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Prock, Hagan, Enders, Sampey lead fields after track-record-setting opening day

Austin Prock, Matt Hagan, Erica Enders, and Angelle Sampey are the No. 1 qualifiers after a track-record-breaking opening day of the Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex.
14 Oct 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Race coverage
Austin Prock

Austin Prock, Matt Hagan, Erica Enders, and Angelle Sampey are the No. 1 qualifiers after a track-record-breaking opening day of the Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex.

Prock has never qualified No. 1 in his young, 46-race career but he’s halfway there after “Prock Rocketing” to a 3.682 to take the provisional No. 1 spot. The pass also earned him and his Montana Brand team the $15,000 Friday Night Live bonus for having the quickest run of the second qualifying session.

"I've dreamt about getting a No. 1 qualifier, so I really do hope it sticks," said Prock. "This car has been coming along since before Indy when we did that test. it hasn't really showed the last two weekends, but everything's still there. We've just got to make the right adjustments and then you get a performance like this, so we seem to be peaking at the right time.

After a runner-up to start the countdown in Reading, Prock has lost in the first two rounds the last two races, but this race is shaping up similar to his Reading outing.

"Everything's been there, but when it all comes together like this, there's a lot of satisfaction in it. We made a decent run the first one today, sixth-quickest, and then we go low this second session, and this is kind of how reading shaped up for us. If we keep going up and down the track, you don't want to raise Joe Barlam and Ron Tobler on Sunday."

Clay Millican, who was in line for the bonus bucks for most of the session until Prock’s pass, will have to settle for second with a 3.685. Prock’s John Force Racing teammate Brittany Force finished third with a 3.689 at 335.75 mph, which broke her incoming track record of 335.32.

Five cars ran in the 3.6-second zone with Charlotte winner Antron Brown fourth with a 3.693 and Mike Salinas fifth at 3.699.

Reigning world champ Steve Torrence in qualified No. 6 at 3.700, followed by Doug Kalitta (3.712) and Leah Pruett, who ran 3.731 despite a fiery, engine-disintegrating finish in the Rush Truck Center entry.

Joe Morrison is sitting on the 16-car bump spot with a 4.081. twenty-one cars are entered at the event.

Funny Car leader Hagan broke points leader Robert Hight's five-year-old track record of 3.828 seconds with a blast of 3.825, his best run since going 3.823 at the season’s second event, in Phoenix, a run that still stands as the year's best in the class. If it holds up it will be Hagan’s sixth No. 6 of the season and his first of the Countdown. Hagan’s run also earned him the $15,000 Friday Night Live bonus, making for an even wider grin for the former world champ.

"It's just exciting to get in the car and get up on the wheel and your adrenaline is going in you're chewing on your mouthpiece, and you're like, 'There's money on the line,' and I know what Dickie [Venables, crew chief] is capable of, and I know what we can do, and you go out there and do it. What a cool feeling."

The run slowed the roll of Countdown dominator Hight, and gives the Dodge Power Brokers team the knowledge that they can still run with the leader.

"I think this was a good feel-good, get-happy kind of run," he said. "Anytime there's money on the line, and your boys can pull it down, it just shows that we can do that. When the conditions are there, we can run, you know, 82, .83, .84 You know, when everybody else is out there throwing out .86s. I think that's a confidence thing for me and, obviously, my crew chief and assistant crew chief."

Hight, following in Hagan’s tire tracks in the next pair, tried to get the record back but fell short with a 3.854. Reigning world champ Ron Capps, the defending event champ, sits third with a 3.865.

Birthday boy Bob Tasca III is in the No. 4 spot with 3.879, just ahead of Blake Alexander (3.905), first-session leader John Force (3.907 from Q1), J.R. Todd (3.908), and Chad Green (3.940). Ten drivers ran in the three-second zone with Tim Wilkerson (3.953) and Alexis DeJoria (3.981) also running in the sub-fours.

Enders continued her near-flawless Countdown run, once again having the best run of the first two qualifying sessions to lead the field. Enders’ Elite performance/Melling Camaro opened with a 6.544 then bettered that with a 6.524 in the evening session to also collect the $7,500 Friday Night Live bonus. Teammates Aaron Stanfield (6.529) and Cristian Cuadra (6.533) finished 2-3 behind her. Cuadra was the session’s leader until Enders and Stanfield made their runs side-by-side in the final pair.

"It was definitely exciting when we saw Christian go out there and go .53 because we knew that we were capable of running right with him," said Enders, who won this race back in 2015. "It was really cool to see him in that No. 1 spot, I almost in a way hate to take it away from him, but I guess at the end of the day, not so much.

"After letting the clutch out and going through the gears, I feel like it wasn't a very tremendous run, so I was surprised to hear my crew chiefs radio over the over that we were at the No. 1 spot. So super proud to put that MellingChevy Camaro on the pole and especially in my home state, and the Stampede of Speed is so neat, so huge thanks to the Meyer family and the Texas Motorplex."

Troy Coughlin Jr., another Elite driver, is fourth with a 6.545 followed by a quartet of KB Racing-powered entries -- Kyle Koretsky (6.552), Greg Anderson (6.553), Deric Kramer (6.555) and Matt Hartford     (6.566) to round out the quick eight.

Reigning rookie of the year and championship contender Dallas Glenn finds himself on the outside of the field looking in after two straight passes in which his Rad Torque Systems Camaro did not reach the finish line under power – either by strategic design or mechanical defect.

Enders was unfazed by the development.

"We're just looking to have a great points weekend," she said. "No mistakes, no parts failures, and just putting our heads down and going to work. The games are already starting out there, as you can see, and we're OK with that.

"We can go back to [20]19 and [20]20 and see how that worked out for them," she said, referencing past attempts by the KB Racing team to align for a first-round race to stop her.

Three-time world champ Sampey is halfway to her 58th career No. 1 qualifying spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle after her track-record-setting first-session 6.728 was not surpassed in the evening session. 

“We were we were very surprised [by the 6.72],” said Sampey. “When I came off the track, one of the NHRA guys gave me the numbers on his hands, and it didn't register in my brain because it was like that he's I think he said .82. And he did it again. I was like, ‘That's got to be an .82,” and then he said it out loud. When Andrew [Hines, crew chief] came down in the truck, I asked him what if he was mad at somebody, because he apparently is doing a really good job of tuning the bike. 

“We did get to test on Wednesday, things went well for us. Of course, it didn't go as well as today, but we figured some things out. Thank goodness, we had a test session. So we were able to get a little bit farther going into today, a little momentum coming off of Wednesday. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't do a better job in the second round of qualifying. That was my fault because I double-clutched it.”

Matt Smith, whose 6.792 was second behind Sampey after the first session, had the best run of the second session, a 6.734 that moved him to No. 2 and earned him the $5,000 Friday Night Live bonus.

Smith’s year-old incoming track speed record of 200.55 mph was bettered three times in the opening session Friday, first by Sampey at 202.05 and then by Smith’s wife, Angie, at 202.98 before Smith grabbed the standard back with a 203.69-mph blast that was the fourth fastest Pro Stock Motorcycle pass and the fastest outside of two-wheeled performance haven Sonoma Raceway. Smith then added a 203.58-mph lap in Q2, the fifth fastest in history.

Angie Smith sits third with a 6.793 that for most of Q2 had her lined up to collect the bonus bucks before her husband named the cash. Steve Johnson (6.793), Eddie Krawiec (6.815), Marc Ingwersen (6.826), Jerry Savoie (6.832), and Chris Bostick (6.863) round out the top eight after Day 1.