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Skies Clear, Times Fall at Gatornationals

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 13 2010
Matt Hagan heats up the tires during Saturday's qualifying at the Gatornationals. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

Matt Hagan heats up the tires during Saturday's qualifying at the Gatornationals. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

RacinToday.com

Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock), and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) shined during the second day of racing at the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals.

The day was particularly good for Edwards, who also won the delayed NHRA Arizona Nationals event, defeating surprise finalist Bob Yonke in the final.

After two days of rain and little activity on the track,  Saturday saw blue skies, light cloud cover, and sunshine. Though the sun came out, temperatures remained cool with air temperatues s staying in the 60s and track temperatures in the low 90s or below, and that created perfect conditions for performance, particularly in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

The track speed record was eclipsed in Pro Stock, and new marks in both e.t. and speed were set in Pro Stock Motorcycle. In addition, the Pro Stock Motorcycle field is the quickest in history with a 7.032 bump, and many drivers set new career bests.

The nitro classes were also filled with numerous career bests and impressive performances, including a 321.58-mph speed by Dave Grubnic that ties the fastest 1,000-foot run ever; Larry Dixon is the other driver to record that speed, doing so at last year’s season finale.

With a new car underneath him after his original car was destroyed in an accident in Phoenix, Brown had a much-needed get-well day that included running low e.t. of both sessions. Brown’s best was a 3.803 in the final session that was a new track record and gave the Matco-backed driver his first No. 1 start of this year and 22nd of his career.

“My hat’s off just to my team; man, all the stuff that we’ve been through since we just transitioned over to DSR and just getting all the new stuff and putting it all together and then the stuff that happened in Phoenix and putting a whole another group of new things together,” said Brown. “To come out here and do this is definitely a blessing. I just want to take it one step at a time, and being No. 1 qualifier is definitely putting a foot in the right direction, and I’m stoked about that.

“It feels good to get two solid laps back to back. It’s not just being No. 1; it’s just getting two solid laps back to back because that gives you confidence going into race day where you can go round to round.”

Friday’s leader Tony Schumacher made a strong push for the top spot, but his 3.805 came up just short, relegating him to the No. 2 starting position. Dixon is right behind his with a 3.820. Shawn Langdon, who finished Friday in the second slot, slipped to fourth when he couldn’t better his 3.829. Phoenix winner Cory McClenathan nabbed the No. 5 spot and is followed in the order by Grubnic, Doug Kalitta, and Steve Torrence.

Todd Paton landed on the bump with a 7.542. Only 16 cars made the trip to Gainesville, meaning all will be part of Sunday’s show.

After making headlines off the track earlier in the day when his team added John Medlen as a co-crew chief, Hagan made some news on the track when he powered his DieHard Charger to a 4.060 to earn his third career No. 1 start.

Robert Hight also ran a 4.060 but lost the top spot on the speed tiebreaker, 313.58 to 310.13.

“First of all, it’s great to snag the No. 1 spot,” said Hagan, who has qualified fifth or better for six straight events. “I have a little history here with the Pro Mod car, and this is big. I knew Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) was going for it because we were already qualified. When the clutch went one-to-one, I knew it was gonna run.

“As for John Medlen, I’m not sure what his impact is yet. He’s feeling his way through everything. I’m sure he had some input, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of stuff from him and Tommy. I’m really excited and can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow. We need to put four runs together on race day. We always qualify well, but we need to get that Wally on Sunday.”

Hagan’s teammate, Ron Capps, moved up to third behind Hagan and Hight with a 4.070. Tony Pedregon finished fourth with a 4.078, and Ashley Force Hood grabbed the No. 5 spot with a 4.081. John Force, Bob Tasca III, and Jeff Arend are the final three drivers in the top half of the field.

John Smith was the final driver to make the field with a 4.231. Jeff Diehl and Paul Lee both missed the field.

The pressure of trying to qualify for the Gatornationals while simultaneously trying to win the NHRA Arizona Nationals didn’t seem to affect Edwards, who shined doing both. Not only did he win the Arizona Nationals to extend his points lead, he also stayed on point in the Gatornationals qualified field. Edwards extended his No. 1 qualifying streak to 12 straight events, dating back to Brainerd last August, with a 6.537 from his Penhall/Interstate/K&N GXP during the super-quick morning session.

“We were struggling, but today was much better,” said Edwards. “We have a real consistent car and a consistent team. I made a really good run earlier today [6.53], and that was a turning point for us. I can’t really put my finger on one thing; it’s the whole team, I’m just a small part of it.

”In regards to qualifying, and eliminations on the same run, the feeling today was to go as quick as we could, but it’s a different mindset for sure. Then the conditions changes and that was something else we had to deal with but it all worked out.”

Ron Krisher, who is an engine customer of Edwards, moved up to the No. 2 position when he recorded a 6.540 that was the best run of the final session; it was the first time this year Edwards did not pace a qualifying session. Jeg Coughlin Jr. posted back-to-back 6.55s in the final two sessions to lock in the No. 3 starting spot.

Allen Johnson begins race day from the No. 4 position, and Rodger Brogdon, Greg Anderson, Jason Line, and Vinnie Deceglie follow to round out the quick eight. Rickie Jones ended up on the bump with a 6.601.

Eight drivers missed the show, and the biggest surprise of the bunch was Larry Morgan, who opened the season with a semifinal finish in Pomona. The father-son team of Warren and Kurt Johnson also couldn’t break into the field. Other non-qualifiers were Justin Humphreys, John Nobile, Erica Enders, Bob Benza, and John Gaydosh.

Stoffer was the star of the second day of the 2010 Pro Stock Motorcycle season, running low e.t. of both qualifying sessions. The GEICO Powersports Suzuki rider opened with a 6.869, then followed it with a 6.855, the second-quickest pass in NHRA history, to secure the second No. 1 start of her career; her first came about a year and a half ago in Sonoma.

“It was kind of nerve-racking when you see Eddie [Krawiec] go out in the pair in front of me and beat the low e.t.,” said Stoffer. “We knew we had a fast bike, and I just had to do my job. I was excited that they gave me the performance, and I was able to do my job and put the package together and get that No. 1 back. I’ve had the No. 1 before, but I’ve never had to fight for it like that, so it was pretty cool to be able to do that.

“I definitely think there’s more out there, and I think you’re going to see other teams step up. The Suzukis had a little bit of a performance increase this year, and I think that had a big benefit to us. Also, we had the tailwind today and some cloud cover and a wonderfully prepared racetrack, so we had all these great conditions. I think people were just getting a handle on it, so I definitely think there’s more. I think there’s going to be a record broke, that’s my prediction. We’re in the batter’s box, and we want to take a swing and try to get that. That would be a first for me, so that’s a goal of mine. I’d love to be able to do it here in Gainesville where the conditions are the way they are. I don’t know if we’re going to see these conditions again this year, so I think this is going to be critical to get it done here.”

Eddie Krawiec, the 2008 world champ, will begin race day from the second spot thanks to his 6.868 recorded in the final session. David Hope, who is flying a special Iron Man 2 paint scheme to start the season, will enter Sunday with his best ever starting spot, third, after posting a 6.874, and reigning world champ Hector Arana begins his title defense from the fourth spot thanks to a 6.881 recorded on his final attempt. Andrew Hines, Craig Treble, Steve Johnson, and Friday leader Junior Pippin round out the top half of the field.

Redell Harris was the final rider to bump into the field, clocking a 7.032 to grab the 16th spot and a first-round date with Stoffer. The 7.032 bump makes this the quickest field in history, bettering the 7.033 bump from the 2007 Englishtown event.

With 23 bikes on the property, seven riders were left outside the field when all was said and done. Surprisingly, Doug Horne, who last year finished fifth in the Full Throttle standings, was on that list. Horne’s best time for the weekend was a 7.067 that left him 18th. Also missing the field were Darin McCurdy, James Surber, Katie Sullivan, Wes Wells, Joe DeSantis, and Bailey Whitaker.

First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the 41st annual NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, the third of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel — 1. Antron Brown, 3.803 seconds, 321.04 mph vs. 16. Todd Paton, 7.542, 89.46; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.805, 321.12 vs. 15. Terry McMillen, 7.363, 94.82; 3. Larry Dixon, 3.820, 317.87 vs. 14. Pat Dakin, 4.458, 192.60; 4. Shawn Langdon, 3.829, 317.12 vs. 13. Chris Karamesines, 4.052, 288.39; 5. Cory McClenathan, 3.830, 317.79 vs. 12. Bobby Lagana Jr., 4.011, 298.54; 6. David Grubnic, 3.832, 321.58 vs. 11. Brandon Bernstein, 3.906, 314.46; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.846, 315.49 vs. 10. Doug Foley, 3.891, 312.35; 8. Steve Torrence, 3.856, 311.99 vs. 9. Morgan Lucas, 3.880, 303.43.

Funny Car — 1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.060, 313.58 vs. 16. John Smith, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.231, 299.80; 2. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.060, 310.13 vs. 15. Jim Head, Toyota Solara, 4.202, 303.64; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.070, 306.81 vs. 14. Del Worsham, Solara, 4.156, 305.42; 4. Tony Pedregon, Chevy Impala, 4.078, 311.49 vs. 13. Cruz Pedregon, Solara, 4.152, 288.09; 5. Ashley Force Hood, Mustang, 4.081, 312.42 vs. 12. Melanie Troxel, Charger, 4.144, 305.84; 6. John Force, Mustang, 4.093, 308.85 vs. 11. Bob Bode, Chevy Impala SS, 4.140, 304.12; 7. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.107, 306.81 vs. 10. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.135, 306.05; 8. Jeff Arend, Solara, 4.107, 305.01 vs. 9. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.114, 305.84. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jeff Diehl, 4.284, 293.79; 18. Paul Lee, 4.324, 260.76.

Pro Stock — 1. Mike Edwards, Pontiac GXP, 6.537, 211.56 vs. 16. Rickie Jones, GXP, 6.601, 209.10; 2. Ron Krisher, Chevy Cobalt, 6.540, 211.13 vs. 15. Johnny Gray, GXP, 6.590, 209.75; 3. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.551, 210.90 vs. 14. Bob Yonke, GXP, 6.590, 209.98; 4. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.559, 211.16 vs. 13. Shane Gray, GXP, 6.584, 208.84; 5. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.561, 210.77 vs. 12. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.583, 209.56; 6. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.569, 211.86 vs. 11. Steve Spiess, Cobalt, 6.582, 209.23; 7. Jason Line, GXP, 6.570, 211.20 vs. 10. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 6.573, 210.50; 8. Vinnie Deceglie, Avenger, 6.571, 209.75 vs. 9. Ronnie Humphrey, GXP, 6.572, 211.26. Did Not Qualify: 17. Justin Humphreys, 6.604, 209.26; 18. Larry Morgan, 6.604, 209.07; 19. Warren Johnson, 6.608, 210.14; 20. John Nobile, 6.611, 208.36; 21. Erica Enders, 6.614, 208.81; 22. Bob Benza, 6.627, 207.88; 23. Kurt Johnson, 6.643, 209.56; 24. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.755, 202.55.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.855, 194.77 vs. 16. Redell Harris, Buell, 7.032, 186.48; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.868, 195.51 vs. 15. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.025, 185.38; 3. David Hope, Buell, 6.874, 193.29 vs. 14. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.006, 188.20; 4. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.881, 195.39 vs. 13. LE Tonglet, Buell, 6.962, 192.33; 5. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.883, 195.08 vs. 12. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.956, 194.46; 6. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 6.888, 194.41 vs. 11. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 6.943, 194.27; 7. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.894, 193.38 vs. 10. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.924, 191.32; 8. Junior Pippin, Buell, 6.894, 192.19 vs. 9. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.907, 193.21. Did Not Qualify: 17. Darin McCurdy, 7.034, 193.16; 18. Douglas Horne, 7.067, 190.97; 19. James Surber, 7.089, 188.17; 20. Katie Sullivan, 7.105, 188.52; 21. Wesley Wells, 7.110, 190.38; 22. Joe DeSantis, 7.111, 188.41; 23. Bailey Whitaker, 7.267, 160.77.

Final finish order (1-16) for professional categories from the weather-delayed 26th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals. The race is the second of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

PRO STOCK:

1. Mike Edwards, Pontiac GXP; 2. Bob Yonke; 3. Greg Stanfield; 4. Allen Johnson; 5. Ron Krisher; 6. Rodger Brogdon; 7. Greg Anderson; 8. Jason Line; 9. Jeg Coughlin; 10. Shane Gray; 11. Warren Johnson; 12. Kurt Johnson; 13. Ronnie Humphrey; 14. Rickie Jones; 15. Larry Morgan; 16. Vinnie Deceglie.

Final round-by-round results from the weather-delayed 26th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals, the second of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series:

PRO STOCK:

ROUND ONE — Greg Anderson, Pontiac GXP, 6.646, 207.66 def. Ronnie Humphrey, GXP, 12.898, 67.04; Greg Stanfield, GXP, 6.656, 206.29 def. Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Cobalt, 6.649, 201.31; Bob Yonke, GXP, 6.675, 205.16 def. Rickie Jones, GXP, 14.598, 58.41; Jason Line, GXP, 6.777, 207.34 def. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.909, 183.92; Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 14.342, 58.30 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, broke; Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.652, 208.59 def. Vinnie Deceglie, Avenger, broke; Ron Krisher, Cobalt, 6.619, 208.84 def. Shane Gray, GXP, 6.697, 205.69; Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.617, 209.82 def. Warren Johnson, GXP, 6.706, 206.83;

QUARTERFINALS – Edwards 6.537, 211.53 def. Anderson, 6.569, 211.86; A. Johnson, 6.559, 211.16 def. Line, 9.900, 92.48; Stanfield, 6.590, 209.75 def. Krisher, 6.555, 210.44; Yonke, 6.623, 209.79 def. Brogdon, 6.561, 210.77.

SEMIFINALS – Edwards, 6.544, 211.56 def. A. Johnson, 17.110, 47.69; Yonke, 6.590, 209.98 def. Stanfield, 6.573, 210.50.

FINAL — Edwards, 6.552, 211.16 def. Yonke, 6.604, 209.36.

Point standings (top 10) for NHRA professional categories following the weather-delayed 26th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals, the second of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series -

Pro Stock

1. Mike Edwards, 257; 2. Allen Johnson, 156; 3. Greg Anderson, 147; 4. Greg Stanfield, 125; 5. Rodger Brogdon, 112; 6. Bob Yonke, 104; 7. Larry Morgan, 102; 8. Ron Krisher, 99; 9. Jason Line, 87; 10. Ronnie Humphrey, 85.

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 13 2010
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