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DeJoria Back In Gear; Wins In Brainerd

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 22 2017

Alexis DeJoria got her first Funny Car win of the year on Sunday.

A resilient Alexis DeJoria launched a late-season rush toward the NHRA’s Funny Car playoffs Sunday with a victory in the 36th annual  Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. 

DeJoria recorded her first win of the season, fifth of her career and the 250th women’s victory in NHRA history when she defeated Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final at the famed Minnesota facility. In doing so, DeJoria made a huge move in the point standings from 14th to 10th _ the final eligibility spot to compete in the Countdown to the Championship.

“Today was just surreal,” said DeJoria, who began the event 48 points out of the final playoff spot. “To go from the 14th spot all the way to 10th in the Countdown rankings is just amazing. We feel really good going into Indy.” The Countdown fields in Funny Car, Top Fuel, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will be firmed-up after the 63rd annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, the world’s biggest drag race, Aug. 30-Sept. 4.

NHRA’s six-race playoff season will begin with the 10th annual Carolina NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., Sept. 15-17.

DeJoria, who qualified 10th on the 16-car ladder, defeated Tim Wilkerson, two-time world champion Cruz Pedregon and 16-time world champ John Force en route to the final round matchup vs. Johnson. DeJoria completed her day with a 1,000-foot pass in 3.906-seconds at 330.96 mph to trailer Johnson, who ran 3.933-seconds at 324.44 mph in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T. 

“This was a huge win for us,” said DeJoria, driver of the Tequila Patron Toyota Camry fielded by Kalitta Motorsports. “All day long I was up against a bunch of bad-ass drivers. There were no gimmes. We got a little bit of luck against Timmy (Wilkerson) in the first round and that’s what we needed. We haven’t had any good breaks lately. It’s been hard. I got beat on a holeshot the last two races and that just kills me, but today me and my team, we were all on our game.”

DeJoria met Pedregon in a Countdown-critical matchup in Round 2, as both are part of a five-way battle for the final playoff spot. DeJoria’s 3.883-second pass easily defeated “The Cruzer’s” 4.505-second run and advanced her into the semifinals. DeJoria then outran “Brute” Force with a pass in 3.892-seconds at 329.02 mph to losing numbers of 3.909/331.94.

“We’re not trying to rotate the earth,” said DeJoria, who will head to Indy with a 12-point advantage over Pedregon in P11.We’re just chipping away at it, getting better and better with every run and man, when I start getting confident, watch out; I’ve got my blinders on and I’m dead focused. When I went up against John Force in the semifinals, I felt like it was the 2014 Indy finals all over again. I just have that drive again and nothing could phase me. I had that fire in me all the way through. I have an incredible team and I can’t say enough about them.

We’ve been struggling to get back in the 3.80’s and it’s been really rough, but you’ve got to race smart out there. Sometimes we don’t qualify that well but on race day we’ve got a good package and we definitely had that today. I’m so proud of Tommy (DeLago) and Nicky (Boninfante) and my whole team for sticking it out. They’re here, they’re supportive. I’m so blessed to be racing for the Kalitta organization.”

DeJoria’s final-round appearance was her first of the season. Johnson, meanwhile, defeated rookie Jonnie Lindberg, Courtney Force and world elapsed time record-holder Robert Hight before falling to Dejoria. It was Johnson’s fifth finals appearance this season for Don Schumacher Racing.

DeJoria shared the Winners Circle stage with Top Fuel event champion Leah Pritchett of DSR. Sunday’s win marked the first time two female drivers in the nitro categories won the same national event. Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the 17th of 24 events on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. 

“I’m very resilient. That’s the way I was raised; you never give up,” said DeJoria, who trails ninth-ranked J.R. Todd by 124 points. “The last two years have been really difficult. Lots of ups and downs, injuries, no wins, we just couldn’t get up to speed. We’re fighting so hard out here. It’s the hard times that make the wins so much better. You really appreciate every moment.”

Pritchett, who ran the quickest 1,000-foot pass in NHRA history during qualifying, piloted her Don Schumacer Racing dragster to her fourth Top Fuel victory of the season.  Pritchett ran 3.682-seconds at 328.06 mph to defeat teammate and three-time/reigning world champion Antron Brown’s 4.001-second pass at 246.35 mph in his Matco Tools dragster.

“Don Schumacher has given me the best team, in my opinion,” Pritchett said. “We keep continuing to prove that. I really like that these numbers and their work ethic and the consistency really backs it up when I say we have the best team because we have the best hot rod. We’re going to enjoy this win.” 

Pritchett defeated Rob Passey, Scott Palmer and Clay Millican before facing off against Brown, who defeated 2013 world champion Shawn Langdon, Brittany Force and Steve Torrence en route to his 10th final round appearance of the season and fifth in a row. With his win over Torrence in the semifinals, Brown moved into the Top Fuel point lead.

Pro Stock rookie Gray powered to the fourth victory of his career by defeating point-leader Bo Butner with a quarter-mile pass in 6.610-seconds at 208.04 mph in his Gray Motorsports /Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro. Butner, who has secured the No. 1 seed heading into the Countdown, ran 6.629-seconds at 207.85 mph in his Jim Butner’s Auto Camaro.

“I’m not sure what my team has done but they’ve got a handle on this car the last few races,” Gray said. “They got something going right for them over there. They’re making my job a whole lot easier and I’m just blessed to be able to sit in the driver’s seat.”

Gray defeated two-time world champion Erica Enders and three-time/reigning world champion Jason Line before reaching the final. Butner defeated Doug Rivers, Gray’s father, Shane Gray and KB Racing teammate and four-time world champ Greg Anderson to reach his eighth final of the season.

Savoie, the Pro Stock Motorcycle reigning world champion, defeated teammate and point-leader LE Tonglet in the final for his second win of the season and eighth of his career. Savoie’s quarter-mile 6.846-second pass at 194.80 mph aboard his White Alligator Racing Suzuki bettered Tonglet’s 6.910-second run at 194.02 mph on his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki. 

“The season has been really good,” Savoie said. “I’ve had some misfortune a couple times and my riding hasn’t been like it should be. LE is solid as a rock, so when you beat him it’s pretty rewarding. He’s taught me a lot and I’ve taught him some things and we thrive off each other. We bring out the best in each other and that’s what it takes to win races.”

Savoie faced Mike Berry, Angie Smith and two-time world champion Matt Smith before lining up against Tonglet in his third final appearance of the season. Tonglet, who has five victories this season, raced past 2016 Rookie of the Year Cory Reed and five-time world champion Andrew Hines before facing his teammate.

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Final finishing order (1-16) at the 36th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. The race is the 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _ 1. Leah Pritchett; 2. Antron Brown; 3. Steve Torrence; 4. Clay Millican; 5. Brittany Force; 6. Doug Kalitta; 7. Tony Schumacher; 8. Scott Palmer; 9. Shawn Langdon; 10. Chris Karamesines; 11. Terry Haddock; 12. Terry McMillen; 13. Rob Passey; 14. Steven Chrisman; 15. Luigi Novelli; 16. Troy Coughlin Jr. 

Funny Car _ 1. Alexis DeJoria; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 3. John Force; 4. Robert Hight; 5. Ron Capps; 6. Cruz Pedregon; 7. Courtney Force; 8. Jack Beckman; 9. J.R. Todd; 10. Brian Stewart; 11. Dale Creasy Jr.; 12. Tim Wilkerson; 13. Del Worsham; 14. Jonnie Lindberg; 15. Matt Hagan; 16. Jim Campbell.

Pro Stock _ 1. Tanner Gray; 2. Bo Butner; 3. Greg Anderson; 4. Jason Line; 5. Drew Skillman; 6. Allen Johnson; 7. Erica Enders; 8. Shane Gray; 9. Jeg Coughlin Jr.; 10. Deric Kramer; 11. John Gaydosh Jr.; 12. Alan Prusiensky; 13. Vincent Nobile; 14. Dave River; 15. Mark Hogan.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Jerry Savoie; 2. LE Tonglet; 3. Andrew Hines; 4. Matt Smith; 5. Eddie Krawiec; 6. Hector Arana Jr.; 7. Cory Reed; 8. Angie Smith; 9. Joey Gladstone; 10. Karen Stoffer; 11. Scotty Pollacheck; 12. Mike Berry; 13. Jim Underdahl; 14. Freddie Camarena; 15. Angelle Sampey; 16. Steve Johnson.

Sunday’s final results from the 36th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals: 

Top Fuel _ Leah Pritchett, 3.682-seconds, 328.06 mph def. Antron Brown, 4.001-seconds, 246.35 mph. 

Funny Car _ Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.906, 330.96 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.933, 324.44. 

Pro Stock _ Tanner Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.610, 208.04 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.629, 207.85.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.846, 194.80 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.910, 194.02.

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Justin Ashley, 5.237, 268.60 def. Gord Gingles, 12.344, 54.22.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ Johan Lindberg, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.489, 268.22 def. Kris Hool, Chevy Camaro, 5.575, 260.11.

Super Stock _ Eric Bell, Plymouth Barracuda, 9.301, 127.10 def. Darrell Dietz, Ford Mustang, Foul/Red Light.

Stock Eliminator _Ben Line, Ford Mustang, 10.533, 118.45 def. Bill Feist, Mustang, 10.101, 131.28.

Super Comp _ Trevor Larson, Dragster, 8.891, 172.63 def. Jeremy Demers, Dragster, 8.886, 177.23.

Super Gas _ Jim Davis, Chevy Camaro, 9.971, 157.83 def. Ken Griffiths, Chevy Corvette, 9.995, 148.58.

Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs.com _ Bob Fischer, Dragster, 7.403, 176.33 def. Michael Kritzky, Dragster, 6.411, 212.36.

Top Sportsman presented by RacingRVs.com _ Brian Heath, Pontiac GTO, 7.152, 185.41 def. Joseph Mohana, Chevy BelAir, 6.841, 202.58.

Pro Stock Snowmobile _ Glenn Hall, Arctic Cat, 8.186, 154.94 def. Scott Hagen, Ski Doo, 8.319, 155.29.

Final round-by-round results from the 36th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals:

TOP FUEL

ROUND ONE _ Antron Brown, 3.695, 331.77 def. Shawn Langdon, 3.734, 318.62; Clay Millican, 3.655, 330.23 def. Chris Karamesines, 4.261, 221.67; Leah Pritchett, 3.709, 325.30 def. Rob Passey, 4.321, 247.75; Brittany Force, 3.728, 327.03 def. Steven Chrisman, Foul/Red Light; Doug Kalitta, 3.697, 328.54 def. Terry Haddock, 4.267, 226.92; Tony Schumacher, 3.711, 324.67 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., 16.216, 22.28; Steve Torrence, 3.726, 328.62 def. Luigi Novelli, 6.418, 98.82; Scott Palmer, 3.787, 327.90 def. Terry McMillen, 4.302, 194.69;

QUARTERFINALS _ Pritchett, 3.715, 330.63 def. Palmer, 3.906, 257.48; Millican, 3.658, 330.47 def. Schumacher, 3.718, 327.66; Brown, 3.681, 332.43 def. Force, 3.675, 332.75; Torrence, 3.723, 328.30 def. Kalitta, 3.709, 332.10;

SEMIFINALS _ Brown, 3.706, 331.61 def. Torrence, 3.726, 323.19; Pritchett, 3.666, 330.88 def. Millican, 3.792, 263.00;

FINAL _ Pritchett, 3.682, 328.06 def. Brown, 4.001, 246.35.

FUNNY CAR 

ROUND ONE _ Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.862, 334.90 def. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.808, 195.11; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.850, 331.45 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.168, 258.32; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 5.714, 128.92 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, Broke; John Force, Camaro, 3.901, 333.25 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, Broke; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.922, 328.86 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 7.147, 106.26; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.290, 207.56 def. Brian Stewart, Ford Mustang, Foul/Red Light; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.416, 210.05 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.650, 271.13; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.894, 330.96 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.973, 323.35;

QUARTERFINALS _ Johnson Jr., 3.932, 326.48 def. C. Force, 8.099, 84.74; Hight, 3.828, 336.23 def. Capps, 3.938, 304.80; J. Force, 3.896, 335.48 def. Beckman, 9.505, 72.67; DeJoria, 3.883, 330.96 def. Pedregon, 4.505, 192.47;

SEMIFINALS _ DeJoria, 3.892, 329.02 def. J. Force, 3.909, 331.94; Johnson Jr., 6.875, 128.60 def. Hight, 9.806, 78.40;

FINAL _ DeJoria, 3.906, 330.96 def. Johnson Jr., 3.933, 324.44.

PRO STOCK

ROUND ONE _ Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.659, 207.78 def. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.657, 207.66; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.634, 207.05 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.965, 165.42; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.588, 209.20 def. Deric Kramer, Dodge Dart, 6.691, 206.48; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.614, 208.23 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.855, 198.79; Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.641, 207.11 def. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, Broke; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.601, 207.69 was unopposed; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.623, 207.43 def. Dave River, Chevy Cobalt, 6.976, 196.90; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.621, 207.75 def. John Gaydosh Jr., Chevrolet Camaro, 6.704, 205.51;

QUARTERFINALS _ Butner, 6.619, 207.50 def. S. Gray, 6.665, 207.11; Line, 6.624, 207.27 def. Skillman, 6.628, 208.20; T. Gray, 6.620, 207.46 def. Enders, 6.648, 207.66; Anderson, 6.594, 208.30 def. Johnson, 6.628, 207.21;

SEMIFINALS _ T. Gray, 6.620, 207.56 def. Line, 7.140, 159.89; Butner, 6.642, 207.37 def. Anderson, Foul/Red Light; 

FINAL _ T. Gray, 6.610, 208.04 def. Butner, 6.629, 207.85. 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

ROUND ONE _ Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.881, 192.85 def. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.026, 190.48; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.929, 195.90 def. Angelle Sampey, 8.326, 107.91; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.864, 194.66 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, Foul/Red Light; Angie Smith, Buell, 6.935, 193.29 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.942, 192.58; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.883, 194.91 def. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.939, 193.60; Cory Reed, 6.944, 190.03 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.960, 191.54; Matt Smith, 6.859, 194.55 def. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 7.104, 189.98; Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.893, 194.49 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.079, 190.46;

QUARTERFINALS _ Savoie, 6.845, 192.77 def. A. Smith, 7.001, 190.62; Hines, 6.918, 195.31 def. Arana Jr., 6.919, 194.24; Tonglet, 6.850, 194.77 def. Reed, 6.961, 190.00; M. Smith, 6.884, 194.21 def. Krawiec, 6.894, 194.18;

SEMIFINALS _ Savoie, 6.869, 194.66 def. M. Smith, 9.011, 97.00; Tonglet, 6.869, 194.63 def. Hines, 6.952, 195.79;

FINAL _ Savoie, 6.846, 194.80 def. Tonglet, 6.910, 194.02.

Point standings (top-10) following the 36th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals:

Top Fuel _1. Antron Brown, 1,513; 2. Steve Torrence, 1,482; 3. Leah Pritchett, 1,453; 4. Tony Schumacher, 1,121; 5. Brittany Force, 1,052; 6. Doug Kalitta, 1,038; 7. Clay Millican, 1,014; 8. Terry McMillen, 722; 9. Scott Palmer, 649; 10. Troy Coughlin Jr., 576.

Funny Car _1. Ron Capps, 1,383; 2. Robert Hight, 1,247; 3. Matt Hagan, 1,214; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 1,180; 5. Jack Beckman, 1,160; 6. Courtney Force, 1,012; 7. John Force, 954; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 792; 9. J.R. Todd, 788; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 664.

Pro Stock _1. Bo Butner, 1,526; 2. Tanner Gray, 1,300; 3. Greg Anderson, 1,263; 4. Jason Line, 1,123; 5. Drew Skillman, 1,089; 6. Erica Enders, 1,044; 7. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 1,006; 8. Vincent Nobile, 899; 9. Allen Johnson, 657; 10. Chris McGaha, 645.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. LE Tonglet, 874; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 690; 3. Jerry Savoie, 655; 4. Hector Arana Jr., 632; 5. Matt Smith, 581; 6. Andrew Hines, 529; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 528; 8. Joey Gladstone, 427; 9. Karen Stoffer, 408; 10. Angie Smith, 394.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 22 2017
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