By Lee Elder
MADISON, Ill. (Sept. 23, 2018) – Matt Smith beat LE Tonglet to take the points lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle as the NHRA completed an explosive at the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Steve Torrence, Robert Hight and Tanner Gray won the other NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series final rounds.
“So far we’ve been to two final (rounds),” Smith said. “That’s my goal, just keep going to final rounds.”
Smith left Gateway with the points lead after Hector Arana Jr. and Eddie Krawiec lost in odd ways.
“We watched Hector (Jr.) not leave the starting line and Eddie red-lighted and I thought, ‘Wow, both of those guys are out. Just stay focused.’”
A major explosion in Hight’s engine compartment resulted in a heavy crash with most of the bodywork blowing off the chassis. Hight walked away haltingly from the incident and was taken to an area hospital for observation.
Tim Wilkerson, who raced against Hight in the final, said, “I was scared to death when I (saw) that. I jumped out to try to go see if I could help him. He was okay, I think, but you could tell he was really rattled.”
Hight’s car owner John Force said in a team press release, “First, we are happy Robert is okay. He went to a local hospital to be checked out and, after being x-rayed and evaluated, he was scheduled to be released tonight.”
TOP FUEL: #5 Antron Brown beats #6 Doug Kalitta. Blake Alexander, a non-Countdowner, beat #8 Terry McMillen. #2 Clay Millican defeated non-Countdowner Shawn Reed. Countdown leader Steve Torrence knocks out non-Countdowner Bill Litton. #4 Leah Pritchett advances as #9 Scott Palmer is forced to shut off after his burnout. Palmer reported his throttle cable broke. #3 Tony Schumacher eliminates non-Countdowner Richie Crampton. #7 Mike Salinas beats defending Series champion and #9 (tie) Brittany Force. The first five drivers in the Countdown advanced to the second round.
FUNNY CAR: #7 Tommy Johnson Jr. beats non-Countdowner Del Worsham. Non-Countdown driver Cruz Pedregon beat #3 Ron Capps in the first major development with Countdown implications. #4 Courtney Force beat non-Countdowner Jim Campbell and Force moved passed Ron Capps into third place. #6 Tim Wilkerson beat #5 Matt Hagan and went by Hagan in the standings. Points leader JR Todd beat #10 Shawn Langdon, Todd’s ninth consecutive round win. #9 John Force beat #8 Jack Beckman and passed Beckman in the standings.
PRO STOCK: #3 Greg Anderson knocked out #8 Deric Kramer. Points leader Tanner Gray beat #10 Chris McGaha. #2 Vincent Nobile beat non-Countdowner Fernando Cuadra. #6 Drew Skillman beat non-Countdowner Kenny Delco. #9 Bo Butner, the defending Series champ, beat Alan Prusiensky and passed Deric Kramer for eighth place. #7 Jason Line beats non-Countdowner Val Smeland. #5 Erica Enders beat non-Countdowner Charlie Westcott. #4 Jeg Coughlin beat non-Countdowner Mark Hogan. All non-countdowners were eliminated in the first round.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: #6 Jerry Savoie beat non-Countdowner Hector Arana. #10 Angelle Sampey beat #2 Hector Arana Jr after Arana’s motorcycle did not leave the starting line. LE Tonglet beat Jim Underdahl. Joey Gladstone, a non-Countdowner took out points leader Eddie Krawiec when Krawiec fouled out. Andrew Hines beat non-Countdowner Ryan Oehler. #8 Angie Smith beat #7 Steve Johnson and moved ahead of Johnson in the standings. #3 Matt Smith bumped out #9 Scot Pollacheck. The top two positions in the standings were defenseless from here on.
TOP FUEL: Non-Countdowner Pat Dakin took out Tony Schumacher in a pedal fest. Leah Pritchett made up ground on Schumacher when she beat non-Countdowner Blake Alexander. Leader Steve Torrence beat Mike Salinas. Clay Millican beat Antron Brown.
FUNNY CAR: Points leader JR Todd knocks out non-Countdowner Cruz Pedregon. Tommy Johnson Jr. takes out non-Countdowner Bob Tasca III. The surging Tim Wilkerson beat Courtney Force. Both Johnson and Wilkerson moved past Matt Hagan in the Countdown. Robert Hight stayed even with Todd by beating John Force.
PRO STOCK: Tanner Gray beat Erica Enders. Drew Skillman beat Bo Butner. Jeg Coughlin beat Greg Anderson and moved past Anderson into third place. Vincent Nobile beat Jason Line. Six of the 10 Countdown drivers are out.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Angelle Sampey, bidding to move up to ninth in the standings, is ousted by non-Countdowner Chip Ellis. Jerry Savoie beat Andrew Hines. Matt Smith beat non-Countdowner Joey Gladstone and, with the win, took over the lead in the Countdown. LE Tonglet beat Angie Smith. Tonglet is now tied for second with Krawiec.
TOP FUEL: Clay Millican beat non-Countdowner Pat Dakin. Steve Torrence beat Leah Pritchett. The top two drivers in the Countdown, Torrence and Millican, will meet in the finals.
FUNNY CAR: Tim Wilkerson beat JR Todd and moved to fourth place in the Countdown. Robert Hight moved in the Countdown lead by beating Tommy Johnson Jr.
PRO STOCK: In a round with the Countdown lead on the line, Tanner Gray holds serve and beats Vincent Nobile. Drew Skillman beat Jeg Coughlin and moved by Erica Enders, Coughlin and Greg Anderson in the Countdown standings.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: LE Tonglet beat Jerry Savoie and Matt Smith beat Chip Ellis. Smith and Tonglet will race for the points lead in the finals.
TOP FUEL: Steve Torrence beat Clay Millican after a brief staging dual. Torrence completes the weekend with 2,346 points, Millican has 2,276.
FUNNY CAR: It is the first time Robert Hight has met Tim Wilkerson in a final round. Hight’s car exploded into a fireball just before crossing the finish line to win the race. The car was in the left lane and smacked the left retaining wall shortly after the explosion. The car stayed against the wall, its rear tires lifting several feet off the ground before bouncing back to earth and then grinding to a halt against the wall. Hight appeared to be limping slightly as he exited the car and briefly declined to climb into an ambulance. Hight leads the standings and Wilkerson slipped ahead of Matt Hagan in the standings. Hight won his fifth final round of the season.
PRO STOCK: Tanner Gray takes out Skillman and extends his points lead.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Matt Smith beats LE Tonglet, wins the race and has the points lead with 2,263. Tonglet is second in the race and the standings.
NOTES: Several nitro teams switched to a five-disc clutch package during qualifying and several stayed with the set up for eliminations. The standard recently had been a six-disc clutch but some teams are changing back to the five-disc clutch since the NHRA changed its track preparation procedure.
PSM: 1. Matt Smith 2,263; 2. LE Tonglet 2,242; 3. Eddie Krawiec 2,222; 4. Hector Arana Jr 2,214; 5. Andrew Hines 2,201’ 6. Jerry Savoie 2,154; 7. Angie Smith 2,115; 8. Steve Johnson 2,108; 9. Scott Pollacheck 2,094; 10. Angelle Sampey 2,085.
PS: 1. Tanner Gray 2,296; 2. Vincent Nobile 2,244; 3. Drew Skillman 2,222; 4. Jeg Coughlin 2,215; 5. Greg Anderson 2,206; 6. Erica Enders 2,192; 7. Jason Line 2,133; 8. Bo Butner 2,120; 9. Chris McGaha 2,064; 10. Deric Kramer 2,104.
FC: 1. Robert Hight 2,270; 2. JR Todd 2,240; 3. Courtney Force 2,200; 4. Tim Wilkerson 2,196; 5. Ron Capps 2,182; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr. 2,166; 7. Matt Hagan 2,144; 8. John Force 2,166; 9. Jack Beckman 2,113; 10. Shawn Langdon 2,086.
TF: 1. Steve Torrence 2,346; 2. Millican 2,276; 3. Tony Schumacher 2,225; 4. Leah Pritchett 2,192; 5. Antron Brown 2,169; 6. Doug Kalitta 2,135; 7. Mike Salinas 2,119; 8. Terry McMillen 2,093; 9. (tie) Scott Palmer 2,085, Brittany Force.