Sonoma: Final eliminations report

KALITTA, SCELZI, ANDERSON AND HINES EARN VICTORIES AT FRAM AUTOLITE NHRA NATIONALS SONOMA, Calif. -- Doug Kalitta regained the Top Fuel points lead Sunday by winning the FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway. Gary ...

KALITTA, SCELZI, ANDERSON AND HINES EARN VICTORIES AT FRAM AUTOLITE NHRA NATIONALS

SONOMA, Calif. -- Doug Kalitta regained the Top Fuel points lead Sunday by winning the FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway.

Gary Scelzi, Greg Anderson and Andrew Hines also were winners at the $1.5 million race, the 15th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Kalitta earned his fourth victory of the season and 23rd of his career, and in the process moved 16 points ahead of series rival Tony Schumacher. Kalitta used a quick reaction and drove his Mac Tools dragster to a 4.665 second run at 319.90 mph to hold off the quicker Snap-on Tools dragster of Doug Herbert, which clocked a 4.603 at 319.98.

It was a category-leading fifth victory for Kalitta at Infineon. In earlier rounds he defeated Bobby Lagana Jr., teammate Scott Kalitta and Larry Dixon before topping Herbert in the final.

"I don't know what it is about this place, but for some reason we just seem to be real fortunate here," Kalitta said. "I hope we can keep it going for a long time. Larry Dixon has his Father's Day streak and I have my streak here at Infineon. In my opinion this is the best track on the circuit."

Points rival Schumacher lost in the second round, which opened the door for Kalitta to regain the series lead.

"Rahn (Tobler, crew chief) and the team are really working well right now," Kalitta said. "It's nice to be back in the points lead because your sponsors get a big kick out of it."

Local favorite Scelzi cut Robert Hight's series lead to 16 points and earned his third Funny Car win of the season. He drove his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus to a 4.984 at 295.21 to defeat teammate Ron Capps, who posted a 5.079 at 293.60 in his Brut Stratus.

"We didn't make any mistakes today," said Scelzi, who beat Frank Pedregon, Phil Burkart and Tony Bartone to advance to the final round. "Mike Neff (crew chief) and the team kept the car running quick and we kept it in the left lane and that seemed to work for us. When the points guys ahead of you go out first round, the pressure is on you and you have to deliver."

It was Scelzi's 32nd career victory and second at the Fresno, Calif. native's home track.

"We should have been 100 points ahead of everybody if we'd been able to capitalize on some early-round losses," said Scelzi, who's had his own string of two first-round exits in the last four races. "Robert has been deadly, and (John) Force isn't going to stumble like this. If you think that those guys aren't deadly and can't win this championship you're wrong, and we know that."

Force, the defending and 13-time Funny Car world champion, lost in the first round for the fourth consecutive race. It was a career-high eighth first round loss of the season for the driver of the Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang.

"I'm just not going to think about (the championship)," said Scelzi, a three-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion before he made the switch to Funny Car racing in 2002. "Force and I are buddies. I'm not going to worry about it. I put too much effort in this thing too early. I know how to win championships, I know how to shut my mouth and I know how to pay attention to what I've got to do, and that's what I'm doing from here on out, and whatever happens, happens. If they get ahead of us they get ahead of us, If they don't, then they don't. They decide the champion at the end of the year in Pomona, not right now. But a win is a big thing right now."

Anderson regained the series points lead in Pro Stock with his fourth victory of the season and 35th of his career, which ties him for 10th with "Big Daddy" Don Garlits on the all-time wins list.

He outran Jeg Coughlin, Jim Yates and Greg Stanfield in the first three rounds before posting a 6.732 at 205.63 in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to outrun final round foe and event top qualifier Kurt Johnson, who clocked a 6.760 at 204.23 in his ACDelco Chevy Cobalt.

"Kurt (Johnson) and I are like brothers, we have a lot of history together and there could be no more motivator than running against him or Warren (Johnson)," Anderson said. "It's fun when you race either one of them, but you have to dig down and find something extra. Kurt wanted this race badly - he was .016 on the light in the finals, but I also came up with my best light of the day - it was enough to get the job done and give that Pontiac GTO its first win.

Anderson moved 50 points ahead of first-round loser Warren Johnson, who became the first drag racer to be inducted into Infineon Raceway's Wall of Fame on Sunday.

"The Pro Stock class is a dogfight right now," said Anderson. "We have five guys that can absolutely win this POWERade championship without any one of them being an upset or anybody wondering how it happened, and that's the state of Pro Stock racing right now. We're back in first place and that's obviously a great place to be after the Western Swing. We didn't have a good series of races out here and this one right here made us healthy. Now we can go home, regroup and have this car smokin' at Brainerd."

Hines clocked a national record performance of 6.968 seconds en route to becoming the eighth different Pro Stock Motorcycle winner of the season. Hines powered his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a final round run of 7.253 at 186.46 to defeat Karen Stoffer, who posted a 7.343 at 181.64 on her Geico Suzuki.

"It was a great weekend for the Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines team," said Hines of his fourth career victory. "We were the No. 1 qualifier, set the national record and won the race. I am proud to be the eighth different winner this season and just happy to finally get another win. It has been a long time since we won so this is great for the team."

Hines, who defeated Matt Smith, Chip Ellis and new points leader Antron Brown in early rounds, rode a consistently quick bike all day until the final, when it bogged at the start.

"The bike almost shut off when I let out the clutch," said Hines, who earlier this season became the first rider to post a six-second run. "It scared me, because I thought 'Oh no, not again.' It feels good to win today and give my dad (team owner Byron Hines) his 60th victory since he's been in the sport."

The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series continues with the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Aug. 11-14 at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Antron Brown , Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kurt Johnson , Tony Bartone , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Bobby Lagana Jr. , Don Garlits , Scott Kalitta , Greg Stanfield , Karen Stoffer , Phil Burkart , Andrew Hines , Matthew Smith , Chip Ellis , Robert Hight , Mike Neff