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Brown Rolls To First Pole Of Season

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, June 5 2016
Antron Brown will start Sunday's eliminations in New England from P1 in Top Fuel.

Antron Brown will start Sunday’s eliminations in New England from P1 in Top Fuel.

RacinToday.com

Antron Brown claimed his “overdue” first pole of the season during Saturday’s final round of qualifications at the fourth annual NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, N.H.

Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) also will lead their categories into eliminations at the ninth race of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series at New England Dragway.

But what likely will be the most-remembered run of qualifying will be Jack Beckman’s explosive pass during Saturday’s first session. As Beckman passed half-track on his third of four runs, an engine malfunction led to a massive explosion that destroyed his flopper’s Dodge Charger R/T carbon fiber bodywork and powerplant, and caused considerable damage to electrical wiring from an ensuing fire.

After “Fast Jack” climbed from the wreckage uninjured, crew chief Jimmy Prock decided the best way to prepare for Sunday’s eliminations was to take time to get a new car ready to race. Beckman earned the No. 6 seed based upon Friday’s opening 1,000-foot run of 3.895-seconds.

“I’m sure there was some kind of parts failure,” Prock said after the terrifying run. “It started spinning (the rear tires) and it moved to the inside and out of the groove. It was on fire under the (computer) box, so we just have to see how much is burned up.”

Beckman’s Don Schumacher Racing team, sponsored by Terry Chandler, started Saturday sixth in qualifying after its 3.895-second run at 329.99 mph in Friday’s opening session. Beckman, who started Saturday second in points and only 11 behind leader Courtney Force, will open Sunday in that No. 6 spot and face two-time world champion Cruz Pedregon in the opening round.

Beckman felt as though he might have been able to back off the throttle sooner, but Prock said TV video indicated that was not the cause of the explosion. “On the TV video it looked like he was closing the throttle when it started to spin,” Prock said.

“It was moving around some,” Beckman said. “This racetrack can be exciting for a driver because the groove can get tight. I pulled (the throttle) back some, and it just started to spin the tires. That’s one of those ones where you wish you had a tenth of a second earlier to get off the throttle. It was a big explosion _ one of the biggest ever.

“The worst thing was I had oil all over my visor and couldn’t see. Fortunately, I had time to reach up with my glove and wipe it off. Until then I couldn’t see, and it’s just nice to know you’re not going into the wall. It’s a helpless feeling. When you can’t see you don’t know where anything is out there including (the other car). That’s the terrifying aspect. It’s bouncing and there’s oil all over the tires and you need to slow it down. Once I wiped off the oil, I knew I was slowing down and wasn’t going to hit anything. That’s a nice feeling.”

Brown, also of Don Schumacher Racing, set a Top Fuel elapsed time track record for 1,000-feet via his 3.701-second pass at 319.07 mph to jump from the fifth spot to P1 at the facility located 60 miles north of Boston.

“We expected that we would’ve had a couple more No. 1’s _ this one being the first and we’re a third of the way through the season,” said Brown, the two-time/reigning world champion. “We just want to make sure that we peak at the right time, during the Countdown (to the Championship) and we’re heading in that direction.”

Brown shared the credit with co-crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald. “We were real close to that same run on Friday, but we hurt a few parts and that caused us to back-off on the night run and it bit us,” Brown said. “Today, we just came out with the mindset that they wouldn’t back up. They would just run what the track would hold and we made a really good lap in the first session (third overall) with that 3.76 and we just stepped the car up and the car responded. We didn’t get all of it like we wanted to. That could’ve been a 3.68 run. We just have to keep working on it.”

Due to a short field of 13 cars, Brown earned a bye-run into Round 2 to start Sunday’s eliminations. Final-round action on-site will begin at 11 a.m. (EDT). Fox Sports 1 will televise three hours of finals coverage beginning at 4 p.m. (EDT).

Steve Torrence, who led qualifying until the final round, is second and will face Smax Smith in the opening round. Already a two-time winner this season, Brittany Force will line up opposite Todd Patton while eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher heads to the first round against native Australian Richie Crampton. Point-leader Doug Kalitta sits sixth and will face Terry McMillen in the opener.

Capps’ Funny Car elapsed time track record pass of 3.865-seconds at 325.92 mph in his Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger R/T from Friday held up through the final sessions to earn his second pole of the season and 19th of his career.

“The confidence is great and you feel like you’ve got a great race car; we’ve made four great runs and you just don’t want to mess up,” Capps said. “I’ve got to drive it like we’re David and not Goliath tomorrow.”

Capps, who won the prestigious season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., in February, will face Dave Richards in Round 1 of eliminations.

DSR teammate Matt Hagan, a two-time world champion who has won the past two races, qualified second and will match up against John Hale. DSR’s Tommy Johnson Jr. is third and 16-time world champion John Force, the defending event champ, is fourth in his Chevrolet Camaro SS.

John Force Racing teammates Robert Hight, the 2009 world champion, and category point-leader Courtney Force will meet in the first round as will Kalitta Motorsports teammates Del Worsham and Alexis DeJoria.

“Never want to start the day facing your teammate, because we know they have the same equipment we have,” said Worsham, the reigning world champion. “But we’ll go to the line and put our best foot forward and see what we can do.” 

Line, meanwhile, secured his fourth Pro Stock pole of the season, 45th of his career and first at New England Dragway. Line’s quarter-mile pass of 6.567-seconds at 211.13 mph in his Ken Black Racing Chevy Camaro from Friday held up through Saturday’s two qualifying sessions, setting up a first-round match against John Gaydosh.

“There’s a lot of fast cars right now,” Line said. “We’re going to have to dig deep tomorrow, that’s for sure.” Line has qualified within the top two at every national event this year, hasn’t missed a final-round appearance and has claimed five victories. Ken Black Racing teammate Bo Butner held onto the No. 2 spot and will face veteran independent campaigner Kenny Delco. Vincent Nobile sits third on the shortened 13-car ladder and will open eliminations against Drew Skillman.

Four-time world champion Greg Anderson, teammate to Line and Butner, made a dramatic jump from the 12th spot to fourth in his Camaro during the final round of time trials.

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First-round pairings for Sunday’s eliminations at the fourth annual NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway, the ninth of 24 events on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.  Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel _ 1. Antron Brown, 3.701-seconds, 319.07 mph vs. Bye; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.710, 326.48 vs. 13. Smax Smith, 4.331, 265.33; 3. Brittany Force, 3.729, 327.19 vs. 12. Todd Paton, 3.935, 310.34; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.743, 325.61 vs. 11. Richie Crampton, 3.846, 308.85; 5. Clay Millican, 3.744, 324.90 vs. 10. Leah Pritchett, 3.819, 320.20; 6. Doug Kalitta, 3.767, 328.30 vs. 9. Terry McMillen, 3.807, 320.97; 7. Shawn Langdon, 3.779, 322.88 vs. 8. J.R. Todd, 3.779, 323.58.

Funny Car _ 1. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.865, 325.92 vs. 16. Dave Richards, Ford Mustang, 4.239, 299.86; 2. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.868, 329.75 vs. 15. John Hale, Charger, 4.100, 285.17; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.885, 326.95 vs. 14. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.074, 286.80; 4. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.886, 329.75 vs. 13. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.978, 318.77; 5. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.890, 330.63 vs. 12. Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 3.942, 320.20; 6. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.895, 329.99 vs. 11. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.941, 314.09; 7. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.909, 324.90 vs. 10. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.928, 321.50; 8. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.915, 327.27 vs. 9. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.919, 329.26.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Mike Smith, 4.517, 213.74.

Pro Stock _ 1. Jason Line, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.567, 211.13 vs. 14. John Gaydosh Jr., Camaro, broke; 2. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.568, 210.90 vs. 13. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.684, 207.69; 3. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.573, 210.11 vs. 12. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.676, 207.78; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.584, 210.70 vs. 11. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.671, 208.68; 5. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.587, 209.82 vs. 10. Erica Enders, Dart, 6.631, 209.56; 6. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.593, 209.46 vs. 9. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.622, 209.43; 7. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Dart, 6.599, 208.94 vs. 8. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.605, 209.75.

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, June 5 2016
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