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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2017 PRI Show post-weekend notebook

Rahal and Bell's Chris Wheeler. Photo: IndyCar
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The 2017 edition of the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show is in the books for another year. Here’s some notes we gathered from the event at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.

While INDYCAR did not have a booth at this year’s show, there were still some interesting Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires nuggets to emerge.

RAHAL RUNNING REV

On Thursday, Graham Rahal was named as honorary chair of the Rev Indy charity event, held before the month of May’s on-track activity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway really gets going. The event is sponsored by Fifth Third Bank, which grew its relationship with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing this past year.

The kickoff event was held at legendary St. Elmo’s, at its 1933 Lounge upstairs, with some samples of the food that will be served. Particularly noteworthy was St. Elmo’s trademark shrimp cocktail, which even caught out some local reporters on its heat…

PAGENAUD IN FINE FORM

Pagenaud meets the media. Photo: IndyCar

Further breakouts from him will come in the following days, but Simon Pagenaud was in very good spirits when meeting a small group of reporters on Thursday. The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion mentioned a small relief that he didn’t have to go through the ringer of the champion’s postseason media tour in the days after Sonoma, as he won the season finale. That can be draining, he said, but it allowed him to get refreshed. Since Sonoma, he raced at Petit Le Mans, where he drove with Team Penske’s one-off Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 car, he went back home to France before coming back to the U.S. for a mix of testing and other year-end commitments.

Of the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit, Pagenaud said it’s close to the initial Dallara DW12 chassis at its outset, although hailed the better and more balanced weight distribution of the new kit.

He also said it will be a different team dynamic without having Helio Castroneves there full-time. Castroneves, he said, kept all three of Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden and Will Power grounded and all in good temperament at the same time. Pagenaud made an interesting point that with each of the three full-time drivers all at the same point in their careers – they all have one championship and none has an Indianapolis 500 victory yet – none has the upper hand, and there isn’t the “aura” of Castroneves’ three ‘500 wins hanging over their head.

On top of that, Pagenaud cracked several jokes and hailed his involvement as part of the “Penske Games” social media competition the team created. In some respects, Pagenaud hailed his own lack of success there to generate more notoriety!

SPM’S SMASH, RETURN, THEN PRE-SEBRING SCRAMBLE

The 2018 Dallara UAK got its first crash test – particularly inadvertently – by James Hinchcliffe during testing last week at Phoenix International Raceway (soon to be ISM Raceway). The team was still in the process of diagnosing what caused a crash at Turn 3 of the 1-mile oval, an odd place to have an impact.

What it’s meant was the car, which is short on spare parts at the moment, had to make it back to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Indianapolis shop and get rebuilt over a 48-hour period in advance of this week’s final round of 2017 testing at Sebring International Raceway’s short course. Testing can run through December 14 before the holiday blackout, and before testing shifts from manufacturer testing to team testing after the new year.

SCHMIDT’S SHANK SYNC-UP FURTHER DETAILS

Schmidt, Steve Eriksen (HPD), Harvey and Shank. Photo: IndyCar

Team co-owner Sam Schmidt was present at Michael Shank’s combination IndyCar and sports car announcements on Friday, which confirmed further details of Jack Harvey’s program for next season. It’s meant to be a three-year deal, and will begin with the six races Harvey will run in 2018. Will Anderson, who has been an assistant engineer with SPM for several years after joining from Dale Coyne Racing, will be Harvey’s race engineer.

SPM will loan a chassis to Shank for testing in January before Shank’s team receives its chassis in February, and that’s an interesting point to note. Schmidt said SPM, which saw its proposed deal with Calmels Sport for next year’s Indianapolis 500 fall through, could still run a third in-house SPM car for the 2018 Indianapolis 500 beyond the two full-time entries and the MSR/Shank car for Harvey.

But Schmidt’s long-term belief and relationship with Harvey helped make the move a reality, as Harvey drove two really strong years with the team in Indy Lights.

“His timeline is our timeline; we were not going to do it for only one year,” Schmidt told NBC Sports. “Jack has been a part of this team for several years and our job is to help him and Mike continue to grow in their IndyCar careers.”

FURTHER TBA’S GETTING REVEALED SOON?

Gathered around the Bell booth in Indy. Photo: IndyCar

If the rumor mill is to be believed, next week could see at least one if not both of the two known outstanding TBA slots at Dale Coyne Racing (No. 19 Honda) and Ed Carpenter Racing (No. 20 Chevrolet for road and street courses) get revealed.

We spoke to Carpenter at the PRI Show who confirmed the No. 20 car’s road and street course car is “close” to being filled, and is down to just two potential candidates. Asked when he wanted to announce, Carpenter deadpanned, “Last week!”

If you know the names of the free agents that are already out there, you pretty much know who’s in the frame for these two seats.

Carpenter has one more round of testing this week at Sebring. The team has been busy with testing at multiple tracks, and has moved into its new shop on Georgetown Rd. from its previous location near IMS in Speedway, Ind.

BUSY TIMES AT BELL BOOTH WITH INDY, MRTI DRIVERS

Both Carpenter and Spencer Pigot were among a bevy of IndyCar and Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires drivers on the Bell Racing U.S.A. stage during the weekend. Others included Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti, Conor Daly, Zach Veach, Jack Harvey and Pippa Mann, and MRTI veterans Aaron Telitz, Ayla Agren, Juan Piedrahita and Colton Herta.

Additionally, Bell announced it will be opening a pro shop in Speedway. It’s busy times for the helmet manufacturer but one that is held in high regard in the open-wheel and sports car communities.

GOOD TIMES FOR DUSICK’S CHARITY EVENT

Another of the quickly-becoming-a-PRI-staple type events is the “Racers Know Dave Dusick” charity fundraiser, supported by Cooper Tires, which this year supported the Riley Children’s Foundation. That foundation supports Riley Hospital for Children, Indiana’s only comprehensive hospital dedicated exclusively to the care of kids.

A further recap can be found via Dusick’s @IKnowDaveDusick Twitter account; Dusick is a veteran behind-the-scenes member of the racing community, primarily known for his Race Track Engineering business and a member of race control groups in various series. A tweet from Alexander Rossi is below.

CALLAWAY CONFIRMATION GIVES PWC NEEDED SHOT IN THE ARM

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC

Pirelli World Challenge got three good pieces of news in a two-day period last week, with first the pair of Wednesday announcements that K-PAX Racing would switch to Bentley’s Continental GT3 models and Robinson Racing would run a pair of Mercedes-AMG GT4s in the GTS class.

Confirmation of Callaway’s team program for GT in 2018, with Michael Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz the two drivers revealed there, was an added bonus. The striking Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R was unveiled in full, with comments from Reeves Callaway and WC Vision head Greg Gill, with other series insiders present. Aided by the addition of Erin Gahagan as team manager, who has recent PWC experience with EFFORT Racing, that should help Callaway in its entry into the championship. She will continue as team manager for the Tequila Patron ESM team with its Nissan Onroak DPi in IMSA for another season as well.

Cooper’s confirmation keeps him in another GM model after developing into a top-line GT driver the last couple seasons in one of the factory Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.Rs, and after winning a GTS championship in a Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R prior to that. Keilwitz, an ADAC GT Masters veteran, will be new to the U.S. but should learn quickly as other European converts tend to do.

“In a word, hallelujah,” was Gill’s immediate take at the presentation of the new car.

PWC also held its annual “State of the Series” meeting for competitors on Friday afternoon. A combination of the usual marketing, competition and communication updates were revealed to competitors. Some more intriguing elements from that should be revealed at a later date.