NHRA’s Hagan (FC), Todd (TF), Enders-Stevens (PS) and Arana Jr. (PSM) top first round qualifying in Charlotte


On the same weekend as NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup begins, the National Hot Rod Association’s Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship is also underway at zMAX Dragway in suburban Charlotte.

The top qualifiers in Friday’s first round of the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals were Matt Hagan (Funny Car), J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

The Countdown is a series of six playoff races that ultimately determine the champion in each of the four professional classes.

Hagan took the top spot in Funny Car with a run of 4.114 seconds (at 304.25 mph). Hagan won the series championship in 2011 and was runner-up last season despite not winning a race in the regular season.

He’s bound and determined to change that in this year’s Countdown.

“We are thankful to get two great solid runs down the racetrack,” Hagan said in a NHRA media release. “Hopefully we can go some rounds on Sunday (in final eliminations).

“It’s the Countdown right now and every point counts. I’ve seen championships won or lost by one or two points. So every one of them counts.”

Hagan has a strong affection for zMAX Dragway. It was there that be became the first Funny Car driver to break the four-second mark at the track in 2011.

A sign commemorating his 3.995-second run that day still hangs on the retaining wall near the track’s starting line.

He also lives in and operates a cattle ranch less than 100 miles away in southwestern Virginia.

“I have a lot of history here at zMAX both good and bad,” Hagan said. “It’s cool to come here and see your name on the side of the wall. We’ve had some big boomers here and ran some killer speeds here. All my friends and family are only two hours down the road and they all come out here to cheer me on. That makes it that much more special.”

In Top Fuel, Todd – who is the 10th and final seed in the Countdown – shot to the top of the qualifying charts with a field-best run of 3.828 seconds at 310.34 mph.

“I’m happy to get three bonus points,” Todd said of qualifying No. 1 (there are two more rounds on Saturday). “We started No. 10 in the Countdown so we need every point that we can get. There’s nowhere to go but up.”

In Pro Stock, Enders-Stevens, who is seeded No. 2, recorded a stout run of 6.591 seconds at 210.11 mph.

“It’s just a really good start,” she said. “I’m proud of my team. We struggled the last couple of weeks in Brainerd and Indy, and in our test session in St. Louis. It’s very refreshing to see that Ol’ Red is back to herself.

“We just have to do our job day in and day out, and make every little point count. We had a team meeting this morning, where we discussed our goals for the Countdown. … It’s the small steps on the way to the big goal. We’re just going to keep our heads down and stay focused. This is not a bad way to start though.”

And in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. is the No. 3 seed in the Countdown, but atop the qualifying ranks heading into Saturday with a Friday-best run of 6.876 seconds at 195.48 mph.

“This means a lot as far as my confidence goes,” Arana Jr. said. “It’s all about confidence. I know I have the equipment to take me to the winner’s circle, but confidence is the key.”

The final two rounds of qualifying occur Saturday at 1 and 3 pm ET. Final eliminations on Sunday begin at Noon ET.


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Here’s Friday’s results after the first two rounds of qualifying for the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.:

Top Fuel — 1. J.R. Todd, 3.828 seconds, 310.34 mph; 2. Shawn Langdon, 3.840, 317.05; 3. Billy Torrence, 3.846, 319.75; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.847, 316.30; 5. Spencer Massey, 3.851, 319.37; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.852, 320.58; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.867, 315.27; 8. Antron Brown, 3.869, 311.27; 9. Doug Kalitta, 3.872, 317.94; 10. Morgan Lucas, 3.887, 278.46; 11. Leah Pritchett, 3.889, 305.91; 12. Richie Crampton, 3.891, 311.05. Not Qualified: 13. Bob Vandergriff, 3.895, 314.09; 14. Terry McMillen, 3.904, 314.53; 15. Brittany Force, 3.908, 306.67; 16. Pat Dakin, 3.912, 302.14; 17. Ike Maier, 5.596, 189.66; 18. Chris Karamesines, 5.890, 107.63; 19. Clay Millican, 6.479, 85.83.

Funny Car — 1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.114, 304.25; 2. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.123, 297.35; 3. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.124, 305.22; 4. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.126, 306.46; 5. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.140, 305.91; 6. John Force, Mustang, 4.141, 287.66; 7. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.155, 288.21; 8. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.162, 305.84; 9. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.185, 292.77; 10. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.194, 276.24; 11. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.208, 303.03; 12. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.363, 231.75. Not Qualified: 13. Bob Tasca III, 4.820, 169.68; 14. Chad Head, 4.868, 166.01; 15. Cruz Pedregon, 6.267, 107.25; 16. Dave Richards, 10.478, 79.08; 17. Bob Gilbertson, broke.

Pro Stock — 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.591, 210.11; 2. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.602, 209.33; 3. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.603, 209.23; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.607, 209.59; 5. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.609, 208.94; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.609, 208.49; 7. Richie Stevens, Camaro, 6.610, 209.23; 8. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.615, 209.52; 9. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.618, 209.85; 10. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.637, 207.66; 11. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.641, 209.20; 12. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.649, 209.20. Not Qualified: 13. Rodger Brogdon, 6.664, 207.78; 14. Larry Morgan, 6.701, 206.67; 15. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.703, 207.24; 16. Shane Tucker, 7.038, 159.25.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.876, 195.48; 2. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.893, 193.77; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.901, 191.70; 4. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.925, 192.17; 5. John Hall, Buell, 6.940, 192.44; 6. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.951, 191.38; 7. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.957, 192.44; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.968, 191.08; 9. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.977, 192.69; 10. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.983, 192.36; 11. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.987, 189.23; 12. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.991, 188.86. Not Qualified: 13. Shawn Gann, 7.038, 190.11; 14. Brian Pretzel, 7.276, 183.15; 15. Michael Ray, 7.785, 124.72; 16. Hector Arana, 13.327, 58.94.

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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III