Brown, Johnson Still Swinging

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 29 2012

Antron Brown is two-thirds of the way to a Western Swing sweep. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

Top Fuel ace Antron Brown positioned himself to become the first NHRA driver to sweep the three-race Western Swing twice Sunday, when he outran teammate Spencer Massey to win the 25th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals.

Johnny Gray (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event near San Francisco.

Brown, who became one of seven drivers in NHRA history to sweep the Western Swing in 2009, outran Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey in the final to claim his third win at Sonoma, his fourth victory of the season and 35th of his career. Brown’s Matco Tools dragster produced a final round performance of 3.814-seconds at 318.02 mph to hold off Massey’s FRAM/Prestone dragster, which covered the 1,000-foot distance in 3.826-seconds at 323.50 mph.

“The car is just running phenomenal, it’s so easy to drive,” said Brown, who defeated Steve Torrence, teammate Tony Schumacher and Brandon Bernstein to advance to the final.

“The boys (crew chiefs Mark Oswald and Brian Corradi) made great decisions each and every round,” Brown said. “It’s one of those weekends that worked out. It was brutal for us given the (eliminations) ladder we had. We had to take it one round at a time. We kept our head down and kept digging. We aren’t going to talk about (sweeping the Western Swing). We can talk about sweeping if we get to the final round at Seattle next weekend. First we have to qualify. Then we have to get past first round. The competition is just that good.”

The series continues Aug. 3-5 with the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Pacific Raceways near Seattle, third and final leg of the Western Swing.

With a boost from qualifying bonus points, Massey and Brown moved into a tie for the series lead. They are 126 points in front of third-place Schumacher, the seven-time world champion.

“We’re just trying to shoot for it and win as many races as possible,” Brown said. “We want to go into the Countdown as the point leader and there’s an extra 20 points on the line if you can do that. That proved to be huge last year in the final race of the season. We are clawing for everything that we can get.”

NHRA’s Countdown is a six-race playoff featuring the top-10 in points in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

In Funny Car, Gray claimed his second victory of the season by defeating reigning world champ Matt Hagan in the final round. Gray posted a winning 1,000-foot effort of 4.142-seconds at 305.15 mph in his Service Central Dodge Charger, while Hagan trailed with a 5.461-second pass at 146.67 mph in his Aaron’s/Mopar Charger.

“We had a great race car all weekend,” Gray said. “We struggled a little in qualifying, but I have a great crew and crew chief and they gave me a great race car today.”

Gray won from the No. 6 qualifying position, beating Tim Wilkerson, Gary Densham and Denver winner Jack Beckman en route to his third final round of the season. With the win he remained in fifth place, but now trails fourth-place Mike Neff by 18 points. Gray is 62 points out of third.

“I’d like to move up a little bit more and earn a few more points to start the Countdown with,” said Gray, who failed to make the Countdown last season.

Johnson raced to his fourth Pro Stock win of the season, beating four-time world champion Greg Anderson in the final. Johnson, who will join Brown in a quest to sweep the Western Swing in Seattle next week, won from the top qualifying position with a final-round quarter-mile effort of 6.542-seconds at 211.76 mph in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. Johnson overcame a near -perfect reaction time from Anderson, who trailed at 6.573-seconds at 210.93 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro.

“We’ve got an awesome race car and a great team making decisions,” Johnson said. “It’s a sweet feeling knowing every time you go up there you are going to be the fastest car. You just have to be consistent as a driver. I was able to do that today and hopefully I can carry that on into Seattle.”

Johnson used a consistent string of low 6.50s to beat early-round opponents Matt Hartford, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Jason Line. He also had the quicker reaction time in each round except the final. “We’re learning how to win, round-by-round-by-round,” Johnson said. “And we’re taking it one round at a time.”

Johnson, who increased his series lead to 54 points over Anderson, feels confident that he can become the eighth driver to sweep the Swing and only the second Pro Stocker to accomplish the feat, joining Anderson (2004).

“I can’t imagine winning two in a row and we’ve done it with earning maximum points,” Johnson said. “Every round of qualifying and eliminations we had the quickest car. It’s mind-boggling to me. We are getting in the championship mindset. I’ve never thought of myself as the best out here. So I have to start thinking that way and get my confidence up so we can get ready for the Countdown.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, top qualifier Krawiec raced to his fifth victory of the season and second in a row, once again beating teammate Andrew Hines in the final round. In a battle between Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rods, Krawiec raced to a final-round quarter-mile performance of 6.809-seconds at 197.74 mph to drive around the quicker-reacting Hines, who trailed with a 6.839-second pass at 196.27 mph.

To advance to the final, Krawiec defeated Angie Smith, John Hall and Hector Arana Sr. Krawiec’s bike posted low E.T. of the weekend in the first round win with a 6.785. He then ran low 6.80s in the final three round wins.

“You can’t make mistakes out here,” said Krawiec, the two-time and reigning champion. “We’re focusing on round wins. You get enough of them and that will equal race wins and then enough of those will win championships. I just want to see win lights.”

The victory was the eighth of the season for the Harley-Davidson factory team and continues its domination dating back to last season. Hines advanced to his fourth consecutive final round appearance. The two riders are 1-2 in the series standings and pulling away from the pack.

“Hopefully we don’t peak before the Countdown,” Krawiec said. “We can dominate and be the team for the first 10 races, but we could fizzle-out for the final six, and the end result is you don’t win the championship. Our main goal is to stay on top of our program and do the best we can.”

Final finish order (1-16) at the 25th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Raceway at Sonoma. The race is the 14th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _ 1. Antron Brown; 2. Spencer Massey; 3. Doug Kalitta; 4. Brandon Bernstein; 5.Clay Millican; 6. Shawn Langdon; 7. Tony Schumacher; 8. David Grubnic; 9. Steve Torrence; 10. Bob Vandergriff Jr.; 11. Mike Strasburg; 12. Terry McMillen; 13. Mike Salinas; 14. Morgan Lucas; 15. Khalid alBalooshi; 16. Scott Palmer.

Funny Car _ 1. Johnny Gray; 2. Matt Hagan; 3. Jack Beckman; 4. Cruz Pedregon; 5. Robert Hight; 6. Gary Densham; 7. Jeff Arend; 8. Alexis DeJoria; 9. Courtney Force; 10. John Force; 11. Jeff Diehl; 12. Mike Neff; 13. Tim Wilkerson; 14. Ron Capps; 15. Dale Creasy Jr.; 16. Bob Tasca III.

Pro Stock _1. Allen Johnson; 2. Greg Anderson; 3. Jason Line; 4. Mike Edwards; 5. Vincent Nobile; 6. Erica Enders; 7. Larry Morgan; 8. Jeg Coughlin Jr.; 9. Warren Johnson; 10. Shane Gray; 11. V. Gaines; 12. Matt Hartford; 13. JR Carr; 14. Gordie Rivera; 15. Kurt Johnson; 16. Ron Krisher.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Eddie Krawiec; 2. Andrew Hines; 3. Hector Arana; 4. Hector Arana Jr.; 5. Karen Stoffer; 6. John Hall; 7. Scotty Pollacheck; 8. Shawn Gann; 9. Angie Smith; 10. Jerry Savoie; 11. Michael Ray; 12. Steve Johnson; 13. Katie Sullivan; 14. Matt Guidera; 15. Matt Smith; 16. Michael Phillips.

Sunday’s final results from the 25th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Raceway at Sonoma:

Top Fuel _ Antron Brown, 3.814-seconds, 318.02 mph, def. Spencer Massey, 3.826-seconds, 323.50 mph.

Funny Car _ Johnny Gray, Dodge Charger, 4.142, 305.15, def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 5.461, 146.67.

Pro Stock _ Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.542, 211.76, def. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.573, 210.93.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.809, 197.74, def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.839, 196.27.

Super Stock _ Justin Lamb, Chevy Cobalt, 8.586, 154.32, def. Dave Raybourn, Dodge Dart, 8.589, 154.14.

Stock Eliminator _ Tommy Gaynor, Camaro, 10.863, 109.19, def. Dave Bridgewater, Camaro, 10.505, 123.01.

Top Dragster _ Bobby Ray McMahan, Dragster, 6.553, 206.76, def. Val Torres Jr., Dragster, 6.648, 202.21.

Top Sportsman _ Ed Olpin, Camaro, 7.575, 181.11, def. Todd Stewart, Cobalt, 7.097, 186.20.

Super Comp _ Aaron Kinard, Dragster, 8.952, 164.75, def. Justin Morgan, Dragster, 8.894, 173.09.

Super Gas _ Rob Willis, Pontiac Firebird, 9.958, 148.97, def. Ronnie Lahn, Chevy Cavalier, foul.

Final round-by-round results from the 25th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Raceway at Sonoma:


ROUND ONE _ Brandon Bernstein, 3.809, 322.65 def. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.890, 306.12; Shawn Langdon, 3.780, 323.97 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 4.489, 190.00; Antron Brown, 3.782, 322.88 def. Steve Torrence, foul; David Grubnic, 3.814, 317.79 def. Mike Strasburg, 3.935, 312.28; Doug Kalitta, 3.811, 323.97 def. Scott Palmer, 5.789, 120.58; Tony Schumacher, 3.792, 323.74 def. Mike Salinas, 4.001, 248.75; Spencer Massey, 3.777, 328.62 def. Terry McMillen, 3.991, 294.82; Clay Millican, 4.053, 310.55 def. Morgan Lucas, 4.072, 284.27;

QUARTERFINALS _ Bernstein, 3.849, 320.05 def. Grubnic, 6.947, 84.80; Kalitta, 3.825, 323.89 def. Millican, 3.865, 318.77; Brown, 3.825, 321.12 def. Schumacher, 4.465, 192.60; Massey, 3.804, 326.40 def. Langdon, 4.414, 190.92;

SEMIFINALS _ Brown, 3.817, 320.36 def. Bernstein, 5.126, 142.03; Massey, 3.802, 324.12 def. Kalitta, 4.161, 239.70;

FINAL _ Brown, 3.814, 318.02 def. Massey, 3.826, 323.50.


ROUND ONE _ Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.060, 309.56 def. Jeff Diehl, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.383, 274.55; Gary Densham, Dodge Charger, 4.486, 248.16 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 5.118, 162.80; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.323, 235.47 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Chevy Impala, 5.514, 128.87; Jeff Arend, Camry, 4.110, 312.21 def. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.188, 306.67; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.105, 308.28 def. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.164, 293.22; Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.075, 313.00 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 5.103, 146.81; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.132, 306.74 def. Mike Neff, Mustang, 5.027, 154.94; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.093, 309.34 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 5.625, 129.29;

QUARTERFINALS _ Beckman, 4.972, 214.38 def. DeJoria, 5.214, 168.49; C. Pedregon, 4.110, 305.22 def. Hight, 4.150, 306.19; Gray, 4.115, 303.91 def. Densham, 4.574, 198.93; Hagan, 4.924, 195.03 def. Arend, 5.107, 192.36;

SEMIFINALS _ Gray, 4.092, 307.16 def. Beckman, 4.118, 304.19; Hagan, 4.231, 291.32 def. C. Pedregon, 4.293, 233.84;

FINAL _ Gray, 4.142, 305.15 def. Hagan, 5.461, 146.67.


ROUND ONE _ Jeg Coughlin Jr., Dodge Avenger, 6.585, 211.46 def. Warren Johnson, Pontiac GXP, 6.553, 210.87; Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.565, 210.47 def. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.569, 210.50; Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.537, 212.29 def. Ron Krisher, GXP, 8.137, 121.79; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.526, 212.13 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.565, 210.87; Erica Enders, Chevy Cobalt, 6.512, 211.56 def. JR Carr, Mustang, 6.622, 203.28; Allen Johnson, Avenger, 6.524, 212.13 def. Matt Hartford, Avenger, 6.594, 210.18; Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.533, 212.06 def. Gordie Rivera, GXP, 6.692, 207.11; Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.529, 211.53 def. Kurt Johnson, GXP, foul;

QUARTERFINALS _ Edwards, 6.587, 211.89 def. Morgan, 8.266, 116.74; Line, 6.534, 211.76 def. Nobile, 6.537, 211.43; A. Johnson, 6.517, 212.46 def. Coughlin, 26.729, 81.78; Anderson, 6.553, 212.23 def. Enders, foul;

SEMIFINALS _ Anderson, 6.572, 211.06 def. Edwards, foul; A. Johnson, 6.532, 212.19 def. Line, 6.535, 212.03;

FINAL _ A. Johnson, 6.542, 211.76 def. Anderson, 6.573, 210.93.


ROUND ONE _ John Hall, Buell, 6.870, 192.19 def. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.942, 191.87; Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.875, 191.02 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.932, 193.10; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.827, 194.30 def. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, foul; Hector Arana Sr., Buell, 6.803, 195.05 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.942, 194.02; Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.812, 194.60 def. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.947, 191.38; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.793, 196.16 def. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.003, 191.24; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.785, 198.32 def. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.896, 191.92; Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.702, 183.57 def. Matt Smith, Buell, 10.351, 97.38;

QUARTERFINALS _ Arana Jr., 6.815, 194.91 def. Gann, 6.959, 193.74; Arana Sr., 6.814, 195.00 def. Stoffer, 6.889, 194.41; Hines, 6.797, 196.99 def. Pollacheck, 6.916, 191.89; Krawiec, 6.803, 197.88 def. Hall, 6.904, 192.25;

SEMIFINALS _Krawiec, 6.812, 197.80 def. Arana Sr., 6.850, 196.44; Hines, 6.842, 196.73 def. Arana Jr., foul;

FINAL _ Krawiec, 6.809, 197.74 def. Hines, 6.839, 196.27.

Point standings (top 10) following the 25th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Raceway at Sonoma, the 14th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. *-Clinched berth in NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs:

Top Fuel _ 1. (tie) Antron Brown, 1,174*; Spencer Massey, 1,174*; 3. Tony Schumacher, 1,048*; 4. Steve Torrence, 984; 5. Doug Kalitta, 828; 6. Morgan Lucas, 796; 7. Shawn Langdon, 741; 8. Brandon Bernstein, 734; 9. David Grubnic, 684; 10. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 601.

Funny Car _ 1. Robert Hight, 1,112*; 2. Ron Capps, 1,031*; 3. Jack Beckman, 943; 4. Mike Neff, 899; 5. Johnny Gray, 881; 6. Cruz Pedregon, 761; 7. Courtney Force, 740; 8. Jeff Arend, 717; 9. Bob Tasca III, 687; 10. John Force, 674.

Pro Stock _ 1. Allen Johnson, 1,234*; 2. Greg Anderson, 1,180*; 3. Jason Line, 1,149*; 4. Mike Edwards, 974*; 5. Vincent Nobile, 940*; 6. Erica Enders, 823; 7. Shane Gray, 560; 8. Ronnie Humphrey, 550; 9. Ron Krisher, 527; 10. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 518.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Eddie Krawiec, 842*; 2. Andrew Hines, 774*; 3. Hector Arana Jr., 655*; 4. Hector Arana Sr., 587*; 5. Karen Stoffer, 450; 6. Michael Ray, 387; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 381; 8. LE Tonglet, 378; 9. Matt Smith, 342; 10. Shawn Gann, 336.

Six drivers clinched Countdown playoff berths as the result of racing at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, bringing the number of drivers who were able to secure their invitations to the Countdown to the Championship playoffs to 13.

Top Fuel racers Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher, along with Funny Car driver Ron Capps, and Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Hector Arana Jr. all locked up their positions prior to the start of Sunday’s final eliminations.

On Sunday, Pro Stock racer Mike Edwards clinched by advancing to round two and Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Hector Arana Sr. clinched by advancing to the semifinals.

The NHRA Full Throttle regular season concludes Labor Day weekend at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus. A six-race playoff series will lead to the crowning of the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series champs.


Top Fuel

1. Spencer Massey

2. Antron Brown

3. Tony Schumacher

Funny Car

1. Robert Hight

2. Ron Capps

Pro Stock

1. Greg Anderson

2. Jason Line

3. Allen Johnson

4. Mike Edwards

Pro Stock Motorcycle

1. Eddie Krawiec

2. Andrew Hines

3. Hector Arana Jr.

4. Hector Arana Sr.

(This story will be updated shortly)

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 29 2012
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