Morgan Lucas (near lane) and Shawn Langdon. (Toyota Motorsports photo)
Tony Pedregon raced to his third Funny Car victory of the season Sunday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.
Morgan Lucas, Greg Anderson and Hector Arana also were winners in their respective categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event. Only two races remain in the NHRA regular season before the six-race playoffs -- the Countdown to 1 -- begins Sept. 18 at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, N.C.
Pedregon, who replaced longtime crew chief Dickie Venables with Tony Shortall earlier in the week, didn't miss a beat on the dragstrip as he powered his Wicked Quick/Q- Horsepower Chevy Impala to a 4.149 second run at 295.59 mph to hold off championship challenger Ron Capps in the final, whose NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger lost traction after the start and finished in 6.613 at 99.35.
Pedregon beat Jeff Arend, brother Cruz Pedregon and Jack Beckman to advance to the final round.
"I didn't anticipate this happening on such short notice, but I had all the information in front of me, and it was just a matter of putting the right people in the right places," said Pedregon of his 43rd career victory. "There was a little bit of uncertainty, the fear of losing and wanting to win. I started to put things in perspective and I thought there is no need to panic. The first goal was to get here, put things in place, and I wanted to qualify. Once we qualified, I thought, well maybe we can go a round or two."
With the win, his second consecutive at this event, Pedregon extended his series lead to 28 points over second place Capps. Beckman was the only Funny Car driver to clinch his position in the Countdown to 1 during the day.
In Top Fuel, No. 1 qualifier Lucas earned his second Top Fuel victory of the season when he edged Larry Dixon at the finish line. Lucas covered the distance in 3.814 at 309.27 in his GEICO
Powersports/Lucas Oil dragster to just edge Dixon's Al-Anabi Racing dragster, which trailed with a 3.818 at 314.09.
"It was the best day of my life, and this is the best feeling in the world," said Lucas, who defeated Chris Karamesines, Brandon Bernstein and Cory McClenathan in earlier rounds. "I'm still weak. I've got goosebumps all over my body, and it's hot out. I don't know what to do for the rest of the year because we've accomplished all the goals we set, to win multiple races, to qualify No. 1, and to have a team that's competitive. I think we gained all those and it's been a really impressive day. I can't tell you how proud I am and how proud I am of my parents to have given me this opportunity to race and be at this level. It's a dream come true."
Antron Brown increased his series lead to 217 points over Tony Schumacher with a semifinal finish. With the win, Lucas secured his spot in the playoffs, as did rookies Spencer Massey and Shawn Langdon.
Minnesota native Anderson ended his season-long winless drought by outrunning teammate Jason Line in the Pro Stock final. Anderson scored his 58th career victory with a performance of 6.641 at 207.53 in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP, while Line's Summit GXP finished in 6.655 at 207.30.
"It's been a long dry spell, without a doubt," said Anderson, who beat Larry Morgan, Jeg Coughlin and Allen Johnson to advance to the final. "You start to doubt yourself and I certainly was. You gotta stop thinking about it and worrying about it, but that's easier said than done sometimes. I struggled with that this year but it looks like finally I'm getting my mind straightened out. I've always had a great team and a lot of support and a great teammate. He's carried the load for this entire Summit team all year long, and I'm grateful for that. I'm very proud of him and proud to race him in the final. I thought that was a pretty neat deal and we put on a great show for the fans. It came down just as it should have: decided by a couple of inches."
Line moved to within 27 points of Coughlin's series lead with the runner-up finish.
Arana earned his second victory of the season in Pro Stock Motorcycle, taking the victory when first-time finalist Junior Pippin fouled at the start on his PiranahZ Buell. Arana rode his Lucas Oil Buell to a performance of 6.983 at 190.51 and in the process clinched his playoff position.
"That win felt awesome," Arana said. "It couldn't get any better than winning here at the Lucas Oil [-sponsored event], having Forrest and Charlotte [Lucas], my family and friends, and the fans that treat us very well over here. From the moment I got here I felt relaxed, no pressure. I wasn't really thinking about winning, I was more thinking about having a great time and enjoying the whole weekend and going to 'the Zoo.' Those people out there, they treat us like royalty. To clinch [a spot in] the Top 10 is one less stress and one less thing to worry about. Now I can start concentrating on going to Reading and maybe do the things that I wanted to try that we talked about but have been afraid because we needed to stay in the points. Now with that done, we can try some things."
Eddie Krawiec, whose seven-race final round streak ended with a semifinal loss to Arana, increased his series lead in the two-wheel category to 108 over teammate Andrew Hines, who was upset in the first round by Pippin.
In addition to Arana, rookie Doug Horne and veteran Craig Treble also secured their positions in the Countdown to 1.
The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series continues next weekend (Aug. 20-23) with the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa.