Troubled by a trio of seven-second qualifying runs last weekend, Matt Smith made one or two new tuning touches to his Al-Anabi Racing Pro Stock V-Twin and got a welcomed performance boost.
He will be relying on that – and looking for more – during the O’Reilly Auto Parts Quick Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals, Friday through Sunday, at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis. This is the third of six Countdown to 1 championship events.
Smith, the 2007 world champion, is among five drivers currently contending for third through seventh places. He is sixth with 2167 points, just 17 out of third place.
“We tried something on our last qualifying run last Saturday at Charlotte and it worked,” said Smith, who was runner-up at the Motorplex in 2008. “We made some progress and we hope to be running better this weekend.”
He moved from near the bottom of the qualifying ladder to the middle of the starting line-up with his 6.980-second quarter-mile time advanced to the quarterfinals, where he registered his quickest run of the weekend, 6.948 seconds.
“We’d liked to get off to a good start Friday,” added Smith. “We went to the semifinals at Dallas last year and we’d like to go one more round Sunday.”
While 10 other Pro Stock Motorcycle drivers – including Matt Smith, her husband – are deciding the outcome of NHRA’s Countdown to 1 top 10, Angie Smith is taking advantage of the last six races to get a head start on her 2011 tune-up.
Her results in Sunday’s Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event at Charlotte showed Smith’s performance has taken a giant stride forward. She wants to keep that momentum rolling as she prepares for the Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis – the third Countdown to 1 event.
She was thrilled with Sunday’s semifinal finish that included a second-round win over third-place driver Eddie Krawiec.
“We are excited. We are looking forward to racing at Ennis,” said the driver of Karl and Kim Clement’s Coffman Tank Trucks V-Twin. “The Motorplex is my sponsor’s and owner’s home track. I want to qualify better and go rounds there, too.” She was a semifinalist there last year.
“My bike ran really well in Charlotte and I think we are picking up the momentum again. We had Steve Nichols helping us and we learned a lot about some of the new parts we are using.”
Her best time of the weekend was 6.961 seconds and it came in the unseasonably hot conditions, which is what is expected at Ennis.
Auburn Hills, Mich. — Allen Johnson’s championship hopes took a hit at the NHRA stop last weekend at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., with Johnson falling from second to fifth in the Countdown to the Championship Pro Stock playoffs. The Mopar® Dodge Avenger pilot is focused on making up the ground he lost in his title quest at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals, scheduled to take place Sept. 23–26 near Dallas, Texas.
“I’m fired up to go into Dallas and begin to climb back into the title hunt,” said Johnson, a native of Greeneville, Tenn. “There are still four races left in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, and that’s more than enough time to close the gap between us and Mike (Edwards, the current Pro Stock points leader).”
Johnson cites two reasons he feels optimistic about his chances in the Pro Stock championship fight: the skill of his J&J Racing team and the power of the Mopar HEMI® engine under the hood of his Mopar Dodge.
“The way the J&J Racing team has been preparing the Mopar Dodge Avenger all year, we’ve qualified at or near the top of the field in almost every event,” said Johnson, who has captured a career-high four No. 1 Qualifier Awards already this season. “Dad (Roy Johnson, Allen’s father and engine builder) continues to make tons of horsepower with our Mopar HEMI engines. You can’t count us out.
“I’m only about 30 more points out than what I was heading into last weekend. The way the whole deal worked, with Mike getting knocked out early, I’m still in the hunt. All I need is one good race, and I can be right back in it.”
Johnson to take part in Greg Morris Memorial Golf Tournament
Allen Johnson will join a number of participants from the NHRA community scheduled to take part in the Greg Morris Memorial Golf Tournament on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at the Old Brickyard Golf Course in Ferris, Texas. The tournament was founded to help support Heather Morris, daughter of Greg Morris, a track worker at Texas Motorplex who passed away following a battle with brain cancer. Greg was diagnosed six months before Heather lost her mother in a tragic car accident.
“The Greg Morris Tournament is one of my favorite charitable events,” said Johnson, who has taken part in the tournament for several years. “The racing community comes together to help a little girl whose parents both passed away. It’s a great tournament and a lot of good people get involved.”
For more information on the Greg Morris Memorial Golf Tournament, visit http://texasmotorplex.com.
Congratulations to yesterdays NHRA prize pack winner Raymond K. of Ft. Worth, TX!
Today’s winner will receive a Set of 4 Collectors Mugs prize pack.
The Texas Motorplex is giving away one prize pack per day for the next 25 days. Fans can enter daily to win autographed merchandise from your favorite NHRA drivers, O’Reilly Fall Nationals ticket packages, shirts, hats, dvds, and more. Just complete the form below to enter your name in our daily drawing. Only one entry per day per person. View the Official Contest Rules.
DALLAS (Sept. 21) — Jeg Coughlin Jr. came out on the winning side of the biggest single drag race of the year Sunday in Charlotte when he beat class leader Mike Edwards in the first round of the national event in Charlotte. But as good as that win was for the four-time Pro Stock champion, he couldn’t fully capitalize on the fortunate turn of events, dropping a quarterfinal tilt against Greg Stanfield an hour and a half later.
“We missed out on a huge opportunity right there,” Coughlin admitted. “That race against Mike, if he had won, it would have made it awfully tough for us to stay in the fight. To win it, on a holeshot at that, was such a big deal I felt like I should have pulled off at the top end and been handed the trophy. It was that crucial.
“Of course the best-case scenario would have been to roll on from there and gain as many points as we could on him, but it wasn’t meant to be. The car got a little loose at the launch in Round 2 and it was enough to cost us the race. At least we gained a little ground and are still right there in the lead pack. It’s sure getting exciting now.”
An optimist by nature, Coughlin already has his sights set on the future, beginning with this weekend’s 25th annual Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, just south of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Coughlin won this race in 2002 and was runner-up three times, in 2000, 2003, and 2008. He also was the low qualifier at the all-concrete strip in 2000, 2004, and 2008.
“The last four races of the year are at racetracks I consider to be favorites of mine so we’re very, very pumped up,” Coughlin said. “I’ve won at all four places, and Vegas and Pomona are probably the two tracks where I’ve had the most success so there’s every reason to be excited about the stretch run.
“The JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt is running exactly the way we want it to. Dallas is a tricky track, but it can be a drivers’ track too, which I think favors this team. I hope we’re up for the call.”
Qualifying begins with two sessions at 2:15 and 5:15 p.m. Friday. Highlights of the time trials will be shown Saturday evening on ESPN2.