Andrew Hines joins Friday leaders Torrence, Johnson and Gray to pace Norwalk quals

Eric Mauk

As hot as Friday was at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, Saturday was even hotter as majority of the teams in the four classes of professional racing spent most of the day just trying to get through to what is slated to be a cooler Sunday.

Friday times held up for Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Johnny Gray (Funny Car) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) to lead their respective classes, while Andrew Hines highlighted an impressive final round of Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying to score his first number-one spot of the 2012 season.

Johnny Gray
Johnny Gray

Photo by: NHRA

“Today was hard on everybody. The driver, the team, the crew chiefs and the fans,” said Torrence. “The crew chief has to deal with just getting the car down the track, but last night we ran very good and that showed us that we have some speed going into tomorrow.”

Triple-digit heat turned the Norwalk dragstrip into a guessing game as crew chiefs left half of their clutch parts on the bench in order not to overpower the racing surface. But even with that, tire smoke filled the air on most of the runs as the majority of the cars ended up standing on Friday times to fill the brackets for Sunday’s eliminations.

There was no movement at all in the Top Fuel ladder in the fourth round of qualifying, as Torrence’s 3.829-second run from last night held serve. Antron Brown ran the quickest time of the final round however, and the bonus points for that run allowed him to take a six-point lead into Sunday. Brandon Bernstein held the bump spot while Cory McClenathan (6th) and T.J. Zizzo (11th) earned their best qualifying positions of the season.

Funny Car was more of the same – at least at the top of the time sheets – as Johnny Gray earned his second top-qualifying spot on the season with his Friday time of 4.094 seconds. But the calm at the top of the ladder obscured the turbulence at the bottom end as points leader Robert Hight had to scramble to make the show, getting into the 16th and final spot with a last-gasp run of 4.445 seconds.

Allen Johnson
Allen Johnson

Photo by: NHRA

Hight got in, then had to sweat out a final thrust from Tony Pedregon to keep his spot. Pedregon started strongly on his last pass but then had to pedal a bit and nearly hit the wall before giving up the chase. Pedregon was joined on the trailer by last week’s Funny Car finalist Alexis DeJoria, who also failed to punch her Sunday ticket after four rounds.

“That was tight,” Hight stated. “With the way (Ron) Capps has been running you can’t afford to come out here and lay an egg. We’ll have a tough matchup tomorrow, but we’ll be ready.”

Being number one is big for me, going into Sunday, that’s where you need to be, running your best time on the last pass of Saturday

Matt Hines

But all was not lost for the fans that braved the brutal conditions as the Pro Stock Motorcycle riders put on a show.

Just as the bracket writers were prepping to scribe Hector Arana Sr.’s name onto the top of the qualifying order, along came Andrew Hines on his Harley-Davidson to upend the Arana Express. Hines hung a day’s-best time of 6.961 seconds to claim the number-one spot, besting Arana by a microscopic .001 seconds.

“We just picked away at it all weekend,” Hines said. “We’ve started working with a different strategy out here and trying to just get a little better every round instead of trying to get the big number right away. Being number one is big for me, going into Sunday, that’s where you need to be, running your best time on the last pass of Saturday.”

Hines bumped Arana Sr. back to second and Arana Jr. back to number three, but Karen Stoffer came from 11th in the field to claim fourth with the only other six-second run of the weekend. Chip Ellis came from 14th ninth on his last run and Jerry Savoie came from out of the field to snare the 11th position on his final run.

The PSM round also featured the only heart stopping moment of the day as Angie Smith lost the brakes on her Buell at the end of her run. Unable to slow down, Smith roared through the length of the strip, through the sand pit and across the grass before laying the bike down just before it careened into a cornfield. Smith rolled a few times but ended up with nothing more than an injured pinky finger.

“At the end of the shutdown area I had no brakes whatsoever,” Smith reported after turning a thousand-foot run into a journey of nearly 5,000. “I decided to ride it out for as long as I could, but I saw the cornfield coming and I didn’t run to plow through there. I’m unhappy that we tore up a bike, but I think I’m OK.”

Johnson paced the Pro Stock show with his Friday run of 6.663 seconds but was less than pleased with his effort today as his Dodge Avenger failed to lead either of the two rounds today.

“We stunk the place up today but we’ll regroup and have a good car for tomorrow,” Johnson said. “The track conditions are supposed to be a little better tomorrow and a little more like they were last night when we were really good.”

Ron Krisher made the only move of the final round among the top side of the Pro Stock ladder, vaulting to sixth with a session-best run of 6.708 seconds. At the back end of the bracket, Shane Gray bumped into the show with his last run at the expense of Chris McGaha, who could not answer the bell for his last run and failed to attempt to bump back in.

Top Fuel
1) Steve Torrence 3.829/319.98
2) Antron Brown 3.832/321.27
3) Khalid alBalooshi 3.836/316.67
4) Tony Schumacher 3.841/313.88
5) Clay Millican 3.868/313.00
6) Cory McClenathan 3.911/301.87
7) Spencer Massey 3.923/310.05
8) Doug Kalitta 3.925/296.31
9) Keith L. Murt 3.939/289.07
10) Shawn Langdon 3.949/309.56
11) T.J. Zizzo 3.963/296.50
12) Hillary Will 3.968/298.40
13) Bob Vandergriff 3.981/301.54
14) David Grubnic 4.022/294.95
15) Morgan Lucas 4.036/265.64
16) Brandon Bernstein 4.040/272.89
17) Brady Kalivoda 4.291/215.31
18) Chris Karamesines 4.837/159.68
19) Ike Maier 5.261/238.47
20) Terry McMillen 5.543/125.58
21) Pat Dakin 6.528/91.43

Funny Car
1) Johnny Gray 4.094/306.33
2) Mike Neff 4.112/309.42
3) Cruz Pedregon 4.123/306.67
4) Ron Capps 4.133/307.02
5) Bob Tasca III 4.139/306.88
6) Courtney Force 4.140/301.81
7) Daniel Wilkerson 4.152/303.16
8) Tim Wilkerson 4.172/300.73
9) John Force 4.196/300.40
10) Jeff Arend 4.198/302.08
11) Todd Lesenko 4.203/295.66
12) Blake Alexander 4.230/290.01
13) Jack Beckman 4.310/283.25
14) Matt Hagan 4.368/284.51
15) Bob Bode 4.443/248.25
16) Robert Hight 4.445/271.24
17) Tony Pedregon 4.653/232.03
18) Alexis DeJoria 8.869/70.89
19) Jim Head
20) Terry Haddock No Time

Pro Stock
1) Allen Johnson 6.663/207.34
2) Jason Line 6.697/205.94
3) Greg Anderson 6.698/205.82
4) V Gaines 6.702/205.29
5) Vincent Nobile 6.706/206.45
6) Ron Krisher 6.708/206.01
7) Erica Enders 6.708/205.13
8) Kurt Johnson 6.715/205.98
9) JR Carr 6.716/205.19
10) Jeg Coughlin Jr. 6.718/206.07
11) Mike Edwards 6.719/206.26
12) Warren Johnson 6.719/205.94
13) Greg Stanfield 6.731/204.57
14) Shane Gray 6.739/205.04
15) Rodger Brogdon 6.741/204.70
16) Ronnie Humphrey 6.741/204.45
17) Larry Morgan 6.763/205.62
18) Chris McGaha 6.774/203.09
19) Grace Howell 6.851/200.08
20) Steve Kent 6.880/203.61
21) John Gaydosh 7.074/194.46

Pro Stock Motorcycle
1) Andrew Hines 6.961/192.85
2) Hector Arana Sr. 6.962/188.02
3) Hector Arana Jr. 6.984/192.69
4) Karen Stoffer 6.992/192.52
5) Eddie Krawiec 7.005/191.97
6) John Hall 7.016/189.47
7) LE Tonglet 7.019/190.32
8) Steve Johnson 7.037/189.23
9) Chip Ellis 7.051/187.31
10) Scotty Pollacheck 7.057/189.79
11) Jerry Savoie 7.061/189.60
12) Michael Ray 7.084/186.92
13) Matt Smith 7.086/189.28
14) Shawn Gann 7.093/188.46
15) Angie Smith 7.102/188.83
16) Mike Berry 7.107/187.18
17) Matt Guidera 7.133/185.43
18) Wesley Wells 7.170/182.23
19) Michael Phillips 7.269/186.05

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Clay Millican , Antron Brown , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Chris Karamesines , Ron Krisher , Larry Morgan , Mike Berry , Shawn Gann , David Grubnic , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , John Hall , Greg Stanfield , Tim Wilkerson , Jack Beckman , Karen Stoffer , Brandon Bernstein , Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray , Morgan Lucas , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Bob Bode , Rodger Brogdon , Matthew Smith , Michael Phillips , Jeff Arend , Ronnie Humphrey , Bob Vandergriff , Wesley Wells , Steve Johnson , Terry Haddock , Brady Kalivoda , Chip Ellis , Robert Hight , Matt Guidera , Hillary Will , Matt Hagan , Steve Torrence , Bob Tasca III , Michael Ray , Hector Arana Jr. , Eddie Krawiec , Mike Edwards , Angie Smith , LE Tonglet , Shane Gray , Shawn Langdon , Vincent Nobile , Pat Dakin , Scotty Pollacheck , Mike Neff , Spencer Massey , Ike Maier , Terry McMillen , Hector Arana Sr. , Jerry Savoie , Daniel Wilkerson , Courtney Force , Chris McGaha
Article type Qualifying report
Tags featured, gray, hines, johnson, mauk, nhra, norwalk, summit, torrence