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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MRTI: Barber Motorsports Park Preview

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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After a month break, the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires is back in action this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, with two of its series tacking the 2.38-mile road course in Birmingham, Alabama.

Both the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires have double-headers this weekend, with Pro Mazda returning to Barber after not running there last year.

The season-opening weekend in St. Petersburg was a tale of two completely different stories, with two different winners – Pato O’Ward and Santi Urrutia – and more than a fair bit of chaos for Indy Lights, while Pro Mazda saw Rinus Veekay sweep the weekend.

Talking points for both series heading into Barber are below.

Indy Lights

Santi Urrutia heads to Barber leading the Indy Lights championship on the strength of finishes of second and first in St. Petersburg. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Santi Urrutia displayed great patience at St. Petersburg, finishing second in Race 1 and winning Race 2 after rivals like O’Ward and Colton Herta faltered. However, Barber has not been one of his better tracks, with finishes of 11th, 15th, and 13th in three of his four Indy Lights starts. Yet, he did win Race 2 at Barber 2016, so he has had success there before, and he will be one of the favorites heading into the weekend.
  • Pato O’Ward looks poised to be a title contender in 2018 and will look to avenge a somewhat disappointing outing at St. Petersburg. O’Ward had the speed to sweep the weekend, winning Race 1 handily and dominating Race 2, but a mistake late in the race saw him overshoot Turn 4 and briefly stall before he could rejoin, relegating him to seventh. If O’Ward can show the pace he showed at St. Pete, he might end up being the man to beat.
  • Colton Herta will look to rebound from a St. Pete weekend in which he flashed the speed that caught everyone’s attention last year, but also committed the same mistakes that ultimately prevented him from taking a championship. After finishing third in Race 1, Herta crashed while chasing then leader O’Ward in Race 2. Herta won Race 2 at Barber last year, and getting another win this weekend, along with staying mistake free, would go a long way to erasing his problems from St. Pete.
  • Aaron Telitz is also looking to rebound after a down weekend, as his St. Petersburg weekend lasted all of two corners across both races – he won the Pole for Race 1, but crashed in Race 2 qualifying, and the Belardi Auto Racing team could not repair the car to allow him to race. After the team borrowed a chassis from Carlin for Race 2, Telitz get collected with Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni right off the start, and he crashed again, this time in Turn 2. Telitz finished on the podium at Barber in 2016, the year he won the Pro Mazda championship, and he’ll look for more of the same this weekend.

Pro Mazda

Rinus VeeKay swept the Pro Mazda weekend in St. Petersburg. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Rinus Veekay had a perfect weekend to open the Pro Mazda season. The Juncos Racing driver outdueled Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson for the Race 1 victory, and then ran away with Race 2 to complete the weekend sweep. Veekay was expected to be a title contender after moving up to Pro Mazda in 2018, and if he can repeat his St. Pete performance, then he may leave Barber as the heavy favorite in the championship.
  • Not to be forgotten, Parker Thompson sits second in the Pro Mazda title chase, and looks to avenge losing out to Veekay in St. Pete Race 1, and then fading somewhat to finish fifth in Race 2. Thompson was the only driver to regularly challenge Veekay and Oliver Askew in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season, and he and Exclusive Autosport have adapted nicely to the new Tatuus PM-18. If they can show the same form at Barber, and then finish the job with at least one trip to Victory Lane, then it could set the stage for another titanic Pro Mazda championship fight.
  • Last year’s USF2000 champion Oliver Askew had a quiet weekend in St. Pete, finishing fifth and sixth in the two races. He swept the Barber races in USF2000 last year, and will need a similar performance to vault himself forward from his current place of sixth in the standings.
  • Carlos Cunha and David Malukas head to Barber third and fourth in the championship after solid St. Pete weekends – Cunha had finishes of fourth and third, while Malukas had finishes of seventh and second. Neither was necessarily looked at as a title combatant entering 2018, but repeat performances in Barber could vault them into title contention.

A full weekend schedule, including the Mazda Road to Indy sessions, can be viewed here.

**Note: NBCSN will broadcast Sunday’s Indy Lights race (Race 2 from the weekend) on Monday, April 23.**

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