event: Ninth Annual NHRA Carolina Nationals
when: September 16-18, 2016
where: zMAX Dragway, Concord, NC, USA

Chip Ellis WINS at zMAX

photos by Tim Hailey and Mike Leget (where noted), story by Hailey with a lil' help from the NHRA and team reports

The Pippin Power Trio, left to right—Lon Moyer, Chip Ellis and Brad Moore—pose with Wally in the zMAX winners circle

Chip Ellis rode his PiranaZ/Pippin Motorsports Buell to a 6.879 at 194.88 to defeat Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Andrew Hines and his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley Davidson at the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, NC. Hines, whose team was a behind the tune-up all weekend, ran a 6.908 at 193.49 in the final.

Ellis has seven wins in his Pro Stock Motorcycle career. His last win came in Englishtown, N.J. in 2008. “I’m ecstatic with our performance today,” Ellis said. “I did get a couple breaks today against Angelle (Sampey) when her bike broke and LE (Tonglet) had some issue or else he probably would have beat us. As a racer, some days you just have a feeling where today’s the day and today’s the day.”

In the earlier rounds, Ellis defeated Shawn Gann, Tonglet and No. 1 qualifier Sampey to reach the finals. Hines rode past Melissa Surber, Steve Johnson and Jim Underdahl before falling to Ellis. He maintains the points lead and Ellis jumps to the number two spot. Much more about Ellis and Pippin's win coming soon.

Antron Brown (near lane) beat Doug Kalitta in a Top Fuel tool truck battle

Antron Brown piloted his Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster to victory. Brown claimed his 59th career victory, and fifth of the season, with a 3.763-second pass at 319.29 mph in his dragster to defeat Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools machine, 3.811 at 320.28. It is Brown’s second consecutive win at the NHRA Carolina Nationals, the opening event of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. In 2015, Brown went on to win the Top Fuel World Championship.

“I’m dreaming right now, someone needs to come and pinch me,” Brown said. ”When you come here, this is the way you want to start the Countdown off. Qualifying didn’t go the way we wanted it. We just kept digging. That was the key, to keep digging. The track was the hottest that we have had all year long. We knew it was going to be tricky. We navigated down it and we did what we had to do.”

Before picking up the victory over Kalitta, Brown faced down Clay Millican, Brittany Force, and Pat Dakin. Kalitta, the No. 1 qualifier, had to defeat Ike Maier, Leah Pritchett and Wayne Newby to reach the finals. Brown remains on top of the points with Kalitta in second.

John Force (far lane) and Tommy Johnson Jr. burn out for the final

John Force, a 16-time world champion, powered his PEAK Antifreeze Chevy Camaro Funny Car to a 3.946 at 324.05 pass to defeat No. 1 qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr. and his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T’s 3.987 at 315.71 run for his 146th career win, third of the season and second overall at zMAX Dragway. The win propels Force into third in the points standings.

“It’s stadiums like this that really create the magic in your heart and you really want to race and we had a good day,” Force said. “I’ve got a race car now that I can race with and when you have a race car and you’re on your game, I ain’t great, but I’m good. But when I’m on my game, I can win.”

On his way to the win, Force defeated Dave Richards, Tim Wilkerson, and points leader Ron Capps. Johnson Jr. raced past Bob Gilbertson, national record holder Matt Hagan and defending champion Del Worsham before facing Force. Despite a semifinal exit, Capps maintains the points lead. Johnson Jr. is now fourth.

Jason Line (near lane) took the PS final over teammate Greg Anderson

For Jason Line in Pro Stock, this is his eighth win of the season. He raced his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to a winning pass of 6.621 at 209.39 to defeat Summit Racing Equipment teammate Greg Anderson and his Camaro’s losing run of 6.639 at 209.20.

“It was a great day for us,” Line said, “To be sitting here is a great feeling. It’s a great way to start the countdown. If you want to win the championship you have to come out smoking and somehow we were able to do that today.”

Line, a two-time world champion, powered past Shane Tucker, teammate Bo Butner and Vincent Nobile before defeating Anderson who picked up wins against Alan Prusiensky, Chris McGaha and Alex Laughlin in the earlier rounds. The teammates remain one and two in the points standings, respectively.

Bob Rahaim raced to his third final round and his first win of the season in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the NHRA Carolina Nationals. Rahaim raced Mike Castellana in the final for the win with a pass of 6.349-seconds at 207.85 to the trailing run of 9.322 at 94.55. He defeated Chip King, Kevin Rivenbark, and Danny Rowe then Castellana for his first victory since Gainesville in 2015.

“I’m very thankful to be here. I’m proud of the whole team. This was our third final and - it’s just amazing,” said Rahaim. “The crew prepared the car flawlessly and we’re just going A to B. We’re not setting the world on fire. We’re gaining points; it’s about going rounds and here we are.”

With the win Rahaim moves from third into second in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series points behind Rickie Smith who was defeated in the second round.

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing will continue at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., Sept. 23-25.

Sunday's final results from the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway. The race is the 19th of 24 in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel -- Antron Brown, 3.763 seconds, 319.29 mph def. Doug Kalitta, 3.811 seconds, 320.28 mph.

Funny Car -- John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.946, 324.05 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.987, 315.71.

Pro Stock -- Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.621, 209.39 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.639, 209.20.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.879, 194.88 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.908, 193.49.

Pro Modified -- Bob Rahaim, Chevy Corvette, 6.349, 207.85 def. Mike Castellana, Corvette, 9.322, 94.55.

Top Alcohol Dragster -- Shawn Cowie, 5.350, 268.06 def. Rich McPhillips, 5.401, 268.81.

Top Alcohol Funny Car -- DJ Cox Jr., Chevy Camaro, 5.539, 266.53 def. Ulf Leanders, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.605, 264.18.

Competition Eliminator -- Doug Doll Jr., Dragster, 7.438, 155.94 def. Van Puckett, Chevy Cavalier, 8.641, 149.53.

Super Stock -- Peter Biondo, Pontiac Firebird, 9.712, 132.67 def. Jeffery Jewell, Chevy Corvette, 9.722, 138.77.

Stock Eliminator -- C.J. McDonald, Chevy Camaro, 11.990, 94.28 def. Brad Ford, Camaro, Foul - Red Light.

Super Comp -- Ray Miller Jr., Dragster, 8.880, 180.16 def. Steve Hoyt, Dragster, 8.877, 184.67.

Super Gas -- Jason Lynch, Olds Cutlass, 9.909, 161.17 def. Jim Perry, Chevy S-10, 9.923, 166.46.

Top Dragster -- Bob Mandell III, Dragster, 6.442, 206.80 def. Jeff Strickland, Dragster, 7.194, 184.83.

Top Sportsman -- Gerald Milette, Chevy Corvette, 7.077, 188.36 def. Jonathan Gibbs, Chevy Camaro, 7.443, 185.54.


EARLIER: Ellis and Hines in the PSM final

Angelle Sampey and Chip Ellis left the line within .001 of each other before Sampey broke at about 100 feet. With an .065 quicker ET, Ellis will have lane choice againt Andrew Hines in the final.

EARLIER: Sampey Low ET of E2

Turns out it was the rocker arm what went bad in Angelle Sampey's E1 scare. She was .036 behind Hector Arana Jr on the tree in E2 but drove around with a 6.896 low ET of the round

Chip Ellis was .072 to .031 toast against LE Tonglet until LE struggled with a shift at half track. He'll face Sampey in the semis, with Jimmy Ubderdahl and Andrew Hines on the other side

EARLIER: Sampey Survives E1 on the Back Cylinder

In his first ever NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle start, Mark Paquette has neither that big of a lead over Angelle Sampey nor was his redlight that lurid. Paquette did redlight by a scant -.002 against Angelle's .000, but Sampey's S&S V-Twin immediately started pumping smoke out of the front cylinder and finished the pass sounding like a nitro Harley that has dropped a hole, winning with a 10.044 at 97.19 mph

That white nose you see peaking into the frame belongs to Steve Johnson, whose .028 light vs. Jerry Savoie's .067 allowed his 6.92 to beat Savoie's 6.89

Karen Stoffer has been looking a little hang-dogged lately, including most of this weekend. But she put an .011 light on Eddie Krawiec and took the E1 win, as the Vance&Hines/Screamin' Eagle team missed the tune-up on both bikes.

EARLIER: Sampey Qualifies #1 at zMAX

Angelle Sampey's 6.81 leads PSM by a mile

Mark Paquette conferring with LE Tonglet. It might have helped, as Paquette bumped his way into the field in the final round with a 6.99 on the MSR Nitrofish Buell

Abigail Arana took me to task for never posting her picture, so here she is on her dad's birthday

The calm before the storm......

....Matt Hagan provided the day's biggest nitro excitement with this big blow in Q4 Excelent photos courtesy of Mike Leget

Chaz Kennedy made three passes on John Hall's Buell in what amounted to a test session for the former Harry Lartigue/Vance & Hines bike. Chaz had a best of 7.06 with a Gann set of heads in the bike.

Kennedy at speed on the Johnny Balls, B&J Performance Buell

It was graet to see David Hope back at the track, but his race weekend as a teammate to Mike Berry on John Hammock's VRoom team seemed to bring him down. It started with a fuel DQ on both bikes in Q1. According to Hammock, the fuel was purchased new from an Oklahoma Sunoco dealer. A replacement can purchased at zMAX solved the problem but put the team behind and neither bike qualified.