Final round results from Sunday’s 34th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, seventeenth race in the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
TOP FUEL – Richie Crampton, Brownsburg, Ind., Lucas Oil dragster, 3.695, 325.30 mph def. Brittany Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Monster Energy dragster, 3.771, 293.79 mph.
FUNNY CAR – Robert Hight, Yorba Linda, Calif., Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS, 3.956, 323.58 mph def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Avon, Ind., Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger, 4.130, 316.52 mph.
PRO STOCK – Erica Enders, New Orleans, La., Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, 6.552, 210.34 mph def. Jason Line, Mooresville, NC, Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro, 6.541, 211.06 mph.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – Eddie Krawiec, Brownsburg, Ind., Harley Davidson V-Rod, 6.844, 194.30 mph def. Andrew Hines, Brownsburg, Ind., Harley Davidson V-Rod, 6.894, 190.06 mph.
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AUTO CLUB’S ROBERT HIGHT WINS BRAINERD; CLINCHES LAST SPOT IN TRAXXAS SHOOTOUT
BRAINERD, MN --- When it came to crunch time Robert Hight and the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team did not get over-confident or complacent at the 34th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals today at Brainerd International Raceway. As the No. 6 qualifier Hight had to work his way through a tough trio of drivers to reach his 54th career final round against Tommy Johnson Jr. From the second round to the winner’s circle Hight drove his Chevy Funny Car quicker and faster than he had in his career and he got the win with a solid 3.956 seconds in front of Johnson Jr’s 4.130 second run.
“We had a really good Chevrolet Camaro. It was running good and we were running a little quicker than Tommy Johnson Jr. I felt good but when you have these kinds of conditions you just never know what you are going to get. This Auto Club Chevy was a handful to drive today. We changed a bunch of things on the car and it is carrying the front end. I am not going to get cocky. The DSR cars have been dominant and really good. I would say we closed the gap this weekend but we have a lot of work to do,” said Hight, after picking up his first win at Brainerd International Raceway in eleven tries.
The win was Hight’s first of 2015 in his second final round appearance and it came on the final day he could clinch a guaranteed spot in the lucrative Traxxas Nitro Shootout. Hight will join teammate John Force as the second Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car driver in the current seven car field. The eighth spot is open to a fan vote and lottery selection.
“Brainerd has been a horrible race for me; the worst one on tour. To finally get a win here will give me a little confidence coming back here next year. Bristol was a killer for me too for a while. We got in the Traxxas Shootout with that win which is big. To have my name mentioned with Don Prudhomme and Cruz Pedregon that is impressive,” said the 35-time tour winner.
Hight moved into a three-way tie for fourth all-time in Funny Car wins with Don Prudhomme and Cruz Pedregon. The win was also the 240th Funny Car win for John Force Racing.
In the first round Hight had to pedal his Chevy Funny Car to get around veteran driver Ron Capps. Hight took the win 4.172 seconds to 4.373 seconds. It was Hight’s slowest elapsed time of the day.
Over the course of the next two rounds Hight lowered his career best time from 3.974 seconds to 3.935 seconds in his second round win over Brian Stewart to 3.928 seconds in his semi-final win over Tim Wilkerson. Hight also ran his fastest speed ever in competition in the second round, 325.69 mph. With all the performance milestones it was receiving the trophy from Charlotte Lucas at the top end that stuck with Hight.
“It was huge. They are a great family and they have put some much into this sport. Look at all these sportsman cars. They are the reason that class is out there. To be affiliated with Lucas Oil is great and we put the big Slick Mist decals on our race cars this weekend and it is just great to have them as a partner,” said Hight. “It was cool to double up with Richie another Lucas Oil Car even though he beat that Monster Top Fueler. He is a great champion.”
Hight moved up from 9th place in the Mello Yello point standings to a solid 8th place and the 2009 Funny Car champion is only seven points out of 7th place. Most importantly Hight is 152 points away from the 11th spot heading into the final regular season race.
Right after Hight secured his win Brittany Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster rolled through the water box in search of their first Top Fuel win. This was Force’s sixth final round appearance and second of 2015. The 2013 Rookie of the Year was facing 2014 Rookie of the Year Richie Crampton in a tough race. Force had a tough road to the final as the No. 11 qualifier having to defeat Dave Connolly, Doug Kalitta and Antron Brown.
In the final Force and Crampton left almost simultaneously but at half-track Crampton’s Lucas Oil dragster was pulling away from the Monster Energy dragster. Crampton had a near record setting 3.695 second winning time to Force’s solid 3.771 seconds.
“I am a little disappointed. I definitely thought it was our day. We want to get this win for this Monster Energy team,” said Force after the race.
“Overall when you look at our entire weekend we struggled some in qualifying and to come out here on race day and take down some tough competitors. Drivers like Antron Brown and Doug Kalitta and go all the way to the final I don’t think you can be too disappointed by that. We moved up in the points and we are closer to clinching a spot in the Countdown. I have an awesome team behind me and I am so proud of every single one of them. I know how hard they have worked and it just wasn’t our weekend,” concluded Force.
The Top Fuel team moved from ninth to seventh in the Mello Yello point standings and is less than a round out of fifth place with one regular season race left.
John Force, an eleven-time winner at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, clinched his Countdown berth even though he was ousted in the second round. The 16-time Funny Car champion qualified No. 2 and took out Dale Creasy Jr. in the first round before falling to Tim Wilkerson in the second round. Securing his position in the play-offs was big for Force but he knew it was even bigger for his young team.
“It is exciting especially for Jon Schaffer and this young team. I have made it before and sometimes it takes a little bit of luck. Hell, half the time you could have the car that was the second quickest in eliminations and you get taken out. This is great for Peak, Chevrolet, Auto Club, Traxxas, Lucas Oil and Mac Tools,” said Force.
“(Wins like Robert’s) is what Auto Club pays us for. We made the Traxxas Shootout on the last day and Courtney has a chance to win the fan vote. My Peak Chevrolet running a 3.93 and Robert running a 3.92 and Courtney running 3.95 we have some good Chevy hot rods. Our game plan hasn’t changed and the competition is tougher than I have ever seen. We will use this week for testing,” added Force.
Courtney Force had a one-of-a-kind experience today at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in round one. She made a quick, yet exhilarating exit in the first round and spent the rest of race day cheering on her teammates, Robert Hight and Brittany Force, to a double final round showing.
“From a driver’s perspective, I’ve had cars blow up in my face before and those seem like nothing compared to that run for some reason. It was definitely quite an experience,” said Force.
Force qualified in the No. 4 spot this weekend with a career-best 3.959 ET. Her Traxxas Chevy Camaro SS Funny Car shook in the first round beside John Hale. She pedaled it, but the car wouldn’t calm down and Hale coasted across the finish line. This was the first time Force and Hale have raced in competition.
“The car went up and it shook. I did a quick pedal trying to get it to recover fast. Obviously the conditions are great here, but we tried to get that Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS down to the other end; that was the most important thing and it was just on its side, left and right. I was trying to get it away from the wall,” said Force.
“I was hoping we could just coast down there. You could tell on the replay, my foot wasn’t even on the throttle because the butterflies weren’t open on the injector, but I was just waiting for her to settle down. It was one wild ride, and I can honestly say it felt like what I imagined a wild bull ride to be like,” added Force.
The 27-year-old is in her fourth year racing her Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series. She is currently No. 11 in points going into the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, the final event before the 2015 Countdown to the Championship. She is 73 points out of the No. 10 position.
“After this weekend, we had a great performing car up until that run, and didn’t fall too far back to where this Countdown is out of sight. We are going into a points-and-a-half race in Indy so we will be out there testing before the’ Big Go’ and give this our all on our last shot to make it,” Force said.
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MELLO YELLO POINT STANDINGS
FUNNY CAR – 1. Jack Beckman, 1279; 2. Matt Hagan, 1229; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr, 1158; 4. John Force, Peak Anti-Freeze Chevrolet Camaro SS, 1084; 5. Del Worsham, 1037; 6. Ron Capps, 1020; 7. Tim Wilkerson, 942; 8. Robert Hight, Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS, 935; 9. Cruz Pedregon, 884; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 856; 11. Courtney Force, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS, 783
TOP FUEL – 1. Tony Schumacher, 1348; 2. Antron Brown, 1295; 3. Richie Crampton, 1093; 4. Larry Dixon, 1086; 5. Doug Kalitta, 956; 6. Shawn Langdon, 951; 7. Brittany Force, Monster Energy, 943; 8. JR Todd, 929; 9. Steve Torrence, 891; 10. Spencer Massey, 888
PRO STOCK – 1. Erica Enders, 1391; 2. Greg Anderson, 1375; 3. Chris McGaha, 1254; 4. Jason Line, 1197; 5. Allen Johnson, 1011; 6. Larry Morgan, 958; 7. Shane Gray, 918; 8. Jonathan Gray, 855; 9. Vincent Nobile, 821; 10. Drew Skillman, 812
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE - 1. Eddie Krawiec, 824; 2. Hector Arana Jr, 658; 3. Andrew Hines, 647; 4. Karen Stoffer, 523; 5. Jim Underdahl, 492; 6. Jerry Savoie, 485; 7. Matt Smith, 463; 8. Hector Arana, 448; 9. Scotty Pollacheck, 408; 10. LE Tonglet, 387
JOHN FORCE, 66, Peak Anti-Freeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 2nd at 3.930 seconds, 324.83 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q3)
Race results: Beat Dale Creasy Jr; Lost to Tim Wilkerson
ROBERT HIGHT, 45, Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 6th at 3.974 seconds, 319.07 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest in Q1)
Race results: Beat Ron Capps, Brian Stewart, Tim Wilkerson, Tommy Johnson Jr.
COURTNEY FORCE, 27, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 4th at 3.959 seconds, 320.66 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest in Q2)
Race results: Lost to John Hale.
BRITTANY FORCE, 29, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 11th at 3.787 seconds, 326.00 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
Race results: Beat Dave Connolly, Doug Kalitta, Antron Brown; Lost to Richie Crampton