October 21, 2014

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NHRA Nationals: Cool temperatures make for high speeds, broken records

Erica Enders-Stevens set a Pro Stock track record Saturday in Norwalk at 212.63 mph. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Erica Enders-Stevens set a Pro Stock track record Saturday in Norwalk at 212.63 mph. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

NORWALK — Cool temperatures meant blazing-fast speeds Friday as track records quickly fell by the wayside in the first two rounds of qualifying at the eighth annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.

Track records were set in the Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle divisions.

In Pro Stock, Erica Enders-Stevens added to her points lead with a track-record speed of 212.63 mph. The Pro Stock record was set and reset with nearly every run down the quarter-mile Summit Motorsports Park drag strip.

“It was a really exciting today,” Enders-Stevens said. “We had a couple of off weekends and my team worked really hard to get us back up front today. The weather was unusual for this time of year. We were talking about two years ago here when it was 108 degrees in the shade. You don’t usually see this temperature here in July so we were really able to get after it and shoot for good times.”

Doug Kalitta didn’t set a track record with his Top Fuel qualifying speed of 326.48 mph, but was just shy of the 327.74 mph he posted a year ago at the event.

“Tomorrow will probably be a lot like today, so it will be interesting to see if this time holds up,” said Kalitta, who has been fast qualifier in five of the first 12 events of the year. “I’ve just been incredibly lucky to have the guys behind me getting the car ready every week. None of this is possible without them.”

He doesn’t expect his record to hold up through two more rounds of qualifying today.

“If the conditions are the same we’re gonna be gunning for it,” said Kalitta, who came into the weekend with a 102-point lead in the Top Fuel point standings. “And I’m pretty sure everyone will be gunning for it, too.”

Del Worsham took the Funny Car lead back to the paddock with an elapsed time of 4.000 seconds, three hundredths of a second faster than Tommy Johnson Jr. However, it was Courtney Force, daughter of legendary Funny Car driver John Force, who set a record with a speed of 321.42 mph. Force’s slow reaction time off the line meant her speed was only good for 11th place.

Worsham entered the weekend in seventh place in the Funny Car standings with six events remaining before the Countdown to the Championship playoffs begin.

“I’d really like to get a win to position ourselves for the countdown and lock down our spot, so it’s crucial to have good qualifying runs,” said Worsham, who is still looking for his first win of the season. “The way the competition is now you’re really just racing to get into the Countdown. If you’re one of the bottom cars, you love the Countdown because it really gives you a second chance. If you’re Robert Hight (Funny Car points leader), you probably don’t really like this system because you’re going to be penalized by it.”

Hight was in 10th place after two rounds of qualifying.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Krawiec set a track record with a time of 6.844 seconds. Just like in Funny Car, Hector Arana set a track speed record of 196.16 mph but held the fifth qualifying slot.

“They have a great race track here and the weather was very welcoming today. It wasn’t 100 degrees,” Krawiec said. “We ran well off the truck today and set a good baseline speed. I really have no complaints.”

All four series will be back on the track today beginning at 4:45 p.m. for more qualifying sessions that will set the field for Sunday’s eliminations.

Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.

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