Ken Roberts is a respected veteran journalist in the St. Louis area.
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The sixth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals have ended at Gateway Motorsports Park and Steve Torrence, Ron Capps, Greg Anderson and LE Tonglet won championships in their respective classes.
Points leader Torrence knocked off Doug Kalitta to capture the Top Fuel title in .008 at the finish line. It was his eighth win of the season and first at Gateway.
Veteran Capps drove by Jonnie Lindberg for his eighth victory of the season in the Funny Car final. It was 57th career Funny Car win and 58th overall (he has one win in Top Fuel). It was also his fourth victory at Gateway.
Stephen Weiss photo
Anderson, making his fourth straight finals appearance, took down teammate Jason Line by .003 at the finish line. He used a holeshot (quicker start) to beat Line for Anderson’s 89th win of his career.
Tonglet defeated Andrew Hines in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final by .006 at the finish line.
LE Tonglet will face Andrew Hines in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final after No. 7 qualifier Tonglet knocked off No. 3 qualifier Matt Smith in one semifinal race, while top qualifier Andrew Hines beat No. 4 qualifier in the other semifinal.
The finals in Pro Stock will be four-time national champion Greg Anderson against Bo Butner/teammate Jason Line.
Top qualifier Anderson will be making his fourth straight final round appearance, 10th of the season and 149th of his career after handling No. 13 Brian Self in one semifinal race.
Anderson will square off against teammate and No. 3 qualifier Jason Line, who defeated series points leader and No. 2 qualifier Bo Butner after Line had a .005 reaction time at the start.
The finals in Funny Car will pit Jonnie Lindberg versus John Force/Ron Capps.
No. 5 Lindberg upset top qualifier Robert Hight as Lindberg beat Hight all the way down the track.
No. 3 qualifier Ron Capps drove around No. 2 and 16-time champion John Force.
The finals are set in Top Fuel as No. 4 Doug Kalitta and points leader No. 7 Steve Torrence will race for the title. It will be the 11th finals appearance this season for Torrence.
Kalitta defeated No. 8 Dom Lagana, while Torrence stopped No. 6 Antron Brown.
Sunday, Oct. 1, 1:50 p.mm.
Pro Stock quarterfinal eliminations are over and No. 13 qualifier Brian Self advanced to the semifinals knocking off No. 5 Chris McGaha on a holeshot.
Points leader and No. 2 Bo Butner defeated No. 7 Erica Enders, four-time champion and No. 1 qualifier Greg Anderson beat No.9 Larry Morgan when Morgan’s car died at the starting line.
Finally, No. 3 and defending race champion Jason Line took care of No. 11 Deric Kramer.
Pro Stock Motorcycle quarterfinals are in the books and No. 4 Scott Pollacheck took down defending champion and No. 5 Jerry Savoie.
Top qualifier Andrew Hines beat No. 9 Karen Stoffer, No. 3 Matt Smith defeated his wife No. 6 Angie Smith and points leader No. 7 LE Tonglet cut a .001 light at the start and beat series points leader and No. 2 Eddie Krawiec.
Sunday, Oct. 1, 1:30 p.m.
The quarterfinals in Top Fuel are now over and three drivers in the left lane were victorious.
No. 8 Dom Lagana knocked off top qualifier Clay Millican when Millican smoked his tires halfway down the raceway. It is the second straight race Lagana has advanced to the semifinals.
No. 6 Antron Brown knocked off teammate and No. 3 qualifier Tony Schumacher as Schumacher spun the tires at halftrack.
Points leader and No. 7 Steve Torrence downed No. 2 Leah Pritchett as Pritchett didn’t make it to the halfway mark before spinning her tires.
Then in a switch at the last second that didn’t work, No. 4 Doug Kalitta, who had to switch from the left lane to the right lane, knocked off No. 5 Brittany Force as Force smoked her tires at the 300-foot mark.
Funny Car quarterfinals have ended and 16-time champion and No. 2 qualifier John Force (right lane) beat daughter and No. 7 Courtney on a holeshot (he beat her off the starting line).
No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight took care of No. 8 Matt Hagan, then in a lane switch No. 3 Ron Capps topped teammate and No. 6 Jack Beckman. Beckman had lane choice (left lane) and made Capps move to the left as Beckman took the right and lost. Finally, No. 5 Jonnie Lindberg defeated No. 4 Alexis Dejoria.
Sunday, Oct. 1, 1:05 p.m.
Pro Stock has ended and somebody in the left lane finally won a race as veteran driver and No. 9 qualifier Larry Morgan upset No. 8 Alex Laughlin.
The right lane came alive with the second pair as No. 7 Erica Enders beat Allen Johnson, No. 11 Deric Kramer upended No. 6 Tanner Gray, who redlighted at the start. Gray had been No. 3 in the points standings.
No. 13 Brian Self captured his first first round win when he drove around No. 4 Drew Skillman at the top end, No. 5 Chris McGaha beat No. 12 Jeg Coughlin, No. 3 Jason Line beat No. 14 Alan Prusiensky from the left lane, No. 1 Greg Anderson defeated No. 16 David River when River lit the red light and series points leader Bo Butner easily beat Mark Hogan.
Pro Stock Motorcycle wrapped up the first round of eliminations. Defending race champion and No. 5 qualifier Jerry Savoie beat No. 12 Marc Ingwersen, No. 9 Karen Stoffer beat No. 8 Hector Arana Jr., No. 6 Angie Smith overpowered Mike Berry, No. 7 LE Tonglet won over Joey Gladstone, No. 1 Andrew Hines won over No. 16 Andie Rawlings, No. 3 Matt Smith ran by Steve Johnson, No. 2 qualifier and points leader Eddie Krawiec easily beat David Hope and No. 4 Scott Pollacheck was a winner over Ryan Oehler.
Sunday, Oct. 1, 12:15 p.m.
First round of Funny Car eliminations have ended and the right lane stayed as the preferred lane.
No. 3 qualifier, series points leader and defending race champion Ron Capps scored a win over No. 14 Jim Campbell when Campbell had a red light, No. 2 and 16-time champion John Force stopped No. 15 Brian Stewart, top qualifier Robert Hight had a single run after No. 16 Dale Creasy had to shut off his car at the starting line.
No. 4 Alexis Dejoria beat No. 13 Cruz Pedregon, No. 5 Jonnie Lindberg won over No. 12 Tim Wilkerson, No. 6 Jack Beckman drove by Del Worsham, No. 7 Courtney Force defeated No. 10 J.R. Todd and No. 8 Matt Hagan held off No. 9 Tommy Johnson Jr.
Sunday, Oct. 1, 11:44 a.m.
Top Fuel elimination round has ended and the right lane was the preferred lane as all eight drivers in the right lane were winners.
No. 1qualifer Clay Millican beat No. 16 Kyle Wurtzel, No. 8 Dominic Lagana outran No. 9 Richie Crampton, No. 2 Leah Pritchett defeated No. 15 Ashley Sanford, No. 3 Tony Schumacher won over No. 14 Troy Buff, No. 4 Doug Kalitta was able to hold off No. 13 Scott Palmer despite blowing up at the top end.
Stephen Weiss photo
Kalitta’s explosion caused a 15-minute while the NHRA Safety Safari cleaned and re-surfaced the track.
No. 5 Brittany Force beat No. 12 Pat Dakin with 3.644-second run and the third fastest run in NHRA history (332.26 miles per hour), No. 6 Antron Brown was victorious No. 11 Terry McMillen and No. 7 Steve Torrence advanced by beating No. 10 and defending event champion Shawn Langdon.
Saturday, Sept. 30, end-of-day
Elimination Day has arrived in the sixth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Four professional drivers will be crowned champion in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Who those champions will be won’t be known until about 4 p.m. this afternoon.
Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the pole sitters.
This race is the third of six in the Countdown to the Championship. Some drivers will be eliminated from the national championship chase today. Nobody will know until later today.
After a sellout crowd estimated at 16,000 fans on Saturday, tickets still remain for Sunday. And the weather will be just a tad bit warmer than it was on Saturday (74 degrees) with a Sunday high expected around 77.
Everybody come out and enjoy the day and the races. Cheers!
Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the sixth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park, the 21st of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which endedSaturday. DNQs listed below pairings.
Top Fuel — 1. Clay Millican, 3.631 seconds, 330.39 mph vs. 16. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.867, 303.91; 2. Leah Pritchett, 3.670, 329.83 vs. 15. Ashley Sanford, 3.842, 299.86; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.680, 330.72 vs. 14. Troy Buff, 3.839, 314.17; 4. Doug Kalitta, 3.681, 332.18 vs. 13. Scott Palmer, 3.785, 326.24; 5. Brittany Force, 3.690, 329.58 vs. 12. Pat Dakin, 3.768, 323.27; 6. Antron Brown, 3.693, 330.55 vs. 11. Terry McMillen, 3.749, 321.27; 7. Steve Torrence, 3.696, 329.58 vs. 10. Shawn Langdon, 3.726, 324.28; 8. Dom Lagana, 3.713, 326.24 vs. 9. Richie Crampton, 3.714, 326.87.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Luigi Novelli, 3.941, 295.27; 18. Terry Haddock, 3.993, 295.21; 19. Chris Karamesines, 5.211, 135.92; 20. Rob Passey, 23.573, 29.31.
Funny Car — 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.830, 338.60 vs. 16. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.037, 303.64; 2. John Force, Camaro, 3.832, 335.32 vs. 15. Brian Stewart, Ford Mustang, 4.014, 285.11; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.849, 332.51 vs. 14. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.003, 314.46; 4. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.863, 333.16 vs. 13. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.978, 323.27; 5. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.871, 330.96 vs. 12. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.923, 325.37; 6. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.873, 331.77 vs. 11. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.910, 327.27; 7. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.877, 329.50 vs. 10. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.904, 332.02; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.894, 330.96 vs. 9. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.897, 325.30.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Cory Lee, 4.135, 309.91; 18. Jeff Diehl, 4.153, 306.26; 19. Bob Bode, 4.397, 227.92.
Pro Stock — 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.507, 212.33 vs. 16. Dave River, Chevy Cobalt, 6.906, 191.51; 2. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.510, 212.03 vs. 15. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.738, 203.92; 3. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.512, 213.30 vs. 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.623, 208.68; 4. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.517, 212.29 vs. 13. Brian Self, Camaro, 6.594, 209.92; 5. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.523, 211.36 vs. 12. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.579, 209.98; 6. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.525, 211.23 vs. 11. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.577, 210.18; 7. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.550, 211.13 vs. 10. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.560, 209.72; 8. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.551, 210.83 vs. 9. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.556, 211.10.
Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.781, 196.85 vs. 16. Andie Rawlings, Suzuki, 7.657, 174.14; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.783, 196.64 vs. 15. David Hope, Buell, 7.084, 186.25; 3. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.792, 197.22 vs. 14. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.026, 191.51; 4. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.809, 196.42 vs. 13. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.998, 191.05; 5. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.817, 197.28 vs. 12. Marc Ingwersen, Buell, 6.982, 190.22; 6. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.820, 195.56 vs. 11. Mike Berry, Buell, 6.921, 192.03; 7. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.831, 195.87 vs. 10. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.880, 194.18; 8. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.833, 195.87 vs. 9. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.850, 195.22.
Saturday, Sept. 30, 5 p.m.
The third round of qualifying for Pro Stock Motorcycle, Pro Stock, Top Fuel and Funny Car have ended and no records were broken.
Andrew Hines remained the No. 1 qualifier in the bikes but went a little quicker with elapsed time and speed. Hines had an ET of 6.789 at 196.85 mph. In the second session Friday night, Hines went 6.802 ET at 196.19.
In Pro Stock, four-time champion Greg Anderson remained on top with a pass of 6.507 seconds at 212.33 mph. Both time and speed are an improvement for Anderson from Friday night when he traveled 6.525 at 211.03 mph.
Top Fuel had a 20-minute a delay during the third round after the motor in Terry Haddock’s machine blew up just past the finish line. The NHRA Safety Safari had to clean and re-prep the right lane for the rest of the field.
When the session was over national ET record holder Clay Millican remained in the top spot. He set his record Friday night going 1,000 feet in 3.631 seconds at 330.39 mph.
Doug Kalitta did break his own track speed mark in the third qualifying sessionSaturday going 332.18 mph. Friday night, he set the record at 331.85 mph.
In Funny Car, most of the drivers struggled with both lanes smoking the tires. But points leader Ron Capps kept his car going and picked up three bonus points by going 3.898 seconds at 329.83 mph.
“We’ll take ‘em. We need those points,” Capps said.
Saturday, Sept. 30, 10:30 a.m.
With an expected high temperature of 75 degrees today, track records could be in jeopardy in the last two qualifying sessions for the five professional categories at the sixth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.
At 10:03 a.m., the track temperature was 84 with the air temperature was 64.
Right now, the Top Dragster category is in the first round of eliminations. That group will be followed by first-round of Super Gas eliminations.
Second round eliminations of Stock, Super Comp, Super Stock, Super Gas and Top Sportsman are still to come.
Pro Mod is scheduled for third round qualifying at 12:30 p.m. followed by Pro Stock Motorcycle, Pro Stock, Top Fuel and Funny Car.
Fourth and final round Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying is scheduled for 4 p.m with Pro Stock, Top Fuel and Funny Car following.
Saturday, Sept. 30, 9 a.m.
Good morning and welcome to Day 2 of the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.
With the cool weather and plentiful sunshine, what will the second day of qualifying bring as the riders and drivers in the five professional categories try to set new marks in elapsed time and speed.
On Friday, six records were set and reset in the two fuel categories — Funny Car and Top Fuel.
In Funny Car, Robert Hight, president of John Force Racing, roared down the track in his second qualifying run to set a track record for ET with a 3.830 pass Friday night.
On his first qualifying run Friday afternoon, he had a speed track record of 338.60 miles per hour. He is on the provisional pole for Sunday’s finals, which begin at 11 a.m.
In Top Fuel, Clay Millican “Stomped on the Loud Pedal” and sailed down the track Friday night to set a national elapsed time mark of 3.631 seconds during his second qualifying session. That time broke his own mark he set earlier on Friday in the first qualifying session (3.707).
Top Fuel competitor Doug Kalitta broke Gateway’s track record for speed going 331.85 mph during his second pass Friday night.
The provisional pole winner in Pro Stock is four-time national champion Greg Anderson, who had a run of 6.525 seconds at 211.03 mph Friday night and Andrew Hines earned the provisional pole Friday night going 6.802 seconds at 196.19 mph.
What will today bring depends on how much sunshine hits the track when round three of qualifying begins at 1:15 p.m.
Enjoy the cool weather and the electric side-by-side runs.
6:30 a.m. — Parking lots open.
7:30 a.m. — Spectator gates open.
8:30 a.m. — Sportsman class racing begins.
9:30 a.m. — Midway opens.
Noon — Pro Mod qualifying session.
1:15 p.m. — Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock qualifying session.
2 p.m. — Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster qualifying session.
3 p.m. — First round of Pro Mod eliminations.
3:30 p.m. — First round of Factory Stock Showdown eliminations.
3:45 p.m. — Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock qualifying session.
4:30 p.m. — Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster qualifying session.
7 p.m. — Track closed.
Friday, Sept. 29, 9:15 p.m.
The second session has ended for the evening and Top Fuel driver Clay Millican set a national record for elapsed time going 1,000 feet in 3.631 seconds at 330.39 miles per hour.
Top qualifiers in the three other professional classes were Robert Hight (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Hines earned the top qualifying spot taking his Harley-Davidson motorcycle down the quarter-mile in 6.802 seconds at 196.19 miles per hour. He did that in the first qualifying session, but couldn’t improve on his effort.
Anderson beat out Pro Stock points leader Bo Butner for the top spot in the second qualifying run Friday evening going 6.525 seconds at 211.03 mph for the quarter-mile.
In Funny Car qualifying, there was a scary couple of minutes when Tim Wilkerson’s car blew up just before the finish line and his car caught fire. Wilkerson was able to escape without injury but his motor and car body was badly damaged.
Robert Hight was the fastest qualifier in Funny Car traveling 1,000 feet in a track record 3.830 seconds at 333.91 mph. His first pass of the day, which set a track mark in speed earned Hight the top spot. He sped down the track at 338.60 mph.
Friday, Sept. 29, 6 p.m.
St. Louis Blues defensemen, team captain Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko, were on hand to watch the first round of qualifying for Funny Car as they witnessed Courtney Force travel 1,000 feet in 4.304 seconds at 206.92 miles per hour.
The duo were also at Gateway in August when Graham Rahal raced in the Verizon IndyCar Bommarito 500.
Rahal is married to Force and Pietrangelo and Parayko have become friends with the couple.
“We thought Graham was crazy,” Pietrangelo said. “It’s an impressive thing to watch.”
The Funny Car category produced three Gateway track records in a span of about five minutes. First John Force broke the speed record when he flew down the 1,000-foot at 335.32 mph. He briefly held the record of 330.47 mph set by Matt Hagan in 2015.
Minutes later Jack Beckman made a pass in a record time of 3.873 seconds breaking Hagan’s mark of 3.883 seconds set in 2015. But shortly after, Robert Hight, who owns the world record for speed (339.87 mph), rewrote the Gateway record going 3.845 seconds at 338.60 mph.
Friday, Sept. 29, 4 p.m.
Track preparation has begun as the Pro Stock Motorcycle riders are in the staging lanes waiting to make their first of four qualifying runs for Sunday’s AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals.
The track temperature was 116 degrees at 4 p.m., while the air temperature was 84.
The bikes will be followed by Pro Stock, Funny Car and Top Fuel. The four categories will make one more run later this evening.
Friday, Sept. 29, 3:30 p.m.
The first of the five professional categories is ready to run down the Gateway Motorsports Park dragstrip.
Pro Mods are on the starting line and the track temperature is 116 degrees at 2:30 p.m. The air temp is 83.
The first Mod car is Billy Harper of Paducah, Ky. He ran for Governor of the Commonwealth Kentucky in 2007 but did not win.
Elaine Larsen entertains the fans in the pits while waiting to run her Jet Dragsters down the track later tyhis evening.
Friday, Sept.29, 10 a.m.
Side-by-side qualifying and time trials has begun in the 10 categories leading up to the five professional ranks at Gateway Motorsports Park.
In addition to the five pro classes, there are nine classes of cars to qualify for finals which take place on Saturday. The classes are Stock, Factory Stock Showdown, Super Comp, Top Sportsman, Super Stock, Top Dragster, Super Gas, Outlaw 8.5 and Competition.
Last year on Friday morning of the first day, the temperature was 89 degrees. This year, the air temperature was 73 at 10:45 a.m. The track temperature at 11 a.m. was 100.
Later today, riders and drivers in the five professional categories will make their first run starting with Pro Mod at 3:30 p.m. then Pro Stock Motorcycle, Pro Stock, Funny Car and Top Fuel follow.
Factory Stock driver Clay Arnett (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire)
Friday, Sept. 29 — 8 a.m.
Good Morning from Gateway Motorsports Park where the cool weather has put excitement in the air as the Mello Yellow National Hot Rod Association invades the track’s dragstrip for the sixth annual AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals.
All of the top drivers from the four professional classes of the NHRA — Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle — are ready to make a run at speed and elapsed time history with the crisp, low humidity weather.
This race, which begins today with two rounds of qualifying, continuesSaturday with the final two rounds of qualifying and culminates with the finals on Sunday (beginning at 11 a.m.), is the third of the six in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship.
Some of the top 10 drivers and riders in each category will probably be eliminated from the chance at winning a national championship on Sunday. Those unfortunate drivers and riders are won’t be known until sometime Sunday afternoon.
There is also qualifying in several sportsman classes and those drivers are competing for titles as well. Most of those eliminations will take place on Saturday. As usual, GMP owner Curtis Francois, general manager Chris Blair and their top-flight staff have the property in tip-top shape to entertain the more than 50,000 fans expected for the three-day affair.
Although tickets remain for all three days, sales have been brisk and large crowds are expected for the entire weekend. As well, parking is plentiful. If you see Francois or Blair going through the pit area — and they will be moving around — stop them and tell them what you think. Now sit back, relax and enjoy the Chamber of Commerce weather and the NHRA.
6:30 a.m. — Parking lots open.
7:30 a.m. — Spectator gates open.
8:30 a.m. — Sportsman class racing begins.
Noon — Midway opens.
3:30 p.m. — Pro Mod qualifying session.
4:15 p.m. — Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock qualifying session.
5 p.m. — Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster qualifying session.
6 p.m. — Pro Mod qualifying session.
6:30 p.m. — Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock qualifying session.
7:15 p.m. — Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster qualifying session.
8:15 p.m. — Jet Dragsters and fireworks.
8:20 p.m. — Track closed.