NHRA Charlotte No. 1 qualifiers: Johnson Jr., B. Force, Skillman, Krawiec

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NHRA Media Release

CONCORD, N.C. – Tommy Johnson Jr. powered to the No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car on Saturday at the 11th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by WIX Filters at zMAX Dragway.

Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also secured No. 1 qualifier positions in their respective categories at the fourth of six playoff events during the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.

Johnson Jr., who is looking for his first win of 2018, claimed his second straight No. 1 qualifier and the 17th of his career after going 3.873 seconds at 329.10 mph in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T during Saturday’s final qualifying session. It sets up a first-round match-up with Dave Richards for Johnson, who entered the weekend fourth in the points standings and still has visions of making a late charge for the championship.

“We’ve got a really, really good race car right now and the guys are doing such a great job,” Johnson Jr. said. “You can just see it in their confidence. I would say the only thing we have to change is semifinals (where he has lost three of the past four races). We have to fix that this weekend. We’ve had a good car for the last 6-7 races and we just keep building on it.”

Ron Capps finished second in qualifying with a 3.875 at 329.42 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T and he will race Dale Creasy Jr. to open eliminations. Points leader and defending world champion Robert Hight, who has two straight wins, qualified No. 7 in his Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS with a run of 3.911 at 330.31. He will meet Jack Beckman in the first round of eliminations.

Force, the defending Top Fuel world champion, picked up her second No. 1 qualifier of 2018 and 10th of her career in her Advance Auto Parts/Monster Energy dragster with a run of 3.700 at 330.72 in the final qualifying session on Saturday. The run, which gave Force the No. 1 qualifier spot at both races at zMAX Dragway this season, sets up a first-round match up with Audrey Worm as Force looks to pick up her second win of 2018 and end her year on a strong note.

“We’re looking good going into race day,” Force said. “Our team has really been struggling this year in qualifying and we made some changes with the car the last few weekends. This weekend, I’m really hoping we’re going to turn the corner. We are happy and I have to thank all of my guys. They’ve been working around the clock and I would like to get all of us in the winner’s circle.”

Points leader and Friday’s provisional No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence, who has won the first three events of the Countdown to the Championship and has eight wins in 2018, will start eliminations from the No. 2 position thanks to his pass of 3.704 at 331.53 in his Capco Contractors dragster. He will meet Chris Karamesines in the first round of eliminations. Clay Millican ended up third after his pass of 3.718 at 321.73 in his Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster, setting up a first-round race against Kyle Wurtzel.

Pro Stock’s Skillman grabbed his seventh career top qualifier and second in 2018 after his run of 6.509 at 211.30 during the final qualifying session on Saturday in his Ray Skillman Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro. Skillman, who is seeking his first win of 2018, will try to become the 10th different Pro Stock winner this season and matches up with Shane Tucker to open eliminations.

“We’re trying our best to finish as strong as we can this year,” said Skillman, who entered the weekend fourth in points. “We didn’t have the best year all year, but the racecar is really coming together at the end of the season when it needs to. We’re going to try to get three more wins this year and this is a great start. We definitely feel very comfortable here.”

Provisional top qualifier and two-time world champion Erica Enders finished second in qualifying with a run of 6.513 at 211.96 in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Camaro. She will race Wally Stroupe in the first round of eliminations, while points leader Tanner Gray, who has seven wins in 2018, qualified third with a run of 6.516 at 212.33 in his Valvoline/Nova Services Camaro, setting up a first-round matchup with Allen Prusiensky.

Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Krawiec collected his fourth No. 1 qualifier of 2018 and 43rd of his career with his 6.806 at 197.83 from Friday on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Krawiec, who trailed points leader LE Tonglet by 47 points heading into the weekend, will look for his fifth win of the season and faces Jim Underdahl in the first round of eliminations.

“I was fortunate enough to keep the No. 1 spot,” Krawiec said. “One of my teammates, Chip Ellis, almost knocked me off, but we were able to get it done. Rolling into tomorrow, I think it should be some good racing. It’s definitely going to be a game-changer. You have to be on this weekend and whoever comes out of here going the most rounds is probably going to be the most comfortable in this points battle. It’s do or die time, really.”

Teammate Ellis stayed second after improving to a 6.806 at 196.85 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson on Saturday, setting up a first-round matchup with Joey Gladstone, while points leader Tonglet qualified ninth with a 6.856 at 195.90 on his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki and will race Angelle Sampey to open eliminations.

Eliminations for the NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by WIX Filters begin at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday.

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SUNDAY’S FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS FOR ELIMINATIONS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Brittany Force, 3.700 seconds, 330.72 mph vs. 16. Audrey Worm, 4.057, 266.11; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.704, 331.53 vs. 15. Chris Karamesines, 3.992, 282.66; 3. Clay Millican, 3.718, 321.73 vs. 14. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.901, 291.82; 4. Mike Salinas, 3.720, 329.02 vs. 13. Pat Dakin, 3.859, 312.57; 5. Doug Kalitta, 3.727, 327.59 vs. 12. Scott Palmer, 3.788, 326.56; 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.732, 329.42 vs. 11. Antron Brown, 3.785, 326.40; 7. Leah Pritchett, 3.755, 322.04 vs. 10. Richie Crampton, 3.774, 318.99; 8. Dom Lagana, 3.762, 324.59 vs. 9. Terry McMillen, 3.769, 325.30. Did Not Qualify: 17. Lex Joon, 4.356, 178.19.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.873, 329.10 vs. 16. Dave Richards, Ford Mustang, 4.248, 272.94; 2. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.875, 329.42 vs. 15. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 4.181, 301.87; 3. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.876, 323.74 vs. 14. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.035, 309.42; 4. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.894, 327.90 vs. 13. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 3.959, 323.19; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.901, 325.77 vs. 12. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.945, 308.50; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.903, 325.14 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.937, 318.02; 7. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.911, 330.31 vs. 10. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.929, 325.45; 8. John Force, Camaro, 3.914, 330.72 vs. 9. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.920, 323.58. Did Not Qualify: 17. Bob Gilbertson, 4.301, 250.88.

PRO STOCK: 1. Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.509, 211.30 vs. 14. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.733, 204.35; 2. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.513, 211.96 vs. 13. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, 6.708, 206.01; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.516, 212.33 vs. 12. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.608, 209.72; 4. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.522, 211.69 vs. 11. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.568, 210.34; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.523, 211.59 vs. 10. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.556, 211.56; 6. Alex Laughlin, Dart, 6.525, 211.03 vs. 9. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.550, 211.03; 7. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.531, 211.93 vs. 8. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.545, 211.66.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.806, 197.83 vs. 16. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.905, 195.11; 2. Chip Ellis, Harley-Davidson, 6.806, 196.90 vs. 15. Joey Gladstone, Buell, 6.903, 194.30; 3. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.819, 195.99 vs. 14. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.891, 194.27; 4. Matt Smith, EBR, 6.836, 197.71 vs. 13. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.884, 194.30; 5. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.838, 199.29 vs. 12. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.879, 195.03; 6. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.842, 196.70 vs. 11. Hector Arana, EBR, 6.876, 197.33; 7. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.852, 194.32 vs. 10. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.875, 196.53; 8. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.853, 195.00 vs. 9. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.856, 196.33. Did Not Qualify: 17. Ron Tornow, 6.908, 193.43; 18. Kelly Clontz, 6.925, 192.38; 19. John Hall, 6.929, 194.16; 20. Mark Paquette, 6.935, 192.00; 21. Anthony Vanetti, 7.101, 185.92; 22. Maurice Allen, 7.110, 188.04.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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