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Dixon Races To P1, Gets Lost At Gateway

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, September 26 2015
Larry Dixon had the top Top Fuel run Friday at the Midwest Nationals near St. Louis.

Larry Dixon had the top Top Fuel run Friday at the Midwest Nationals near St. Louis.

Three-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion Larry Dixon raced into the qualifying lead – and then needed directions to find the media center – during Friday’s opening day of time trials for the fourth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals in Madison, Ill.

Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis, the 20th of 24 events in the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. The event is the second of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.

Dixon pushed his C&J Energy Services dragster to a 1,000-foot performance of 3.756-seconds at 328.06 mph to reset the track speed record and earn the provisional lead. Dixon has five runnerup finishes this season and currently is third in the playoff point standings.

“It was the best run of the day, so great job by (crew chief) Mike Guger and the team,” Dixon said. “I’ve lost championships by two points before, so I’ll take three today. It’s kind of funny – not funny – but this is the first time I’ve ever been in this press room. I had to ask for directions to get here. I love racing here but don’t have any hardware or No. 1 qualifiers from this track. This is the first time I’ve been here in three years, so I’m grateful to be here wearing a fire suit.”

J.R. Todd, runnerup last weekend in the playoff opener at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., powered his Jimi Hendrix Foundation dragster into the second spot with a 3.776-second pass at 326.87 mph. Doug Kalitta sits third with a 3.777-second run at 322.42 mph in his Mac Tools dragster while Antron Brown, who has won this event three years in a row, sits fourth.

In Funny Car, Beckman posted a 1,000-foot pass in 3.946-seconds at 323.43 mph at the controls of his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T to earn the qualifying lead. Beckman has a category-best six victories this season along with five poles. Beckman, who won at St. Louis in 2012 en route to his first world championship, is third in points after entering the Countdown last weekend in the top spot.

“We couldn’t back our car down enough in Charlotte, but now we’re in the best conditions we’ve been in since Brainerd,” said Beckman, referring to the Minnesota facility. “I think this comes back into our wheelhouse. If the forecast is accurate, that’s not going to hold for low E.T. tomorrow.”

Del Worsham pushed his DHL Toyota Camry into the second spot at 3.959-seconds and 319.90 mph. Worsham took over the point lead last weekend by racing to his first victory of the season. Tommy Johnson Jr. is in the provisional third spot at 3.963-seconds and 319.22 mph in his Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T and is followed by Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan and 16-time world champion John Force.

Anderson, a four-time world champ, sprinted to the provisional No. 1 spot in Pro Stock with a track record quarter-mile pass in 6.492-seconds at 213.20 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro. Anderson, who won at Gateway Motorsports Park in 2004, sits second in points with four wins in seven final round appearances this season. He has 78 career poles and is chasing his fourth of 2015.

“Today was a great day,” Anderson said. “This is a great racetrack. It seems to be right up the Pro Stock alley. We like to test here and we really run good at this track. If this holds, it will be my third (No. 1) in a row. Our crew is doing a fantastic job with the car. It’s a dream to drive. It’s almost silly how good it is. I’m having a ball, but I have to parlay that into some round-wins. We’ve been dropping the ball on Sunday, and I can’t let that keep happening.”

Pro Stock newcomer Drew Skillman sits second at 6.510-seconds and 212.23 mph in his Ray Skillman Camaro. Skillman’s teammate, reigning Pro Stock world champion and two-time event winner Erica Enders, powered her Elite Motorsports Camaro into the provisional third spot at 6.511-seconds and 212.43 mph. Jonathan Gray sits fourth and is followed by Bo Butner and Chris McGaha.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Savoie grabbed the qualifying lead with a quarter-mile blast in 6.832-seconds at 196.50 mph aboard his Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki. Savoie, who raced to his first career victory at this event one year ago, sits third in points with two wins this season. The Louisiana alligator farmer is two sessions away from his second career pole.

“All week I said that whatever you leave Charlotte with is what you’re going to have coming in here, and we have some good momentum,” Savoie said. “I’ve found that on these bikes, the fastest passes are the smoothest. After our first run, I told (crew chief) Tim Kulungian that we had more left because the bike was not graceful. On the second run, I hit third gear and I said to myself, ‘Boys, we’ve got us a motorcycle now.’^”

Karen Stoffer sits second at 6.885-seconds and 194.21 mph aboard her Big St. Charles Motorsports/Suzuki Extended Protection Suzuki. Stoffer, sixth in the point standing, has two wins this season. Four-time/reigning world champion Andrew Hines is third after two sessions with a 6.895-second pass at 193.16 mph.

Brown (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) and Savoie (PSM) are the defending event winners.

Qualifying resumes Saturday at 1:45 p.m. with the final two sessions to set the fields for Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations. ESPN2 will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage Sunday at 3 a.m. (EDT) and re-air one hour of qualifying at 2 p.m. The network will televise three hours and 30 minutes of elimination coverage Sunday starting at 8:30 p.m. (EDT).

Alan Johnson Racing team-owner Alan Johnson has begun working with Steve Torrence Racing as a consultant for the remaining five races of the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. When the 2015 season ends in November, Johnson’s consultancy will be complete.

Johnson became available last week when AJR announced it did not have sufficient sponsorship to complete the 2015 season. The team’s sponsorship search is ongoing and Johnson plans to resume operation in 2016.

In the interim, Johnson is working directly with crew chief Richard Hogan in an effort to enhance the Torrence team’s performance. Steve Torrence, ninth in the Top Fuel point standings, stood ninth after two rounds of qualifying for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals in Madison, Ill., at 3.837-seconds and 319.45 mph.

“I’m looking forward to working with Richard Hogan and the team he’s assembled,” Johnson said in a statement. “Steve Torrence Racing is a great customer of AJPE (Alan Johnson Performance Engineering), and I think we can work together to get the Capco Contractors dragster back into the winner’s circle and make a run at the Mello Yello championship.

“Our arrangement only covers the last five races because Alan Johnson Racing is still actively pursuing sponsorship so we can resume operation in 2016. For this year, though, I appreciate the confidence Billy and Steve have in AJPE and me, and I hope we can do great things in the time we have together.”

Alan Johnson Racing driver Shawn Langdon currently is “on loan” to Don Schumacher Racing as driver of the Red Fuel Powered by Schumacher/Sandvik Coromant Top Fuel dragster for the 2015 Countdown. Like Johnson’s consultancy, when the 2015 season concludes, Langdon will resume his duties at Alan Johnson Racing.

Friday’s qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the fourth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park, 20th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel _ 1. Larry Dixon, 3.756-seconds, 328.06 mph; 2. J.R. Todd, 3.776, 326.87; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.777, 322.42; 4. Antron Brown, 3.792, 321.50; 5. Brittany Force, 3.794, 324.28; 6. Shawn Langdon, 3.802, 324.83; 7. Tony Schumacher, 3.825, 320.13; 8. Wayne Newby, 3.832, 308.85; 9. Steve Torrence, 3.837, 319.45; 10. Dave Connolly, 3.843, 321.04; 11. Troy Buff, 3.866, 312.64; 12. Clay Millican, 3.903, 316.30.

Not Qualified _ 13. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.913, 309.13; 14. Terry McMillen, 3.966, 309.27; 15. Billy Torrence, 4.013, 238.60; 16. Luigi Novelli, 4.111, 283.73; 17. Richie Crampton, 4.634, 163.55; 18. Jenna Haddock, 8.344, 84.21.

Funny Car _ 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.946, 323.43; 2. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.959, 319.90; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.963, 319.22; 4. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.970, 323.66; 5. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.985, 322.42; 6. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.994, 313.22; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.998, 318.02; 8. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.047, 308.50; 9. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.053, 305.22; 10. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.058, 307.37; 11. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.073, 305.91; 12. John Hale, Charger, 4.095, 305.63.

Not Qualified _ 13. Chad Head, 4.154, 294.88; 14. Brian Stewart, 4.162, 293.03; 15. Tony Pedregon, 4.184, 290.44; 16. Dale Creasy Jr., 4.238, 295.92; 17. John Bojec, 7.144, 92.59.

Pro Stock _ 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.492, 213.27; 2. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.510, 212.43; 3. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.511, 212.90; 4. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.514, 212.19; 5. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.521, 212.83; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.522, 211.83; 7. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.527, 212.86; 8. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.528, 211.99; 9. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.534, 211.73; 10. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.545, 211.46; 11. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.548, 212.39; 12. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.574, 209.82.

Not Qualified _ 13. V. Gaines, 6.586, 211.20; 14. Aaron Strong, 6.592, 209.10; 15. Alex Laughlin, 6.629, 210.50; 16. Steve Schmidt, 6.677, 205.94; 17. Mark Hogan, 6.711, 206.32; 18. Dave River, 6.814, 203.06.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.832, 196.50; 2. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.885, 194.80; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.895, 193.16; 4. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.902, 194.35; 5. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.903, 194.16; 6. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.926, 195.48; 7. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.935, 193.07; 8. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.936, 194.35; 9. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.952, 193.68; 10. Mike Berry, Buell, 6.953, 191.54; 11. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.955, 193.05; 12. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.987, 192.55.

Not Qualified _ 13. Brian Pretzel, 6.991, 191.67; 14. Scotty Pollacheck, 7.011, 190.54; 15. Chaz Kennedy, 7.063, 189.18; 16. Angie Smith, 9.097, 94.46.

 

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, September 26 2015
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