Lane choice was a determining factor in Sunday’s Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals at the Maple Grove Raceway on Sunday. For Top Fuel and Funny Car, they just happened to be opposite lanes.
The right lane in Top Fuel was their preferred lane while the left lane was for the Funny Car competition.
Through the first two rounds, 11 of the 12 victors in Top Fuel came from the right lane. In Funny Car, 8 of their 12 passes were won in the left lane.
That’s why it shouldn’t be too surprising that the right lane produced the final round Top Fuel winner while the left lane was the winner in Funny Car.
Richie Crampton defeated his Team Kalitta teammate of Doug Kalitta in the Top Fuel final round en route to his second victory of the season and 10th of his NHRA career. Crampton, was in the right lane and ran an 3.738 ET compared to 3.779 for Kalitta.
Crampton, was the ninth qualifier out of 10 for the Top Fuel Countdown with him being defeated in the opening round in each of the last three races. Furthermore, he hasn’t made it past Round 2 since his spring win in Gainesville.
In the first race of the Countdown, he’s now a victor.
Crampton, defeated Antron Brown in the second round and got an easy pass by top qualifier Brittany Force in the semifinals as Force, despite breaking the all-time ET record on Saturday afternoon, developed a fuel leak and couldn’t go.
For Kalitta, he ran by Smith, Salinas and Austin Prock en route to his second straight final round appearance and third of the season. He was 2-0 heading into the final round matchup with his teammate but the right lane won out.
Kalitta, had to go in the left lane for the semifinals though, which is something that he wasn’t comfortable with. But, he prevailed despite that being one of only two winners that came from that lane all day in Top Fuel competition.
In regards to Force, this was her first semifinal appearance since Denver as she had four straight second round defeats heading into this weekend. While a fuel leak is certainly bad luck, this can shift some momentum back her way.
It was also a good points day for her as five of the top seven in the points standings heading into this weekend all were bounced by the end of Round 2. The Torrence’s were the only Countdown drivers to lose in the first round while three more were bounced in the second round (Salinas, Pritchett and Millican).
The final round matchup in Funny Car was a familiar one. It was the exact same matchup as the US Nationals with John Force vs. Jack Beckman. This was the third final round appearance in the last four races for Force while Beckman was 0-4 in his previous four final round tries.
This time though, Beckman got Force en route to his first win of the season and 29th of his career.
Beckman, had the left lane as he won in that lane for all four passes on Sunday. He defeated Jim Campbell, Robert Hight and JR Todd on his march to the finals.
For Force, he alternated lanes all day. He was one of three drivers to win in the right lane in the first round with his victory over Cruz Pedregon. In the second round, he defeated Tim Wilkerson in the left lane. In the semifinals, he knocked off top qualifier Ron Capps in the right lane again.
So, to be racing in the right lane for a chance at a race win wasn’t anything that Force couldn’t overcome.
Beckman though, was just a tad bit better. That was Force’s 104th career runner-up finish. He’s made it to at least the semifinals in four of the last five races as this is vintage Force again.
The big surprise of the day came when Bo Tasca III was defeated by John Smith, the No. 15 qualifier in the first round. In fact, three of the Countdown drivers all lost in the first round in Funny Car competition on Sunday.
The semifinals for Funny Car saw four of the last seven champions in it and three of them being in the top five of the points standings. The cream rose to the top in Funny Car on Sunday as the ladder system went on.
The drivers have another week off next weekend before heading to Gateway for Sept. 27-29 at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis.