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

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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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