WILKERSON RALLIES AT INDY TO EARN COUNTDOWN PLAYOFF BERTH; VANDERGRIFF, COUGHLIN ALSO TAKE SPOTS: Veteran Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson added to the drama and excitement of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus by making a tremendous move in Indy to earn the 10th and final Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoff spot in Funny Car. After starting the race in 12th in the points standings, Wilkerson defeated Bob Tasca and Jeff Arend before advancing to the final round and outlasting defending world champ Matt Hagan for the final position. A 10-point oil-violation penalty following his final-round loss to eventual race winner Mike Neff made the final tally even more dramatic as Wilkerson edged Hagan by only seven points. Wilkerson had been outside the top 10 since the second race of the season. Now he will have the opportunity to compete against nine others in the 8,000hp category for a chance at winning the Full Throttle world championship. In Top Fuel, Bob Vandergriff Jr. outlasted Clay Millican and Khalid alBalooshi for the 10th spot. In Pro Stock, Ron Krisher, V. Gaines, Larry Morgan and Jeg Coughlin earned the four remaining berths. Michael Ray, Shawn Gann and Matt Smith claimed the final three spots in Pro Stock Motorcycle. The six-race NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship opens September 14–16 at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, North Carolina, with the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries. For tickets, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office, 800-455-FANS (3267). For more on this story, visit NHRA.com.
NHRA TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT FOR FUNNY CAR MOVED TO DALLAS EVENT: The NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car, scheduled for last Saturday’s rain-delayed completion of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus, has been moved to the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex, September 22. Heavy overnight rains in the Indianapolis area forced NHRA officials to delay the start of racing and didn’t allow enough time to run the $100,000 specialty race. The race within a race will feature eight world-class Funny Car racers battling for the $100,000 winner’s share. Ron Capps, Robert Hight, Jack Beckman, Johnny Gray, Mike Neff, John Force, Jeff Arend and Courtney Force are the qualified drivers for the inaugural event.
“We are disappointed for the fans at Lucas Oil Raceway that they aren’t able to take part in the NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car,” said Graham Light, NHRA senior vice president of racing operations. “We are excited that the Texas Motorplex can host the event, which will now take place in the shadow of the Traxxas company headquarters and in front of the many Traxxas employees in the area.” Traxxas is based in Plano, Texas, just north of Dallas. Traxxas Nitro Shootout first-round pairings are Capps vs. C. Force, Hight vs. Arend, Beckman vs. J. Force and Gray vs. Neff. For tickets to the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals, call 800-MOTORPLEX (668-6775) or visit TexasMotorplex.com.
DIXON TO DRIVE DOTE RACING TOP FUELER BEGINNING IN CHARLOTTE: Three-time Top Fuel world champion Larry Dixon will pilot the Dote Racing Top Fuel dragster at three of the remaining NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events this season, beginning with this weekend's fifth-annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at zMAX Dragway. Dixon, whose 62 Top Fuel victories rank second on the all-time list, has also signed on to compete with the part-time team in St. Louis and Reading.
"We are thrilled to partner with a driver of Larry's caliber for the remainder of our scheduled races," said Connie Dote, co-owner of Dote Racing. "Larry is one of the best drivers of all time, and we couldn't be more excited to combine his talents with our car's improving performance."
Since parting ways with Al-Anabi Racing in the last off-season, Dixon has been working on securing funding to put together his own team—a project that will continue as he fills in at Dote Racing.
"I'm really happy the Dotes offered me this chance to drive their car," Dixon said. "It'll be fun to get out there and duke it out with everyone again. I've been working hard at putting my own team together, and I know the Dotes are looking at what their next move will be in 2013. In the meantime, I'm happy to sub in for them. I feel like a free-agent quarterback who just got the call to come start the next game. I've known Doug (Kuch, crew chief) for 25 years, and it will be fun to work with him. Hopefully, they'll get as much out of me driving for them as I will taking their car through these three races."
The Dote team, with tuner Kuch, has turned heads this season by consistently posting competitive elapsed times on the scoreboard. The team has qualified at all seven races it has contested so far and reached the semifinals in Chicago—its best finish to date.
"We've gone rounds at the last two races, and with the car's increasing performance, I'm interested to hear what kind of feedback Larry can give us," Kuch said. "We are all looking forward to having him behind the wheel as we return to Charlotte."
For tickets, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office, 800-455-FANS (3267). For more on this story, visit NHRA.com.
O’REILLY AUTO PARTS NHRA NATIONALS PRESENTED BY SUPER START BATTERIES, zMAX Dragway, September 14–16: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its 18th stop of 23 events in the 2012 season for the first event of the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship. The top 10 drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will earn points in the Countdown—the NHRA’s playoffs. For tickets, call 800-455-FANS (3267) or visit zMAXDragway.com.
AAA TEXAS NHRA FALL NATIONALS, Texas Motorplex, September 20–23: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its 19th stop of 23 events in the 2012 season for the second race of the Countdown. Drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will earn points toward the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships. The 2011 winners are Bob Vandergriff Jr. (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Michael Phillips (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800-668-6775 or visit TexasMotorplex.com.
AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS, Gateway Motorsports Park, September 28–30: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series returns to St. Louis, and this time, it is for round three of the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship—the NHRA’s playoffs. For tickets, call 800-884-NHRA (6472) or visit NHRATix.com.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
HOT START AT ZMAX DRAGWAY CRITICAL FOR COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP SUCCESS: As the first race of the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries has always played a key role in deciding season champions. In the past three seasons, eight of the 12 winners of the Countdown opener at zMAX Dragway have gone on to win championships. Robert Hight currently sits second in the Funny Car standings. In 2009, he won both the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals and the Funny Car championship. He stresses the importance of gaining momentum to start the playoffs.
“It’s huge because I believe that racetrack is good, the conditions should be good and that’s exactly what this Auto Club Ford likes,” said Hight. “We hope to be good under all conditions—when it’s hot, when it’s cool—but I believe our strong point is when it’s cool. We have to get the momentum started at zMAX because you go to Dallas, and it’s hot, that racetrack’s tricky, so it’s nice to get the momentum going, and it’s the start of four races in a row. That is huge if you can carry that momentum right into the next week.”
Tickets and camping are still available for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, September 14–16 at zMAX Dragway, by calling the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office, 800-455-FANS (3267).
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
9: SCHUMACHER PASSES GARLITS, TIES GLIDDEN WITH INDY VICTORY: Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher passed legendary “Big Daddy” Don Garlits on the all-time Top Fuel wins list at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus and tied Pro Stock great Bob Glidden for most pro wins at the drag race by claiming his ninth victory at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis last Sunday. It was Schumacher’s 11th final-round appearance at the Big Go.
“It may be sweeter [than the first Indy win],” said Schumacher of his second victory of the season and 69th of his career. “Anymore, it’s more difficult to win a race, by far, than it has probably ever been. There was a time where we were a tenth ahead of everybody and just needed to not make any mistakes, but the top seven cars are all so close that it’s pretty gratifying.” Schumacher beat Hillary Will, Morgan Lucas and top qualifier Shawn Langdon in early rounds before outrunning Spencer Massey in the final.
“To have a chance to win a ninth against my teammate who was running as good if not better and had lane choice made it a perfect moment,” Schumacher said. “I didn’t feel like I was stellar on the lights, but I left on everybody, Mike Green [crew chief] made the car run fast, and we got the trophy.”
Other Indy winners were Mike Neff (Funny Car), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For more news and results about the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, visit NHRA.com.
DID YOU KNOW…
FULL THROTTLE AWARDS CEREMONY RETURNS TO HOLLYWOOD & HIGHLAND CENTER: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Awards Ceremony is returning to the Grand Ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland Center in the heart of Hollywood, California. The 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Awards Ceremony will take place Monday, November 12, and will be broadcast on the Web at NHRA.com and via NHRA’s YouTube home page beginning Wednesday, November 14. This marks the fourth year the awards ceremony will be available to NHRA fans in its entirety. The Hard Rock Cafe, also at the Hollywood & Highland Center, will play host to the after-party. The Hard Rock Cafe sits beside the world-famous Dolby Theater, home of the Academy Awards, and just steps from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and Hollywood’s starry Walk of Fame. The 20,000-sq.-ft. Hard Rock Cafe includes spacious seating, a live music area and a vibrant bar. The property also will play host to the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Awards Ceremony, scheduled earlier in the day. The invitation-only black-tie event, where the NHRA will crown its 2012 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world champions, will feature a pre-event cocktail reception, a formal sit-down banquet and the after-party. This year’s NHRA Full Throttle Awards Ceremony will be hosted by Dave Rieff—a veteran member of the NHRA broadcast team on ESPN. For more about this story, visit NHRA.com.