BROWN, WORSHAM, SKILLMAN, ARANA JR. SCORE WINS IN ST. LOUIS: Antron Brown extended his mastery of Gateway Motorsports Park by racing to his fourth consecutive Top Fuel victory at the facility last Sunday during the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. Del Worsham (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners in their respective categories at the second of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship event in St. Louis. Brown defeated Dave Connolly in the final round to take his 53rd career victory and his fifth win overall at the track with a performance of 3.721 seconds at 325.92 mph in his Matco Tools dragster to Connolly’s trailing run of 3.753 at 328.94 in the C&J Energy Services dragster.
"There are two words: truly blessed," said Brown. "When [track owner] Curt Francois and [general manager] Chris Blair brought this track back [in 2011], they brought it back better than ever. You can put a slew of runs together that are quick and fast because you’re not worried about the track not being there. The class is so competitive right now that you’re going home if you throw out a high 3.7."
COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP HITS CRITICAL HALFWAY POINT AT NHRA KEYSTONE NATIONALS: The 31st annual NHRA Keystone Nationals will be a key race for drivers in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series as they have only four races left to stake their claim for the world championship, October 1–4, at Maple Grove Raceway. The lucrative event, which is the third of six playoff races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, will feature drivers trying to continue their momentum from the opening two races of the Countdown—the NHRA Carolina Nationals and the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. This year’s edition of the famed event will feature side-by-side racing as drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle compete for their share of the $1.2 million purse and the vital Mello Yello Series points. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Matt Hagan (Funny Car); Rodger Brogdon (Pro Stock); and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2.
LANGDON STILL HAS HIGH HOPES HEADING TO NHRA KEYSTONE NATIONALS: The 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season has not been a conventional one for Shawn Langdon by any means. But even as his resolve has been tested on multiple occasions, the 2013 Top Fuel world champion continues to push forward during the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. Now sitting in 10th place in the Top Fuel standings, Langdon will try to get his playoff run jump-started driving the 10,000hp Sandvik Coromant/Red Fuel dragster at this weekend’s 31st annual NHRA Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
"The goal is to compete for a championship, and I won’t give up on that until the door is completely closed," Langdon said. "At this point it’s starting to become a little bit of a longshot, but you look at how tight it is and I’m only a round and a half out of third place. We’ve got a great car and since we tested at Indy, we’ve made six good runs down the track. We have a car that can compete."
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Rodger Brogdon (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2.
He Said, She Said
“This is my fourth time to the finals and I knew that Erica has been insane on the Tree. A little luck came our way and we got it done this weekend. I lost the first three finals but I don’t know how you can get frustrated when you get to a pro category for the first time and have the kind of year we’re having. This is not normal. I’m just very excited to win this. I have a great team. They killed it all weekend. They give me an opportunity to win, and I’m extremely fortunate for that. We had two red lights against us and then Erica shook down low in the final, so luck was on our side. You need that, though. Everything is so close and when it comes down to the final round, you need a little luck. With Erica, she’s been there from day one. She spent a week in Florida last winter teaching me how to drive. I had to learn everything about a Pro Stock car because they are so much different from what I’ve been used to driving. Everything from the way you stage and the way you shift; she taught me all of that, so it was cool to run her in the final again.”
—Pro Stock rookie Drew Skillman on racing to his first career victory in his Ray Skillman Chevy Camaro when he defeated his teammate Erica Enders. It was a rematch from the final in Indianapolis, which Enders won. In this matchup, Skillman powered past Enders’ Elite Motorsports Camaro, which lost traction early in the run, with his winning pass of 6.529 at 211.63.
Inside the Numbers
3.899: Number in seconds of the Funny Car elapsed time national record set by Del Worsham in his DHL Toyota Camry in St. Louis. Worsham earned 20 bonus points for establishing the record and raced to the event victory. It is his second consecutive win in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship. He now has a 90-point lead over two-time Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan. "In my 25 years of racing, I don’t know if I’ve ever driven a Funny Car that made that many good runs," Worsham said. "The team assembling it, the tune-up, and what [team owner] Connie Kalitta has given us here has been unreal. When I came back to Funny Car racing [in 2012], this is the dream I had."
Did You Know
FORCE LEADS FUNNY CAR CATEGORY WITH SEVEN WINS AT MAPLE GROVE; LOOKS FOR ANOTHER AT NHRA KEYSTONE NATIONALS: John Force, the 16-time Funny Car champion, has the most wins in the Funny Car category at Maple Grove Raceway with seven victories. Force is looking for continued success at the scenic track in his pursuit of another championship. But if the past world champion wants another world title, he knows he has to be great and that hasn’t happened quite yet during the first two races of the NHRA’s six-race playoff series. Performing at an elite level is what is necessary to stay competitive and win in the loaded Funny Car class these days, and Force has four more chances to reach that level during the Countdown to the Championship, including at this weekend’s 31st annual NHRA Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, located just south of Reading, Pennsylvania.
"No one is out of this championship yet," said Force, who is currently fifth in the Funny Car points standings. "A good race in Reading gets you right back into the middle of this countdown. Momentum is great, but really you just need consistency. The weather will be cool and we need to run quick and we can do that. (Crew Chief) Jon Schaffer is giving me a good race car, and I am working on getting better on the tree."