CONCORD, N.C. — Krista Baldwin could not hide her emotions when she climbed from her Top Fuel dragster after the first round of eliminations Sunday at zMAX Dragway.
Baldwin, the granddaughter of NHRA stalwart Chris Karamesines, was making her elimination Sunday debut in Top Fuel competition during the NGK NTK Four-Wide Nationals and she did so in spectacular fashion.
Lining up all-star drivers Leah Pruett, Antron Brown and Shawn Langdon, Baldwin finished second to Brown and ahead of Pruett and Langdon to earn a spot in the second round of eliminations.
More than 40 minutes after her surprising round one performance, Baldwin was still on cloud nine as her crew hustled to prepare her car for round two.
“I’m on such a high right now that I don’t ever want to come down from this,” said Baldwin, who was later eliminated in the second round. “Rounding that corner, the top end telling me I won, I couldn’t believe it. It’s a miracle and I’ve got to give props to Bobby and Dom Lagana and my guys, DSR and Lucas Oil for coming back on board and staying with my grandpa.
“Man, driving a Top Fuel car is so much fun!”
Baldwin took over the car previously piloted by her grandfather, who after a lengthy career, retired from active competition at the end of the 2020 season after a career that spanned 67 years.
She said Karamesines, best known by drag racing fans as “The Greek,” is usually a man of few words. That didn’t stop him from making sure his granddaughter knew how he felt after her performance Sunday.
“He was so proud. you could tell in his face he was super proud,” Baldwin said. “He came back to the pit here and he was like, ‘Good job kid.’ When he says that, you know you did a good job.”
When asked if her weekend at zMAX Dragway was the best weekend of her life regardless of how the rest of the day went, Baldwin responded with an emphatic, “Absolutely!”
Baldwin’s weekend ended in the second round of eliminations, but it’s safe to say she’ll remember her first Four-Wide Nationals for a long time.
• Drag racing legend Roy Hill was hospitalized Friday after a car competing in one of the sportsman classes at zMAX Dragway backed over him. Hill suffered a broken hip in the incident.
Hill has since undergone surgery according to a post on the Roy Hill Drag Racing School Facebook page. Doctors ran a metal rod from his hip to his knee.
• Following his victory Sunday in the Top Fuel class at zMAX Dragway, Steve Torrence got a lift to the media center from fellow Four-Wide Nationals winner John Force. According to the three-time Top Fuel champion, it was a harrowing experience.
“I did ride all the way back with Force on a scooter, so that was terrifying,” Torrence remarked.
When Torrence wrapped up his press conference he saw Force standing in the back of the room and said, “John, thanks for bringing me back up here. I’d still be walking if it wasn’t for you.”
The entire room laughed.
• Jose Gonzalez walked away from a violent crash during NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series competition on Sunday that saw his car make a sharp left turn into the wall from the first lane. The car briefly climbed the wall before returning to the race track, where it then crossed the track and hit the wall that separates lanes one and two from lanes three and four.
Gonzalez walked away from the crash and later said in an interview at the starting line that he believed an oil line broke in his car and sprayed oil on the rear tires, causing the car to veer suddenly into the wall.
• Funny Car driver Mike McIntire Jr. had reason to celebrate on Sunday afternoon after he advanced out of the first round for the first time in his career. He was part of a quad that included eventual winner John Force, Dale Creasey and Dave Richards.
• Speaking of Force, he made an unexpected visit to the zMAX Dragway media center Saturday evening, where he announced he was looking for, “The big guy who runs the show.”
That turned out to be Charlotte Motor Speedway public relations ace Jonathan Coleman, whom Force handed his yellow No. 1 qualifier hat that he’d autographed specifically for track owner Bruton Smith.
• After resetting the track’s Top Fuel speed record during qualifying, Brittany Force reset it again during the first round of eliminations Sunday with a blistering 333.49 mph pass.
• The NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle division saw a speed borage at zMAX Dragway the likes of which had never been seen before. The 11 fastest speeds in class history were set over the weekend, including the first three passes at more than 203 mph.
The two fastest belonged to Eddie Krawiec, who went 203.49 mph and 203.37 mph during qualifying. Hector Arana Jr. added his name to the 203 mph club with a 203.06 mph run during eliminations.