SEMA eNews Vol. 12, No. 35, September 3, 2009

NHRA: Hight, Pedregon, Kalitta and Others Face Last Chance for Playoffs

NEWS NUGGETS

  Side Profile
   

LAST STAND: INDY LAST CHANCE FOR MANY TO MAKE COUNTDOWN TO 1: It’s been seven months since the Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals, the starting point of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series in Pomona, California. In that span, the series has traveled to 17 races, yet for many drivers hovering just outside of the Top 10 in the point standings, it all comes down to five days and one race.

As the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series prepares for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, only 10 spots in the four professional categories remain open for the Countdown to 1 playoffs, and the pressure couldn’t be any higher.

Highly competitive competitors, such as two-time U.S. Nationals winner Robert Hight and defending Funny Car world champion Cruz Pedregon, are in an epic battle for the remaining spots in the Funny Car point standings. Veteran drivers, such as Top Fuel’s Doug Kalitta and Pro Stock’s Warren and Kurt Johnson, still find themselves in a battle with fellow competitors for the few remaining spots in their respective categories.

While for some, their first time competing in the five-day, Labor Day weekend race will determine their outcome in the battle for the Championship. Rookie Matt Hagan will make only his second Funny Car appearance at the U.S. Nationals in the 11th spot in the point standings, just one-place and a mere 31 points away from that final 10th-place position in the point standings and the last seat in the Countdown to 1 playoffs.

All the drama and excitement begins this week as the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series descends on the Indianapolis area for the prestigious 55th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, September 2–7, at O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.

  Drag Race Overhead
   

LANDMARK TOP FUEL, FUNNY CAR EXHIBITION PLANNED FOR NHRA CAROLINAS NATIONALS: For the first time in NHRA history, modern Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars will race four-lanes, four-wide, unleashing a powerful assault of 28,000 horsepower on spectacular zMAX Dragway, NHRA officials announced today. In what is sure to be a must-see demonstration of the ultimate in high-horsepower performance, four NHRA Top Fuel dragsters and four NHRA Funny Cars will race in a four-wide configuration during separate races in a special exhibition event just prior to the final round of the NHRA Carolinas Nationals, on Sunday, September 20.

The drivers of each of the four-wide exhibition races will be determined that day among those drivers who lose in the first round of eliminations at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event. Those who have the higher standing in the NHRA championship points order will be given the first opportunity to participate in the unique exhibition.

“With Bruton Smith’s state-of-the-art zMAX Dragway, which features four lanes for competition, we have an opportunity to offer this incredible attraction to our fans,” said Tom Compton, president, NHRA. “It will be the first time that fans can witness modern Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars running four-wide. With 28,000 horsepower it certainly will be a memorable spectacle to see.” For more information on this event, visit www.NHRA.com.

ARANA LEADS PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE COMPETITORS INTO RINGERS GLOVES PRO BIKE BATTLE: Hector Arana will headline a special eight-rider field from the No. 1 qualifying position as he is seeking his first victory in the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle at O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis on September 5. The special bonus event for the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors will be held during the 55th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil.

The total race-day purse for the 19th annual Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle is $61,000. The winner will earn a $25,000 bonus from Ringers Gloves. Any rider who can win the Battle and the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals will earn a $10,000 double-up bonus from NHRA. Drivers accumulated points for the event at 17 NHRA national events between last year’s Mac Tools U.S. Nationals through last weekend’s Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pennsylvania. A $1,000 bonus was awarded to the No. 1 qualifier at each of those races. Joining Arana in the Pro Bike Battle will be Matt Guidera, Andrew Hines, Steve Johnson, Eddie Krawiec, Craig Treble, Matt Smith and Karen Stoffer. For more information on the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle, visit www.NHRA.com.

HOUSTON, LAS VEGAS 1 SWAP DATES IN 2010 NHRA FULL THROTTLE SCHEDULE: NHRA has announced that it has repositioned two events on its 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag racing Series schedule. The O’Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals in Houston has been moved to the April 9–11 weekend, exchanging places with the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which will now be held April 16–18. The move was necessary due to NASCAR’s anticipated 2010 schedule.

“We certainly want the fans in our area to be able to take advantage of all the great entertainment opportunities that the world of motorsports has to offer in the great state of Texas,” said Seth Angel, general manager of Houston Raceway Park. Said LVMS President Chris Powell, “Shifting the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals back one week works well for everyone. Our spring race is one of the marquee stops in drag racing each year, and it’s hard to top Las Vegas weather in mid-April. So we’re happy to accommodate this move by NHRA.”

For more information, including the updated schedule, visit www.NHRA.com.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS PRESENTED BY LUCAS OIL, O’REILLY RACEWAY PARK, SEPTEMBER 2–7: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads back to the famed “Big Go”, the world’s most prestigious drag race. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); Dave Connolly (Pro Stock); and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

NHRA CAROLINAS NATIONALS, zMAX DRAGWAY, SEPTEMBER 17–20: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads down to the Charlotte area for the second annual event and first race of the Countdown to 1 playoffs. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Jack Beckman (Funny Car); Justin Humphreys (Pro Stock); and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

O’REILLY SUPER START BATTERIES NHRA FALL NATIONALS, TEXAS MOTORPLEX, SEPTEMBER 24–27: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its second stop of the season in the Lone Star State for the second race of the Countdown to 1 playoffs. Defending event winners include J.R. Todd (Top Fuel); Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car); Greg Stanfield (Pro Stock); and Chris Rivas (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Brandon Bernstein  
   

HE SAID, SHE SAID

PICKING UP AS MANY POINTS AS YOU CAN: Top Fuel pilot Brandon Bernstein on earning points and picking up round wins at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil: “This is our last shot to make up a spot and better our starting position. We’re fifth going into this race, less than one round out of fourth place in the point standings, and we’ve got the alligators nipping at our heels.”

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

3: That’s the number of times Funny Car driver Robert Hight has been to the final round at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, in as many years. That is also how many career wins defending world champion Cruz Pedregon has at the prestigious event (1995, ’94, ’92), just one more than Hight (2008, ‘06). Hight and Pedregon are in a tight battle for the 10th-place spot in the Top 10 and Countdown to 1 playoffs.

  Andrew Hines
   

DID YOU KNOW…

…that of his three world championships, 17 event wins and three Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle wins, Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Andrew Hines has yet to win the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil? Hines made his first final-round appearance last year at the historic event and hopes to follow it up with a win at this year’s race.

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