SCHUMACHER WINS SECOND JERRY TITUS AWARD; CHAMPIONS HONORED AT AARWBA ALL-AMERICA TEAM CEREMONY: Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher won the Jerry Titus Memorial Trophy this past Saturday at the 39th annual American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) All-America Team ceremony, presented by A1GP World Cup of Motorsports. Schumacher, whose world-record setting 2008 season included 15 wins in 18 final-round appearances, seven consecutive victories, 11 straight final rounds, 31 consecutive-round wins (all are NHRA records) and a fifth consecutive and sixth overall world championship, edged out NASCAR Sprint Cup titlist Jimmie Johnson by one vote to win his second Titus Trophy.
The trophy is awarded to the driver who receives the most All-America Team votes and is named in memory of the late journalist and racer. Funny Car World Champion Cruz Pedregon also received a Horsepower Trophy for his amazing season, and legendary NHRA announcer and broadcaster Dave McClelland received the Pioneer In Racing Award for his longtime dedication and achievement in NHRA Drag Racing. NHRA President Tom Compton was also in attendance to congratulate Schumacher on the award. For more information, visit www.nhra.com.
TOP FUEL CLASS STACKED FOR KRAGEN O’REILLY NHRA WINTERNATIONALS: With the official start to the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle season just three weeks away, many familiar faces and even a few new ones in the Top Fuel category are getting ready for the Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. One of those is fan favorite David Baca. Baca, who announced the formation of his own team weeks earlier, will begin the 2009 season in Pomona, California, and hopes to run a full schedule once sponsorship details come together.
“We’re going to test in Phoenix and come out with a vengeance in Pomona,” said Baca. Another familiar face returning to the Top Fuel class is that of Joe Hartley, whose family-owned and -operated team of Hartley Racing, with father Allen Hartley tuning the car, announced plans to run the complete 24-event NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing season in 2009.
Among the new faces in the Top Fuel class will be those of rookie sensation Spencer Massey, who will be climbing into the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Top Fuel entry for the famed Don Prudhomme Racing team and FIA European champion Andy Carter, who plans to drive Lucas Oil sponsored Top Fuel dragster at the Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals. For tickets to the 49th annual Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals, call 800/884-6472 or visit www.nhra.com.
MILLICAN/PICKENS TOP FUEL TEAM TO RUN ALL 24 NHRA FULL THROTTLE SERIES EVENTS: Top Fuel pilot Clay Millican and team owner Mark and Lauren Pickens will compete in all 24 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing series events in 2009. Lance Larsen, who helped tune the Pickens-owned dragster during the seven events the team competed in during the 2008 season, will return as crew chief for the Top Fuel team.
“We are excited this year because Mark and Lauren Pickens said we would be running all of the races,” said Millican. “That certainly was very comforting to know going into this new year. It is very comforting to know we are going to be racing.” Millican and his Hope4Sudan/Motorvation dragster will begin their bid for the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Top Fuel world championship at the season opening Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
KRAGEN O’REILLY NHRA WINTERNATIONALS, AUTO CLUB RACEWAY AT POMONA, FEBRUARY 5–8: The 2009 NHRA Full Throttle season gets underway in sunny Southern California as drivers in three professional categories begin their bid for the NHRA Full Throttle world championship. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock). For tickets, call 800/884-6472 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.
NHRA ARIZONA NATIONALS, FIREBIRD RACEWAY, FEBRUARY 20–22: From palm trees to cactus, the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle series makes its second stop of the season in the warm desert of Phoenix. Defending event winners include Larry Dixon (Top Fuel); Jack Beckman (Funny Car); and V Gaines (Pro Stock). For tickets, call 602/268-0200 or visit www.ticketforce.com.
ACDELCO NHRA GATORNATIONALS, GAINESVILLE RACEWAY, MARCH 12–15: The Pro Stock Motorcycle category opens its 2009 season at the Gatornationals, annually one of the most popular stops on the NHRA Full Throttle Series tour. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Tony Pedregon (Funny Car); Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock); and Matt Guidera (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800/884-6472 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
GREATEST EVER?: Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher after winning the Jerry Titus award Saturday: “When I look back on this past season, I can safely say I was part of the greatest Top Fuel team that’s ever been assembled in NHRA history.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
49: That’s the number of years that the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series has kicked off each season at the Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the famed race.
DID YOU KNOW…
…that Funny Car driver Jack Beckman not only led the Pledge of Allegiance at the 39th annual AARWBA All-America Team ceremony, but also served as the driving instructor for the AARWBA media race held earlier that day at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The race was won by drag racing photographer Ron Lewis.