CONCORD, N.C. — The Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals have commenced at zMAX Dragway. Here is a live report from the second round of the Countdown to the Championship.
The latest elimination results will be added to the top of this report.
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) collected Wallys on Sunday evening at zMAX Dragway.
Click here for the rundown on the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals final rounds and winners.
The semifinal rounds commenced at 3:05 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. The track temperature was reported to be 124 degrees.
Mike Salinas continued to impress during his semifinal matchup against Austin Prock.
The Scrappers Racing dragster survived the elimination with a 3.898-second ET at 257.68 mph, while Prock, who won the four-wide race at zMAX Dragway this spring, experienced early trouble on the drag strip.
It wasn’t a perfect run for Salinas either, though he did score the victory.
“The last run, it didn’t go anywhere, so we made a wholesale adjustments there. And maybe we didn’t even make enough, because it didn’t go all the way down the track,” commented Rob Flynn, Salinas’ crew chief. “We’ll be back for the final round.”
Doug Kalitta earned his seventh consecutive round win in the second semifinal matchup, facing off against Tony Stewart Racing’s Leah Pruett. Both made clean runs, but Kalitta’s 3.745-second run at 328.70 mph was the clear winner.
Two bright red Funny Cars pulled into the staging lanes for the first semifinal — Matt Hagan vs. Bob Tasca III.
But it was Tasca’s Ford in the right lane that flipped the win light with a 3.935-second ET at 327.35 mph. Hagan was hot on his heels with a 3.953-second run at 321.04 mph, but it wasn’t enough to defeat Tasca.
In a game of inches, Robert Hight won his matchup against Alex Laughlin, advancing his John Force Racing Funny Car on to make his 101st final round appearance in NHRA competition.
“Driver needs to do a little better on the starting line, but I will, I’ll be there for Tasca,” Hight said. “We’re in another final. That’s what you’ve got to do to get the championship. You need to go rounds. But we want to win this thing.”
Deric Kramer red-lit in his matchup with Dallas Glenn, allowing Glenn to advance to the finals.
Five-time Pro Stock champions Erica Enders and Greg Anderson were the last semifinal matchup.
Enders moved first with a .029-second reaction time, but Anderson, the winningest driver in the history of Pro Stock, pulled ahead as they reached the eighth-mile and flipped the win light against his rival. His 6.546-second run at 209.30 mph topped Enders’ 6.590-second ET at 208.97 mph.
“It took a hard left on me, blew smooth through the clutch on third gear,” Enders explained. “Unfortunately just wasn’t our day here in Charlotte. We have four more left. It’s not over, and it ain’t even close.”
Pro Stock Motorcycle
Hector Arana Jr. and Herrera will meet each other in the finals.
The size of the Carolina Nationals field continued to shrink as more drivers were eliminated in the quarterfinals.
John Force Racing teammates Brittany Force and Austin Prock were paired for the first matchup in the quarterfinals. At sixth (Force) and eighth (Prock) in points, it was crucial for either driver to advance in order to keep their championship hopes alive.
Both smoked the tires off the line, both pedaled the throttle, but Prock executed the best recovery.
Fast qualifier Mike Salinas made a solo run, automatically advancing to the semifinals despite smoking the tires.
Fifth-in-points Antron Brown chose the right lane in his matchup against fourth-in-points Leah Pruett, but the decision was for naught, as Pruett pulled off the win with a 3.829-second ET at 319.60 mph. Brown’s attempt to defend his fall win at zMAX Dragway last September would end prematurely.
It was another battle of teammates in the fourth matchup, as Kalitta Motorsports drivers Shawn Langdon and Doug Kalitta faced off. But with a .065-second reaction time and launch off the start, Kalitta went on to set the low ET of the session — 3.741 seconds at 333.33 mph — and score the round win.
Bob Tasca III and Terry Haddock were the first to the burnout area during the Funny Car quarterfinals. Haddock red-lit on the tree, allowing Tasca to advance to the semifinals with his 3.894-second ET at 329.02 mph.
In the Dave Richards-Alex Laughlin matchup, the latter driver was the only one to make it all the way down the drag strip, giving Laughlin his first career ticket to the semifinals in a nitro Funny Car.
“Our guys deserve this so much. Obviously had quite a terrible season, but things are definitely turning around,” Laughlin said. “Good time to come around.”
Points leader Robert Hight took the right lane, while opponent Paul Lee staged in the left lane. Hight made the pass on the part-time Funny Car driver as they hit the eighth-mile, advancing his John Force Racing Funny Car onto the next round.
In the final Funny Car quarterfinal round, Matt Hagan triumphed over Tim Wilkerson.
KB Titan Racing’s Dallas Glenn and Elite Motorsports’ Aaron Stanfield were first to the staging lane in the quarterfinals. Glenn’s .005-second reaction time gave him the advantage heading down the drag strip and he continued to hold it through the end, recording a 6.590-second pass at 207.75 mph. Stanfield was eliminated.
Deric Kramer won on the holeshot with a .024-second reaction time against Camrie Caruso.
Former champion Greg Anderson reminded the crowd of his tenacity, defeating Christian Cuadra with a 6.561-second ET at 209.17 mph.
Pro Stock points leader Matt Hartford and reigning champion Erica Enders were the monster matchup in the quarterfinals, going head-to-head early Sunday afternoon.
Enders captured a narrow victory over Hartford, starting with a .015-second reaction time and ending with a 6.567-second run at 208.68 mph. Hartford was painfully close, with a 6.564-second ET at 209.46 mph.
“We’ve been in a lot of these big rounds over my 20-year Pro Stock career. That’s the experience we bring to the table,” Enders said.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
Chase Van Sant, Eddie Krawiec, Hector Arana Jr. and Gaige Herrera advanced to the semifinals.
First Round Results
It was a first round full of upsets in the nitro category on Sunday morning at zMAX Dragway.
Shawn Langdon pulled of a round win against eight-time Top Fuel Tony Schumacher in the first matchup of the day.
Tenth-place qualifier Austin Prock earned another surprise victory, defeating fifth-place qualifier Josh Hart.
Antron Brown rocketed down the drag strip in 3.686 seconds at 337.24 mph, eliminating Spencer Massey from first round. At fifth-place in the points, the Matco Tools dragster driver needs to keep the trend going in the semifinals in order to make up valuable ground in the standings.
In the fourth matchup, point leader Steve Torrence staged in the right lane, while last week’s winner Doug Kalitta lined up in the left. The gravity of the matchup was not lost on either driver. Both longtime Top Fuel racers gave it their all, with Torrence shooting off the line with a .068-second reaction time and Kalitta following with a .074-second reaction time.
But when they reached the top end, it was Kalitta who flipped the win light with a 3.718-second elapsed time at 333.16 mph. Torrence’s margin of loss was razor thin, logging a 3.725-second run at 332.34 mph in his CAPCO Contractors dragster.
“That was a huge round for us. Especially here,” Kalitta said. “We’re just trying to go rounds.”
Brittany Force defeated Clay Millican next, advancing her Flav-R-Pac dragster on to the semifinals.
The second huge shakeup was in the final Top Fuel matchup, as Tony Stewart Racing’s Leah Pruett flipped the win light against the driver who is second in points, Justin Ashley. Ashley lost traction in his Phillips Connect dragster, losing to Pruett’s stellar run of 3.708 seconds at 333.08 mph.
“For us to go onto that second round, Justin is the biggest, best class act,” Pruett said. “The Countdown does take your breath away, but we’re going to get to work. I know we’ve got tough competition all day long.”
The Funny Cars were on track next, with Alexis DeJoria and Bob Tasca III facing off to kick off the action. DeJoria, who was unable to make a clean run in qualifying, puffed the tires again and was unable to beat Tasca.
Fastest qualifier Robert Hight made a solo run down the track, automatically earning a spot in the semifinals.
After opponent Jimmy Smith red-lit, Matt Hagan won his first round matchup in his JHG Horsepowered Garage Funny Car.
John Force smoked the tires in the left lane, handing the round victory to Alex Laughlin.
“To be able to get through first round, especially against John Force, is a huge achievement to unlock,” Laughlin said in his FOX interview at the top end. “It’s hard to not even cry, it’s just so real.”
A second upset was in store during the next matchup, after points leader Ron Capps staged next to Dave Richards. Capps’ NAPA Auto Parts Funny Car only made it halfway down the track, while Richards soared to the win light, taking the reigning champion out of contention.
Terry Haddock advanced to second round over Chad Green.
Tim Wilkerson won against Cruz Pedregon, who puffed the tires as the pair glided down the drag strip.
The final Funny Car matchup was between J.R. Todd and Paul Lee, with Lee turning on the win light.
The Pro Stocks were next to the ready line.
Fernando Cuadra Jr. red-lit against points leader Matt Hartford, who advanced to the second round.
Deric Kramer won by three-hundredths of a second over Kyle Koretsky.
KB Titan Racing driver Dallas Glenn had a .012-second reaction time on the tree, then proceeded to power down the drag strip in 6.580 seconds at 209.78 mph, defeating Troy Coughlin Jr. in their first round matchup.
“Tough break last weekend, missed it just a little bit there,” Glenn said. “I feel like the car’s starting to come around a little bit. We need to make this a long day and a good points day.”
Five-time Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson pulled off a victory against Jerry Tucker with a 6.559-second ET at 208.65 mph. Anderson’s run in his HendrickCars.com machine was the lowest ET of the day.
Christian Cuadra topped Bo Butner III in their matchup.
Eric Latino might’ve been .011 seconds on the tree, but Aaron Stanfield pulled ahead when the pair passed the eighth-mile.
Second-place qualifier Camrie Caruso narrowly held off Chris McGaha in order to claim a spot in the semifinals.
Reigning champion Erica Enders defeated Matt McGaha with a 6.544-second ET at 209.65 mph.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
Angie Smith, Kelly Clontz, Chip Ellis, Hector Arana Jr., Matt Smith, Chase Van Sant, Eddie Krawiec and Gaige Herrera advanced out of the first round and into the semifinals.