The Magic Dry Organic Absorbent Arizona Nationals started off very cold and wet. It became so cold that the track could not be properly prepared to safely run the cars, canceling the Friday, Feb. 22 qualifying activities. But, by Saturday and Sunday, the weather became very good for racing, during the daylight hours.
In Top Fuel, Billy Torrence (his son is 2018 Champion Steven Torrence) qualified #1 with a 3.667 at 328.46 mph. He then marched through elimination, taking out Terry Totten, Mike Salinas and rookie Jason Vandergriff. With consistent runs of 3.736 at 329.42 mph, 3.687 at 329.58 mph and 3.709 at 328, he definitely had the car to beat. On the other side of the ladder, Leah Pritchett was also showing consistency. After qualifying seventh with a 3.744 at (an early shutoff) 282.42 mph, she put in a consistent string of runs to defeat Cameron Ferre, #1 qualifier Terry McMillen and Antron Brown. Every run was in the low 3.7 second zone at over 300 mph. The final round looked to be a monster battle. Both drivers reacted almost the same with 0.071 to 0.073 reactions time (in Pritchett’s favor). But, Pritchett’s car immediately lost traction and she could only watch Torrence disappear down the track to victory.
Robert Hight picked up from where he left off at the season opening Winternationals. After taking the top spot in Funny Car with a strong 3.687 at 329.91 mph, he was quickest each round, beating his boss and teammate, John Force in the second round by a 3.879 at 327.82 mph to 3.988 at 325.92 mph margin. This domination would end in his semi-final round match up with the defending 2018 Champion, JR Todd. Todd left first (0.073 to 0.139) and drove away to a 3.919 at 327.19 mph to 3.922 at 326.24 mph win. Matt Hagan qualified second with a 3.881 at 323.43 mph, and took out Phil Burkhart Jr., Shawn Langdon and Bob Tasca III with consistent low 3.9-second elapse times to match up with Todd for the event title. The battle was over at the flash of the green light, as Todd’s car immediately shut off and deployed the parachutes due to some mechanical malfunction. Hagan thundered into the winner’s circle with a strong 3.890 at 325.06 mph.
The Pro Stock category is led by two powerhouse teams. The Ken Black owned Summit Performance team supplies many of the engines used by the other teams and has four cars of its own that include Bo Butner, Jason Line, Greg Anderson and Fernando Cuadra. The other powerhouse team is the Elite Performance team led by Richard Freeman. They also supply engines to many of the teams with four cars driven by Erica Enders, Jeg Coughlin, Alex Laughlin and Roger Brogdon. It was also Freeman’s birthday on Saturday and his team was looking at getting him a birthday win. Butner qualified in the top spot (6.522 at 211.46 mph), but was taken out in the second round by Deric Kramer. As elimination rounds shuffled into the semi-finals, Kramer faced off against Matt Hartford and Erica Enders squared off against Jeg Coughlin. Enders got a starting line advantage (0.018 to 0.029) but could not hold off Coughlin’s 6.541 at 210.28 mph to 6.575 at 210.18 mph charge. Hartford then took out Kramer with a 0.010 to 0.027 holeshot. Hartford ran a 6.568 at 209.79 mph to beat Kramer’s quicker 6.555 at 210.57 mph effort. In the final, it was all Coughlin, as Hartford’s engine quit. He could only watch Coughlin streak to 6.557 at 210.67 mph birthday win for his Elite Performance team owner.