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Brown, Enders Crowned Champs

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 2 2015

nhra logoBy John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Antron Brown and Erica Enders joined the elite list of multiple NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series champions Sunday during the 15th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Brown claimed his second Top Fuel world championship when he advanced one round farther than rival and teammate Tony Schumacher during eliminations. And Enders secured her second straight Pro Stock world championship when she won in the quarterfinals and rival Greg Anderson lost in the same round. Enders then raced to the event victory, her ninth of the season and fourth in a row at LVMS.

Meanwhile, Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) joined Enders as event winners at the penultimate playoff event in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

Brown, who won his first Top Fuel world title in 2012, remains the only African-American to win a major U.S. auto racing championship. He opened the playoffs with three consecutive wins to put his Don Schumacher Racing team in position to clinch with one race remaining. Brown nearly claimed his eighth victory of the season at Vegas, losing a photo-finish to Kalitta in the semifinals.

“We were greedy. We really wanted to have the Toyota Wally (trophy) next to that big Wally, but, hey, we’ll take the big one any day,” said Brown, whose Matco Tools team pocketed $500,000 for the championship. “I just lost a race to Doug Kalitta by five-ten-thousandths of a second. It’s probably the closest race of all year. That’s how competitive this class has gotten, and that’s what makes this so big and makes it worth it when you can go out there and win a championship like our team has.”

Brown won the 2012 title by seven points over Schumacher, the eight-time world champ. Brown’s team, led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald with assistant Brad Mason, clinched Sunday in the second round when they won and Schumacher and Richie Crampton lost in the same round.

“When we got to Vegas the door was open and it feels good to shut the door on this 2015 season and get it over with,” said Brown, winner of a career-best seven national events this year with one to go. “It’s just so awesome to get it done and not be a nail-biter. This is the best story we have in our whole career. I couldn’t be prouder and happier to do it with the guys on this Matco Tools/U.S. Army/Toyota team. Just incredible.

“We just feel really blessed to do it and to do it with my wife (Billie Jo) here. She was supposed to stay home (in Pittsboro, Ind.) and go trick-or-treating with our kids but she came with daddy. That’s a big thing to pull mom away from the kids.”

In addition, the championship is the 14th for DSR. “The next one is always sweeter,” said Brown, 39, who competed in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category from 1998-2007. “The first is always great but the second one is greater.”

Brown needed to leave Las Vegas with a 151-point lead to clinch; he will roll into in Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., in two weeks (Nov. 12-15) for the Auto Club NHRA Finals with a 162-point advantage over “The Sarge.”

Enders joined Angelle Sampey as the only women in NHRA history who have successfully defended a world championship. Sampey won three consecutive Pro Stock Motorcycle crowns from 2000-2002.

Enders claimed her fourth consecutive victory at LVMS and 21st of her career by outrunning rookie Bo Butner in the final. Enders’ Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro posted a quarter-mile time of 6.595-seconds at 208.97 mph to finish in front of Butner’s Speed Dawg Shift Knobs Camaro, which trailed with a 6.610-second pass at 209.33 mph.

“My guys are so incredible,” said Enders, who earned $250,000 for the championship and another $50,000 for taking the event victory. “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you get the right people around you. To do it in front of all my sponsors and family here this weekend is incredible. To cap off a second world championship here at Vegas is just crazy.”

Enders is the 33rd driver in NHRA history to win multiple championships and the ninth in Pro Stock. She’s also the first back-to-back champion in NHRA since 2011-12, when Eddie Krawiec won the Pro Stock Motorcycle title for Harley-Davidson. Enders also is the first to win consecutive Pro Stock titles since Jeg Coughlin Jr. accomplished the feat in 2007-08.

“Vegas has always been really good to me, and it’s nice to keep our streak going with now 22 consecutive round-wins,” Enders said. “It’s mind-boggling.

“We came into the weekend and everyone was talking about the championship _ what we have to do, crunching points and all that. My crew chiefs (Rick and Rickie Jones, Mark Ingersoll, and Brian Self) and I decided we weren’t going to talk about that and just take things one round at a time. Our goal was to make it 22 (in a row). It’s an incredible thing to accomplish. The streak we have here is incredible. I’m excited to be part of such a great group like Elite Motorsports.”

Enders has won the last four national events and the last two K&N Horsepower Challenge races in Las Vegas. Her 20th consecutive round-win clinched the championship. Four-time world champ Anderson, Chris McGaha and Elite teammate Drew Skillman were the only Pro Stock drivers with a chance to extend the point battle to the season-finale in Pomona.  But Anderson lost to Vincent Nobile _ Enders’ teammate _ and McGaha fell to Butner.

So when Enders knocked out Shane Gray with a round-low pass of 6.596-seconds at 209.39 mph, the championship was locked up.

“After watching my teammate Vincent beat Greg second round, I got excited, of course, because I knew what could happen,” said Enders, a 32-year-old native of Houston. “Then I thought, ‘We have to win this round.’ I fire the car, pull into the waterbox and all my guys are jumping around, clapping, and I’m just trying to get my composure and get my heart-rate down.”

Enders beat rookie Skillman in the semifinals when Skillman left 0.004-seconds too soon, setting up a final-round match with Butner. “I knew it was going to be a tough race against a drive like Bo, who I know is hungry for his first win,” Enders said. Erica has won 15 of the last 45 races she’s entered with the Richard Freeman-owned Elite team.

“Finally I feel like I’m home with this group of guys,” Enders said. “I couldn’t have dreamed up a better crew. We truly get along, we have such great chemistry, and most importantly we have fun together. That’s why we’re so successful on the racetrack. Horsepower doesn’t hurt, but we don’t have the biggest budget. We get it done because of the people. It’s been a long road, but I’m glad to be where I’m at. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”

Kalitta took his third win of the season by outrunning three-time world champion Larry Dixon’s C&J Energy Services dragster in the Top Fuel final. Dixon’s dragster lost traction early and Kalitta’s Mac Tools dragster roared by, but then shut off early and coasted across the finish line for his 38th career victory.

“It was a good day for us,” said Kalitta, who moved from 10th to sixth in the points standings with the win. “As we were going rounds, once we got past Antron cause that was an incredibly close race, I was feeling good for the finals. Not sure what happened there in the final. It was a lucky win for us, but we’ll take it. It’s Vegas and anything can happen.”

In Funny Car, Hight earned his second win of the season and 36th of his career, powering his Auto Club Chevy Camaro past top qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr.’s Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T. With the win, Hight moved past Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Cruz Pedregon on NHRA’s all-time Funny Car wins list. Hight, the 2009 world champion, also moved from eighth to sixth in Funny Car points.

“It’s really a bummer to me to not be in the points chase this late in the year,” said Hight, who is now a five-time winner at LVMS. “We’re not used to that. It drives you because you want to be there. It makes you dig deep so we’re not in the same position next year. We got a win out of it. Del Worsham’s a good friend of mine. I’m pulling for him to win the championship, but Auto Club pays me to win races and luckily, we got the job done today.”

Johnson’s strong effort this weekend put him in the championship conversation in Funny Car, albeit 97 points back in third place behind leader Worsham and second place Jack Beckman. Worsham, of Kalitta Motorsports and DSR’s Beckman, the 2012 world champ, lost in the second round; Worsham leads by 38 points heading to Pomona.

Hines earned his fourth Pro Stock Motorcycle victory of the season and third in the Countdown, powering his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson past Jerry Savoie’s White Alligator Racing Suzuki in a final round with major title implications. With the win, Hines increased his series lead to 46 over the hard-charging Savoie. The championship in the two-wheel class will be decided at the Auto Club NHRA Finals.

“The biggest thing was that final round battle between one and two in points,” said Hines, the four-time/reigning world champ. “We’ve been running neck-and-neck all weekend long. I was in damage control all day and I was lucky enough to turn on a few win lights. That final might’ve looked pressure-packed, but I was calm and confident. I knew I needed a good race. The team was able to make the motorcycle go quicker in the final and we got the win.”

Final finishing order (1-16) at the 15th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race was the 23rd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _ 1. Doug Kalitta; 2. Larry Dixon; 3. Antron Brown; 4. Clay Millican; 5. Richie Crampton; 6. Tony Schumacher; 7. Dave Connolly; 8. Billy Torrence; 9. Jenna Haddock; 10. Steve Torrence; 11. Troy Buff; 12. Noah Stutz; 13. Leah Pritchett; 14. Shawn Langdon; 15. J.R. Todd; 16. Brittany Force.

Funny Car _1. Robert Hight; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 3. Ron Capps; 4. Chad Head; 5. Jack Beckman; 6. Del Worsham; 7. Alexis DeJoria; 8. Courtney Force; 9. Paul Lee; 10. Cruz Pedregon; 11. John Force; 12. Gary Densham; 13. Matt Hagan; 14. Bob Bode; 15. Tony Pedregon; 16. Tim Wilkerson.

Pro Stock _1. Erica Enders; 2. Bo Butner; 3. Drew Skillman; 4. Vincent Nobile; 5. Chris McGaha; 6. Jason Line; 7. Greg Anderson; 8. Shane Gray; 9. Allen Johnson; 10. Alex Laughlin; 11. V. Gaines; 12. Matt Hartford; 13. Deric Kramer; 14. Jonathan Gray; 15. Kenny Delco; 16. Larry Morgan.

Pro Stock Motorcycle_1. Andrew Hines; 2. Jerry Savoie; 3. LE Tonglet; 4. Hector Arana; 5. Eddie Krawiec; 6. Scotty Pollacheck; 7. Steve Johnson; 8. Mike Berry; 9. Karen Stoffer; 10. Chip Ellis; 11. Hector Arana Jr.; 12. Matt Smith; 13. Jim Underdahl; 14. Freddie Camarena; 15. Michael Ray; 16. Shawn Gann.

Sunday’s final results from the 15th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Top Fuel  _ Doug Kalitta, 4.239-seconds, 207.59 mph def. Larry Dixon, 8.110 seconds, 73.95 mph.

Funny Car _ Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.955, 323.97 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 8.279, 85.02.

Pro Stock _ Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.595, 208.97 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.610, 209.33.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.920, 193.05 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, foul.

Pro Modified _ Khalid alBalooshi, Chevy Camaro, 5.854, 245.76 def. Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, 5.942, 244.43.

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Garrett Bateman, 5.275, 269.08 def. Jackie Fricke, 5.902, 222.91.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ Mickey Ferro, Chevy Camaro, 5.546, 266.00 def. Doug Gordon, Camaro, 5.554, 262.74.

Competition Eliminator _ Craig Bourgeois, Dragster, 6.952, 174.46 def. Dan Fletcher, Chevy Cobalt, 8.164, 157.89.

Super Stock _ Jason DeForrest, Chevy Cavalier, 9.309, 138.98 def. Dennis Paz, Chevy El Camino, 11.920, 104.57.

Stock Eliminator _ Scott Burton, Pontiac Firebird, 10.630, 119.30 def. Tyler Wudarczyk, Chevy Nova, 11.584, 104.84.

Super Comp _ Chad Langdon, Dragster, 9.053, 163.91 def. Greg Krause, Dragster, 9.038, 163.29.

Super Gas _Troy Grant, Chevy II, 10.038, 126.74 def. Eddy Plaizier, Chevy Corvette, 10.037, 151.26.

Final round-by-round results from the 15th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

TOP FUEL

ROUND ONE _ Richie Crampton, 3.819, 303.64 def. Troy Buff, 3.888, 311.70; Clay Millican, 3.768, 319.52 def. Shawn Langdon, 4.437, 195.08; Antron Brown, 3.787, 321.73 def. Jenna Haddock, 3.850, 311.63; Larry Dixon, 3.770, 328.30 def. Leah Pritchett, 4.185, 266.90; Billy Torrence, 3.772, 325.53 def. Noah Stutz, 3.947, 265.69; Doug Kalitta, 3.791, 321.58 def. Steve Torrence, 3.886, 311.49; Tony Schumacher, 3.796, 321.88 def. J.R. Todd, 5.031, 153.21; Dave Connolly, 3.777, 325.06 def. Brittany Force, 6.075, 133.99;

QUARTERFINALS _ Kalitta, 3.796, 317.05 def. Crampton, 3.801, 322.50; Millican, 4.186, 235.51 def. B. Torrence, 8.505, 83.41; Dixon, 3.777, 326.32 def. Schumacher, 3.812, 321.35; Brown, 3.786, 323.74 def. Connolly, 4.515, 173.23;

SEMIFINALS _ Dixon, 3.800, 322.65 def. Millican, 3.829, 318.32; Kalitta, 3.774, 322.73 def. Brown, 3.786, 317.94;

FINAL _ Kalitta, 4.239, 207.59 def. Dixon, 8.110, 73.95.

FUNNY CAR

ROUND ONE _ Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.002, 319.60 def. Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 9.913, 82.26; Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.952, 325.53 def. Paul Lee, Charger, 4.007, 317.94; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.014, 310.98 def. Bob Bode, Toyota Solara, 9.484, 92.63; Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.035, 318.54 def. Gary Densham, Charger, 4.508, 204.94; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.998, 320.28 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.077, 292.46; Chad Head, Camry, 4.028, 314.24 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 10.500, 85.92; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.004, 314.90 def. John Force, Camaro, 4.261, 307.02; Del Worsham, Camry, 3.977, 322.19 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.773, 167.59;

QUARTERFINALS _ Capps, 3.988, 321.88 def. Beckman, 3.988, 318.47; Head, 4.012, 314.75 def. C. Force, 4.094, 308.85; Hight, 3.983, 318.92 def. Worsham, 3.994, 319.37; Johnson Jr., 4.008, 309.13 def. DeJoria, 4.008, 291.32;

SEMIFINALS _ Johnson Jr., 3.968, 313.07 def. Capps, 3.978, 319.22; Hight, 3.971, 323.89 def. Head, 4.035, 313.88;

FINAL _ Hight, 3.955, 323.97 def. Johnson Jr., 8.279, 85.02.

PRO STOCK

ROUND ONE _ Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.699, 207.94 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.698, 207.43; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.625, 209.07 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.632, 208.59; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.617, 208.88 def. Larry Morgan, Camaro, foul; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.608, 208.78 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.636, 208.10; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.619, 208.75 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.670, 207.53; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.598, 209.14 def. Matt Hartford, Pontiac GXP, 6.676, 207.53; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.585, 209.59 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.692, 206.23; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.600, 208.78 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 7.108, 155.65;

QUARTERFINALS _ Butner, 6.642, 208.78 def. McGaha, 6.619, 209.07; Skillman, 6.605, 209.04 def. Line, 6.622, 208.55; Nobile, 6.615, 208.75 def. Anderson, 6.630, 209.04; Enders, 6.596, 209.39 def. S. Gray, 6.630, 208.46;

SEMIFINALS _ Butner, 6.616, 208.62 def. Nobile, 6.625, 208.65; Enders, 6.598, 208.97 def. Skillman, foul;

FINAL _ Enders, 6.595, 208.97 def. Butner, 6.610, 209.33.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

ROUND ONE _ Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.923, 193.07 def. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 7.065, 191.84; Hector Arana, Buell, 7.032, 191.67 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, foul; Mike Berry, Buell, 7.060, 188.31 def. Michael Ray, Buell, 7.092, 184.55; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.973, 191.97 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.016, 191.54; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.987, 190.81 def. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.960, 192.36; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.945, 192.96 def. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.970, 193.21; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.965, 191.76 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, foul; Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.966, 190.70 def. Matt Smith, 7.003, 190.32;

QUARTERFINALS _ Savoie, 6.939, 193.60 def. Johnson, 7.011, 190.08; Arana, 7.051, 190.08 def. Berry, 18.023, 22.66; Hines, 6.964, 192.77 def. Pollacheck, 7.007, 190.70; Tonglet, 6.922, 193.79 def. Krawiec, 6.959, 192.93;

SEMIFINALS _ Hines, 6.973, 191.92 def. Arana, 7.001, 191.54; Savoie, 6.906, 194.10 def. Tonglet, 6.980, 192.66;

FINAL _ Hines, 6.920, 193.05 def. Savoie, foul.

Point standings (top-10) following the 15th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Top Fuel_1. Antron Brown, 2,588; 2. Tony Schumacher, 2,426; 3. Larry Dixon, 2,372; 4. Richie Crampton, 2,356; 5. Brittany Force, 2,331; 6. Doug Kalitta, 2,316; 7. Steve Torrence, 2,289; 8. Shawn Langdon, 2,275; 9. Dave Connolly, 2,271; 10. J.R. Todd, 2,249.

Funny Car_ 1. Del Worsham, 2,545; 2. Jack Beckman, 2,507; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,448; 4. Ron Capps, 2,405; 5. Matt Hagan, 2,361; 6. Robert Hight, 2,314; 7. John Force, 2,300; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 2,260; 9. Cruz Pedregon, 2,233; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,227.

Pro Stock _1. Erica Enders, 2,631; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,409; 3. Chris McGaha, 2,389; 4. Drew Skillman, 2,374; 5. Allen Johnson, 2,331; 6. Larry Morgan, 2,324; 7. Jason Line, 2,298; 8. Vincent Nobile, 2,293; 9. Jonathan Gray, 2,252; 10. Shane Gray, 2,236.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Andrew Hines, 2,534; 2. Jerry Savoie, 2,488; 3. Eddie Krawiec, 2,451; 4. Hector Arana Jr., 2,363; 5. Chip Ellis, 2,337; 6. Matt Smith, 2,329; 7. Karen Stoffer, 2,314; 8. Hector Arana, 2,291; 9. Jim Underdahl, 2,189; 10. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,160.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 2 2015
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