Antron Brown raced to his fourth win of the season in Top Fuel Sunday as racing came to an end at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. Johnny Gray, Greg Anderson and LE Tonglet were also winners in their respective categories at the 15th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
Brown powered his Matco Tools dragster past fellow Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher in the final round to collect the win. His final round run of 3.844sec at 319.22mph proved strong enough to secure his fourth win of the season and 29th of his career. It also moved him up to the second spot in the point standings with just one race remaining until the start of the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, a six-race playoff round to determine the world champion in each category.
"We were thrown some curve balls in qualifying when we were going for the gusto and trying to get the No. 1 spot, but the Matco team was ready for race day,” said Brown. “Mark (Oswald) and Brian (Corradi, crew chiefs) really put their heads down and gave me an incredible racecar this weekend. Without a doubt, there's no love lost with the Al-Anabi cars. We have a lot of respect for that race team and know that the championship goes through them, so we put a lot into trying to win those rounds. We're going to stay poised and try to take our momentum to Indy.”
While Brown moved up in the point standings, Top Fuel pilot Brandon Bernstein clinched his berth in the Countdown to the Championship with his second round finish on Sunday. Only the final three spots in the top 10 point standings in Top Fuel remain open.
In Funny Car, Pro Stock driver-turned Funny Car pilot Johnny Gray raced to his first NHRA career win. Gray's run of 4.113 at 307.02 in his Service Central Dodge Charger was strong enough to get past Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in Gray's second final round appearance of the season.
“I really wanted to win a race in a Fuel Funny Car,” said Gray. “I'm 58 years old, so there's probably not a whole lot of time left. There are no words for it.”
With the win, Gray moved to within 62 points of 10th-place driver Bob Tasca with just one race left before the cutoff for the Countdown to the Championship.
The Countdown is one of those deals,” said Gray. “If Tasca has bad luck, we might have a chance. If he runs like he normally does and has good luck, we're pretty well done. No matter what, we're putting together a good car that we can carry into next year. The way I look at it, there are guys out there who crucified me when we weren't running good, and we'll see if we can't ruin their chances at a championship.”
In Pro Stock, defending world champion and Minnesota native Greg Anderson followed up his runner-up finish in Seattle with a win against Erica Enders. Anderson drove his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP to a 6.599 at 209.26 to get his fourth win of the season and 69th of his career. The win also moved Anderson to the top of the Pro Stock point standings.
“This was a perfect weekend,” said Anderson. “On Friday, our cars were good off the trailer. Jason (Line, teammate) and I qualified 1 and 2 and we had a ton of confidence. It all fell into place and the only dark spot was Jason losing in the semifinals. We have two good cars right now and I'm proud of our team for that. Jason and I only win races because of our team.”
Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion LE Tonglet raced to his fourth win of the season. Tonglet powered his Nitro Fish Suzuki past runner-up Hector Arana Jr. with a 6.954 at 191.27 for his ninth career win. The win also moved him up to the third spot in the point standings.
“I can't believe what we've been able to do the last few races and I really didn't think I was going to beat Hector Jr. the way he's been running,” said Tonglet. “For him to slow down so much. I don't know what happened. I'm just happy for us to get the win. I waited for him to go by me and he never did.”
Fellow Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors Andrew Hines, Matt Smith and Hector Arana Sr. all clinched their berths in the Countdown to the Championship with their performances during Sunday eliminations.
1. Antron Brown; 2. Tony Schumacher; 3. Del Worsham; 4. Larry Dixon; 5. Brandon Bernstein; 6. Morgan Lucas; 7. Doug Kalitta; 8. Rod Fuller; 9. Shawn Langdon; 10. David Grubnic; 11. Bruce Litton; 12. Terry McMillen; 13. Cory McClenathan; 14. Chris Karamesines; 15. Spencer Massey; 16. Bob Vandergriff.
1. Johnny Gray; 2. Ron Capps; 3. Matt Hagan; 4. Bob Tasca III; 5. Tim Wilkerson; 6. Mike Neff; 7. Cruz Pedregon; 8. Melanie Troxel; 9. Jim Head; 10. Jeff Arend; 11. Jack Beckman; 12. Robert Hight; 13. John Force; 14. Dale Creasy Jr.; 15. Tony Pedregon; 16. Paul Lee.
1. Greg Anderson; 2. Erica Enders; 3. Vincent Nobile; 4. Rodger Brogdon; 5. Jason Line; 6. Mike Edwards; 7. Allen Johnson; 8. Greg Stanfield; 9. Kurt Johnson; 10. Larry Morgan; 11. Warren Johnson; 12. Ronnie Humphrey; 13. Shane Gray; 14. Mark Martino; 15. V. Gaines; 16. Ron Krisher.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
1. LE Tonglet; 2. Hector Arana Jr; 3. Eddie Krawiec; 4. Andrew Hines; 5. Steve Johnson; 6. Jerry Savoie; 7. Chip Ellis; 8. Hector Arana; 9. Matt Smith; 10. Karen Stoffer; 11. David Hope; 12. Michael Phillips; 13. Jim Underdahl; 14. Angie Smith; 15. Justin Finley; 16. Mike Berry.