People, Places & Racing News

SOX AND MARTIN AMONG EIGHT INDUCTED INTO MOTORSPORTS HALL OF FAME, AND OTHER NHRA NEWSMAKERS

NEWS NUGGETS

NHRA POWERADE SERIES TELECONFERENCE TUESDAY, AUGUST 14 AT 1 P.M. EST/10 A.M. PST: The NHRA POWERade Series will be hosting the second in a series of teleconferences to preview the inaugural Countdown to the Championship season on Tuesday, August 14 at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST. If you need the phone number and access code to join the call, please reply to this e-mail. The drivers on the call will be Top Fuel drivers Dave Grubnic, Melanie Troxel and Cory McClenathan, all locked in a tight battle for the final playoff spot, the coveted No. 8 position in the Top Fuel point standings.

MORE DRIVERS CLINCH COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP SPOTS IN BRAINERD: Seven more drivers—Bob Vandergriff Jr. in Top Fuel, Mike Ashley, Jack Beckman, Tony Pedregon, Gary Scelzi and John Force in Funny Car, and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle—locked up spots in the Countdown to Four as the result of the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. With just the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals next weekend in Reading, Pennsylvania, left in the regular season portion of the Countdown to the Championship, two spots remain open in the Top Fuel field, one in Funny Car, three in Pro Stock and a whopping five in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Whit Bazemore and David Grubnic hold down the two vulnerable spots in Top Fuel while Jim Head is eighth in Funny Car. Kurt Johnson, Warren Johnson and Larry Morgan currently hold down spots six through eight in Pro Stock and are still vulnerable while the Pro Stock Motorcycle field remains wide open after the three clinched drivers.

COUGHLIN EARNS 50TH NATIONAL EVENT TITLE: One race after Greg Anderson scored his 50th career national event win, Jeg Coughlin collected his 50th victory by beating Anderson in the Pro Stock final. Coughlin's 50 career wins have come in both the pro and sportsman categories. He has 37 Pro Stock wins, including three this year and 13 Sportsman wins in four different classes: Super Stock (seven), Super Gas (four), Competition (one) and Top Dragster (one). Coughlin is the 11th racer in NHRA history to win 50 national events.  "This was big," Coughlin said. "To get our 50th win against the competition we run these days is special. Getting to 50 wins was one of my goals when I returned to Pro Stock. It's special to think that only 10 other people have achieved that mark in 50-plus years of drag racing. Fortunately, I've had a great hot rod with [team owner] Victor Cagnazzi and his entire team of technicians and mechanics, and they've given me a car capable of winning races. I remember winning Indy in 1992 [in Super Gas] and standing in the winner's circle with [NHRA founder] Wally Parks. That was my second win, and now I look back and see how far we've come as a sport. It's just phenomenal the vision Wally had and how it's grown."

SOX AND MARTIN TO BE INDUCTED INTO MOTORSPORTS HALL OF FAME: Legendary NHRA Pro Stock teammates Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin are among the eight inductees this year into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, which will expand its honor roll of racing greats at its 19th annual induction ceremony Wednesday, August 15, at the Fillmore Detroit. Three-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion Shirley Muldowney, who already is enshrined in the hall, will help induct Goodyear and IRL executive Leo Mehl.  The class of 2007 also includes former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott; Indy car mechanic/team manager Jim McGee; 1960 Indy 500 king Jim Rathmann; America's first national sports car champion, John Fitch; and dirt-track and pavement motorcycle hero Bubba Shobert.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

TOYO TIRES NHRA NATIONALS, MAPLE GROVE RACEWAY, AUGUST 16–19: The final race of the Countdown to the Championship regular season, this will be the last chance for drivers to either maintain or move into position to clinch a playoff berth. Defending event winners include J.R. Todd, Phil Burkart, Greg Anderson and Karen Stoffer.

INDY NHRA SPORT COMPACT NATIONALS PRES. BY BP, O’REILLY RACEWAY PARK, AUGUST 18–19: The NHRA Xplod Sport Compact Racing Series will be coming to O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis for the inaugural Indy NHRA Sport Compact Nationals presented by BP, August 18–19. This will mark the first time that the Xplod Series has come to Indianapolis as a stand-alone event. For more information, log onto NHRA Xplod Sport Compact Racing Series home page www.nhrasportcompact.com.  

MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS, O’REILLY RACEWAY PARK, AUGUST 29–SEPTEMBER 3: Long known as the most prestigious race in the POWERade Drag Racing Series, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals takes on an even more significant role in 2007 with the inception of the Countdown to the Championship. The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals is the first race in the four-race Countdown playoff that will halve the field of eligible championship teams from eight to four. The annual Skoal Showdown (Funny Car) and the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle (Pro Stock Motorcycle) bonus events also will be contested during the popular Labor Day weekend event.

O’REILLY NHRA MID-SOUTH NATIONALS, MEMPHIS MOTORSPORTS PARK, SEPTEMBER 14–16: Doug Kalitta, John Force, Kurt Johnson and Andrew Hines look to defend their 2006 titles at this second event in the Countdown to Four. 

.INSIDE THE NUMBERS

2: Entering the final regular season event in the POWERade Countdown to the Championship the tightest battle for the final No. 8 points position is in Top Fuel. Only two points separate No. 8 Dave Grubnic from No. 9 Melanie Troxel, which means that qualifying position could determine who advances into the inaugural Countdown. Cory McClenathan is 50 points back, and within range to also make the field with a solid performance at the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. The next closest battle is in Pro Stock Motorcycle, where Steve Johnson sits outside the Top 8 by 25 points. In Pro Stock, Vieri Gaines and Richie Stevens are 55 and 56 points out respectively. In Funny Car, Jim Head is holding on tight to the eighth position, while Tommy Johnson Jr. (83 points) and Del Worsham (84 points) trail.

DRIVERS TELL ALL

NHRA LEGENDS FORCE AND BERNSTEIN BATTLE AT BRAINERD: The John Force versus Kenny Bernstein Funny Car final at Brainerd was a classic with both men leaving with nearly identical reaction times and then racing all the way down the strip side-by-side. In the end, Force's Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang inched ahead to take the finish line first with a 4.794 at 316.60 mph to Bernstein's 4.801 at 320.43 mph in his Monster Energy Drink Dodge Charger R/T. Force and Bernstein last faced each other in 1989 at the SuperNationals in Englishtown, New Jersey, an event that Bernstein went on to win for his last Funny Car victory. Bernstein now holds a 13-8 mark against Force, including a 6-2 record in final rounds. "Bernstein had been hitting the lights all day and (crew chief Austin) Coil said I needed a light in the final if I wanted to win,” Force said. “He said the motor was all the way up; there was nothing left. That race took me back to 1978 when Kenny Bernstein was the king and he beat me, and I told myself that one day I'd beat him. But then he left the class, and I never got my chance.”