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Kalitta Pops To Top At Qualifying In Carolina

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, September 16 2017

Doug Kalitta was tops in Top Fuel during Friday’s qualifying in Concord, N.C. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

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Doug Kalitta powered to the provisional pole position during Top Fuel qualifying Friday evening on the opening day of the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

Courtney Force (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also emerged as provisional qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the first of six playoff events comprising the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.

Kalitta, currently No. 4 in the standings, started out his Countdown bid with a 1,000-foot pass in 3.723-seconds at 329.50 mph. Kalitta is aiming for his second pole of the season while chasing his first national event victory of 2017. Kalitta earned the No. 1 qualifying position at last year’s Carolina Nats before securing a runner-up finish at the event in Concord, N.C., near Charlotte.

“It’s definitely a good day to have a run like this, especially on the first day of the Countdown,” said Kalitta, who drives for the team owned by uncle/drag racing pioneer Conrad “Connie” Kalitta. “The track conditions were excellent; we’re really happy with what we pulled off here today and hope that leads to a strong finish to the season.”

Point-leader Steve Torrence sits second after a 3.724-second pass at 327.51 mph. Leah Pritchett of Don Schumacher Racing is third after a 3.725-second run at 327.98 mph, placing the top three qualifiers within 0.002-seconds of each other.

Courtney Force leads the Funny Car category after a 1,000-foot run of 3.891-seconds at 330.07 mph in her Chevy Camaro SS set on her second pass of the day. Force leads the category with seven pole positions as she pursues her first Wally of the year.

“I wasn’t too worried that our first pass wasn’t clean; I have an amazing team behind me and we definitely went for it on our second run,” said Force, who drives for father/16-time world champion John Force. “I’m really excited for tomorrow and happy to be in the top spot; it’s very important for us to be at the top because every point counts in the Countdown.”

J.R. Todd, winner of the 63rd annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals two weeks ago, is second after a 3.898-second pass at 329.18 mph in his Toyota Camry. DSR’s Tommy Johnson Jr. rounds out the top three after his pass in 3.901-seconds at 325.06 mph.

Gray earned the top spot in Pro Stock after a quarter-mile pass in 6.559-seconds at 210.50 mph in his Gray Motorsports Camaro, set during his opening pass. Gray is seeking his fourth No. 1 qualifier of the season as he looks to improve upon a category-best four victories as a rookie.

“You have to come into the Countdown with a different mindset, because every single point matters,” Gray said. “I’m really happy that we had low E.T. for both sessions and now we’re inching closer to that first-place spot in the standings.”

Four-time Pro Stock world champion Greg Anderson of Ken Black Racing earned the second spot in preliminary qualifying with a 6.567-second run at 210.73 mph in his  Camaro, while point-leader and KBR teammate Bo Butner is third after his 6.573-second pass at 210.77 mph.

Hines finished atop the opening Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying order with a quarter-mile pass in 6.825-seconds at 196.50 mph aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Street Rod set during his first pass. A five-time world champ, Hines is aiming for his first pole of this season and 39th of his career.

“This is actually what we needed for the Harley team, at least in terms of the Friday results we wanted,” Hines said. “We’ve been working on these bikes night and day for the past few months, so to get such strong runs out of them is a huge relief.”

Reigning world champ Jerry Savoie is second after his 6.838-second run at 196.10 mph aboard his White Alligator Racing Suzuki. Hector Arana Jr. rounds out the top three after his 6.840-second pass at 196.07 mph as he chases his first victory of 2017.

Qualifying is scheduled to continue at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday. Fox Sports 1 will air one hour of qualifying coverage Sunday at 2 a.m. (EDT). FS1 also will air three hours of live coverage of Sunday’s finals starting at 2:30 p.m. (EDT).

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Veteran Pro Stock driver/crew chief Mike Edwards has joined the Ken Black Racing camp for this weekend’s NHRA Carolina Nationals in an advisory capacity.

The 2009 Pro Stock world champion, Edwards is working alongside longtime KB Racing crew chief Rob Downing at zMAX Dragway. Edwards was last an on-site contributor to the KB Racing team in 2015. Edwards will be offering input pertaining to the Chevrolet Camaros driven by three-time/reigning world champion Jason Line, four-time world champ Greg Anderson and current point-leader Bo Butner.

“There were a couple things Rob was wanting somebody else to look at, and I got voted-in,” said Edwards, who underwent back surgery at the beginning of the year and has been progressing through rehab. “It’s good to be here. I’ve just been doing things around the house and all the things normal people do _ but we all know drag racers aren’t normal.

“The first year after I quit racing, I missed this a lot. As time goes on, I don’t miss it as much. But I’m still interacting with these guys a little bit, and with that little fix, I’ve got enough.”

Edwards earned his first Pro Stock win at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas, near Houston, in 1996. He earned 42 Wally trophies and 56 No. 1 qualifier awards over the course of two decades on the NHRA circuit. In all, he claimed two victories in the Modified category and 40 in the “Factory Hot Rod” class.

“Mike and I have stayed in contact since he worked with us in 2015,” said Downing, who has been at the helm for each of KB Racing’s seven world championships and 138 Pro Stock wins. “I’m always bouncing ideas off of him and talking about race car stuff. I just feel like as competitive as it is, we need every advantage we can get. I know Mike will help us as an extra set of eyes. He and I really click together and I’m looking forward to having him here this weekend. It would be great if he could be here for each of the Countdown races.”

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Friday’s provisional qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., 19th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and opening race of the six-event Countdown to the Championship. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations:

Top Fuel _1. Doug Kalitta, 3.723-seconds, 329.50 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.724, 327.51; 3. Leah Pritchett, 3.725, 327.98; 4. Antron Brown, 3.728, 331.85; 5. Brittany Force, 3.749, 329.18; 6. Richie Crampton, 3.749, 284.33; 7. Clay Millican, 3.761, 322.96; 8. Scott Palmer, 3.795, 323.89; 9. Pat Dakin, 3.798, 299.73; 10. Dom Lagana, 3.809, 317.87; 11. Wayne Newby, 3.826, 311.13; 12. Terry McMillen, 3.860, 305.22; 13. Shawn Langdon, 3.861, 314.75; 14. Tony Schumacher, 4.481, 175.30; 15. Chris Karamesines, 6.517, 94.65.

Funny Car _ 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.891, 330.07; 2. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.898, 329.18; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.901, 325.06; 4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.906, 330.47; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.910, 324.51; 6. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.911, 302.75; 7. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.962, 314.02; 8. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.976, 317.79; 9. John Force, Camaro, 3.976, 314.31; 10. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.981, 324.12; 11. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.012, 257.87; 12. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.066, 309.42; 13. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.067, 298.67; 14.Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 4.763, 166.56; 15. Bob Gilbertson, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.240, 151.41.

Pro Stock _ 1. Tanner Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.559, 210.50; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.567, 210.73; 3. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.573, 210.77; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.578, 210.18; 5. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.582, 209.43; 6. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.586, 209.98; 7. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.586, 209.69; 8. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.602, 209.75; 9. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.603, 209.33; 10. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.609, 209.36; 11. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.636, 209.46; 12. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.662, 208.14; 13. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.676, 206.57; 14. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.828, 202.15; 15. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.980, 203.58; 16. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 15.198, 56.49.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.825, 196.50; 2. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.838, 196.10; 3. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.840, 196.07; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.854, 194.44; 5. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.866, 195.45; 6. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.873, 195.03; 7. Chip Ellis, Victory, 6.878, 193.74; 8. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.895, 193.35; 9. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.907, 193.52; 10. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.917, 193.18; 11. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.946, 193.49; 12. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.957, 194.83; 13. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.963, 191.97; 14. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.983, 190.86; 15. Mark Paquette, Victory, 7.065, 188.62; 16. Ron “Rat: Tornow, Buell, 7.130, 186.33.

Not Qualified _ 17. Lance Bonham, 7.183, 184.09; 18. Charles Sullivan, 7.372, 178.73.

Shane Molinari powered into the qualifying lead Friday during the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway. This weekend’s Pro Mod racing, presented by the Real Pro Mod Association, is the 10th of 12 events this season.

Molinari posted a 5.778-second pass at 256.55 mph during the second qualifying session in his S&T Truck Repair Inc. 1968 Pontiac Firebird.  “We’ll make another pass tomorrow and roll the dice,” Molinari said. “Hopefully we’ll get down the track and go some rounds. We just have to go rounds _ that’s the goal.”

Point-leader Mike Castellana, a two-time winner this season in his Chevrolet Camaro, qualified second with a 5.781-second pass at 252.10 mph, while Eric Latino is third with numbers of 5.792/252.14 in his Camaro.

Qualifying is scheduled to continue Saturday at approximately noon (EDT) with the first round of eliminations slated for 2:30 p.m.

Friday’s provisional qualifying results after the first two of three rounds of Pro Modified time trials for the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway, 10th of 12 events in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for the first round of eliminations:

Pro Modified _ 1. Shane Molinari, Pontiac Firebird, 5.778, 256.55; 2. Mike Castellana, Chevy Camaro, 5.781, 252.10; 3. Eric Latino, Camaro, 5.792, 252.14; 4. Mike Janis, Camaro, 5.815, 248.48; 5. Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.830, 249.49; 6. Steve Matusek, Camaro, 5.839, 249.72; 7. Steve Jackson, Camaro, 5.842, 247.88; 8. Bob Rahaim, Camaro, 5.846, 249.07; 9. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 5.848, 248.57; 10. Sidnei Frigo, Chevy Corvette, 5.851, 249.39; 11. Shannon Jenkins, Ford Mustang, 5.867, 247.79; 12. Dan Stevenson, Camaro, 5.876, 252.80; 13. Jim Whiteley, Camaro, 5.878, 248.66; 14.Michael Biehle, Mustang, 5.884, 254.28; 15. Chip King, Dodge Charger, 5.890, 244.16; 16. Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, 5.896, 246.80.

Not Qualified _ 17. Khalid alBalooshi, 5.912, 248.57; 18. Doug Winters, 6.231, 237.38; 19. Harry Hruska, 6.268, 243.19; 20. Danny Rowe, 7.369, 133.53; 21. Clint Satterfield, 7.526, 209.33; 22. Chuck Little, 7.772, 116.58; 23. Troy Coughlin, 8.972, 104.93.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, September 16 2017
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