Weather conditions for the 31st annual Carquest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix, Arizona was comfortable and partly cloudy, producing some great on track performances. The conditions also brought out a near capacity crowd over the entire three days of racing.
In Top Fuel, it was the Tony “the Sarge” Schumacher and the US Army dragster show, as they were a dominating force throughout the event. As the #1 qualifier, he utilized a string of 3.7-second elapse times (3.725, 3.768 and 3.738) as he dispatched with Jenna Haddock, Spencer Massey and Antron Brown to advance to the final round. On the other side of the eliminations ladder, Doug Kalitta, in his MAC Tools dragster, was no slouch from his #2 qualifying positon. Kalitta took out Clay Milligan in his Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster in the opening round with a 3.762 at 328.38 mph, then Brittany Force with a 3.770 at 326.87 mph to 3.799 at 321.81 mph margin. Kalitta advanced to the final round by taking out the season opening (Winter Nationals) event champion, Shawn Langdon, when both cars lost traction. Kalitta was able to recover first to get past Langdon, 4.303 at 242.71 mph to 4.752 at 278.86 mph. In the monster final round matchup between Schumacher and Kalitta, Kalitta got off first (0.066 to 0.076) and ran 3.758 at 325.14 mph, but couldn’t hold off Schumacher’s low elapse time of the event, 3.720 at 326.56 mph charge. This was Schumacher’s 78th career Top Fuel event win and qualifies him for the 2015 Traxxas Nitro Top Fuel Shootout at the US Nationals in Indy.
In Funny Car, Matt Hagan was on a mission to prove that his win at the season opening Winter Nationals was no fluke. He did this in thundering fashion, as he qualified #1 with a 3.978 elapse time and dispatched with Jeff Diehl, Cruz Pedregon and Alexis DeJoria with runs no slower than 4.072 seconds in his Rocky Boots Dodge Charger. He capped it off with a 4.027 over DeJoria in the semi-final round. Del Worsham, who qualified third in his DHL Toyota Camry, was also running strong. He advanced to the final round by defeating John Hale, Chad Head and Robert Hight with stunning elapse times of 4.037, 4.047 and 4.010 seconds. Courtney Force, who qualified second at 3.996 seconds, lost to her teammate, Robert Hight in the second round. The final round featured another team Kalitta vs team Schumacher battle, as Worsham and Kalitta squared off. Hagan left first (0.045 to 0.062) and drove away to a (low elapse time of the event and track record) 3.975 at 324.83 mph to 4.010 at 318.17 mph win. This was Hagan’s second win of the season (he is undefeated after two events) and 16th of his career.
The Pro Stock category featured one of the closest fields ever, with top 11 qualifiers separated by a mere 0.041 seconds. The 16th position was secured by class newcomer, Joey Grose in his Skyler Electric/Big Chief Chevy Camaro from Lodi, at 6.689 seconds. The pole sitter, Erica Enders-Stevens in her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro marched into the final round with wins over Joey Grose, Greg Anderson and Chris McGaha. She never ran slower than 6.575 seconds through the first three rounds. On the other side was Roger Brogdon in his RoofTec Chevy Camaro. He too, marched handily through elimination round wins over Deric Kramer, Shane Gray and (season opener Pro Stock champion) Drew Skillman. Brogdon never ran slower than 6.570 seconds, with a strong 6.554 against Skillman in the semi-final round. In the final, Enders-Stevens got away first (0.017 to 0.050) and looked to be a sure winner, until an ignition problem caused her to fall back, allowing Brogdon to take the win with a 6.560 at 211.49 mph to 6.640 at 205.51 mph.
After two events, the season point standings show Shawn Langdon leading Top Fuel, Matt Hagan leading Funny Car and Roger Brogdon leading Pro Stock. The next event on the NHRA Mello Yello drag racing series is the Amalie Motor Oil Gator Nationals in Gainesville, Florida on March 27 through 29.