Action, Games Heat Up At Four-Wide Nationals

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 12 2014

Shawn Langdon and Brittany Force leave the line at ZMAX Dragway on Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

CONCORD, N.C. – Drag racers always play mind games with one another and when it comes to the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway the challenges faced in the staging area are doubled.

“I know a lot of people think you just get in the car, stand on the pedal and put the parachutes out, but there’s so much more that goes into it as far as doing a burnout the same every time, backing up and taking care of the clutch every time; pulling up and staging the car, making sure there is enough heat in the clutch to make sure it’s consistent to what the crew chief wants,” said Matt Hagan, last year’s Funny Car winner in the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. “You start throwing three other cars in there and it starts mixing up that variable. It’s tough enough to get two guys and gals with huge egos to stage much less four of us.”

Saturday’s 80-degree temperatures threw another variable into the equation. Several of the high-powered Top Fuel and Funny Cars had difficulty gaining grip on the concrete lanes and that translated into no change at the top in Saturday’s two qualifying sessions. Entering Saturday Shawn Langdon possessed low ET, 3.753, in Top Fuel and that was still the case at the end of the day.

The scenario was repeated in Funny Car, Ron Capps, 4.059; Pro Stock, Chris McGaha, 6.523; and Pro Stock Motorcycle, Michael Ray, 6.816. Top speeds went to: Top Fuel, Brittany Force, 325.61 mph; Funny Car, Courtney Force, 316.01 mph; Pro Stock, Erica Enders-Stevens, 213.13; and Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith, 198.32 mph.

Pro Stock point leader Enders-Stevens enters Sunday’s eliminations seeded second. In the first round, she goes against John Gaydosh, Allen Johnson and Shane Gray with the top two advancing. However, no matter who Enders-Stevens faces she notes her fellow competitors are a little more ruthless with the mind games than those in other classes.

“Pro Stock drivers are kinda known for playing around on the starting line,” Enders-Stevens said. “We have probably the most staging battles in all of professional drag racing. The Top Fuel guys are a little bit more courteous to one another because they can’t hang each other out because of turning their fuel pumps on and whatever their starting line procedure is.

“If you watch them run, every guy, crew chief that’s staging them will raise their hand when they’re ready for their driver to go in. Once all four hands are raised they walk off the starting line and that indicates to the drivers they can go ahead in. Pro Stock guys will roll up there and turn two bulbs on or hang somebody out, so it’s a lot different.

“In the nitro cars when everyone is staged you wait for the tree and you stab the gas. In Pro Stock, you’re all the way in on the clutch and you’re waiting for everybody’s stage bulb, the bottom bulbs, to be lit and then you’ve got to deck the throttle, which is controlled with the rev limiter. So we’re on the chip, so if you go on it too early you’re sitting there at 6,500 to 7,200 rpms wide open. You’ve really got to pay attention to what everybody else is doing.”

During the Four-Wide weekend, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competitors receive only one run in each lane because of the four qualifying sessions. Since the Sportsman competitors race traditionally, using only two lanes, they alternated throughout the weekend in an effort to keep the rubber fresh on all four lanes and create a more equal racing environment for the professional classes.

However, Capps noted there were little intricacies with each lane.

“The track is a little bit downhill, so when you’re backing up from the burnout … when you get close to the tree, that last couple of feet before he gives you the stop sign, the horizon disappears,” Capps said. “You’re on flat ground and then the track starts a little downhill after the Christmas Tree. The far right lane doesn’t seem to have that quite as much. The left lane seems like it’s more so. One lane will take you to the inside when you leave. Every lane has something a little bit different.”

Ultimately, though, knowing your fellow competitor’s idiosyncrasies is what can make the difference between a victory and disqualification.

Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the Fifth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway, the fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel — 1. Shawn Langdon, 3.753 seconds, 324.12 mph vs. 16. Terry McMillen, 5.591, 120.19 vs. 8. Steve Torrence, 3.818, 322.81 vs. 9. Spencer Massey, 3.827, 321.42; 2. J.R. Todd, 3.781, 325.06 vs. 15. Bob Vandergriff, 4.949, 145.08 vs.7. Doug Kalitta, 3.816, 322.42 vs. 10. Pat Dakin, 3.841, 313.15;; 3. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.793, 324.98 vs. 14. Sidnei Frigo, 4.481, 180.07 vs. 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.815, 321.73 vs. 11. Richie Crampton, 3.855, 305.22; 4. Antron Brown, 3.794, 320.89 vs. 13. Clay Millican, 3.904, 292.58; 5. Brittany Force, 3.800, 325.61 vs. 12. Leah Pritchett, 3.856, 318.77.

Funny Car — 1. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.059, 314.24 vs. 16. Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 4.381, 219.86 vs. 8. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.097, 300.80 vs. 9. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.113, 308.43; 2. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.074, 311.99 vs. 15. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.206, 286.80 vs. 7. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.088, 310.91 vs. 10. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.119, 303.84; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.079, 310.55 vs. 14. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.145, 306.05 vs. 6. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.086, 316.01 vs. 11. John Force, Mustang, 4.130, 304.39; 4. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.080, 311.70 vs. 13. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.136, 305.98 vs. 5. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.084, 312.06 vs. 12. Blake Alexander, Charger, 4.132, 302.62.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Dale Creasy Jr., 4.439, 259.41.

Pro Stock — 1. Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.523, 213.10 vs. 16. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 7.142, 196.30 vs. 8. Jimmy Alund, Camaro, 6.550, 212.39 vs. 9. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.560, 212.63; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.524, 213.13 vs. 15. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 7.093, 201.43 vs. 7. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.546, 212.49 vs. 10. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.564, 211.93; 3. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.531, 212.59 vs. 14. Justin Humphreys, Mustang, 6.676, 208.36 vs. 6. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.542, 212.73 vs. 11. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.577, 211.46; 4. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.534, 212.79 vs. 13. Robert Patrick, Mustang, 6.616, 209.43 vs. 5. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.538, 212.69 vs. 12. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.577, 211.06.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.816, 197.02 vs. 16. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.961, 190.83 vs. 8. Mike Berry, Buell, 6.873, 193.29 vs. 9. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.874, 195.31; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.825, 196.27 vs. 15. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.956, 194.46 vs. 7. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.873, 195.19 vs. 10. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.875, 194.02; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.842, 197.48 vs. 14. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.954, 193.99 vs. 6. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.856, 198.32 vs. 11. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.892, 195.59; 4. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.843, 197.91 vs. 13. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.915, 192.82 vs. 5. John Hall, Buell, 6.846, 196.07 vs. 12. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.900, 194.10.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Steve Johnson, 6.998, 191.08; 18. Elvira Karlsson, 7.007, 190.00; 19. Freddie Camarena, 7.030, 193.88; 20. Justin Finley, 7.096, 192.91; 21. Joe DeSantis, 7.164, 186.54; 22. Junior Pippin, 7.331, 186.23.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 12 2014
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