Countdown Round One: Nitro Classes at Maple Grove

Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, Pennsylvania, hosted Round One of the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship for Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers at Mohnton track over the weekend. Originally opened as a 1/5-mile dragstrip in 1962, the pavement was lengthened to 1/4-mile in 1964 and has seen many record-setting runs.

Last year the Stauffer family, who had owned Maple Grove Raceway for most of its existence, sold the historic dragstrip to Kenny “Captain Chaos” Koretsky. The 457-acre facility celebrated its 60th year of continuous operation during round one of the Countdown. Koretsky’s sons Kenny Jr. and current NHRA Pro Stock driver Kyle are both involved in the family business and track operations.

With this weekend’s 38th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals, nitro Top Fuel and nitro Funny Car teams were eager to take to the pavement. Driver of the Phillips Connect Top Fuel dragster Justin Ashley takes the points lead into Maple Grove Raceway. Three-time Funny Car world champion Ron Capps is seeking to three-peat the Countdown and holds the track record at 3.837-second ET at 339.28 mph.

Doug Kalitta Gets 50th Top Fuel Win at Pep Boys Nationals

After winning everything in sight for most of the 2023 NHRA Camping World season, Justin Ashley entered Countdown with six wins and the points lead in Top Fuel. Ashely also won six of eight Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge to claim all but two of the bonus points available for the Countdown. But, four-time world champion Antron Brown brought momentum to Maple Grove with consecutive NHRA national wins and the Mission Challenge at the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd.

Doug Kalitta was the only driver to advance to Final during Sunday’s elimination before track conditions deteriorated with onset of rain. After a solo pass in round one, points leader Justin Ashley was eliminated by Tony Schumacher. Steve Torrence defeated Schumacher in the semifinal and advanced to a match with Kalitta. Kalitta was on-point and collected his 50th career Wally in Top Fuel with a better RT, quicker ET and faster top speed of 336.99 mph.

NOTE: Tony Stewart, NHRA nitro team owner and husband to Leah Pruett, captured his fourth win of his rookie season in Top Alcohol on Monday at Maple Grove Raceway. The three-time NASCAR champion defeated Madison Payne by 0.04 seconds in the rain-delayed the 38th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals.

Robert Hight Claims Funny Car Victory at Maple Grove

Well, Ron Capps is the defending six-time Funny Car champion. He enters the Countdown with a 24-point lead. He just won the U.S. National. Oh yeah... he holds the track record at Maple Grove Raceway with at 339.28 mph and that’s really fast. So the NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Supra driver will have the car to beat, but Tony Stewart Racing’s three-time NHRA Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan lurks just 24 points back.

Capps would eliminate the G.O.A.T. (John Force) in round two while Robert Hight posted a victory over Matt Hagan’s Dodge SRT Hellcat. In the upper bracket, Chad Green continued his winning ways by taking down Bob Tasca III. Capps was off the starting line first but had to shut it down after losing traction early on punching Hight’s ticket to the final. This was the first final round pairing for Hight and Green. Hight nailed the holeshot and never trailed to win the 64th Wally of his Funny Car career.

Artwork courtesy of NHRA


betway NHRA Carolina Nationals

Nitro Top Fuel and Funny Car teams and drivers will head south for Round Two of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship at zMAX Dragway in Concord, NC, for the betway NHRA Carolina Nationals on September 22-24.


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