NITRO PERCENTAGE RETURNS TO 90%: Beginning with the 2008 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season, the maximum percentage of nitromethane used in the Top Fuel and Funny Car categories in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series will be increased from 85% to 90%. According to Dan Olson, NHRA Director Top Fuel and Funny Car Racing, the decision was made after NHRA officials evaluated input from some team owners, crew chiefs and suppliers. The consensus among those groups is that the rule change will extend the life of parts and reduce costs. In 2008, NHRA will closely monitor the situation to determine whether the expected results are achieved. Any unfavorable effect may result in immediate adjustments.
TROXEL SURPRISE TOP FUEL WINNER AT MEMPHIS: Melanie Troxel, who just missed qualifying for the POWERade Countdown to the Championship, played the spoiler role and raced to her second Top Fuel victory of the season, defeating surprise late-season championship contender Doug Herbert in the final round at Memphis Motorsports Park. Other winners at Memphis included Countdown players Gary Scelzi (FC); Dave Connolly (PS); and Andrew Hines (PSM).
COUNTDOWN TO FOUR TAKES SHAPE: Midway through the Countdown to Four, several drivers have established themselves as candidates to make the big step to the Countdown to One. In Top Fuel, Doug Herbert made the biggest move with his runner-up effort, landing in fifth place, 43 points out of the top four. Countdown leader Tony Schumacher was upset in the first round, but didn’t lose too much ground because Larry Dixon and Rod Fuller lost in the early rounds, and Brandon Bernstein used a semifinal finish to hold on to his top four spot.
A semifinal effort for Robert Hight increased his series lead in Funny Car, while Jack Beckman’s runner-up finish strengthened his hold on a top four finish. Winner Gary Scelzi bumped Tony Pedregon and non-qualifier Mike Ashley out of the top four. In Pro Stock, Dave Connolly raced to another victory and appears to have the momentum over rival KB Racing’s Greg Anderson. A victory for Andrew Hines gave the three-time defending POWERade Series champ the points lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Surprise Countdown contender Craig Treble raced to the semifinals in Memphis and could advance to the Countdown to One with a solid finish at Dallas.
AUTOZONE JOINS TOLIVER’S ROCKSTAR FUNNY CAR TEAM: Rockstar Energy Drink, the primary sponsor of Jerry Toliver's Toyota Solara Funny Car, and AutoZone, a retailer and distributor of auto parts, have announced a partnership that returns AutoZone to NHRA Drag Racing. “The entire Rockstar team and I are very excited to have AutoZone as our new partner," said Toliver, a veteran Funny Car driver from Temecula, California. "I'm calling out to all the NHRA fans to 'Get in the Zone' and shop at AutoZone for all their automotive needs.”
The new look to Toliver's Solara was unveiled Friday afternoon at Memphis Motorsports Park prior to the beginning of qualifying for the O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals presented by Pennzoil.
U.S. ARMY DROPS SPONSORSHIP OF DSR MOTORCYCLES: The U.S. Army has announced its decision to step away from its sponsorship of the two Pro Stock Motorcycles racing under the Don Schumacher Racing umbrella after 2007.
"Given the great pride the program brings our soldiers and everyone associated with the U.S. Army Pro Stock Motorcycles, this was not an easy decision to make," said Col. David Lee, Director of Strategic Communications. "We do, however, remain committed to NHRA and its fans who continue to support our program and soldiers, and look forward to continuing our sponsorship of the DSR Top Fuel team. We want to thank Angelle Sampey, Antron Brown, Steve Tartaglia, and the members of the Pro Stock Motorcycle team, as well as the entire Don Schumacher Racing organization, for their professionalism and their performances on behalf of the U.S. Army.
"We also want to thank all of the fans who support the U.S. Army Racing program, and wish both Angelle and Antron the best of luck moving forward. We are proud of our teams and the effort put forth by the riders and crew throughout our relationship."
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, the Pro Stock Motorcycles will return to compete at Texas Motorplex. This is the final race in the Countdown to Four for the Pro Stock Motorcycle teams.
TORCO RACING FUELS NHRA NATIONALS, VIRGINIA MOTORSPORTS PARK, OCTOBER 5–7: The Countdown to One fields will be set when the POWERade Series returns to the East Coast, where Cory McClenathan, Eric Medlen and Jason Line won in 2006.
NHRA SPORT COMPACT FALL NATIONALS, OLD BRIDGE TOWNSHIP RACEWAY PARK, OCTOBER 6–7: The drivers of the Xplod Series return to this historic track to fight for points that will lead to the year-end world championship. Look for records to fall in the cool fall weather. This also marks the last race for the Eastern Region Sportsman Championship.
.INSIDE THE NUMBERS
36: On Sunday at Memphis, Gary Scelzi raced to his 36th career victory in the NHRA pro ranks (25 Top Fuel, 11 Funny Car) and passed legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits on the all-time wins list. Scelzi is one of 13 drivers to earn victories in both nitro categories and is one of only two drivers to win NHRA POWERade Series championships in Top Fuel and Funny Car (also Kenny Bernstein).
The versatile Scelzi, who recently said that he will not retire next season as previously announced, also has six victories on his resume in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series (three Top Alcohol Dragster, three Top Alcohol Funny Car) and remains the only driver in NHRA history to earn national event victories in NHRA’s four quickest categories (TF, FC, TAD, TAFC).
DRIVERS TELL ALL
CONNOLLY PEAKING AT RIGHT TIME IN PRO STOCK: Dave Connolly has opened the Countdown to Four with back-to-back victories over season-long dominator Greg Anderson and the young Pro Stock phenom is feeling as confident as ever as only two races remain until the Countdown to One fields are established.
"You couldn't ask for a better time to get hot," Connolly said. "It's just remarkable and I'm so thankful I get to do this with the team I have. These guys are like family to me. I'm just a small part of this whole process, the lucky guy that gets to drive up and down the track. I start to look back three or four years when I was first getting started and every time I got to the final, there was Greg and he was beating me. Here we are a few years later and I've beaten him in two finals in a row. Everything is just clicking right now and hopefully we don't use up all our luck before we're done."