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FINAL ROUND NHRA RESULTS – GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK

ST. LOUIS — Antron Brown (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock), Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won at the third of six playoff events in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship held at Gateway Motorsports Park.

A large crowd, enjoying magnificent weather, witnessed a great day of NHRA racing at AAA INsurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. This is the second NHRA event at the track since Gateway Motorsports re-opened to the pubic after year closing in 2011. And Antron Brown and Erica Enders-Stevens each won for the second consecutive time in as many years at the renovated Gateway drag strip. New grandstands were built for this year’s event and John Force, a crowd favorite, captured not only his 136th career victory but also the largest crowd cheer of the weekend when his car edged out Jack Beckman on the final pass in Funny Car race action.

All of the leaders in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship were eliminated early in day in the first or second rounds which either changed the rankings or tightened up the difference between the top contenders.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM THE FINAL ROUND AND POST RACE AT GATEWAY MSP!

***** FINALS *****

Top Fuel –
Antron Brown beat Khalid alBaloohi for the victory. Brown’s time was 3.788 seconds and 323.97 mph down the quarter mile track. The victory follows his win last year at Gateway MSP.

Antron won first Mello Yello world championship last year; becoming the first African-American NHRA world champ and first black driver to win a major U.S. auto racing championship title. The win this weekend is his 40th of his career.

But in 2013 it has been a struggle for the reigning champion. Brown has not been in weekend final since May 2013 and he also posted eight first-round losses in a row.

“We have worked our tails off,” said Brown. “We are not going out without a fight.”

The win at Gateway puts Brown in 6th place in the Countdown to the Championship, but still 102 points behind the top spot which is still held by Shawn Langdown.

“Our goal is to race it like it is our last one,” said Brown.

Funny Car –
To the delight and loud cheers from the large St. Louis crowd, John Force beat Jack Beckman in a tight side-by-side race to the finish, even though Beckman got the hole shot lead off the starting line.

Force’s victory was his second victory in 2013 and his 136th career victory in NHRA racing. Force’s victory propelled him from fourth to second in the season’s point Countdown to the Championship.

“We got a points race now,” said Force. “The most important thing for me was to see the crowd. They filled the bleachers. To win a championship you have to live it every day.”

Pro Stock –
Erica Enders-Stevens beat Mike Edwards on a hole shot off the start line. This was the difference as the drivers battled side-by-side to the finish.

Enders-Stevens, driving the Husky Lines Chevy Camaro, won for the 6th time in her NHRA career. She wins back-to-back at Gateway AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals.

“Fans are great,” said Enders-Stevens trying to explain her success at Gateway. “The Facilities are awesome. I have raced here a long time and I have a lot of fond memories.”

Enders-Stevens missed six races during the season due to lack of sponsorship. However, Husky came on board just in time for her to compete in the Countdown to the Championship. The win at Gateway propelled her to fourth place and back into the Championship discussion.

“This was a make or break weekend because if we had exited first or second round, the championship would have been out of reach,” said Enders-Stevens.

Pro Stock Motorcycle –
Matt Smith beat LE Tonglet for the weekend championship. It is his second win of the season. And most importantly Matt Smith takes over the point lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship.

Smith now has a 75 point lead over Hector Arana and his son Hector Arana Jr. But this weekend could have been a complete loss. Smith got sick late Friday and NHRA doctors initially said he could not race Sunday.

“I have to say thanks to the doctors here or I wouldn’t have been racing here,” said Smith. “I was lucky to even race, and now i made it to the winners circle.”

For Smith his weekend turned out even more special when his father Rickie Smith won his first NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing series world championship at Gateway. The emotional senior Smith announced after winning the race and Championship that he was finally going to retire from racing after spending the last 40 years in the sport.

“My Dad saying he was going,” said Matt Smith. “He has been battling for the championship. He won seven IHRA titles, now he finally has a NHRA [title]”

Smith driving Buell motorcycle gained his 15th career victory.

Story by Kevin Proot
Photos by Larry Vancil

 

***** Eliminations Semi Final Action *****

Top Fuel –

Khalid alBalooshi and David Grubnic both had engine troubles racing down the quarter mile but alBalooshi was able to hang on to reach the final round.

Antron Brown led from start to finish in a great side-by-side race over Tony Schumacher. Brown won last year at Gateway and hopes to make it two years in a row. The team qualified 6th this weekend and is struggling to make it up the Countdown to the Championship points standings.

“We had to setup up otherwise were going to go home,” said Brown.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM THE AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS – ELIMINATIONS – SEMI FINAL ROUND AT GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK!

Funny Car

Jack Becknan and Del Worsham both struggles to make it to the finish line but after the smoke cleared it was Bechman with the win.

In a battle of John Force Racing, John Force beat his employee and son-in-law Robert Hight to make it to the finals.

Pro Stock

Like Antron Brown in Top Fuel, Erica Enders-Stevens winner last year at Gateway will try to make it back-to-back.

“I love it it,” said an excited Enders-Stevens. “We are going to try and win it again.”

Mike Edwards held off Greg Anderson to meet Enders-Stevens in the finals.

Pro Stock Motorcycles

LE Tonglet held of Scott Pollacheck to make it to the finals.

Matt Smith won a spot in the final round when Michael Ray jumped the start and red lighted.

 

***** Eliminations Quarter Final Action *****

Top Fuel –
Antron Brown kept his championship slight hopes alive with a win over Clay Millican. Currently Brown is 8th in points. Tony Schumacher took the win in his race when Morgan Lucas started too soon and red lighted.

Brittany Force lost in her chance to make her first Semi Round on elimination day to Khalid alBalooshi. David Grubnic took out the Countdown to the Championship Shawn Langdon to face alBalooshi in the semis.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM THE AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS – ELIMINATIONS – QUARTER FINAL ROUND AT GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK!

Funny Car

Jack Beckman knocked out Matt Hagen, the last Countdown to the Championship leader still remaining this weekend. Del Worsham beat Courtney Force after she smoked the tires.

Robert Hight racing for weekend sponsor AAA Insurance, beat Tim Wilkerson. John Force won an extremely close race to Ron Capps to face Hight in the semi round.

Pro Stock

Pro Stock Motorcycle

Michael Ray, 2nd place qualifier this weekend, made it to the semi finals after beating Jerry Savoie. With the top points leader out, Ray hopes to move up the season points ladder.

“Sweet day for us,” said Ray. “Looking to make up some ground today.”

***** Eliminations Round One Action *****

All four John Force Racing (JFR) cars (John Force, Courtney Force and Robert Hight in Funny Car and Brittany Force in Top Fuel) made it to the second round.

Funny Car

Top weekend qualifier Matt Hagan had no trouble in his first round race against Daniel Wilkerson. Jack Beckman and Alexis DeJoria had nearly identical reaction start time and Beckman won by less than a car length and for his efforts will face Matt Hagan in the second round.

Ron Capps started the round with an easy victory against Bob Tasca. John Force easily beat with Chad Head and will face Capps in the next round.

Courtney Force had a great race and beat Tony Pedregon. Del Worsham barely outlasted Johnny Gray and will meet Courtney Force in Round 2.

Robert Hight second best qualifier this weekend had a tough race against Jeff Arend but held on for the victory. Tim Wilkerson beat Cruz Pedregon in an ugly race which both drivers had a tough time making it to the finish line. For Pedregon it was a brutal loss since he is second in

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM THE AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS – ELIMINATIONS – ROUND 1 AT GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK!

Top Fuel –

Weekend, top qualifier Shawn Langdon easily beat Troy Buff in first round eliminations. Langdon came into the weekend tied for first in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship with Doug Kalitta. But for Kalitta, it has been a nightmare weekend who qualified in tenth place and lost in his first round race to Morgan Lucas. Tony Schumacher, second best qualifier also easily won his match against Terry McMillen. Khalid alBalooshi beat Bob Vandergriff. Courtney Force outlasted Brandon Bernstein. Antron Brown beat Billy Torrence. David Grubnic advanced to face Shawn Langdon in the next round of eliminations.

Pro Stock

Allen Johnson continued his strong weekend with an extremely tight 1st round victory against Larry Morgan. The margin of victory was a 1/2 car length.

Countdown to Championship points leader Jason Line was upset in the first round by Mike Edwards. This opened the door for Jeg Coughlin to take over the points lead by advancing past Greg Stanfield who red lighted and was disqualified.

Pro Stock Motorcycle

Hector Arana, top qualifier, won his match to advance to next round leader. There was another upset in Countdown to Championship with points leader Hector Arana Jr. who lost to Jerry Savoie.

**************************************************

Second Round Summary – Saturday

Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Matt Hagen (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock), and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) led their respective categories as No. 1 qualifiers at the third of six races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs being held at Gateway Motorsports Raceway.

Funny Car
Matt Hagen had the fastest pass in NHRA Funny Car race action with a run of 4.001 seconds at 320.20 mph. The time and speed are new track records at Gateway MSP.

Top Fuel
Shawn Langdon held on to the lead in Top Fuel with his Friday run of of 3.826 seconds at 322.65 mph. Langdon captured the top spot with his low ET. But Tony Schumacher captured the Gateway MSP track record with a speed of 327.74.

Schumacher lives in Chicago and calls this one of his home town tracks.

“I love this track,” said Schumacher. “They do a great job at this track and the fans are great.”

For Langdon, this was his 6th top qualifying finish and the second week in a row.

Pro Stock
Allen Johnson held on to the top spot in the Pro Stock field after the second and final day of qualifying. His Friday time was 6.512 seconds and 212.29 mph held up through two passes on Saturday.

“We figured it would stay,” said Johnson. “Hopefully we can seal the deal tomorrow.”

This was the third time this year that Johnson was top qualifier heading into Elimination day. Mopar cars are four of the top seven spots in tomorrow’s elimination round.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM THE AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS – ROUND 2 AT GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK!

Pro Stock Motorcycle
Hector Arana set Gateway MSP track records in both Low E.T. and Top Speed in Pro Stock Motorcycle Saturday morning. His blistering fast pass down the straightaway was 6.796 ET and 198.58 mph.

“[Prior to his run] I noticed the flags [wind] and I thought whoever has the right tune up,” said Arana. “I stayed calm and at the end of the run it didn’t feel I did it [top run] and no-one was cheering [at the end of the track] but later I heard my time and I was impressed.”

Coming into the weekend at Gateway, Arana was tied for first in points for the Countdown to Championship but he still didn’t feel his team was as consistent.

“We had been struggling,” said Arana. “This run is exactly what the team needed.”

One of the big reasons why Lucas Oil Buell rider Hector Arana Sr. is in the thick of the Pro Stock Motorcycle championship hunt heading into the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals this weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park is not having to worry so much about his sons. Sure, any father will be concerned about his son’s well-being, but sons Hector Jr. and Adam have emerged from under their dad’s wings in 2013, taking some burdens off his shoulders.

“They’re doing an excellent job,” Arana said. “They can stay focused and see where I’m making the mistakes and point them out for me. They learned well, and I’m proud of them and what they’ve done.

“They’re always around me and they have never abandoned me. They work hard, and they stay by my side until it’s over — late nights, weekends, every day.”

Hector Jr. leads the points standings and rookie Adam is ninth. Arana, meanwhile, has reached the final and semifinals in the opening two races of the Countdown to the Championship and sits third, 33 points behind his eldest son.

Eliminations for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest National at Gateway MSP begin Sunday at 11 am.

CLICK HERE FOR EVENT SCHEDULE

Tickets are available for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals online at www.gatewaymsp.com or by calling (855) RACE-TIK (722-3845). For complete online coverage of the second annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, please visit www.nhra.com.

************************************

ROUND 1 NHRA – Friday

ST. LOUIS — Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Matt Hagen (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock), and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle) led their respective categories as No. 1 qualifiers at the third of six races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs being held at Gateway Motorsports Raceway.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM THE AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS – ROUND 1 AT GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK!

Top Fuel
Shawn Langdon got the lead in Top Fuel with a run of 3.826 seconds at 322.65 mph in the 1st Session at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Shawn Langdon enters the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, the third of six events that comprise the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs, in a tie for first place in the NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel point standings. Langdon and Doug Kalitta lead third-place Spencer Massey by two points. The top-four positions are separated by just 35 points – less than two rounds of racing.

“We’ve been making good runs since the Countdown began,” said Langdon. “We just haven’t gotten a win yet which is not disappointing because we know the Al-Anabi car is capable of winning.”

Gateway Motorsports Park is one of only four tracks on which the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competes at which the Al-Anabi Racing Team has never won a race.

Funny Car
Matt Hagen had the fastest pass in NHRA Funny Car race action with a run of 4.001 seconds at 320.20 mph. The time and speed are new track records at Gateway MSP.

“The car was as smooth as silk,” described Hagen of his record setting run.

Hagen has a 51-point lead, over No. 2-ranked Cruz Pedregon after two of six events in the Countdown to the Championship.

“You can’t worry about points until the end of Vegas,” Hagan said of the season’s next-to-last race. “At the end of that race, you’ll know if you’re in it or you’re not. I just look at it that way. It’s tough to do and everyone handles things in their own way and that’s just the way I’m handling it.

Hagan enjoys seeing the Mello Yello Series fans in St. Louis.

“Look at the stands, they are packed,” said Hagen. “The race was taken away for a while and they brought it back last year and you just know the fans there are grateful for that and they are excited to see us. It is nice to get back there and show them some love.”

Pro Stock
Allen Johnson leads the Pro Stock field after the first day of qualifying. His time was 6.512 seconds and 212.29 mph.

Johnson is currently 5th in points in the Countdown and a win at Gateway would greatly help his chance for a championship. But he has a calm outlook with regards to his team’s efforts towards the championship.

“The biggest thing is have fun and work together as a team,” said Johnson. “There are five or six guys and it is going to be knock down drag fight to the finish.”

Pro Stock Motorcycle
Michael Ray captured the top spot in Pro Stock Motorcycles with a 8.844 second and 195.79 mph run down the Gateway MSP straightaway. Ray is currently 5th in points and races for Sovereign-Star Racing which had an interesting week off the track when Ray’s teammate, Scotty Pollacheck quit the team to race as an independent in the Countdown.

“It is business as usual,” said Ray. “Now I have five engines I can blow up this weekend.”

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM THE AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS – ROUND 1 AT GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK!

Adam Flamholc NHRA Pro Mod drag Racing incident: NHRA Pro Mod drag Racing Series driver Adam Flamholc, from Sweden, was transported to a local hospital for evaluation after ’68 Camaro went out of control near the finish line and crashed. He was reportedly alert and responding to commands as he was transported to Saint Louis University Trauma Center.

Qualifying continues for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest National at Gateway MSP Saturday at 11:45 and 2:15 p.m. Eliminations begin Sunday at 11 am.

CLICK HERE FOR EVENT SCHEDULE

Tickets are available for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals online at www.gatewaymsp.com or by calling (855) RACE-TIK (722-3845). For complete online coverage of the second annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, please visit www.nhra.com.

************************************

LUCAS RACES INTO AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS WITH NEW DRAGSTER AND FOCUS

ST. LOUIS — Morgan Lucas thunders into the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals piloting a new 8,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster and the momentum of powering it to the winner’s circle in its debut race. Lucas won the opening playoff event in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship at Charlotte and rocketed from eighth to third in Top Fuel points. He continued to have success in the machine at the second playoff stop in Dallas, posting a semifinal finish, and now sits fourth overall, 35 behind tied leaders Shawn Langdon and Doug Kalitta.

CLICK HERE FOR EVENT SCHEDULE

Lucas, along with all the competitors of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, will attempt to write their names in the record books by claiming a victory at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, Sept. 27-29 at Gateway Motorsports Park. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec will all look to defend their 2012 victories in round No. 3 of the six-race Countdown to the Championship. The race will be televised by ESPN2HD.

At the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals in Charlotte, Lucas qualified No. 1, and defeated a tough group of racers including Terry McMillen, teammate Brandon Bernstein, Doug Kalitta and Spencer Massey in the finals to earn his second win of the season and ninth of his career. At Dallas, he qualified 12th, but defeated Clay Millican and Tony Schumacher before losing to Langdon in the semis.

“We’ve never been in this situation of chasing a championship and we just want to continue to run well,” Lucas said. “I’m just genuinely proud to be a part of this team. We’ve got a great car that everyone has a lot of confidence in and we’re just fortunate right now.”

Lucas and his GEICO / Lucas Oil dragster team led by crew chief Aaron Brooks and Rod Centorbi built the winning dragster in-house and this marks the first time the team undertook such a challenge. The gamble paid off for the team with the win in Charlotte, and they also grabbed the No. 1 qualifying position and set low E.T. for the entire weekend.

“We wanted something a little bit better,” Lucas said. “We wanted something that we knew we could build pre-load into the car. We could make it a little more forgiving, lighter, just little things.

“Aaron is our crew chief, but he’s an artist when it comes to working with metal. We have a couple other guys in the shop who are the same way. They took this deal and ran with it, and next thing you know, we have a great car that we have a lot of confidence in that seems like every run takes what we put at it.”

In 2005 Lucas raced to a runner-up finish at the track that sits in the shadow of the St. Louis Arch when he lost to Brandon Bernstein. When the series returned last year, Lucas learned the nuances of the facility and is attempting to secure his first career win at the venue.

“For us, we have to be able to have confidence, and Aaron’s got to be able to have confidence, I have to have confidence in order for us to win races,” Lucas continued. “We learned a lot there last year that we carried on to other races that year. Hopefully, we won’t struggle with the same things we struggled with last year. If we could just fix the first 100 feet of the race track, consistency-wise, we should be a force to be reckoned with.”

St. Louis has long been known as a hotbed of drag racing action and Gateway Motorsports Park is a key component in the lore of racing in the area. The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns for the second consecutive season and Lucas is ready to once again meet the energized fan base.

“St. Louis is always actually been a good turnout race for us,” Lucas continued. “The fans are dedicated. From what I heard from fans is they’re very excited to have the return of the event.”

For Lucas to win his second race in the Countdown to the Championship, he will have to outlast a field of hungry competitors. Co-leaders Langdon and Kalitta, who ended a 71-race drought by winning in Dallas, are atop the category. Spencer Massey sits third following his runner-up effort in Charlotte and semifinal appearance in Dallas. Defending world champ Brown is looking for redemption after posting a DNQ in Charlotte and second round exit at Dallas. Schumacher, Clay Millican, Bob Vandergriff and Steve Torrence are also among the Countdown challengers aiming to take home wins at the event.

The Funny Car field is led by points leader and 2011 world champion Matt Hagan. Robert Hight is riding plenty of momentum coming into the event after he has won the past two of the past three events and moved from ninth to third in points. Dallas winner Cruz Pedregon moved to second place in the standings with his well-time victory. John Force, the Dallas runner-up, and Courtney Force, Illinois native Tim Wilkerson, Ron Capps, defending winner Beckman, Del Worsham and Johnny Gray are also among the pre-race favorites.

Dallas winner Jason Line carries the points lead into St. Louis in the Pro Stock category holding an eight point advantage over Jeg Coughlin, who has three wins in the category including the playoff opener in Charlotte. Defending world champ Allen Johnson, regular season dominator Mike Edwards, Greg Anderson, defending race winner Enders-Stevens and Dallas runner-up Shane Gray will all be among the drivers in the factory hot rod category thrilling fans during the weekend.

The two-wheeled warriors in Pro Stock Motorcycle return to Gateway Motorsports Park with Hector Arana Jr. atop the series standings in the category. Matt Smith, Michael Ray, Scotty Pollacheck, John Hall and Dallas winner Eddie Krawiec will be among the contenders vying for the NHRA Wally during the weekend.

The race also will feature exciting competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. Fans will be able to get autographs and watch the race teams service their high performance hot rods between each round of racing. No other sport offer fans an up close and personal experience like NHRA.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

Families can take part in a special ticket offer as children 12 and under will be admitted free in general admission and grandstand two with paid adult. A special 12 and under rate is also available in the Nitro 2 section.

The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27. Qualifying continues at 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29.

Tickets are available for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals online at www.gatewaymsp.com or by calling (855) RACE-TIK (722-3845). For complete online coverage of the second annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, please visit www.nhra.com.

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