Andrew Hines earned the 100th win for Harley-Davidson, Ron Capps ended a drought and Steve Torrence went back-to-back at the NHRA Southern Nationals.
Andrew Hines brought home the 100th win for Harley-Davidson in NHRA competition at the NHRA Southern Nationals, the seventh of the 24 races on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. It’s his 51st win and third of the season in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category.
Ron Capps got his first Funny Car win of the season and 62nd win overall, ending a drought that goes back to the fall Charlotte event last season. He defeated Tim Wilkerson in the final round. Defending Top Fuel world champion Steve Torrence won for the second-straight race to extend his point lead to 96.
Mike Castellana, who did not qualify at his first race of the season, defeated Jose Gonzalez in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Series. Gonzalez turned on the red light in the final round, opening the door for Gonzalez, who is tuned by legendary crew chief Frank Manzo.
The NHRA is back on track at the NHRA Virginia Nationals in Richmond in two weeks on May 17.
ELIMINATION ROUND RECAPS
Torrence Wins Top Fuel
TOP FUEL FINAL: Steve Torrence went back-to-back with a clean pass down the Atlanta Dragway strip to defeat Brittany Force at the NHRA Southern Nationals. It took the Texan six tries to win in 2019, but he’s now become the first racer to win twice in Top Fuel this season. He left first and then got to the stripe first as Force put a hole out at half-track.
Torrence earned his first victory at Atlanta Dragway and continued the tradition of winning in Georgia. He won in Atlanta in 2017 en route to a second-place finish in the Top Fuel standings. The defending champion extended his lead in Top Fuel to 96. Brittany Force is in second place as the NHRA tour moves to Richmond, VA.
TOP FUEL SEMIFINALS: The last two Top Fuel world champions will face off in the final round at the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals. Steve Torrence defeated Bob Vandergriff Racing driver Shawn Reed courtesy of a holeshot. The Texan got off the line .026-second quicker than Reed and won by just .002-second.
Brittany Force beat Jordan Vandergriff, another BVR dragster, by virtue of getting down the race track under power. Vandergriff hazed the tires midway down the drag strip and that spelled doom for the rookie racer. Force will not have lane choice in her third final of the year as she chases her second Wally.
This will mark the first time in 2019 that a Top Fuel racer will win for the second time. There have been seven winners in the previous seven races.
TOP FUEL E2: Both Bob Vandergriff Racing Top Fuel dragsters reached the semifinals (on opposite sides of the ladder, an added bonus) and both drivers are chasing their first career wins. Jordan Vandergriff will face off against Brittany Force (who has lane choice) while Shawn Reed will take on defending champion Steve Torrence (who also has lane choice).
Torrence got by Scott Palmer with a 4-second pass despite hazing the tires down the track. That extends his round-win streak to five after the Texan won the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals a week ago. Reed also had to pedal his race car while facing off Dom Lagana, who lost power early in his run.
TOP FUEL E1: Antron Brown made the quickest run of the first round (3.771) to beat the second-quickest run of the round (3.779), run by Clay Millican. That booked Brown a matchup with Brittany Force in the second round. She defeated Cameron Ferre, who smoked the tires right off the hit at the NHRA Southern Nationals.
Shawn Reed snagged the biggest upset of the first round as he took down Doug Kalitta from the No. 14 position in his dragster, backed by Bob Vandergriff Racing. Both BVR dragsters reached the second round as Jordan Vandergriff scored a victory, earning him a matchup with Leah Pritchett in the second round.
Capps Wins Funny Car
FUNNY CAR FINAL: Ron Capps got the jump at the starting line and hung on to defeat Tim Wilkerson and scored his first win since the fall Charlotte event in 2018. The Rahn Tobler-tuned Dodge Charger ran a 4.068 to guarantee at least one win a year for the past 11 years. That impressive streak is in no small part due to the relationship between Tobler and his driver.
This is the 62nd win of Capps’ career, 61 of them have come in Funny Car, and more than one have come in Atlanta. After struggling to start the season, it looks like the NAPA Funny Car team is back.
FUNNY CAR SEMIFINALS: It’s déjà vu all over again. Tim Wilkerson will race Ron Capps for the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals Wally. This is a rematch of the 2015 Atlanta final, which resulted in a victory for Wilkerson. The Ford Mustang Funny Car driver is looking for his first win since the Charlotte Four-Wide in 2016. Wilk defeated Robert Hight when the Auto Club Chevy racer hazed the tires toward the far end of the race track.
Ron Capps moved past teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. to reach his first final round since the fall Charlotte race in 2018. Capps won that race, defeating 2018 Funny Car champion J.R. Todd in the process. The 2016 champ is now looking to get into the win column for the first time this season and he’ll have lane choice to help get him there.
FUNNY CAR E2: Tim Wilkerson reached the semifinals thanks to a masterful pedaling effort in the second round of the NHRA Southern Nationals. He defeated fellow Ford Mustang Funny Car racer Bob Tasca III, who did his best to catch the veteran racer but came up short by a little more than a second. Wilkerson will take on Robert Hight in the semi’s after the 2017 champ beat Paul Lee.
A pair of Don Schumacher Racing Funny Cars will face off on the other side of the ladder. Ron Capps took down 16-time world champion John Force on his birthday weekend to book a meeting with Tommy Johnson Jr. Johnson beat defending world champ J.R. Todd, who smoked the tires at the hit, but will not have lane choice after hazing his Goodyears at around the 800-foot mark.
FUNNY CAR E1: Robert Hight ran quickest in the first session despite shutting his car off a little bit early and will race Paul Lee in the second round. Lee, who made his Funny Car return at the NHRA Southern Nationals, got his round win unopposed when Blake Alexander failed to get his car started in time. By the time crew chief Daniel Wilkerson got it started the parachutes fell out of the car.
Tim Wilkerson also made a stout run (3.963) and will have lane choice against Bob Tasca III. The car has been spectacular to start the season and Wilk was just .004-second off of his qualifying time. Another highlight matchup is a familiar one: John Force vs. Ron Capps for what only feels like the 1,000th time.
Hines Wins Pro Stock Motorcycle
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE FINAL: Make it 100 wins for Harley-Davidson in NHRA competition. Andrew Hines got his 51st career victory with a 6.865-second pass that left little room for doubt against Jerry Savoie. He was shut out of the winner’s circle in 2018 but already has three victories in four races to start the 2019 season.
Hines earned the first victory for Harley-Davidson all the way back in 2004 and they keep on piling up for the racer, who has proven to be one of the best in the category. Perhaps most impressive: the 1.054-second 60-foot time that is among the best shown by the Vance & Hines powered machine.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE SEMIFINALS: Jerry Savoie used another holeshot to reach the final round of the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals. He defeated No. 1 qualifier Eddie Krawiec to get a shot at his first victory of the season. To do that, he’ll have to beat another Harley-Davidson: Andrew Hines.
Hines beat Hector Arana Jr. by overpowering him on the race track. The two were even on the race track but Hines ran a 6.897 down the quarter mile to easily advance to yet another final in what has been an excellent season already. He won his 50th career race a week ago at the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals and already has a chance to score his 51st.
Savoie’s last win came against Hines – and two other riders – in Charlotte just over a year ago. He’s more than ready for that drought to end.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE E2: Andrew Hines made the quickest run of the round to defeat Ryan Oehler. His 6.881-second pass was the only run in the 6.80s and put him a couple hundredths ahead of teammate Eddie Krawiec entering the semifinals. The Harley-Davidsons can continue to take care of business before they need to worry about one another, though.
Jerry Savoie defeated Steve Johnson with a holeshot and will get a shot at Krawiec in a battle between 2016 and 2017 world champions. Hector Arana Jr. is the only racer remaining who has not won a Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship. He defeated Angelle Sampey in the second round after the Harley-Davidson rider was forced to shut off her bike early.
Savoie is the only rider remaining who has not taken home a Wally this year.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE E1: Andrew Hines made the best run of the first round (6.872) to continue the Harley-Davidson dominance at the Southern Nats. He will race Ryan Oehler in the second round in what promises to be an interesting matchup. Oehler still holds the fastest time slip of the weekend in Pro Stock Motorcycle, while Hines has the second-quickest.
Karen Stoffer scored the lone upset of the first round, and it was a slight one. She beat Matt Smith from the No. 9 spot when the defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion turned on the red light. Stoffer coasted to victory and will race 2017 champion Eddie Krawiec in the second round.
The 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues with the Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park in Richmond, VA, May 17-19.
NHRA Pro Stock Point Standings
1. Bo Butner 425
2. Alex Laughlin 285
3. Matt Hartford 284
4. Jason Line 261
5. Erica Enders 239
NHRA Funny Car Point Standings
1. Robert Hight 663
2. Matt Hagan 472
3. John Force 470
4. J.R. Todd 456
4. Tommy Johnson Jr. 445
NHRA Top Fuel Point Standings
1. Steve Torrence 579
2. Brittany Force 483
3. Doug Kalitta 464
4. Leah Pritchett 433
5. Clay Millican 427
NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Point Standings
1. Andrew Hines 444
2. Eddie Krawiec 366
3. Hector Arana Jr. 356
4. Matt Smith 237
5. Jerry Savoie 233
Drag Race Central and NHRA contributed to this report.