Good Afternoon race fans!
This weekend the NHRA’s traveling circus popped (if you get this reference let me know) into Charlotte, North Carolina for the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals, the second race of the Countdown and it was not to be missed.
Starting in the nitro ranks, we have Top Fuel. On the left side of the ladder, No. 1 qualified Justin Ashley started his day by taking on No. 16 Alex Laughlin. While this was a decent race, Justin left first (.048) to (.095) and never looked back, taking the round win with a 3.68 to a 3.81. In the second round he faced Steve Torrence. Steve and his team got some heat from not only broadcasters, but fans. In this first round he was slated to race his dad Billy, we know that there are teams who run team orders, especially at this point in the year when it’s Countdown critical. Some teams will go up and do a big thing on the starting line or something to that effect. Another option is to just not bring the car up to the starting line at all, and that’s what the Torrences did. People take issue with this, and I kind of agree, because by doing it this way it takes away a spot from someone who could’ve qualified in his place and could have gone out there and run in that first round. But in this case it didn’t end up being much of a factor, Justin again, left first (.036) to (.065) and never looked back, taking the round win with a 3.69 to a 3.72. His semifinal matchup was against the always tough Doug Kalitta. Doug Kalitta and Kalitta Motorsports announced a cool thing this weekend. DHL has partnered with Feeding America and for every win light turned on by a Kalitta car they would donate 20,000 meals, so today alone, thanks to Doug, they donated 40,000 meals. Justin left first (.025) to (.046) and Doug went up in smoke, so with a 3.69 to a 7.77, Justin and the Phillips Connect team were into the finals. On the other side of the ladder, No. 7 qualified Antron Brown started his day by taking on No. 10 Austin Prock. Austin is one of the best leavers in the business and he did leave first (.055) to (.067), but by about half track Antron had caught up and drove around him with a 3.69 to a 3.77. In the second round he faced the always tough Brittany Force. These are the matchups that start to have Countdown implications. Brittany was up in smoke almost immediately while Antron went a to b, so with a 3.73 to a 5.25, Antron was moving on. His semifinal matchup was against the tough Clay Millican. Since Clay’s team was purchased by Rick Ware and he’s become part of Rick Ware Racing there has definitely been some differences and he was on a roll this weekend. This was a very good, very close race. Antron left first, (.046) to (.074) but their incrementals were almost matching the whole way down the track. In the end Antron’s 3.68 bested Clay’s 3.69 (with a faster mph), putting him and the Matco Tools team into the finals. I’m gonna tell you now, that if every final for the rest of the Countdown is like this, then no one will have a bad thing to say. Antron left first (.035) to (.055). Their numbers were almost identical the whole way and when they crossed the finish line stripe, Antron took the hole shot win and the Wally with a 3.672 to a 3.671. This is Antron’s third win of the season.
Next up we have Funny Car and with 13 cars in the field, the ladder was a little wonky. On the left side of the ladder, No. 4 qualified Ron Capps started his day by taking on No. 11 Blake Alexander. Blake did leave first (.081) to (.109), but hazed the tires and had to pedal. Ron was on a decent run until before the finish line when the green flames of ‘your engine is eating itself’ appeared but he was far enough down track that he was able to still take the round win with a 3.88 to a 4.53. In the second round he faced the tough Bob Tasca III. Ron left first and Bob went up in smoke immediately, so with a 3.88 to an 8.25, Ron was moving on. His semifinal matchup was against the always tough John Force. I want to congratulate John because he qualified No. 1 this weekend and it was his 165th career No. 1. Ron and John have raced each other more than anyone else, there’s always an expectation that it’s going to be an exciting race and this one lived up to it. Though Ron left first, (.054) to (.067), John was able to make up some ground quickly and their incrementals were so close until the finish where, with a 3.89 to a 3.91, Ron and the NAPA Auto Parts team were into the finals. On the other side of the ladder, No. 9 qualified Alexis DeJoria started her day by taking on No. 6 JR Todd. JR may have gotten out first, but he had a hole out almost immediately, while Alexis went a to b and with a 3.87 to a 4.19, was moving on. In the second round she faced the always tough Robert Hight. They were almost identical off the line and stayed that way the whole race. In the end it was Alexis and her 3.91 that bested Robert’s 3.92. Her semifinal matchup was against the always tough Matt Hagan. Again, so close. They were nearly identical off the line, and Matt had an early lead until the 330 foot mark when Alexis drove around him, keeping that lead to the finish line and with a 3.88 to a 3.89, Alexis and the Bandero Tequila team were into the finals. This was yet another wild final round, a battle of Team Toyota. Ron left first (.059) to (.100) and started to pull away, round about the 600-ish foot mark Alexis’ car nosed over, a little further down track Ron lost power. They both coasted to the finish line, through the lights and with a 3.96 to a 3.98, Ron took home the win and the Wally. This is Ron’s fourth win of the season.
And finally we have Pro Stock. On the left side of the ladder, No. 4 qualified Matt Hartford started his day by taking on No. 13 Bo Butner. Matt is 8-8 against Bo and this time he added to the win column. He was (.006) to Bo’s (.031) and that gave him the extra edge, the hole shot, he needed to best Bo’s 6.55 with a 6.56 of his own. In the second round he faced the tough Dallas Glenn. This was a really good race, Dallas only just left first (.032) to (.035) and held the lead until around the 1,000 foot mark when Matt drove around him and with a 6.55 to a 6.56, took the round win. His semifinal matchup was against the always tough Erica Enders who is fully in Countdown mode right now and an extra tough competitor. Matt had a very slight advantage off the line, (.016) to (.019), Erica had some intense tire shake while Matt went a to b, so with a 6.56 to a 9.31, Matt and the Total Seal team were into the finals. On the other side of the ladder, No. 6 qualified Aaron Stanfield started his day by taking on No. 11 Deric Kramer. This was a decent race. Deric left first (.025) to (.029) but Aaron quickly caught up and never looked back, taking the round win with a 6.56 to a 6.58. In the second round he faced the always tough Greg Anderson, this is one of those races that matters for the Countdown. Aaron was (.027) on the tree to Greg’s (.047) and that made all the difference. He held on for the hole shot and with a 6.57 to a 6.56, was moving on. His semifinal matchup was against the tough Troy Coughlin Jr. This was a very good race. Aaron left first, (.028) to (.061), but their incremental numbers were very close and in the end it was Aaron’s 6.571 that bested Troy’s 6.578, putting him and the Janac Bros Racing team into the finals. This was a great final. Aaron left first, (.018) to (.044), but they were neck and neck the entire way down the track. In the end, with a 6.567 bested a 6.569, giving Aaron the win and the Wally. This is Aaron’s third win of the season.
The next race will be the third race in the Countdown, the halfway point, the NHRA Midwest Nationals, September 30th – October 2nd in St. Louis, Missouri.