|Top Fuel pilot Antron Brown|
BROWN LOOKS FOR FAMED WESTERN SWEEP AS NHRA FULL THROTTLE SERIES HEADS TO SONOMA: Top Fuel pilot Antron Brown is so close he can taste it. He won in Denver. He won in Seattle. Now the points leader and sophomore dragster driver looks to do something that only six drivers in NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing history have ever done—sweep the Western Swing. With a victory at this weekend’s FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, Brown would join a list that includes Top Fuel greats Joe Amato, Tony Schumacher, Cory McClenathan and Larry Dixon, along with Funny Car legend John Force and three-time Pro Stock world champion Greg Anderson. It’s a rare feat to see. Since the famed Western Swing was introduced to the schedule in 1989, many drivers have come close to sweeping the grueling three-races-in-three-weeks stretch through the hot summer days of July, but only six names stand in the record books as Western Swing Sweepers. By Sunday evening, Brown could be the seventh driver to juggle the Wally and broom in Winner’s Circle at Infineon Raceway.
Though Brown is the only driver in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series that could sweep the Swing this season, many drivers are hoping to continue their push toward a more secure spot in the Top 10 point standings before the Countdown to 1 playoffs begin. Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson is one of those drivers. Wilkerson is coming off his first win of the season in Seattle and since Norwalk, has moved from seventh to fifth in the point standings. Mike Neff is also making a late-season move, picking up two spots and moving to the ninth position in the point standings after a second-round finish in Seattle. In Pro Stock, Kurt and Warren Johnson hope to make up some ground in Sonoma this week. They sit eighth and 10th in the point standings, respectively.
DRIVERS CLINCH COUNTDOWN SPOTS AS REGULAR SEASON NEARS END: Pro Stock driver Jason Line, Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher and two-time world champion Larry Dixon were the latest drivers to clinch a spot in the Countdown to 1 playoffs, which will begin September 17–20 at the second annual NHRA Carolinas Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina, just five races away.
Defending Pro Stock world champion Jeg Coughlin was the first driver to clinch a spot in the Countdown playoffs after his second round finish in Norwalk.
Below is a list of drivers who have secured their spot in the Countdown playoffs. The highly competitive Funny Car category has yet to produce a clinched spot for any driver.
- Antron Brown
- Tony Schumacher
- Larry Dixon
- Jeg Coughlin
- Mike Edwards
- Jason Line
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
- Eddie Krawiec
KALITTA TO DEBUT RED LINE TOP FUEL DRAGSTER IN SONOMA: Top Fuel pilot Doug Kalitta will debut the all-new Red Line Oil Top Fuel dragster at the 22nd annual FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma this weekend. “Kalitta Motorsports and Red Line Oil go back a long way,” Kalitta said. “They have helped us for years with technical support and product, and I’m really happy to represent them on their home turf for their anniversary. I’ve had more wins in Sonoma than any other track, so it feels good knowing I’ll be flying the Red Line banner there.” Red Line, a northern California-based company, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
FRAM AUTOLITE NHRA NATIONALS, INFINEON RACEWAY, JULY 24–26: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its final stop on the famed Western Swing in beautiful Sonoma, California. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); Dave Connolly (Pro Stock); and Matt Guidera (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS, BRAINERD INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY, AUGUST 13–16: Heading back to the northern part of Minnesota, the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series prepares for this historical event. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Tony Pedregon (Funny Car); Kurt Johnson (Pro Stock); and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
TOYO TIRES NHRA NATIONALS, MAPLE GROVE RACEWAY, AUGUST 20–23: Making its second to last stop for the regular season, the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads to the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Jack Beckman (Funny Car); Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock); and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
HE SAID, SHE SAID
ONE CRAZY WIN: Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson on beating Tony Pedregon late Sunday afternoon for his first win of the season: “I just pointed it straight and went on instinct, I guess, because I couldn’t see much. I also couldn’t see him, so that was a good thing; and then we got the win and all the craziness in the world let loose.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
0/4: That’s the number of repeat winners in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category at Infineon Raceway and the number of active drivers who have the chance to grab their second win there. Matt Guidera, Andrew Hines, Matt Smith and Craig Treble could become the first Pro Stock Motorcycle rider to grab a second win at the track.
DID YOU KNOW…
…that of the six drivers who have swept the Western Swing, only one driver—Pro Stock’s Greg Anderson—has ever followed that up with a second consecutive win at Infineon Raceway? Anderson swept the swing in 2004 and then followed it with a win at Infineon Raceway in 2005. Top Fuel pilot Tony Schumacher could not only rob Antron Brown of a Western Swing sweep if he wins in Sonoma, but he would also become the second driver to follow up his sweep (2008) with a win at Infineon Raceway.