Compiled by SEMA Editors
LANGDON, J. FORCE, COUGHLIN, SMITH SECURE WINS AT AUTO-PLUS NHRA NATIONALS: Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) took home wins at the recently completed Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. For Langdon, this was his category-leading sixth win of the season and keeps his points lead over Doug Kalitta.
"We have a good grasp on things, but there’s two races left and anything can happen,” Langdon said. “The competition level is so tough right now, so you can’t take anything for granted."
In Funny Car, Force took the points lead during qualifying and raced to the event win from the No. 1 qualifying position. "What we have right now is consistency,” Force said. “We had to beat good competition [Sunday]. We stayed with our strategy and stayed with what we knew we could do.”
Pro Stock's Coughlin piloted his JEGS.com Dodge Avenger to his fourth win of the season and the points lead for the first time this year. “In our case, with the way things have played out, we made a pretty good jump, and we’re happy to have the points lead,” Coughlin said. “We’re racing hard, and we’re racing smart, and that’s how we raced this weekend.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Smith continued his late season surge by winning his second consecutive event and the third of the season. “This thing’s not over yet,” Smith said. “I’m still looking at every round as just 20 points. But we’ll be strong, I guarantee you, in Vegas.”
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COUGHLIN TAKES POINTS LEAD IN PRO STOCK: Four-time Pro Stock world champion Jeg Coughlin not only won the event at Maple Grove Raceway, but also moved to the points lead. For Coughlin, who sat out the 2011 season, it marks the first time since 2009 that he has led the Pro Stock points. He has a 45-point lead over the driver who knocked Coughlin out of the points lead in 2009, Mike Edwards. "I'm an optimistic person, but we've got a lot of racing left to do, Coughlin said. "All across the Pro Stock horizon, they are [preparing] for a great Vegas run. We'd love to say this thing is all but over, but there are a lot of rounds left."
FORCE RACES TO FUNNY CAR POINTS LEAD: John Force raced to his second consecutive win, third of the season and in doing so, took the Funny Car points lead from Matt Hagan. Force hasn't led the Funny Car points since the season-opening event in Pomona in 2012, and this season, he was as low in points as 12th leaving the event in Atlanta. Four final-round appearances in the last nine races has put the NHRA icon in position to win his 16th championship.
“This is a good race car. [Crew chiefs] Jimmy Prock and Danny DeGennaro have things really going," Force said. "Robert [Hight] told me that this was a great team when I came over here. What is most exciting is the teamwork. The other crew chiefs are all trying to win but they are also helping us when we are headed to the semi-finals or the finals. They were up on the starting line rooting for me and you could see the sincerity. Back at the trailer, the crew chiefs are going over the computers and Robert is showing me the videos so I can see anything that can help me on staging.”
LANGDON AND SMITH BUILD UPON POINTS LEADS: Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) continue their march towards 2013 championships by adding wins to their impressive seasons. Langdon raced to his sixth win of the season in nine final-round appearances when he defeated 2012 Top Fuel champion Antron Brown. Langdon has led the points following the past 11 of 14 events and is 83 points ahead of Doug Kalitta, who he defeated in the semifinals on Sunday.
“Going into the semifinals, that was a huge pressure situation," Langdon said. "As a driver, I’m just trying to calm myself down. This Al-Anabi team knows how to win championships, and I’m just trying to do the best I can. My mentality is just don’t mess anything up.”
Smith, the 2007 Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, took over the points lead in St. Louis after his win there and built upon the lead with his third win of the year and a 125-point margin over Hector Arana Jr. "This thing's not over yet," Smith said. "Until they give me that check, that jacket and that trophy, I'm still looking at every round as 20 points. That is what we have to take, each race, each round. We go do good in Vegas and I'd like to stand in that championship podium with my dad and be the first time a father-son has ever won a championship. He has already done it and I'm trying my best to do it."
NHRA TOYOTA NATIONALS, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, October 24–27: The NHRA Toyota Nationals is the penultimate race of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the championship battles will be tight as the season comes to a close. Bob Vandergriff (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Kraweic (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are defending event champions and will again be top contenders during the weekend. One of the largest autograph sessions of the year will take place at the Freemont Street Experience October 24, with many of the top stars in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS, Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, November 7–10: The 2013 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series comes to a conclusion at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California, November 7–10. Courtney Force will attempt to bookend her season with wins and end her stunning sophmore season. The champions will be crowned during the weekend. Brandon Bernstein (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) took home wins in 2012, and will attempt to end their seasons on a high note.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
“In 2010, I walked away with the points lead in Reading by 65 points and John [Force] came back and spanked me, so if he can do it we can do it. He just has to have one bad race. You can’t give up the fight until it is over. We are out here working hard and I know they are too, but I think our team is the team to beat. John has been running strong but it’s hard to stay that way a long time. I’m looking for the ol’ boy to fall off and we will pick up the slack when he does. We are out here making some runs and tightening some things up. We are hungry; you don’t get many chances to win these championships very often in your career. No matter what happens at the end of the day, I know these boys are working hard and so am I."
—Matt Hagan during a test session at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianpolis on losing the points lead to John Force and the final two races of the season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
500,000: Number of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series enthusiasts that are fans of the NHRA Facebook page. The NHRA Twitter account also has more than 50,000 followers as well. Both social media channels are excellent ways to keep up with all the up-to-date information on the racers, events, and an inside look at the fastest form of motorsports in the world.
DID YOU KNOW…
DEJORIA RACES TO DEFEAT BREAST CANCER DURING NHRA TOYOTA NATIONALS: Alexis DeJoria will be looking to capture the NHRA Toyota Nationals Wally as well as leading the charge to battle breast cancer. DeJoria has collaborated with Nevada Health Centers to provide free mammograms at the event to female fans in a 'mammovan,' a mobile mammography unit housed within a semi-truck that will be placed behind the Alexis DeJoria pit area. Any woman over 40, regardless of her health insurance, may visit the mammovan for a free screening.
“I’m thrilled that we were able to team up with NVHC and provide this service to our fans. As one of the few females in the auto-racing industry, it’s important to me to be a vocal spokesperson for the fight against breast cancer,” DeJoria said. “At any given race, you see just as many female fans as you do males. People don’t typically think of auto racing as a sport that attracts a large female audience, but it does, which is why I was so intent on doing something like this.”