project was to do some tooling work for Lucas Oil so they could increase their bottling capability at their factory [in Corydon, Ind.],” said Hector Sr. “Once I got through that, we went to work on the bikes. Jim has been a big help to us because he’s not a motorcycle racer. He sees things that we don’t always see especially when it comes to the clutch. We made some progress and we had a really good test session a week ago in Maryland.”

At that test session, Arana Sr. ran over 200-mph for the first time. Although it was not officially recognized as a record, it provided a major morale boost for a team sorely in need of it.

“That was a great run for us,” Arana said. “The conditions were good, but we didn’t have a big tailwind or anything. We found more horsepower last winter and that shows. Last year was the worst year of my career but we never gave up. We just went back to work and thankfully, things are a lot better now.”


The pits at fabled Old Bridge Township Raceway Park were packed with fans Saturday taking in the magic of the Summernationals.
Courtney Force
Friday’s Funny Car qualifying leader Courtney Force signed autographs for fans young and old.
As part of the 25th anniversary NHRA Summit Jr. Drag Racing League celebration taking part at this event, Jr. racers joined Mello Yello stars for the traditional Mello Yello autograph session that included Eddie Krawiec, Erica Enders, Cory Reed, Andrew Hines, and Terry McMillen.
Toyota also held a special autograph session for its drivers, which included Antron Brown, Shawn Langdon, Doug Kalitta, Troy Coughlin Jr., Alexis DeJoria, J.R Todd, Del Worsham, and Cruz Pedregon.
Nitro School
Kalitta Motorsports crew chief Jim Oberhofer joined NHRA’s Alan Reinhart to teach some fuel-racing basics in the popular Nitro School session in the pits.
Hot temperatures and a blazing sun had the Pro Stock Motorcycle crowd seeking relief under the tower before their third qualifying pass.
The Raceway Park grandstands were packed with fans taking in the drama of final qualifying.
Representatives from the U.S. Army, Don Schumacher Racing, and NHRA helped celebrate the Army’s 242nd birthday with a cake-cutting ceremony prior to Q3.
Greg Anderson
Greg Anderson, right, skipped the third Pro Stock qualifying session to attend the high-school graduation of his son, Cody, in North Carolina but made it back in time to run the final session.


Nitro track records were set in both Top Fuel and Funny Car yesterday with reigning champ and New Jersey native Antron Brown leading the Top Fuel field with a 3.713 in his Matco Tools dragster while Courtney Force continued her recent string of strong qualifying efforts with a 3.862 in her Advance Auto Parts Camaro. Force’s teammate, Robert Hight, also re-set the track speed record with a 332.43 mph blast.

Antron Brown

Brown, a three-time Englishtown winner including two victories in Pro Stock Motorcycle, is one of nine Top Fuel drivers to run in the 3.7s yesterday including Steve Torrence, Doug Kalitta, and Shawn Langdon. One driver who will be worth watching is Leah Pritchett. The current points leader ran a best of 3.788 in her special edition Dodge Demon dragster but that is only good for the No. 9 spot which means she would not have lane choice in round one. Last week’s winner, Brittany Force, is also seeking to improve after a sixth-best 3.780 yesterday.

Courtney Force

The JFR team cars of Courtney Force and Hight occupy the top two spots in Funny Car while points leader Ron Capps enters Saturday in the No. 3 spot after a 3.883 in his NAPA Dodge. Capps’ win streak ended last weekend at 17-rounds and he’s eager to star another one this week. Epping champ Matt Hagan is currently the No. 9 seed following a 3.957. Other drivers outside the top eight include Alexis DeJoria, Del Worsham, J.R. Todd, and John Force. 

Bo Butner

Yesterday, Bo Butner drove to the top of the qualifying chart in Pro Stock with a 6.551 best. If he can hold on through today’s two sessions, and Butner believes he will, it will be his third low qualifier of the season and the sixth of his career. Close behind Butner on the qualifying sheet is Tanner Gray, who trails by just four-thousandths of a second. Both Butner and Gray have won twice this season. One driver who will probably not challenge for the pole is Greg Anderson, who is going to miss Q3 while he attends his son, Cody’s high school graduation. Anderson hopes to be able to return in time to run Q4, but that isn’t guaranteed. He begins the day in the No. 5 spot after a best of 6.578 on Friday.

Hector Arana Jr.

The top spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle changed hands twice yesterday. Hector Arana Jr. was the leader after Q1 with a 6.810 on his Lucas Oil Buell and later in the day, LE Tonglet took over the lead following his 6.800 in Q2. Hector Arana Sr. enters the day in the No. 3 spot followed by Suzuki teammates Scotty Pollacheck and Joey Gladstone. After two sessions, there are 15 bikes in the six-second zone and the bump spot is 7.044 by Steve Johnson. It is almost certain to get quicker since Chip Ellis and defending Englishtown champ Angelle Sampey are currently not in the field.