NHRA’s Seattle winners: Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock)

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Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), J.R. Todd (Top Fuel) and Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) emerged as winners in Sunday’s final eliminations of the NHRA Northwest Nationals in the Seattle suburb of Kent, Wash.

Johnson (4.073 seconds at 308.00 mph) earned his second win of the season and the 12th of his NHRA career (10th in Funny Car), defeating Del Worsham in the final round.

“We’ve got the most consistent car,” Johnson said in an NHRA media release. “The last seven races including this one, we have been to four finals.

“We’ve got a really good car and team. We struggled early in the season with stupid stuff that bit us. Everybody has stepped up to the plate lately and it is showing.”

Worsham, one of the three drivers to have a Top Fuel and Funny Car win at Pacific Raceways in Kent, appeared in his third final round of the season.

Prior to meeting Worsham, Johnson beat Don Schumacher Racing teammate “Fast Jack” Beckman in the semifinals, denying Beckman a sweep of the three-race “Western Swing” over the last three weeks (Denver; Sonoma, Calif.; and Kent, a suburb of Seattle).

But there was still good news for Beckman: he closed to within five points of series leader Matt Hagan. Johnson, meanwhile, moved into third place, 114 points behind Hagan, who won the Funny Car national championship in 2014.

In Top Fuel, Todd (3.820 seconds at 322.04 mph) defeated Shawn Langdon in the final round. It was Todd’s first win of 2015 and eighth of his career.

“It’s still so surreal that I’m driving for Connie Kalitta,” said Todd, who is in his second season with Kalitta Motorsports. “He’s done so much for the sport as a driver, owner and crew chief.

“I’m the luckiest guy out here. This is Connie’s personal toy and he takes a lot of pride in this car. I just love to be able to bring him trophies.”

Despite being eliminated in the second round Sunday, Tony Schumacher retained his lead in the Top Fuel standings, holding an 87-point edge over DSR teammate Antron Brown.

In Pro Stock, McGaha earned his second career win in as many races, having also won last week at Sonoma. McGaha (6.507 seconds at 212.59 mph) defeated five-time Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the final round.

“The fact that we’ve gotten on a roll here, it does give us a legitimate chance at the championship,” McGaha said. “I’ve seen guys in the past maybe peak too early. I don’t know if we’ve peaked too early or not. I don’t really care at this point either. … I have 100 percent confidence in my crew chief [Brian “Lump” Self] and I always have.”

Greg Anderson continues to lead the Pro Stock standings with a 51-point lead over defending 2014 championship winner Erica Enders.

The season is now officially two-thirds complete, with 16 of the 24 races scheduled for 2015 now in the record books.

The NHRA takes next weekend off before returning to action Aug. 20-23 in the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway.

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1.  J.R. Todd; 2.  Shawn Langdon; 3.  Larry Dixon; 4.  Tony Schumacher; 5.  Steve Torrence; 6. Terry McMillen; 7.  Brittany Force; 8.  Richie Crampton; 9.  Clay Millican; 10.  Troy Buff; 11. Spencer Massey; 12.  Jenna Haddock; 13.  Doug Kalitta; 14.  Antron Brown; 15.  Ron Smith; 16.  Dave Connolly.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 2.  Del Worsham; 3.  John Force; 4.  Jack Beckman; 5.  Ron Capps; 6.  Tim Wilkerson; 7.  Chad Head; 8.  Alexis DeJoria; 9.  Robert Hight; 10.  Matt Hagan; 11.  Courtney Force; 12.  Cruz Pedregon; 13.  Paul Lee; 14.  John Hale; 15.  Jeff Diehl; 16.  Terry Haddock.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Chris McGaha; 2.  Jeg Coughlin; 3.  Allen Johnson; 4.  Shane Gray; 5.  Erica Enders; 6. Vincent Nobile; 7.  Greg Anderson; 8.  Jonathan Gray; 9.  Jason Line; 10.  Bo Butner; 11.  Larry Morgan; 12.  Matt Hartford; 13.  Aaron Strong; 14.  Joey Grose; 15.  Deric Kramer; 16.  V. Gaines.

FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: J.R. Todd, 3.824 seconds, 323.04 mph  def. Shawn Langdon, 3.902 seconds, 307.51 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.073, 308.00  def. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.042, 307.51.

PRO STOCK: Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.507, 212.59  def. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.532, 212.63.

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Richie Crampton, 3.740, 322.96 def. Ron Smith, broke; Brittany Force, 3.774, 324.51 def. Troy Buff, 3.846, 315.34; Terry McMillen, 4.530, 272.56 def. Dave Connolly, broke; Tony Schumacher, 3.773, 323.66 def. Jenna Haddock, 4.123, 241.07; Larry Dixon, 3.753, 325.85 def. Doug Kalitta, 4.552, 172.04; J.R. Todd, 3.763, 327.35 def. Clay Millican, 3.783, 320.89; Steve Torrence, 3.795, 322.19 def. Spencer Massey, 4.105, 232.03; Shawn Langdon, 4.419, 199.64 def. Antron Brown, 4.714, 225.11;

QUARTERFINALS — Schumacher, 3.846, 299.06 def. Torrence, 3.832, 310.63; Todd, 3.830, 308.78 def. McMillen, 3.899, 309.84; Dixon, 3.791, 303.16 def. Force, 3.899, 315.71; Langdon, 3.810, 301.07 def. Crampton, 9.909, 82.35;

SEMIFINALS — Todd, 3.844, 319.29 def. Schumacher, 7.997, 83.19; Langdon, 3.816, 319.90 def. Dixon, 3.952, 240.85;

FINAL — Todd, 3.824, 323.04 def. Langdon, 3.902, 307.51.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.065, 306.60 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 9.951, 90.05; Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.978, 316.60 def. Terry Haddock, Solara, 11.560, 86.32; Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.018, 314.17 def. John Hale, Charger, 6.796, 72.58; Chad Head, Camry, 4.017, 310.34 def. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.137, 252.00; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.075, 307.02 def. Paul Lee, Charger, 5.044, 150.77; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.373, 259.51 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.461, 226.66; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.010, 312.50 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 5.038, 152.49; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.091, 303.78 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.356, 225.79;

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson Jr., 4.057, 308.07 def. Head, 6.481, 143.02; Beckman, 4.024, 312.50 def. Capps, 4.108, 302.28; Worsham, 4.041, 310.41 def. Wilkerson, 4.171, 291.82; J. Force, 4.152, 300.13 def. DeJoria, 10.552, 82.15;

SEMIFINALS — Worsham, 4.039, 310.27 def. J. Force, 4.094, 308.00; Johnson Jr., 4.070, 310.41 def. Beckman, 4.166, 301.47;

FINAL — Johnson Jr., 4.073, 308.00 def. Worsham, 4.042, 307.51.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 6.516, 212.59 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.514, 212.13; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.518, 212.13 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.524, 212.39; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.544, 211.83 def. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.547, 212.09; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.523, 212.83 def. Matt Hartford, Pontiac GXP, 6.570, 211.49; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.502, 212.29 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 18.453, 44.01; Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.521, 212.03 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, foul; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.488, 213.40 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, foul; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.500, 212.56 def. Aaron Strong, Camaro, 6.589, 209.01;

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson, 6.570, 212.03 def. J. Gray, 15.593, 52.60; S. Gray, 6.739, 210.93 def. Anderson, 14.840, 56.87; Coughlin, 6.532, 211.96 def. Enders, 6.530, 211.89; McGaha, 6.524, 212.76 def. Nobile, 6.538, 212.43;

SEMIFINALS — Coughlin, 6.521, 212.33 def. Johnson, 6.572, 211.26; McGaha, 6.533, 212.23 def. S. Gray, 15.389, 67.19;

FINAL — McGaha, 6.507, 212.59 def. Coughlin, 6.532, 212.63.

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

Top Fuel: 1.  Tony Schumacher, 1,289*; 2.  Antron Brown, 1,202*; 3.  Larry Dixon, 1,034; 4.  Richie Crampton, 969; 5.  Doug Kalitta, 944; 6.  J.R. Todd, 896; 7.  Shawn Langdon, 872; 8.  Spencer Massey, 855; 9. Brittany Force, 851; 10.  Steve Torrence, 835.

Funny Car: 1.  Matt Hagan, 1,177*; 2.  Jack Beckman, 1,172*; 3.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 1,063; 4.  John Force, 1,025; 5.  Del Worsham, 1,004; 6.  Ron Capps, 988; 7.  Cruz Pedregon, 872; 8.  Tim Wilkerson, 870; 9.  (tie) Alexis DeJoria, 819; Robert Hight, 819.

Pro Stock: 1.  Greg Anderson, 1,322*; 2.  Erica Enders, 1,271*; 3.  Chris McGaha, 1,175*; 4.  Jason Line, 1,102*; 5.  Allen Johnson, 951; 6.  Larry Morgan, 906; 7.  Shane Gray, 834; 8.  Jonathan Gray, 823; 9.  Vincent Nobile, 787; 10.  Drew Skillman, 779.

* Secured a berth in Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race playoffs.

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Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”