Alexis DeJoria and Erica Enders-Stevens raced to No. 1 qualifying positions in their categories Saturday at the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals, extending the most successful season for females in NHRA history into the playoffs.
J.R. Todd (Top Fuel) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also claimed No. 1 qualifying positions at the first of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
It is the fourth time this season and the seventh time overall that two female drivers have earned No. 1 qualifying positions at the same race. DeJoria and Enders-Stevens, who are both among the favorites to win world championship titles in their classes, also shared the No. 1 qualifying stage earlier this year at Atlanta Dragway.
DeJoria claimed her second No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car and continued her recent momentum following her Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory Sept. 1 in Indianapolis. She posted a qualifying best of 4.090 at 300.53 in her Patron XO Café Toyota Camry to take the top spot. She will seek her fourth win of the season and second in a row when she meets Dave Richards in Sunday’s noon eliminations.
“It’s only our second No. 1, so it’s really exciting for our team,” DeJoria said. “Tommy [DeLago, crew chief] and the guys have got a real good handle on the race car, and they’ve managed to get us down the track more often than not. The consistency has helped us get round-wins and get better. I am really excited about our chances at this race.”
Enders-Stevens raced to her third No. 1 qualifying position of the season by improving on her Friday effort with a Saturday best of 6.568 at 210.37 in her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro. She will go for her fifth victory of the season when she lines up against John Gaydosh tomorrow.
“We picked up 10 points on Jason [Line, points leader], which is so crucial with only 24 rounds of racing left,” Enders-Stevens said. “Hat’s off to my team for giving me such a consistent race car. The track was pretty tricky this afternoon being as hot as it was, and they nailed the tune-up. I’m really excited going into Sunday.”
DeJoria was followed by Robert Hight in the final Funny Car qualifying order with a 4.108 at 308.14 in the Auto Club Ford Mustang, and Friday top qualifier Matt Hagan dropped to third overall with his 4.114 at 304.25 in his Rocky Boots/Mopar Dodge Charger. Funny Car playoff top seed John Force, who is riding a six-race final-round streak, qualified ninth with a 4.141 at 287.66 in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang and will face daughter Courtney in the opening round.
In other Pro Stock qualifying, Vincent Nobile rallied to qualify second in his Mountain View Tire Camaro with a 6.579 at 209.88, and Dave Connolly qualified third with a 6.582 at 209.39 in his Charter Communications Camaro. Countdown top seed Line qualified sixth in his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro, and he will race Chris McGaha in the first round.
In Top Fuel, Todd powered his Optima Batteries/Advance Auto Parts dragster to a performance of 3.804 at 317.64 mph in the final session to score his first No. 1 of the season and fourth of his career. Todd will open eliminations against Clay Millican.
“It’s been a fun weekend driving this Optima Batteries car,” said Todd, whose lone victory this season came in Denver in July. “We can go nowhere but up from 10th [in the Countdown playoffs], so now it’s up to me to do my job tomorrow, and I think we’ve got a horse for ’em.”
Indy runner-up Steve Torrence qualified second in his Capco Contractors dragster with a 3.810 at 317.57, and Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta qualified third in his Mac Tools dragster with a 3.831 at 318.62.
Krawiec took his seventh top-qualifying position of the season in Pro Stock Motorcycle and the 21st of his career with a 6.849 at 194.30 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. It is Krawiec’s second No. 1 at this event, and he will face first-time qualifier Brian Pretzel in the opening round.
“We came out and made a good run on Friday, and that set the tone for the weekend,” said Krawiec, who also has some momentum on his side following a win at Indy two weeks ago. “We just need to build on what we’ve done in qualifying. We’ve had a great bike all year, but we don’t have as many wins as I feel we should. We’ve learned that even if you’ve got the fastest bike, you won’t always win. As a rider, I need to do my job and keep the bike performing well.”
Friday qualifying leader Hector Arana Jr. dropped to second in the final order with a 6.876 at 195.48 on his Lucas Oil Buell. Past zMAX winner Steve Johnson qualified third on his Suzuki with a 6.893 at 193.77. Andrew Hines, the two-time defending winner at this event and the playoff top seed, qualified fifth on his Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson and will face Indy runner-up Jerry Savoie in the opening round.
Jim Laurita used a holeshot start to upset No. 1 qualifier Steven Whiteley in Saturday’s first round of eliminations for the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
Laurita used a reaction-time advantage and powered his vintage nitrous-injected Switzer Dynamics Camaro to a winning performance of 5.927 at 240.17 mph to defeat Whiteley’s quicker YNot Racing ’68 Camaro, which finished in 5.907 at 245.85.
Prior to the first round of eliminations, Whiteley earned his first career No. 1 qualifying position with a performance of 5.875 at 246.26 mph.
In another first-round upset, Von Smith defeated series points leader Rickie Smith. Von also used a reaction-time advantage to take the win over the local fan favorite. Von’s supercharged ’68 Al-Anabi Racing Camaro left first and finished in 5.963 at 239.65 while the defending world champion from nearby King, N.C., posted a quicker but losing 5.929 at 244.38 in his nitrous-injected ’68 IDG Camaro.
Other first-round winners were Mike Janis, Bill Glidden, Danny Rowe, Steve Matusek, Don Walsh, and Troy Coughlin.
Second-round pairings include Laurita vs. Janis, Glidden vs. Matusek, Rowe vs. Von Smith, and Walsh vs. Coughlin.
Pro Mod Series eliminations are scheduled to continue Sunday at 2 p.m.