Hight, Brown, S. Gray and Arana Jr. Early Leaders at Epping
Robert Hight (above) raced to the first three-second Funny Car run in New England Dragway history during Friday qualifying at the Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals.
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event where all eight track records were broken on a single day.
Hight, a four-time winner this season, powered his Auto Club Ford Mustang to a track record time of 3.988 seconds at 321.58 mph to take the qualifying lead in Funny Car. The run was completed on the final pass of the night in the category with Hight, the 2009 world champ, snatching the top spot from two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon.
“That was pretty awesome,” said Hight, the series points leader. “We made a nice run the first run. Mike Neff told me going up there we’re not going to be cowards tonight. We’re going to get after this thing. He honestly figured there were going to be others in the threes.”
Despite winning consistently in 2014, Hight has yet to record a No. 1 qualifier this season. If he is able to enter eliminations as the No. 1 qualifier, Hight will have claimed 46 in his career.
Pedregon, who has come to life following a slow start to the season with a win in Englishtown and a runner-up finish in Topeka, posted a 4.026 at 307.44 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry to briefly take over the top spot from Courtney Force. It was only a few runs later when Hight moved around Pedregon for the top spot.
Force reset the top speed record at New England Dragway with a run at 323.35 mph in her Traxxas Mustang. It was recorded as the fifth fastest speed for a Funny Car in NHRA history.
In Top Fuel, Brown raced to the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot with a 3.770 at 323.58 in his Matco Tools dragster, setting a track record for elapsed time during the second session.
“The track definitely had some teeth in it,” said Brown. “The first session we were actually on a good run, and we came back and just wanted to improve upon it. We definitely wanted to run lower than a .77. We wanted to run a low 3.7, but the track was so good. It had such great teeth on it that it sucked some of the tune-up out of the race car on the starting line.”
Brown, the 2012 world champ, has three wins this season and is looking for his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season.
Points leader Doug Kalitta sits second with a 3.773 at 323.89 in his Mac Tools dragster. Brittany Force reset the track record in speed at 323.35 mph in her Castrol Edge dragster and sits fourth.
Gray shot to the top of the Pro Stock leaderboard after the first two sessions following his track record time of 6.485 at 212.79 in his Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro.
“I’m not really used to this,” Gray said of qualifying in the top spot. “But, I’m real proud of [crew chief] Justin Elks, Paul Hoskins, and all the boys at the shop. Obviously, they’ve done their work and my job is easy.”
Gray, a three-time winner on the Pro Stock circuit, had never recorded a No. 1 qualifier until last weekend’s event in Bristol and is now poised to claim a second if he can hold on with two sessions remaining.
Erica Enders-Stevens has continued her momentum from her win in Bristol by posting a performance of 6.489 at 213.98 in her Elite Motorsports Camaro to claim the second spot. Defending world champ Jeg Coughlin is fifth, having set the track record speed at 214.25 mph in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart.
Arana Jr. paced Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying with a 6.807 at 195.05 on his Lucas Oil Buell. Arana Jr. has had one of the most consistent and quick bikes this season and he is poised to secure his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season if his run holds.
“This Lucas Oil Buell has been amazing,” said Arana Jr, who also set the track speed record at 197.57 mph on his first qualifying attempt. “We won the crank lotto. There are issues with cranks right now, and every once and a while you find a good one. Luckily, we found a good one.”
Defending world champ and last year’s runner-up here, Matt Smith, qualified second on his Stockseth Racing Buell with a 6.816 at 194.49. Series points leader Andrew Hines is fourth on his Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson with a 6.858 at 194.07. Defending event winner John Hall of Hamden, Conn., qualified fifth on his Matt Smith Racing Buell.
(Photos courtesy JFR/Nastase; NHRA/National Dragster; Click to enlarge)
EPPING, N.H. — Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 2nd annual Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway and Motorsports Park, 11th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.
1. Antron Brown, 3.770 seconds, 323.58 mph; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.773, 323.89; 3. Richie Crampton, 3.774, 69.61; 4. Brittany Force, 3.776, 325.45; 5. J.R. Todd, 3.778, 324.83; 6. Spencer Massey, 3.796, 319.90; 7. Leah Pritchett, 3.812, 318.77; 8. Steve Torrence, 3.817, 81.21; 9. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.819, 320.81; 10. Tony Schumacher, 3.820, 322.50; 11. Bob Vandergriff, 3.877, 76.43; 12. Dom Lagana, 3.915, 319.29. Not Qualified: 13. Clay Millican, 6.300, 77.40; 14. Todd Paton, 8.040, 76.28; 15. Shawn Langdon, 8.129, 83.32; 16. Terry McMillen, 8.215, 90.00.
1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 3.988, 321.58; 2. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.026, 307.44; 3. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.031, 323.35; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.033, 318.24; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.053, 315.27; 6. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.061, 313.80; 7. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.083, 297.61; 8. John Force, Mustang, 4.092, 311.70; 9. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.102, 77.81; 10. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.110, 84.75; 11. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.134, 68.27; 12. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.221, 278.92. Not Qualified: 13. Jeff Arend, 4.537, 193.65; 14. Dave Richards, 4.653, 158.07; 15. Mike Smith, 7.535, 89.57; 16. Tony Pedregon, 9.552, 80.10.
1. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.485, 213.03; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.489, 213.98; 3. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.493, 212.96; 4. Shane Tucker, Chevy Cobalt, 6.496, 213.94; 5. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.497, 214.25; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.503, 213.40; 7. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.512, 213.10; 8. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.519, 213.77; 9. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.523, 213.70; 10. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.525, 212.86; 11. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.538, 212.79; 12. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.551, 212.49. Not Qualified: 13. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.697, 206.57; 14. Larry Morgan, 6.939, 207.40; 15. Val Smeland, 6.998, 198.23; 16. Kenny Delco, 8.198, 115.42.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.807, 197.57; 2. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.816, 194.49; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.852, 193.65; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.858, 194.07; 5. John Hall, Buell, 6.876, 193.90; 6. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.895, 192.47; 7. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.901, 194.77; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.901, 194.27; 9. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.908, 195.68; 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.938, 194.04; 11. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.942, 190.94; 12. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.970, 193.29. Not Qualified: 13. Jerry Savoie, 6.973, 194.86; 14. Scotty Pollacheck, 7.025, 191.70; 15. Justin Finley, 7.064, 188.15; 16. Hector Arana, 7.328, 144.00; 17. Sam Hurwitz, 7.888, 178.76; 18. Brian Pretzel, broke.