Wednesday February 11 is the deadline to renew your favorite seats at the O’Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals September 24-27, 2009.
Remember, everyone who renews their tickets before 5:00pm on Wednesday will also receive 4 one day general admission tickets to the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. These one day tickets will be good for spectator admission on either Saturday April 4 or Sunday April 5 and these tickets will also include pit passes for the day they are used for.
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Doug Kalitta and Ron Capps opened the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season with wins in Top Fuel and Funny Car at the Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Both had not won since the 2007 season but got their new seasons off to a flying start with morale-boosting victories in Pomona. The Tuesday finish was a rare one, matched only by the 1978 event , whch also needed two extra days to complete.
Race fans who stuck around for the sixth day of the initial race of the new campaign saw a new national record in Pro Stock and a bevy of quick runs and exciting pairings thanks to cool weather and a tight track. The Pro Stock final wasn’t run until more than an hour after those in the nitro classes, but Jason Line found the delay well worth the wait as he scored his Summit team’s fifth win in the last six Winternationals.
Kalitta joined his uncle Connie (1967) and late cousin Scott (2005) as Winternationals winners and scored the first victory for Kalitta Motorsports since the tragic loss of Scott in a racing accident last summer. Kalitta, last year’s Mac Tools U.S. Nationals runner-up who scored his most recent win in late 2007 in Richmond, defeated low qualifier Antron Brown in a tight match, 3.82, 308.57 to 3.84, 307.16, to collect win number 31.
“It’s pretty cool to win this because Connie and Scott have won here, and the roll cage of my car is actually the same one that was in Scott’s car when he won here in 2005,” said Kalitta. “I think of Scott when I’m up there on the line because he had a couple of things he would do to get himself worked up, and I’ve followed that, so it reminds me of him when I do them. He’s with us all the time, and I’m sure he’s proud that all three of us have won at the Winternationals.
“I’ve always wanted to win here; this is one of the places that ranks way up there on my list, and the Kalitta name has a long list here. I’m just happy to win with this being Connie’s 50th [anniversary in drag racing] and hope we can keep this momentum going and stay in the hunt. We’ll just play it by ear; hopefully this will help our chances of finding a primary sponsor and take it from there.”
Kalitta raced to his 56th final from the No. 11 spot, blasting past Urs Erbacher with a fire-trailing 4.64 Sunday before pounding out a 3.82 to 3.86 decision against last year’s Winternationals runner-up, Cory McClenathan, in round two. Kalitta moved to the final when Morgan Lucas shook and smoked his tires in the new GEICO dragster in the semifinals.
Brown, the surprise low qualifier at this event last year in his Top Fuel debut, again began the season from the pole position, but, unlike last year when he exited in round two, the driver of Mike Ashley’s Matco Tools dragster took it all the way to the final round. Although Brown led qualifying, his eliminations run was anything but spectacular until the semifinals. He mustered just a 4.22 to beat Top Fuel newcomer Steve Faria in round one, then received a gift in round two when Mike Strasburg was unable to stick around after the rain. Brown’s blue digger launched into hard smoke and then banged the blower, which automatically deployed the chute. He crossed the finish line nearly 16 seconds later at just 26.16 mph but nonetheless reached the final four, where the Brian Corradi- and Mark Oswald-tuned machine ripped to a 3.778 at 312.78, the second-quickest pass in 1,000-foot history, behind only Tony Schumacher’s 3.777 of last year.
Capps, who didn’t win his first round of Funny Car racing last year until the fifth event on the schedule, went four straight to open his 2009 campaign, finishing it off with his 25th win in Funny Car when Jim Head lost traction at the green. Capps’ NAPA Auto Parts Dodge roared to the victory with a 4.15, 296.96.
Capps hadn’t visited the winner’s circle since the 2007 Madison event but reached his 55th final and showed that he, crew chief Ed McCulloch, and the NAPA team are serious about regaining the championship form they had showcased in years past. Although qualified just 13th in the one-shot qualifying, the car came to life in eliminations and ran low e.t. of the first three rounds. A 4.12 in round one dispatched John Force, and a 4.088 sent Bob Tasca III home early. In the semi’s, Capps sent packing perennial Pomona finalist Robert Hight, the low qualifier and the last of the Force Racing entries, in a spectacular match, 4.054 to 4.08, which was low e.t. of eliminations.
“We ran 4.07 in the final here last year when we lost [at the Auto Club NHRA Finals],” said Capps, who also won his first NHRA national event on a Tuesday, in Seattle in 1995, “and that 4.05 against Robert was awesome because we always get up to race him and Jimmy Prock. We bring out the best in each other, and we knew we’d have to have our A game. We were worried about Jim Head, too, because he can run low e.t. at any time, and we learned that lesson last year in Seattle against Tony Bartone, where I was already counting that trophy before we ran him in the final. But seeing Doug win in front of us was very emotional, and I couldn’t wait to get down there to celebrate with him.
“It’s cool to be the first Full Throttle winner,” said Capps, whose win was his first for NAPA, “and it’s great for NAPA. We really wanted to get them a win this year because they really like our program and love what NHRA does for them because the customers can get so close. They were blown away when they came aboard last year and are doing so much with us with the TV commercials and everything. This is a big win for us.”
Head, who hadn’t been to the winner’s circle in Funny Car since the 1985 event in Brainerd and to any winner’s circle since the 1997 Memphis event in Top Fuel, reached the final round, his 10th in Funny Car and 18th overall, with his self-financed Toyota with a combination of luck and guile. Former world champ Tony Pedregon was ahead of him in round one before hiking the front end on his mount and crossing the centerline. In round two, Head put a holeshot on Ashley Force Hood and walked away with a 4.09 to 4.05 decision, narrowly winning as he rode the guardwall all the way down before kissing it just past the finish line. Head then advanced to the final with a 4.10 against local favorite Gary Densham.
Line followed only teammate Greg Anderson on the Pro Stock qualifying sheets, but after his Summit running buddy went out in the semifinals, Line picked up the banner and carried it forward, topping the day with a 6.65, 211.63 victory against Mike Edwards’ 6.57, 210.01. Line’s speed is a new track record.
“I drove pretty good out there, which feels pretty good because I’ve been criticized for that in the past,” said Line, who left on all four of his opponents. “I drove decent and had a pretty good hot rod – probably the second-best one here – and I would have loved to have raced Greg in the final, but we had a good race, and it feels good to win. I botched the shift in the final or I probably would have gotten the [national] speed record because I hit the chip in 3rd gear and again in 5th gear because I was so excited to be getting down the track in the final.
“We knew these conditions would be fast, and we seem to shine in these types of conditions, so I was excited about it. I don’t know what it is about this race, but our team seems to do really well here. It seems like the more time we have in the shop, the better we do, and you’re always pumped up to come here to start the season.”
Line reached his 35th Pro Stock final and scored his 16th win in the class by powering Ken Black’s Summit Racing GXP from the No. 2 spot with a pair of 6.50-second runs in the second and semifinal rounds. After an opening 6.67 against Rickie Jones, Line ran 6.549 to beat Johnny Gray and 6.584 to trailer Allen Johnson and reach the final.
Edwards, who was going for his 16th win in his 30th Pro Stock final, beat Greg Standfield with a stout 6.59 in the opening frame and followed with a second-round conquest of Jim Yates before upsetting low qualifier Anderson in the semifinals on a holeshot, 6.57 to 6.55.
Anderson, who won the Winternationals four of the previous five years (missing only in 2005), broke his own near-two-year-old 6.536 national record with a 6.528-second blast in the second round that was backed up by his first-round 6.568. The last time that the national record in Pro Stock was broken at the Winternationals was 1997, when Warren Johnson ran 6.927. Anderson’s speed on the second-round pass was 211.23, a new track record until Line’s shot in the final.
Despite falling in the semifinals, Anderson trails only teammate Line in the standings thanks to the 20 bonus points for the record. Runner-up Edwards sits third.
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Persistent rain and cooling air and track temperatures forced NHRA officials to call an end to Sunday’s action at the Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals with only a mostly complete first round in the books. The first rounds of both Top Fuel and Funny Car were completed and two of the eight first-round pairings in Pro Stock were run down the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona track before a rain, which had caused a four-hour delay earlier in the day, brought an end to the day’s activity at 5:20 p.m.
Racing will resume Monday at 10:30 a.m. with Stock eliminator. Round two of Top Fuel will follow at 11:30 a.m., followed by Funny Car and then the resumption of round one of Pro Stock. NHRA.com will present a live audiocast of the day’s action.
Monday’s racing will air during a two-hour show on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD at 9:30 p.m. (ET). Tickets will be available for Monday’s racing for $26. Fans holding tickets for any of the rain-delayed days (Thursday, Friday, or Sunday) may redeem those tickets on Monday for entry.
In-between the delays, quick times and exciting racing were the order of the day as many favorites fell to the tricky track conditions and the lack of ontrack time from Saturday’s one-shot qualifying, but both low qualifiers in the nitro classes moved on into round two.
Though it is just one round, things remained much the same in Top Fuel with Tony Schumacher leading the way with a 3.845 that gave him an easy win over rookie Del Cox Jr. Schumacher enters round two with lane choice over Brandon Bernstein, who had an interesting journey to the second round of competition. Both Bernstein and opponent Andy Carter had to pedal their cars, and Carter’s car responded quicker, giving him the edge. However, just when it appeared the European driver would score his first career NHRA round-win in his debut, his Lucas Oil ride began shedding body panels and drifted toward the centerline, ultimately crossing it and disqualifying Carter from competition.
Joining Schumacher and Bernstein in round two are Antron Brown, Mike Strasburg, Morgan Lucas, Steve Chrisman, Cory McClenathan, and Doug Kalitta. Only four of the first-round winners came from the top half of the ladder.
The upsets started early with independent runner Strasburg ousting Don Prudhomme’s U.S. Smokeless Racing team and rookie driver Spencer Massey. Chrisman continued the shockers when he bested David Baca in the following pair. Though he also started in the bottom half of the field, Morgan Lucas made a strong opening-round statement with the second quickest time of the round, a 3.846, that gave him the win over No. 2 qualifier Joe Hartley. Doug Kalitta also started from the slow half of the field, but his 4.648 was more than enough to move him around Urs Erbacher.
One driver from the top half of the field that did escape the first round was top qualifier Brown, who dodged a bullet when Steve Faria experienced more troubles and faded, allowing Brown to win with a 4.222. Fellow top half qualifier McClenathan also advanced when he bested Shawn Langdon, 3.934 to 4.221.
Funny Car low qualifier Robert Hight, who’s been to the last three Winternationals finals and won two of them, in 2006 and 2008, is a round closer to a fourth straight final-round appearance after getting past Jerry Toliver in their opening pairing. Hight’s Automobile Club of Southern California Mustang ripped to a 4.15 to beat the 2004 Winternationals winner to the finish line.
Although Hight advanced, his boss, John Force, in his new Castrol Edge Mustang, did not, as longtime rival Ron Capps put him on the trailer with a 4.125, the quickest pass of the round. Another Ford driver, Bob Tasca III and his Quick Lane Shelby, nearly matched Capps with a 4.127 against Hight’s teammate, Mike Neff, who compounded a red-light by getting extremely crossed up. In round two. Hight will face Jack Beckman, who downed reigning season champ Cruz Pedregon, and Tasca will race Capps. If both Hight and Tasca win their second-round duels, they’ll face off in the semifinals.
On the bottom half of the ladder, Del Worsham was the only driver to make close to a full pass as he booted Alan Johnson’s Al-Anabi Toyota to a 4.19 against Bob Bode. Worsham will face veteran Gary Densham in round two; Densham beat local hero Jeff Arend in their first-round tussle.
“When you get in these cool conditions like this, the track doesn’t become slippery; it actually gets more traction,” said Worsham, of Sunday’s conditions, which produced a number of tire-shaking runs. “When these tires bite like that, if they don’t slip a little bit, they tend to want to shake, and that’s what you were seeing with the tire shake out there and everybody trying to pedal it and get it down there. We just don’t run in these conditions enough to get good at it, so when we get into a situation like this when it happens, everybody’s just doing the best job they can do. If you can get it to where it’s not shaking, you could easily set a record out here right now.
“I’m extremely confident about tomorrow. The first round’s gone, and that really is the nerves, first round at the first race of the season. I feel a lot better about tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Ashley Force Hood added a second John Force car to the quarterfinals when she bested rookie Matt Hagan’s BrakeSafe Dodge. She’s pair off in round two with Jim head, who advanced after former world champ Tony Pedregon hiked the front end after pedaling and crossed the centerline.
Brown, Hight, Anderson lead Winternationals qualifying
Cloudy and Windy conditions could not keep racers home for the first Open Test & Tune of Texas Motorplex’s 2009 Racing Season. Over 160 racers from all over North Texas arrived at the Texas Motorplex for their first chance of the season on the concrete quartermile.
Thank you to everyone that made this a great opening day, we hope to see everyone again at the next Open Test & Tune on February 21.
Here are a few pictures from the event:
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