race reports

NHRA Pros at St. Louis


Results compiled by Kay Burk

Photos by Ron Lewis

Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence piloted to victory for the eighth time this season Sunday afternoon, Oct. 1, at the sixth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.


Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also victorious at the third of six playoff events during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.


Excellent weather brought out the fans with Saturday’s reserved seating completely sold out.


“Today was the perfect combination of great weather, incredible track conditions, the highest horsepower cars on the planet, and a loyal motorsports fan base in the St Louis region,” said Chris Blair, Gateway Motorsports Park’s Executive Vice President and General Manager.




Steve Torrence beat Doug Kalitta in the final round by just .008 of a second and extended his lead in the championship points.


It was a spectacular end to a weekend that began with an uncharacteristic mechanical problem. At the end of the burnout before Friday night’s scheduled qualifying run, a brake problem denied Torrence a run in what were the best conditions of the weekend.


However, while the Capco crew had a fix for the broken brake rotor, those vying for the $500,000 NHRA Mello Yello Championship had no answers on race day for a dragster that made four consecutive 1,000-foot runs in less than 3.70 seconds.


“We’re leaving here with a bigger point lead and (another) trophy,” Torrence said, “but there’s a lot more racing ahead. You can’t breathe easy with guys like Doug, Brittany (Force) and Antron (Brown) right behind you.”


Torrence dispatched Shawn Langdon in the first round 3.675/329.58 to 3.960/272.06. Leah Pritchett was up in smoke at the hit of the throttle to move Torrence into the semifinal against Antron Brown.

Torrence was off the line first with a .034 RT to Brown’s .048. Brown’s Matco Tools dragster speeded to catch up, crossing the finish line at 331.12 mph, but his 3.711 ET was not enough and Torrence won with a 3.689/330.72.


“We’re not going to do anything different,” said the 16-time tour winner. “We got here by doing what we do and doing it ourselves. That’s our game plan. We know that to win this championship we’re going to have to fight for every little point because it could come down to one or two points at the end.”

Kalitta started his weekend with bonus points and new career-best in qualifying. It occurred in the second round of qualifying on Friday evening as Kalitta took the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster to the 1,000-foot line in 3.681 seconds, which lowered his career-best elapsed time by one thousandth of a second. Kalitta eventually qualified his Mac Tools machine in the fourth position for the stacked field.


In the first round, Kalitta faced fellow Countdown competitor Scott Palmer. Kalitta got off the line first, and that ended up giving him the win. He was on a great pass before a problem caused a massive explosion. Kalitta was only going 275mph at the line, but thanks to his starting line skills, he was still able to get the win.


After the Mac Tools team put their car back together, they came back to the line to face Brittany Force. Kalitta was ready with a .035 reaction time to give him the early advantage. Kalitta would never give it up and move on the semi-finals defeating the driver directly behind him in the point standings.


In the semi-finals, Kalitta drew the upset-minded Dom Lagana, who reached the semi-finals for the second straight weekend. Kalitta again got the jump at the line and steadily pulled away to move to his fourth final round of the year.

Leah Pritchett’s first-round loss led to the Papa John's Pizza Top Fuel team falling 152 points behind Torrence and in seventh place at the midpoint of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff heading to a week off before resuming Sept. 13-15 near Dallas.


"Couple steps forward in qualifying with our overall program," she said of qualifying second with a time of 3.670 seconds at 329.10 mph. "That gave us a good amount of confidence coming into race day.


"You can't sugarcoat in any sense of a way the loss in the second round. We're halfway through the Countdown and that was probably the most important round by far.”

Jason Line took Low ET of round two with his 6.556 at 210.90 to defeat Deric Kramer's 6.616, 209.17.


He continued the quick pace with top speed of raceday and low elapsed time of the opening round in his victory over Alan Prusiensky, who illuminated the red light.


In the semifinals, Line could almost see his name on the trophy as he launched with a psychic .005-second reaction time to a .028 and claimed top speed of the semis with a 6.578, 210.70 to squash Butner's low-of-the-round 6.560, 210.57 on a holeshot.


"I faltered today in the final and didn't do a good job," said Line, who was racing in the 94th Pro Stock final of his career. "I feel like I've done well through the Countdown, but today, in the final round, I did not drive well. I just lost focus, but that's .02-second of lost focus. Most folks can't fathom how hard it is to maintain that focus. These cars, being stick/clutch cars, the staging process and everything is super important. I missed it a little bit today, that's all, and it cost me a race I should have won.”

Brian Self, from Caddo, OK, surprised a lot of people at St. Louis. He started the day by running 6.619/209.62 to get past Drew Skillman’s 6.740/179.30. Self then got the holeshot win over a way-late Chris McGaha (.118 RT). In the semifinal Self was off the line first with a .020 RT, but his Elite Motorsports Camaro went right into tire shake and Greg Anderson went on for the win.

Larry Morgan (near lane) with Bo Butner during qualifying. Morgan got a first-round win over Alex Laughlin 6.555/210.83 to 6.572/210.87, but His Camaro broke when the light turned green, advancing Anderson in the second round. Butner defeated Mark Hogan and Erica Enders before falling to Jason Line.



L.E. Tonglet rode to the Pro Stock Motorcycle victory with a 6.792 at 197.91 on his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki to better No. 1 qualifier Andrew Hines on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson in the finals. He earned his sixth Wally of the season and 16th of his career.


“You’ve just got to stay calm and go rounds,” Tonglet said. “This is make or break for us. We felt that if we lost this race that our Championship hunt was over. We just haven’t been qualifying that great, but Tim (Kulungian, crew chief) figures it out by Sunday and it just hauls butt and we’re able to get round wins.”


Tonglet qualified seventh before taking down Joey Gladstone, Eddie Krawiec, and Matt Smith en route to the finals. Hines bested Andrew Rawlings, Kate Stoffer and Scotty Pollacheck as he finished as the runner-up for only his third final round appearance of the season.


POINT STANDINGS after 3 of 6 events in the Countdown to the Championship


Top Fuel

1. Steve Torrence, 2,376; 2. Doug Kalitta, 2,334; 3. Brittany Force, 2,293; 4. Antron Brown, 2,282; 5. Clay Millican, 2,235; 6. Tony Schumacher, 2,234; 7. Leah Pritchett, 2,224; 8. Terry McMillen, 2,115; 9. Scott Palmer, 2,105; 10. Shawn Langdon, 2,100.


Funny Car

1. Ron Capps, 2,395; 2. Robert Hight, 2,349; 3. Courtney Force, 2,287; 4. Matt Hagan, 2,238; 5. Jack Beckman, 2,228; 6. John Force, 2,197; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,191; 8. J.R. Todd, 2,168; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,130; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 2,096.


Pro Stock

1. Bo Butner, 2,350; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,313; 3. Tanner Gray, 2,299; 4. Jason Line, 2,257; 5. Drew Skillman, 2,208; 6. Erica Enders, 2,177; 7. Allen Johnson, 2,151; 8. Jeg Coughlin, 2,148; 9. Chris McGaha, 2,102; 10. Vincent Nobile, 2,052.


Pro Stock Motorcycle

1. Eddie Krawiec, 2,378; 2. LE Tonglet, 2,362; 3. Andrew Hines, 2,306; 4. Hector Arana Jr, 2,263; 5. Jerry Savoie, 2,261; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,252; 7. Matt Smith, 2,238; 8. Karen Stoffer, 2,148; 9. Angie Smith, 2,119; 10. Joey Gladstone, 2,117. 


Ron Capps (near lane) knocked teammate Jack Beckman out in the second round with a 3.885/328.86 to Beckman’s 3.895/332.34.


Ron Capps' win Sunday with crew chief Rahn Tobler, assistant Eric Lane and the NAPA AutoCare Centers crew will be unforgettable. It is his career-best eighth NHRA Mello Yello Series title of the year in 21 events, his second in seven days and extended the reigning champion's points lead to 46 at the midpoint of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff that resumes in two weeks near Dallas.


Added importance is that on a sunny weekend with temperatures in the 70s it showed Tobler and the team can win in cooler temperatures.


"It was big for Tobler to really show that he can run in the cool conditions," Capps said. "The season-ending race is points-and-half and the conditions will be cool after the time change. It's going to be stout at Pomona. We know that. So, we have to be able to run with those guys there.


"Tobler's the best racer, he's so much fun to race with, I love his old-school mentality, he gave me the biggest compliment I've ever had working for him when he turned around to me after one of the rounds today in the pit area and I said, 'great job, man, great run, we didn't have lane choice, just a great job.' And he said, 'no, you're driving like a champion.'"


Capps time of 3.879 seconds at 329.91 mph kept finalist Jonnie Lindberg with Jim Head Racing from winning his first NHRA nitro title. For Capps, it was the 58th of his career including his first in Top Fuel and the 316th for DSR.


The NAPA Brakes Dodge recorded times Sunday between the winning 3.879 and 3.908 in the opening round after qualifying third with a best time of 3.849.


The previous Sunday after winning the trophy near Reading, Pa., Capps saluted his crew chief by converting his name into a verb when he said his opponents got "Toblered." This time, a member of DSR dubbed this month to be "OcTobler."



Lindberg had some good luck in the first round when Tim Wilkerson’s Mustang lost traction. Lindberg’s Toyota Camry outpowered Alexis DeJoria’s Camry in the second round. Lindberg was out first and ran 3.870 at 330.96 mph to take the win over DeJoria’s 3.939/325.45.

Racing after the sun has gone down is always more exciting.


Robert Hight set the Gateway Motorsports Park track record for elapsed time and speed during qualifying Friday for the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals to snare the provisional No 1 spot in Funny Car.


Hight’s pass of 3.830 seconds at 333.91 mph in the second qualifying session knocked boss John Force off the No. 1 perch and took the Gateway track record from Force, who set the mark one pairing before Hight. Hight had broken the track ET and speed record in Q1 (3.845 seconds at 338.60 mph), but only the speed record held through Q2.


Hight got the first-round win when opponent Dale Creasy Jr’s Charger broke after the burnout and then got the second-round win over Matt Hagan, who had to get off the throttle after his Charger lost a cylinder about 500 feet out and moved first sharply to the left and then back to the right.


“We struggled yesterday, and then first round made a nice, solid run,” Hight said Sunday. “Second round, got a win against a big competitor. It hurt (cylinder) No. 7, though, so we had a lot of work to do between rounds.”


He made it to the starting line in time to face Jonnie Lindberg, but Hight had trouble at the hit of the throttle.


“It dropped a cylinder, picked it back up at almost a second, but that was enough to kill the run,” Hight said.


As Lindberg made a clean run of 3.898 seconds at 331.20 mph, Hight labored to a 3.943-second pass at 331.20 mph.

John Force (far lane) got the second-round win over daughter Courtney. John was out first with a .041 RT to Courtney’s .094. She started making up ground, but at half track John pulls away taking the win with a 3.913/330.88 to Courtney’s 3.888/328.30. John is now 15-9 against Courtney.



NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson has more wins in the category than any other currently competing driver, and he is the second-most winning driver of all time in the ultra-competitive class. The driver of the red Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro and the No. 1 qualifier brought his win tally to 89 in a final-round defeat of Team Summit counterpart Jason Line, getting his win total that much closer to Warren Johnson's 97.


In claiming the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals trophy, Anderson also scooped up the points lead at the third race of six in the 2017 Countdown to the Championship. Just behind him in the No. 2 spot is KB Racing teammate Bo Butner, and Line moved up from fourth to No. 3 with his first final-round appearance since winning the season-opening Winternationals.


"You couldn't have drawn it up better," said Anderson, who was racing in the 148th final round of his career and 10th of the season. "It was just a dream weekend, and we gained a lot of points against some tough competition. The two Summit Racing Chevys in the final round – wow, it just does not get any better than that. Thank you, Summit Racing. Sorry it's been so long, and thank you, Chevrolet."


Anderson knocked out red-lighting David River, a broken Larry Morgan, and Pro Stock driving rookie Brian Self to pave the way to the 36th final-round match with Line. Entering the final, Anderson held a 19-16 advantage over his teammate, and he extended his upper hand with a 6.571-second pass at 210.73 mph that defeated a quicker 6.545, 211.26. Anderson's .030-second reaction did the job, beating Line's .059 and translating into a holeshot win.


Line was racing in his third final at the Midwest Nationals. St. Louis is one of just four racetracks where the reigning and three-time Pro Stock world champ has yet to win. Line's Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro has been picking up steam over the last few events, and he was No. 2 qualifier with top speed of the meet (213.30 mph) heading into Sunday.




official DRO sponsors

 © 1999-2017 - Drag Racing Online and Racing Net Source LLC - 607 Seib Drive, O'Fallon, MO 63366 Phone: 636.272.6301 - Privacy Policy

fficial ponsors