Dixon Leads Way In Maple Grove
Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) scored top honors during the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, the 17th of 18 events in the regular season.
Their victories came after a long day that required a lot of patience and persistence on the part of the NHRA Safety Safari and the race teams. After two days of rain, the sun came out on Sunday, but that ended up being bad news as it drew water up through the track.
The opening round of Top Fuel and Funny Car was completed and the first five pair of Pro Stockers went downtrack before the “weepers” began appearing just past the quarter-mile mark. Though crews attempted to quickly halt the seeping, their efforts were unsuccessful, and officials were forced to put the event on hold to do extensive work on the track.
That work took three and a half hours to complete but was well worth it when racing resumed and performances got better and better as things moved along. Though the Pro classes and Top Alcohol Funny Car, in which Frank Manzo successfully completed his decade sweep of this event, were completed, time ran out on the rest of the Lucas Oil Sportsman racers, who will return Monday to wrap up eliminations.
Dixon added Maple Grove Raceway to the list of tracks where he won, leaving just two — Gateway Int’l Raceway in Madison and zMax Dragway in Charlotte — where he has yet to notch a victory. Dixon’s first Reading win was also his fifth of the season and 48th career victory for the Alan Johnson/Al-Anabi Racing driver, and he earned it in fine fashion, defeating the team for which he drove last year, Don “the Snake” Prudhomme’s U.S. Smokeless group and rookie driver Spencer Massey. The final was decided almost immediately when Massey smoked the tires of his rail, leaving him to just watch as Dixon sailed to a 3.899 win.
Dixon, who was the runner-up last weekend in Brainerd, was nearly flawless all day, running sub-four-second passes in all four rounds. He opened with a 3.99 defeat of Chris Karamesines, then won a critical second-round pairing against Tony Schumacher that decided who would leave Reading second in points, 3.96 to 4.02. Dixon earned a spot in the 89th final of his career and sixth this year when he dispatched rookie Shawn Langdon in the semi’s.
Massey continued to make a strong case for the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future award when he powered to his third final round of the year. The Chicago champ got an easy win in round one when Terry Haddock could not get his car into reverse after the burnout. Massey then powered to 3.96- and 3.97-second runs to defeat Cory McClenathan and Antron Brown to earn a spot in the title round.
Tasca had a nearly perfect outing as he wheeled his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang to his second career Funny Car victory, a performance that moved him up to fourth in the points and locked him into the Countdown to 1 playoffs. Tasca went wire to wire in the all-Ford final, getting a huge jump on Mike Neff, who got distracted and surrendered .184-second to Tasca. Tasca just added to his lead as he traversed the 1,000-foot course, outrunning Neff, 4.23 to 4.24, to turn on the win light.
Tasca, a three-time finalist who won earlier this year in Gainesville, clocked the third-quickest time of the opening round, a 4.261, to defeat Ron Capps, then powered to a 4.25 to trailer Robert Hight. Tasca caught a lucky break in the semi’s when John Force red-lighted against him. Tasca’s car had a broken rod and only made it a few hundred feet before losing power and coasting to a 6.78.
Though he came up short in the final round, Neff’s run to the money round was a big boost for him in his quest to make the Countdown to 1 field. He did not move any positions in the standings, staying ninth, but Neff added breathing room between him and 10th-place Cruz Pedregon, who exited in round one. Neff drove his Ford Drive One Mustang to his fifth career final and second this season with wins against Tim Wilkerson, Jerry Toliver, and Tony Pedregon.
Coughlin started the season out strong, but he hadn’t been to the winner’s circle since Englishtown in June, but the reigning world champ picked the perfect time to revisit as his points lead had shrunk to the point he could have been overtaken with an early exit. That did not happen, however, with Coughlin going the distance, punctuating his march to his sixth Wally of the season with a 6.634, low e.t. of the weekend, en route to victory over surprise finalist Johnny Gray.
As he has done so many times before, Coughlin got a quiet start to the weekend, just qualifying in the top half with an eighth-best 6.712, but things really clicked for him on Sunday with a combination of strong runs and good reaction times carrying him through. He opened with a 6.72 to 6.73 defeat of Ronnie Humphrey, then parlayed a .007 to .028 reaction-time advantage into a 6.64 to 6.63 holeshot win over Mike Edwards. In the semi’s, Coughlin went wire to wire against Jason Line, pairing a .032 light with a 6.64 to defeat Line’s 6.67.
Gray’s final-round showing also came along with a perfect time for him as he is among the drivers battling for one of the final Countdown to 1 spots, and the runner-up finish pulled him to within nine points of 10th-place Warren Johnson. Gray earned a spot in the final with wins against Rodger Brogdon, Greg Anderson, and Kurt Johnson.
Krawiec continued his torrid pace in Pro Stock Motorcycle, collecting his fourth win in eight final-round showings this year. Krawiec, who clinched the top spot in the Countdown to 1 earlier in the day, defeated Michael Phillips easily when Phillips, who damaged his engine in the semi’s and had Steve Johnson’s powerplant in his bike for the final, had troubles and clicked his bike off early.
Krawiec began his march to the final in convincing fashion, running low e.t. of the weekend, 6.970, to defeat Wes Wells. Krawiec then advanced to his 14th career final when Matt Guidera and No. 1 qualifier Hector Arana red-lighted in rounds two and three, respectively.
Phillips, who has shown promise all season with a number of top speeds, enjoyed his best outing of the year, qualifying second and advancing to the sixth final of his career. Phillips started race day from the No. 2 spot on the ladder and defeated Neil Jacobs, Doug Horne, and Bailey Whitaker en route to the money round.
– Courtesy the Full Throttle NHRA SeriesNo Comment