AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals: Countdown to the Championship
The third round of the 2017 NHRA Countdown to the Championship saw the cream rise to the top at the Midwest Nationals from Gateway Motorsports Park this past weekend. Since its inception in 2007, the Countdown has been the nail-bitting portion of the NHRA season for drivers, teams and spectators. When the NHRA decided to split the racing calendar into two segments, many race fans wondered if the new format would be able to determine who really was best that year. Now, there is no doubt.
In Friday's opening round of qualifying, Robert Hight set a new track record in Funny Car when he posted a 3.830 ET at 333.91 mph in his AAA Missouri Cheverolet Camaro SS. The time held up during Saturday's second round to earn the John Force Team driver the number one spot for the seventh time this season and the 56th time of his career. Team owner and sixteen-time world champion John Force followed suit with a 3.832 pass to qualify in second place for Sunday's eliminations.
A pair of championship points leaders used Sunday's round of the sixth annual AAA Insurance event to each claim their eighth win of the season. After Hight and Force were eliminated in the semi-finals, the stage was set for Ron Capps and rookie Jonnie Lindberg in the final. It was Capps 11th final round of the 2017 season. Wasting no time, Capps posted a 3.879 pass in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T to claim the 58th Funny Car win of his career.
With Clay Millican and Doug Kalitta qualifying first and second respectively, it looked like points leader Steve Torrence, who only managed a seventh place run in Saturday qualifying, might be in trouble. But, when the smoke settled on Sunday, it was Torrence at the tape with a 3.684 ET to Kalitta's 3.698. Also victorious in their respective categories at the third playoff event of the Countdown to the Championship were Greg Anderson in Pro Stock and LE Tonglet in Pro Stock Motorcycle. The 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues with the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex in Dallas, Texas on Oct. 12th through 15th.