After witnessing a wild weekend of seemingly endless rain, many near misses and a few crashes, the grandstands were full of race fans experiencing the completion of the 34th edition of the NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals, held at Atlanta Dragway on Monday, May 19, 2014.
By the end of qualifying session four on Saturday, two women were in the number one spot, Alexis Dejoria in Funny Car with a 4.012 second pass, and Erica Enders in Pro Stock with a 6.493 pass. Doug Kalitta qualified number one in Top Fuel with a 3.732, Eddie Krawiec was number one in Pro Stock Motorcycle (6.796) and Rickie Smith earned the number one qualifying spot in Pro Mod with a 5.795.
Showers on Friday and Saturday did delay action, but qualifying was still completed on schedule. Relentless rains on Sunday first postponed action to Sunday evening. The NHRA Safety Safari worked as hard as they could to prepare the track, but it just did not come around. After five pairs of Top Fuel dragsters tried to run, the plug was pulled for the evening and eliminations were completed on Monday. Even on Monday, NHRA waited until almost noon before sending the professional classes down the track.
Although the potential was there in Atlanta for a 100th NHRA professional class victory by a woman, the only female racer remaining in competition by the final round was Funny Car racer Courtney Force. However, Force “missed it by that much” when team mate Robert Hight went just a little quicker, defeating her with a 4.04 second pass to her 4.11 second time.
The weekend turned out to be expensive for DSR team owner Don Schumacher after Antron Brown’s engine exploded, cutting a tire and causing it to crash on Friday, followed by Jack Beckman’s body explosion on Saturday which was caused by a broken camshaft, and topped off by Tommy Johnson Jr’s body explosion on Sunday.
Prior to round three announcer Alan Reinhart commented, “This is entertaining for everyone…, because nobody knows what’s going to happen next!”
Top Fuel Dragster winner Spencer Massey first appeared in a Southern Nationals final in 2009, and scored the win this time against #1 qualifier Doug Kalitta. Both cars went up in smoke in the final, and although his engine expired in a flash of flame and a lot of smoke, the win light turned on in Massey’s lane with a 4.26 at 245.85mph. Kalitta’s machine was just a little more off pace, posting a 4.41 at 218.48mph. Massey also won in Atlanta in 2007 and 2008 in the Top Alcohol Dragster class.
Team Force racers Robert Hight met Courtney Force in the Funny Car final. Contrary to what the announcer called “Internet Idiots” were saying, there were no team rules to ensure that Courtney would win (which would have given her the distinction of winning the 100th NHRA professional class victory by a woman and also would have locked her into qualifying for the Traxxas Shootout later this year). Hight, who has been in six final rounds out of seven events this season, earned his fourth win of the season with a 4.04 at 315.05mph. Courtney was close behind, but second across the stripe with a 4.11 at 316.01mph. This was also Hight’s 300th round win. “Even Peak Antifreeze can’t cool off this Auto Club team,” exclaimed Hight.
Pro Stock victor Jeg Coughlin used his driving skills to earn his first win of the season, taking on Greg Anderson’s Summit Camaro in the final round. Coughlin’s Hemi Dart pushed him to a 6.55 at 211.63mph victory against Anderson. Anderson did all he could do, including reacting quicker than Coughlin (a near-perfect 0.003 seconds for Anderson versus Coughlin’s 0.010 second react). However, his elapsed time was 6.58 at 212.13mph, placing him 0.023 seconds behind Coughlin at the big end stripe. In round two, Coughlin’s car was slower then number one qualifier Erica Ender’s Camaro, but Coughlin’s better reaction time in that round made the difference.
Eddie Krawiec earned his first Pro Stock Motorcycle win at Atlanta Dragway in 2009. This weekend he qualified number one with a 6.79 second pass and then took his first final round win of the season against Andrew Hines. This was also the first all Harley Davidson final since 2012. Krawiec’s time was 6.80 at 197.45mph, and Hines posted a 6.86 at 194.66mph.
“We have a lot of Harley Davidson fans behind us, and we are proud to represent Harley,” added Krawiec.
“Tricky” Rickie Smith earned the Pro Mod victory against Von Smith. Both have enjoyed numerous victories, Rickie in Pro Mod and Pro Stock and Von in Pro Mod and Top Alcohol Funny Car. Rickie qualified number one this weekend in his 2013 Camaro with a 5.79 at 250.13mph, and was not far off that pace in the final with a 5.82 at 249.21mph. Smith’s ’69 Camaro idled down the track to a 15.22 at 54.74mph. Incidentally, Rickie Smith and his son Matt Smith won their classes at Norwalk in 2012.
There was a father and son team in the final rounds of 2014 Southern Nationals action. Father Edmond Richardson (Super Comp) and his 19-year-old son Ryan Richardson (Super Stock) both enjoyed taking home a Wally for their victories. (In 2013 father Johnny Gray won Funny Car and son Shane Gray finished runner up in Pro Stock.)
Several local racers also entered the competition this weekend. Jeremy Hancock , bowed out early in Super Comp, while Jerry Sosebee went all the way to the final round, finishing runner up to Edmond Richardson. James Noel lost early in Top Sportsman. Mark Hancock and Brian Smith went out earlier in the Summit Showcase. Hedman Hedders racer Bob Vandergriff’s C&J Top Fuel dragster qualified second with a 3.757 at 324.05mph pass, but lost in round one Sunday evening with a wild centerline-crossing pass after his car spun the tires shortly after leaving the starting line. At one point in the run, only one tire was planted on the ground.
Edmond Richardson from Greenbrier, TN, worked his way through six rounds of competition, and met Jerry Sosebee of Lula, GA. Sosebee’s car had actually broken during the semi-final round, and it rolled into the beams too deep during staging, which is an automatic disqualification. Richardson turned in an easy pass, 9.56 at 118.12mph (8.90 second index).
In the meantime, Richardson’s son, Ryan, was working his way through the ranks of Super Stock racers. Richardson, who finished runner up in the 2013 Southern Nationals, got the easy win in the final after his opponent Chad Taylor from Sellersburg, IN fouled out by 0.004 seconds, leaving the red bulb glowing. Richardson had a great 0.018 react, followed by a 10.22 at 120.52mph (10.18 dial).
2014 Top Dragster winner Jeff Strickland finished runner up in 2013, and took the win against Steven Furr in an extremely tight final, crossing the top end win stripe 0.002 seconds in front of Furr. Strickland’s reaction time was 0.005 seconds, and he went 7.443 at 179.18mph on a 7.42 dial. Furr’s times were 0.016 react, coupled with a 6.984 at 182.87mph (6.97 dial).
The rest of the class winners and runner up are as follows:
Win: Gregory Rowe 12.82 73.75 (10.67)
R/U: Jimmy Hidalgo Sr 11.66 92.58 (11.16) foul
Win: John Taylor 9.902 167.51 (9.90)
R/U: Alan Kenny 9.913 157.78 (9.90) foul
Win: Ed Pauley 10.94 131.92 (10.90)
R/U: Brad Plourd 10.83 120.83 (10.90)
Win: Tommy Turner 7.57 173.41 (6.69)
R/U: Jeffrey Barker no time broke
For more information and results on the Southern Nationals, log on to www.nhra.com.
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