Greg Anderson has returned to championship form one year removed from heart surgery, winning his fourth Pro Stock victory of 2015 at his sponsor’s race—the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, OH.
Doug Kalitta in Top Fuel, Jack Beckman in Funny Car, and Karen Stoffer in Pro Stock Motorcycle were also winners Sunday at Summit Motorsports Park.
Yesterday’s win was the 78th of Anderson’s Pro Stock career. To get it, he had to fend off rookie sensation Drew Skillman in the finals. Anderson made a 6.592-second, 212.19 miles per hour quarter mile pass in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro to just beat Skillman, who ran a 6.594 at 211.43.
“It’s pretty cool because we come here with high hopes,” said Anderson of his third win at one of his sponsor’s marquee events on the circuit. “We want to do so well in front of all the folks from Summit here. You put a lot of pressure on yourself. I keep saying it, ‘Most people would come in and say we don’t want that pressure, we’re going to dread this weekend. It’s just going to be too much stress.’ We love it. Then, when we went through qualifying and didn’t do that well, we thought we were embarrassing ourselves, so we put our heads together overnight and we got it right today. When [teammate] Jason [Line] and I were the two quickest cars in round one, we forgot all about qualifying. We raced like we’re capable of and I’m proud to be part of this team.”
Anderson, who is showing glimpses of the form he used in some of his previous championship seasons, regained the series points lead over #1 qualifier Erica Enders-Stevens, who was upset in the opening round. He now holds a 60-point lead over the defending world champ.
“There is so much competition in this class,” Anderson said. “It is such a battle every weekend. It is so hard to win and it feels so good when you do win. I’m having a ball. It’s a dogfight every week. You feel fantastic at the end of the day if you can find a way to win, to conquer it. This is no less gratifying than it was with my very first win back in 2001.”
Kalitta earned his 37th career victory by powering his Top Fuel dragster past defending event winner Antron Brown in the final round. Kalitta, also the event’s #1 qualifier, covered the distance in 3.823 seconds at 322.34 mph while Brown’s dragster lost traction and trailed with a 3.918 at 307.79.
“This is our hometown track and it was great having a lot of family and close friends here, so it doesn’t get much better than that,” said Kalitta, whose team is based in Ypsilanti, MI. “Even my mom actually showed up. I think she’s only shown up one other time in my entire career. She watches it on TV quite a bit but doesn’t come too often. I’m going to have to tell her that she has to come out [again since] we won with her here.”
Kalitta used the good vibes from the home track advantage to race past Chris Karamesines, Steve Torrence and Clay Millican in earlier rounds. He moved to third in points with the victory. Runner-up Brown and semifinalist Tony Schumacher are first and second overall in the series standings.
“It was a great team effort today,” Kalitta said. “It’s tough to win out here and I’m glad we were able to pull it off today. You have to be on your game. It was a great weekend and the Bader family put on a heck of a show.”
In Funny Car, Beckman scored his third victory of the season by racing past Courtney Force in the final round. Beckman claimed his 18th career victory with a final round performance of 4.211 at 301.67 in his Dodge Charger R/T, while Force’s Chevy Camaro SS slowed near mid-track and finished in 4.609 at 199.64.
Beckman, the 2012 world champ, has fully emerged from a two-year slump where he didn’t win a race in 2013-14. With new crew chief Jimmy Prock on board, he has also posted victories this season at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, NC and Topeka, KS.
“This race was awesome for what we had to overcome and the fact that we beat all of the Force cars,” said Beckman, who ousted the 16-time champ John Force in the opening round and then beat Robert Hight and Tim Wilkerson before defeating Courtney in the final. “It was a fabulous win.”
It was Beckman’s second Norwalk win and he moves to third in the points standings. He said the win light against Ms. Force couldn’t have flashed any faster.
“We didn’t make a great run in the final,” Beckman said. “The interesting thing about a nitro Funny Car is that they are fast. At half-track, you think you’re in the fastest thing on the planet, but at that point, you can’t wait until the win light comes on. The finish line can’t come up fast enough.”
In only the third pro final round featuring a pair of female finalists in NHRA history, Stoffer defeated Angelle Sampey to take the Pro Stock Motorcycle win. Stoffer earned her second win of the season and eighth of her career on her Suzuki when Angelle Sampey fouled with a red-light start on her Buell.
Stoffer, who was only planning to race a limited schedule this season, finds herself in second place in the points as the two-wheel category’s only multi-time winner this season, 45 back of series leader Eddie Krawiec.
“I certainly can’t imagine the way this season has gone,” said Stoffer, who defeated a trio of world champs—Matt Smith, Krawiec and LE Tonglet—to reach the final. “I’m still pinching myself, but we never planned how this season was going to go. I didn’t think I’d be here for a second. We just wanted to put our best foot forward, and to end up winning, that is icing on the cake.”
Her win over Sampey avenged the only other final round meeting between the two veteran riders. Sampey beat Stoffer at Reading, PA in 2002. The only other Mello Yello Series final to feature an all-female pairing happened in Top Fuel in 1982 when Shirley Muldowney defeated Lucille Lee in Columbus, OH.
“Racing Angelle in a final for the first time since 2002 was interesting,” Stoffer said. “We both struggled here, so we had to race a couple of times in qualifying. It was great to race her in the final. I would have liked to have seen two green lights, but we all live and die by the Tree in this class. We managed to get our tire hooked up, and we went down the track, so I think we’d have been in good shape no matter what.”
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues July 9-12 with the Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, IL.
Sunday’s race was the 12th of 24 scheduled for the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Pro Stock Championship Point Standings
1. Greg Anderson 1,065 2. Erica Enders-Stevens 1,005 3. Jason Line 900 4. Chris McGaha 831 5. Drew Skillman 666
Funny Car Championship Point Standings
1. Matt Hagan 932 2. Ron Capps 812 3. Jack Beckman 782 4. Del Worsham 781 5. John Force 748
Top Fuel Championship Point Standings
1. Antron Brown 925 2. Tony Schumacher 905 3. Doug Kalitta 791 4. Richie Crampton 764 5. Larry Dixon 754
The NHRA and Drag Race Central contributed to this report.