Ladies Lead Atlanta NHRA Qualifying
COMMERCE, Ga. — Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) both laid down new track records en route to current No. 1 qualifying efforts as they vie to secure the 100th win by a female driver at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals on Friday.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also current No. 1 qualifiers following the first day of action at Atlanta Dragway.
DeJoria powered her Patron XO Cafe Toyota Camry to a run of 4.012 seconds at 313.95 mph, setting the new Atlanta Dragway E.T. record in the flopper category.
“Back in the pit, Tommy [DeLago, crew chief] said he was going to try and run something close to a 4.02, and he said if the track calls for it, that’s what we’re going to try for,” said DeJoria, who secured her first career Funny Car victory in Phoenix and followed that up with a win at Las Vegas. “I was just hoping it would go down the track and run a good number. It was nice and cool out, and the track held it, and I was just amazed when he said a 4.01 over the radio.”
DeJoria was pleased with securing the track E.T. record but was made to wait to see if her time would hold up. Kalitta Motorsports teammate Del Worsham piloted his DHL Toyota Camry to a 4.014 pass at 320.05, breaking the Atlanta Dragway Funny Car speed record. Despite the fast speeds and the competitiveness of the Funny Car category, no other cars came close to those numbers in the second session.
“That’s why I wasn’t too stoked on the track record just yet because I knew there were a lot of capable cars behind me, including my teammate, and he almost took us out,” said DeJoria. “I am pretty surprised that there weren’t more of those, but at the same time, I was very glad.”
DeJoria’s Friday night feat was also completed by Enders-Stevens in Pro Stock. Enders-Stevens drove her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro to a 6.506 pass at 202.91 during the second session. Having recently secured the 99th win by a female driver following her victory in Houston, Enders-Stevens was inspired by the potential of her second run but the run was cut short when the Houston native pulled up after an extremely free run.
“That second run was awesome but I had to clutch it early and get the chutes out,” said Enders-Stevens. “We used the run completer and it told us that it would have been a 6.47. The early numbers were even better than our 6.48 run from Gainesville this year.”
Enders-Stevens became the first woman to win in Pro Stock in 2012 and coming into Atlanta, the Texas A&M graduate has eight career wins, including her victories in Las Vegas and Houston. The 2014 season has seen Enders-Stevens secure her best start to the season.
“To me it’s surreal to have that kind of performance,” Enders-Stevens, who is the first female to lead the Pro Stock point standings. “I’ve spent the last ten years trying to make this Pro Stock thing work and it’s so awesome to have it come together. I want to just ride the wave as long as it continues.”
In Top Fuel, Torrence ran his Capco Contractors dragster to a 3.765 pass at 320.58 in the second session to lead the Top Fuel field after day one. Torrence has had one of the most consistent race cars so far this season and is searching for his second consecutive No. 1 qualifier.
“The consistency of the car is coming around a whole lot,” said Torrence. “We’ve been making small adjustments and fine-tuning our clutch setup, and the discs we have and the configuration we’re running right now is just running really well. There’s quite a few other teams that are running as well as us or better, Antron [Brown] and Doug [Kalitta] both.”
Under the lights and in unseasonably cool weather, Torrence wasn’t sure if his run will hold up when qualifying resumes tomorrow.
“It’s unusual for Atlanta conditions what we’ve got today, so we’ll take ’em, and hopefully we can run well tomorrow,” Torrence said. “I don’t know if that .76 will hold up.”
Antron Brown was checked and released by emergency services officials after his Matco Tools dragster went out of control and crashed near the finish line. The remainder of the session was cancelled by NHRA officials because of the extended track cleanup and deteriorating weather conditions.
“We just don’t know, we have to go back and assess it,” Brown said when asked about the crash. “[Crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald] and all of these Matco boys will go back and look. We’ll go back, we’ll get ready and we’ll come out tomorrow and just figure out what’s happening. We’re alright, it’s OK.”
Krawiec is off to a good start in Pro Stock Motorcycle’s return to Atlanta, posting a 6.852 pass at 195.17. Krawiec, a three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ, was pleased with the cool conditions that allowed his E.T. track record run.
“We came right off the trailer and ran very well,” said Krawiec. “It was great to see that E.T. pop up on the scoreboards. The weather here was very similar to what we had earlier this year when we tested [at South Georgia Motorsports Park] and similar to what we had a few weeks ago in Charlotte. It was not the typical hot and muggy conditions you expect to have in Atlanta.”
Krawiec, has two wins at Atlanta Dragway including his first career Pro Stock Motorcycle event victory in 2009. Reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Matt Smith and Gainesville winner Steve Johnson are not yet qualified as racers prepare for the final two qualifying sessions on Saturday.