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Track Records Fall In Rainy Houston

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, April 25 2015

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“Fast” Jack Beckman posted Royal Purple Raceway’s first three-second Funny Car run to close a record-setting qualifying session and take the provisional class lead Friday during the 28th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals.

Spencer Massey (Top Fuel) and Shane Gray (Pro Stock) also emerged as first-day qualifying leaders at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in Baytown, Texas, near Houston.

Beckman stopped the timers at 1,000-feet with a track record elapsed time of 3.988-seconds at 318.17 mph in his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T. Beckman has 10 poles in his career but hasn’t been at the top of a qualifying order since August 2013, a span of 36 races.

Despite short rain delays during the afternoon and early evening, Beckman urged fans to wait-out the weather knowing the cooler evening air would brew something special.

“I told everyone to stick around and we made it worthwhile,” said Beckman, the 2012 NHRA Funny Car world champion with Don Schumacher Racing. “I remember at Indy last year after we hauled butt Saturday night and the forecast was hot-and-nasty for Sunday and there wasn’t any chance of anyone getting around us. And then Sunday was overcast and cool and (teammate) Matt Hagan took the spot.

“I’m not counting anything until this deal is over. The thing I like better is the three (qualifying bonus) points because we’re 10th in points and that’s going to help us out.”

Beckman, who ended a lengthy victory drought last month during the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., said his Charger hooked-up with crew chief Jimmy Prock’s tune-up in the cool conditions.

“It felt like the car started moving right and you don’t want to yank the steering wheel and upset the balance and smoke the tires, and I’m trying to nurse the thing back,” Beckman said. “In three or four tenths of a second it’s stunning what goes through your mind. You’re like, ‘Please hold on, please hold on.’ The thing put me back in the trunk and I thought we were going to move way up; I didn’t think it was a three-second run.”

Del Worsham of Kalitta Motorsports drove his DHL Toyota Camry to the second spot with a 4.023-second pass at 314.97 mph. Ron Capps _ Beckman’s DSR teammate _ was third with a 4.038-second run at 319.67 mph in the NAPA Auto Parts Charger.

In Top Fuel, DSR’s Massey set both ends of the track record, taking the top spot with a 1,000-foot performance of 3.734-seconds at 330.07 mph in his Red Fuel dragster.

“It was an amazing run,” said Massey, a native and resident of Fort Worth. “It gets tricky out here when it gets hot-and-sticky. I stood on it and it was straight as an arrow. It was dark but when you can see header flames that means it’s going to be a good run. It proves there’s good numbers at night. It’s our first night session of the season and Todd Okuhara (crew chief) knows how to turn the knobs on it and it did exactly what it was supposed to do.”

Massey, who refers to Billy Meyer’s Texas Motorplex in Ennis as his second home, said running well at any race in the Lone Star State is a huge motivation.

“I’ve never been No. 1 in my home state and I’ve never won here or in Dallas either and that’s huge on my bucket list,” said Massey, who has seven poles in his career, but none since June 2013. “I’m one step closer to being No. 1 qualifier (at a Texas event).”

Eight-time/reigning world champ Tony Schumacher of DSR qualified second in his U.S. Army dragster, posting numbers of 3.754-seconds at 326.24 mph. Richie Crampton, winner of the Summitracing.com NHRA Nationals at Las Vegas on April 12, sits third with a 3.758-second pass at 323.66 mph in the Lucas Oil dragster fielded by Morgan Lucas.

Gray, the 2013 runnerup at this event, led Pro Stock with a track record quarter-mile ET of 6.536-seconds at 211.43 mph in his Gray Motorsports Chevy Camaro. Gray moved from 11th to first in the qualifying order after tweaking on his hot rod between sessions.

“We changed motors and put some gear to it, that’s about all we did,” Gray deadpanned. “We had kind of an experimental motor in the car for the first run. It still needs some work. The race engine we put in it for the second session surprised all of us. These Pro Stock cars are very finicky, so we’ll see if we can get (two more) good runs up-and-down the racetrack (Saturday) with the combination we have and then go into race day and take it one round at a time.”

Gray has returned to the seat of the team’s ‘black car’, one in which he has enjoyed previous success. The black Camaro was driven by Gray’s brother, Jonathan, in the season’s first five races. After the recent national event in Las Vegas, the team opted to swap cars. Jonathan Gray drove the white Camaro to a second-round Friday pass of 6.614-seconds at 209.49 mph and currently sits at No. 12.

“I just jumped in this black car and it took off, for whatever reason, we haven’t figured that one out yet,” Shane Gray said. “Me and that car, we go a long ways back. I’m glad to be back in it.”

Jason Line, a two-time Pro Stock world champion, is second with a 6.549-second pass at 211.59 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro. Teammate Greg Anderson, a four-time world champion, sits third in his Summit Camaro at 6.559-seconds and 211.23 mph.

Reigning world champion and local favorite Erica Enders-Stevens, a Houston native and defending winner of the event, sits fourth overall at 6.563-seconds and 211.33 in her Lupe Tortilla/Elite Motorsports Camaro. Enders-Stevens scored her 13th career victory and first of the season on a hole shot start against Vincent Nobile in the final at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Final qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1 and 4 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. Championship eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday.ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage Saturday at 5 p.m. (EDT). The network will carry three hours of live eliminations Sunday at 2 p.m. (EDT).

Friday’s provisional qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 28th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas, sixth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel _ 1. Spencer Massey, 3.734-seconds, 330.07 mph; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.754, 326.24; 3. Richie Crampton, 3.758, 323.66; 4. Doug Kalitta, 3.760, 324.12; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.760, 320.81; 6. Brittany Force, 3.779, 324.44; 7. J.R. Todd, 3.780, 321.27; 8. Antron Brown, 3.782, 314.02; 9. Steve Torrence, 3.783, 325.37; 10. Larry Dixon, 3.786, 328.46; 11. Leah Pritchett, 3.811, 318.84; 12. Dave Connolly, 3.815, 319.22.

Not Qualified _ 13. Kebin Kinsley, 3.853, 301.87; 14. Clay Millican, 3.871, 309.34; 15. Jenna Haddock, 4.134, 246.57; 16. Troy Buff, 4.801, 156.35; 17. Terry McMillen, 6.652, 105.18.

Funny Car _ 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.988, 318.17; 2. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.023, 314.97; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.038, 319.67; 4. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.041, 310.77; 5. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.041, 308.78; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.051, 314.61; 7. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.058, 317.05; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.064, 310.05; 9. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.125, 299.53; 10. Bob Bode, Camry, 4.163, 279.38; 11. John Hale, Charger, 4.169, 306.12; 12. John Force, Camaro, 4.334, 308.78.

Not Qualified _ 13. Todd Simpson, 5.353, 137.92; 14. Courtney Force, 5.913, 183.10; 15. Terry Haddock, 6.788, 86.48; 16. Chad Head, 7.887, 72.92; 17. Cruz Pedregon, 8.285, 85.54.

Pro Stock _ 1. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.536, 211.43; 2. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.549, 211.59; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.559, 211.23; 4. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.563, 211.33; 5. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.568, 210.90; 6. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.573, 211.13; 7. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.574, 210.34; 8. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.576, 210.60; 9. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.594, 210.90; 10. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.594, 209.95; 11. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.598, 210.47; 12. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.614, 209.49.

Not Qualified _ 13. Richard Freeman, 6.628, 208.94; 14. Richie Stevens, 6.629, 209.39; 15. Deric Kramer, 6.647, 209.39; 16. Jimmy Alund, 6.649, 209.79.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, April 25 2015
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