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Chicago champ Deric Kramer leads close Norwalk Pro Stock field

Deric Kramer qualifies No. 1 for the first time this season; points leaders Bo Butner and Alex Laughlin will start from the bottom half of the field.
22 Jun 2019
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Race coverage
Deric Kramer

So, who’s going to win tomorrow’s Summit Racing Equipment Nationals Pro Stock title? Based solely on qualifying results where the top half of the field is separated by just .013-second, its literally anyone’s guess but Deric Kramer would seem to have the best chance since he finished as the low qualifier with a 6.559 in his American Ethanol Camaro. Kramer also comes into Norwalk on a hot streak after winning the most recent NHRA Pro Stock event in Chicago. Kramer’s Michael Hiner-tuned Chevy has been quick this weekend, and they’ve also been consistent during the other three sessions. Kramer closed out qualifying on Saturday afternoon with a 6.571, the best run of Q4, which netted three more bonus points, and provided a lot of confidence heading into a round one match-up with Shane Tucker. Kramer is the fifth driver in Pro Stock to qualify No. 1 this season.

Improvements in Pro Stock came in tiny increments on Saturday, but they were possible. Jason Line, the 2009 and 2016 Norwalk champ, led the first session with a 6.560 to earn three points, and finished qualifying in the No. 4 spot. Erica Enders and Fernando Cuadra also banked bonus points in Q3 with runs of 6.586 and 6.587, respectively. Later in the day, Enders was involved in a frightening on-track incident when her Elite Performance Pro Mod Camaro caught fire. Enders climbed out of the inferno under her own power and within a half-hour, she was back behind the wheel of her Elite Pro Stock car and finished as the No. 9 qualifier, which means a round one appointment with her teammate, Jeg Coughlin Jr.

Bo Butner, who has been the man of the hour in Pro Stock this season with four wins in six races, struggled early in qualifying but finally found his groove on Saturday afternoon with a 6.574. Even the third-best run of the session wasn’t enough to save Butner from a bottom-half starting spot, which means he won’t have lane choice in his race against Fernando Cuadra Jr., who has been impressive in his second start in the class.

When it comes to drivers who appear to be trending in the right direction, Chris McGaha rates a mention. A seven-time winner in Pro Stock, who last visited the winner’s circle a year ago in Epping, McGaha has not been ranked higher than eighth at any race this season, but made a solid rebound with a 6.560 that was just .001-second off the pole, and good for the No. 3 spot.

PRO STOCK LOW QUALIFIER DERIC KRAMER: “I think we made a good run. We went back, we looked at it, and thought we could have run a little better. That was kind of the story of the event for us. We looked at every run we made and every one of them looked like it could have been a little better. Ultimately, that’s out goal weather we qualify No. 1 or No. 16. We want to make sure our runs are the best they can be. I think tomorrow I’ll have a good chance to go a couple round and keep improving on what we’re doing.

“Last year, I only got to race twice here. We got rained out in qualifying and I got knocked out first round so I’ve already doubled my number of runs from last year so I feel really good about that. With the heat, that tends to play into our wheelhouse. We tend to do really good through the Western Swing where the tracks get really hot.

“We [the KB team] come out here with the same power and we all have the understanding of what everyone’s doing .We come out here each and every week expectation that we’re going to have to race each other at some point and we kind of know you just have to be better on that particular day. A lot of luck also plays into it.”

Round one pairings (lane choice first): Jeg Coughlin Jr. vs. Erica Enders; Deric Kramer vs. Shane Tucker; Matt Hartford vs. Kenny Delco; Chris McGaha vs. Wally Stroupe; Jason Line vs. Val Smeland; Rodger Brogdon vs. Alex Laughlin; Greg Anderson vs. Fernando Cuadra Sr.; Fernando Cuadra Jr. vs. Bo Butner