Female drag racers could set NHRA history Sunday; Kalitta to race 82-year-old legend Chris Karamesines in Top Fuel

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History has the potential to be made in Sunday’s final eliminations of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga.

Emerging as No. 1 in their respective classes after Friday’s and Saturday’s qualifying sessions, Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) look to become the 100th female in the sport’s history to win a NHRA national event.

Also earning No. 1 qualifying spots heading into Sunday’s eliminations were Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

A two-time winner this far this season, Dejoria earned the first No. 1 qualifying position of her career with Friday’s track record elapsed time of 3.786 seconds at 321.81 mph.

“If it happens tomorrow, great,” DeJoria said of the possibility of earning the 100th female win. “We just want to keep going rounds. First things first, we’ve got to get past first round and get past (first round opponent) Tony Pedregon.

“This has been our turnaround year. We’ve had some great consistent runs, and I’m just hoping we can keep on going.”

Del Worsham, DeJoria’s Kalitta Motorsports teammate, qualified No. 2, followed by 2009 Funny Car world champion Robert Hight, 2011 world champion Matt Hagan and Tommy Johnson Jr.

Enders-Stevens also has a good chance of earning the 100th win by a female. Like DeJoria, Enders-Stevens, who leads the Pro Stock points, set an Atlanta Dragway track record for elapsed time (6.493 seconds at 212.69 mph) on Friday, and that mark held up to keep Enders-Stevens No. 1 through Saturday’s two final qualifying rounds.

“I was very confident that we’d be able to stay No. 1,” Enders-Stevens said of her first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and seventh of her career. “The best thing is that we managed to learn a little on every run and improve a little each time.”

Dave Connolly qualified second, followed by Shane Gray, Jason Line and Rodger Brogdon.

As for Top Fuel, Kalitta set both ends of the Atlanta Dragway track record with an elapsed time mark of 3.732 seconds and a very stout speed of 328.86 mph.

It was Kalitta’s third No. 1 of the season and 39th of his career.

“I think the conditions are probably perfect for Atlanta,” Kalitta said. “It’s got its reputation for ‘Hotlanta.’ It’s been great conditions. I think the fans have definitely seen some good action. … It’s real exciting to be going into eliminations with that kind of car.”

Kalitta is seeking his second win of the year (he also has two runner-up finishes). In the first-round, he’ll face 82-year-old Chris Karamesines.

Yes, you read that right, Karamesines is 82 years old, and has been drag racing now for more than six decades.

Also setting a new track record was three-time PSM champ Krawiec, whose 6.796 second pass (at 196.62 mph) on Friday held up Sunday, putting him at the top of the bike qualifying ladder.

“Coming here to Atlanta, the air was not at all what we’re used to,” Krawiec said. “It was cool and crisp and that was just right for our combination. We did struggle to get off the starting line, but that was a problem for the whole class. It was so sticky up there that it was hard to generate any wheel speed.”

Eliminations for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals begin on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET.

 

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Here are Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 34th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, the seventh of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Top Fuel — 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.732 seconds, 328.86 mph  vs. 16. Chris Karamesines, 4.388, 177.74; 2. Bob Vandergriff, 3.757, 324.05  vs. 15. Clay Millican, 4.189, 206.32; 3. Antron Brown, 3.764, 322.19  vs. 14. Ike Maier, 4.007, 281.30; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.765, 323.04  vs. 13. Terry McMillen, 3.841, 321.04; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.771, 325.30  vs. 12. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.836, 319.60; 6. Brittany Force, 3.777, 326.71  vs. 11. Pat Dakin, 3.828, 314.53; 7. J.R. Todd, 3.777, 323.66  vs. 10. Spencer Massey, 3.828, 316.82; 8. Shawn Langdon, 3.786, 324.44  vs. 9. Richie Crampton, 3.803, 309.06.

Funny Car — 1. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.012, 313.95  vs. 16. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 9.302, 178.59; 2. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.014, 320.05  vs. 15. Chad Head, Camry, 8.463, 79.47; 3. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.030, 318.39  vs. 14. Bob Bode, Camry, 4.565, 193.74; 4. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.049, 318.32  vs. 13. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.208, 296.24; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.051, 315.49  vs. 12. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.184, 299.80; 6. John Force, Mustang, 4.077, 311.20  vs. 11. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.158, 303.30; 7. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.095, 309.20  vs. 10. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.150, 271.35; 8. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.098, 316.67  vs. 9. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.103, 305.08. Did Not Qualify: 17. Dave Richards, broke.

Pro Stock — 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.493, 212.69  vs. 16. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 9.358, 204.39; 2. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.496, 212.86  vs. 15. Warren Johnson, GXP, 8.147, 207.98; 3. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.513, 212.86  vs. 14. Kurt Johnson, GXP, 6.610, 204.45; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.514, 213.00  vs. 13. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.576, 210.93; 5. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.523, 212.59  vs. 12. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.547, 212.56; 6. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.526, 211.89  vs. 11. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.542, 211.53; 7. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.536, 212.13  vs. 10. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.541, 212.66; 8. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.537, 211.79  vs. 9. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.540, 212.29.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.796, 196.62  vs. 16. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 7.005, 191.38; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.833, 195.22  vs. 15. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.960, 193.16; 3. John Hall, Buell, 6.860, 193.21  vs. 14. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.949, 192.77; 4. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.861, 195.65  vs. 13. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.938, 191.89; 5. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.875, 195.90  vs. 12. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.931, 192.19; 6. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.878, 194.18  vs. 11. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.918, 192.14; 7. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.895, 193.21  vs. 10. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.912, 194.24; 8. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.907, 194.60  vs. 9. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.908, 195.14. Did Not Qualify: 17. Mike Berry, 7.011, 189.23; 18. Freddie Camarena, 7.064, 192.11; 19. Elvira Karlsson, 7.090, 185.92; 20. Junior Pippin, 7.140, 184.35; 21. Brian Pretzel, 7.163, 184.93; 22. James Surber, 7.207, 182.28; 23. Justin Finley, 7.282, 187.23; 24. Redell Harris, 7.284, 192.25; 25. Joe DeSantis, 11.719, 185.28; 26. Michael Phillips, broke.

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IMSA: Sebring Day 2 of two-day test notebook

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Testing across several IMSA sanctioned series continued at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday as preparations continue for next month’s events during the weekend of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

Below are highlights from Day 2 of testing around the 3.74-mile road course.

Eurosport Racing Continues Work with Mazda Prototype Challenge Chassis

Teams in the Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda championship completed their second day of testing on Tuesday. Among them, Eurosport Racing continued their work with the only Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) entries in the field, in the hands of drivers Dr. Tim George (in the No. 24 entry) and Jon Brownson (in the No. 34).

“Right now, I’m driving by myself so we’re trying to make the car comfortable enough to last an hour and 45 minutes with just me in the car,” George said of their preparation efforts. “We’re trying to set up the car where it’s quick, yet it and can last, both the car and for me to make sure we don’t tire out, get fatigued and make mistakes.”

The 1 hour 45 minute window that George referenced represents the race times for the 2018 season, up considerably from last year’s sprint format that featured a pair of 45-minute races across a race weekend.

Though that change represents a drastic shift in driving philosophy, it is one that George welcomes.

“The new rules for the endurance races are great, I enjoy it a lot,” said George. “It gives you a chance to think through things differently with strategy. It also gives you a chance if you blow it…in a sprint race if you make a mistake you don’t get a chance to come back.”

Florida Drivers in Continental Tire Challenge Eager for Hometown Race at Sebring

A strong contingent of drivers from Florida are represented in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and next month’s 12 Hours of Sebring weekend will see them compete on home soil.

“I grew up in Tallahassee and I live in Orlando now, so Sebring has been my home track since day one,” said Paul Holton, driver of the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren GT4, which finished 14th at the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. “I’ve spent a lot of time down here and really enjoy the place. It’s a nice, quaint little town not far from Orlando so it’s a quick, easy drive down for me.”

Fellow Floridian Ramin Abdolvahabi, a native of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and driver of the No. 09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage, revealed that, even though Sebring is only two hours from his hometown, this week’s test was his first time at the track in two years.

“I haven’t been here for two years, so coming back is like coming home,” he said. “It’s a fantastic track and it’s one of the iconic tracks in the world so being at Sebring – a small town, my hometown, welcoming – it’s fantastic. I went on the track a couple of times yesterday and it’s just like wearing an old shoe, it just fits and it’s fantastic. Hopefully, the race will go well and the weather will hold, so anyone who’s out there, come and see us!”

Frank Raso Trades in Airplanes for Porsches at Sebring

Several IMSA drivers boast “day jobs” outside of their racing gigs. Among them, Frank Raso’s work falls outside of ordinary jobs like doctor or lawyer. Rather, Raso flies airplanes for a living.

“I’m an airline pilot for a major airline,” said Raso, who tested the No. 10 Topp Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car at Sebring. “I’ve been flying for almost 30 years, and it’s allowed me, with all my time off and things like that to do this and fall back into racing again. I messed with it a little bit when I was younger, but it was, of course, expensive, so I got away from it for a while. I decided I wanted to get back into it in kind of my last couple of years before I get too old.”

Raso explained that the skills he practices while flying planes are more than transferable to his driving duties in a Porsche GT3 Cup car.

“Flying an airliner or flying any airplane, we have checklists, but everything is kind of done in order. It’s almost in a robot fashion type of a thing where you do this, you do this, you do this and you have to make sure you hit all your marks and fly the airplane with precision.

“So, when you get in these Cup cars, with no anti-lock brakes, no traction control, and no driver assist items, you have to make sure you hit your marks, when you’re accelerating, when you’re turning in. You have to be alert. It keeps your wits about you. The car can step out at any time. They’re a very difficult car to drive, but they’re a lot of fun.”
The 54-year-old Raso posted a best finish of fourth, on four separate occasions, in a part-time schedule during the 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season as a competitor in the Gold Cup class.
Newcomers Get Taste of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge
A number of new drivers got to sample Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge cars during the two days of testing at Sebring. Among them was amateur racer Scott Welham, who got his first taste of professional racing during the two-day outing at Sebring.
And he had a strong support system backing him up in the Kelly-Moss Road and Race team, the defending Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champions with driver Jake Eidson.
“Here, you’ve got somebody that actually does coaching, data acquisition, track management – these are all separate people – plant manager, owner, a car-setup guy, you’ve got someone that bills you – which isn’t always a good thing, but you know, you just have that huge, huge support group that enables you to focus on driving,” Welham said of the team’s influence on his development over the two days.
IMSA’s next visit to Sebring will be for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17.