Capps, Ashley, Anderson, Matt Smith win FallNationals at Texas Motorplex

On an overcast and partly sunny, windy day, the Texas Motorplex hosted the annual FallNationals, the 17th race of the 2021 NHRA season. This means there are only four races to go in the Countdown to the Championship.

Ron Capps, Justin Ashley, Greg Anderson and Matt Smith all brought home a Wally today following four rounds of eliminations.

Funny Car

Ron Capps entered Texas Motorplex seeking his first at-track victory since 1998. As usual, the weekend starts with qualifying and following the four rounds, Capps entered Sunday in the No. 2 spot just one behind rival competitor, Robert Hight. In addition to qualifying second, Capps gained four additional bonus points.

In Round 1, Capps powered to a time of 3.898 seconds and 324.75 mph over No. 15 qualifier Jack Wyatt. For the quarterfinals, the NAPA Auto Parts driver won over Paul Lee for his seventh quarterfinal victory of the season. From there, he met Cruz Pedregon in the semi-final after Pedregon won over Terry Haddock, the all-time Funny Car wins list leader John Force in Round 2.

In the semi-finals, Capps met Pedregon, but Capps fired off first and got and got the semi-final victory where he would meet his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan.

Hagan qualified fourth and had a first-round match up with Dale Creasy Jr. Hagan was victorious going 3.910 seconds and 330.15 mph to face Bob Tasca III in the quarterfinal. Hagan eliminated Tasca III going 3.918 seconds and 325.43 mph to advance to the semis. It was in the semis where he met J.R. Todd, but Todd smoked the tires allowing Hagan to get away with the victory setting up a final round between Hagan and Capps.

Once the Christmas tree went green in the finals, the two Don Schumacher Racing cars were side-by-side all the way down the track, but the victory ultimately went to Capps who scorec his 68th career Funny Car victory.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made the mistake over the years of counting out, first of all, John Force, at anything,” said Capps, a 27-year nitro veteran who finished as the ‘bridesmaid’ four times before finally capturing the 2016 series title. “Everyone’s been bit by that. He always seems to find a way to climb his way back in. We have Force and J.R. (Todd) and Cruz breathing down our necks. Tim Wilkerson, Robert Hight and I were talking, and we’ve been through this championship fight many times, but it’s never been this tight top-to-bottom. Anybody can win on any given Sunday, so it was good to gain a little bit on Hagan this weekend.
 
“Hagan, and (crew chief) Dickie (Venables), those are my teammates and you don’t wish ill on anyone out here but I’m certain when I was leading the points a few times this year, they were hoping I would smoke the tires or we would lose early because you want to gain ground. So, I was hoping (Bob) Tasca would do the dirty work second round when they had Hagan, and then I thought J.R. had a good chance because they had a good running car, but Hagan and Dickie, they just kept surviving.”

Ron Capps scores 68th career victory, Photo Courtesy of Auto Imagery

Hagan fell just short of his fourth win of the season and earned his third runner-up of the year.

“There’s a backside of a good drag race, and obviously it fell on my shoulders,” Hagan said. “Capps won on two holeshots today and obviously he was on it. We’ve got a great team and that would have been a big swing in the points direction for us (with a win) but it’s always coming down to the last deal. We’ve just got to keep digging and working hard. We’ve got a great Western Tech Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat; it’s responding well and it’s going to be a dog fight. It always is.”

Funny Car Results:

  1. Ron Capps
  2. Matt Hagan
  3. Cruz Pedregon
  4. J.R. Todd
  5. Paul Lee
  6. Bob Tasca III
  7. John Force
  8. Robert Hight
  9. Tim Wilkerson
  10. Jim Campbell
  11. Terry Haddock
  12. Dale Creasy Jr
  13. Blake Alexander
  14. Jack Wyatt
  15. Jeff Ahrend

Funny Car Championship Standings:

  1. Matt Hagan, 2,449 points
  2. Ron Capps, -33
  3. Cruz Pedregon, -113
  4. John Force, -115
  5. J.R. Todd, -134
  6. Bob Tasca III, -158
  7. Robert Hight, -188
  8. Tim Wilkerson, -238
  9. Alexis DeJoria, -252
  10. Blake ALexander, -296

Top Fuel

Justin Ashley had zero wins so far this season despite being in the Countdown. However, he was looking to change that Sunday afternoon after having two runner-ups, the first at Reading and the other at Pomona I.

Ashley qualified in the fourth spot with a time of 3.687 seconds at 329.58 mph and would face No. 13 Keith Murt in the first round Sunday morning. Ashley eliminated Murt going 3.748 seconds and 319.29 mph to advance to the second round where he met Texas native Billy Torrence.

Torrence was one spot underneath Ashley in qualifying as the elder Torrence qualified fifth after Saturday. In the quarterfinal, Ashley was successful in winning over Torrence but not by much. Ashley won on a holeshot and met No. 1 qualifier, Brittany Force, in the semi-finals.

Force had a fast car all weekend and her Friday night time of 3.637 seconds and 335.32 mph was fast enough to keep her at the top spot for Sunday. Unfortunately for Force, the California native fell to Ashley in the semis as Ashley went 3.740 seconds and 325.30 mph compared to Brittany’s 3.727 seconds and 332.84 mph to meet another Texas native and fan-favorite, Steve Torrence, in the finals.

Steve Torrence qualified second and had victories over Buddy Hull in Round 1, Doug Kalitta in the second round and Josh Hart in the semis.

When the CAPCO dragster entered the pre-stage, the team was still checking the tire pressure as they were set to face Ashley.

After the two dragsters left the finish line, the win light came on Ashley’s lane as Ashley went 3.759 seconds and 326.40 mph to win his first race of the season by .005 seconds.

“I think when you win a race like this the key to victory is the team effort and the fact that everybody did their job,” said Ashley, the 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year. “Today was a complete team effort. I did my job behind the wheel. Crew Chief Mike Green did an awesome job tuning this race car all weekend. It felt like a bracket car. The key to the win was this group of guys and the leadership of (team owner) Dustin Davis and Mike. They work incredibly hard. They definitely deserve this win.”

Photo Courtesy of Ron Lewis Photography

For Torrence, the Kilgore, Texas native, the second-place finish was his second of the season and 24th of his career.

“Everybody’s been calling this a two-car race,” Torrence said, “but I guess they forgot to tell Justin. We’ve still got three races to run and there are a lot of points still out there. Having said that, I feel really good going forward. When you’ve won one race, been runner-up in another and had two semifinal finishes (in the first four Countdown events), that shows the talent of this team and these Capco Boys.”

Top Fuel Results:

  1. Justin Ashley
  2. Steve Torrence
  3. Brittany Force
  4. Josh Hart
  5. Clay Millican
  6. Billy Torrence
  7. Mike Salinas
  8. Doug Kalitta
  9. Keith Murt
  10. Krista Baldwin
  11. Alex Laughlin
  12. Buddy Hull
  13. Leah Pruett
  14. Antron Brown
  15. Shawn Langdon
  16. Joe Morrison

Top Fuel Championship Standings:

  1. Steve Torrence, 2,473 points
  2. Brittany Force, -52
  3. Justin Ashley, -121
  4. Mike Salinas, -168
  5. Billy Torrence, -172
  6. Leah Pruett, -218
  7. Antron Brown, -252
  8. Clay Millican, -261
  9. Shawn Langdon, -277
  10. Doug Kalitta, -325

Pro Stock

It was a historic day in the Pro Stock category, as Greg Anderson finally broke the all-time wins list record held by Warren Johnson with 97 career victories. Anderson originally tied the record back last month at Reading winning over Erica Enders.

The Hendrick Cars driver was No. 1 for the 116th time of his career after Saturday posting a time of 6.553 seconds and 209.23 mph to face No. 16 of Marty Robertson. Anderson won over Robertson going 6.621 seconds and 205.94 mph to face Matt Hartford in the quarterfinal. Anderson won over Hartford going 6.680 seconds and 205.72 mph to face JEGS driver Troy Coughlin Jr. in the semis.

Coughlin Jr. won over Kyle Koretsky in Round 1 and Roger Brogdon to meet Anderson in the semis. Anderson won once more eliminating Coughlin Jr., posting a time of 6.666 seconds and 205.51 mph to face Chris McGaha in the finals.

Chris McGaha, the Odessa, Texas native. had quite an interesting day at his home track. Chris met his son Mason in a first-round match-up, but the victory went to the father, Chris, after he went 6.658 seconds and 206.45 mph to meet Dallas Glenn in the second. Chris won with a time of 6.688 seconds and 206.04 mph to advance to the semis where he eliminated Factory Stock Showdown driver Aaron Stanfield.

As McGaha and Anderson met in the finals, McGaha went red as he fouled by leaving -.014 seconds too soon, ultimately giving the historic victory to Anderson.

“I couldn’t have imagined one win, but here we are, 98 later,” said an elated Anderson at the top end of the racetrack after emerging from his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro. With the win, Anderson also moved up to a prestigious position for wins across all Professional NHRA categories. His 98 trophies are second only to Funny Car icon John Force, who has 154.
 
“What a run. I seem to get all the glory, but it’s not me, it’s this KB Racing team, it’s our wonderful team owners Ken and Judy Black, it’s Rick Hendrick and HendrickCars.com, it’s Summit Racing Equipment. I never thought this day would come, but the Good Lord was looking out for me. To my wife, Kim, ‘Honey, tonight I’m coming home with our 98th trophy.'”

36th annual Texas Fall Nationals, Photo Courtesy of Auto Imagery

Pro Stock Results:

  1. Greg Anderson
  2. Chris McGaha
  3. Aaron Stanfield
  4. Troy Coughlin Jr
  5. Erica Enders
  6. Dallas Glenn
  7. Rodger Brogdon
  8. Matt Hartford
  9. Marty Robertson
  10. Kyle Koretsky
  11. Deric Kramer
  12. Mason McGaha
  13. Kenny Delco
  14. Alan Prusiensky
  15. Fernando Cuadra
  16. Vincent Nobile

Pro Stock Championship Standings:

  1. Greg Anderson, 2,520 points
  2. Erica Enders, -81
  3. Dallas Glenn, -183
  4. Kyle Koretsky, -186
  5. Aaron Stanfield, -216
  6. Chris McGaha, -242
  7. Troy Coughlin Jr, -246
  8. Mason McGaha, -296
  9. Matt Hartford, -306
  10. Deric Kramer, -342

Pro Stock Motorcycle

Despite racing 278 times in his Pro Stock Motorcycle career, Matt Smith had not yet won at the Texas Motorplex to add to the 30 other victories of his illustrious career. However, though being strong earlier in the season, he’s lost in the first round at Indy to Ryan Oehler, finished as runner-up at Reading and had a quarterfinal finish at Charlotte to Eddie Krawiec.

As Matt Smith was somewhat cooling off, Steve Johnson was heating up. Johnson took over the championship points lead after Indy and began stretching that lead entering the Texas Fall Nationals.

Following qualifying, Johnson was once again fastest with a time of 6.756 seconds and 198.44 mph to gain the seventh No. 1 qualifier of his career, whereas Smith was second going 6.772 seconds and 200.83 mph.

Johnson had a first-round match with No. 16 qualifier Jianna Salinas. Johnson won with a time of 6.840 seconds and 195.62 mph to face Scotty Pollacheck in the quarterfinal. As for Matt, the DENSO driver had a solo run and easily advanced and was slated to meet Chris Bostick.

The two were once again winning as Johnson eliminated Pollacheck and Bostick.

When Johnson reached the pre-stage line in the semis to face Hector Arana Jr., Johnson’s bike, unfortunately, quit during the burnout process. As a result, Arana Jr. received a solo run to advance to the finals.

As for Smith, he had an interesting semi-final where he met his wife. Angie. But it was Matt who won and went on to meet Arana Jr. in the finals.

Similar to the Pro Stock finals, another red light came on in the race, but the red light was for Arana Jr. and the win went to Matt Smith who picked up his fifth win of the 2021 season.

“It was a great weekend for this Denso team,” said Smith, who also set the track speed record this weekend. “We were pretty flawless all weekend and we were low every round. We’ve got a pretty awesome team. Since 2005, I’ve always wanted to win this race and never got it done, and I’m just glad to get it done. We’ve had the best bike all year. Steve has definitely stepped his program up and we’re going to go head-to-head with him the rest of the year, and hopefully, we can pull this out and get a fifth championship. That’s the goal and we’re going to do everything we can to try and do it.”

Arana Jr.’s runner-up finish was the 13th of his career and his first start since Indianapolis.

Pro Stock Motorcycle Results:

  1. Matt Smith
  2. Hector Arana Jr
  3. Angie Smith
  4. Steve Johnson
  5. Jerry Savoie
  6. Chris Bostick
  7. Scotty Pollacheck
  8. Angelle Sampey
  9. Andrew Hines
  10. Jim Underdahl
  11. Karen Stoffer
  12. Joey Gladstone
  13. Jianna Salinas
  14. Kelly Clontz
  15. Eddie Krawiec
  16. Michael Ray

Pro Stock Motorcycle Championship Standings:

  1. Matt Smith, 2,368 points
  2. Steve Johnson, -8
  3. Angelle Sampey, -53
  4. Eddie Krawiec, -101
  5. Scotty Pollacheck, -139
  6. Joey Gladstone, -165
  7. Angie Smith, -174
  8. Karen Stoffer, -218
  9. Andrew Hines, -227
  10. Cory Reed, -243

Up Next: The NHRA Camping World Drag Series will head east for the Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway on Sunday, October 17.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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