NHRA at Kansas: Line (PS) wins 5th, Kalitta (TF) 3rd, Hagan (FC) 2nd

(Photo courtesy NHRA)
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Pro Stock driver Jason Line and Top Fuel pilot Doug Kalitta continued to dominate their respective drag racing classes, taking home victories in Sunday’s finals of the NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.

Line is the hottest driver in the entire sport, earning his fifth win of 2016, the 42nd of his career and his first career win at Kansas.

It was also Line’s eighth final round appearance in as many races thus far this season. Line (6.664 seconds at 207.85 mph) defeated teammate Greg Anderson (6.687 at 207.02) for the second straight race.

Line was also the No. 1 qualifier for the race.

“It was the perfect weekend,” Line said in an NHRA media release. “It was an exciting weekend for me and we didn’t mess it up. It’s a big deal to me. It’s nice to win at someplace you’ve never done well. I really can’t stop smiling right now. There were times I had good cars here but didn’t drive well. This weekend everything came together.”

Kalitta, meanwhile, won his third consecutive Top Fuel race of the season, defeating defending 2015 Top Fuel season champ Antron Brown.

Both drivers lost traction early in their run, but Kalitta was able to hold on despite a relatively slow run of 5.452 seconds at only 238.85 mph.

“It’s a seat of your pants kind of deal and you try to stay off the centerline and not hit the wall,” Kalitta said. “I think I had it more sideways than I’ve ever had a Top Fuel car before. It finally straightened out and we were fortunate to get the win.”

Brown (5.687 at 298.60) was faster but he also lost traction, allowing Kalitta to pass him approaching the finish line.

“It’s one of those deals you take what you can get as quick as you can do it,” Kalitta said. “I don’t think my car ever hooked up. It was exciting. These wins don’t come easy, that’s for sure. I am just real happy to do it here at Topeka.”

It was Kalitta’s 41st career win, his second at Topeka and he also increased his lead to 95 points over second-ranked Brittany Force in the Top Fuel point standings.

This is the first time Kalitta has won three races in a row in his Top Fuel career.

“We’ve got momentum,” Kalitta said. “We want to just keep doing what we’re doing and hope it lasts as long as it can go. This is a really good car, and a really good team.”

In Funny Car, 2014 season champ Matt Hagan continued his recent resurgence, earning his second consecutive win of the season, the 20th of his career and his first career triumph in Topeka.

Much like Kalitta’s match with Brown, Hagan (5.724 seconds at 179.09 mph) lost traction in his final round run against teammate Jack Beckman (6.560 seconds at 146.75 mph), who also lost traction.

“It was wild,” Hagan said of the final round. “It’s important to put everything in perspective. We set world records for (elapsed time: 3.862 seconds) and speed (335.57 mph, both marks coming Friday during qualifying) and then to come back out here to win this race is a tribute to my guys and their hard work. My butt was puckered pretty good on that last run.”

The NHRA National Event Tour skips next weekend and returns June 3-5 with the NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Doug Kalitta; 2.  Antron Brown; 3.  Steve Torrence; 4.  Richie Crampton; 5.  Tony Schumacher; 6.  Shawn Langdon; 7.  Brittany Force; 8.  Clay Millican; 9.  J.R. Todd; 10.  Scott Palmer; 11. Terry McMillen; 12.  Rob Passey; 13.  Luigi Novelli; 14.  Terry Haddock; 15.  Smax Smith.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Matt Hagan; 2.  Jack Beckman; 3.  Courtney Force; 4.  Tim Wilkerson; 5.  Robert Hight; 6. Alexis DeJoria; 7.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 8.  Del Worsham; 9.  John Force; 10.  Bob Tasca III; 11. Brian Stewart; 12.  John Hale; 13.  Chad Head; 14.  Ron Capps; 15.  Dale Creasy Jr.; 16.  Cruz Pedregon.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Jason Line; 2.  Greg Anderson; 3.  Allen Johnson; 4.  Shane Gray; 5.  Bo Butner; 6.  Alex Laughlin; 7.  Erica Enders; 8.  Vincent Nobile; 9.  Aaron Strong; 10.  Chris McGaha; 11.  Deric Kramer; 12.  Drew Skillman; 13.  Jeg Coughlin; 14.  Dave River; 15.  V. Gaines; 16.  Mark Hogan.

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FINAL RESULTS:

Top Fuel — Doug Kalitta, 5.452 seconds, 238.85 mph  def. Antron Brown, 5.687 seconds, 298.60 mph.

Funny Car — Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 5.724, 179.04  def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 6.560, 146.75.

Pro Stock — Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.664, 207.85  def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.687, 207.02.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Clay Millican, 3.783, 320.74 def. Terry McMillen, 3.984, 245.58; Tony Schumacher, 3.748, 327.90 def. Luigi Novelli, Broke; Richie Crampton, 4.033, 218.72 def. Terry Haddock, Broke; Brittany Force, 3.707, 326.24 was unopposed; Doug Kalitta, 3.795, 287.23 def. Rob Passey, 14.800, 34.25; Steve Torrence, 3.800, 324.12 def. Smax Smith, Broke; Shawn Langdon, 3.915, 242.71 def. Scott Palmer, 3.940, 311.70; Antron Brown, 3.723, 319.82 def. J.R. Todd, 3.767, 322.96.

QUARTERFINALS — Torrence, 3.770, 324.59 def. Langdon, 4.037, 248.84; Kalitta, 3.796, 325.61 def. Millican, 6.533, 89.42; Crampton, 3.781, 317.34 def. Schumacher, 3.782, 320.20; Brown, 3.753, 315.64 def. Force, Foul – Red Light.

SEMIFINALS — Kalitta, 3.757, 329.10 def. Torrence, 3.840, 314.46; Brown, 3.784, 313.95 def. Crampton, 9.335, 76.58.

FINAL — Kalitta, 5.452, 238.85 def. Brown, 5.687, 298.60.

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.935, 325.45 def. John Hale, Dodge Charger, 4.086, 314.53; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.943, 325.69 def. Brian Stewart, Mustang, 4.065, 313.15; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.933, 327.19 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Chevy Impala, 4.311, 239.19; Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.943, 324.44 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.004, 305.29; Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.963, 321.81 def. Chad Head, Camry, 4.188, 268.06; Del Worsham, Camry, 3.953, 327.27 def. John Force, Camaro, 3.951, 328.70; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.006, 319.60 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 9.397, 79.86; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.926, 329.67 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.242, 229.90.

QUARTERFINALS — Wilkerson, 3.972, 324.44 def. Worsham, 5.624, 141.82; Beckman, 3.956, 316.75 def. Johnson Jr., 4.045, 309.34; Hagan, 3.942, 323.81 def. Hight, 3.963, 325.37; C. Force, 3.961, 324.05 def. DeJoria, 3.981, 318.69.

SEMIFINALS — Beckman, 3.936, 324.20 def. Wilkerson, broke; Hagan, 3.951, 324.05 def. C. Force, 10.747, 80.24.

FINAL — Hagan, 5.724, 179.04 def. Beckman, 6.560, 146.75.

PRO STOCK:

ROUND ONE — Erica Enders, Dodge Dart, 6.718, 205.19 def. Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.655, 208.20 def. Aaron Strong, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.748, 204.66 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.693, 207.24; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.653, 207.91 def. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.746, 205.07; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.645, 207.66 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.789, 205.32; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.683, 206.57 def. Dave River, Chevy Cobalt, 6.777, 202.42; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.647, 208.30 def. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.905, 198.67; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.653, 206.89 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.696, 205.76.

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson, 6.676, 207.02 def. Butner, 6.716, 199.37; Gray, 6.664, 207.15 def. Laughlin, 6.719, 206.48; Line, 6.661, 207.85 def. Enders, 6.725, 204.98; Anderson, 6.660, 206.61 def. Nobile, 6.738, 205.26.

SEMIFINALS — Line, 6.670, 207.43 def. Gray, 7.725, 135.16; Anderson, 6.672, 206.67 def. Johnson, 7.317, 144.18.

FINAL — Line, 6.664, 207.85 def. Anderson, 6.687, 207.02.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

Top Fuel: 1.  Doug Kalitta, 710; 2.  Antron Brown, 615; 3.  Brittany Force, 580; 4.  Steve Torrence, 557; 5. (tie) Clay Millican, 440; J.R. Todd, 440; 7.  Richie Crampton, 418; 8.  Tony Schumacher, 403; 9. Shawn Langdon, 346; 10.  Terry McMillen, 310.

Funny Car: 1.  Courtney Force, 601; 2.  Jack Beckman, 589; 3.  Tim Wilkerson, 554; 4.  Matt Hagan, 511; 5. Robert Hight, 510; 6.  Ron Capps, 504; 7.  Del Worsham, 485; 8.  Alexis DeJoria, 451; 9.  John Force, 448; 10.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 404.

Pro Stock: 1.  Jason Line, 942; 2.  Greg Anderson, 816; 3.  Bo Butner, 614; 4.  (tie) Allen Johnson, 465; Drew Skillman, 465; 6.  Chris McGaha, 427; 7.  Vincent Nobile, 346; 8.  Erica Enders, 341; 9.  Jeg Coughlin, 339; 10.  Alex Laughlin, 327.

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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.”