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Caruso Retains No. 8 Position With Solid Showing at Topeka

TOPEKA, KS – Rookie Pro Stock driver Camrie Caruso was .008 of a second too quick in reacting to the starting signal in her Tequila Comisario Chevrolet Camaro today and lost to Aaron Stanfield in the opening round of the 33rd Menard’s NHRA Nationals presented by Pet Armor at Heartland Motorsports Park.

“You have to give it everything when you are racing at this level,” Caruso said.  “I went up there knowing I had a good race car with this Tequila Comisario Chevrolet Camaro and I got a little too aggressive on the tree.”

The 24-year-old from Denver, North Carolina, had driven her Titan Racing Engines-powered Camaro to the No. 13 qualifying position which had relegated her to the least desirable lane in the first round against the No. 4 qualifier.   Despite the result, an upbeat Caruso now will prepare for her first pro appearance in the Labor Day U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind.

“This was a good weekend for us and we are moving in the right direction,” she said.   “We have points-and-a-half (available) in Indy and we will be looking to get our first win at the U.S. Nationals and move up in the points.”

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JOHN FORCE AND PEAK CHEVY RUNNER-UP AT HEARTLAND MOTORSPORTS PARK

TOPEKA, KS – For the 264th time in his career, John Force made a final round appearance in his PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS. The 16-time champion finished runner-up Sunday at the Menards NHRA Nationals at Heartland Motorsports Park. Robert Hight had the Automobile Club of Southern California Chevy in the semifinals while Brittany Force in the Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac dragster and Austin Prock in the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist dragster had first round exits.

Eliminations started with some confusion on the starting line for John Force and the PEAK Chevy Camaro. Against Cruz Pedregon, both competitors would stage deep then Pedregon would leave too early for a red-light disqualification. Force didn’t immediately move off the line but eventually idled his way down track at 23.671-seconds and 53.29 mph for the win.

Against Ron Capps in the second round, Force and the PEAK Chevy would have to chase the reigning world champion down, managing to do so near the lights. Force would pick up the win with a 4.033-second pass at 318.77 mph to Capps’ 4.047 at 312.21, making the margin of victory only .0008-seconds.

In the semifinals, Force and the PEAK Chevy would compete with teammate Robert Hight and the Auto Club Chevy for the 63rd time in their careers. Force would shift the scale to 30-33 with a 4.000-second run at 321.27 mph that defeated Hight’s 4.052 at 309.780.

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J.R. Todd Turns Focus to Brainerd

Topeka, KS – Through two days of qualifying J.R. Todd and the DHL Toyota GR Supra battled hot temperatures and tricky track conditions. At the conclusion of Saturday’s two qualifying sessions Todd posted runs quick enough to land him just outside the top half of the qualified field sitting in the No. 8 spot out of fourteen Funny Cars at Heartland Motorsports Park. His quickest elapsed time of qualifying 3.986 seconds at 323.50 mph set him up with a first round match-up against Toyota teammate Alexis DeJoria.

On Sunday morning looking to advance to his second consecutive final round of the season and at Heartland Motorsports Park Todd, last year’s Topeka finalist, was eager to get the first round underway. The two Toyota GR Supras executed their burnouts and they rolled in to stage their 11,00 horsepower racecars. In advance of the tree flashing DeJoria leapt off the starting line -.049 early triggering a redlight disqualification. Todd made a smooth quick pass in his lane. Unfortunately, during the post-race technical inspection process, NHRA officials disqualified Todd’s run due to one of the headers being out of tolerance by a small margin.

Todd and the DHL Toyota GR Supra will be back on track in one week at the Brainerd Nationals. Todd will remain in sixth place in the Camping World Drag Racing Series point standings with two races remaining in the regular season.

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ASHLEY CLOSES POINTS GAP WITH SEMIFINAL FINISH AT TOPEKA

TOPEKA, KS – With former Heartland Motorsports Park track record-holder and barrier-breaker Jim Epler looking on, Justin Ashley drove his Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster powered by Vita C Energy into the semifinals at the 33rd Menard’s NHRA Nationals presented by Pet Armor before losing to three-time former world champion Antron Brown with whom his team maintains a technical alliance.

“There were a lot of positives on and off the race track this weekend,” said the 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year.   “We had a lot of people from Phillips Connect and a lot of people from Velociti and that was really important to our program.  In terms of our performance on the race track, we didn’t accomplish our ultimate goal, which is to win the race, but you have to stack round wins and a semifinal finish is something we feel really good about.  We have to keep the pressure on with two races left before the Countdown.”

Although he was disappointed that he couldn’t get his Phillips Connect dragster to the final round for a fifth time this year, he was happy for Brown’s success.

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Doug Kalitta Drops Narrow Decision In KalittaAir.com/careers Dragster

Topeka, KS – In a classic battle between two of the sport’s heavyweights, Doug Kalitta came up .011 of a second short against eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher in the first round of the 33rd Menard’s NHRA Nationals today at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kansas.

The result denied the veteran driver of the Mac Tools/Toyota a chance to take a specialty design KalittaAir.com/careers dragster to the winners’ circle in a race in which he had won two times previously and in which cousin Scott won a record six times for Kalitta Motorsports.

“We had a really cool-looking race car this weekend promoting KalittaAir.com/careers,” Kalitta said.  “I wish we could have put it in the winners’ circle.  The guys gave me a really good car and we made a good run.  It just didn’t go our way today.”

The 49-time tour winner enters this week’s Brainerd Nationals at Brainerd, MN, in eighth place in Camping World points with just two events in which to improve his standing and his starting position in the Countdown to the Championship.

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Langdon Falls to No. 1 Qualifier At Menard’s Nationals

Topeka, KS – The DHL Toyota Top Fuel dragster and Shawn Langdon raced into the quarterfinals today at the 33rd Menard’s NHRA Nationals presented by Pet Armor before No. 1 qualifier Mike Salinas ended his bid for a second victory at Heartland Motorsports Park.

Langdon, who won the Menard’s Nationals in 2013, took out Clay Millican in a virtual dead heat first round decided by one ten thousandth of a second before his yellow dragster lost traction against Salinas.

When qualifying begins for the Brainerd Nationals this Friday at Brainerd, Minn., the former world champion will start 27 points out of fifth place with just two races remaining before the totals are adjusted for the Countdown to the Championship.

“Tough conditions to run a fuel car,” Langdon said, “but that was a great race with Clay in round one.  I don’t think either of us knew who won it.  I just wish we had had a little more for Salinas.  We need to make up as much ground as we can at Brainerd and Indy (the Labor Day US Nationals) to give use the best starting spot in the playoffs.  We’re not that far out of fifth so we’ll be trying to close that gap this week.”

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HART RIDES NO. 3 START TO QUARTERFINAL FINISH

TOPEKA, KS – Racing today from the lofty No. 3 qualifying position, Josh Hart drove the R+L Carriers Top Fuel dragster into the quarterfinals before losing to three-time former world champion Antron Brown in the 33rd Menard’s NHRA Nationals presented by Pet Armor at Heartland Motorsports Park. Through two days of qualifying Hart along with crew chief and business partner Ron Douglas made the most of their passes on a hot and tricky racetrack. His 3.766 second pass at 310.41 mph was one-thousandth of a second from the No. 2 spot giving the driver from Ocala, Florida confidence going into race day.

After equaling the best starting position of his Top Fuel career, Hart drove the R+L Carriers Top Fuel dragster past Austin Prock and the Montana Brand dragster out of the John Force Racing stable in round one.

“We made the most of qualifying,” said the two-time tour winner, “and starting the day in the top four is a good spot.  We are going to keep improving and working to get our first No. 1 qualifier.  The first round win was big and those are the kind of wins that motivate you.  If you want to race for the championship like we do we are going to do everything we can to qualify as high as possible and win as many rounds as possible. There is a lot of tough competition out here but we are a tough car to beat as well.”

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First Round Exit a Learning Experience For Hull and His Team

TOPEKA, KS – Top Fuel driver and team owner Buddy Hull extended his Camping World qualifying streak at the wheel of the Vertex Roofing and General Contractors Top Fuel dragster before dropping a first round decision to championship contender and No. 2 qualifier Justin Ashley in the 33rd Menards Nationals presented by Pet Armor at Heartland Motorsports Park.

With the support of a host of associate sponsors including DFW RV Center, Lucky’s Diesel Shop, CamperLife Superstore, Roof 4 Vets and 1st Class Graphics, Hull now has qualified for every event he has entered in 2022: the season opening Winternationals in Pomona, California, the Spring Nationals in Houston, Texas and, now, the Menard’s Nationals.

Although the Texan was victimized in round one by a mechanical issue, he said the experience was just part of the learning process, especially for a new team like his own.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a brand new team or a team that has been out here a lot of years,” he said.  “We are on the edge of performance with these cars.  Austin Prock (a member of the John Force Racing juggernaut) is a great example. They have an incredible program, extremely well-funded, and they are hurting engines. I don’t know if this is a new team’s growing pains issue or if it is a nitromethane racecar situation.  These engines are the real deal and basically controlled bombs. When they go out there and they smoke the tires that soon (as was the case in today’s first round), they are going to blow up. That is just going to happen, there is nothing you can do about it.

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Rini, Tanner, Pluchino, Stewart, Essick and Whetstine Find Winner’s Circle at PDRA Northern Nationals

MOHNTON, PA – Just four weeks after Chris Rini scored his long-awaited first victory in Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous, the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) veteran raced his way to the winner’s circle yet again Saturday night at the Summit Racing Equipment Northern Nationals presented by Penske Racing Shocks. Racing at Maple Grove Raceway, Rini squared off against three-time world champion Jim Halsey in the final round, running a 3.73-second pass at 202 MPH to get the win.

Along with Rini, the pro class winners were Preston Tanner in WS Construction Pro Boost presented by P2 Contracting and Ty-Drive, Johnny Pluchino in Liberty’s Gears Extreme Pro Stock presented by AED Competition, Daryl Stewart in $hameless Racing Pro 632, and Tim Essick in Menscer Motorsports Pro Street presented by AFCO. Essick’s crew chief, Dan Whetstine, earned his first victory in the PDRA’s new small-tire class, AFCO Super Street presented by Menscer Motorsports.

Sportsman event wins went to Joe Roubicek in MagnaFuel Elite Top Sportsman presented by US Rail, Phil Mollicella in Lucas Oil Elite Top Dragster presented by Laris Motorsports Insurance, Al Davidowski in MagnaFuel Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers, and Fred Denight in Lucas Oil Top Dragster presented by Laris Motorsports Insurance. Pennsylvania’s own Jason Amey won in Edelbrock Bracket Bash presented by COMP Cams, using a 5.133 on a 5.13 dial-in to beat defending event winner Joe Ithier and his 5.202 on a 5.20 dial-in.

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HIGH TEMPERATURES AT HEARTLAND MOTORSPORTS PARK NO MATCH FOR JOHN FORCE RACING TEAMS

TOPEKA, KS – The Heartland Motorsports Park racetrack reached temperatures over 140 degrees Saturday at the Menards NRHA Nationals. The heat did little to deter the performance of No. 2 qualifier Robert Hight’s Automobile Club of Southern California Chevy Camaro SS and No. 3 qualifier John Force’s PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevy Camaro. In Top Fuel, Brittany Force’s Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac dragster, sitting No. 6, didn’t miss a beat and No. 14 qualifier Austin Prock’s Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist dragster found improvement as well.

Robert Hight and the Auto Club team have no issues during their second qualifying run going 4.023 at 314.83 mph, the quickest of the Funny Car pack in the heat of the day. The Auto Club Camaro continued on-trend going 3.964 at 320.89 and ended the session as the second quickest. Hight picked up a total of five bonus points for his performance on Saturday and enter race day from No. 2 to face Jim Campbell in the first round.

“Really good day for the Auto Club team. This combination has really been good for us. Jimmy Prock and Chris Cunningham, they’ve figured it out in the heat. We’ve been consistent,” Hight said. “It’s hard not to be confident heading into tomorrow. The competition in Funny Car is so close though, we can’t let up. We have to strive for perfection and these Auto Club Chevy guys, they’re up for it.”

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