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The latest update as of October 10, 2021

Stampede of Speed - Texas NHRA FallNationals logo

The first round of PRO eliminations at the Texas NHRA FallNationals have just finished at the Texas Motorplex. In Top Fuel, the top five contenders for the title all advanced and kept the pressure on points leader Steve Torrence. He's now just 31 points in front of #2 Brittany Force, but 128 points ahead of #3 Mike Salinas. The next two cars on the list (Billy Torrence & Justin Ashley) are just a few points in arrears, but when you get down to #6, the gap from there to the top is nearly 180 points. With just three races left on the schedule after today, that's a very tall mountain to climb.

Funny Car saw the top seven racers in the standings advance to the second round. While the #7 driver (Robert Hight) is 148 points behind the leader, Matt Hagan, the gap between the top four is less than 100 points. In second place at the moment is Ron Capps, sitting just 53 points in arrears, with John Force lurking just 22 points further back.

Pro Stock featured the narrowest margin between season-long points leader Greg Anderson, and his closest challenger, Erica Enders, who is only 21 points behind; barely one round win. From there, the gaps widen considerably, with #3 (Kyle "Kid Chaos" Koretsky) more than 100 points behind Anderson, and from there, the margins get wider and wider. Going into eliminations the #5 driver (Aaron Stanfield) sat 176 points behind Anderson, and next on the list #6 (Troy Coughlin Jr.) was more than 200 points back. Not mathematically eliminated yet, but it's getting closer all the time for the trailing drivers.

The final PRO category, Pro Stock Motorcycle, featured a very close battle for the points lead, with just 53 points separating the top four. Leading the pack going into eliminations was Steve Johnson, ahead of his closest challenger, Angelle Sampey, by just 25 points. Lurking just seven points further back was defending champion Matt Smith, with Eddie Krawiec just 21 points behind him. When the first round finished, only five of the countdown riders had advanced, with the top three (Steve Johnson, Angelle Sampey & Matt Smith) all moving forward. The #5 rider, Scotty Pollahceck stayed in the championship chase with his round win, but he's still 111 points behind Johnson. After him, no one else, other than possibly Angie Smith, who is 166 points out of first place, has a chance to contend.

It's all but over in the Top Alcohol Dragster championship, as perennial contender (#2 for four years running!) Shawn Cowie lost in the second round of eliminations yesterday to the "MPH King" Aaron Cooper. The window of opportunity for Cowie to close the points gap on leader Rachel Meyer was opened when Rachel and team-mate Julie Nataas both lost early in the second round, but it all came undone for Cowie when he shook/smoked the tires at the 300' mark. Cooper backed up his world record speed for an A/Fuel Dragster (set in qualifying on Friday at 286.62) with an almost as good 285.89 pass as he ran away from a shutoff Cowie. At this point the only racer with a mathematical chance of catching Meyer is #2 Jackie Fricke. "ALL" she has to do is win the FallNationls and the next event on the Top Alcohol calendar, Las Vegas, and she would become the champion by ONE point. Impossible? NO! Likely? NO!

It's a very different story in Top Alcohol Funny Car, as the points chase has come down to a two-way battle between defending champion Doug Gordon, and current points leader, (and multi-time series champion) Greg Bellemeur. With Bellemeur not in attendance at the Motorplex, Gordon mowed down his first two opponents in eliminations, and if he wins the event - which is not at all guaranteed due to a very tight and competitive field - will move into a 11 point lead going into the final two races of the season. He's entered both events, while Bellemeur has put in his entry for Las Vegas. That could be quite an event, especially if they meet head-to-head at some point in eliminations.

12:00 PM PDT Update:

The Top Fuel points race tightened up near the top, as the top three racers (Steve Torrence, Brittany Force & Justin Ashley) all advanced to the semi-finals. That group saw one new face (Justin Ashley) as he leapfrogged over the former #3 (Mike Salinas) as Ashley won and Salinas lost in the 2nd round of eliminations. In fact, the only other racer to enter the semi-finals is Josh Hart, who, while he didn't get into the countdown (due to running only half the schedule), is capable of winning at any time. Two racers that saw their championship hopes fade in the round were the (current) #4 Mike Salinas and #5 Billy Torrence, both of whom are about 150 points behind the leader.

Over in Funny Car, the biggest change was John Force being passed by Cruz Pedregon for the #3 spot. It's been quite a turnaround year for Pedregon as for the first time in quite a few years he's become a serious contender and going into the semi-finals he's only 94 points out of first place. Another racer who's still solidly in the hunt is former champion (2018) J.R. Todd, who sits in the #5 spot, 114 points behind #1 Matt Hagan. Two second round losers, Bob Tasca III and Robert Hight are falling back but still have a chance to make up the 138 and 168 point (respectively) gap to #1. However, it's going to take some losses by Hagan and lots of win lights for everyone else to change the standings.

There were some relatively large changes in the points standings in Pro Stock during the second round. #2 in points Erica Enders and #3 Dallas Glenn both lost in the round, which gave Greg Anderson some breathing room at the top of the heap. He can take full advantage of those losses by winning the event and really putting some serious space between him and the other contenders. Going into the semi-finals, Anderson is only 41 points in front of Enders, but 143 ahead of Glenn, and 146 in front of #4 Kyle Koretsky. The next three racers on the table all advanced to the semis, but they trail Anderson by 176, 206 & 222 points respectively. Not quite eliminated from the chase, but getting closer all the time.

Closing out the second round of PRO eliminations were, as usual, the motorcycles and they didn't disappoint as points leader Steve Johnson advanced, Angelle Sampey didn't, and defending champion Matt Smith took advantage of her loss and took the #2 rung on the ladder, just 32 points behind Johnson. In the semi-finals Smith will be racing..... Smith, as in his wife Angie Smith. He's got lane choice and really needs to win that round to keep pace with Johnson. All I'll say about that matchup is that it should be "interesting".

The semi-finals will see the top three racers in Top Fuel, plus Josh Hart, while Funny Car will feature four of the top five drivers. In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson only has the #5 through #7 racers to contend with, and if he wins the event will take a commanding lead in the standings. In Pro Bike, the top two riders, Steve Johnson and Matt Smith, will race, along with #7 (Angie Smith) and in a cameo appearance, Hector Arana Jr..

2:30 PM PDT Update:

The semi-final rounds saw two very close races in Top Fuel, with points leader Steve Torrence prevailing over Brittany Force by just .007 seconds. Joining him in the final round is Justin Ashley, who won his race by a "much" larger margin: .018 seconds. Making the win even sweeter for Ashley was gaining lane choice over Torrence for the final. In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon's march to the top was halted by a Ron Capps holeshot and Matt Hagan booked his ticket to the final by taking out a double-stepping J.R. Todd. Pro Stock saw Greg Anderson move into his 8th final round (out of 15 events) this year, facing Chris McGaha who has climbed from 10th two races ago, to 8th, and now to 6th place in the standings. However, he's still 222 points behind Anderson going into the final round.

The only upset - and it was a big one - in the semi-finals was the failure to fire of points leader Steve Johnson. He could watch in chagrin as darkhorse Hector Arana Jr. bogged off the line and could only put down a 7.06 e.t. to go into the final round. Joining him there will be Matt Smith, who did the expected and dispatched his wife Angie in an easy pass. He left second but finished first when Angie's bike also bogged off the line.

Before the PRO finals ran, the Top Alcohol cars finished off their event. First up were the dragsters and it was a tension-filled match, with Jackie Fricke needing to win to keep her championship hopes alive. She did her job at both ends of the track, leaving first and running her best e.t. of the event, a winning 5.204- 275.73 to cover Matt Cummings close 5.240 - 271.79 effort. The funny cars ran next, with two west coast racers going for the win. Needing it more was defending national champion, Doug Gordon, and he took the win over Brian Hough by a to 5.562 - 262.69 decision. Hough did everything he could, leaving first with an .015 light, just a bit ahead of Gordon's very good .044 launch, but at the finish line it was less than half a car length between the racers. With the win, Doug Gordon moved into the #1 spot in the standings, 11 points in front of arch-rival Greg Bellemeur.

It should be mentioned that the reason for Bellemeur's non-attendance at this race was a HUGE engine explosion at last week's Mid-West Drag Racing Series event at Tulsa, OK. The "Killer B's" (Bellemeur, Boggs & Bartone) will be in Las Vegas in two weeks time to try to take the lead back, and will almost certainly be at Pomona for the season-ending race. We will post the updated points standings later today and explain what the various championship scenarios are, with just two national and one regional event left in the 2021 NHRA season.

4:00 PM PDT Update:

The final rounds have all been completed and they featured some very close racing, a small upset, and a pair of expected victories. Starting with Pro Stock Motorcycle, the prohibitive favourite, Matt Smith did the expected by defeating Hector Arana Jr., but it was an automatic win for Smith when Arana redlighted. It wasn't needed as Smith outran his opponent also, and with the win, moved into the points lead over Steve Johnson by just eight points. Despite her second round loss, Angelle Sampey stayed with striking distance of Smith, trailing him by just 53 points heading into the final three races of the year.

In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson won as expected, and it was also via redlight, as Chris McGaha took a run at the tree and went -.014 red, handing the win to Anderson. Making it extra special for Anderson was it being his 98th career national event win, breaking a tie with his former employer Warren Johnson, to become the all-time winningest driver in Pro Stock history. Quite an accomplishment, and the points earned moved him 81 in front of #2 Erica Enders. Losing in the 2nd round cost #3 Dallas Glenn as he fell 183 points behind Anderson, and in serious jeopardy of falling out of the championship battle.

Funny Car pitted the number one and two racers in the points standings. Yes, at this time of the year, it's ALL about the points picture(s). DSR team-mates Matt Hagan and Ron Capps faced off and they put on a great side-by-side race. Capps turned on the winlight by less than half a car length as he won on a holeshot with a 3.930 - 326.87 against Hagan's quicker 3.919 - 328.78. Making the difference was Capps' .042 launch, just a hair quicker than Hagan's .065 leave. Despite the loss in the final, Matt Hagan hung onto the points lead, now holding just 27 points above Capps. Trailing Hagan in third place is Cruz Pedregon, now 114 points behind, and #4 John Force, just one point behind Pedrgeon.

Finally it was time for the... final pair of the final round of eliminations. Justin Ashley showed just how hungry he was for his first win of the season as he left with a great reaction time: .035 for BOTH racers. He put down a 3.759 - 326.40 to turn back Steve Torrence's oh-so-close 3.764 - 321.81 by just .005 second over the points leader and heavy favourite. With the win points, Ashley solidified his hold on the #3 spot, albeit 121 points adrift of Torrence, but only 70 behind #2 Brittany Force. Three races to go now, continuing next week at Bristol's iconic Thunder Valley Raceway.


Stephen Yantus - 'Karolina Kuda' - SS/AH

We've just started going through a large set of photos from Labor Day weekend's Dodge SRT// NHRA U.S. Nationals and here's one picture that stood out for so many good reasons. It's one of the famous '68 Barracuda Super Stock cars that make the Dodge/HEMI Challenge such an interesting event with an event. This year, 18 cars (4 Darts and 14 Barracudas), competed, and the car pictured here: The "Karolina Kuda" of South Carolina's Stephen Yantus. He qualified in the #2 position in the field, with a tremendous 8.480 - 156.64, just .05 behind the low qualifier.

Yantus picked up the pace in the first round of eliminations, running an even better 8.410 - 159.32 to move into the next round. Then he stayed consistent with a 8.423 - 158.97 to earn a bye run in the 3rd round. Another very good 8.426 - 159.19, moved him into semi-finals, where, unfortunately, he was a "no-show" due to breakage incurred during his bye run.