Arend Gives Kalitta A Big Victory
Jeff Arend scored an emotional win in Funny Car, and Morgan Lucas, Jason Line, and Michael Phillips boosted their championship hopes with victories at the rain-delayed conclusion to the 22nd annual O’Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Memphis Motorsports Park.
Arend, who was named the successor to the late Scott Kalitta at midseason 2008, last won in 1996 in Reading, where he defeated Tony Pedregon in the final, and it was Pedregon, gunning to close on the points leaders, also in the final this time, but the results were the same.
Lucas in Top Fuel, Line in Pro Stock, and Phillips in Pro Stock Motorcycle used huge wins to jump to fifth, second, and third, respectively, as the six-race Countdown to 1 playoffs reached their midpoint. Eliminations, which were canceled Sunday due to persistent rain, began an hour late Monday but finished with a fury in front of a weary but thrilled crowd.
Lucas, who entered the season without a Top Fuel win on his résumé, scored his third of the year in an upset over Tony Schumacher after both drivers had trouble. Lucas persevered best, riding his Jimmy Walsh-tuned GEICO Powersports machine to a 5.13 to 8.21 victory.
Lucas, who also scored in Atlanta and Brainerd, reached the final after sitting down teammate Shawn Langdon and points front-runner Larry Dixon with a pair of 3.87s, then picked up to a 3.849 in the semifinals to defeat upset-minded Steve Torrence.
Schumacher, winner a week ago in Dallas, continued his hot streak, reaching his third final round at the last four races with his Mike Green-tuned U.S. Army dragster. Schumacher opened eliminations with an uncontested 3.82 win when Terry Haddock couldn’t return after his burnout, then pounded out a 3.83 in the second round to defeat Bob Vandergriff Jr. and a 3.843 in the semifinals against Doug Kalitta that earned him lane choice for his 95th title bout.
Arend, who until the Reading event this season had not won a round in more than a year behind the wheel of Connie Kalitta’s DHL Solara Funny Car, won three at the last four events and continued to only get better in Memphis, collecting the second national event of his career and his first in 13 years when Pedregon smoked the tires in the final. Arend looked good in winning, running a solid 4.09 at 310.41 mph, the fifth-fastest pass in class history at 1,000 feet.No Comment