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The latest update as of September 18, 2016

The Countdown Starts....

9:00 AM (Pacific Time)

The final quarter of the NHRA Mello Yello racing calendar begins today at Concord (Charlotte) North Carolina with the 9th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals. And there's been a bit of movement in the Top Ten standings in Pro Stock already, as the defending season champion, Erica Enders, has pretty much used up all her chances to stay in contention for a repeat championship, as she failed to qualify for eliminations today.

Even though the race isn't being broadcast on the full FOX network, the "old faithful" of drag racing news coverage, Drag Race Central, will be as close to real time as they can manage with the results. And we'll be keeping an eye on them throughout the day as the results roll in. Even though there's still five more races after today to catch up to the leaders, the chances to gain ground become very slim very quickly for the racers near the bottom of the pack.

In the semi-pro ranks, one of Canada's most successful Top Alcohol racers of the last decade, Shawn Cowie (Delta, BC) is into the second round of eliminations and holds lane choice over Megan Meyer. If he can get past the quickest A-Fuel Dragster in the country in that round, he'll vault past the 2014 champion, Chris Demke, and move into fifth place in the national standings. However, if he loses, and Mia Tedesco goes to the final round, then he could drop back to seventh in the standings.

There's lots more stories to follow, but time constraints are making this update a short one. More news as it happens or when we can find the time to post it.

10:00 AM (Pacific Time)

The first round of Top Fuel is over and the Top Ten standings are in a state of flux already. Only five of the ten championship contenders made it out of the round, with the biggest upset being eight-time national champion Tony Schumacher losing to newcomer (very first race in TF) Cameron Ferre, in the Paton Racing dragster out of Canada. Other notable losses were recorded by Shawn Langdon to Aussie Wayne Newby in the Santo Rapisarda car, and J.R. Todd losing to proudly independent (ie: no sponsors) Pat Dakin. Other top-tenners out after the opening stanza are Richie Crampton and Clay Millican.

Crampton's loss to Leah Pritchett allowed her to move two spots up the ladder, passing both Crampton and Millican. If she can beat Doug Kalitta in the second round she could move into a tie for sixth place with the already eliminated J.R. Todd. The other woman in Top Fuel, Brittany Force, got a freebie when Chris Karamesines was shut off after the burnout and she passed Tony Schumacher to move into fourth place.

Funny Car didn't provide quite as many upsets, but notables to fall by the wayside early were Jack Beckman (in a close race to Del Worsham) and Alexis DeJoria to John "WHO?" Bojec. DeJoria's loss really had to hurt as she took out the finish line timing blocks for a DQ that left her at the bottom of the Top Ten and a minimum of 138 points behind the leader, Ron Capps, who easily advanced over an up-in-smoke John Hale. Beckman's loss to Worsham saw him drop two spots from fifth to seventh, and he's guaranteed to drop another notch to eighth behind the winner of the John Force - Tim Wilkerson match in the second round.

11:00 AM (Pacific Time)

In Pro Stock, the one true upset of the round saw Jeg Coughlin leave on and outrun the much higher qualified Allen Johnson. The loss put some real hurt on Johnson's chances to move into contention as he dropped a spot from fourth to fifth before the round ended. And he could lose two more spots, all the way down to seventh if Chris McGaha and Shane Gray can advance to the semi-final round. The only other top ten racer to lose early was Drew Skillman. Already packed up for the weekend was non-qualifier Erica Enders, solidly ensconced in the tenth spot, as full 153 points - and counting - behind points leader Jason Line.

We finish off the opening round of Pro competition with the bikes, and the upsets continued as #2 qualifier, and #2 in the points, Eddie Krawiec, was holeshotted and outrun by Karen Stoffer, dropping to third place in the standings as Angelle Sampey got past her opponent. Sampey again flirted with disaster as she followed up her redlight in the 2nd round at Indy with a perfect (.000) light here in the first round. Luckily her opponent, Mark Paquette, red-lighted and broke to allow her the almost-automatic ticket to the next round.

The other big upset of the round was #3 qualifier, Jerry Savoie, losing to Steve Johnson, and dropping from fourth to sixth in the standings. He could fall another notch if Hector Arana Jr. can get past Sampey in the quarter-finals. Finally, the bottom three racers on the countdown list, Hector Arana (Sr.), Matt Smith, and Cory Reed, all lost and stayed in their respective positions, all more than 100 points out of first place, and destined to lose even more ground as eliminations progress.

11:30 AM (Pacific Time)

There's Just enough time for a quick update on the Top Alcohol Dragster competition before I head out to our new home (site) at Spirit Bay for the afternoon. Things are falling into place nicely for Shawn Cowie as he disposed of another A-Fuel car (Megan Meyer) and will now have lane choice over Duane Shields (yet another A/FD) in the semi-finals. Shawn's closest pursuer on the national standings ladder, Mia Tedesco, fell to Shields in the just completed second round. An interesting sidelight is that the only blown alky cars left in competition are both from Canada: Cowie from the West Coast and Ken Perry from Ontario. And both have to face injected nitro cars in the semis. Is there the possibility of an all-blown, all-Canadian matchup in the final? That would be great.

In Top Alcohol Funny Car, there's two Swedes, one California car, and an East Coaster in the semi-finals. With both Swedes, Lindberg and Leanders, holding lane choice in the semis, there's a distinct possibility of an all-Sweden final in TAFC. Add it all up and there could be no Americans in the Top Alcohol finals for probably the first time in history. Stay tuned!

12:30 PM (Pacific Time)

We've finished the second round of the Pro categories and the semi-finals in Top Alcohol and we've seen almost equal amounts of upsets and predictable results. In Top Fuel, the first round shocker of the season which saw Cameron Ferre take out multi-time World Champion Tony Schumacher, while competing in his very first competition round in TF, wasn't repeated. Ferre was a no-show against old-timer Pat Dakin, who advanced to the semi-finals for the first time this century, while seldom-seen Aussie racer Wayne Newby, dropped championship contender Steve Torrence on a holeshot. Their opponents in the semis will be Antron Brown and Doug Kalitta, two of the major players lately in the class.

Over in Funny Car, low qualifier Tommy Johnson, continued his march through the field, knocking out national record holder Matt Hagan with a solid 3.97 pass, while John Force took another round win and earned a semi-final date with points leader Ron Capps. In the other third round pairing, Johnson holds lane choice over Del Worsham. Slowing things down a bunch, as we move to the Pro Stock class, the results were rather predictable, with four of the top five qualifiers advancing, including both of the KB Racing teammates (Anderson and Line) to face Vincent Nobile and Alex Laughlin in the next round. And the KB racers hold lane choice, again.

Wrapping up the Pro classes, the bikes saw #1 qualifier, Angelle Sampey, move forward, while points leader Andrew Hines also advanced. Those details out of the way, it's time to move on to the Top Alcohol classes, and see if those all-international finals could become a reality. Ulf Leanders led off in Funny Car and took out California's Steve Gasparelli, but defending World Champion Jonnie Lindberg fell in a very close race against D.J. Cox, who holds lane choice in the final round. Over on the dragster side, Ken Perry's dream died when he was unable to make the call to the lanes, allowing Rich McPhillips a solo into the final. But on the other side of the ladder, Surrey's Shawn Cowie moved ahead with a solid pass, beating Duane Shields on a 5.31 to 5.34 margin, with both drivers leaving together.

1:30 PM (Pacific Time)

Getting down to the late rounds now, the third stanza of Top Fuel saw the top two on the points ladder, Antron Brown and Doug Kalitta, remove the interlopers (Newby and Dakin) from competition, and set up a real battle in the final. Both drivers carded 3.87's in the semis, with Brown holding lane choice by nine thousandths of a second, and a points lead of just 22 points. A win in the final for Kalitta would reduce that margin to just two points heading into the second race of the countdown. In Funny Car, John Force continued to climb out of the points basement, as he dumped points leader Ron Capps and took over fourth place, with a chance to climb over Tommy Johnson and move up to third with a win over Johnson in the final.

In Pro Stock, the status quo that had dominated the class almost all season, ie: KB teammates Line and Anderson winning (almost) everything, returned as they took out the last challengers from the other side of the ladder, Laughlin and Nobile, for yet another all-KB/Summitt final. On the bikes, low qualifier Sampey broke and lost to Chip Ellis, while defending World Champion Andrew Hines, blew past Jim Underdahl to take the other final round berth, albeit without lane choice.

The Top Alcohol classes followed with their respective final rounds, and the dragsters came out first. Shawn Cowie culminated a great two weeks of racing with his second national event win of the season, after a runner-up performance at Indy, as he held off McPhillips' 5.40 pass, with a better 5.35, after a near-even launch for both cars. With the win, Cowie moved from sixth to fourth in the national standings, passing heavy hitters Chris Demke and Duane Shields in the process. While a national championship is out of reach, as defending champ Joey Severance has virtually sewed up a repeat championship in the category, if Cowie and his team can stay on their current hot streak, a finish as high as second place is possible.