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8 Nico Rosberg 881
Lucas, Hight, Coughlin, Hines Winners at zMax

by Pete McCole
Sunday, September 15, 2013

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Morgan Lucas
Rhonda McCole/AR1.com
Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) captured victories on Sunday in the third annual Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at zMax Dragway, marking the opening round of the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

Lucas swept the weekend in the Top Fuel division after taking top qualifier honors on Saturday, then eliminating Spencer Massey in the finals to pick up his 10th career NHRA victory and his second of the season.

Lucas powered to his fourth money round of the season with victories over Terry McMillen, Brandon Bernstein and Doug Kalitta to move on for just his second-career final-round matchup against Massey, who entered the weekend second in points.

In the final, Lucas and Massey left the line nearly even with Lucas gaining a slight advantage, which was just enough to edge Massey at the line by 14 feet, running a 3.788 at 317.49 mph over Massey’s 3.816, 319.60.

“We’ve never been in this situation of chasing a championship and we just want to continue to run well,” Lucas said. “The team gave me a great car and they carried me, and I’m just genuinely proud to be a part of this team. We’ve got a great car that everyone has a lot of confidence in and we’re just fortunate right now.”

With the victory, Lucas moves from eighth to third in points while Massey takes over the top spot, bumping Shawn Langdon to second.

Robert Hight
Rhonda McCole/AR1.com
Robert Hight knocked out Funny Car points leader Matt Hagan to pick up his second straight win with a holeshot victory in the final round, and provided a big shot in the arm to his championship hopes.

Hight proved untouchable en route to the final round, going low ET in each of the first three rounds with victories over Chad Head, top qualifier Cruz Pedregon and finally teammate Courtney Force.

Ironically, the final round would be the only round where Hight didn’t have the low ET, but his .019 second starting line advantage was enough to get him out of the gate ahead of Hagan, who quickly made up ground but ultimately came up about foot short at the line, running 4.066 at 313.58 mph but losing to a slower 4.083, 312.64.

It was the 29th-career victory for Hight, and allowed him to jump from ninth to third in the standings behind Hagan and Ron Capps, reminiscent of his run in 2009, where he came in ninth in points and left in third en route to his first Funny Car title

“We’re trying to pick up every point we can,” Hight said. “Not many people beat Matt Hagan on holeshots and that team has been No. 1 all year for a reason. That was a 40-point swing for me but we don’t have a whole lot of time to celebrate. We’re getting back at it again next week at in Dallas under a whole different set of circumstances and conditions. It will be a whole new ballgame.”

In Pro Stock, Jeg Coughlin beat out top qualifier Jason Line on a holeshot to score his third victory of the season and 20th of his career, and advance to second in the points standings in the Countdown.

Coughlin, who came into Sunday’s eliminations as the sixth qualifier, topped Greg Stanfield, Shane Gray and points leader Mike Edwards to advance to face Line in the finals, and beat him off the line by .026 seconds which proved to be the difference, going 6.583, 210.05 to Line’s quicker 6.578, 210.97.

“We had a great car in qualifying and really the difference between us and No. 1 was just a hundredth and we felt that if we could clean up some of our inefficiencies we’d be right there," Coughlin said. “I had the utmost confidence going into race day and to finish it off with a win in the first race in the Countdown is extremely gratifying.

Edwards remained as the points leader, just 10 points ahead of Coughlin, while Line moved up to third.

Andrew Hines
Rhonda McCole/AR1.com
Andrew Hines picked up his first win of the season and his 32nd for his career in the Pro Stock Motorcycle, taking down Hector Arana, Sr. after Arana fouled out in the money round.

The lights definitely went Hines’ way on Sunday, as he picked up an opening-round win over John Hall on a red light, then bested top qualifier Matt Smith on a holeshot before getting another red-light win over LE Tonglet to qualify for his first final round of the season.

Facing Arana for the fifth time in the finals, Hines went 6.968 at 190.94 mph while Arana went 6.954, 190.89, but missed the green light by .024 seconds for his first red-light loss of the season.

Hines, who failed to make the Countdown, moved to 11th in points, while Hector Arana, Jr. held onto the points lead by 33 over Smith.

“This is a bit bittersweet because we didn’t make the Countdown, but I plan to be a nightmare for the rest of them,” Hines said. “I said that one win during the Countdown would be sufficient for the year and I’m going to be that nightmare by taking out our Countdown competitors.”

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