The NHRA closed out 40 years of racing at Atlanta Dragway in thundering style with The Lucas Oil Southern Nationals. The winners in every category would go into the books as the last NHRA National event winner at the popular races track.
In Top Fuel, Billy Torrence captured the top spot in qualifying with a 3.815 at 323.43 mph, with his son, Steve right behind him at 3.817 at 323.66 mph. Saturday was warm and the track was hot making it tough to put up big numbers, but this team was ready. On race day, everything changed and by the end of round two, the elder Torrence was gone. Brittany Force, Steve Torrence, Antron Brown and Justin Ashley became the heavy hitters. In the final round it was a battle of rivals, Antron Brown and Steve Torrence. Brown got away first (0.054 to 0.057) and thundered to a 3.752 at 325.22 mph to 3.794 at 323.81 mph victory, becoming the last Top Fuel event winner in the track’s history.
In Funny Car, John Force pulled out the stops in an attempt to be the final NHRA Funny Car event winner at the famed race track. But, he would come up short, as Bob Tasca would close the deal with 4.004 at 326.48 mph to Force’s 4.105 at 321.81 mph. Force did not make it easy, as he took a 0.055 to 0.063 second starting line advantage, but was unable to hold off Tasca at the finish line. For the record books, J.R. Todd was the top qualifier with 3.982 at 325.69 mph.
In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson would top all qualifiers with a 6.548 at 210.41 mph. The big match up for the Pro Stock fans was the squaring off between arch rivals, Erica Enders and Anderson. Enders qualified fourth with a 6.560 at 211.06 mph, making the meeting between the two in the semi-final round instead of the final round for all the marbles. Enders left on Anderson with a 0.009 reaction time, but she could not hold up against his stronger performing car. Anderson collected the win with a 6.575 at 208.59 mph to 6.612 at 208.33 mph effort. In the final round, Anderson captured the event win over Vincent Nobile with a 6.568 at 209.04 mph to 6.598 at 208.78 mph, to go in the books as the last Pro Stock winner at Atlanta Dragway.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, it came down to teammates, Matt Smith and Scotty Pollacheck. Pollacheck was the top qualifier with a 6.779 at 199.2 mph effort. In the final, Smith red lighted by -0.001 seconds, handing the prestigious win to Pollacheck. Smith ran the faster speed (200.86 mph) and elapse time (6.811 seconds) to Pollacheck’s 6.921 at 198.35 mph winning effort. One of the highlights for the class was Andrew Hines achieving his first ever 200-plus mph pass on a Pro Stock Motorcycle, getting him on the prestigious Denso Spark Plugs Pro Stock Motorcycle 200 mph club for the first 10 riders to achieve the feat.
The track is located in a very nice zone of Commerce, Georgia and is surrounded by green trees that provide a very colorful back drop to the racing activities. The track was recently sold by NHRA and then purchased by an industrial company to coincide with an upcoming battery factory; housing for the plant workers is being built near the race track facility. The track will complete a schedule of local events for the rest of the year and then be removed. The track will be sorely missed by all the fans that have attended events there the last 40-plus years.
The next event on the NHRA schedule is the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at Z-max Raceway in Charlotte, North Carolina in two weeks.