NHRA: Kalitta (Top Fuel), Johnson (Funny Car), Line (Pro Stock) lead way in first day of Winternationals qualifying

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After a long off-season, fans looking for speed at the 55th annual and season-opening Circle K NHRA Winternationals sure got what they hoped for during Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying.

Blistering mph and blink-of-an-eye quick elapsed times were certainly the story of the day at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

In Top Fuel, after recording a first run of 3.809 seconds at 323.12 mph, Doug Kalitta stepped it up significantly in his second run, posting a field-best 3.733 second pass at 327.59 mph to take the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot.

“We’re real happy with those two runs,” Kalitta said in an NHRA media release. “I’m not sure with the weather, I think it might be a little cooler tomorrow (Saturday). There’s just a lot of good running cars that can run better than we did. So, hopefully I’m hear again tomorrow talking to you guys. We’ll see how it goes.”

Reigning Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher was the No. 2 provisional qualifier with a run of 3.757 seconds at 320.20 mph. Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey qualified third at 3.761 seconds, but with the fastest run of the day of any car at 328.30 mph.

In Funny Car, another DSR driver, Tommy Johnson Jr., set the pace and earned the provisional No. 1 qualifier spot with a 4.018 second, 314.46 run down the 1,000-foot dragstrip.

“The team has just picked up right where we left off and gives me a lot of confidence,” said Johnson, who finished third in the Funny Car standings last season. “I know we have a very competitive team. We can roll it right off of the box at Pomona and pick up right where we left off. I think we’re on the right track to have a great season.”

Chad Head recorded the second-quickest time, 4.060 seconds, at 309.63 mph.

MORE: Multitasking: Drag racer tees up Funny Car and then tees off (video)

Sixteen-time Funny Car champion John Force had a successful debut for both his new sponsor (PEAK Anti-Freeze) and new manufacturer (Chevrolet), with a run of 4.061 seconds at 313.66 mph, good for No. 3 in the provisional qualifying.

Matt Hagan, reigning Funny Car champ, had a stout first run (4.090 seconds at 310.70 mph), but suffered a spectacular engine fire in the second round. Hagan escaped from his car uninjured.

In Pro Stock, three-time Winternationals winner and runner-up in last season’s championship bid, Jason Line, was quickest at 6.523 seconds at 212.76 mph.

“It was a good run,” Line said. “It was a nice run. I know I usually whine and say it wasn’t perfect but it was a nice run. It’s nice to be up here and I’m pretty happy about that. It’s fun to start Day One of the 2015 Mello Yello drag racing season this way.”

Drew Skillman was second quickest (6.527 seconds at 212.09 mph), followed by Greg Anderson (6.535 seconds, 211.99 mph).

One of the biggest surprises of the day involved reigning Pro Stock champ Erica Enders-Stevens, who failed to complete either of her two qualifying passes, losing traction both times.

Enders-Stevens will have two more rounds on Saturday to make Sunday’s final eliminations. There will also be two more rounds of qualifying Saturday for all other drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock.

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FRIDAY’S RESULTS:

Top Fuel: 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.733 seconds, 327.59 mph; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.757, 323.35; 3. Spencer Massey, 3.761, 328.30; 4. Richie Crampton, 3.764, 323.97; 5. Larry Dixon, 3.776, 321.35; 6. Brittany Force, 3.779, 323.97; 7. Steve Torrence, 3.788, 325.45; 8. Leah Pritchett, 3.797, 320.81; 9. Shawn Langdon, 3.803, 320.36; 10. Antron Brown, 3.803, 313.73; 11. Troy Buff, 3.815, 310.77; 12. J.R. Todd, 3.914, 242.54.  Not Qualified: 13. Terry McMillen, 3.996, 285.41; 14. Steven Chrisman, 4.338, 221.20; 15. Steve Faria, 4.506, 182.55; 16. Clay Millican, 4.767, 151.97; 17. Dave Connolly, 13.570, 23.48.

Funny Car: 1. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.018, 314.46; 2. Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 4.060, 309.63; 3. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.061, 313.66; 4. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.066, 299.73; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.067, 300.93; 6. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.085, 305.84; 7. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.086, 314.09; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.090, 310.70; 9. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.097, 302.75; 10. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.102, 311.34; 11. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.106, 309.34; 12. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.131, 274.55.  Not Qualified: 13. Gary Densham, 4.182, 306.12; 14. Jeff Arend, 4.223, 263.56; 15. Terry Haddock, 4.286, 293.03; 16. John Hale, 4.440, 224.02; 17. Jack Beckman, 4.485, 204.35; 18. Bob Bode, 12.819, 41.70.

Pro Stock: 1. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.523, 212.76; 2. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.527, 212.09; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.535, 211.99; 4. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.538, 212.26; 5. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.538, 212.03; 6. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.540, 212.43; 7. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.546, 211.89; 8. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.551, 212.69; 9. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.553, 211.93; 10. Jimmy Alund, Pontiac GXP, 6.568, 211.46; 11. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, 6.614, 210.37; 12. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.623, 210.57.  Not Qualified: 13. Joey Grose, 6.625, 209.20; 14. Jeff Isbell, 6.677, 207.78; 15. Matt Hartford, 6.736, 206.92; 16. Vincent Nobile, 7.907, 123.05; 17. Erica Enders-Stevens, 9.708, 113.01.

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2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

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After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage