Reading: Sunday eliminations report

ROOKIE JR TODD WINS HIS THIRD POWERADE SERIES EVENT Other winners at Toyo Tires Nationals include Burkart, Anderson and Stoffer READING, Pa. -- Rookie J.R. Todd put himself in the driver's seat for the Auto Club Road to the Future award Sunday...

Other winners at Toyo Tires Nationals include Burkart, Anderson and Stoffer

READING, Pa. -- Rookie J.R. Todd put himself in the driver's seat for the Auto Club Road to the Future award Sunday with his third Top Fuel victory of the year.

Todd, who earlier this season became the first African-American to win an NHRA POWERade Series event in Top Fuel, used a career-best pass of 4.494 seconds to power past Melanie Troxel and take the trophy of the $1.5 million Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.

In Funny Car, Phil Burkart scored an unlikely win over red-hot Robert Hight to win for the first time in 53 races. Three-time Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson won his 42nd title, while Karen Stoffer was victorious in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

There was movement at the top in the POWERade Series point standings as 13-time champ John Force inched past Ron Capps in Funny Car and Antron Brown regained the points lead over Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle; Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) maintained narrow points leads with three events remaining.

By advancing one round further than Schumacher, Kalitta was able to extend his lead over Schumacher from 33 to 52 points. Brandon Bernstein is 10 points back in third.

In just 16 professional starts, Todd has pushed his final-round record to a perfect 3-0 with a string of career-best passes. After out-running Cory McClenathan in Round 1, he lowered his personal best time to 4.502 against Tony Schumacher and then posted a career-best top speed of 327.82 mph versus Dave Grubnic. Still, he saved his best for last, dipping into the 4.4s for the first time to extinguish Troxel with a 4.494 at 324.12 mph.

"I never thought I'd be standing here with three wins and people talking about Rookie of the Year," Todd said. "We were only going to run part-time this year but [sponsor] Evan Knoll stepped up his involvement and said straight out he wanted to beat Tony Schumacher. I was like, well who doesn't, but he's given us what it takes to do it."

Burkart ran a gauntlet of superstars on the day, beating former points leader Ron Capps, reigning series champion Gary Scelzi, new points leader John Force, and Hight, who had won the last two national events. The final was a thriller with both Burkart and Hight losing traction before they left the launch pad. The pedalfest was on from there and Burkart managed to reel his machine in first, winning with a dubious 7.528 at 203.92 mph in his Halvoline/Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

"We sure didn't back into this win," Burkart said. "We start out beating the points leader in Ron Capps, then we get the world champ, then I race the John Force, the best guy ever, and take him out in front of all my friends and family, I just don't think it gets any better than this."

Force started the day 37 points behind Capps but ended up one ahead thanks to his semifinal run and Capps' first-round loss. Hight has crept to within 35 of the points lead.

Pro Stock's potential national record was passed from Anderson to Greg Stanfield to Jason Line and back to Anderson before finally settling in Line's hands. For that, the championship leader gains 20 bonus points. But Anderson did get the win over a red-lighting Greg Stanfield in the finale to gain a hard-fought 22 points in the standings. He now trails his Summit Racing Pontiac teammate by 56 points.

"How tough is Pro Stock?" Anderson asked. "If I didn't win the race I wouldn't have gained a nickel on Jason. Both of our cars are so good and it's just exciting that our biggest competition comes from within our team. I need to be perfect for the rest of the year if I want to win my fourth title. It's back and forth with me and Jason and I hope we stay friends through this. I think we will but it's gonna be a fight."

After Angelle Sampey set a national elapsed time record on her U.S. Army Suzuki during qualifying, it seemed likely that the winner's circle would have a female touch, but not many people would have thought Stoffer would be the one hoisting the trophy. Nevertheless, that's exactly what happened as the Geico Motorcycle Suzuki rider powered past everyone, including Sampey herself, to collect her third career win and first since last year's Houston event.

"I think that door falling on my head knocked some sense into me because I've been driving great all season," Stoffer said, referring to an accident at the end of last year when her race transporter's rear lift door collapsed on her. "What a great weekend for us. The only thing we didn't do was set the E.T. record."

Obviously racing without the burden of team orders, Andrew Hines, who led Antron Brown by eight points coming into this event, lost to Harley teammate GT Tonglet in the opening round on a huge .027- to .131-second holeshot. Tonglet, who is 13th in the points, lost to Scali in the next session.

Hines' loss allowed Brown, who raced to the semifinals, to take the lead for the third time this year. Brown now leads Hines by 27 points and Sampey by 64.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Greg Stanfield , Karen Stoffer , Phil Burkart , Melanie Troxel , Brandon Bernstein , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , GT Tonglet , J.R. Todd , Angelle Sampey