race reports

NHRA Carolina Nationals at Charlotte, NC

A Day Late...

Words by Kay Burk

Photos by Chris Haverly and Ron Lewis

Robert Hight got his 500th win. 


Although the elimination rounds were delayed by a day due to rain washing out the Sunday racing, the teams showed no ill-effects, although the zMax grandstands were noticeably empty as fans headed back to work on Monday, Oct. 14.



Steve Torrence regained the Top Fuel points lead with a win over Doug Kalitta. 


In running his winning streak to 14-straight rounds and improving his record at zMAX over the last three years to 18-1, Steve Torrence put just a sliver of distance between himself and veteran Doug Kalitta, whom he defeated in the final when he coupled a .031 reaction time to a track time of 3.772 seconds.

Kalitta’s tires lost traction at about half-track and Torrence went on for the win and the lead in the Top Fuel points.


“I think we need to win two more races to be pretty solid to win this thing again,” Torrence said. “The points-and-a-half at Pomona is really gonna make it interesting. We’ve got some momentum, but we know that this is drag racing and you’re only as good as your last run.”


Kalitta, who leaves Charlotte just 30 points behind Torrence, thinks he has a chance to regain the lead.


“There are three races left and we are only back 30 points. That would be one round in Pomona with double points,” Kalitta said. “We are going to be back on the race track in four days and will start trying to get some of those bonus points on Friday and Saturday.”

Justin Ashley made his Top Fuel debut at the Carolina Nationals. He got past Mike Salinas and Austin Prock, but then met Steve Torrence (near lane) in the semifinal.


Top Fuel points

1. Steve Torrence, 2,356; 2. Doug Kalitta, 2,326; 3. Brittany Force, 2,264; 4. Leah Pritchett, 2,231; 5. Mike Salinas, 2,227; 6. Billy Torrence, 2,206; 7. Austin Prock, 2,204; 8. Richie Crampton, 2,196; 9. Antron Brown, 2,194; 10. Clay Millican, 2,178.



Jack Beckman was too early in his final-round match with Robert Hight. 


Robert Hight became just the 20th pro driver to win 500 racing rounds in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series with his win over Jack Beckman.


Hight is the seventh driver to reach 500 wins in the Funny Car class, joining teammate and mentor John Force whose 1,348 career round wins is 474 more than anyone else in the sport. Hight is the second driver to join the exclusive club this year along with PSM standout Andrew Hines.


“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but right here (in the points lead). We can control our own destiny. When you’re chasing somebody, you can’t control what they do so I want to be here and I want to be here a month from now,” said Hight who has led the points all but one race this season. “That’s the goal. This was a good weekend for us. We got the points lead back last weekend in St. Louis but to come out here and extend it, that’s what we have to keep doing every race. I’ve never won six races in my life. This is the most I’ve ever won but right now I feel like I’m going to have to win eight to be the champ, so we’re up for it.”


Beckman squandered his day’s performance by turning on the red light in the final round against Hight. Beckman remains second in points however.


“That final round loss is bitterly disappointing,” Beckman admitted. “As a driver, you have to keep your head in that zone where you perform your best and I was OK today and I just lapsed in the final round. I found my focus going away and my right foot started going down right about then. It’s important locking your vision on an amber bulb (on the starting line tree) and staying on that, and I just wasn’t where I needed to be.


“I’m not sure how that race would have unfolded had we both been green but we can’t afford to give those away. We gained points on every car this weekend except the one we most needed to gain points on and that was due to a driver error. So, I’m going to shake it off. I’ve got four days to get my head straight. I’m going to come back in Dallas and there’s going to be a lot of big smiles on this team because we’re going to put this thing in the winner’s circle there.”

Mike McIntire Jr. met Hight in the first round and his late 0.102 RT set the tone for the run. Hight was off the line first and “McAttack” could not catch him. 

Ron Capps (far lane) went on to get the quarterfinal win with a 3.908/329.58 defeat of John Force’s 3.912/327.43. 


Funny Car points

1. Robert Hight, 2,358; 2. Jack Beckman, 2,314; 3. John Force, 2,279; 4. Ron Capps, 2,268; 5. Bob Tasca III, 2,215; 6. J.R. Todd, 2,214; 7. Matt Hagan, 2,211; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,191; 9. Shawn Langdon, 2,187; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,152.



Deric Kramer (far lane) got the win against Matt Hartford. 


In Pro Stock, Deric Kramer went 6.541 at 211.33 in the final round in his American Ethanol Novozymes Chevrolet Camaro to snag his second victory in 2019 and fourth of his career beating Matt Hartford’s 6.558 at 211.00 mph in the final. He reached the final round with wins against Kenny Delco, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Aaron Stanfield.


Hartford competed in his second consecutive final round after defeating Fernando Cuadra Jr., Chris McGaha and No. 1 qualifier Erica Enders.


“Our motto around the pit is, ‘Just don’t screw up. Make them beat you,’” said Kramer. “And that’s what a lot of today was. Nothing was super stellar; nothing was super fast. But I was able to hold on just long enough and got to 1320 first and that’s all she wrote.”

Erica Enders took the Pro Stock points lead, defeating both Cristian and Fernando Cuadra Sr. before falling to Matt Hartford. 

The Cuadra family was the first father-son team to put a father and two sons in the field since Bob, Billy and Rusty Glidden in 1995. Fernando Sr. drives the old blue Summit car, Fernando Jr. drives the red one, and youngest son, Cristian, drives the orange Mustang. 

Jeg Coughlin Jr. had a perfect .000 RT in the first round, but cut it just a bit too close and went red in the second against Deric Kramer.


Pro Stock Points

1. Erica Enders, 2,332; 2. Jason Line, 2,294; 3. Matt Hartford, 2,293; 4. Bo Butner, 2,265; 5. Deric Kramer, 2,244; 6. Jeg Coughlin, 2,221; 7. Alex Laughlin, 2,208; 8. Greg Anderson, 2,181; 9. Chris McGaha, 2,165; 10. Val Smeland, 2,093.



Andrew Hines (near lane) won a close one with a 6.805/199.37 to Karen Stoffer’s 6.804/199.20. 


Andrew Hines picked up his eighth Pro Stock Motorcycle win of the season in his Harley-Davidson when he defeated Karen Stoffer in the final round. He secured wins against Michael Ray, Scott Pollacheck and Hector Arana Jr. before facing Karen Stoffer in the finals for the second consecutive time this season. Stoffer took the victory when they met in St. Louis in September.


Stoffer raced to her third final round of the season after defeating Kelly Clontz, Eddie Krawiec and No. 1 qualifier Steve Johnson.


“It was a tough day,” said Hines. “We were sitting around during the rain delay yesterday talking about this Pro Stock Motorcycle class and how stacked it is right now. If you look at the top ten in qualifying, any one of those people could be number one at any given time. You just never know when that’s going to happen, so these races right now are hard fought and hard earned.”


Pro Stock Motorcycle points

1. Andrew Hines, 2,387; 2. Karen Stoffer, 2,330; 3. Eddie Krawiec, 2,272; 4. Jerry Savoie, 2,245; 5. Hector Arana Jr, 2,242; 6. Matt Smith, 2,236; 7. Angelle Sampey, 2,171; 8. Angie Smith, 2,148; 9. Ryan Oehler, 2,127; 10. Hector Arana, 2,096. 



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