Ashley, Capps, Enders, Arana Jr. take critical NHRA Texas Nationals wins

NHRA

Ashley, Capps, Enders, Arana Jr. take critical NHRA Texas Nationals wins

NHRA

Ashley, Capps, Enders, Arana Jr. take critical NHRA Texas Nationals wins

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Justin Ashley and Erica Enders extended their respective points leads with wins in Top Fuel and Pro Stock while Funny Car winner Ron Capps pulled up to points leader Robert Hight’s bumper with another win, and Hector Arana Jr. looked like a season regular in winning Pro Stock Motorcycle to bring the Texas NHRA FallNationals to a roaring conclusion.

Final eliminations began more than two hours late after a morning rain shower but the fans who stuck it out and watched final rounds under the lights at Texas Motorplex won’t soon forget this race.

Ashley boosted his points lead to 82 with just two events left in the season, defeating tire-smoking Austin Prock in the final round for his third win of the season, his fifth in Top Fuel, and seventh overall.

Ashley, who led the points after a season-opening win in Pomona and sank to fourth throughout the season before regaining the lead with a victory at the playoff-opening Countdown event in Reading, came into the event after a stunning first-round loss the previous weekend in St. Louis but rebounded nicely with his Mike Green-tuned Phillips Connect dragster.

Ashley bested Doug Kalitta, Kebin Kinsley, and Shawn Langdon to reach the final, the 11th of his career.

Prock, who opened the Countdown playoffs in Reading with a big win after a lackluster summer, showed signs of new life, placing the Joe Balram- and Rahn Tobler-wrenched Montana Brand/Rocky Mountain Twist dragster in the No. 1 qualifying spot for the first time in his young career. After a pair of 3.73s to dispatch Alex Laughlin and Leah Pruett, Prock grabbed final-round lane choice with a 3.681s to edge Antron Brown’s right-there 3.689s and reach his fifth career final.

Capps and Matt Hagan both took advantage of points leader Robert Hight’s tire-smoking semifinal exit to gain ground on the Auto Club team, but it was Capps who made the biggest move, defeating Hagan in the final. 3.91s to 3.92s, to pull to within 10 points of Hight’s lead with career win No. 73 and his fifth of the season.

Capps, the defending event champ, reached his third straight final round of the Countdown with a trio of high-3.8s passes from the Dean Antonelli- and John Medlen-tuned NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, besting Jeff Diehl, John Force, and Hight to reach the final, the 139th of his career.

Hagan, winless in the nine races since he last tasted victory in New England, wheeled the Dickie Venables-tuned Dodge Power Brokers charger to his 78th career final round from the No. 1 spot, defeating Terry Haddock, Tim Wilkerson, and Bob Tasca III with runs of 3.87s, 3.88s, and 3.89s. The win over Tasca was especially impressive as he ran 338.02mph, the 10th fastest run in class history and the fastest in three years, since Capps ran 339.28mph in Reading in 2019.

Enders won for the third time in four Countdown races – her only miss being a semifinal finish in Charlotte – to extend her points lead to a whopping 166 with two races remaining in the season.

The win, her ninth of the season, tying her career-high from the 2015 season, and 42nd of her career in the class, came over longtime rival Greg Anderson, 6.537s to 6.547s. The win also completed a Lone Star State sweep for the native Texan, who won in Houston earlier this season.

Enders, who dominated qualifying with the best run of each session in her Melling/Elite Performance Camaro, was the quickest in all four runs Sunday, motoring easily past Fernando Cuadra Jr., Matt Hartford, Troy Coughlin Jr. in the preliminary rounds with runs of 6.53s, 6.54s, and 6.59s to reach her 72nd career Pro Stock final.

Defending event champ Anderson reached his 171st career final round with victories over a trio of second-generation pro Stock racers in Mason McGaha, Cristian Cuadra, and Aaron Stanfield and did so with a steady trio of 6.56s passes that varied by just 0.003s. Anderson’s strong race day performance in the HendrickCars.com Camaro carried him from fifth to third in the standings.

Competing in just his fifth race this year, Arana Jr. –- the first rider in Pro Stock Motorcycle to surpass 200 mph -– looked like a full-season regular en route to his 16th career win, topping it with a final-round win over Jerry Savoie, 6.82s to 6.89s. Arana’s last win came in Las Vegas in 2019.

Aboard his Lucas Oil Buell, Arana scored wins over Chip Ellis and centerline-crossing Angie Smith with runs of 6.91s and 6.92s, then powered to a semifinal 6.88s to upset points leader Matt Smith, who, like his wife a round earlier, had handling issues and had to roll out of the throttle. The win avenged Arana’s loss to Smith in last year’s final here.

Former world champ Savoie reached the FallNationals Pro Stock Motorcycle final for the seventh time in the last eight years. Savoie, who scored wins in 2015, 2019, and 2020 and three straight runner-ups in 2016-18, rode his White Alligator Suzuki from the No. 9 qualifying past Marc Ingwersen, Ryan Oehler, and Steve Johnson with a 6.86s and a pair of 6.87s to reach his 33rd career final round. Savoie’s round-two win over Oehler came after low qualifier Angelle Sampey crossed the centerline against Oehler in round one.

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