Charlotte: GM Racing final report

CONCORD, N.C., Sept. 14, 2008 - Race fans looking forward to the grand opening of the zMax Dragway @ Concord, and the running of the Inaugural Carolinas Nationals, were treated to a spectacular weekend of on-track action that culminated with a ...

CONCORD, N.C., Sept. 14, 2008 - Race fans looking forward to the grand opening of the zMax Dragway @ Concord, and the running of the Inaugural Carolinas Nationals, were treated to a spectacular weekend of on-track action that culminated with a Sunday afternoon Pro Stock victory for Pontiac's Justin Humphreys. The 27-year-old Humphreys captured his first career win by defeating Kurt Johnson in an all-GM final round, and he provided Pontiac with its 189th all time victory in NHRA Pro Stock competition.

"I've been anxious to get back in this Pontiac," Humphreys said. "It has Warren Johnson and Kurt Johnson horsepower under the hood, and we've had Warren over in our pit area helping us out after every round. This is a huge win, especially to come here to this facility. It's brand new, it's our first time here, and the fans were amazing all weekend. It's pretty unreal. It hasn't hit me yet but I'm sure it will soon. We're excited and happy to be in the winner's circle and hopefully we'll be back soon."

Humphreys entered Sunday's eliminator with the RaceRedi Pontiac GXP qualified in the No. 11 position. He defeated Rob Mansfield in round one with a 6.754 e.t. at 206.07 mph, Jim Yates in round two with a 6.714 e.t. at 206.20 mph, and Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the semifinal round with a 6.707 second run at 205.82 mph. In the finals, Johnson's car broke a starter-drive gear and could not stage. Humphreys staged his Pontiac GXP, but shook the tires hard as soon as he left the line, and then coasted to the finish line to claim his first career victory.

"We'll take the win," Humphreys said. "I wanted Kurt in the other lane and I wanted to win heads-and up and I think it would have been a pretty good race. I tried to get backup to the line as slow as I could, hoping he'd get the car running and get up there with me."

It was the second career final-round appearance for the resident of Mt. Airy, Md., and the first time he's reached the finals since losing to Jeg Coughlin Jr. at the 2007 NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif. Humphreys becomes the 51st first-time winner in NHRA Pro Stock, and the first since Dave Connolly captured his first national event victory back in 2004.

"We've had an up-and-down season, but working with Warren and Kurt has been awesome," Humphreys concluded. "It felt good being back in my Pontiac, too."

Kurt Johnson advanced to his fifth final round of the season in the ACDelco Chevrolet and he will leave North Carolina with a 15 point lead over second-place Greg Anderson. It also marked the 72nd career final-round appearance for Johnson and his 498th career round win.

Johnson's ACDelco Chevy Cobalt was No. 1 qualifier for this event. He defeated Vinnie Deceglie in round one, outran Greg Anderson in round two after cutting a .003 light on the Christmas Tree, and in round three he defeated V. Gaines with the quickest e.t. of the day at 6.688 seconds.

"That's the first time I've ever had something like that happen," Johnson said. "I hit the ignition switch to get the starter spinning, and the engine must have tried to fire right away because it kicked back and chipped a tooth on the starter drive gear. We took it apart once we got back to the pits and found a sliver the size of a penny nail had jammed in the armature. That cost is a chance at winning the race, 20 championship points and little bit of money.

"Despite how things ended up, I prefer to look at it on the positive side. It could have happened earlier in the day, I could have gone red in the second round instead of that .002, or it could have been someone else in the other lane. There are a lot of things that could have gone wrong, but we made it to the final, our ACDelco Cobalt ran flawlessly and we leave here with the points lead."

Jeg Coughlin qualified the Jeg's Mail Order Chevrolet in the No. 2 position. He defeated Greg Stanfield in round one and Jason Line in round two before losing to Humphreys in round three.

"We've got no complaints," Coughlin said. "As a driver, all you can ask for is a good chance to win and I certainly had that this weekend. The guys prepared the car flawlessly and it ran great from the start. We came in here third and we gained ground on Greg (Anderson, leader) because he lost in the quarters, so depending on what happens with (second place) Kurt Johnson in the final, we should be in a pretty similar position."

In Funny Car, Team Chevy's Tony Pedregon felt relieved to qualify on Saturday and fortunate to be racing on Sunday, and given the fact that his Q Horsepower Impala started today's race from the No. 16 position, the defending POWERade champion was pleased with his team's semifinal-round appearance at zMax Dragway this weekend.

Pedregon picked up a pair of round wins by defeating No. 1 qualifier Frank Hawley in the first session, and Ashley Force in the quarterfinals before losing in round three to brother Cruz. Pedregon heads to next week's race in Dallas in second/third place in the POWERade standings

"We were one of the final four this weekend," Pedregon said. "I feel that we're not at our best right now. When we're not our best, and we make it to the semifinals, I'm encouraged because there's more out there with this Q Horsepower Chevrolet. The best is yet to come for us. If we leave here in that top five, that's all I've ever asked - to stay close. I'm confident that when it really counts we'll have worked out the little issues we have and I feel that when we're hitting our mark, we can run with anybody. I'm happy with the weekend, the show we put on here in front of these great Charlotte fans and I'm looking forward to Dallas."

Frank Mazno clinched his 12th Lucas Oil Alcohol Funny Car championship, won his 78th career national-event victory and his seventh of the season when he drove the Lucas Oil Chevrolet to a final-round win over Marc White.

"When you have a great team we seem to work out the problems together, and at the end of Sunday night we're back here on the stage," Manzo said. "To come to this new facility, what a beautiful place. Like I told my guys, I'd like to come here in the spring when it's nice and cool to see just how fast we could go. We didn't run the dominant numbers but it's been like that all year. We've struggled with the car, and there's nothing wrong with the car, it's just the way we're applying everything to it. This is our last race as far as national and divisional events, but we're going to test another two or three times and work it out, and if we have to, we'll take it back to Murf McKinney and do something. We're a little off, there's no doubt about that, but we're going to work a little harder and see what we can do next year.

"We have a great crew, everybody does their job and I try to do the best I can when I go up there. We're getting it done right now, just like Tony (Schumacher) in Top Fuel. You have to keep taking them, keep going, and I'm really happy. It's hard to win one championship, but to win 12 championship is a tribute to how good my crew is and all the hard work we've put in over the years."

In Competition Eliminator, Arnie Martel drive his GM/SB2-powered '32 Chevy to a final-round win over Anthony Bertozzi.

"This was great run for our race team and for Chevrolet - we just had a phenomenal weekend here in Charlotte," Martel said. "I had my wife Sandy with me and she put the extra pressure on me. I pretty much shot myself in the foot during first round when I went 59-under so I knew I had to be an animal driving the rest of the weekend. I made up for it. I came around and was fortunate to get by some tough, tough, opponents. I focused on the tree and brought that GM/SB2-powered Chevrolet home to the winner's circle."

The next stop on the 24-race NHRA POWERade circuit is the 23rd O'Reilly Super Start NHRA Fall Nationals on Sept. 18 - 21, at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Tex.

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Greg Anderson , Greg Stanfield , Ashley Force , Jason Line , Justin Humphreys , Dave Connolly , Frank Hawley