November 12, 2017 • no comments
Krawiec Nails Down 2017 Bikes Championship
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
Eddie Krawiec did some impromptu heavy-lifting Saturday afternoon at Pomona Raceway, hoisting the 2017 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle trophy overhead after clinching his fourth world championship.
The New Jersey native secured his latest NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series title in style by qualifying on-pole for the season-ending 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at the famed Southern California facility.
“It’s definitely awesome to get here and get this done with in qualifying,” Krawiec said, “because usually I’m grumpy as hell on Saturday nights and my wife (Annemarie) doesn’t like it. But now I can smile and definitely be excited about this one. This goes out to my whole team.”
In other racing during the season’s final day of time trials, Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) earned poles in their respective categories. FOX Sports 1 will air three hours of live eliminations beginning Sunday at 4 p.m. (EST).
Krawiec posted his sixth pole of the season via a quarter-mile pass in 6.781-seconds at 197.77 mph aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Street Rod.
The former track manager at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., Krawiec separated himself from three-time champion Angelle Sampey to join an elite list of Pro Stock Bike champions. The late Dave Schultz tops that list with six titles while Andrew Hines, Krawiec’s H-D teammate, has five.
“Man, I attribute this to teamwork,” said Krawiec, a 40-year-old resident of Avon, Ind. “I’ve got a lot of great guys that stand behind me for my motorcycle, and they make it go up and down that drag strip as fast as it does. (Thanks to) everybody at Harley-Davidson for their support and Vance & Hines and NHRA for giving us a great place to race.
“You know, I couldn’t do it without my team. I’ve got (crew chief) Matt Hines smiling away, my other ‘tuner’ Andrew Hines smiling away and looking at time slips. To me, what makes it really special is the fact I’ve got my family, my father, my wife here and my little girl, Kayden, at home. This is something special.”
Krawiec has qualified for NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship postseason every year since 2007, when he began running the full Pro Stock Bike schedule. During that span, the lowest he has finished in points is seventh in 2007. Krawiec has placed among the top three in points every season since 2008, when he clinched his first championship without winning a race. Krawiec also earned titles in 2011 with four wins and 2012 with a career-best nine victories and a 50-7 won/loss rounds record.
Krawiec’s 2017 championship ended a streak of three consecutive runner-up finishes during which he won a combined 14 national events. His seven victories to-date have raised his career total to 43 Wally trophies.
Krawiec began his march to this title with a victory in the season-opening Gatornationals at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway on March 19. He also posted a second career victory in the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Clermont, Ind., over Labor Day weekend. He has dominated the six-race Countdown with four wins in the first five races, taking the point lead at the NHRA Carolina Nationals in Concord, N.C., on Sept. 17.
Krawiec’s 29th career pole will pair him opposite Lance Bonham and his Buell in Sunday’s first round of eliminations. Hines qualified his Street Rod second and will race Ryan Oehler and his Buell. Chip Ellis is third aboard a third Vance & Hines H-D.
In Top Fuel, Force secured her second pole of the season and eighth of her career with her 1,000-foot track elapsed-time record 3.667-second run at 330.31 mph on Friday. Force, driver of the Monster Energy dragster fielded by John Force Racing, will start race day nine points behind leader Steve Torrence, who qualified his Capco Contractors dragster fifth. Clay Millican holds the No. 2 spot and Leah Pritchett is third.
With 30 points (points-and-a-half) awarded by NHRA per round-win in all four classes, the title will be determined Sunday.
“I’m a little overwhelmed right now. There’s a lot going through my head,” said Force, who is completing her fifth full season in Top Fuel. “I want Sunday morning to be here. I just want to climb in my car and get ready. My team is going to throw down all day long. We want that No. 1 spot, and we’re going to fight for it.”
Race day will begin as a three-driver battle. However, both Force and Torrence could eliminate third-place Doug Kalitta by advancing to the semifinals. If Force and Torrence fall out in the first round, Kalitta would have to win in the semifinals, and if Force and Torrence lose in the second round, Kalitta would have to win the race overall.
“We all want the same thing tomorrow,” said Force, who finished a career-best sixth in points in 2016. “It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be a lot of hard work. But if we get there, if we accomplish that, it’ll all be worth it.”
Force was quickest in Saturday’s final round of qualifying at 3.698-seconds and 327.03 mph, to pile up bonus points. “We had two good runs, but this is a difficult track,” Force said. “Tomorrow, I’m hoping conditions will be fairly similar. I have a great team behind me and that’s what’s most important. I have (consultant) Alan Johnson, (crew chief) Brian Husen and I have all the confidence in them. I know we’ll figure it out, and I know we’ll be good tomorrow.”
Force will race No. 16 qualifier Terry Haddock in the first round. Torrence is on the same side of the ladder as Force, and they could meet in the semifinals.
Force could become the first woman Top Fuel champion since Shirley Muldowney won the last of her three titles in 1982. Brittany also could join her father, John _ a 16-time Funny Car champ _ in the history book. The most recent female champion in any NHRA professional category was Erica Enders, who won Pro Stock titles in 2014 and 2015.
“Right now, there’s so much going on, there’s so much coming at us, I’m just trying to keep my focus in one place,” Force said. “That’s in my race car.”
Beckman recorded a 1,000-foot pass in 3.835-seconds at 334.98 mph in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to secure his second No. 1 of the season and 23rd of his career.
“This is a track that doesn’t get run on very often, so it’s been a different animal this time around but we ran low E.T. in two sessions which was awesome,” said Beckman, the 2012 world champion for Don Schumacher Racing. “I like our chances, but it certainly hasn’t been smooth sailing all weekend so we have to make educated and great decisions tomorrow to get a win.”
“Fast Jack” will face Jeff Arend in the first round of eliminations. Tim Wilkerson qualified his Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang second via a 3.863-second pass at 334.98 mph during the final round. Wilkerson will race point-leader Robert Hight in the first round while JFR teammate Courtney Force enters race day in third.
Hight and his team led by crew chief Jimmy Prock had to sweat through a final-qualifying session pass just to make the field. Hight was outside the top-16 heading into Q4, but his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS completed a pass of 4.132-seconds at 236.80 mph _ with Hight pedaling _ to snare the No. 15 spot.
Hight will carry an eight-point lead into race day. “We have a car that can win this thing,” said Hight, the 2009 world champion. “It’s not like we’re lost. We just have to adjust to it and drive good. The stress and everything today is kind of practice for the stress I’m going to have tomorrow, and we got through it. We’ll get through tomorrow, too.”
Hight, who has two victories during the Countdown, took over the point lead from reigning champion Ron Capps of DSR at Las Vegas two weeks ago. Despite his struggles in qualifying, Hight continues to have faith in Prock, co-crew chief Chris Cunningham and his team. “In some ways, you have to forget about where we’re qualified but learn,” Hight said. “We’re learning from each run. It’s going further down the track every run. For whatever reason, the combination we have is very tricky here.”
Hight and Capps _ who qualified sixth _ could meet for a winner-take-all round in the semifinals. Whichever driver goes further Sunday will win the title. If both fall in the first round the door would open for Courtney Force, who is in third place, 113 points behind Hight. Courtney would have to win four rounds Sunday to earn her first championship.
“We couldn’t have asked for a crazier day in the overall picture,” said Capps, whose best run Saturday in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T was 3.897-seconds and 328.22 mph. “We felt comfortable running that qualifier in the heat. (Crew chief) Rahn Tobler actually wanted to try something that last session. It was sort of a blessing that we didn’t move up as high as we could have in qualifying but Tobler did learn a lot.
“At the Mopar autograph session this morning it was interesting how my teammates were saying how much they wanted to help by taking out Robert and Courtney. That’s a great feeling. We know we’re the hunters now and not the hunted. That’s a great team over there, and we expect them to have a great day tomorrow so we know we have to have a better day.”
Capps, Tobler and assistant crew chief Eric Lane are aiming to extend Don Schumacher Racing’s dominance in Funny Car. The organization has won four of the last six Funny Car championships.Capps also will try to give DSR its fifth Funny Car championship in the past seven years.
“I’ve been saying it all year long, our NAPA AutoCare guys are the absolute best and they make me feel so confident in the car,” said Capps, an eight-time winner this season. “It’s going to be the most pressure we’ve seen all season. It’s going to be fun to be able to strap into the car, look out at my guys, roll to the starting line and see what happens.”
Additionally, Alexis DeJoria will start her final race fifth after a lap in 3.894-seconds at 331.94 mph in her Tequila Patron Toyota Camry fielded by Kalitta Motorsports.
“Super proud of this Patrón team,” said DeJoria, who is headed into a self-imposed retirement in Austin, Texas. “Three out of our four qualifying runs were the quickest of their rounds. On my last run, I thought, ‘This is as good a time as any to do a super-long burnout,’ so I went past the (Christmas) tree and gave the fans a good show.
“My Camry was definitely a handful in both lanes throughout qualifying, but that’s what Funny Car is all about. It’s been a lot of fun driving one of these things and I’ll definitely miss it. Trying not to think about it much until that last run, but I made sure I had a good time. Looking forward to tomorrow and going rounds.“
In Pro Stock, point-leader Anderson secured his sixth pole of the season, 93rd of his career and second consecutive by racing his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS down the quarter-mile in 6.541-seconds at 209.79 mph.
“The great news is I have a great car; the bad news is I have to race against two guys who have the same exact equipment that I have,” Anderson said in reference to Ken Black Racing teammates Bo Butner and Jason Line. “It’s going to be a battle royale tomorrow, we knew that coming in. But it’s exactly where we thought it would be since we can all put up the same numbers on any given pass.
“I hope that my experience and wisdom come through for me, but we know that anything can happen on Sunday so I’m anxious to hit the track tomorrow.”
Anderson, a four-time world champion, will open eliminations against Alan Prusiensky and his ARC Race Engines Dodge Dart.
“If I was a betting man, and I’m certainly on the inside here, I couldn’t handicap it,” Anderson said.”I couldn’t bet who is the favorite to win the championship. We’re all even. This is a dream scenario for us at KB Racing _ to have the three of us and only the three of us involved for the championship. We have three great, even cars, and I can’t tell you who is going to win. I know one thing, I’m going to be excited when I get here in the morning and I’m hoping I get to wear that smile the rest of the day.”
Jason Line, the three-time/reigning champ from KB Racing, qualified second after a 6.546-second pass at 210.14 mph in his Summit Camaro SS and will line up against Deric Kramer’s Mello Yello Dart. Butner qualified his Jim Butner’s Auto “Bandit” Camaro SS fifth.
Meanwhile, 2012 world champion Allen Johnson will start his 399th and final race from the No. 10 spot. Johnson will open eliminations against two-time world champ Enders and her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Camaro SS.
“Me and Allen, his wife Pam and (my husband) Richie (Stevens) took a photo right before that last qualifying session and it was definitely emotional,” Enders said. “He’s my best friend out here and after his final qualifying run I watched him do an interview at the top end and he was crying. It was very hard to watch because I love him and Pam so much.
“It will definitely be emotional to race him but, like we say every time we race each other, may the best man or woman win. We want to win this race, right here, right now, and we have got the car and the team to get it done. I’ll hate to load him first round but that’s just the way the ladder fell this week.”
Johnson, 57, will be looking to add a 28th career victory to his total for his loyal Mopar fans. “We’re so blessed, you know, to be able to do this all this time, 22 years and have great sponsors and great friends,” said Johnson, driver of the Marathon Petroleum/J&J Racing Dodge. “The outpouring of support we’ve had this weekend, videos and gifts and things, are very special to me and my family.” Johnson’s engine-builder is his father, Roy.
Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations at the 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway, the last of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and sixth-of-six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Pairings based upon results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings:
Top Fuel _ 1. Brittany Force, 3.667-seconds, 330.31 mph vs. 16. Terry Haddock, 3.874, 307.51; 2. Clay Millican, 3.671, 328.22 vs. 15. Shawn Reed, 3.839, 305.01; 3. Leah Pritchett, 3.674, 326.32 vs. 14. Scott Palmer, 3.813, 313.22; 4. Antron Brown, 3.696, 326.87 vs. 13. Mike Salinas, 3.796, 322.50; 5. Steve Torrence, 3.719, 289.26 vs. 12. Troy Buff, 3.785, 320.43; 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.721, 328.54 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, 3.784, 320.13; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.738, 326.71 vs. 10. Wayne Newby, 3.784, 326.32; 8. Richie Crampton, 3.748, 320.28 vs. 9. Terry McMillen, 3.753, 323.81.
Did Not Qualify _ 17. Blake Alexander, 3.877, 315.05; 18. Steve Faria, 4.096, 232.71.
Funny Car _ 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.835, 334.98 vs. 16. Jeff Arend, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.140, 252.90; 2. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.863, 331.69 vs. 15. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.132, 270.10; 3. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.871, 334.57 vs. 14. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.107, 296.31; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.887, 324.67 vs. 13. Bob Bode, Charger, 4.037, 317.05; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.894, 331.94 vs. 12. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.020, 315.42; 6. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.897, 328.22 vs. 11. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.978, 322.65; 7. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.898, 333.08 vs. 10. Gary Densham, Mustang, 3.968, 320.66; 8. John Force, Camaro, 3.935, 327.51 vs. 9. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.946, 325.53.
Did Not Qualify _ 17. Jonnie Lindberg, 4.305, 295.34; 18. Cruz Pedregon, 4.321, 281.95; 19. Tim Gibbons, 17.653, 73.20.
Pro Stock _ 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.541, 210.93 vs. 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.665, 207.34; 2. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.546, 210.93 vs. 15. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.622, 209.14; 3. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.555, 211.69 vs. 14. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.614, 209.88; 4. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.558, 210.47 vs. 13. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.599, 210.73; 5. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.559, 211.20 vs. 12. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.595, 210.64; 6. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.562, 210.64 vs. 11. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.583, 210.24; 7. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.564, 210.14 vs. 10. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.583, 209.95; 8. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.571, 211.36 vs. 9. Brian Self, Camaro, 6.574, 210.57.
Did Not Qualify _ 17. Steve Graham, 6.684, 207.40; 18. Shane Tucker, 6.714, 205.91; 19. Val Smeland, 6.766, 202.94; 20. Joey Grose, 6.797, 204.08.
Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.781, 197.77 vs. 16. Lance Bonham, Buell, 7.152, 187.94; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.799, 197.45 vs. 15. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 7.002, 188.17; 3. Chip Ellis, Harley-Davidson, 6.805, 196.56 vs. 14. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.967, 191.02; 4. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.817, 195.17 vs. 13. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 6.955, 195.11; 5. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.828, 198.15 vs. 12. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.953, 195.73; 6. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.861, 195.96 vs. 11. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.932, 192.25; 7. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.873, 193.79 vs. 10. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.912, 193.60; 8. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.878, 193.96 vs. 9. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.885, 193.79.
Did Not Qualify _17. Luke Crowley, 7.154, 189.68.