Thousands create sellout crowd for Dinwiddie NHRA weekend

Contributed Report | Twitter: @DinwiddieMonitr
June 16, 2018 | 1:25 p.m.

DINWIDDIE – Dinwiddie County welcomed the National Hot Rod Association back to Virginia Motorsports Park with open arms and full seats as the week’s Virginia NHRA Nationals drew a massive crowd Saturday.

NHRA and Virginia Motorsports Park officials announced a sellout crowd for Saturday qualifications at the Virginia NHRA Nationals in Dinwiddie, Va.

NHRA returned to the facility, owned by Tommy and Judy Franklin, for the first time since 2009. Numerous facility upgrades, including a completely new racing surface, drew fans from Richmond and the surrounding areas.

“To be able to host all these dedicated NHRA fans and sellout the facility during our first event shows the growth and popularity of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing,” said Tommy Franklin. “The staff at Virginia Motorsports Park has worked nonstop to get the facility prepared for the event and we are thrilled with the results.”

This is the fifth sellout day of the 2018 season.

Tony Schumacher’s machine had plenty of eyes on it Saturday at Dinwiddie’s Virginia Motorsports Park as a sellout crowd attended the Virginia NHRA Nationals, the first time the series had been back in the county since 2009. (NHRA)

Before the rains descended across Southside Virginia, Courtney Force was able to build on her points lead in the Funny Car category at the Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park as she brought home her fourth Funny Car victory of the season.

Steve Torrence (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock), and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also winners in their respective categories at the 10th of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Force’s 4.039-second pass at 321.96 mph in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS was enough to take down her father, John Force, in the final round on Sunday.

“It was really exciting for us to be part of an all John Force Racing final, but to have my team tuning this car so well all weekend helped get us a win here,” Force said. “We just have to maintain our focus throughout the season and keep performing well as a driver as we prepare for the Countdown to the Championship.”

This marked the 50th time in the history of John Force Racing that two team cars faced off in the final. She took down Jeff Diehl, Jim Campbell, and J.R. Todd on her road to victory.

Torrence powered to the Top Fuel win with a run of 3.812 at 322.96 in his Capco Contractors dragster to take down Doug Kalitta in the finals. The current points leader in the class notched his fourth victory of the year and the 20th of his career in his 200th race as a Top Fuel competitor.

“We didn’t qualify exactly where we wanted to, but at the end of the day we were in the right spot to win the race so I was proud of my team,” Torrence said. “This is one of the best racetracks I’ve ever been down because it’s so smooth, I really enjoyed coming back here where my Top Fuel career started.”

Torrence qualified sixth for the event and defeated Scott Palmer, Terry McMillen, and Antron Brown en route to victory.

Kalitta secured his second runner-up of the season and first since Charlotte, as he is still aiming for his first win since the season-opening Pomona event.

Gray was able to take down two-time world champion Erica Enders in the final round for his seventh career victory and second of the season. His 6.595 at 208.81 in his Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro made him just the second Pro Stock competitor to reach the winner’s circle twice in 2018.

“Every time we match up with Erica it makes for some good racing, it’s a lot of fun getting to race the two-time champion,” Gray said. “It means a lot to get a win in my first time at the track, so it’s fun to get a win here in Virginia especially since it isn’t far from my home.”

He took down Kenny Delco, Vincent Nobile, and Drew Skillman to lock down the win.

Enders now has three runner-up finishes on the year to go along with a victory in Charlotte, as her four final rounds are the most in the class in 2018.

Tonglet earned his first victory of the season in Pro Stock Motorcycle, using a 6.841 at 196.76 on his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki to take down points leader Andrew Hines in the finals.

“Getting this win was huge, especially going against a Harley-Davidson bike because we know they are always going to be tough to beat,” Tonglet said. “Our bike is just flying and is fun to ride right now.”

Sunday brought the NHRA’s best to Virginia Motorsports Park’s winners circle, capping off a packed weekend of action during the Virginia NHRA Nationals. (NHRA)

After qualifying fifth, he bested John Hall, defending champion Eddie Krawiec, and No. 1 qualifier Hector Arana Jr. to notch the win.

Hines now has three runner-up appearances on the season, as he still chases his first win of the year.

In addition, Mike Janis secured his fifth career victory Sunday during the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by presented by J&A Service portion of the Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park. This weekend’s Pro Mod racing, presented by the Real Pro Mod Association, was the fifth of 12 events this season.

Janis used a 5.821-second pass at 246.26 mph in his AAP/Mike Janis Superchargers ‘69 Camaro to take down Mike Castellana in the final round.

“Coming into this race it had been so long since we were in the winner’s circle, but we had a solid car all weekend and we put it all together today,” Janis said. “We feel really good going into Bristol as we start off this three-in-a-row stretch.”

Janis moved past Rickie Smith to take over the Pro Mod points lead with his victory.

Castellana’s 6.002 pass at 246.93 gave him his first runner-up finish of the season as he now sits fifth in the standings.

Leaving Dinwiddie, The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service seasons continue at Bristol Dragway in Bristol, Tenn. from June 15-17.

Copyright 2018 by Womack Publishing
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