ELIMINATION ROUNDS RECAPS
TOP FUEL ROUND ONE (11:25 a.m.): Doug Kalitta, who missed his final qualifying run due to an ignition problem before startup, made up for that with low e.t. of the first round, a 3.762, in defeating local favorite Dom Lagana. Low qualifier Antron Brown ran 3.783 in besting class rookie Blake Alexander and will have a second-round bye. In a couple of important points battles, Tony Schumacher took down points leader Leah Pritchett, while Scott Palmer defended his 10th-place position by besting 11th-place Shawn Langdon. [Detailed results]
Second-round pairings (lane choice first): Antron Brown vs. bye; Brittany Force vs. Scott Palmer; Clay Millican vs. Steve Torrence; Doug Kalitta vs. Tony Schumacher.
FUNNY CAR ROUND ONE (11:55 a.m.): Where the first round of Top Fuel was relatively smoke-free, the same cannot be said for their body-clad nitro-burning brethren, who struggled for traction, leading to a number of exciting pedalfests and no three-second passes. Points leader Ron Capps survived a close call, 4.66 to 4.68, over Del Worsham, and Cruz Pedregon did the same against John Force, 4.72 to 4.82. Alexis DeJoria got the first round-win of her comeback, beating Tim Wilkerson to advance. [Detailed results]
Second-round pairings (lane choice first): Matt Hagan vs. Courtney Force; Jack Beckman vs. Cruz Pedregon; Tommy Johnson Jr. vs. Robert Hight; Alexis DeJoria vs. Ron Capps.
PRO STOCK ROUND ONE (12:05 p.m.): Just about every Pro Stock car that made it to the starting line for round one spun the tires, and the ends result was some of the biggest upsets of the season. Alan Prusiensky earned his first win of the season in his Hemi-powered Dart when he took out reigning champ Jason Line. John Gaydosh Jr. also moved to the quarterfinals when he used a starting-line holeshot to get past rookie Tanner Gray. Jeg Coughlin Jr. got the best of his Elite teammate, Erica Enders, 6.611 to 6.635, ending Enders' chances for a second-straight victory. Greg Anderson advanced over Kenny Delco, but it took a holeshot in order to do it after Delco ran a 6.636 to Anderson’s winning 6.647. Bo Butner, Allen Johnson, and Vincent Nobile also advanced. [Detailed results]
Second round pairings (lane choice first): Bo Butner vs. bye; Allen Johnson vs. Greg Anderson; Vincent Nobile vs. John Gaydosh Jr.; Jeg Coughlin Jr. vs. Alan Prusiensky.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE ROUND ONE (12:20 p.m.): Low qualifier LE Tonglet made the second-best run of the round with a 6.817 to keep alive his chances for a third-straight Pro Stock Motorcycle victory. Tonglet’s teammate, Jerry Savoie, also advanced when he stopped Cory Reed. The biggest upset of the round came when Angie Smith stopped the new Harley-Davidson Street Rod of five-time champ Andrew Hines. Eddie Krawiec scored the first win for the Street Rod when he stopped Chip Ellis on a holeshot, 6.870 to 6.858. Hector Arana Jr. also impressed with a 6.816, the best run of the day so far, in his win over Melissa Surber. Of the five women who qualified for the event, two, Smith and Karen Stoffer, advanced to round two. [Detailed results]
Second-round pairings (lane choice first): LE Tonglet vs. Angie Smith; Jerry Savoie vs. Scotty Pollacheck; Karen Stoffer vs. Hector Arana Sr.; Hector Arana Jr. vs. Eddie Krawiec.
TOP FUEL ROUND TWO (1:05 p.m..): Antron Brown’s bye run gave him the points lead over Leah Pritchett, who exited in round one, and it was a good thing he was running solo as his Match Tools dragster smoked the tires at 100 feet, and he coasted into the No. 1 points spot with a 6.62 and will surrender semifinal lane choice to Brittany Force in a rematch of their Epping final last weekend. Doug Kalitta had low e.t. of the round with a 3.805 in beating Tony Schumacher. The lead is the first of Brown's title-defense season and only the second time that Pritchett is not leading the points; Schumacher held the lead for one event after the Las Vegas race. [Detailed results]
Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): Brittany Force vs. Antron Brown; Doug Kalitta vs. Steve Torrence.
FUNNY CAR ROUND TWO (1:25 a.m.): Low qualifier Courtney Force survived a dropped cylinder for the second straight round in beating Matt Hagan in a rematch of last weekend’s Epping final, while points leader Ron Capps survived another near-defeat as he was trailing Alexis DeJoria after shaking the tire and swiftly pedaling, but she crossed the centerline ahead of him. Jack Beckman reached his second semifinal in the last three races in edging Cruz Pedregon. [Detailed results]
Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): Courtney Force vs. Jack Beckman; Robert Hight vs. Ron Capps.
PRO STOCK ROUND TWO (1:31 p.m.): Low qualifier Bo Butner got a bye run into the semifinals, and Vincent Nobile also got a single after John Gaydosh Jr. hurt his only engine and could not return for the second round. Greg Anderson had to win his first round battle on a holeshot, but he won the second in a more conventional manner with a 6.611 to 6.622 win against Allen Johnson’s Dodge. Jeg Coughlin Jr. joined teammate Nobile in the semi’s with a 6.643 win against Alan Pruisensky. [Detailed results]
Semifinals pairings (lane choice first): Greg Anderson vs. Bo Butner; Vincent Nobile vs. Jeg Coughlin Jr.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE ROUND TWO (1:38 p.m.): Karen Stoffer reached the semifinals for the first time this season when she scored a holeshot win against Hector Arana Sr., and Angie Smith pulled off a huge upset when she stopped low qualifier LE Tonglet. Tonglet’s bike bogged, and he slowed to a 7.257, which allowed Smith to take the win with a 6.942 on her Buell. Hector Arana Jr. made the best run of the round with a 6.828, and Jerry Savoie was also impressive in his win over Scotty Pollacheck with a 6.852. [Detailed results]
Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): Jerry Savoie vs. Angie Smith; Hector Arana Jr. vs. Karen Stoffer
TOP FUEL SEMIFINALS (2:35 p.m.): Steve Torrence will get another shot at his good friend Antron Brown in the Top Fuel final, a rematch of their recent clash in the final in Topeka, where Brown beat Torrence for the 22nd time in 23 tries. Brown, who took over the points lead earlier in the day, will have final-round lane choice based on his 3.78 victory over Brittany Force to Torrence’s 3.82 conquest of Doug Kalitta. [Detailed results]
FUNNY CAR SEMIFINALS (2:45 p.m.): Jack Beckman reached his first two-wide final round of the season despite smoking the tires at the Christmas Tree after low qualifier Courtney Force went -.012 red against him. World champ and points leader Ron Capps will have final-round lane choice against his Don Schumacher Racing teammate after another lucky round, running just 4.19 with a cylinder out to beat tire-smoking Robert Hight. [Detailed results]
PRO STOCK SEMIFINALS (2:48 p.m.): Vincent Nobile will race in the final round for the 21st time in his career and first time since the 2016 Reading event after stopping teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr., 6.644 to 6.654. Nobile will give up lane choice to Greg Anderson, who is attempting to win his eighth Pro Stock race in Englishtown. Anderson drove his Summit Camaro to a 6.632 to score a narrow win against KB Racing teammate Bo Butner, who ran 6.648. Anderson and Nobile have raced just once this year in the second round of the Houston event, and Anderson emerged victorious. [Detailed results]
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE SEMIFINALS (2:50 p.m.): Jerry Savoie made it to the final round for the third-straight time in Englishtown following a semifinal win against Angie Smith, who fouled. Savoie ran a 6.878 on his White Alligator Suzuki to reach his 18th career final. Hector Arana Jr. will have lane choice in the final after he defeated Karen Stoffer, 6.854 to 6.899. Arana Jr. will be looking to win his first race since the 2015 St. Louis final, where he defeated his father, Hector Sr., in an all-Lucas Oil Buell final. Savoie, the reigning NHRA Mello Yello champion, won his 100th career round of competition in the quarterfinals when he stopped Scotty Pollacheck. His last final came at the most recent event in Atlanta. [Detailed results]
J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES FINAL (3:28 p.m.): Rickie Smith, near lane, and Troy Coughlin, two of the most successful racers in the history of the J&A Service Pro Mod Series, squared off in the final round, where Smith drove to a 5.884 to 5.882 holeshot victory. Smith, in his first race back to the series since recent back surgery, drove his Vallen Camaro to wins against Eric Latino, Shane Molanari, and Gainesville champ Steven Whiteley. Smith’s best run came in qualifying, where he was 10th in the field with a 5.832. Coughlin, a two-time series champ in the Pro Mod class, returned to the scene of his first Pro Mod win in 2005 to reach the final. Coughlin drove his turbocharged JEGS.com Corvette to wins against Jonathan Gray, Khalid alBalooshi, and Stevie Jackson, the winner of the most recent event in Topeka.
LUCAS OIL SERIES FINAL-ROUND RESULTS
Frank Aragona Jr. def. Pete Hanratty
Tim Fletcher (pictured) def. Herbie Null
Peter Biondo def. Russ Linke
Kevin Robb def. Shawn Fricke
Dan Northrop def. John Labbous Jr.
TOP SPORTSMAN presented by Racing RVs
Jeff Brooks def. Ron Reigel
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE FINAL: After watching his teammate, LE Tonglet win the last two NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle events, Jerry Savoie, near lane, joined the fun in Englishtown when he stopped Hector Arana Jr. in the final. Savoie got a big head start in the final and held on for a holeshot win, 6.918 to 6.862. It was Savoie’s seventh win in 18 career finals.
PRO STOCK FINAL: For the eighth time in his career, Greg Anderson, far lane, left Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown with a Pro Stock Wally. Anderson wheeled his Summit Camaro to a 6.613 in the final to stop Vincent Nobile, who trailed with a 6.665 in the Mountain View Camaro. Anderson has now won 12 straight rounds of competition in Englishtown, which was also the site of the KB team’s 100th win in 2012.
FUNNY CAR FINAL: A rematch of last year’s final round went the other way with Jack Beckman, near lane, not only preventing points leader Ron Capps from winning again, but also earning himself a coveted spot in the NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout. Both drivers had cylinders out in the final, but Beckman held on for the win, his first of the season and 27th of his career and his milestone 25th in Funny Car, 4.10 to 4.14.
TOP FUEL FINAL: Defending event champ Steve Torrence, near lane, whose record against final-round opponent Antron Brown was a lopsided 1-22 coming into the final round, avenged his final-round loss in Topeka earlier this year and a painful final-round loss at his homestate event in Dallas last year, beating Brown in his hometown, 3.85 to 3.93.
For just the second time this season, Leah Pritchett has relinquished the points lead, a combination of her first-round loss and Antron Brown's runner-up. Pritchett, who fell to third place behind Brown and event winner Steve Torrence, began the season on a tear with wins at the first two events of the season but lost the lead in Las Vegas when she went out in the semifinals and Tony Schumacher was runner-up.
A win in Houston got her back into the lead that’s she held until this event, but – other than after Phoenix -- it’s been close throughout the season.
Tony Schumacher is never happy to have to race one of his Don Schumacher teammates in the first round, but he’s drawn points leader Leah Pritchett this time, and if there’s one he can benefit the most from beating, it’s obviously her.
“We’ve got a chance to put a serious dent in that points deficit,” said Schumacher, who is vying for his second career Summernationals victory. “We won’t take care of squat if the car doesn’t go down the track fast. If it does, we can win the race any day – on any given day. We have a chance to stop the points leader in the first round, right away, and close the gap. Honestly, with the car we’ve had the last couple of weeks, we’ve struggled. This Army car, this weekend, went down the track even with issues and problems.”
He might be getting her at a vulnerable point. While Schumacher made three good runs -- 3.763 and a pair of 3.853s –Pritchett struggled a bit and made it down the track on just two of four runs with passes of 3.788 and 3.875.
Schumacher got the job done, beating her 3.83 to 3.92, to gain some ground on her, and allowing others to do the same.
"That Papa John's team is bad to the bone, but when you're in the lead, everyone's shooting at you, man," he said. "Trust me, every team wanted me to win that; I had people coming up -- people who don't even like me -- wishing me good luck."
Shawn Langdon and the Global Electronic Technology team had a chance to really help themselves in round one as he faced Scott Palmer, who is 86 points ahead of him in the race for the 10th and final spot in the Top Fuel Countdown.
"Huge round for us,” he said. “The way we look at it is if we can stop him from getting 20 and we can get 20 that is a 40-point swing. It is an important run for us. We are very confident in the setup. We learned from all the runs and that is the most important."
Langdon’s Connie Kalitta- and Rob Flynn-tuned dragster made runs of 3.73 and 3.87 and a couple of aborted runs, but learned from it to continue the upward momentum he’s had since rejoining the tour after missing the season’s first four events. With his first semifinal appearance of the season at Epping last weekend, the 2013 world champion now has matched or bettered his qualifying position in each of his five races, with similar results on race day.
Langdon's hopes, however, were dashed as Palmer went A to B with a 3.88 to get the win.
"That was a huge win for us," said Ashley Fye, Palmer's crew chief. "It did exactly what we wanted it to do, We're getting through the middle of the season and every round is important, so that was awesome."
With hot air and track temperatures forecast for today, it’s invoking a lot of bad memories about last year’s event, especially in Top Fuel. Steve Torrence won the event with traction-plagued runs of 4.48, 4.32, and 4.02 in the final three rounds. The first round was decent – six of the eight winners made full runs, led by J.R. Todd’s 3.75 – but from there on out it was a smoke show.
Low e.t. of the second round was 4.15 by eventual runner-up Tony Schumacher, who also was quickest in the semifinals with a 3.84 over Shawn Langdon’s 3.90. Conversely, Torrence beat Brittany Force, 4.32 to 4.42.
Schumacher couldn’t find the magic in the final and lost to Torrence, 4.03 to 4.23
"The conditions [Saturday] were as close to the hottest we've seen all year and (today) it should be 10 degrees hotter," said Brian Corradi, crew chief for low qualifier Antron Brown. "[Today] should be like Saturday in the first round but after that when it heats up you'll probably see some tire smoke, but hopefully not from us."
"It's going to get pretty swampy later," agreed Danny Hood, crew chief for Funny Car polesitter Courtney Force. "We made some pretty good runs [Saturday] in the heat so we'll just see how hot it gets and continue on."
Although John Force is among the leaders in event wins at the Summernationals with four, the race has not been kind to the John Force Racing team for a long time.
The 16-time world champ hasn’t won the event since 1999, and daughter Courtney hasn’t won a round at the event since her rookie season in 2012, when she went to the semifinals. Her first-round loss at last year’s event came to her dad, and was the team’s only round win here last year.
Robert Hight has never won at Englishtown; he’s never even been to the final. He’s advanced to the semifinals three times – 2005, 2012 and 2014 – twice losing to Del Worsham.
“I call it one of the majors,” Hight said. “A lot of history here, years and years that that race track’s been here. A lot of the greats have won it, and you don’t want to go down and say you never won Englishtown.”
Tommy Johnson Jr.’s John Collins-tuned Make-A-Wish Dodge wasn’t the quickest Funny Car in qualifying, but he went down the track on the three of four passes, including both runs in Saturday’s heat, including a 3.954 in Q4 that was the third quickest of the round,
"We've always seemed to excel in the heat," Johnson said. "It's starting to show that now with some of the conditions we've seen this weekend. It's been the hottest we've seen all year. [Today] will be even hotter. So, to go out and run a .95 with only a couple thousandths off low of the round and getting a bonus point, that shows that we're going in the right direction. We're pleased with how the car ran -- especially with the weather [today]."
Everyone knows the heat is coming in the later rounds, but the first round has usually been cool enough – both air and track temperature – to allow for good runs, but that wasn’t the case in Funny Car, where there were a number of pedalfests and, for the first time in a long time, not a single three-second run was recorded.
Lower qualified teams always want to run as early as possible – top-three qualifiers Courtney Force, Robert Hight, and Ron Capps were in the round’s first three pairs but struggled in their wins. Alexis DeJoria, who was in the sixth pair, definitely benefited from not running early as crew chief Tommy DeLago tuned her to a 4.018 that was the third best run of the round.
“We came up here a lot more greedy than that,” said DeLago. “I start seeing cars [ahead of us] coming loose, so I just started backing up more and more, just closing, closing, close [the clutch flow controls] and we got lucky.”
Jack Beckman, whose runner-up at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals has been the lone highlight of the season, reached the final round again but was probably the last one to know it. Beckman, no doubt distracted by the copious amount of fuel pouring from his headers while staging – probably the result of a stuck barrel valve – didn’t see his opponent Courtney Force red-light. He smoked the tires immediately and coasted downtrack, then exited his car prepared to congratulate Force on making yet another final round.
“I was coming out to congratulate her and then I heard our guy Jesse, who always beeps the horn [of the tow vehicle] twice after we win, honking the horn. I was like, ‘How could he not see [her beat me]? She was 38 bus lenghths ahead of me.’ Wow. Somedays it’s just your day. Now we need to get our act together and beat that NAPA car [Ron Capps] the old-fashioned way."
Capps, for his part, also was feeling lucky to be in the final. He narrowly escaped a first-round pedalfest with Del Worsham, won round two only because Alexis DeJoria crossed the centerline, then ran a sub-par, cylinder-dropping 4.19 in the semifinals, but caught another break when Robert Hight smoked the tires.
“We’ve used some luck,” he admitted. “My whole career I’ve never had much of it, and I always think, ‘It must be great [for other drivers] to have those lucky breaks.’ We’ve out enough credit in the luck bank that it’s nice to get some back. The fact it had a cylinder out is probably the only reason it got down there.”
Muli-time world champions Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Erica Enders will face each other for the 16th time with Coughlin holding a 10-5 edge over his Elite Motorsports teammate. The last time the two drivers tangled was a year ago in Englishtown, where Coughlin scored a decisive 6.70 to 6.81 victory. Ironically, it was just one of ten round wins that Coughlin scored during what was arguably the most challenging year of his career.
“This is the same scenario as last weekend when I squared off with my other teammate, Vincent Nobile in Epping, only this time it’s Erica,” said Coughlin. “It’s not what you want, especially in round one, because someone will be knocked out of the race, but when you have a multi-car team it happens. You just have to go out there and race to the best of your abilities and see who wins. Erica won the race last weekend, including taking a couple of rounds on holeshots, so she’s dialed in. We’ll do our best against her.”
Coughlin managed to get the best of Enders in one of the best races of the round, 6.611 to 6.636.
A bit bleary-eyed but none the worse for wear, Allen Johnson made it to the stage for pre-race driver introductions at 10 a.m. local time in Englishtown. Johnson’s appearance was not a given especially after he left Old Bridge Township Raceway Park on Saturday afternoon and flew home to Greenville, Tenn., in order to watch his wife, Pam., compete in the Tri-Cities Dancing with the Stars competition.
“Pam was awesome and I was really glad I was able to be there to support here,” said Johnson. “We got back here at about 2:30 in the morning so I didn’t get much sleep but I’m still pretty pumped up for race day.”
On Friday, Johnson and crew chief Adam Hornberger coaxed a competition 6.567 out of their Marathon Petroleum Dodge. Johnson also ran a strong 6.582 on his only run Saturday, the second fastest time of the session to collect his first two qualifying bonus points of the season.
“You know, we just keep gaining on them and we’ve really turned a corner with our program,” Johnson said. “We’re taking baby steps each run and to make a big jump up to No. 4 like that was really awesome. We just gotta keep diggin’ you know?”
Greg Anderson’s Summit Racing Camaro is usually quick enough to win on sheer horsepower but there are also times when he needs to use his clutch foot to get the job done. The first round in Englishtown was one of those occasions. In a race where both cars spun the tires at the start, Anderson’s starting line edge against Kenny Delco paid off with a 6.647 to 6.636 victory.
“You’re going to have to win ugly today; that starting line is a peach,” said Anderson. “I spun the tires right away and had to pull gears early just to get down the track. I was afraid to look over because I knew I was toast.”
Anderson has now won nine-straight rounds at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, and he’s still alive for his eighth-career win at the historic facility.
Alan Prusiensky hasn’t won many rounds in his brief Pro Stock career, but he’s rapidly earning a reputation as someone who can’t be taken lightly on race day. The former Comp driver won his fourth round when he stopped Jason Line in round one. Prusiensky drove his ARC Dodge dangerously close to the retaining wall, but stayed in the throttle long enough to get a 6.806 to 6.941 victory.
“I didn’t see him so I stayed with it,” said Prusiensky. “I was just hoping that he didn’t drive around me. It was great to get a win after all we’ve been through the last week or so.”
Prusiensky raced in Epping last weekend but had to return to his shop in Rockaway, N.J. midway through the race in order to repair an engine. Admittedly, PRusiensky’s Hemi engine program isn’t where he’d like it to be, but it was good enough to qualify No. 12 and take a round win against Line.
“We’ve been fighting this car all week but at least we didn’t have to go back to the shop this time,” he said. “We’re using parts that are not what we want to be using. All of my good stuff is being repaired. I’ve got two engines but I have to be careful. We’ve had the oil pan off of this one three times this weekend and it all looks good.
“The good news is that we found a few things this week that have helped us early in the run,” said Prusiensky. “Our 60-foot times are good and if we can ever get our back-half back to where we were, we’re going to be very competitive.”
Prusiensky admitted that he could use a few weeks off to regroup, but that’s not his current plan. He’s committed to run each of the 24 NHRA Mello Yello series races this season and so far he’s a perfect 10-for-10.
“I haven’t missed a race since Chicago last year and my goal is to do all of them,” he said. “That even means going out west. As long as we can keep the car together, we’ll be there.”
For someone who has qualified in the No. 1 spot 34 times, Eddie Krawiec admits that being the No. 10 qualifier feels a bit awkward. In fact, the three-time champion has not qualified outside the top half of the field since the 2015 Englishtown event, when he was ninth. Looking back, Krawiec can take a bit of solace from that event since he managed to make the semifinals.
“It doesn’t really matter where you qualify, as long as you qualify,” said Krawiec. “We brought out our new Street Rod bikes this weekend and we’re still trying to get some data and get up to speed. Being No. 10 doesn’t bother me at all. I might have a tougher match than usual but the way the class is these days there are no easy races. You can pretty much win from anywhere on the ladder.”
For the first time in the history of NHRA, five women have qualified for a single eliminator and not surprisingly, it is the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. Five women; Angelle Sampey, Angie Smith, Karen Stoffer, Melissa Surber, and rookie Kelly Clontz, entered the Englishtown race and all five of them managed to qualify for final eliminations.
Smith, a winner in Epping in 2014, is the highest seed at No. 9 while Stoffer is No. 10, Sampey, the defending champ is No. 11, Surber is No. 15, and Clontz, making her NHRA debut, is on the bump at No. 16. Of the five, Sampey is by far the most accomplished with 44 national event wins and three NHRA Mello Yello championships. She is also the defending event winner. Clontz is the 20th woman to attempt to qualify in NHRA’s two-wheel class and for the record, four women have won an NHRA national event title in Pro Stock Motorcycle; Sampey, Smith, Stoffer, and Peggy Llewellyn.
It's race day at the NHRA Summernationals. Following are the first-round pairings: