Photos: Courtesy of the NHRA
Al-Anabi Racing held its collective breath as both Top Fuel dragsters lost in the first round last weekend in Denver, but both came roaring back with a vengeance at Sunday’s NHRA Sonoma Nationals. Both teams reached the finals, with Khalid alBalooshi winning the Wally on his birthday.
Funny Car was an all-Force final with Courtney triumphing over her father in Sonoma wine country. Jason Line brought Chevrolet their 200th Pro Stock win and Andrew Hines once again grabbed Pro Stock Motorcycle victory on his Harley-Davidson.
Khalid alBalooshi raced his Al-Anabi Top Fuel dragster to his second win of the season and fourth of his career on his 35th birthday this Sunday at the Sonoma Nationals.
After qualifying eighth in the lineup, he knew he would be first pair and his team led by Alan Johnson and crew chief Jason McCulloch was delighted with the timing.
Having to run against Billy Torrence in the first round provided alBalooshi’s gold Al-Anabi team an excellent chance to test the track’s grip at its coolest point of the day and did so setting low elapsed time of raceday of 3.775 seconds, 323.27 mph.
AlBalooshi beat Clay Millican in the quarterfinals, and trounced Richie Crampton in the semi-finals by .008 of a second, setting up a final round against teammate Shawn Langdon.
In the money round, he drove around California native Langdon recording a time of 3.912 seconds, 309.42 mph to the Al-Anabi silver’s team tire hazing time of 4.008 seconds.
After the winner’s circle celebration, alBalooshi gave the race-winning Wally trophy to NHRA legend Ed “The Ace” McCulloch who spent the weekend with the team in Sonoma. McCulloch is Al-Anabi crew chief Jason McCulloch’s father and a 22-time nitro winner and six-time U.S. Nationals champion.
“Winning on my birthday is very special for me,” smiled alBalooshi. “Really, I don’t feel much because I was racing my teammate, but this is a very big race for our team. This trophy is the best birthday present I could get, and it came from my crew chief, Jason McCulloch and all my crew guys.
“On the run, I saw Shawn at half-track, and I thought, ‘Oh No.’ from there, he smoked the tires a little bit, and we won the race. I am very happy. I thank everyone on our team for their hard work, and I thank Sheikh Khalid for giving me this opportunity.”
Langdon clinched a spot in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship with his runner up finish on Sunday.
“This was a brand new car that we were planning to bring out at Indianapolis, but brought it out a little early,” said Langdon. “It was responding really well. We might have been a little aggressive in the final hazing the tires at about 500 feet. That left lane was a little tricky, but we were confident going in that we could run well in that lane.”
Doug Kalitta still maintains his points lead of 46 over Antron Brown in the Top Fuel standings with Langdon third.
Courtney Force took home the Wally from the No. 1 spot on Sunday at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals when she defeated competitors Peter Russo, Bob Tasca III, Matt Hagan and 16-time Champion John Force to score her fifth career win. She became the winningest female driver in Funny Car history, taking that title from her sister, Ashley Force Hood, who had four career Funny Car wins.
“I’ve just had my eyes set on Ashley’s record for a while,” said Courtney Force. “There was a big cluster of people who had four wins and I kind of became obsessed with going for No. 5. It’s cool to reach No. 5, but I’m very proud of my team because obviously I wouldn’t be here without them and the hard work that they put in. I’m only as good as my team is,”
The 26-year-old went up against Peter Russo in the opening round for the first time ever and got lucky when Russo’s car had complications on the line and wouldn’t fire. He was unable to make the run, resulting in a win for the youngest Force. Her Traxxas Ford Mustang went up in smoke as she posted a 6.631 second run at 96.06 mph of escape with a lucky first round win.
In round two, it was Force up against Ford competitor Bob Tasca III. He had lane choice, but Force quickly pulled away with a 4.276 ET at 197.65 mph. She is now 9-2 against Tasca in eliminations.
Force lost lane choice once again in the semi-finals this time to Matt Hagan, who she beat in the final round en route to her first career win in 2012 at Seattle. Matt Hagan qualified No. 5 and had lane choice. Force took the win with a 4.235 ET at 193.86 mph as Hagan had problems down track.
“I think our entire team is definitely getting better. We do have a championship car,” said a happy Force.
This is the third time she has won from the No. 1 spot and the sixth time she has qualified No. 1 in her three year Funny Car career. It is her first time winning at Sonoma, the 234th win for John Force Racing. Coming into Sonoma, she was 5-5 to her father, John Force, winner of 140 NHRA National events.
“Dad has 140 wins right now, I’d really like to just get five,” said a sincere Force.
She also won the 100th pro tour event by a woman when she prevailed May 25th at Topeka, Kan. this year.
“I saw dad in the final round right out my window the whole way down track and we were able to get around him and get that win,” said C. Force. “I think I saw puffs of smoke. I don’t know if it was his car or mine. I felt like mine was trying to spin the tires.”
Jason Line made history on Sunday at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals. Line, of Mooresville, N.C., locked in a spot in NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship and earned the 33rd Pro Stock victory of his career at Sonoma Raceway, and in doing so he earned the 200th NHRA Pro Stock win for Chevrolet driving the Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro. The spectacular accomplishment came on the heels of a low qualifier award last week in Denver.
Line, who started from the No. 2 spot in Sonoma, had the quickest and fastest hot rod on the property on raceday at a facility where he has twice before seen the inside of the winner’s circle (2006 and 2009). Dominating at Sonoma Raceway once again, Line clocked low elapsed time in each round of eliminations and crossed the finish line with a remarkably stout 6.520-second pass at 212.46 mph in the first round to obliterate Joey Grose with a mind-blowing time that would hold as low ET and top speed of the meet.
The second round set the two-time Pro Stock world champ up for a head-to-head match with rookie competitor Jonathan Gray, and the charging Pro Stock pilot did his job, launching ahead of Gray and blasting to a 6.545 elapsed time, 212.03 mph for a decisive win and a ticket to the semifinals. Dave Connolly’s trouble on the racetrack in the semi-finals round equated to a 16-second pass that couldn’t hold a candle to Line’s very quick and fast 6.535 second time at 212.26 mph.
Notably, Line squared off with V. Gaines in the final round, the same driver that he halted in 2006 to earn his first Sonoma trophy. This time around, Line was out of the gate first and first to the finish line stripe with a victorious 6.548 seconds, 211.73 mph to Gaines’ 6.564 second pass at 211.30 mph.
“I have a really good race car right now,” said Line, whose most recent win was the season-opening Winternationals earlier this year. “To be honest, I struggled driving this weekend and did things I’ve never done in my life. Without question, this is the luckiest I’ve ever been – but I’ll take it.”
Earning the 200th NHRA Pro Stock win for Chevrolet was an accolade that Line and the KB Racing team had long had their eye on, and to accomplish the feat was something that made the event even more special.
“Winning the 200th was something that is really cool, and I’m proud to represent Chevrolet and be able to have my name on this record,” said Line. “It’s great to give a little something back after all that they’ve done for us and for this class. It’s just a neat, neat deal. It was a great weekend.”
Erica Enders-Stevens still leads the Pro Stock category points standings despite being absent for this and the Seattle race to save on expenses still has a 122-point lead over Allen Johnson. No. 11 in the points, Greg Anderson is now just 18 points outside the top 10 trailing Jonathan Gray with three races to go before the Countdown to the Championship playoffs field is set.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
Eddie Krawiec grabbed his second Pro Stock Motorcycle victory of 2014 with a 6.854 at 193.99 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, beating No. 1 qualifier Jerry Savoie in the final. The win was the 24th career victory for Krawiec, a three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ.
“I almost forgot how to get back here (to the winner’s circle),” laughed Krawiec, who got past Freddie Camarena, Epping winner Angie Smith and teammate Andrew Hines before taking out Savoie. “Going into the final I was 100-percent concerned about Jerry. We build his horsepower and he’s doing an awesome job but that’s why we drag race.”
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series concludes its Western Swing with the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals in Seattle next weekend at Pacific Raceways., Aug. 1-3.