BROWN, T. PED, COUGHLIN, KRAWIEC HOPE TO STAY NO. 1 THROUGH PLAYOFFS: With the Countdown to 1 standings set, the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads to zMAX Dragway for the second annual NHRA Carolinas Nationals this weekend, the first of six races in the Countdown playoffs. As teams and crews prepare for the upcoming playoffs which will begin with a four-races-in-four-weeks grueling stretch, points leaders Antron Brown, Tony Pedregon, Jeg Coughlin and Eddie Krawiec hope to do the one thing that has only happened twice in NHRA history—keep their top spots in the standings and win NHRA Full Throttle Series world championships.
Tony Schumacher (2008) and Matt Smith (2007) are the only drivers to have ever entered the Countdown playoffs in the top spot, and remain in the top spot until the end of the season. That means that since its inception in 2007, out of all four categories in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing series, only two out of a possible of eight points leaders in the Countdown to the Championship have ever gone on to win the world championship.
“I’m just excited and geared up for the new challenge,” said Brown. “Indy knocked our team back to reality a little bit on how tough this Top Fuel class really is. We have to race our own lane and do what we do.”
Brown, Pedregon, Coughlin and Krawiec enter the Countdown with 30-point leads over second-place, which includes a 20-point bonus for finishing the regular season in the top spot in the standings.
“Now we start over, for all intents, and we need to reset and get set for the playoffs,” said Coughlin. “It’s going to be a thrill. It’s a six-race dash for the Full Throttle Championship. Let me tell you, it’s going to be one interesting battle in Pro Stock.”
The Countdown to 1 playoffs begin this weekend with the NHRA Carolinas Nationals at zMAX dragway.
50TH NHRA WINTERNATIONALS TICKES ON SALE: Tickets for what is anticipated to be one of the most memorable events in NHRA history, the 50th annual Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals, have gone on sale starting today. The 50th running of the Winternationals, Feb. 11–14, 2010, at storied Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, will be a must-see event not just for fans of today’s 300-mph nitromethane-burning dragsters, but perhaps even more so for those NHRA fans who long for the days of front-engine dragsters being push-started under the iconic Winternationals banner.
Despite the heavy demand for Winternationals tickets, NHRA is making it easier than ever to attend by lowering the cost of Top Eliminator Club tickets and reducing the price of Saturday and Sunday general-admission tickets to $50 to commemorate the 50th anniversary. The scheduled events will include the Golden 50: a collection of the greatest cars in Winternationals history, the Classic Legends Dinner, Exhibition runs by legendary tribute cars, daily cacklefests, car parades and autograph sessions with stars of the last 50 years and the top five moments in the top 25 moments in Winternationals history countdown will be revealed.
PRO STOCK RACERS HAMMONDS AND McBRIDE TO RETURN TO CHARLOTTE AND DALLAS: Pro Stock driver and former NBA power forward Tom Hammonds will return to racing action this weekend at the NHRA Carolinas Nationals at zMAX Dragway. It has been a little more than four months since Hammonds last drove at a national event, the O’Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals in Madison, Illinois.
“I haven’t been in a car in a long time, and I’m anxious to see exactly what our engines can do,” said Hammonds. “We’ve made some improvements since the last time we went down the quarter-mile, and now we’ll see exactly where we stand against the field. That will give us a good indication of where we need to go over the winter.”
Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Angie McBride will also return to action aboard the Karl Klement’s Buell at the O’Reilly NHRA Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex in Dallas. McBride has been competing sporadically on the tour this year aboard one of fiancée and former world champion Matt Smith’s bikes, and hopes that the Dallas audition might lead to a more full-time role for 2010. “I’m excited because this may be a stepping-stone to the future,” said McBride.
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. 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.
NHRA’S NEW POINT SYSTEM TO BEGIN THIS WEEKEND IN CONCORD: NHRA announced that with the start of the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship at the NHRA Carolinas Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina, it will recognize national records in Top Fuel and Funny Car and create a new bonus point system for pro qualifying sessions. Both programs will instantly make the battle for the NHRA Full Throttle world championship just a little more interesting for professional competitors on the eve of the start of the Countdown to 1, NHRA’s six-race championship playoffs.
NHRA will recognize official national elapsed time and speed records to 1,000 feet for both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Teams that set a national record for elapsed time (E.T.) will be awarded 20 points. Speed records are not eligible for bonus points. The starting point for the national record will be established using the quickest time and fastest speeds to 1,000-feet that were backed up by another performance within 1% during the course of a single event weekend, occurring since 1,000-foot racing started at the midway point of 2008. Those drivers who currently hold the national record in each category will not retroactively receive the 20 point bonus.
In order for performances to be certified as NHRA national records, the eligible performance must be backed up by another performance within 1% during the course of a single event weekend. Only one 20-point bonus will be awarded in each category per event.
In addition, NHRA announced a new bonus points structure that will offer teams opportunities to score critical points during qualifying sessions in all four professional categories. The team in each category with the quickest elapsed time during each qualifying session will receive three bonus points. In all, a team records the lowest E.T. in all four sessions could receive a total of 12 bonus points during qualifying. Teams with the second and third quickest elapsed times during each qualifying session will receive 2 and 1 bonus points, respectively.
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 at zMAX Dragway 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 are J.R. Todd (Top Fuel); Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car); Greg Stanfield (Pro Stock); and Chris Rivas (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
O’REILLY NHRA MID-SOUTH NATIONALS, MEMPHIS MOTORSPORTS PARK, OCTOBER 2–4: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series returns to the land of the Delta Blues for its third stop in the NHRA Countdown to 1 playoffs. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car); Mike Edwards (Pro Stock); and Craig Treble (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
HE SAID, SHE SAID
A BREATH OF FRESH AIR: Brandon Bernstein on entering the Countdown to 1 playoffs just after securing Copart Inc. as the title sponsor on the Kenny Bernstein Racing dragster for 2010:
“Everybody knows that the team is going forward next year, so that’s a load off everyone’s mind. Also Rob Flynn, our crew chief, along with all the members of our team have put in a lot of hours chasing a clutch gremlin we’ve been fighting recently. We think we’ve turned the corner there and are enthusiastic about a strong performance in Charlotte and a run at the championship.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
150: That’s the maximum number of points a driver in any of the four pro categories can earn per event, starting at this weekend’s NHRA Carolinas Nationals. If a driver runs the table by posting the quickest runs in each qualifying session (three points each day, 10 points to all entrants and 8 points for the No. 1 qualifier), wins the race (100 points for a win) and sets a national record (20 points), that driver could walk away with 150 points at the end of the event.
DID YOU KNOW
…that B.R.A.K.E.S. and Speedway Children’s Charities will partner up for their second annual benefit dinner and PPG Paintball Tournament this weekend in Concord, N.C.? B.R.A.K.E.S., the safe driving organization founded by Top Fuel racer Doug Herbert and Speedway Children’s Charities will partner for their second annual benefit dinner and PPG Paintball Tournament on opening day of the NHRA Carolinas Nationals, Thursday, September 17. For tickets to the dinner and tournament, call 704/732-8950 or visit www.putonthebrakes.org.