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NHRA: Four drivers score their first victories at zMax

Langdon, Capps, Line and Hines dodge rain, get off to strong start in Countdown

- dscott@charlotteobserver.com
Sunday, Sep. 16, 2012

Past success at zMax Dragway meant little Sunday at the National Hot Rod Association's O'Reilly Nationals.

All four division winners - Shawn Langdon in Top Fuel Dragster, Ron Capps in Funny Car, Jason Line in Pro Stock car and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock motorcycle - did so for the first time at the track.

They had to wait a while to do so. Rain delayed the start of the day's races by four hours, with the first, "Christmas tree," lights at the start line flashing blue at about 4 p.m. It ended close to 9 p.m. under the lights, with flames spitting from behind the nitro-fueled Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars.

The races at zMax were the first in the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship, a six-race postseason that finishes in November.

Top Fuel Dragster

Langdon's victory over Tony Schumacher was also the first of his career after 87 races. It capped a dominant weekend for Langdon, who was the No. 1 qualifier for the second time in four races.

"I was starting to wonder what it feels like to win," said Langdon. "I wouldn't say I was reaching a high level of frustration, but I kept believing. But I had been wondering, 'What have I done wrong?' "

Langdon had an elapsed time of 3.785 seconds (3426.71 mph) in the finals against Schumacher. Although he couldn't match Langdon, Schumacher maintains his lead in the countdown by 10 points over Spencer Massey and Schumacher by 19.

"To start the Countdown with a win - what a great start for the team," said Langdon.

Funny Car

Capps left Concord the same way he entered: the Funny Car points leader. But he's not taking anything for granted.

"I'm confident, but I'd be stupid to get too confident," said Capps, who beat close friend Mike Neff in the final with an ET of 4.067 seconds (315.49 points). Neff spun his tires and it wasn't even close.

The first round featured a race between John Force and his daughter Courtney. John Force beat Courtney for the first time in three races this season with an ET of 4.129. But he lost in the second round to Neff, another of his John Force Racing drivers and his former crew chief.

Capps' win increases his points lead over Neff to 63.

Pro Stock car

Line (7.518 ET, 200.20) beat Allen Johnson in the final and crept to within three points of Johnson for the points lead.

Line, who lives in Mooresville, has won 29 times now in his career, but it was his first victory in Concord.

"It's tough when you get conditions like this," said Line. "But I thought the race track was really good. It's easy for me to say because it turned out good for us."

Line is the 2011 champion.

"You've got to drive good and be perfect in every run," said Line. "That's tough to do for anybody."

Pro Stock motorcycle

Hines' victory over teammate Krawiec means the Vance & Hines team has won all 11 races this season. Krawiec leads Hines by 10 points.

Hines, who was the No. 1 qualifier, had an elapsed time of 6.862 seconds, edging Krawiec on a, "holeshot," (reacting quicker at the start than Krawiec, who had a quicker ET 4/1,000ths of a second).

"This was really big for my half of the team," said Hines.

Hines was happy to finally get to race.

"It was a long day," he said. "The radar would pop and disappear. Whenever they would get the track close (to drying), it would rain again."

Notes

• The only scary moment of the weekend came in Sunday's Pro Stock car second round, when Shane Gray's car flipped and caught fire. Gray, racing Warren Johnson, lost control of his car in the left lane. It flipped as it hit the wall, then bounced and flipped again and slammed into the right wall near the finish line. Gray walked away, and was OK.

• Tickets to the O'Reilly Nationals were bought from 42 states and 10 foreign countries. Nearly 150 people from foreign countries - including Canada, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, South Africa, Aruba, Finland, Mexico and the Netherlands - attended the races.

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14