NHRA Southern Nationals-Dixon, Coughlin, Hight, Hines winners
Dixon, a three-time winner in Atlanta (1996, 2002, 2003), got win No. 4 on Brandon Bernstein’s -.003 red-light in the final, but looked good doing it with a solid 3.91 to complete a wire-to-wire win.
Dixon reached the final round again here, and did it in effortless-looking style. Racing from the No. 1 spot, Dixon’s Jason McCulloch-tuned Al-Anabi dragster with runs of 3.87, 3.88, and 3.89 to beat Steve Torrence, T.J. Zizzo, and, in a huge match, Tony Schumacher. Dixon’s victory over traction-plagued Schumacher evened their season score at 2-2 and avenged his loss to Schumacher two weeks ago in Madison. The final was the 96th of Dixon’s career.
Hight, whose season got off to a rocky start with just four round wins in the first six events, earned his second straight Funny Car Wally by defeating teammate Ashley Force Hood in the final, 4.18 to 4.23. It’s the 16th win of his career. Over the course of the weekend, Force Hood moved to second in points and Hight to third, both trailing team patriarch John Force for a 1-2-3 lead for the team.
Hight, winner of the tour’s most recent event two weeks ago in Madison, reached his 28th career final round with the Auto Club Mustang from the No. 2 spot with a series of 4-teen passes – a pair of 4.182s and a 4.197 in the semifinals to earn lane choice – en route to beating Melanie Troxel, Tim Wilkerson, and defending event champ Jack Beckman.
Force Hood, who scored her breakthrough Funny Car win here in 2008, was runner-up here last year, and also won here in Alcohol Dragster here in 2006 continued her love affair with Atlanta by reaching the final round, the 15th of her young career. Force Hood’s Castrol GTX Mustang, the low qualifier, got a free pass in round one when Jeff Diehl’s mount was shut off on the line, but then beat a pair of Mustangs – her dad’s Castrol GTX Ford and technology teammate Bob Tasca III’s Motorcraft Shelby – to reach the final round. Her victory over Tasca came on a holeshot, 4.241 to 4.232.
Coughlin’s milestone Pro Stock win came at the expense of a rising star trying for his first, Rickie Jones. Coughlin collected his 50th Pro Stock win and 64th Wally overall easily, 6,65 to 6.68 over Jones’ Elite Motorsports Pontiac.
Coughlin, whose bid for No. 50 ended with a broken rocker arm two weeks ago in Madison, earned another shot at the class milestone with a flawless day behind the wheel of Victor Cagnazzi’s JEGS Cobalt. Coughlin the No. 4 qualifier, reached his 99th career , 81 of which has come in Pro Stock.—by racing past Ronnie Humphrey, V. Gaines, and low qualifier Allen Johnson. Coughlin, who has won in Atlanta in Comp (1997) and Pro Stock (2000), by beating A.J.’s Mopar Avenger on a holeshot, 6.657 to an engine-wounding 6.555.
Jones, who will celebrate his 23 birthday Monday, narly got a great early present, but nonetheless impressed everyone by reaching the final, just the second of his career; his first was a runner-up finish in Las Vegas last fall. Jones earned his keep and then some, beating points leader Mike Edwards on a holeshot in round one, 6.698 to 6.641 after a .001 light in round one and then beating Greg Anderson on a 6.690 to 6.669 holeshot in round two. He got a virtual free pass to the final when Johnny Gray, enjoying the finest day of his season, was late off the line against him in the semifinals.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
The Pro Stock Motorcycle final paired two champions and was a rematch of the final-round duel in Houston, which went to Hines. This one also went the way of the former three-time champ as his 6.96 defeated Arana, the reigning world champ, who could only muster a 7.04. The win is the 20th of Hines’ career.
Hines, the 2008 Atlanta winner, reached career final round No. 33 aboard his Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley Davidson with a trio of six-second passes, running 6.97 to beat Mike Berry, 6.99 to erase Craig Treble, and a holeshot-aided 6.994 to beat the 6.993 of David Hope’s Mohegan Sun/Iron Man Buell in the semifinals.
Gullqvist became the first European driver to win an NHRA event when he powered his ProCareRX ’68 Camaro to the victory with a final round run of 6.006 seconds at 244.03 mph to defeat the event’s top qualifier, Mike Janis, who posted a 6.081 at 237.00 in his Eaton ’69 Firebird.
It was Gullqvist’s second final round of the season, as he posted a runner-up finish at the season-opening Gatornationals in Florida.
“I’m at a loss for words,” said Gullqvist, who was filling in for Raymond Commisso, whose father passed away earlier in the week. “This was my third final in a row dating back to the European FIA championship last fall. I lost that final because I made a mistake and then I had another final here in Gainesville in March and lost that one as well with a red-light, so I was really anxious to get this win, especially under the circumstances of Raymond’s father passing away.”
Former world champ Vinny Barone reached the winner’s circle in Comp by defeating Al Ackerman while Slate Cummings, winner earlier this year in Super Stock in Houston, broke out in the final to hand the win to Todd Ewing. Anthony Fetch, the Stock championship runner-up last season, reached the winner’s circle in that class by defeating Adam Davis, who broke out. Ray Miller collected Super Comp honors on Bubba Watts’ final-round foul while Jeffrey Barker claimed Top Sportsman gold over Gilmer Hinshaw.