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Countdown Off To Surprising Start

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 17 2017

Doug Kalitta emerged from his Top Fuel car a winner at Sunday’s Carolina Nationals in Concord. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

CONCORD, N.C. – Numerous upsets Sunday in the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway created a dramatic change in the Mello Yello Drag Racing point standings after just the first of six rounds in the Countdown to the Championship.

Heading into the Countdown, the standings leaders were: Steve Torrence, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Bo Butner, Pro Stock; and L.E. Tonglet, Pro Stock Motorcycle. But after just one event, those atop the standings were: Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel; Robert Hight, Funny Car; Tanner Gray, Pro Stock; and Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Kalitta claimed his first Top Fuel victory this season with a win over teammate Richie Crampton, who upset several Countdown contenders en route to the final round. It was the first time the final round had been an all-Kalitta show since the season finale last year at Pomona, Calif.

It was a John Force Racing Funny Car final between Hight and No. 1 qualifier Courtney Force. Hight defeated his teammate for his third victory this season with a 3.943 E.T., 328.86 mph.  

In Pro Stock, rookie sensation Gray dispensed with veteran Greg Anderson to claim his fifth victory this year. It was the sixth meeting between the two in the eliminations and Gray has emerged the victor on four occasions.

It was an all-Harley show in Pro Stock Motorcycle with Krawiec defeating teammate Andrew Hines for his second straight and fourth win this season.

“This is how you dream of starting the Countdown,” Hight said after securing his 40th career victory. “It was pretty cool to get to the final with Courtney because it’s been a while for her. In all honesty, you say you can’t lose, but it’s the Countdown and I would have been bummed had we not taken advantage of all these cars going out early and not gotten the win.”

Hight qualified sixth for the Carolina Nationals and then experienced what he described as “one of the toughest race days I have ever had.” En route to the final round, Hight faced all Countdown contenders: Matt Hagan, Tommy Johnson Jr. and J.R. Todd.

“I was nervous (going into the final round) because we hadn’t been down the left lane all weekend,” Hight said. “But (crew chief) Jimmy Prock told me we would be just fine.”

Kalitta’s win at zMAX Dragway leaves him with only two tracks where he has yet to celebrate a victory – Epping, N.H., and Indianapolis.

“Sometimes you go out early and it sucks, but we were fortunate we got the win here today,” Kalitta said after claiming his 43rd career victory with an E.T. of 3.775 seconds, 318.39 mph. “(Before the semifinal round) we had to change the cylinder heads and the manifold in about 30 minutes, which was a feat in itself. We barely made it up there.”

Kalitta admitted that Crampton’s elimination of several Countdown contenders was helpful. Crampton eliminated Torrence in the quarterfinals and Brittany Force in the semifinals. Force had made it to the semifinals by defeating Wayne Newby in the quarterfinals. Newby upset Leah Pritchett in the first round, dropping her from third to seventh in the point standings.

“Certainly this is just the first race (in the Countdown), but it’s great momentum and this is definitely the time to make it happen,” Kalitta said.

The 19-year-old Gray continued a streak that even he could describe as unbelievable. En route to his home track victory, the Denver, N.C., resident defeated two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders, defending Pro Stock champion Jason Line and four-time champion Anderson.

“If you had told me I would leave here being the point leader when I first started, I would have told you, you were crazy,” said Gray, who won with a 6.614-second E.T., 208.07 mph. “(Now) I really do think we’re going to come out the champion. Everybody over there is having so much fun.

“My grandparents came from New Mexico to watch. I’m not really an emotional guy or get too excited, but when my grandpa hugged me it was hard not to tear up. I’m really blessed to be able to win here.”

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CONCORD, N.C. – Final finish order (1-16) at the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway. The race is the 19th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
TOP FUEL:
1. Doug Kalitta; 2. Richie Crampton; 3. Clay Millican; 4. Brittany Force; 5. Antron Brown; 6. Steve Torrence; 7. Tony Schumacher; 8. Wayne Newby; 9. Terry McMillen; 10. Scott Palmer; 11. Dom Lagana; 12. Pat Dakin; 13. Shawn Langdon; 14. Terry Haddock; 15. Leah Pritchett; 16. Chris Karamesines.
FUNNY CAR:
1. Robert Hight; 2. Courtney Force; 3. Alexis DeJoria; 4. J.R. Todd; 5. Ron Capps; 6. John Force; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 8. Jim Campbell; 9. Matt Hagan; 10. Jack Beckman; 11. Jeff Diehl; 12. Bob Gilbertson; 13. Jonnie Lindberg; 14. Cruz Pedregon; 15. Dave Richards; 16. Tim Wilkerson.
PRO STOCK:
1. Tanner Gray; 2. Greg Anderson; 3. Bo Butner; 4. Jason Line; 5. Jeg Coughlin; 6. Drew Skillman; 7. Kenny Delco; 8. Erica Enders; 9. Allen Johnson; 10. Chris McGaha; 11. Vincent Nobile; 12. Shane Tucker; 13. Alan Prusiensky; 14. Larry Morgan; 15. Val Smeland; 16. Alex Laughlin.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
1. Eddie Krawiec; 2. Andrew Hines; 3. Jerry Savoie; 4. Hector Arana Jr; 5. Matt Smith; 6. LE Tonglet; 7. Chip Ellis; 8. Scotty Pollacheck; 9. Angie Smith; 10. Steve Johnson; 11. Karen Stoffer; 12. Joey Gladstone; 13. Mark Paquette; 14. Melissa Surber; 15. Kelly Clontz; 16. Charles Sullivan.
CONCORD, N.C. — Sunday’s final results from the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway. The race is the 19th of 24 in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel — Doug Kalitta, 3.775 seconds, 318.39 mph def. Richie Crampton, 3.876 seconds, 306.40 mph.
Funny Car — Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.943, 328.86 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.980, 315.19.
Pro Stock — Tanner Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.614, 208.07 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.638, 207.82.
Pro Stock Motorcycle — Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.850, 196.87 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.911, 195.11.
Pro Modified — Jonathan Gray, Chevy Camaro, 5.809, 250.46 def. Steve Jackson, Camaro, 5.818, 248.39.
Top Alcohol Dragster — Shawn Cowie, 5.295, 272.39 def. Corey Michalek, 5.399, 267.27.
Top Alcohol Funny Car — Andy Bohl, Chevy Camaro, 5.556, 268.60 def. John Lombardo Jr., Camaro, 5.786, 267.91.
Competition Eliminator — Frank Aragona, Roadster, 7.388, 171.31 def. David Rampy, Roadster, 7.354, 160.94.
Super Stock — Nicholas Chiles, Chevy Cobalt, 9.082, 149.85 def. Byron Worner, Chevy Camaro, 9.808, 135.43.
Stock Eliminator — Kenneth Stott, Chevy Camaro, 11.673, 105.92 def. Mickey Whaley, Camaro, 10.688, 122.41.
Super Comp — John Labbous Jr, Dragster, 8.989, 145.41 def. Amanda Boicesco, Dragster, 7.974, 127.96.
Super Gas — Dean Mathauser, Pontiac GTO, 9.895, 153.04 def. John Labbous Jr, Chevy Corvette, 9.882, 161.04.
Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs.com — Todd Ewing, Dragster, 7.226, 177.74 def. Barry Brown, Dragster, 7.666, 164.87.
Top Sportsman presented by RacingRVs.com — Jerry Albert, Chevy Camaro, 6.890, 199.82 def. Todd Ewing, Camaro, 6.799, 198.96.
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Final round-by-round results from the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals:
TOP FUEL:
ROUND ONE — Clay Millican, 3.725, 322.81 def. Dom Lagana, 3.839, 314.83; Antron Brown, 3.794, 320.66 def. Terry McMillen, 3.786, 321.12; Wayne Newby, 3.827, 313.66 def. Leah Pritchett, 4.172, 300.06; Doug Kalitta, 3.857, 314.31 def. Chris Karamesines, 6.627, 88.00; Steve Torrence, 3.774, 323.35 def. Terry Haddock, 4.075, 252.33; Brittany Force, 3.751, 327.90 def. Pat Dakin, 3.866, 314.39; Richie Crampton, 3.755, 311.85 def. Scott Palmer, 3.837, 322.81; Tony Schumacher, 3.765, 325.45 def. Shawn Langdon, 4.073, 286.62;
QUARTERFINALS — Kalitta, 3.775, 325.53 def. Schumacher, 3.791, 325.61; Millican, 3.754, 323.35 def. Brown, 3.776, 323.89; Crampton, 3.768, 319.67 def. Torrence, 3.782, 325.30; Force, 3.791, 316.52 def. Newby, 3.824, 314.75;
SEMIFINALS — Kalitta, 3.784, 322.50 def. Millican, 3.804, 313.73; Crampton, 3.809, 308.28 def. Force, 3.859, 312.71;
FINAL — Kalitta, 3.775, 318.39 def. Crampton, 3.876, 306.40.
FUNNY CAR:
ROUND ONE — Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.947, 319.75 def. Bob Gilbertson, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.556, 128.44; Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.064, 272.45 def. Dave Richards, Ford Mustang, Broke; J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.954, 327.19 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.829, 177.49; Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.189, 295.85 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.539, 225.82; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.980, 319.45 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 7.831, 103.88; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.927, 326.95 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.254, 228.96; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.363, 216.24 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, Foul – Outer Boundary; John Force, Camaro, 4.076, 301.67 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 12.010, 73.07;
QUARTERFINALS — DeJoria, 3.979, 320.05 def. Campbell, Foul – Red Light; C. Force, 3.934, 330.07 def. J. Force, 3.983, 325.61; Hight, 3.951, 328.22 def. Johnson Jr., 4.315, 216.65; Todd, 3.975, 321.81 def. Capps, 3.968, 323.50;
SEMIFINALS — C. Force, 3.957, 325.06 def. DeJoria, 3.976, 322.04; Hight, 3.985, 325.14 def. Todd, 3.999, 315.19;
FINAL — Hight, 3.943, 328.86 def. C. Force, 3.980, 315.19.
PRO STOCK:
ROUND ONE — Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.653, 208.36 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 7.886, 108.36; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.620, 209.52 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.608, 207.88; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.624, 209.52 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.632, 209.14; Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.765, 204.63 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.601, 209.59 def. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.720, 208.33; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.583, 210.05 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.910, 201.49; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.617, 209.52 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.699, 206.39; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.597, 208.55 def. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.679, 207.37;
QUARTERFINALS — Anderson, 6.605, 209.82 def. Skillman, 6.668, 209.65; Line, 6.600, 209.52 def. Delco, 6.737, 204.85; Butner, 6.629, 209.23 def. Coughlin, 6.640, 209.04; Gray, 6.586, 210.47 def. Enders, 8.923, 106.72;
SEMIFINALS — Anderson, 6.616, 209.98 def. Butner, 6.597, 209.56; Gray, 6.610, 209.72 def. Line, 6.603, 209.65;
FINAL — Gray, 6.614, 208.07 def. Anderson, 6.638, 207.82.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.870, 194.86 def. Melissa Surber, Buell, 7.048, 186.61; Chip Ellis, 6.983, 190.67 def. Angie Smith, Buell, Foul – Red Light; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.933, 194.04 def. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, Foul – Red Light; Matt Smith, 6.873, 194.58 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.930, 192.47; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.838, 195.82 def. Mark Paquette, Foul – Red Light; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.892, 190.35 def. Charles Sullivan, Buell, 8.069, 116.37; Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.864, 194.74 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.928, 193.13; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.866, 195.85 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.130, 191.57;
QUARTERFINALS — Savoie, 6.868, 195.56 def. Tonglet, 6.875, 195.62; Hines, 6.839, 197.10 def. Ellis, 6.906, 193.49; Arana Jr, 6.861, 195.96 def. Pollacheck, 6.945, 188.65; Krawiec, 6.826, 197.74 def. M. Smith, 6.859, 196.04;
SEMIFINALS — Hines, 6.862, 195.53 def. Arana Jr, 6.867, 195.34; Krawiec, 6.845, 196.76 def. Savoie, Foul – Red Light;
FINAL — Krawiec, 6.850, 196.87 def. Hines, 6.911, 195.11.
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Point standings (top 10) following the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals:
Top Fuel
1. Doug Kalitta, 2,173; 2. Steve Torrence, 2,159; 3. Antron Brown, 2,135; 4. Brittany Force, 2,117; 5. Tony Schumacher, 2,115; 6. Clay Millican, 2,110; 7. Leah Pritchett, 2,108; 8. Terry McMillen, 2,051; 9. Scott Palmer, 2,042; 10. Shawn Langdon, 2,036.
Funny Car
1. Robert Hight, 2,197; 2. Ron Capps, 2,153; 3. Courtney Force, 2,141; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,107; 5. (tie) Matt Hagan, 2,102; J.R. Todd, 2,102; 7. Jack Beckman, 2,095; 8. John Force, 2,085; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,046; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 2,033.
Pro Stock
1. Tanner Gray, 2,206; 2. Bo Butner, 2,181; 3. Greg Anderson, 2,171; 4. Jason Line, 2,132; 5. Drew Skillman, 2,113; 6. Erica Enders, 2,092; 7. Jeg Coughlin, 2,084; 8. Vincent Nobile, 2,052; 9. Allen Johnson, 2,042; 10. Chris McGaha, 2,034.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Eddie Krawiec, 2,202; 2. LE Tonglet, 2,154; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 2,150; 4. Andrew Hines, 2,144; 5. Jerry Savoie, 2,141; 6. Matt Smith, 2,105; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,085; 8. Joey Gladstone, 2,052; 9. Karen Stoffer, 2,042; 10. Angie Smith, 2,033.
| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 17 2017
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