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ET DRAG RACING
NEWS & ANALYSIS
The Funny Cars were in perfect four-wide alignment during this qualifying run.
Steve Torrence raced his way to the Top Fuel victory Sunday, April 30, in the eighth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway.
Ron Capps (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock), and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also winners at the sixth event on the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. This is the only event on the schedule that runs four cars at a time, making it a different challenge for the drivers.
The stands were full on Saturday.
While the chaos of the 4Wide format was playing havoc with some of the big names, including Pro Stock stars Erica Enders and Jeg Coughlin Jr., it failed to distract Steve Torrence who got his first Mello Yello win this season.
It was a milestone win for the 34-year-old Texan. Not only did he move from fifth to fourth in the points, but he also secured a guaranteed starting spot in the $100,000-to-win Traxxas Nitro Shootout.
In the final Torrence’s Capco Contractors dragster ran 3.783/323.89 to defeat Tony Schumacher (3.874/309.13), Leah Pritchett (3.796/318.84) and Terry McMillen (4.650/171.23).
Despite the win, Torrence isn’t a big fan of the four-wide format.
“This is the same as winning a race that you had to pedal it every round or you had to win on holeshots,” he said. “This is a driver’s race. It’s completely different when you come here. It throws you whole routine off. You’re mentally challenged more than at any other race, but there is a certain satisfaction in overcoming all the additional distractions and getting your hot rod to the winners’ circle here.”
This was the first event this season that was not won by a Don Schumacher Racing dragster. Tony Schumacher finished in the runner-up spot for the second time this season.
Schumacher drove the U.S. Army Dragster to the final advancing through the first two quadrants, but despite an impressive .040-second reaction time in the final, the eight-time Top Fuel world champion came home second to Steve Torrence.
Antron Brown, the reigning Top Fuel world champion, dominated his quadrant in the first round, but lost traction early in round two to end his run for a third Four-Wide Nationals victory in the past four seasons.
“This is an incredible event, and at the end of the day you have to be a machine,” said Tony Schumacher, following his third career runner-up finish in the Four Wide Nationals. “This four-wide race is just a different way to do the same thing we do every weekend. You have to block out all the other stuff and just hit the throttle and you do your job.”
In his second event of the year Shawn Langdon launched with the identical RT (.061) as Leah Pritchett, but lost traction and could not regain it. Pritchett went on to the final, where she was third.
VOLUME XIX, NUMBER 4 - April 2017
Matt Hagan begins to fall behind early in the run.
And is out of the picture at the end.
Don Schumacher Racing's Ron Capps won his second NHRA title in eight days on Sunday when his NAPA team Powered by Pennzoil and led by crew chief Rahn Tobler won the Four-Wide Nationals and took over the championship points lead after the sixth event of the year.
In the final Capps’s Charger ran 3.933/322.65 to defeat DSR teammates Jack Beckman (3.959/320.05) and an up-in-smoke Matt Hagan (8.820/93.67) and J.R. Todd (4.103/307.72).
Capps disagrees with some of the other racers about the four-wide format.
“Some of these drivers are saying that they don’t like it,” Capps said. “They can stay home next time. This is a fun race. This is a fun event. It changes everything, your mentality, the way you approach the track, the way you approach each round. There aren’t very many times you see that many drivers pop out of the car at the other end of the track and all smiling, win or lose. It’s just an exciting race.”
Before the beginning of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello season, two-time NHRA champion Del Worsham left Kalitta Motorsports to rejoin his family-owned team Worsham Racing. Now he’s going up against the multi-car super teams as a single-car team that is still in the process of being rebuilt.
At zMax Worsham qualified 11th with his Lucas Oil Toyota Camry Funny Car. Unfortunately, the 2015 Four-Wide runner-up placed fourth in his first-round match up against John Force, Ron Capps, and Chad Head subbing for Alexis DeJoria.
Chad Head, who last year drove a Funny Car for his father, Jim Head, returned to the driver’s seat of the Tequila Patron Toyota Camry this week as regular driver Alexis DeJoria dealt with some family issues. At zMax he finished third in the quad that also contained John Force, Ron Capps, and Del Worsham.
Jim Campbell gets a last look by team owner/tuner Jim Dunn. He was defeated in the first round.
Robert Hight (Chris Haverly photo)
Robert Hight set the quickest elapsed time for Funny Cars in Sunday’s Four-Wide Nationals at, but came up short in his bid for a third title in the unique race. He ran Low ET of 3.884 second at 327.66 mph in the first round against Jack Beckman, who advanced, and Tommy Johnson Jr. and Jim Campbell were out.
Because the Low ET gave him lane choice, Hight took Lane 1 for the second round, which he hoped would launch him into the finals. But the car dropped a cylinder immediately when Hight hit the throttle, and he pedaled the car to the finish.
Chris McGaha got his first win at zMax Dragway defeating Greg Anderson and Shane Gray in the final. Drew Skillman turned on the red light to take himself out of the final-round competition.
McGaha’s Harlow Sammons Camaro ran 6.591/210.44 to 6.614/209.56 for Anderson and 6.648/209.33 for Gray. This was McGaha’s fifth career win.
“I’ve always said you’ve got to have power to win in this game,” McGaha said. “This one showed us we have a lot of power and that’s why we came here.”
Erica Enders never got a chance to flex the horsepower of her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro Sunday at zMax Dragway because she was timed-out at the starting line after taking too long to stage. It's one of the hazards of the annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals and every year someone seems to get bitten.
"For Jeg and I to qualify 1-2 on the ladder, run the kind of numbers we have run here, I would have bet the house that we'd be fighting for the trophy at the end of the day. At the very least we should have won our opening-round races,” Enders said.
"It just goes to show that even the best in the world have off days and today, Jeg and I did not rise to the occasion. He's a six-time world champ and I've won two championships. Both of us are known for being sharp at the Tree. We just didn't show it today."
Jeg Coughlin Jr.
Coughlin posted the quickest pass of the eighth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in the opening round of Sunday's eliminations but it was all for naught after a strange starting line miscue caused him to leave more than half a second after his three opponents.
"I'm not really upset," Coughlin said. "It's just the complexity of the four-wide format. The staging procedure is extremely important and once all four of us were pre-staged I started the count in my head. About that time, I saw Lane 3 (No. 16 qualifier John Gaydosh) take the pre-stage light out so I figured his front-end was in the light and he was going to be fully staged within a matter of a second. What I didn't realize was that he had rolled clean through both beams.
After his regrettable .633-second reaction time, Coughlin zipped down Lane 4 of zMax Dragway and posted a 6.568 at 209.52 mph, proving the best car doesn't always win on race day.
Dodge Dart drivers Allen Johnson (shown), Alan Prusiensky, and Deric Kramer were all eliminated in the first round.
Scotty Pollacheck (far lane) left way too early.
LE Tonglet rode his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki to a 6.864 at 195.00 pass to earn his 10th career victory and first of the season.
“It’s just unbelievable what we’ve come through this weekend alone,” Tonglet stated. “With the four-wides you just have to be prepared for anything. You just have to concentrate because if you lose your train of thought it’s going to be bad.”
This was the first victory for Tonglet since joining the White Alligator Racing headed by Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Jerry Savoie. Savoie was out in the first round.
The third qualifying round saw Savoie’s bike bitten by the curse of new bodywork. His brand new Suzuki TL1000 body was hit by a chunk of something on the track that made his run squirrelly, punched a hole in the body, and slowed his pass.
In the final round, three of the riders had problems with the tree: Pollacheck left before the tree came down and both Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines had way-late ET’s, .317 for Krawiec and .402 for Hines. Tonglet’s RT was just .071, which made all the difference.
BACK TO TOP
In qualifying, from bottom, Angie Smith, Angelle Sampey, Hector Arana Jr., and Hector Arana Sr. Angelle hung on to the second round of eliminations, but the rest were out in the first rounds.
After qualifying both of their Lucas Oil-backed Buells in the top half of the elimination ladder of the eighth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Hector Arana Sr. and his son Hector Jr. were hoping for a long Sunday at the drag strip. But that was quickly dashed in the opening session when both men failed to advance.
"We just have to throw this race out the window and start over," Arana Jr said. "This is an oddball race anyway so you really can't let it get you down.
"I'm still a little bummed because I really wanted to go rounds today and do well for everyone that supports us. I'm frustrated I'm haven't gone rounds in the first two races of the season because we should be. We've got a bike capable of winning rounds."
Arana Jr.'s Sunday run looked fine until he was down-track. That's when he had trouble getting into high gear, an issue that also surfaced in qualifying. This time it slowed him to an 8.210 at 113.57 mph.
"This transmission is going to have to come out and be rebuilt," Arana Jr. said. "That's two times within three runs that the bike didn't shift going down the track. It's just really disappointing. Another disappointing thing was I saw my (.134-second) reaction time and I honestly didn't think I was that late off the line. I'll definitely redeem myself next weekend in Atlanta."
Hector Sr. did have a good light -- .037 seconds -- but his bike didn't immediately respond on the launch pad and he could only watch as the other bikes pulled away. His resigned 7.271 at 195.34 mph was off the pace.