People, Places & Racing News

FIVE DRIVERS CLINCH COUNTDOWN SPOTS AND OTHER NHRA NEWSMAKERS

NEWS NUGGETS

RAIN DELAYS TOYO TIRES NHRA NATIONALS AND COUNTDOWN HOPEFULS: For the second day in a row, rain has delayed the final rounds of the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania. Action resumes Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. (EST) at Maple Grove Raceway. Though rain has kept the finals from finishing up, the new Countdown to the Championship playoff system has proven to provide big-time thrills as the last race in the 17-race Countdown to 8 comes to a close.

FIVE DRIVERS CLINCH A COUNTDOWN BERTH, FOUR DRIVERS HOPE TO CLINCH IN FINALS AT READING: Top Fuel pilots Whit Bazemore and Bob Vandergriff, Pro Stock drivers Kurt and Warren Johnson and Pro Stock Motorcycle riders Chip Ellis, Karen Stoffer, Eddie Krawiec and Peggy Llewellyn all clinched a spot in the Countdown Playoffs at the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania. Top Fuel pilot Doug Herbert, in an amazing comeback, is sitting on the verge of overtaking eighth-place driver David Grubnic and securing a spot in the Countdown playoffs with a win in the final round of Top Fuel. Herbert faces Rod Fuller in the finals once racing begins again Tuesday. Funny Car driver Del Worsham, Pro Stock driver V Gaines and Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Chris Rivas are hoping to grab the remaining spots in the top eight with semifinal wins in Reading.

PUSTARI FILLS IN FOR AILING DRIVER BRANDON BERNSTEIN IN READING: With regular driver Brandon Bernstein sidelined after surgery to remove a stubborn kidney stone at Reading Hospital and Medical Center, veteran driver Rit Pustari climbed into the seat of the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster for the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in Reading. Pustari, who happened to be in Reading to visit friends competing in the race, got the call to sub for Bernstein late last week. Pustari qualified in the lucky 13th spot, but fell in the first round to Top Fuel pilot David Grubnic.

ASHLEY IS IN AOL SEMIS: Ashley Force has made it to the semifinals of America Online’s “Hottest Female Athlete” Tournament. Force defeated golf’s Paula Creamer to make it to the semifinals where she’s pitted against IndyCar diva Danica Patrick for a trip to the finals. The other two semifinalists are Maria Sharapova and Jenny Finch. The daughter of NHRA icon John Force is a leading candidate for the Auto Club Road to the Future award. She is 1–1 against her father and advanced to back-to-back semifinals.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

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 playoffs 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.

O’REILLY NHRA FALL NATIONALS, TEXAS MOTORPLEX, SEPTEMBER 20–23: The third of four races in the Countdown to Four, defending event winners include Brandon Bernstein, Robert Hight and Richie Stevens Jr. Also, for the first time since 2000, Pro Stock Motorcycle will return to compete at Texas Motorplex.

.INSIDE THE NUMBERS

53: Entering the final regular season event in the POWERade Countdown to the Championship in Reading, Snap-on Tools dragster pilot Doug Herbert was sitting in the 11th spot, 53 points away from David Grubnic and the eighth-place cutoff point. With a win Tuesday in the final round against points leader Rod Fuller, Herbert could complete one of the most spectacular comebacks in NHRA history to clinch the final spot in the Countdown playoffs.

DRIVERS TELL ALL

TOP FUEL PILOT MELANIE TROXEL ON NOT ADVANCING TO THE COUNTDOWN TO FOUR: Heading into the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania, the final cutoff race for The Countdown to 8 in the inaugural Countdown to the Championship season, Top Fuel pilot Melanie Troxel was in ninth-place, just two points behind eighth-place and final cutoff spot David Grubnic. Unfortunately, a first-round loss to teammate Morgan Lucas ended her Championship run for 2007. Speaking on the loss to her teammate, Troxel says that a legitimate win, not a “gimme,” was exactly how she wanted to fight for her championship standings. “It’s disappointing, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I wouldn’t want them (Morgan Lucas’ team) to hand that to us. I wouldn’t have felt we earned our place in the Countdown. We went up there to race, and that’s all there is to it.”

For more information, visit www.nhra.com.