CONCORD – Team owner Don Schumacher was all set to see his drivers pull off another Top Fuel-Funny Car sweep of the National Hot Rod Association races at zMax Dragway.
Instead, Morgan Lucas and Robert Hight denied Schumacher Racing's plans by taking the top two division titles during Sunday's elimination rounds at the NHRA Carolina Nationals.
Lucas knocked off Spencer Massey to win the Top Fuel title, while Hight edged Matt Hagan in the Funny Car final to produce a shake-up in the standings after the opening event in the NHRA's six-race Countdown for the Championship.
Other NHRA professional division winners Sunday were Jeg Coughlin Jr. in pro stock and Andrew Hines in pro stock motorcycle.
Lucas was fast all weekend in winning his ninth career Top Fuel title and his second this season. He led qualifying, then beat Terry McMillen, Brandon Bernstein and Doug Kalitta before edging Massey by 0.0297 seconds in the final.
“We got lucky in the second round,” Lucas said. “We broke a piston at around 300 feet. … But when I got into the garage, one of my guys said ‘that was our lucky round; we'll be OK from now on.’
“That's just the way my guys are thinking. Their confidence is getting better and better. It was just our weekend.”
Massey, who had won the past two NHRA Four-Wide Nationals titles at zMax Dragway, emerged as the Top Fuel points leader after Shawn Langdon was eliminated in the first round.
Massey leads Langdon by 24 points (2,174-2,150) heading into next week's race at Texas Motorplex in Dallas, with Lucas vaulting from eighth to third, 30 points out of the lead.
The Funny Car points also had a shakeup, with Hight moving from ninth to third in the standings after his second win of 2013 and his 29th career win.
Hight downed Chad Head, top qualifier Cruz Pedregon and John Force Racing teammate Courtney Force to advance to the finals. There, he beat Hagan – who won the Four-Wide Nationals last April – off the line by 0.019 seconds and edged him by 0.0021 seconds at the finish.
While Hagan increased his lead over Ron Capps from 30 to 82 points (2,214-2,132), Hight – just four points behind Capps – said it could have been a lot worse.
“Right now, we're counting everything we've got,” Hight said. “To have (Hagan) come in here at No. 1 and come out with a win, that would have been devastating to the whole class. It would have been a mountain to climb against a team like that.”
Breakthrough: Coughlin won his third pro stock title of the season and the 55th of his career by beating top qualifier Jason Line off the line by 0.026 seconds.
That allowed the four-time NHRA champ to pull out a 0.0213-second win over Line, whose KB Racing team is based in Mooresville.
The win also moved Coughlin into second in the pro stock standings, just 10 points behind Mike Edwards (2,1940-2,184). Line, a two-time NHRA champion, jumped from sixth to third.
Repeat winner: Hines won his second straight Carolinas Nationals title and first this season in the pro stock motorcycle division, getting Hector Arana Sr. to red light in the final.
Hines could become a spoiler in the division standings after failing to finish in the top 10 and qualify for the Countdown to the Championship.
Hector Arana Jr., who was bumped in the semifinals, stayed atop the standings by 33 points over Matt Smith (2,183-2,150), with Hector Arana Sr. moving to third (2,147).
Other winners: Other NHRA division winners during Sunday's final day were Von Smith of Oak Ridge, Tenn. (pro mod), Brandon Booher of Champaign, Ill. (top alcohol dragster), Frank Manzo of Morganville, N.J. (top alcohol Funny Car), Glen Treadwell of Sorrento, Fla. (competition eliminator), Bryan Worner of Duncannon, Pa. (super stock), Anthony Fetch of Colonia, N.J. (stock eliminator), Jack Sepanek of Moosic, Pa. (super comp), and Ralph Musi of Carteret, N.J. (super gas).
Kiser: 704-895-3662; Twitter: @Bkiser_CLTObs.
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