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Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Sunday Notebook

22 Jul 2018
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
Denver

Ladders | Features | Photos | Results

ELIMINATION ROUND RECAPS

maroney_0.jpgTOP FUEL ROUND 1 (11:20 a.m.): Jim Maroney, in just his second Top Fuel start, pulled off a huge upset, beating world champ Brittany Force, who smoked the tires, for his first career round win. Scott Palmer also scored a key win, defeating Antron Brown which, coupled with Mike Salinas’ loss to Blake Alexander, moved Palmer into the Top 10 from the No. 11 spot. Clay Millican had low e.t. of the round with a 3.824 at a track-record speed of 327.59 mph.

Second-round matchups (lane choice first): Leah Pritchett vs. Scott Palmer; Clay Millican vs. Richie Crampton; Doug Kalitta vs. Jim Maroney; Blake Alexander vs. Steve Torrence

jforce.jpgFUNNY CAR ROUND 1 (11:45 a.m.): John Force notched his milestone 1,300th career round win by defeating Matt Hagan and will be joined in the second round by teammates Courtney Force and Robert Hight, who both ran 4.089 in the respective victories over Terry Haddock and Jeff Diehl. There will also be three Don Schumacher Racing drivers – Ron Capps, Jack Beckman, and Tommy Johnson Jr. – in the second round. Tim Wilkerson impressed with low e.t. of the round, 4057, against Shawn Langdon while Cruz Pedregon continued his comeback from a Friday blower explosion by beating Jonnie Lindberg with a 4.10.

Second-round matchups (lane choice first): Tim Wilkerson vs. Courtney Force; Cruz Pedregon vs. John Force; Ron Capps vs. Jack Beckman; Robert Hight vs. Tommy Johnson Jr.

jeg_0.JPGPRO STOCK ROUND 1 (12:14 p.m.): Nobody ran quicker than the K.B. Racing contingent, led by Greg Anderson and defending Pro Stock world champion Bo Butner who ran matching 6.968-second laps. Unfortunately for Butner, that didn’t turn into a winning lap because of a holeshot win by Vincent Nobile. That was one of a handful of holeshots in the first round of Pro Stock, including one by his teammate, Jeg Coughlin Jr. There were also two red lights that helped propel Alex Laughlin and Anderson into the second round of racing. That round win was well earned by Laughlin, who ended a long drought for the Gas Monkey racer. 

Second-round pairings (lane choice first): Chris McGaha vs. Deric Kramer; Jason Line vs. Alex Laughlin; Greg Anderson vs. Vincent Nobile; Tanner Gray vs. Jeg Coughlin Jr. 

karen.JPGPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE ROUND 1 (12:26 p.m.): Karen Stoffer scored her first round win since the first race of the season in Gainesville by defeating No. 1 qualifier Eddie Krawiec. She snuck into the field in the No. 16 qualifying position after failing to qualify at the past three races and managed to get to the finish line under power, something Krawiec could not do. That turned into a big win for Stoffer and the entire Stoffer-Underdahl contingent. She’ll race Steve Johnson in the second round. That leaves Andrew Hines as the highest qualified racer left in competition; he will take on Scotty Pollacheck. 

Second-round pairings (lane choice first): Steve Johnson vs. Karen Stoffer; Matt Smith vs. Jerry Savoie; Hector Arana Jr. vs. LE Tonglet; Andrew Hines vs. Scotty Pollacheck

blake.jpgTOP FUEL ROUND 2 (12:50 p.m.): Blake Alexander, not far removed from his first career win in Norwalk, defeated points leader Steve Torrence to advance to the semifinals for just the seventh time in his career. He’ll take on Doug Kalitta, who escaped with a blower-banging win over rookie Jim Maroney. On the other side of the ladder, low qualifier Leah Pritchett set low e.t of eliminations at 3.806 in trailering Scott Palmer and will face off with Clay Millican for the fifth time this season (tied 2-2). All four drivers in the semifinals have at least one event win to their credit already this season.

Semifinal matchups (lane choice first): Leah Pritchett vs. Clay Millican; Blake Alexander vs. Doug Kalitta

hight2_0.jpgFUNNY CAR ROUND 2 (1:12 p.m.): Defending event champ Robert Hight made the best run of the round with a 4.052 as all three JFR cars continued to advance in eliminations. John Force moved into the semifinals, eking past longtime nemesis Cruz Pedregon on a 4.139 to 4.137 holeshot after Pedregon’s Toyota suffered a flash fire while leading near the finish line while Courtney Force defeated Tim Wilkerson. The round was interrupted for about seven minutes by rain sprinkles at the top end halfway after two pairs, officials shutting off Ron Capps and Jack Beckman just as they were staging, but the two refired and Capps took the win with an impressive 4.08.

Semifinal matchups (lane choice first): Courtney Force vs. John Force; Robert Hight vs. Ron Capps

cmcg.jpgPRO STOCK ROUND 2 (1:20 p.m.): Chris McGaha, winner two weekends ago in Epping, defeated low qualifier and hometown favorite Deric Kramer on a holeshot, 6.975 to 6.959 to advance to another semifinal where he’ll take on Jason Line, who is still looking for his first win of the season. On the other side of the ladder, Jeg Coughlin Jr. beat Tanner Gray at both ends of the racetrack – a true rarity for anyone – and will take on Greg Anderson, who also is looking to break a seasonlong win drought.

Semifinal matchups (lane choice first): Chris McGaha vs. Jason Line; Greg Anderson vs. Jeg Coughlin Jr.

ha2.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE ROUND 2 (1:30 p.m.): Hector Arana Jr. ran low e.t. of the round with a strong 7.159 to defeat LE Tonglet and will take on Andrew Hines, who got a freebie into the final four on Scotty Pollacheck’s -.010 red-light start. Former world champ Jerry Savoie also got a free pass into the semifinals after Matt Smith’s bike would not start and will take on Karen Stoffer, who continued her resurgence by reaching the semifinals for the first time this season, defeating Steve Johnson in a battle of two of the class’ most seasoned riders. 

Semifinal matchups (lane choice first): Jerry Savoie vs. Karen Stoffer; Hector Arana Jr. vs. Andrew Hines

kalitta.jpgTOP FUEL SEMIFINALS: Doug Kalitta, who won this race eight years ago, will get the chance to add a second high-altitude Wally to his trophy case after shutting down Blake Alexander on a holeshot, 3.872 to 3.857. Kalitta will compete in his fifth final of the season when he takes on low qualifier Leah Pritchett, who also moved to the final on a holeshot, beating Clay Millican off the line in a race in which both cars ran 3.826.

capps2.jpgFUNNY CAR SEMIFINALS (2:20 p.m.): Ron Capps will get the chance for a second Mile-High Nationals trophy after beating Robert Hight on a holeshot, 4.052 to 4.035. On the other side of the ladder, John Force defeated daughter Courtney, the low qualifier, with a solid 4.04 to reach his 252nd career final round and the chance at an eighth Mile-High Nationals crown in another classic John Force Racing vs. Don Schumacher Racing showdown.

jason.JPGPRO STOCK SEMIFINALS (2:21 p.m.): A Summit Chevy Camaro will take home the Pro Stock Wally for the first time this season. Jason Line hopes it’ll be him, but his teammate Greg Anderson gets lane choice after making a 6.945-second pass in his red Camaro. There’s a .013-second spread between the two race cars, but Line had the better reaction time for what it’s worth. Neither Chris McGaha nor Jeg Coughlin Jr. had anything for their competitors, who will end what must feel like a very long drought by their lofty standards. 

hector2.JPGPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE SEMIFINALS (2:37 p.m.): 2016 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Jerry Savoie will chase his second Wally of the season, but he won’t get lane choice against the fastest motorcycle in Bandimere Speedway history. That bike, the Lucas Oil TV EBR, is ridden by Hector Arana Jr. The younger Arana will have lane choice against the veteran rider thanks to a 7.163-second pass. He’s looking for his first win of the season and is having his best day of the season thus far on the back of three-straight 7.1-second passes. Arana has also cut two-straight incredible reaction times – he’ll likely need another one against Savoie. 

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LUCAS OIL SERIES FINAL ROUNDS: In addition to the Mello Yello Series racing, eliminations also were contested in eight classes of the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. Final-round results:

COMP
Don Thomas def. David Kramer

SUPER STOCK
Chris Chaney def. Shaun Vincent

STOCK
Drew Skillman (pictured) def. Lane Weber

SUPER COMP
David Hutchens def. Bill Percival

SUPER GAS
Michael Miller def. Kevin Moore

SUPER STREET
Brian Percival def. Michael Condon

TOP DRAGSTER
Rick Milinazzo def. Josh Herman

TOP SPORTSMAN
Greg Lair def. Monte Green

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PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE FINAL (3:25 p.m.): Hector Arana Jr., near lane, earned his 12th career Wally and his first since 2015 when he beat a red-lighting Jerry Savoie at Bandimere Speedway. Arana also turned on the red light, but by .002 second fewer than the Louisiana native. He made a great pass (7.170) and rolled to victory to become the fifth winner in the two-wheel category this season.

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PRO STOCK FINAL (3:27 p.m.): Greg Anderson, near lane, finally broke through for his first win of the season with a stellar 6.943-second pass. That was right next to a nearly identical 6.947 run by teammate Jason Line. Anderson got off the line first and earned his first Wally since the penultimate race of the 2017 campaign in Las Vegas. He did it with team owner Ken Black in the house.

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FUNNY CAR FINAL (3:32 p.m.): John Force, near lane, the sport’s all-time leading winner, added to his score with his 149th victory, eight of which have come at the Mile-Hugh Nationals. Force did it behind the wheel, defeating Ron Capps on a holeshot, 4.075 to 4.067. It’s his second win on the mountain in the last three years and the third straight for his team.

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TOP FUEL FINAL (3:35 p.m.): Leah Pritchett, near lane, went wire-to-wire to win her sponsor’s race, racing from the No. 1 spot to the winner’s circle in her Dodge 1320 to collect the victory, the 10th of her career. Doug Kalitta, who previously won the event in 2010, fell to her black and yellow Angry Bee, 3.831 to 3.852 by just .002-second.

J_Force.JPGFUNNY CAR WINNER JOHN FORCE: “You all know my story, all the crashes [earlier this season]. I was probably at most lowest, lower than my crash in [2007]. I was fighting to get back and I looked like a mess.

[Track owner] John Bandimere called me and said, ‘We need to talk” and he sent me some stuff to read and he took me down this road and he said, ‘By the time you get to Denver, you’ll be fixed.’ He didn’t say I’d win, just that I’d be fixed and go out and show him who John Force is. And I found myself. I had the fire in me because I got tired of hearing myself snivel. I knew I needed to find myself and I did.”

L_Pritchett.JPGTOP FUEL WINNER LEAH PRITCHETT: “This was a testament in taking it to the next level, and I say that in behalf of the team. I try to do the same job every time I’m in the car but adaptability to be on this mountain and Todd [Okuhara] and Joe [Barlam, crew chiefs] really impressed. I have an attitude of gratitude, as high as this mountain because they chipped away at it and didn’t let themselves get down earlier this year when we were in a slump. They didn’t let me get down on myself either.

“This weekend we pulled it all together and I think there’s something different about pressure. You can look at it like, ‘I have to do good for my sponsor’s race’ or you can know you have partner who believes in you and everyone brings the vibe and the energy. Knowing I have a really good racecar under me is incredible.”

H_Arana_Jr.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE WINNER HECTOR ARANA JR.: “We’ve had a fast bike for all that time, but it’s just working on consistency. It’s just dedication and hard work. I’ve been down in the basement, working on the Christmas Tree, practicing and bringing everything together. I’ve gotten over some hurdles and now we should be back on track.”

On being one of the favorites in Sonoma next week: “The bike is running great and it should run even better once we get back to sea level. I’m really looking forward to running some really great runs, maybe even some career best runs. I just need to stay consistent and ride like I was today.”

G_Anderson.JPGPRO STOCK WINNER GREG ANDERSON: “I sure hope this starts a winning streak. We’ve had a heck of a battle this year. We’ve had some great running cars this year but have made mistakes on Sunday. We’ve picked up a lot of green hats (for No. 1 qualifiers) but haven’t managed to get many yellow hats (for winners) and that’s really what it’s all about. I just haven’t been able to get it done this year. The class is just so tough this year, but the bottom line is that we just haven’t given it our best effort this season on Sunday.”

“We started on Friday with very fast cars, much like we have all season, but this is really the last place on tour I thought that would happen. We’ve just struggled here for a lot of years. This is a completely different way of running your race car and we’ve struggled with running our race car here. Unlike every other race this year we didn’t lose our performance gap on Sunday.”

PRE-RACE FEATURES

leah1.jpgIt’s clear that Todd Okuhaha and Joe Barlam have a handle on a high-altitude tune-up on Leah Pritchett’s Dodge 1320 dragster, earning 11 of a 12 possible bonus points during qualifying with three best-of-session runs and a second-best to their credit. The best-of-session, of course, includes the 3.799 they ran Saturday night to solidify the No. 1 spot, their second straight at this event. Count Pritchett among the impressed.

“It’s incredible, this game has been all about fuel curve for us and Todd and Joe have been patient with it and stepping up to it in the right ways,” she said. “It’s all about strategy, about being at the back of the pack and knowing what’s out there [track condition] and being in tune with the ever-changing conditions.

“We’ve mastered qualifying, but [Sunday] is an absolute brand-new day. None of us have run during the day this weekend so we’re taking this data and we’re going to go right back to an entire year ago and take that data too. I couldn’t be more incredibly proud of my team. They’ve worked very hard to get us back where we were at, and the momentum that we had and we’re looking forward to rolling up this mountain.”

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Terry McMillen and the Amalie Motor Oil team experienced a frustrating qualifying outing, making just one pass under power to the finish line and winding up No. 12 on the qualifying sheets, certainly not indicative of the car they’ve had this season that has carried them to a trio of runner-ups. There weren’t any highlights, but the lowlight was a booming blower explosion just off the starting line in Friday night’s session.

“Something was jacked up with the intake lobes on the camshaft I had in it Friday,” admitted crew chief Rob Wendland. “On the burnout it would loosen all of the intake adjusters. The pushrod ends up on the rocker and not the little ball of the rocker that centers it, so it opened the intake [valves] at the wrong time. When it fires, it fires up into the manifold.

“We came back and changed the engine before Q3 and just made a short checkout run to make sure that everything was going to be OK, then came back for Q4 and tuned it up a little, It dropped a hole at 1.7 seconds but made it to the finish line, so I know I can fix that.

“I’ve never done well up here, even with Funny Cars. I know a lot of people who have run good up there and talk to them, but I still can’t figure out the missing piece. It might be that our blowers just aren’t as good as they need to be, so you can’t make enough boost. If you try to speed it up, all it does is make more hot heats instead of more air, which doesn’t help.

“Still, I feel pretty good about today. I just need that one run to get me on the right track and then I can build on that.”

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Antron Brown and the Matco Top Fuel team came into Bandimere Speedway as the reigning event champs and also as the last team to sweep the Western Swing, winning in Denver, Sonoma, and Seattle in 2009, and a Swing sweep this year would be the perfect salve to a very tough season.

Brown’s victory at last year’s event was his first here since his inaugural Top Fuel championship season in 2012. That year he almost swept the Swing as well winning in Denver and Seattle sandwiched around a runner-up to good pal Steve Torrence in Sonoma.

They say you can’t sweep the Swing without winning in Denver, but Brown is still seeking his first event win of the season, a feat that would be doubly sweet as it would mark his milestone 50th victory in Top Fuel career.

“We’ve won here three times and been runner-up five times,” he said. “We just have to get back to that combination and be competitive once again. Denver’s just a challenging track.”

In addition to finishing second on the mountain in Top Fuel in his class-rookie season in 2008 and again in 2016 (both to teammate Tony Schumacher), Brown’s five runner-ups include three in Pro Stock Motorcycle (1999, 2001, and 2005).

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Matt Hagan and the Mopar team debuted the new Dodge Charger Hellcat body on Friday, a slick new piece with a number of significant changes to the previous design, including a new front splitter, new side contour, and a new burst panel location.

Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables got only one full run, a 4.09 in Q4 this weekend as they learn the new car’s characteristics. With this being the start of the Western Swing, they’re taking a conservative tact to make sure they body makes it through the three races.

“We’ve got the nose up pretty high still so we don’t rip it off,” he said. “We have a spare but this is the only one we’ve got ready. We’ll lower it run by run to see how it goes; we’ll feel comfortable with it by Seattle because after that we’ll be heading home and can fix it if we hurt it.

hagan3.jpg“We got four runs in testing [following the Norwalk event] so we still don’t have a lot of data. With the nose so high it’s carrying the front tires until about 100 feet, so for today we put a little weight on the nose and added a bigger wicker to the wheelwheels.

“From the safety standpoint the chutes come out in cleaner air and the burst panel deal is going to be a big help. The body is already a lot stronger than our older bodies so I think it can take some pops and booms, and where the burst panel is back over the engine its going to release a lot more energy. You think about a firecracker and how bad it would hurt you if you held it tight in your hand; same thing. All around it’s going to be a nicer piece.”

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Only seven drivers have swept the Western Swing and John Force is the only one to accomplish it in Funny Car, going three for three in 1994, but it might not be long before his flopper teammates, Robert Hight and Courtney Force, also get out the brooms.

Reigning world champ Robert Hight came close last season with wins in Denver and Sonoma but missed out on the middle leg in Sonoma where he fell in round two to Tim Wilkerson. Still, those two wins kickstarted his drive to the championship.

“Last year we won Denver for our first win of the season and then took the win in Seattle and almost won Sonoma,” said Hight. “That three-race stretch really gave us the confidence to go out and get that second championship. We have a strong team again and a great race car. It will come around and we will be right in the middle of this fight.”

courtney4.jpgPoints leader Courtney Force would have to be considered one of the favorites to join her father as a driver capable of winning three races in a row. She’s won before in Sonoma and Seattle and last year she set both ends of the track records at Bandimere Speedway (3.889 seconds, 328.30 mph).

“It would be huge,” she said. “We’re trying to keep the points lead and keep our focus, but I’d love to do it. As a kid I saw my dad do it. It would be amazing, a dream streak. We’re hoping we can but you have to make thing happen in Denver if you want to do it. We are just going to take each one of these races one at a time,” said Courtney. You can’t sweep the Western Swing if you don’t win in Denver this year. “

In 2016, John Force won the first two legs but was upset in round one in Seattle by Tommy Johnson Jr. two years earlier, the JFR team shared a Wester Swing sweep with Hight winning Denver and Courtney winning in Sonoma, both with final-round victories over John Force, who then went on to win in Seattle.

John Force also came close in 2003 by winning in Denver and Seattle (when the middle event was reversed) but fell short of another sweep when he lost in the semifinals in Sonoma to Gary Scelzi. In 1996, two years after his initial sweep, Force won in Denver, was runner-up to Cruz Pedregon in Sonoma, and teen won in Seattle.

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Tommy Johnson Jr. has a lot of final-round experience at the Mile-High Nationals; just don’t ask him for directions to the winner’s circle.

The driver of Don Schumacher Racing’s Make-A-Wish Charger was runner-up here last year to Robert Hight, continuing a weird trend that dates back to his earliest days. He’s been the runner-up at Bandimere Speedway in four different classes: Super Gas, Alcohol Funny Car, Top Fuel, and Funny Car.

“I've come close, but I've never won Denver,” he said. “I've been runner-up in every class I've ever raced here, so one of these days I'd like to get the win, especially at the Dodge/Mopar race. Bandimere is a great track, it's a great event, great people that run it. I always love going to Denver, and eventually it's going to be a race I'm going to win."

tj84.jpgJohnson’s runner-up in Super Gas in Denver came in his first career final-round appearance in 1984. He lost that day to Chad Langdon, father of fellow Funny Car racer Shawn Langdon, who had not even turned two years old by that time. When Johnson and family switched to Alcohol Funny Car, he was runner-up in Denver in 1987 to the all-conquering Pat Austin. Four years later, after a move to Top Fuel, he lost in the 1991 Denver final to multi-time world champ Joe Amato,

He didn’t make it back to another final-round at the mile-high facility until last year.

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Tanner Gray nearly secured his first No. 1 qualifier of the season, but instead settled for the No. 3 slot on the sheet behind Deric Kramer and Greg Anderson. That will suit the second-year racer just fine – not just because he’s not a big fan of the green hats handed out to the pole sitters on Saturday night. The teenager is very happy with the Chevy Camaro tuned by Dave Connolly, and for good reason. 

“I think we have a really good car and we’ve been making some really good runs,” said Gray. “We struggled and struggled through qualifying here last year but went on a tear after that.”

Gray Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman earned the Wally at Bandimere Speedway a season ago and Tanner followed that up with a win of his own in Sonoma. Skillman concluded the Western Swing with a win in Seattle. That was a very good stretch for Gray Motorsports, and now would be a great time for Gray to get on such a stretch. 

Gray is near the middle of the pack with a 6.617-second average elapsed time, but he has the quickest reaction time in the class (.0213). That’s just ahead of on-track rival Erica Enders, something Gray prides himself on. While it’s taken some time for Connolly to get a handle on the Chevy Camaro in terms of e.t., the car has been very consistent. That’s good news in any class, but it’s of particular importance in Pro Stock. 

Gray gets a shot at Will Hatcher to try to avoid his fourth first-round loss of the season and second in a row.

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Matt Hartford earned his first win of the season while at the NHRA Springnationals and his progress hasn’t stopped there. The Arizonan leases his engine from Elite Performance, but his deal doesn’t work quite the same way that other engine lease programs in the Pro Stock category do. 

“They’re very supportive of what we do and if we have any questions on anything they’re always there to support us in any way shape or form,” said Hartford. “They have their two house cars, Erica and Jeg, and their two key lease guys in Nobile and Laughlin which are all in house crew chiefs, so we’re kind of an island. Some days the things we think will work better do work better and other days they don’t. It’s a give and take and of course any information is available to be shared at any time.”

Some of that is typical – most lease customers do share information, like Deric Kramer with K.B. Racing (Jason Line and Greg Anderson). But Hartford has unfettered access to tune and tinker with his engine, which is unusual.  

“Most lease customers -- they’re banned from the firewall forward,” said Hartford. “As you can see here, I’m changing valve springs myself. They came over earlier and dropped off some valve springs earlier because I told them I was out and that’s been the extent of our conversation this weekend.”

Hartford qualified in the No. 13 spot and will race Jason Line in the first round. That’s unlikely to quell his enthusiasm for Bandimere Speedway or the rest of the Western Swing. 

“I love these three races,” said Hartford. “We’re really happy with the progress we’ve made this season and if we keep marching forward I really think we’ll get more wins this season.”

“We’ve raced so much in Denver over the years, we like all the rest of the teams, feel we have a good baseline on our product. So, we should be able to make changes regardless of engine program and feel confident in them. We’ve run decent in Denver. I’ve had some ups and down, but this is a track I’m always excited to come to.”

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chris.JPGChris McGaha makes his money as an engine builder, but he’s gotten through the last two race days thanks to his prowess at the starting line. He has two holeshot wins with reaction times of .010 and .014 at the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals to go with a pair of holeshot victories at the NHRA New England Nationals.

Those helped him get his second Wally of the season in Epping and they might help him get a third in Denver. He might not be know for his reaction time prowess, but perhaps he should be. He averages a .0293-second reaction time, good enough for sixth in the class. That’s a mark better than the class average (.0345).

Right now, all McGaha cares about is getting by Jason Line in the semifinals. 

Update: The Texan's good fortune, and great reaction times, didn't continue in the semi's. McGaha left second with a .025 reaction time and fell to Line, who cut a .008 light and won by .024 second. 

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Angelle Sampey has turned her season around in a big way after failing to qualify at back-to-back races. The legendary Pro Stock Motorcycle racer made her NHRA debut in Denver in 1996 and since then has become one of the greatest bike riders in history, but this season has been a bit of a trying one. 

“Denver will always hold a special place in my heart because this is where I made my Pro Stock Motorcycle debut,” Sampey said. “After two DNQ’s this year, we really dug deep and bounced back in Norwalk. The DNQ’s were a hard pill to swallow but I decided to use the experience as a life lesson for my daughter Ava. I hope we showed her that when times get tough, you don’t give up. I hope we showed her that you can work hard and do well; we’re not gonna quit.” 

Sampey reached the second round in Norwalk, the last race on tour for the two-wheel class, before falling to Jerry Savoie. She also qualified in the No. 3 position, just her second time in the top half of the field and by far her best qualifying position of 2018. Sampey followed that up with a No. 10 qualifying effort at the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals. 

That’s a step in the right direction as Sampey fights to stay in the Countdown to the Championship. She’s currently in the No. 9 position with a 21-point lead over teammate Cory Reed and a first-round meeting with a tough customer in LE Tonglet Sunday morning. 

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Hector Arana Jr. reset the track speed record to the tune of a 188.86 mph hit. That’s a great speed by Bandimere Speedway standards, but the fastest man in Pro Stock Motorcycle feels he can go faster still. 

“I think we should go faster,” said Arana. “I wanted to go 7.0s and I wanted to go 190 (coming into the weekend). How realistic that was I don’t know. I don’t know if we’re going to pick up two mph, but I do thought we could go No. 1 still.” 

If he’s going to break the 190-mph barrier it’ll have to happen during the first round of eliminations when the weather is at its best. That is, unless something really screwy happens with mother nature at some point during the day. 

“It all depends on what kind of runs we make Sunday,” he said. “We actually have been a little bit off with our clutch down track and we just figured that out. So, we might be a little bit off (on the Q4 run) but I think that’s going to help us out tomorrow.”

Arana ended up slowing by .007 second from his third to his fourth run, as he predicted, but he feels that he’s better set up for the rest of the weekend. He’s got rookie rider Ryan Oehler in the first round of eliminations. 

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Scotty Pollacheck enjoyed a breakout season in 2017, but the entire Stoffer-Underdahl team has struggled a bit during the 2018 campaign. Pollacheck is no exception, especially over the past few races. The Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals has been an exception for the Oregon-based racer, who enters eliminations qualified sixth. 

“It’s no secret we’ve been struggling the last few races and we haven’t been qualifying very well and we haven’t been going as many rounds as we’d like to,” said Pollacheck. “Our run on Friday was a good step towards that. We figured if we could come here and run about what we ran last close to what we ran last year that we’d be doing okay.” 

Aiding Pollacheck and the entire team is a set of great 60-foot times, which they credit to Greg Underdahl, who’s known for doing great work with the clutch. That comes especially in handy at Bandimere Speedway where it’s difficult to make power at the back end of the race track (or anywhere, for that matter). 

“Everything is so funny here because it’s so different than everywhere else,” said Pollacheck. “It’s just a one-off deal. It’s not the easiest place to learn because unless you’re from here you don’t have a chance to test. It’s tough to do what you want to do with the information you have. We had some help because we ran well here a year ago but it’s never easy up here.”

Pollacheck races Angie Smith in the first round of eliminations.

PHOTOS

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The SealMaster Track Walk kicked off raceday, allowing fans to take a stroll down the actual racing surface at Bandimere Speedway.

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Homestate hero Deric Kramer was the popular No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock. His father, David, was the No. 1 qualifier in Comp.

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John Bandimere III, right, helped induct Division 5 racers Rob Williams, whose drove Roger Guzman’s Assassination Funny Car, and Sportsman hitter Rod Guilford into the Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame. Williams’ wife, Julianne, accepted on his behalf.

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John Bandimere Jr. was inducted into the NHRA Division 5 Hall of Fame. Joining him on stage to congratulate him were NHRA President Glen Cromwell, Sr. Vice President Graham Light, Division 5 Director Rob Park, and former NHRA VP and Colorado native Wayne McMurtry,

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For the ninth time in 14 events this season, Courtney Force and the Advance Auto Parts team posed for a selfie on the stage after qualifying No. 1.

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Hector Arana Jr. shared his latest Wally trophy with his dad, Hector Sr., after beating Jerry Savoie in the final.

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Leah Pritchett finished off a monumental weekend with a victory for her sponsor, Dodge.

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The event winners, from left, Hector Arana Jr., Greg Anderson, John Force, and Leah Pritchett.

LADDERS

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