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NHRA Toyota Nationals Sunday Notebook

Terry McMillen earned his first event win, Greg Anderson and Eddie Krawiec extended their point leads, and Matt Hagan got back in the winner's circle.
28 Oct 2017
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
Las Vegas Hero

Preview | Features | Results | Photos

ELIMINATION ROUND RECAPS

britt2.JPGTOP FUEL ROUND 1 (11:23 a.m.): Brittany Force ripped off a massive run to move to the second round, posting a 3.696 for the low pass of the opening stanza of Top Fuel. That gets her a matchup with Doug Kalitta, who sits third in points. Force, the second-place Top Fuel racer, seems to have found her tune-up, and is chasing points leader Steve Torrence. He’s going to face Shawn Langdon in the second round of racing, as the Kalitta Motorsports pilot narrowly edged Antron Brown. That will all but extinguish the veteran Top Fuel driver’s hopes of winning his third-straight championship. 

Second-round pairings (lane choice first): Leah Pritchett vs. Tony Schumacher; Brittany Force vs. Doug Kalitta; Steve Torrence vs. Shawn Langdon; Clay Millican vs. Terry McMillen.

force.JPGFUNNY CAR ROUND 1 (11:51 a.m.): The 16-time champ handed the defending champ an early defeat, opening the door for Robert Hight to make a big move in the points chase. John Force defeated Ron Capps in a wild opening round matchup, helping Hight move within five points of the points leader. Now, Force (the boss) gets to race the President of John Force Racing (Hight) in the second round of action. That’s not the only teammate vs. teammate battle in the second round, as Jack Beckman will take on Tommy Johnson Jr. Del Worsham pulled off a big upset, taking down J.R. Todd in the opening round, and he'll race Matt Hagan in the next round. 

Second-round pairings (lane choice first): Jack Beckman vs. Tommy Johnson Jr.; Matt Hagan vs. Del Worsham; Alexis DeJoria vs. Courtney Force; Robert Hight vs. John Force 

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Ron Capps' championship bid took a hit when his NAPA Auto Parts Charger lost traction then banged the supercharger in a first-round loss to John Force (animated gif).

skillman3.jpgPRO STOCK ROUND ONE (12:05 p.m.): Drew Skillman blasted to low e.t. of the event, a 6.661, to defeat Deric Kramer, who had brought the fans to their feet with a smoky pre-race burnout. All three points-leading KB Racing cars advanced to the second round with points leader Greg Anderson running 6.677, second-place Bo Butner a 6.690, and third-ranked Jason Line 6.684. Fourth-place Tanner Gray also kept his title hopes alive with a 6.682 victory.

Second-round pairings (lane choice first): Greg Anderson vs. Chris McGaha; Jason Line vs. Jeg Coughlin Jr.; Drew Skillman vs. Tanner Gray; Bo Butner vs. Allen Johnson

krawiec4_0.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE ROUND ONE (12:20 p.m): Low qualifier Eddie Krawiec also had low e.t. of the opening stanza, powering his Harley-Davidson Street Rod to a 6.939. Hector Arana Jr. also impressed with a 6.947 with his Lucas Oil TV Buell and Scotty Pollacheck's Suzuki pounded out a 6.955. L.E. Tonglet, who is chasing points leader Krawiec, beat Melissa Surber to keep his mathematical chances alive.

Second-round pairings (lane choice first): Eddie Krawiec vs. Angelle Sampey; Scotty Pollacheck vs. Andrew Hines; Hector Arana Jr. vs. Mike Berry; L.E. Tonglet vs. Karen Stoffer

shawn.JPGTOP FUEL ROUND 2 (1:13 p.m.): Shawn Langdon kept going rounds in his Global Electronic Technology Dragster. He knocked out the points leader, Steve Torrence, helping his teammate, Doug Kalitta in the process. Torrence got into trouble at about half track, and Langdon didn’t stick around to see what went wrong. Brittany Force got a lucky win to reach the semifinals, as Kalitta idled all the way down the race track when the tree dropped. Force ran a 4.343, the slowest winning pass of the second round, but will race on-track nemesis Leah Pritchett for a chance to get into the final round. 

Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): Leah Pritchett vs. Brittany Force; Terry McMillen vs. Shawn Langdon

hight4.jpgFUNNY CAR ROUND 2 (1:26 p.m.): Robert Hight took over the points lead by taking down John Force in the second round of action. To increase his lead in the semifinals, he’ll have to beat teammate Courtney Force. She beat Alexis DeJoria with a clean pass in the left lane, one of the few drivers to do it, to keep her championship hopes alive. It’s going to be an all-teammate affair on the other side of the ladder, too, as Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan will faceoff. Beckman beat another Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Tommy Johnson Jr., to set up a matchup against Hulk Hagan. 

Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): Jack Beckman vs. Matt Hagan; Courtney Force vs. Robert Hight

line4.jpgPRO STOCK ROUND TWO (1:35 p.m.): All three KB Racing drivers advanced to the semifinals as Greg Anderson, Jason Line, and Bo Butner moved on and advanced their respective bids for the championship. Anderson had the best number with a 6.687 but Line (6.694) and Butner (6.695) were right on his heels. Drew Skillman put a crimp in Tanner Gray’s championship hopes by beating the rookie by .001-second on a holeshot with a 6.698.

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

pollachec.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE ROUND TWO (1:45 p.m.): Scotty Pollacheck jumped up and set low e.t. of the event aboard his Suzuki, powering to a 6.924 to defeat Andrew Hines. Hines’ teammate, Eddie Krawiec, escaped into the semifinals with a shutoff 11-second pass following Angelle Sampey’s red-light. L.E. Tinglet kept his slim title hopes alive by beating Karen Stoffer and will face Hector Arana Jr in the semifinals.

Semifinal pairings (lane choice first): Scotty Pollacheck vs. Eddie Krawiec; Hector Arana Jr. vs. L.E. Tonglet

mcmillen_0.JPGTOP FUEL SEMIFINALS (2:32 p.m.): Terry McMillen will race in his third final round of the season after taking down fellow Countdown to the Championship competitor Shawn Langdon in the semi’s. He’ll face off against Brittany Force, who’s going to try to tie Steve Torrence atop the Top Fuel points after beating Leah Pritchett for the first time this season in her third try. McMillen is looking for his first-ever victory, while Force is hoping for her fourth win of the season and seventh of the season. The Amalie driver might not be able to win a championship, but he can help out Torrence and Doug Kalitta by taking out the Monster Energy driver. 

hagan.JPGFUNNY CAR SEMIFINALS (2:36 p.m.): Matt Hagan will take on Courtney Force in a final round for the third time this season. That’s gone in favor of Hagan in both occasions this season, most recently in Epping, which seems like a long time ago. Force will have lane choice thanks to her 3.928-second pass, so expect to see her in the Summit Racing Equipment lane in the final round of action. She knocked out teammate Robert Hight, while Hagan beat his teammate, Jack Beckman. Now it’s a matter of seeing how close Force can get to the points leader, Hight, in the final round.

butner5.jpgPRO STOCK SEMIFINALS (2:40 p.m.): Bo Butner, second place in championship points, advanced to his 10th final round of the season and will take on the points leader, teammate Greg Anderson in the final with a chance to leave Las Vegas tied. Butner beat red-lighting Drew Skillman with a tire-spinning 6.77 while Anderson beat the third KB Racing car, driven by third-place Jason Line, with a 6.716 to earn final-round lane choice over Butner.

hectorjr.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE SEMIFINALS (2:45 p.m.): L.E. Tonglet was late and lost a championship-crucial semifinal battle on a holeshot, 7.06 to 7.00, to Hector Arana Jr. Points leader Eddie Krawiec, who will carry a huge, almost insurmountable points lead into the season finale, earned final-round lane choice with a stout 6.93 to end the day of Scotty Pollacheck, who was gunning for his first career victory.

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PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE FINAL: Eddie Krawiec, far lane, scored his fourth win in five Countdown to the Championship events to move to within a successful qualifying effort at the season finale in Pomona of clinching another season championship. Krawiec earned his 43rd career win – third all-time in the class – by defeating Hector Arana Jr., 6.92 to 6.94.

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PRO STOCK FINAL: Greg Anderson, near lane, boosted his points lead by another 20 markers heading into the Auto Club NHRA Finals, defeating his closest rival, KB Racing teammate Bo Butner, to collect his 90th career win. Anderson made a strong 6.69 pass to stretch his lead to 40 points over Butner, who shut off early in his final-round pass.

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FUNNY CAR FINAL (3:49 p.m.): In a rematch of the Epping final, Matt Hagan, far lane, got the best of Courtney Force for his fourth win of the season. Hagan opened his season with back-to-back victories, and while he’s not in the championship hunt, he can at least get a silver lining by ending his season the way he started. 

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TOP FUEL FINAL (3:52 p.m.): For the first time in his career, Terry McMillen, far lane, is a Top Fuel champion. Brittany Force left the starting line too early, but McMillen also laid down a quicker 3.870-second pass. He’s in the Countdown for the first time in his career, and while he might not be in contention to win the title, he’s at least making the last two races of the 2017 season memorable. 

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PRO MOD FINAL: Stevie “Fast” Jackson, far lane, scored his first J&A Service Pro Mod Series victory, defeating Troy Coughlin Jr. in the final. Coughlin, who earlier in the day clinched his third career championship, broke just off the line to allow Jackson an easy run to victory.

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LUCAS OIL DRAG RACING SERIES RESULTS: In addition to the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and J&A Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, action was also contested in seven divisions of the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. Joey Severance (pictured) clinched his third straight Top Alcohol Dragster championship by defeating his lone title rival, Shawn Cowie, in the final round.

All final-round results:

Alcohol Dragster
Joey Severance def. Shawn Cowie

Alcohol Funny Car
Ulf Leanders def. Larry Dixon

Comp
Greg Kamplain def. Tom Mettler

Super Stock
Ryan McClanahan def. Darrell Dietz 

Stock
Justin Lamb def. Randi Lyn Shipp

Super Comp
Marko Perivolaris def. Mark Potts

Super Gas
Val Torres Jr. def. Tanner Hiatt
 

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ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR FINAL: Three-time Top Fuel world champ Larry Dixon’s first national-event final-round appearance in Alcohol Funny Car went sideways – literally – when a broken fuel line poured methanol beneath his tires, causing his Bartone Bros. Camaro to go out of control in his final-round race with Ulf Leanders.

“My feelings are hurt,” the 62-time event winner deadpanned. “I just lost the round and I hurt their car and I slowed up the race. I’m fine. That was my first final in this car at a national event and I just wanted to get the win. As soon as I let out the clutch it all went bad. I’m sorry about your guys’ track but I’m fine. My feelings are hurt, that’s all.”

RECAP: Terry McMillen gets first win; Greg Anderson and Eddie Krawiec extend point leads, and Matt Hagan gets back into winner's circle. 

FEATURES

antron.JPGAntron Brown vs. Steve Torrence has been a truly special matchup during the 2017 season, thanks largely to the surge in performance of the Capco Contractors team. What was once a lopsided matchup in the favor of Brown has taken a turn in the favor of the Kilgore, Texan native. 

Don’t get us wrong, Brown still holds the lion’s share of total victories, but Torrence has the advantage in 2017 to the tune of five wins to three. That’s been a big reason for the Texan’s move to the top of the points lead (and part of the reason Brown’s quest for a third-straight title isn’t going so hot right now). So, it seems only fitting that Torrence might have to beat his bogeyman (at least) one more time to get his first Top Fuel title.

First, Torrence needs to get by Terry Haddock in the first round. The upset-minded Haddock (another Texan) has beaten Tony Schumacher (in Texas no less) and Shawn Langdon this year, so we’re not assuming anything. Brown also needs to beat the aforementioned Langdon before he can meet up with Torrence in the second round. 

If that all comes together, that will make for the 30th meeting between the two drivers all time. Brown holds a 23-6 advantage against Torrence in those meetings, but that tide has long since turned, and both drivers are all too aware of it. Still, everyone still hunting a Top Fuel title, is hoping someone can get the job done (preferably early) to keep things interesting heading into Pomona in two weeks. 

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schumacher2.jpgDespite all the temptations that abound, you won’t catch Tony Schumacher out on Las Vegas’ other famous Strip during the spring and fall events held here. He’s in bed long before the hijinks start.

“Las Vegas is always a great race. It’s there at the beginning of the season when you’re building momentum or the end of the season when you need it; it’s a high-pressure kind of place,” said the Top Fuel low qualifier. “I go to bed at 9:45 [p.m.] here every night while everyone else is just getting out to the casino. I’m pretty good at knowing what my job is and I think that’s important. I’m a professional racecar driver with a job to do, and that’s what’s separated me is that I get what I’m doing here. I have nine guys who work on my car who have to pay mortgages and bills and have families, and winning the race is key to them. If I get beat, it’s not from lack of trying or lack of sleep.”

With a record eight wins at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway -– four in the spring event and four in the fall race –- it’s hard to argue with his success.

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It certainly hasn’t been the Countdown playoffs that Leah Pritchett dreamed of. When the playoffs began on Sept. 15, she was seeded third and just 30 out of the points lead after being atop the Mello Yello Series points standings for the first five months of the season. 

When the Las Vegas weekend began the four-time season winner was in fifth place, 180 points out of the lead and a longshot to win the championship.

"If you would have told us all the accomplishments we would have this year before we opened the season at Pomona we would have said, 'Sign us up.' It's been amazing,” said Pritchett, who this weekend is wheeling a special-edition Pennzoil machine. “But we are competitors and while we are excited about that, we wouldn't be the racers we are if we didn't think we could go for more. We want more because we know we can do more.

"These last two races are important on multiple levels," said Pritchett. "For our team, for our morale, going through all these highs and lows together, I couldn't ask for anything more. This season has been a learning season, specifically what it takes to maintain a championship-caliber level, and a win or two would create even more momentum. We have the mentality of nothing to lose and everything to gain."

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Earning her second win of the Countdown helped put Brittany Force in a great spot to chase the first championship of her career. She now sits 57 points behind Steve Torrence in the Top Fuel points chase as the NHRA tour moves to Las Vegas for the NHRA Toyota Nationals. Force has earned 368 points during the Countdown, three more than Torrence, helping her move to second from sixth. 

“I just can only go at it one round at a time,” Force said. “Yes, there’s the pressure involved in a championship, but there’s also excitement and motivation of winning a championship that’s going to push you and your whole team to do the best job you can. We use it as motivation.

Getting to her first-ever final round in Las Vegas would put her in an even better position to get that first title. She has reached the second round six times at The Strip, including the last three races, but has never gone deeper than that. The Monster Energy driver will likely need to last longer than that on Sunday if she wants to make up ground on the points leader. 

“I like Vegas,” Force said. “We get to race there twice a year, and I’ve raced there in Super Comp, A-Fuel. I love the track. It’s a new race track, a beautiful facility, a long shutoff area. It’s just a great track, and I love racing there.”

Her record against Torrence (6-6 overall, 3-3 this season) suggests the Monster Energy pilot can hang with the Texan. Force’s record in the Countdown (11-2) speaks for itself: crew chief Brian Husen and tuning consultant Alan Johnson have a handle on her dragster. The team can’t afford to make any mistakes over the final two races, but picking up a win in Las Vegas would put Force on the brink of her first title.

Update: We won't get that 30th matchup in Las Vegas. Antron Brown fell to Langdon in the first round.   

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Shawn Reed won’t soon forget his final qualifying pass Saturday as a massive engine explosion all but severed the engine from the driveline in the Hughes Oilfield Transportation/Paton Racing dragster.

“That was the first and hopefully the last one of those I experience,” he said. “I feel bad for Barry and Todd Paton and the whole crew. We put everything we have into this thing and we try real hard.

"We lost oil pressure at one second into the run, and then it  eventually seized up. The motor quit and then, instantaneously, it snapped by head forward. I felt something hit the back of the cage on the [deflector shield] when the fuel pumps hit it."

The damage was significant and widespread. It took the team two hours just to get the engine out of the chassis, which was damaged. Dom Lagana, along with brother Bobby and the crew from Scott Palmer's team, all pitched in to help out; Dom even had to weld a damaged vertical member of the chassis.

"That was a lot of work and probably a $70,000 hit. Engine, clutch, flywheel, bellhousing ... that's a three-race budget for us."

Reed, a finalist in the Auto Club Road to the Future Award, has a busy schedule ahead. After competing this weekend, he’ll head for Wild Horse Pass Racewat Park outside of Phoenix where he hopes to lock up yet another Pro Mod championship in the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Series, then head to Pomona for the Auto Club NHRA Finals.

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beckman.JPGJack Beckman’s last run against Jim Campbell didn’t go very well. That run also, for all intents and purposes, put him behind the eight ball and took him out of the running for his second Funny Car championship. He lost in the first round after the pipes went out on his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger, despite Campbell’s very late light. 

Beckman doesn’t think that will affect him in his first-round matchup against the second-year driver on Sunday. The No. 1 qualifier, his first time in the pole position in nearly a year, is taking on the short-memory approach as he tries to move up the ladder in the penultimate race of the season. 

“I don’t have a very good memory because these cars are so inherently unpredictable,” said Beckman. “If we were boxers, and I lost a contest to that person, I think that stays in your mind the next time. But we’re not going to draft him, we’re not going to play games staging with him. We just need to outrun him. We just stepped on our foot against him in Charlotte.”

That really put Beckman, who entered the Countdown in fourth and has two wins on the year, in a tough position. He sank as low as seventh before clawing his way back into fourth after the last race in Dallas. Now, he hopes to get back into the top three before entering the last race of the season in Pomona. A title is technically not out of reach, though it’s a longshot. 

“There’s never a guarantee when you put nitro in a tank, but man I thought we had that one in the bag. If you had told me he was going to spot me a four tenths advantage at the starting line, too? That one stung. That’s the one we struggled to recover from and (Capps) and (Hight) have continued to win rounds. In drag racing when you lose in the first round, you don’t just lose those points, you lose the opportunity to win in the other three rounds. That was a crippling one to us.”

Beckman’s first career Funny Car win came at the Las Vegas fall race back in 2006. He’d love nothing more than to celebrate the 11-year anniversary of that victory on Sunday with another win. 

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dejoria.JPGFor the last time in her career, Alexis DeJoria will line up for eliminations at The Strip in Las Vegas. It’s been an eventful track for DeJoria, to say the least. She has won the Spring event twice, but the Fall event has been less friendly to the Tequila Patrón driver. 

“It's bittersweet. I love racing here,” DeJoria said. “Those were the last Vegas qualifying sessions of my career, so I'm really happy it ended on a good note. We ran a 92 at night, which has been somewhat of a nemesis for me in the later part of the year.”

DeJoria is referring to a wreck that sent her into the guard wall in 2016. That sidelined her for the rest of the season. She had a scrape with the wall during Friday qualifying, though nowhere near the severity of her contact in 2016. DeJoria qualified No. 10 and is seeking her third Las Vegas win, and her first at the NHRA Toyota Nationals. 

“It's going to be a good race tomorrow,” she said. “We've got Cruz Pedregon; two Toyotas. One of us is going to the second round and we're betting on Patrón.” 

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hight3.JPGRobert Hight got within five points of Ron Capps thanks to a little help from his boss in the first round of the NHRA Toyota Nationals. John Force took down Ron Capps as both cars had problems in the opening stanza in Funny Car. That’s the second time this season Capps lost in the first round at The Strip – the first one came against Jonnie Lindberg. 

His loss to Force came after Robert Hight beat Tim Wilkerson with a very clean pass. Now, Hight will compete against his boss in the second round of action with a chance to move into first place for the first time since the tour left the Countdown to the Championship opening race in Charlotte. 

Hight can leave with as much as a 55-point advantage on the defending champion, meaning regardless of the results today the Funny Car championship will very much come down to the final race in Pomona. There are 191 points available at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, so Hight will be looking to grab every point available in Las Vegas now that Capps is out of the picture. 

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Greg Anderson came into qualifying looking to scoop up the maximum 20 points available – 12 session bonus points and eight for qualifying No. 1 – and collected 16 of them. With that success, Anderson extended his points lead over KB Racing teammate Bo Butner to 20 and over Summit stablemate Jason Line to 36 points.

“Sunday is the same as always; you forget about the points and it’s just another qualifying run,” said the six-time series champ. “Hit the Tree, hit your shift points and do not look over at the other lane and hope the win light comes on. I got a lot more bonus points than I had been getting and, just as importantly, I got more than Bo and Jason.”

The laid-back Line, the reigning season champ, as usual, merely shrugged his shoulders.

“We're not the greatest car, but we're definitely not the worst,” he said. “Just as it is every Sunday, you have to have your act together so that you'll have a chance to win. I feel good about it, actually. I've sort of been to this movie before, and I know that there is nothing to think about when it comes to worrying about the points. You try to win the rounds, and you let the person at NHRA add up all the points. I'm not going to try to do their job; they need to eat, too."

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Shane Tucker qualified No. 14 this weekend driving in a Gray Motorsports Camaro for the first time. That’s in the field, but Tucker and the Grays weren’t exactly thrilled with the power the Camaro made during his four passes. So, the team is swapping motors ahead of his first-round matchup with Bo Butner; a meeting that has big-time points implications. 

“Honestly, we should be able to run with him,” Tucker said about competitor Bo Butner. “We’re putting in a new motor for tomorrow because we saw something potentially wrong with the one we’ve been running this weekend. I think we can make a run for him and if we leave with him or a little bit before him at the tree, I think we could turn on the win light.”

Tucker isn’t a Countdown to the Championship competitor, but his teammates-for-the-weekend are. Tanner Gray may be a bit of a longshot at this point, and Drew Skillman certainly is, but beating Butner in the first round would at least keep their slim hopes alive. For Tucker, it would be his first round win of the season. 

“I feel pretty comfortable in the car,” Tucker said. “I’ve done a few laps in these Pro Stock cars and they all feel the same. The Gray Motorsports guys did a good job making sure my seat insert fit well so it wasn’t too much of an adjustment.”

Tucker plans on testing on Monday in his own car with a Gray Motorsports engine under the hood. If all goes well, he’ll drive that car in Pomona to wrap up the season. If not, he’ll get back in this Gray Camaro to close things out. 

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Erica Enders’ day in the Elite Performance Camaro ended with an expiring engine in the opening round of competition against Allen Johnson.
 
"As hard as we push these motors it's actually surprising it doesn't happen more often but we got bit today and that ended our race," Enders said. "We'll be fine. It's an easy fix and we have lots of spares so we'll be prepared for Pomona, no problem."
 
After some starting-line gamesmanship by Johnson, Enders had the lead on her good friend thanks to a .010 reaction time before the engine gave out.

"Allen's my good friend and we love to race each other," Enders said. "That sucker double-bulbed me but I stayed in my routine and cracked his ass with a great light. We were having a great race but when I got to fifth gear in our McLeod Chevy I heard the motor break. Our team owner, Richard Freeman, tells me to leg it out no matter what on race day but when I heard it break I looked over and Allen was right there.
 
"The smartest thing to do was push in the clutch and do everything I could to avoid further damage so knowing Allen was running strong enough to win I made an executive decision and gave it up. We'll get him next time."

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krawiec4.jpgEddie Krawiec knows that even if he wins the event today he still won’t have a big enough lead over second-place L.E. Tonglet to clinch the championship before the tour heads to Pomona for the season finale.

There is a big carrot waiting though as an event victory would be his 43rd, which would break his tie with Angelle Sampey and move him into third place overall in class wins, trailing only his teammate, Andrew Hines (47), and the late, great Dave Schultz (45).

“That’s awesome,” he said. “When I started riding in 2007 I wanted to get just one win. Here I am, three championships later and 42 wins 10 years into my career. It’s staggering. Any time you’re mentioned with Dave Schultz and Andrew Hines and Angelle, it’s an awesome deal.”

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It took some last-second heroics, but Hector Arana Sr., competing at his first event since the Summernationals following rotator-cuff surgery, qualified the Lucas Oil team’s EBR for the field.

The former world champ, who sat out Q2 after wounding an engine in Q1, had run just 7.088 and faced a 7.067 bump spot in the final session but blasted his bike all the way to the No. 7 spot with a 6.973.
 
"It's been a while since I raced so when I first got here, my first hit I was so happy but on the other hand, I was really nervous and thinking, 'What's it going to do? Am I going to be able to handle it?,' " he said. "I dropped that clutch and I'll tell you what, the bike left and I didn't feel nothing and I thought this is nothing but then we had engine issues in third gear.
 
"I couldn't make the second qualifying run so we talked about it overnight and decided to stick another motor there just to play around. I'm here just to have fun, which I am now, having fun. To come out now and run a 6.97 and qualify in the top half, I am stoked. 
 
"It is like riding a bike," Arana Sr. said of his return to action. "That is true. Once you know, you know. You might be rusty, and I was at the first hit but then it just keeps getting better and better."

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Angelle Sampey and Cory Reed had a mixed weekend in the return of their Team Liberty bikes to competition after a four-race layoff that began after the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Sampey qualified in the No. 9 spot and defeated reigning world champ Jerry Savoie in round one but Reed missed the field. It was the first event in 2017 that both Sampey and Reed haven’t both qualified for eliminations.

“I’m very disappointed we didn’t get both bikes in the show this weekend because I know we are in a better position today than we were at Indy,” Sampey said. “It just isn’t showing on the track yet with Cory. We don’t know what’s going on with his bike yet. The whole class’ competition level has stepped up and I feel like we’ve stepped up with them. I know we’re in a better place.”

The team announced Sunday that it would not continue on to Pomona for the season finale to get a headstart on their 2018 program.
 

PHOTOS

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Sunday raceday kicked off, as always, with the SealMaster Track Walk, allowing fans to take a stroll down the actual racing surface.

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As part of the pre-race ceremony, NHRA acknowledged a pair of Lucas Oil Series champions. David Rampy clinched the Comp crown for the second time in four years and the third time overall in the class. Rampy also has earned season championships in Super Comp and Super Gas.

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Justin Lamb clinched the Super Stock championship this weekend and also has a chance to collect the Stock crown. Lamb was the 2015 Super Stock champ and the 2013 champ in Stock.

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How excited was independent Top Fuel racer T.J. Zizzo about racing on Sunday? Pretty excited, we’d say. Unfortunately for the Rust-oleum driver, he was defeated in round one.

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NHRA and The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway announced that Sunday was a complete sellout as fans flocked to the facility to watch the drama of the second to last event on the Mello Yello schedule.

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Shane Westerfield clinched the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series national championship in Alcohol Funny Car. Despite losing in round two, Westerfield was able to earn the title when his lone remaining challenger, Mike Gordon, lost in the semifinals.

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With a crucial second-round victory over points rival Mike Castellana, Troy Coughlin Jr. won his third J&A Service Pro Mod Series championship.

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Greg Anderson scored a huge final-round win in Pro Stocj over points rival Bo Butner and will carry the lead into the season finale.

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Terry McMillen exulted after scoring his first career Top Fuel victory.

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The NHRA Toyota Nationals winners, from left, Eddie Krawiec, Greg Anderson, Matt Hagan, and Terry McMillen.

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