NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, April 28-30, 2017, zMAX Dragway, Concord, North Carolina, USA

LE Tonglet WINS Wacky 4-Wide

video and photos by Tim Hailey, story by Hailey, NHRA and team reports

 

LE Tonglet (near lane) would seemed to have had an exceptional light, but compared to Andrew Hines' .402 in lane 2, even Tonglet's .071 looked exceptional. "I had a great light—if it were like 12 years ago," laughed Hines, referring to the days when perfect lights were .400s.

Scotty Pollacheck had left before the tree came down in the far lane. Staging late and apparently mesmerized by Pollacheck's flickering bulbs, Hines and teammate Eddie Krawiec (with a .317 in lane 3) froze and watched Tonglet streak to the 6.86 holeshot win. Krawiec threw away an .82. Full story coming soon.

LE Tonglet rode his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki to a 6.864 at 195.00 pass to earn his 10th career victory and first of the season in the eighth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at Zmax Dragway. He defeated three-time world champion Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines on his way to his first four-wides win. “It’s just unbelievable what we’ve come through this weekend alone,” Tonglet stated. “With the four-wides you just have to be prepared for anything. You just have to concentrate because if you lose your train of thought it’s going to be bad.” 

This win also marks the first victory for Tonglet since joining the White Alligator Racing headed by Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Jerry Savoie.

Mike Castellana, in the Frank Manzo-tuned AAP blower(!) car, took the 4-wide Pro Mod win against Jonathon Gray (NOS car in lane 1) and two turbo cars.

The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series raced at the Four-Wide for the first time in the history of the category and Mike Castellana powered to the event win. This is the third of 12 events on the schedule and this weekend’s Pro Mod event was co-sponsored by JEGS.com and Plugfones. This is the first win of the season for Castellana and his second final round appearance.“I’ll tell ya, it was awesome,” Castellana said. “First time coming out here, you’re a little worried about how to drive and what’s going to happen. But when you got a team like I do, it just makes everything go real smooth."

Castellana defeated Troy Coughlin, Michael Biehle II and Jonathan Gray in the final. Castellana retains his points lead in the category.

The Top Fuel final with winner Steve Torrence in the Capco car, far lane

Steve Torrence raced his way to the Top Fuel victory, with Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) also winning.

Torrence piloted his Capco Contractors dragster to a 3.783-second pass at 323.89 mph for the ninth victory of his career and first of the season. He defeated current points leader, Leah Pritchett, eight-time world champion, Tony Schumacher and Terry McMillen in the final round.

“This is the same as winning a race that you had to pedal it every round or you had to win it on holeshots,” Torrence stated. “This is a driver’s race. We race 24 races a year and one of them we race four-wide. It’s completely different when you come in here; you’re mentally challenged.”

Funny Car winner Ron Capps

Capps, the current Funny Car world champion, ran a 3.933 at 322.65 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger for his first NHRA Four-Wide Nationals win of his career, second consecutive this season and 52nd of his Funny Car career. Teammate, Jack Beckman took second place, J.R. Todd finished third, and teammate Matt Hagan placed fourth.

“This is a fun race,” Capps said. “I’ve got a great racecar. To be in a car and to have it throw you back with that many g-force and realizing the temperature that track is and still feeling that six g’s and thinking ‘how on God’s earth are these two Goodyear’s (tires) sticking to that ground?’ It’s an amazing feeling.”

With the victory, Capps takes a 43-point lead over his teammate Hagan. 

Drew Skillman (near lane) redlit by .003 in the Pro Stock final. Chris McGaha (lane 2) took the win.

In Pro Stock, McGaha picked up his fifth career victory and first at zMax Dragway when he ran a 6.591 at 210.44 in his Harlow Sammons Chevy Camaro. He bested Greg Anderson, Shane Gray and Drew Skillman in the final round. “Now it looks like we’ve got some momentum and it’s kind of hard to swallow,” McGaha said. “To me, I’ve always said you’ve got to have power to win in this game. You’ve got to have enough smoke to win. This one showed us we have a lot of power and that’s why we came here.” 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 

ROUND ONE – Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.817, 195.99 and LE Tonglet, Suzuki GSXR, 6.829, 195.36 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki TL1000, 6.813, 195.62 and Steve Johnson, TL1000, 6.994, 190.89; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki TL1000R, 6.867, 193.85 and Joey Gladstone, GSXR, 6.888, 194.94 def. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.940, 194.55 and Chip Ellis, Buell XB9R, 6.888, 196.19; Andrew Hines, Harley V-Rod, 6.838,195.11 and Angelle Sampey, Victory, 6.959, 192.96 def. Hector Arana, XB9R, 7.271, 195.34 and Cory Reed, Victory, 10.037, 83.65; Eddie Krawiec, V-Rod, 6.792, 196.22 and Matt Smith, Victory Gunner, 6.924, 192.71 def. Shawn Gann, XB9R, 6.964, 192.14 and Hector Arana Jr, XB9R, 8.210, 113.57;

SEMIFINALS – Tonglet, 6.889, 192.74 and Pollacheck, 6.886, 192.96 def. Gladstone, 6.925, 193.63 and Stoffer, 6.914, 192.38; Hines, 6.868, 195.11 and Krawiec, 6.867, 195.28 def. Sampey, 6.944,193.46 and M. Smith, 6.892, 193.71;

FINAL – Tonglet, 6.864, 195.00 def. Krawiec, 6.821, 195.31, Hines, 6.902, 194.16 and Pollacheck, broke.

PRO MODIFIED: 

ROUND ONE -- Mike Castellana, Chevy Camaro, 5.786, 249.63 and Jim Whiteley, Camaro, 5.836, 248.34 def. Danny Rowe, Chevy Corvette, 6.432, 164.57 and Larry Morgan, Camaro, 8.931, 95.05; Troy Coughlin, Corvette, 5.848, 252.99 and Sidnei Frigo, Corvette, 5.830, 250.46 def. Khalid alBalooshi, Camaro, 5.863, 249.26 and Steve Matusek, Camaro, 5.852, 249.63; Michael Biehle, Ford Mustang, 5.829, 256.36 and Chip King, Dodge Daytona, 5.929, 239.78 def. Steve Jackson, Camaro, 5.949, 244.96 and Shane Molinari, Pontiac Firebird, 5.904, 257.09; Steven Whiteley, Cadillac CTS-V, 5.792, 251.63 and Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 5.858, 248.89 def. Michael Bowman, Chevy Chevelle, 5.810, 255.92 and Pete Farber, Daytona, 14.186, 57.86; SEMIFINALS -- Coughlin, 5.800, 254.57 and Gray, 5.841, 249.39 def. Frigo, 6.099, 245.27 and S. Whiteley, 7.503, 144.86; Castellana, 5.815, 248.48 and Biehle, 5.935, 254.76 def. J. Whiteley, 12.055, 99.73 and King, broke; FINAL -- Castellana, 5.807, 249.35 def. Coughlin, 5.849, 238.55, Gray, 5.826, 250.27 Biehle, 5.895, 254.23.

TOP FUEL: 

ROUND ONE – Steve Torrence, 3.770, 326.56 and Dom Lagana, 3.859, 319.82 def. Scott Palmer, 3.873,323.35 and Troy Coughlin Jr., 10.347, 84.52; Leah Pritchett, 3.737, 316.23 and Clay Millican, 3.743, 320.97 def. Terry Haddock, 4.292, 218.51 and Shawn Langdon, 5.211, 145.67; Antron Brown, 3.763, 326.08 and Tony Schumacher, 4.374, 247.52 def. Ike Maier, 4.387, 185.82 and Pat Dakin, 11.899, 61.87; Doug Kalitta, 3.751, 324.44 and Terry McMillen, 4.346, 262.64 def.  Brittany Force, 9.446, 80.41, Chris Karamesines, broke;

SEMIFINALS – Schumacher, 3.792, 327.74 and McMillen, 3.832, 316.52 def. Kalitta, 4.202, 230.37 and Brown, 6.933, 100.67; Pritchett, 3.756, 323.27 and Torrence, 3.774, 326.71 def. Lagana, 3.889,316.97 and Millican, 5.134, 145.30;

FINAL – Torrence, 3.783, 323.89 def. Schumacher, 3.874, 309.13, Pritchett, 3.796, 318.84 and McMillen, 4.650, 171.23.

FUNNY CAR: 

ROUND ONE – Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 3.986, 322.65 and J.R. Todd, Camry, 7.767, 257.28 def.Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 7.939, 118.58 and Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, DQ; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.884, 327.66 and Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.025, 316.23 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.288, 314.31 and Jim Campbell, Charger, 6.712, 98.34; John Force, Camaro, 3.937, 309.20 and Ron Capps, Charger, 3.926, 322.65 def. Chad Head, Camry, 4.451, 280.54 and Del Worsham, Camry, 4.843, 189.90; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.930, 330.07 and Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.336, 267.59 def.Bob Bode, Charger, 4.530, 202.85 and Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 9.393, 87.27;

SEMIFINALS – Hagan, 3.983, 325.77 and Todd, 4.036, 281.54 def. Lindberg, 4.418, 267.69 and Wilkerson, 6.193, 108.07; Capps, 3.920, 323.43 and Beckman, 3.991, 316.38 def. Hight, 4.012, 318.39 and J. Force, 5.618, 128.54;

FINAL – Capps, 3.933, 322.65 def. Beckman, 3.959, 320.05, Todd, 4.103, 307.72 and Hagan, 8.820, 93.67.

PRO STOCK: 

ROUND ONE – Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.601, 210.24 and Jason Line, Camaro, 6.594, 210.67 def.Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.612, 209.26 and Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.645, 209.39; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.598, 210.87 and Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.627, 209.23 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.617, 209.98 and Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.632, 209.33; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.596, 210.28 and Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.650, 208.36 def. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.709, 204.98 and Erica Enders, Camaro, DQ; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.612, 209.07 and Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.601, 210.77 def. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.568, 209.52 and John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, broke;

SEMIFINALS – Anderson, 6.606, 210.60 and S. Gray, 6.618, 209.26 def. Laughlin, 6.631, 209.23 and T. Gray, 6.623, 209.65; McGaha, 6.586, 210.47 and Skillman, 6.612, 209.59 def. Nobile, 6.624,

209.39 and Line, 6.616, 209.49;

FINAL – McGaha, 6.591, 210.44 def. Anderson, 6.614, 209.56, S. Gray, 6.648, 209.33 and Skillman, foul.

Top Alcohol Dragster – Shawn Cowie, 5.328, 272.94  def. Justin Ashley, 5.362, 273.39.

Top Alcohol Funny Car – Johan Lindberg, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.551, 260.66  def. Steve Gasparrelli, Chevy Camaro, 5.602, 261.93.

Competition Eliminator – Bruno Massel, Chevy Cobalt, 7.024, 179.35  def. Patrick Ross, Pontiac Grand Am, 7.749, 174.68.

Super Stock – Peter Biondo, Pontiac Firebird, 9.680, 127.86  def. Joe Lisa, Chevy Camaro, 10.356, 128.48.

Stock Eliminator – Kyle Kohr, Chevy Camaro, 10.737, 117.25  def. Jeff Hairrington, Ford Mustang, 10.165, 130.78.

Factory Stock Showdown – Peter Gasko Jr, Chevy Camaro, 8.262, 164.23  def. David Barton, Camaro, 8.227, 164.91.

Super Comp – John Labbous Jr, Dragster, 8.909, 167.43  def. Franklin DiBartolomeo, Dragster, 8.916, 164.61.

Super Gas – John Labbous Jr, Chevy Corvette, 9.895, 156.50  def. Matt Tankersley, Pontiac GTO, 9.883, 154.63.

Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs.com – Ivey Brannon, Dragster, 7.148, 183.37  def. Alan Kenny, Dragster, 6.243, 218.41.

EARLIER: 4-Wide Final Comin' UP

4-Wide Meister Andrew Hines returns to the final with a 6.868—.001 behind teammate Eddie Krawiec. Scott Pollacheck and LE Tonglet also made the final with 6.886 and 6.889 respectively. This is gonna be one helluva 4-wide final! 

EARLIER: Cruel, Cruel Bite of the 4-Wide

First the good news for everyone pitting with the Underdahl, Stoffer, San Marino camp—all advanced to E2. Now the bad news—riders Joey Gladstone (above) , Scotty Pollacheck and Karen Stoffer all line up against each other and LE Tonglet in the next foursome.

This photo tells the bad news story for Chip Ellis. We have a great view of Gladstone's bike because Chip's bike is not blocking it in the near lane. The reason for that is Joey's .031 reaction time was .099 better than Chip's .130. Angie Smith also failed to advance on the Denso Buell.

This picture is surely worth 1000 words but I'll throw some out there anyway. #1 qualifier Jerry Savoie (far lane) had low ET of the quad but a .108 light. Steve Johnson (near lane) was very slow with a 6.99. Scotty Pollacheck was the hare—an .029 light and only .004 slower than Savoie with a 6.817. Pollacheck and LE Tonglet (3rd lane) advanced.

There are no 4-Wide Blues at the Vance & Hines/Screamin' Eagle trailer, where Eddie Krawiec (above) ran low ET of the meet so far with a 6.792 in E1. Andrew Hines advanced with a 6.838. Both are miles ahead in performance vs their E2 foursome opponents Matt Smith and Angelle Sampey.

EARLIER: Champion Savoie #1 for 4-Wide

Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Jerry Savoie

NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Jerry Savoie will start the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at Concord, North Carolina’s zMAX Dragway as the number one qualifier. “I never think anything is perfect, but we got what was out there, mostly,” crew chief/tuner Tim Kulungian said about the White Alligator Racing (WAR) team’s qualifying performance.

The third qualifying round saw Savoie’s bike bitten by the curse of new bodywork. His brand new Suzuki TL1000 body was hit by a chunk of something on the track that made his run squirrelly, punched a hole in the body, and slowed his pass. 

“If you even miss a shift point by 150 rpm with one of these Suzukis, or if there’s any disturbance in the seat—it just knocks the wind out of it,” said Savoie. “Then in round four we kinda stepped it up a bit and ran with the rest of them. We didn’t improve, but conditions weren’t as good.”

And no one else improved enough to better Savoie’s 6.824 at 196.24 mph from Q2 and knock the Louisiana alligator farmer off of his perch at the top of the field for Sunday’s unique Four-Wide eliminations.

“Tim’s got a good handle on this bike. It’s predictable. When he makes changes, it responds.”

LE Tonglet’s Nitrofish Suzuki

The team is trying to get that same level of predictability and performance out of teammate LE Tonglet’s Nitrofish Suzuki. After a motor change to try and solve a persistent clutch problem, Tonglet’s bike broke a gear on the vacuum pump, costing him ET on his final run. 

“Having two bikes is definitely a lot of work,” said Kulungian. “Once they both start going fast consistently, maybe we can see a common denominator between the two. But for now, it’s all hands on deck to try and get LE’s bike going fast. It’s gonna take ‘til Englishtown or after to feel like we have something that’s really predictable and reap the benefit of having two motorcycles, up to speed, and going fast.

“We’re doing everything we can to get LE’s bike as competitive as we can. We’re working diligently.”

WAR crew chief/tuner Tim Kulungian

Savoie has no doubt about that. “I’ve got one helluva crew chief, and I’ve got a good team too,” said Jerry. “He works his butt off and he loves going fast. If I do a better job, we win races. I’m confident.”

“So far this year we’re doing exceptionally well,” said Kulungian. “We’ve got a few things we have to work on, but overall it’s a pretty competitive program. But this is a tough race. These races are tough. I know Jerry’s wearing the green number one qualifier’s hat tonight, so for me to sit here and say it’s tough—it really is.”

Savoie, Tonglet, Kulungian and the WAR team will show just how tough they are in one of NHRA’s toughest races on Sunday. Jerry and LE will have to race each other in their round 1 foursome, along with Steve Johnson and Scotty Pollacheck. A bummer perhaps, but as Tonglet points out, “Hey, it’s the only race where two guys can advance out of the match-up.”

Ellis Places Pippin Power 4th for Four-Wide

Chip Ellis qualified the Junior Pippin EBR fourth with a best of 6.852 at 194.69 mph, but Chip knows his piece is even better than that for raceday. “The bike was better than the rider today,” said Ellis. “I short shifted a couple of gears both runs and left something to be desired.

“I think the motorcycle’s pretty good, we just need to work on the clutch tune-up a little bit. We’ll go from there and see what we’ve got.”

Eight years into this format, NHRA Mello Yello racers still struggle with the challenge of staging four-wide, but not so much Ellis. “Once everybody’s pre-staged, it’s like a light show up there, man. But I’m cool with it. You just gotta go up there and take your time. I think the biggest thing is everybody’s in a hurry. It’s a challenge, but you gotta accept it for what it is. It’s how we’re gonna race tomorrow and I’m up for a challenge.”

Chip and daughter McKenzie

Sharp dressed man Ellis will be taking the tree for E1 in his brand new, black-tie Bates Leathers. His first round foursome will include number five qualifier Joey Gladstone, number twelve Karen Stoffer, and thirteenth Angie Smith.

Ellis took a dramatic win at September’s NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX. “We always race pretty well here,” noted Chip, who’s hoping to show what Pippin Power can do and have a similar result at this event. 

“I want to thank Mr. Pippin for giving me the opportunity to ride this amazing motorcycle,” finished Ellis. “And my crew chief Lon Moyer for doing a great job, the guys back at the shop, Brad Moore the engine builder, Matt Kennedy, Scott Deyoung, and Ken Bingham—one of the best consultants in the business. He’s top secret, an old NASCAR guy. He used to build engines for Hendrick’s back in the day. He’s a sharp individual and a good guy to have in our corner.”

Junior Pippin and Chip Ellis would like to thank PiranaZ http://www.piranaz.net , Junior Pippin Trucking,  Paul Bost Trucking, B&R Automotive, Adams Performance https://www.adamsperformance.net, Lisa Pippin, and Lon Moyer, and Brad Moore of Competition Engine Services.

EARLIER: Savoie Still #1 After 3 at 4wide

The Harleys, led by Eddie Krawiec's 6.84 at 196, had low ETs and high MPH by a mile in the heat of Q3

Sharp dressed man Chip Ellis sits third on the Junior Pippin EBR and figures he's got the bike to go to #1. That will be near impossible in the raging heat today at zMAX unless a coolong shower moves in, but there is always raceday for Chip to show what Pippin Power can do.

LE Tonglet sits 8th with a 6.88 on the WAR Nitrofish Suzuki, still struggling with the bike blowing through the clutch

No one spots a camera in the crowd better than Susan Pollacheck....unless it's Matt Smith....Here Susan's riding back from Q3 with Chris Clontz. Her man Scotty Pollacheck sits 11th

WAR's Jeremy Deroche getting up on the handlebars as he speeds up to retrieve Jerry Savoie after Q3

EARLIER: Savoie Number 1 on Friday at zMAX

Front to back: Jerry Savoie, LE Tonglet, Joey Gladstone and Shawn Gann

Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Jerry Savoie and the White Alligator Racing (WAR) team unloaded hot at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at Concord, North Carolina’s zMAX Dragway, then stayed that way through the end of the day to hold the provisional number one qualifier. Savoie will have two more rounds to defend his number one spot before the unique Four-Wide eliminations begin on Sunday. 

Savoie ran 6.849 at 195.79 mph to lead the first qualifying session by nearly 4/100ths of a second, then improved in Q2 to a 6.824 at 196.24. 

Savoie’s Suzuki TL1000 body is brand new this weekend, and even though it’s a duplicate of his championship winning body, it fits slightly different. “Tim (WAR tuner Tim Kulungian) told me before we got here that, because this body hadn’t been in the wind tunnel, we might not run so well this weekend.” Thankfully for Savoie and the team, Kulungian was just being cautious. 

“The other body might have been a little faster, who knows. But hats off to Tim and the crew. I’m just a rider. I’m sure there’s someone else that could do just as well if they had my bike and this team. Those guys are great and they get the credit.”

Savoie’s teammate LE Tonglet sat third after Q1 with a 6.894 on his Nitrofish Suzuki and, despite improving slightly to a 6.880, fell to sixth in Q2. “We’ve been having a problem with the bike blowing through the clutch on LE’s bike,” said Savoie. “They’re supposed to be identical bikes, but there are differences. We’ll get it figured out.”

Savoie, who qualified number one at the PSM opener in Gainesville, is excited to be starting out the season with class-leading performance. “If you look back over the years since Tim and started working together, we’ve always started out slow.”

Whether it was switching to fuel injection or the switch in fuel brands made by the NHRA, the WAR team has always started previous season on the back foot. Now with a championship trophy in hand and a fast bike out of the box, the rest of the PSM field had better watch out as the WAR team has started 2017 moving forward and punching. 

Jerry Savoie thanks everyone at Vance & Hines , PJ1 , Mr. Race Oil , Motec  , Denso Spark Plugs  , Kenny Koretsky and Nitrofish , tuner Tim Kulungian, crewmen Jeremy Deroche, Steve Zelem, and Chris Parker, his whole family, and the staff of Savoie Alligator Farm.

Harleys are always good at zMAX, and Eddie Krawiec slotted into second in the order, followed by Chip Ellis on the Junior Pippn Buell and Joey Gladstone on the San Marino Excavating Suzuki.

"Joey Gladstone is no one hit wonder!" exclaimed a proud Skip Gladstone, and indeed all of us in the MC drag racing world already knew this. What wasn't so well-known was Joe Riccardi's skills as a tuner and the quality of the piece he's tuning on.

Riccardi's weekend started poorly, with his rig burning holes in two pistons on the way down from Michigan. Hey, lay off the blue bottle Joe! $3200 in towing costs later, Riccardi responded with keeping his mind on the job and delivering the bike Gladstone needed to make a statement.

The family's back together! Johnny "Balls" Hall is back on an MSR Buell this weekend. Left to right: Angie and Matt Smith, Tyler Wilson and John Hall. Now I can look forward to Thanksgiving again!

Results from zMAX

 

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