Kalitta, Capps win rain delayed Winternationals
Doug Kalitta and Ron Capps opened the 2009 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season with wins in Funny Car and Top Fuel at the Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Both had not won since the 2007 season, but got their new seasons off to a flying start with morale-boosting victories in Pomona. The Tuesday finish was a rare one, matched randomly by the 1978 event , which also needed two extra days to complete.
Race fans who stuck around for what was the sixth day of the initial race of the new campaign saw a new national record in Pro Stock and a bevy of quick runs and exciting pairings thanks to cool weather and a tight track. The Pro Stock final wasn't until more than an hour after the nitro classes, but Jason Line found the delay well worth the wait as he scored his Summit team's fifth win in the last six Winternationals.
Kalitta joined his uncle Connie (1967) and late cousin Scott (2005) as Winternationals winners and scored the first victory for Kalitta Motorsports since the tragic loss of Scott in a racing accident last summer. Kalitta, last year's Mac Tools U.S. Nationals runner-up who scored his most recent win in late 2007 in Richmond, defeated low qualifier Antron Brown in a tight match, 3.82, 308.57 to 3.84, 307.16, to collect career win number 31.
"I've always wanted to win here; this one of the places that ranks way up there on my list and the Kalitta name has a long list here. I'm just happy to win with this being Connie's 50th [anniversary in drag racing] and hope we can keep this momentum going and stay in the hunt. We'll just play it by era; hopefully this will help our chances of finding a primary sponsor and take it from there."
Kalitta raced to his 56th career final from the No. 11 spot, blasting past Urs Erbacher with a fire-trailing 4.64 Sunday and then pounded out a 3.82 to 3.86 decision over last year's Winternationals runner-up, Cory McClenathan, in round two. Kalitta moved on into the final when Morgan Lucas shook and smoked his tires in the new GEICO dragster in the semifinals.
Brown, the surprise low qualifier at this event last year in his Top Fuel debut, again started the season from the pole position, but, unlike last year when he exited in round two, the driver of Mike Ashley's Matco Tools dragster took it all the way to the final round. Although Brown led qualifying, his eliminations run was anything but spectacular until the semifinals. He could muster just a 4.22 to beat Top Fuel newcomer Steve Faria in round one, then got a gift in round two when Mike Strasburg was unable to stick around after the rain. Brown's blue digger launched into hard smoke and then banged the blower, which automatically deployed the chute. He crossed the finish line nearly 16 seconds later at just 26.16 mph, but nonetheless reached the final four, where the Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald-tuned machine ripped to a 3.778 at 312.78, the second quickest pass in 1,000-foot history, behind only Tony Schumacher's 3.777 of last year.
Capps, who didn't win his first round of Funny Car racing last year until the fifth event of the schedule, went four straight to open his 2009 campaign, finishing it off with his 25th career win in Funny Car when Jim Head lost traction at the green. Capps' NAPA Auto Parts Dodge roared to the victory with a 4.15, 296.96.
Capps hadn’t visited the winner's circle since the 2007 Madison event, but reached his 55th career final and showed that he, crew chief Ed McCulloch, and the NAPA team are serious about regaining the championship form they had showcased in years past. Although they qualified just 13th in the one-shot qualifying, the car came to life in eliminations by running low e.t. of the first three rounds. A 4.12 in round one dispatched John Force, and a 4.088 sent Bob Tasca III home early. In the semi's, Capps sent packing perennial Pomona finalist Robert Hight, the low qualifier and the last of the Force Racing entries, in a spectacular match, 4.054 to 4.08, which was low e.t. of eliminations.
"It's cool to be the first Full Throttle winner," said Capps, whose win was his first for NAPA, "and it's great for NAPA. We really wanted to get them a win this year because they really like our program and love what NHRA does for them because the customers can get so close. They were blown away when they came aboard last year and are doing so much with us with the TV commercials and everything. This is a big win for us."
Head, who hadn’t been to the winner's circle in Funny Car since the 1985 event in Brainerd and to any winner's circle since the 1997 Memphis event in Top Fuel, reached the final round, his 10th in Funny Car and 18th overall with his self-financed Toyota with a combination of luck and guile. Former world champ Tony Pedregon was ahead of him in round one before hiking the front end on his mount and crossing the centerline. In round two, Head put a holeshot on Ashley Force Hood and walked away with a 4.09 to 4.05 decision, narrowly getting the win as he rode the guardwall all the way down before kissing it just past the finish line. Head then advanced to the final with a 4.10 against local favorite Gary Densham.
Line followed only teammate Greg Anderson on the qualifying sheets but after his Summit running buddy went out in the semifinals, Line picked up the banner and carried it forward, topping the day with a 6.65, 211.63 victory over Edwards' 6.57, 210.01. Line's speed is a new track record.
Line reached his 35th career Pro Stock final and scored his 16th win in the class by powering Ken Black's Summit Racing GXP from the No. 2 spot with a pair of 6.50-second runs in the second- and semifinal rounds. After an opening 6.67 against Rickie Jones, Line ran 6.549 to beat Johnny Gray and then a 6.584 to trailer Allen Johnson and reach the final.
Edwards, who was going for 16th win in his 30th career Pro Stock final, beat Greg Standfield with a stout 6.59 in the opening frame and followed with a second-round conquest of Jim Yates before upsetting low qualifier Anderson in the semifinals on a holeshot, 6.57 to 6.55
Anderson, who won the Winternationals four of the previous five years (missing only in 2005), broke his own near-two-year-old 6.536 national record with a 6.528-second blast in the second round that was backed up by his first-round 6.568. The last time that the national record in Pro Stock was broken at the Winternationals was 1997, when Warren Johnson ran 6.927. Anderson's speed on the second-round pass was 211.23, a new track record until Line's shot in the final.
NHRA Winternationals Season Race # 1
POMONA, Calif. – Final round-by-round results Tuesday for the rain-delayed 49th annual Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. It is the first of 24 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series in 2009.
First round – Antron Brown, 4.222, 279.79 def. Steve Faria, 5.099, 155.10; Mike Strasburg, 3.997, 253.71 def. Spencer Massey, 4.195, 260.36; Brandon Bernstein, 4.758, 192.69 def. Andy Carter, foul; Tony Schumacher, 3.845, 312.42 def. Del Cox, 4.008, 302.08; Morgan Lucas, 3.846, 310.20 def. Joe Hartley, 3.955, 307.37; Steve Chrisman, 4.086, 285.59 def. David Baca, 7.632, 93.26; Cory McClenathan, 3.934, 313.37 def. Shawn Langdon, 4.221, 217.81; Doug Kalitta, 4.648, 194.49 def. Urs Erbacher, no time recorded.
Second round – Brown, 15.892, 26.16 def. Strasburg, no show; Bernstein, 3.834, 311.49 def. Schumacher, 3.865, 313.44; Lucas, 3.886, 305.08 def. Chrisman, 5.159, 136.02; Kalitta, 3.826, no speed def. McClenathan, 3.886, 296.83.
Semifinals – Brown, 3.778, 312.78 def. Bernstein, 9.268, 80.92; Kalitta, 3.825, 313.95 def. Lucas, 7.131, 100.15.
Final – Kalitta, 3.822, 308.57 def. Brown, 3.847, 307.16.
First round – Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.196, 284.56 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Solara, 4.618, 232.71; Del Worsham, Solara, 4.193, 310.41 def. Bob Bode, Chevy Impala, 4.744, 226.39; Bob Tasca, Ford Mustang, 4.127, 302.89 def. Mike Neff, Mustang, foul; Ashley Force Hood, Mustang, 4.334, 303.43 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 7.981, 92.32; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.159, 302.62 def. Jerry Toliver, Chevy Monte Carlo, 8.122, 87.22; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.125, 304.67 def. John Force, Mustang, 4.141, 301.47; Jim Head, Solara, 6.653, 96.58 def. Tony Pedregon, Impala, foul; Gary Densham, Impala, 4.336, 283.37 def. Jeff Arend, Solara, 4.736, 188.25.
Second round – Head, 4.09, 305.98 def. Force Hood, 4.059, 308.85; Densham, 4.129, 297.29 def. Worsham, 4.279, no speed; Hight, 4.097, no speed def. Beckman, foul; Capps, 4.088, 304.80 def. Tasca, 4.250, 264.86.
Semifinals – Head, 4.108, 299.73 def. Densham, 9.992, 87.66; Capps, 4.054, 305.56 def. Hight, 4.084, 302.62.
Final – Capps, 4.154, 296.96 def. Head, 4.246, no speed.
First round – V. Gaines, Dodge Stratus, 6.895, 166.60 def. David Beckley, Stratus, 8.049, 178.64; Johnny Gray, Stratus, 7.219, 191.97 def. Kurt Johnson, Chevy Cobalt, 16.422, 56.08; Jeg Coughlin, 10.092, 89.88 def. Larry Morgan, Stratus, foul; Jim Yates, Pontiac GXP, 6.603, 208.04 def. Warren Johnson, GXP, 7.023, 162.68; Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.595, 209.39 def. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 6.610, 208.42; Allen Johnson, Stratus, 8.672, 171.31 def. Tom Hammonds, Cobalt, 8.928, 146.61; Jason Line, GXP, 6.679, 209.82 def. Rickie Jones, Stratus, 13.078, 67.09; Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.568, 210.97 def. Ron Krisher, 6.654, 208.33.
Second round – A. Johnson, 6.549, 209.92 def. Coughlin, 6.588, 208.88; Line, 6.549, 210.90 def. Gray, 6.595, 209.56; Edwards, 6.674, 210.21 def. Yates, 7.109, 151.39; Anderson, 6.528, 211.13 def. Gaines, 6.594, 209.33.
Semfinals – Line, 6.584, 211.30 def. A. Johnson, 14.169, 61.33; Edwards, 6.579, 209.92 def. Anderson, 6.551, 210.87.
Final – Line, 6.567, 211.63 def. Edwards, 6.575, 210.01.
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