Dixon, Pedregon, Connolly, Hines Win at Reading
Dixon and Hines stayed atop the standings in the Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle divisions, while the Funny Car and Pro Stock leaders fell in the fourth of six races in the Countdown to the Championship.
Dixon kept a stranglehold on the Top Fuel lead with his 12th-straight final round victory in a come-from-behind run against second-place points driver Cory McClenathan.
Coming in as the no. 1 qualifier, Dixon bested Terry McMillen, Doug Foley and David Grubnic to move onto his 104th career final round and his fifth of the season facing McClenathan.
In the final run, Dixon smoked his tires right off the line as McClenathan pulled out to an early lead, only to smoke the tires himself at the 300-foot mark, allowing Dixon to make up the ground and ultimately speed past for his 12th-straight victory and 60th of his career with a run of 4.906 over McClenathan’s 5.103.
More importantly, he extended his points lead to 89 points over McClenathan with just two events remaining.
“I can hardly wait to watch (the final) on TV,” said Dixon. “I stepped on the throttle and immediately spun the tires, and you’re coming off the throttle, and as you’re rolling back on, it’s like, ‘OK.’ Then, you look over in the other lane, and he shot way out there and he kept going, and then, all of a sudden, I could see him start to spin the tires. I was like, ‘Hell, I might as well go for it and try to chase him down.’
“Our car just hooked up. I had such a run on him, and I blew by him so fast. When I saw the win light come on, I was laughing and couldn’t believe it all at the same time because that’s a race you shouldn’t win, and we just won.”
Pedregon, who failed to qualify for this year’s Countdown field, made his way to the finals through a tough field that included Ashley Force Hood and his brother Tony, and beating out Del Worsham in the semi-finals on a holeshot to advance to just his second final round of the year and the 62nd of his career.
After vaulting past John Force in the point standings thanks in part to 20 bonus points he scored in qualifying, including a new national record run of 4.011, Hagan was looking to extend his lead even more making it to the finals with wins over Phil Burkart Jr., Tim Wilkerson, and Jim Head.
Hagan came out strong in the final round but began to lose traction forcing Hagan to back out of the throttle, giving Pedregon a narrow victory of 4.130 to Hagan’s 4.242 for his 28th career victory.
“It’s an equally as satisfying as winning a race,” said Pedregon of playing the spoiler role. “My number one goal after Brainerd was ‘let see how many points we can count’, I felt we had a car that could compete for a championship and I really feel like this is our own little mini-championship. We’re keeping score I think we’d be second in points right now, so that really means a lot to me, it says a lot about our team, it says a lot about what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
In Pro Stock is was a similar story as non-Countdown driver Dave Connolly made a triumphant return to the winner’s circle with his first final-round win since 2008, topping new points leader Greg Anderson with a holeshot win, 6.57 to 6.59.
After an absence of more than a year and a half from the Pro Stock ranks, Connolly notched his 22nd-career victory is just his second start of the season, knocking off Ron Krisher, Larry Morgan, and rookie Shane Gray to face Anderson.
“Our goal was to kind of make it interesting, and we definitely have,” said Connolly. “It was just an incredible weekend all together. Just to be back out here is a lot of fun.
“It was a good race , two (thousandths) apart when we left the starting line, we both had decent lights, the cars ran great. It was just a close final, could have gone either way, it was just our turn to win this time.”
Anderson had already claimed the points lead after Mike Edwards red-lighted in the opening round, giving him a 36-point edge in the standings.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, it was again Hines and L.E. Tonglet meeting head to head for the fourth straight time, only this time it was Hines getting the best of the rookie in a wire-to-wire run to maintain his slim lead in the points standings.
Hines defeated Neil Jacobs, Angie Smith and teammate Eddie Krawiec to advance to his seventh straight final round of the season and the 40th of his career, taking on Tonglet, who had an easier run to the finals, getting red-light victories over Karen Stoffer and top qualifier Hector Arana before beating Matt Smith to reach the finals.
The final run came down to a holeshot as Hines’ .020 light at 6.916 gave him the edge to Tonglet’s 6.916 and a 72-point advantage.
“The bike left perfect, just like it needed to,” said Hines. “That finish line couldn’t come fast enough, “When I saw that win light, that was one of the prettiest win lights I’ve seen in a long time.
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