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Keeping Pace

Arizona Nationals completion postponed; race will resume Monday

Firebird Int'l Raceway logo (Courtesy of NHRA)
Firebird Int'l Raceway logo (Courtesy of NHRA)

Weather has delayed the conclusion of the Arizona Nationals for the NHRA Full Throttle Series event. Top Fuel and Funny Car action will wrap-up Monday with Pro Stock action being moved to the next event being held in Florida in two weeks.

by Phil Burgess, National DRAGSTER Editor

Weather delays moved racing into the early evening and deteriorating conditions forced the postponement of action Sunday at the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird Int’l Raceway outside of Phoenix. NHRA officials called a halt to Sunday’s action after three rounds of Top Fuel and Funny Car and one round of Pro Stock. 

The Top Fuel and Funny Car finals will be run Monday.  (NOTE: There will not be a live audiocast of Monday's action.) The quarterfinal, semifinal, and final rounds of Pro Stock will be run during qualifying at the 41st annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. The unfinished rounds will be completed during the second, third, and fourth rounds of qualifying for the event in two weeks at the historic Florida dragstrip.

Doug Kalitta and Cory McClenathan will decide the Top Fuel final Monday while Winternationals champ John Force and Jack Beckman will contest the Funny Car final. The day got off to a rough start with rain interrupting the first round of Top Fuel, which concluded with a crash involving Antron Brown. Brown was not injured in the accident but the cleanup and subsequent rain delayed action for about two hours. Two more rounds of nitro racing were completed but the Pro Stock racers never got back onto the track after completing their initial round and will finish in Gainesville.

Second-round pairings in Pro Stock -- Mike Edwards vs. Greg Anderson; Allen Johnson vs. Jason Line; Ron Krisher vs. Greg Stanfield; and Bob Yonke vs. Rodger Brogdon -- will be matched up during the second round of qualifying Friday, March 12, with the semifinal pairs matched up during third round of qualifying and the final round matched up during the final round of qualifying Saturday, March 13. The runs will occur during the scheduled qualifying sessions of the event and the times posted during those runs will count toward qualifying for the event. 

Kalitta, runner-up at the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., reached his second straight Top Fuel final round of the season by defeating Chris Karamesines, teammate Dave Grubnic, and Morgan Lucas with a 3.99 and two 3.98s

McClenathan meanwhile powered his Fram dragster past Mike Strasburg, Troy Buff, and a broken Steve Torrence with consecutively quicker blasts of 3.84, 3.82, and 3.81.

Eliminations in Top Fuel were full of upsets. Independent runner Steve Chrisman was able to notch a win against tire shake-plagued Larry Dixon in the opening round. Torrence put away No. 1 qualifier Tony Schumacher in the second round by virtue of a holeshot.

In Funny Car, Force opened his eliminations account by escaping with a narrow .001-second victory over Cruz Pedregon then powered to low e.t. and a career best 4.044 blast in round two to defeat Jim Head. Force reached the final by defeating his teammate, reigning world champ Robert Hight, with a 4.08 in the semifinals.

With the exception of a semifinal pedalfest win over Tony Pedregon, past Phoenix champ Jack Beckman has been wearing out his opposition with remarkable consistency. Tuner Rahn Tobler dialed in the Valvoline/MTS Dodge with a pair of 4.13s to start eliminations after running a 4.13 during qualifying. Beckman turned away Bob Tasca III and teammate Matt Hagan before using his cunning in the cockpit to survive a tire-smoking affair against Pedregon.

A woman who was struck by a tire that detached from Brown's dragster was pronounced dead at Good Samaritan Hospital. NHRA is investigating the incident. The entire NHRA community is deeply saddened by today's incident and sends its thoughts and prayers to the woman's family and friends.

Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.