A wild day of racing that saw everything from prematurely-deploying parachutes to pedaling contests that were fit for the Tour de France ended with strong final-round battles that yielded NHRA national event victories for Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Spencer Massey came from the seventh spot on the qualifying ladder to claim Top Fuel victory in the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Norwalk, Ohio, putting together four quality runs to earn his fourth win of the year and the 10th of his career.
- Andrew Hines is the first three-time Norwalk winner
- Vincent Nobile sweeps K&N Challenge and Summit title, earning $75K
- Mike Neff and Nobile both defend 2011 Norwalk victories
- Spencer Massey wins Top Fuel final on holeshot
Massey nipped Shawn Langdon in the first round, then dispatched Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown on his next pass to earn a semifinal berth. The semi run was his only free ride of the day as David Grubnic smoked the tires on the starting line, earning Massey a date with top qualifier Shawn Torrence. Torrence had an easier trip, not having to face a competitor all day that got under four seconds in their run.
But Torrence had his hands full with Massey who welded him to the tree in the final, earning a holeshot win with a .054-second reaction time, rendering a 3.894-second effort by Torrence for naught, getting to the finish lights ahead of his fellow Texan by a scant .002 seconds.
"It was going to be huge no matter how I looked at it because Shawn had been running really well," Massey said. "I knew I had to get up there and be on my game, we knew we couldn't beat ourselves. I knew I had to keep it in the groove and keep the tires under us. I could hear (Torrence) coming but I couldn't see him. I probably bent the pedal stop because I was pushing the throttle harder and harder trying to stay in front."
Nobile had the biggest weekend of his young NHRA career, scoring $50,000 yesterday by winning the K&N Horsepower Pro Stock Challenge, then adding another $25,000 and a national event victory on Sunday after running down Jason Line in the Pro Stock final. His 6.661-second run in the final with a top speed of 208.01 mph made Nobile the first driver to defend his Norwalk title in the six years since the track switched allegiances to the NHRA.
"What a weekend. I can't thank everyone enough for giving me what I need to get the job done," Nobile said. "Never in a million years did I think that I would be this lucky. I have the greatest team here. They really gave me a great car to get me through that first round and I never could have done it without them."
The 20-year-old college student had a relatively easy path to the final after starting his day in the fifth qualifying spot. After a strong run to beat the ageless Warren Johnson in the opener, he got a free ride when V. Gaines went up in smoke in the second round, then out pedaled top qualifier Allen Johnson in the semis to win with a 7.792-second run.
"That was the coolest round I have ever won. I have never been in a pedal fest like that, “Nobile said. "I saw Jason do that right before my run, so it mentally prepared me in case it happened. My dad told me, if you shake, get into fifth gear as quick as you can. It generally won't go into any gear than fifth, so I did that and it worked."
Generally that run will just make you happy to be in the next round, but it earned him lane choice over Line in the final as the Summit-sponsored driver survived his own frantic pedal fest over Shane Gray to make the final round. Both drivers fared far better in the final, but Nobile overcame a near-perfect .01 reaction time from Line to earn his second win of the year and the fifth of his young NHRA career.
Funny Car winner Mike Neff joined Nobile as back-to-back Norwalk champs, earning his Wally by besting Tim Wilkerson in a great side-by-side drag race. Neff carded a 4.217-second run with a top speed of 298.21 mph to score his second victory of the year and the eighth of his career.
"The weather conditions were so difficult, and so different than the first two days but it got hot and the track got tricky," Neff said. "The run in the final was a really good one for me. I got it to run on all eight (cylinders) just when I needed to because Tim Wilkerson really made a good run over there. You weren't going to run much better there. It's big for us because Tim had been running well and we are trying to get all four cars in the Countdown (for the Championship)."
Neff, who started the day in the second qualifying position, had a relatively easy trip to his fourth final of the year in the John Force Racing Ford Mustang. None of his first three opponents posted a four-second pass, although each of Neff’s trips down the Norwalk strip took no more than 4.2 seconds. He used all the knowledge gained on those trips in the final posting his best time of the day to nip Wilkerson, who advanced to his first final of the season.
The Funny Car day started in about as odd a fashion as you could expect as top qualifier Johnny Gray lined up against points leader and 16th qualifier Robert Hight. Gray lit the tires in the burnout area and his parachute popped out of the back of his car, ending his run before it ever started.
The day in Pro Stock Motorcycle ended as all of them have so far this year, with a Harley-Davidson sitting in Victory Lane. This time is was Andrew Hines collecting the hardware, earning his third win of the year with a holeshot victory over Hector Arana Jr.
Hines became the first NHRA drag racer to win three Norwalk titles, and was the only top qualifier of the day to follow up his Saturday accomplishment up with an event title - the 28th of his career.
Hines knocked out Mike Berry and Steve Johnson to make the semis, where he ran into H-D stablemate Eddie Krawiec in a battle of the only riders to win NHRA events in 2012. Hines was equal to the task, nipping Krawiec in one of the best races of the day, tripping the lights at 6.978 seconds to Krawiec’s 6.982.
"We struggled with my bike in the first two rounds but we really learned a lot against Eddie in the semis," Hines said. "We were able to apply what we learned in the semis for our run against Hector and to get him on a holeshot was really the ice cream on the cake. It was an unbelievable job by our team, it was really hot, but I seem to do a better job in the heat, I seem to focus a little better I think. It's nice to get on a roll when you have back-to-back weekends and get some points."
The win advanced Hines to the final against Hector Arana Jr., who moved to his fourth final of the year on a holeshot win over his father in the semi. This time it was Arana who was on the wrong side of the starting lights as Hines left him at the gate, claiming the holeshot victory for himself after a run of 6.929 seconds at 193.43 mph.