Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals Presented By Pennzoil
Round 19 of 24 in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
Maple Grove Raceway – September 12-15, 2019
Pro Stock Motorcycle
Savoie picked up his second consecutive win on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki. He took down Steve Johnson with his 6.774 lap at 198.55 in the final round and went on to claim the Pro Stock Motorcycle points lead.
“It was just a great, great day for everyone. My whole team. I don’t take any of this credit. (Crew chief) Tim (Kulungian) and everybody on the team worked their butts off and here we are. At my age, I can do it. I didn’t count on making the top 10 because I took three races off. And, bam! Here we are. No one, not even myself expected this.”
The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues Sept. 27-29 with the second race of the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs, the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis.
ELIMINATIONS ROUND 1
|Driver||Matt Smith||Scott Pollacheck|
|660 FT MPH||160.79||154.92|
Matt Smith won this race in 2008 and 2013. He is 10 – 4 against Pollacheck in prior events. Smith was quicker out of the gate and stayed in front the whole way down the track for the win.
|Driver||Hector Arana||Jerry Savoie|
|660 FT MPH||118.31||162.02|
Savoie is 7 – 3 against Arana in prior events. Arana’s red light gave the win to Savoie, who had his quickest run of the weekend so far.
|Driver||Eddie Krawiec||Angie Smith|
|660 FT MPH||160.81||160.02|
Krawiec is 14 – 4 against Smith in prior events. He has five wins in Reading. In 12 starts here, he has never lost in the first round. He starts the day with 421 round wins and is now in 26th place on the all-time win list. Krawiec was quicker at the tree. Smith closed the gap a bit but then Krawiec started to pull away after 330 feet to take the win.
|Driver||Steve Johnson||Kelly Clontz|
|660 FT MPH||160.73||158.45|
Johnson is 1 – 0 against Clontz in prior events. Clontz had the quicker start but Johnson pulled even with her at 60 feet, then pulled away for the win.
|Driver||Hector Arana Jr||Ryan Oehler|
|660 FT MPH||160.18||158.71|
Hector Arana Jr. is the defending event champion. He also won here in 2011. Arana Jr is 5 – 0 against Oehler in prior events. Arana was first off the starting line and stayed in front for the win. He gave up lane choice to Johnson in the second round.
|Driver||Ronald Tornow||Karen Stoffer|
|660 FT MPH||—||161.59|
Karen Stoffer won this race in 2006. This is the first time Tornow and Stoffer have faced each other in eliminations. Tornow did not answer the call. he took his motorcycle into the sandtrap during qualifying on Friday and has not made a pass since.
|Driver||Angelle Sampey||Jianna Salinas|
|660 FT MPH||160.50||158.82|
Angelle Sampey won her first race here in 1996. She has six wins overall here in Reading. She is 13 – 3 in round 1 here. The top qualifier in the bike class has never lost in round 1 in Reading. This is the first time Sampey and Salinas have faced each other in eliminations. Sampey got the win here but gave up lane choice to Matt Smith in the next round
|Driver||Andrew Hines||Michael Ray|
|660 FT MPH||160.82||156.23|
Andrew Hines has a pair of wins at this track. He is 14 – 3 in the first round in Reading. Hines is 5 – 4 against Ray in prior events. Ray was quicker at the tree but slower on the track. That let Hines ride by him to take the win. He gave up lane choice to Savoie in the second round.
ELIMINATIONS ROUND 2
|Driver||Matt Smith||Angelle Sampey|
|660 FT MPH||160.73||160.58|
Smith is 16 – 7 against Sampey in prior events. Smith was quicker off the starting line but Sampey made up the difference and was ahead between 330 and 660 feet. After that, Smith rode past Sampey to take the holeshot win.
|Driver||Steve Johnson||Hector Arana Jr|
|660 FT MPH||160.33||158.84|
Arana was quicker off the starting line and led at 60 feet. Johnson pulled ahead after that to take the win and move on to the next round. Johnson will have lane choice over Smith in round three.
|Driver||Eddie Krawiec||Karen Stoffer|
|660 FT MPH||160.61||161.38|
Stoffer had this race from start to finish. She’ll be back for round three.
|Driver||Andrew Hines||Jerry Savoie|
|660 FT MPH||159.51||161.48|
Hines is 15 – 9 against Savoie in prior events. These two took their time staging until Savoie finally pulled into the beams. Hines was quicker off the starting line but they were even at 60 feet. After that, Savoie pulled away to take the win. He’ll have lane choice over Stoffer in the next round.
|Driver||Steve Johnson||Matt Smith|
|660 FT MPH||160.44||161.29|
Johnson was first off the starting line and stayed in front the whole way down the track. Johnson took the win and will be going to his first final round in five years.
|Driver||Karen Stoffer||Jerry Savoie|
|660 FT MPH||159.87||161.19|
Stoffer lit the red light so Savoie got the win and will race Johnson in an all-Suzuki final round. Johnson will have lane choice. This will be Savoie’s third final round this season and the 27th final round of his career.
|Driver||Steve Johnson||Jerry Savoie|
|660 FT MPH||161.63||162.67|
Jerry Savoie keys Suzuki revival with second-straight Pro Stock Motorcycle victory
by Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Jerry Savoie goes from tenth to first in the Mello Yello standings after defeating Steve Johnson in rare all-Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle final round in Reading.
Had Jerry Savoie not qualified for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, it’s entirely possible that he would have skipped the Mopar Express Lane Nationals presented by Pennzoil but after his win in Countdown clinching Indy victory, the popular alligator farmer is all-in for a run at a second Mello Yello Pro Stock Motorcycle championship. In the first all-Suzuki final round since last year’s Dallas event, Savoie defeated a resurgent Steve Johnson to win his 11th career victory in his 27th final. Savoie put an exclamation point on the win with a stout 6.774, his best run of the event, while Johnson wasn’t far behind with a 6.805.
Savoie managed to enter the playoffs as the No. 5 seed even though he skipped the mid-season events in Richmond, Chicago, and Norwalk. He was tenth after Sonoma and managed to jump five spots after winning Indy for the second time. During his post-race interviews at Indy, Savoie made a point to say that as one of the ten qualifiers for the Countdown, he would commit to the final six races, and he’d do everything he could to pursue a second world championship. Following the win, he has taken over the lead in the Mello Yello standings by six points over regular season leader Andrew Hines.
“I really didn’t see this coming; I don’t think anybody did,” said Savoie. “We were barley in the top ten a while back and here we are leading. This is just a great day. In the final we had Steve and we stepped it up; actually, I think conditions got better. I know we ran a 6.77 and everyone is looking at and pointing at the scoreboards, but Steve went 6.80 in the other lane. I don’t really like running Steve in a final because you never know what you’re going to get. I feel for him because he could use a win. We both made nice runs. All the credit to Tim [Kulinguan, crew chief ] and everyone lese on our team, they worked their butts off, and here we are.
“I didn’t count on making a run for the championship or the top ten,” said Savoie. “I took three races off and when we came back in Sonoma we ran well and got to tenth. The spread between No. 10 and No. 6 was really close and when we left Indy we were actually fifth. I gained a lot of points and bam, here we are. It’s a great accomplishment. Now, we just need to see if we can hold on for the next five races and finish this thing off.”
On a weekend where Suzuki-powered bikes occupied three of the top eight qualifying spots in the field, Savoie was seventh-quickest with a 6.813 and began his march to the final after Hector Arana Sr. fouled in round one. Savoie’s biggest win, arguably, came in the second round when he took out points leader and five-time champion Andrew Hines, 6.819 to 6.904. Savoie also defeated his White Alligator teammate, Karen Stoffer in the semifinals to reach his third final in eight races this season.
Even though he came up short, Johnson’ run to the final might have been one of the most impressive performances of the season regardless of class. Forced to end his 32-year streak of perfect attendance after damaging an engine, Johnson came into Reading with just one round win in seven appearances this season. Appearing in his 434th career event, by far the most in the history of the class, Johnson tied his best qualifying effort of the season (No. 4) and rode to the final by beating Kelly Clontz, Hector Arana Jr., and reigning champion Matt Smith. Johnson, who has at times had a bitter rivalry with Smith, left first by a hundredth of a second and then held on for a narrow win to reach his 21st career final and his first in five years.
Unofficial point standings following the completion of the Chevrolet Performance U,S, Nationals, the 18th event of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
|6||Hector Arana Jr.||2117||-49|
Saturday – Qualifying
Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Sampey picked up her second consecutive No. 1 qualifier of 2019 and 51st of her career on her Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson when she went 6.761 at 197.51.
“It was perfect motivation (to see two female drivers go No. 1) for me,” Sampey said. “I was nervous going into the second session because I didn’t know what I was going to do. I heard Alan Reinhart talking about the two girls Erica and Brittany had No. 1 and he kept saying it’s, ‘ladies’ night at the Grove,’ and I said that’s right! It’s ladies’ night and I’m about to do this! It was perfect.
“I wasn’t real sure about the run. I was a little behind on my reaction time, I’m trying to learn to slow myself down a little. Then something funny happened in second or third gear and it wiggled a little and I really didn’t think it was going to be No. 1. But, Andrew (Hines) tunes it so I can’t take all the credit,” Sampey joked.
Final Qualifying Order
|05||Hector Arana Jr||6.812||197.97|
by Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Returning to the site of her ground-breaking first NHRA win in 1996, two-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Angelle Sampey qualified in the top spot for the second-straight event and 51st time in her career. Sampey rode her Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson FXDR to a blistering 6.76 on Friday evening, and that run was not bettered on either of Saturday’s two runs. Sampey will be paired with rookie Jianna Salinas when final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
Sampey has admittedly been slow to adjust to the Harley-Davidson Pro Stock Motorcycle, which is significantly different from any of the other bikes she’s ridden during her career. Progress became evident two weeks ago when she earned the top spot in qualifying at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indy. Sampey closed out qualifying on a high note with a 6.849 in Q4 that was worth two bonus points as the second-quickest run of the round. Sampey also ran a 6.868 in Q3 to complete a consistent.
Sampey’s teammates, Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec, are qualified No. 2 and No. 6, respectively, which in itself is not surprising but was a big relief to the Vance & Hines team that was late in arriving on Thursday after their transporter broke down. The team was late arriving to Maple Grove Raceway on Thursday evening, and they are racing their three FXDR entries out of the truck normally used by their Flat Track team. Hines, the top seed in the Countdown to the Championship standings, ran a 6.774 on Friday, and will race against Michael Ray on Sunday. Krawiec is paired with fellow top ten rider Angie Smith to begin the Countdown.
After struggling for much of the season, the Suzuki entries have come to life lately, and there are three of them qualified in the top half of the field in Reading. Chicago runner-up and past Reading winner Karen Stoffer made the best run of her career with a 6.790, 198.90 for the No. 3 spot and she’s joined by teammate and Indy winner Jerry Savoie who is seventh-quickest at 6.813. Stoffer is paired with Ron Tornow, who did not run on Saturday after going into the sand trap on Friday. Savoie, who has committed to running all six events in the Countdown, is racing 2009 world champ Hector Arana Sr. Steve Johnson has also been impressive with a 6.810 to qualify No. 4, his best starting spot of the season.
Friday – Qualifying
Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Sampey raced to the top spot on her Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, going 6.864 at 194.63. It would be Sampey’s second No. 1 qualifier of the season.
|05||Hector Arana Jr||6.812||197.97|
by Jacob Sundstrom, NHRA National Dragster Associate Editor
Angelle Sampey continued her surge aboard her Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson FXDR with a step towards pole position at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil.
The former world champion, now a full-time competitor with Vance & Hines, earned her first pole position with her new team at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals but turned on the red light in the first round. If that affected the legendary rider, she didn’t show it in Reading.
Sampey rode to a 6.761-second lap at 197.51-mph to take three bonus points and earn provisional pole in Reading, outqualifying teammate Andrew Hines by .013-second. 2017 world champion Eddie Krawiec is qualified in the No. 6 position.
Karen Stoffer slotted into the No. 3 spot with a 6.790 as she continued her terrific 2019 campaign. Stoffer’s teammate, Jerry Savoie, is holding down the top half of the field with a 6.838. He enters the event as the most recent winner after capturing his second Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory.
Steve Johnson, who has competed part-time in 2019, impressed with a 6.81 in a quick session. Hector Arana Jr. and Krawiec both ran 6.812s, but Arana earned the No. 5 spot based on his faster speed (197.97).
Jianna Salinas is at the bottom of the qualifying sheet at the end of the first day of qualifying with a 7.438 but only needs to make up two-tenths to move up the field.
The second day of qualifying at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil begins at 12:45 p.m. with Pro Stock Motorcycle. Qualifying wraps up with the fourth session at 3 p.m. Eastern. Race day is slated to begin Sunday at 11 a.m. You can catch all the action on FS1 and NHRA.tv.
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates four racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com