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NHRA Goes Four It At ZMAX

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Friday, March 26 2010

They went four wide in Funny Car qualifying at zMAX Dragway on Friday. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

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The NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, the first NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event to incorporate a four-lane format in both qualifying and eliminations, got off to a wild start on Friday at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.

Cory McClenathan (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcyle) emerged as the first-day leaders.

McClenathan took the No. 1 spot in dramatic fashion on the day’s final pass with a stout 3.790 from his Todd Okuhara- and Phil Shuler-tuned Fram dragster, taking the pole from Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown, who only a pair earlier had taken the lead from their other teammate, Tony Schumacher, the first-session leader.

“Fram likes Charlotte,” said McClenathan, who is gunning for his 35th career No. 1 spot. “The last time we were here we did well. Todd said he was gonna push it and see what it would hold. The lane was good; it was fantastic all day long. At 800-feet I knew it was on a good run. We punished the motor at little but Don (Schumacher) will be OK with it.

“I look at this as being a special event,” added McClenathan, who won the Top Fuel versus Funny Car Winston Showdown in 2000. “It seems to come together for me. Now, we’ll just see how it stacks up.”

Brown’s 3.819 in his special-edition Valvoline dragster looked like a polesitter as cold weather crept in at the end of a day delayed several times by rainshowers, especially considering few cars had made it down the track prior to that session. Brown’s run bettered Schumacher’s 3.830, which ended up third. Doug Kalitta holds down the fourth spot with a 3.848 in the Kalitta Racing machine.

The top eight is rounded out by Larry Dixon (3.850), Steve Torrence (3.879), Dave Grubnic (3.880), and Morgan Lucas (3.888).

Bobby Lagana Jr.’s troubled 10-second pass holds the current bump spot.

Hight ripped to a dazzling track-record 4.024 at 314.24 in the day’s second session – the third quickest and second fastest 1,000-foot pass in class history – to lead the field halfway through qualifying. The run nicely backed up his earlier 4.07 to show that tuner Jimmy Prock has a good handle on the Auto Club Mustang.

“We’re definitely in a lot better shape than we were last year,” said Hight, who struggled early before ultimately winning the championship. “So far, our first two runs have been flawless. NHRA has done a great job setting up the tree so we can see who is where in staging.

“(Crew Chief) Jimmy Prock lives this car night and day. He gave it a ton more fuel and it worked. In the second run, we should have run 269 at the eighth-mile and we ran 271.45. We haven’t run that well since back when these cars were 150 pounds lighter. I’ve had the quickest runs in quarter-mile and 1,000 feet but I’ve never gotten a record. Tomorrow, my goal is to back it up. I’m going to have to or I won’t be the No. 1 qualifier.”

First-session leader Ron Capps was bumped to second despite a 4.039 that improved on his earlier 4.062, giving him also a nice pair of passes to open his account with the Ed McCulloch-wrenched NAPA Auto Parts Charger. Capps’ Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Jack Beckman, sits third with the Valvoline/MTS Dodge at 4.040, a career best, while Hight’s team leader, John Force, is fourth at 4.067.

The Mustangs of Ashley Force Hood (4.074) and Tim Wilkerson (4.088) are fifth and sixths, just ahead of Jeff Arend and Melanie Troxel, who qualified at 4088 and 4.091, making for a stout top eight.

Matt Hagan’s DieHard Dodge sits in the 16th position with an 8.72. Only 16 cars made runs Friday.

Line stole the No. 1 spot from first-session leader Jeg Coughlin with a 6.584 ripper in his Summit Pontiac, taking the pole from Coughlin’s 6.586 recorded in the first session. Coughlin’s JEGS Chevy was right there in the second session with a 6.591, but two good runs don’t equal a great one, so, for the first time in a while, someone other than Mike Edwards sits atop the Pro Stock pack.

“It feels good to run that good and have the Summit car on the pole, especially in front of a lot of friends and family and friends in our hometown,” said locally-based Line. “I don’t know if it will stay No. 1 but it’s good to be there for one night.

“The four-wide thing is definitely throwing us Pro Stock guys for a loop and it’s a challenge to get used to, but we’re definitely enjoying it. The run itself is no different, but you stage a Pro Stock car with the throttle and the clutch, so it’s a bit of a challenge. By Sunday we should have it down pat.”

Edwards, who has qualified No. 1 at the last 12 races dating back to last season, isn’t far behind as his Penhall Pontiac is third with a 6.601. Bob Yonke, who surprised everyone with a runner-up in the NHRA Arizona Nationals (completed in Gainesville), continues to look good as he put his Greg Stanfield-powered Pontiac into the No. 4 spot also with a 6.610; Edwards’ faster speed, 209.85 to 209.62, earned him the higher berth.

Stanfield (6.621) is right behind his team car, while Rodger Brogdon (6.622), Rickie Jones (6.623), and V. Gaines (6.626) round out the top eight.

Johnny Gray’s NTB Pontiac sits on the bump spot with a 6.664, ahead of eight other drivers – including Warren Johnson and Larry Morgan – who’ll have to bump their way into the show Saturday.

The Pro Stock Motorcycle field ended the first day bookended by the North Carolina-based Smith family, with Matt atop the field with his 6.904 from the first session and wife Angie on the bump with a 7.064, also recorded in the first session. Matt may well have run even quicker aboard his Al-Anabi Buell had not he had mechanical problems on his afternoon run, where he ran 6.96 at just 177 mph.

“Lane three is great, not a single bump in it,” said Smith of the lane he ran on his run of record. “I also made a good run in the second session but I had no high gear. I still ran a 6.96 but it would have been No. 1 again.

“We ran the first race here two years ago and I really wanted to win. I was confident that I could pull if off but it just didn’t work out. This time, if I can stay No. 1 and do my job I think we’ve got a good chance.”

Behind Smith are fellow world champs Andrew Hines, Hector Arana, and Eddie Krawiec, who occupy spots 2 through 4. Hines was one of the few who improved on his second pass, guiding the Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley Davidson to a 6.941 to better his earlier 6.96. Hines ran that pass in a great all-six-second foursome with his fellow top-four qualifiers, who all ran sixes. Arana ran 6.942 to take the third spot with his Lucas Oil Buell while Krawiec, who was second after the first session with a 6.949 was not able to better that pass, slowing to a 6.97.

The Buells of Junior Pippin (6.957) and Gainesville runner-up Shawn Gann (6.958) are fifth and sixth with the Suzukis of Craig Treble and Karen Stoffer rounding out the top eight with respective passes of 6.991 and 6.992. Ten bikes qualified in the sixes.

Results Friday after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the Inaugural NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway, fourth of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel — 1. Cory McClenathan, 3.790 seconds, 315.93 mph; 2. Antron Brown, 3.819, 312.93; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.830, 315.49; 4. Doug Kalitta, 3.848, 314.97; 5. Larry Dixon, 3.850, 314.97; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.879, 307.30; 7. David Grubnic, 3.880, 304.25; 8. Morgan Lucas, 3.888, 309.13; 9. Shawn Langdon, 3.898, 302.96; 10. Doug Herbert, 3.911, 303.84; 11. Doug Foley, 3.912, 276.75; 12. Pat Dakin, 3.915, 308.28; 13. Terry McMillen, 3.954, 302.82; 14. Rhonda Hartman-Smith, 3.982, 307.02; 15. Brandon Bernstein, 7.622, 91.09; 16. Bobby Lagana Jr., 10.061, 84.14. Not Qualified: 17. Luigi Novelli, 12.038, 82.07.

Funny Car — 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.024, 314.24; 2. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.039, 310.34; 3. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.040, 310.48; 4. John Force, Mustang, 4.067, 310.77; 5. Ashley Force Hood, Mustang, 4.074, 308.99; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.088, 293.86; 7. Jeff Arend, Toyota Solara, 4.091, 306.12; 8. Melanie Troxel, Charger, 4.105, 304.19; 9. Cruz Pedregon, Solara, 4.110, 303.43; 10. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.179, 262.74; 11. Tony Pedregon, Chevy Impala, 4.229, 268.97; 12. Bob Gilbertson, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.723, 158.06; 13. Paul Lee, Chevy Impala SS, 7.251, 91.64; 14. Del Worsham, Solara, 7.631, 78.54; 15. Jeff Diehl, Monte Carlo, 8.256, 80.83; 16. Matt Hagan, Charger, 8.720, 77.18.

Pro Stock — 1. Jason Line, Pontiac GXP, 6.584, 210.50; 2. Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Cobalt, 6.586, 210.08; 3. Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.601, 209.85; 4. Bob Yonke, GXP, 6.601, 209.62; 5. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 6.621, 209.20; 6. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.622, 209.01; 7. Rickie Jones, GXP, 6.623, 208.55; 8. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.626, 208.91; 9. Allen Johnson, Avenger, 6.627, 208.97; 10. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.628, 210.18; 11. Steve Spiess, Cobalt, 6.631, 207.88; 12. Shane Gray, GXP, 6.635, 208.49; 13. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.638, 208.52; 14. Ron Krisher, Cobalt, 6.642, 208.17; 15. Ronnie Humphrey, GXP, 6.644, 210.31; 16. Johnny Gray, GXP, 6.664, 208.26. Not Qualified: 17. Warren Johnson, 6.676, 208.49; 18. Larry Morgan, 6.684, 206.80; 19. Jimmy Alund, 6.713, 206.29; 20. Bob Benza, 6.749, 206.70; 21. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.837, 204.29; 22. Wally Stroupe, 7.336, 166.72; 23. Vinnie Deceglie, 7.550, 135.74; 24. Erica Enders, 8.252, 118.13; 25. John Nobile, 12.642, 85.86; 26. Justin Humphreys, 13.429, 64.87.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.904, 193.16; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.941, 192.93; 3. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.942, 191.59; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.949, 195.34; 5. Junior Pippin, Buell, 6.957, 190.65; 6. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.958, 192.19; 7. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 6.991, 189.04; 8. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.992, 191.32; 9. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 6.993, 193.60; 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.999, 189.23; 11. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.005, 192.17; 12. LE Tonglet, Buell, 7.019, 190.92; 13. Douglas Horne, Buell, 7.025, 191.16; 14. David Hope, Buell, 7.034, 190.59; 15. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.056, 188.83; 16. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.064, 188.12. Not Qualified: 17. Darin McCurdy, 7.090, 189.60.

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Friday, March 26 2010
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