Good Afternoon race fans!
This weekend the NHRA rode into Reading, Pennsylvania for the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals, the first race of the Countdown, and it did not disappoint! This race was extra special because it was the first race back at Maple Grove Raceway in a few years. Since the last time the NHRA raced here, it was purchased and revamped by the Koretsky family. They did an incredible job and the sold out crowd seemed to agree!
Onto race day, starting with Top Fuel, today was all about the young guns in the class. On the left side of the ladder, No. 4 qualified Austin Prock started his day by taking on No. 13 Doug Foley. Austin left first, (.053) to (.097) and never looked back, running a 3.70 while Doug had some problems and ran a 6.53. In the second round he faced the tough Steve Torrence. This was an incredibly close race, Austin is one of the best leavers in the class and that’s huge these days. Everyone is competing at such a high level and you really do need every bit, doesn’t matter who you are. Though Austin left first, they were practically identical (.067) to (.070) and they stayed that way the entire time. In the end Austin’s 3.762 bested Steve’s 3.767 and he was moving on. His semifinal matchup was against the always tough Antron Brown. This wasn’t a great run for either of them. They both encountered some problems and in the end Austin’s 5.73 bested Antron’s 6.56, putting him and the Montana Brand team into the finals. On the other side of the ladder, No. 2 qualified Justin Ashley started his day by taking on No. 15 Jeffrey Chatterson. It was a decent race and with a 3.73 to a 3.86, Justin was moving on. In the second round he faced a tough customer in Doug Kalitta. Unfortunately Doug went red by (-.007) giving Justin the win immediately and he ran a 3.84. His semifinal matchup was against a very tough Mike Salinas. Justin pretty much went a to b on this run while Mike had some early problems, so with a 3.73 to a 9.49, Justin and the Phillips Connect team were into the finals. This was a fantastic final. Justin left first, (.034) to (.058), but by Austin caught up pretty much immediately and they stayed side by side until the finish line when, with a 3.75 to a 3.78, Austin took home the win and the Wally.
Next in the nitro ranks, we have Funny Car. On the left side of the ladder, No. 1 qualified Robert Hight started his day with a bye run because there were only 15 cars in the field and he ran a 3.87. In the second round he faced Cruz Pedregon. They had identical reaction times, (.085) but Cruz ran into some problems while Robert went a to b, so with a 3.90 to a 5.56, Robert was moving on. His semifinal matchup was against the always tough Matt Hagan. These two have been back and forth all season and the margins have been so tight and especially now that we’re in the Countdown, rounds like this are important. Robert did leave first, but only just (.072) to (.078) and they stayed close until around the 660 foot mark when Matt slowed and in the end Robert’s 3.90 bested Matt’s 4.12, putting him and the AAA team into the finals. On the other side of the ladder, No. 7 qualified Tim Wilkerson started his day by taking on No. 10 Alexis DeJoria. This was such a close race, despite that fact that Tim left first by a huge margin (.057) to (.161), Alexis was with him the entire time and their incremental numbers are essentially the same. What matters though is who crosses the stripe first and with a 3.922 to a 3.924, it was Tim and he was moving on. His second round matchup was against the always tough Ron Capps. Ron left first (.051) to (.075) but Tim caught up almost immediately and continued on an a to b run while Ron ran into some problems around the 660 foot mark and slowed. So with a 3.91 to a 4.42, Tim was moving on. His semifinal matchup was against the one and only John Force. These two have raced each other quite a bit over the years and there’s been some great ones, but this was not a great run for either. They both had problems, but Tim had less, so with a 4.62 to a 9.00, Tim and the Levi, Ray and Shoup team were into the finals. I think that this could have been a really great final, but it was basically over before it started. Tim went red by (-.220) giving Robert the win immediately, and he ran a 3.93 to take home the win and the Wally.
Moving to the world of Pro Stock, we have Pro Stock Cars. Now, this weekend we saw the return of a class favorite. Tanner Gray, who has been over doing NASCAR, came to fill in for Deric Kramer and it was nice to see him back. The rumor mill is also churning away with some potential Pro Stock news for next season, mainly involving new blood in the class and potential sponsorship changes for a current driver and a specialty event. But I’ll keep you guys apprised if I learn anything concrete about it. But, back to today, on the left side of the ladder, No. 8 qualified Troy Coughlin Jr started his day by taking on No. 9 Cristian Cuadra. This was a good race, but with a 6.57 to a 6.58, Troy was moving on. In the second round he faced Bo Butner. This was also a good and close race, I think you could call this a hole shot, technically, because Troy left first (.029) to (.057) but Bo had the quicker ET, 6.601 to Troy’s 6.605 and Troy moved on. His semifinal matchup was against the always tough Greg Anderson. Troy left first by a big margin, (.020) to (.070) and never looked back. So with a 6.60 to Greg’s slower 6.71, Troy and the JEGS team were moving on. On the other side of the ladder, No. 2 qualified Erica Enders started her day by taking on No. 15 Alan Prusiensky. It was a decent race and with a 6.54 to a 6.60, Erica was moving on. In the second round she faced Matt Hartford. Matt went red by (-.004) giving Erica the win immediately and she ran a 6.56. Her semifinal matchup was against the tough Kyle Koretsky. This was a good race, but in the end Erica’s 6.58 bested Kyle’s 6.61, putting her and the Melling Performance/Elite team into the finals. Erica and Troy are teammates and they say there’s no one you race harder or want to beat more than your teammate. And this was the close race to prove it. Erica did leave first (.026) to (.038) but Troy was right with her to the stripe, where, with a 6.58 to a 6.60, Erica took home the win and the Wally.
And finally we have Pro Stock Motorcycle. On the left side of the ladder, No. 8 qualified Joey Gladstone started his day by taking on No. 9 Hector Arana Jr. Hector went red by (-.005) giving Joey the win immediately and he ran 6.82. His semifinal matchup was against Matt Smith. This was a very close race. Joey left first, (.024) to (.032) but they were neck and neck the entire time and in the end Joey’s 6.815 bested Matt’s 6.818. His semifinal matchup was against Marc Ingwersen. Marc left first (.019) to (.041) but Joey caught up and drove around him quickly and with a 6.86 to a 6.92, Joey and the Diamond W/Reed Motorsports team were into the finals. On the other side of the ladder, No. 2 qualified Angie Smith started her day by taking on No. 15 Ron Tornow. Ron left first, (.010) to (.091) but Angie quickly drove around and with a 6.79 to a 6.98, was moving on. In the second round she faced the always tough Eddie Krawiec. Now this is a hole shot if I’ve ever seen one. Angie left first (.010) to (.070) and that helped her immensely. In the end her 6.84 bested Eddie’s 6.81 and she was moving on. Her semifinal matchup was against Steve Johnson and for anyone who doesn’t know, the Smiths and Steve, do NOT like each other, so for them, every race against the other means a lot. Though Steve left first, (.013) to (.018) Angie out performed him at every increment and with a 6.84 to a 6.94, Angie and the Denso team were into the finals. This was another one of those finals that was over before it started. Angie went red by (-.025) giving Joey the win immediately and on his way to pick up the Wally he ran a 6.83. We saw quite a few red lights today, across all classes and I feel like we’ll see more as the Countdown continues and everyone is pushing for that championship.
The next race will be race two in the Countdown, the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals, September 23rd – 25th in Charlotte, North Carolina.