People, Places & Racing News

ASHLEY FORCE WINS ROAD TO THE FUTURE AWARD AND OTHER NHRA NEWSMAKERS

NEWS NUGGETS

FORCE WINS AUTO CLUB ROAD TO THE FUTURE AWARD: Ashley Force, 24, applied a measure of positive energy to a difficult season Monday when she accepted the Automobile Club of Southern California’s 2007 Road to the Future Award as the professional Rookie-of-the-Year in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. The daughter of icon John Force accepted a check for $20,000 from the Auto Club before crediting her father, her family and her team, especially crew chiefs Dean “Guido” Antonelli and Ron Douglas, for a history-making first season at the wheel of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
    Although she missed two races, one following the death last March of teammate Eric Medlen and the other after her father suffered the most serious crash of his 32-year career, the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton made history last month at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where she became the first woman to race in a Funny Car final in a national series.
    In addition to her performance at LVMS, where she was beaten in the money round by newly-crowned series champion Tony Pedregon, she went to the semifinals on three other occasions, qualified No. 2 three times and finished No. 10 in the driver standings, ensuring her a position, on stage, with her father and brother-in-law (Robert Hight) during Monday’s NHRA award ceremonies at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel.

POWERADE CHAMPS CROWNED IN LOS ANGELES CEREMONY: Tony Schumacher, who became the first Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to win four consecutive POWERade Series world championship crowns by racing to victory at Sunday's season finale in Pomona, California, headlined the four world championship-winning drivers honored Monday evening during the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series awards ceremony at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
    The three other NHRA POWERade Series world champions—Tony Pedregon, Jeg Coughlin, and Matt Smith—also were presented checks and trophies for their achievements during the 2007 POWERade Countdown to the Championship, NHRA's first championship playoffs. Schumacher and Pedregon each received a check from NHRA and POWERade for $500,000; Coughlin received $250,000 and Smith earned $75,000.

CHEVROLET WINS NHRA MANUFACTURERS CUP: Following an incredible season on the NHRA POWERade tour that included Jeg Coughlin’s third NHRA Pro Stock world championship and class wins at numerous Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series events across the United States, Chevrolet has won the 2007 NHRA Manufacturers Cup, one of the longest and most enduring standards of racing excellence. This year marked the 16th time that Chevrolet has won this illustrious award (the most by any automobile manufacturer), which is a genuine measurement of Chevy’s ongoing commitment to the sport of drag racing.
    “Everyone at Chevrolet appreciates the sacrifice and hard work of the drivers, owners, and race teams who made possible this 16th NHRA Manufacturers Cup,” said Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager. “There were many notable accomplishments this year, and with their on-track excellence and performance, each of our NHRA competitors proudly displaying the red Bowtie contributed to Chevrolet’s winning tradition and heritage.”
    The NHRA Manufacturers Cup has been awarded since 1964. It is presented to the automobile manufacturer whose current models in Pro Stock, Super Stock, and Stock earn the most points for qualifying and category victories at NHRA Drag Racing Series national and divisional events.

BUDWEISER RETURNS AS OFFICIAL BEER OF NHRA: Budweiser and NHRA have renewed their decades-long partnership that will keep the brewer of the world’s best-selling beers front and center in one of the fastest-growing forms of motorsports in America. As part of the multiyear agreement, Budweiser will maintain its high visibility at all NHRA POWERade Series venues and markets, including point-of-sale materials and consumer ticket promotions, autograph signings and appearances, trackside promotions, advertising on the at-track JumboTron, and print advertising in a variety of NHRA publications.
    Budweiser also will continue its popular Race The King radio promotion in race markets, which offers adult fans the opportunity to race down the quarter-mile against Brandon Bernstein, pilot of the Bud King Top Fuel dragster. “Drag racing really is one of America’s first ‘extreme’ sports, and Budweiser is proud to have been a part of the sport’s growth over the past 25 years,” said Tony Ponturo, vice president, global media and sports marketing, Anheuser-Busch Inc.
    “Budweiser and its family of wholesalers are great fans of the sport, and our marketing programs around each race will continue to drive awareness for Budweiser’s sponsorship of the NHRA and for the sport as a whole.” Budweiser’s official beer status with NHRA will now extend to more than three decades, making it one of the longest-running league sponsorships in sports.

BROWN TO DRIVE MATCO TOOLS TOP FUEL DRAGSTER: After 10 seasons as one of the elite Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors on the NHRA circuit, 16-time NHRA winner Antron Brown will move to NHRA’s premier category, Top Fuel, to pilot the David Powers Motorsports Matco Tools Iron Eagle Top Fuel dragster in 2008.
    “I’m very excited to have this opportunity to be part of the David Powers Motorsports team with Lee Beard and Rob Flynn,” Brown said. “Also, to be teammates with “Hot Rod” Fuller is awesome. It makes me speechless, which is a first for me, to have this opportunity to represent Matco Tools, their distributors, and all of DPM. I’ve been associated with Matco for the past few years while at DSR [Don Schumacher Racing] and attending the annual Matco Tools Expo, and I’m looking forward to expanding that relationship.
    "Everyone in their organization has a passion for the business and winning, from President Tom Willis to the 1,500 franchisees selling the Matco product. I couldn’t think of a better organization to make this transition with, and for them to believe in me and give me this shot as a rookie driver is awesome.”
    A two-time NHRA world championship runner-up (2001, 2006), Brown raced to his 16 wins in 146 Pro Stock Motorcycle events. A native of Chesterfield, N.J., Brown earned 11 low-qualifying awards in the two-wheel category and has not missed the cut for an NHRA race since his rookie season in 1998.

NHRA MAKES $2,500 CONTRIBUTION TO PCC IN HONOR OF GLICK: NHRA made a contribution of $2,500 to Pasadena City College officials over the weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in honor of legendary Los Angeles Times sportswriter Shav Glick, who died October 20 at age 87. The presentation took place in the Shav Glick Media Center, named in honor of Glick in the early 1990s.
    Pasadena City College alumni relations official Irene Aguilera accepted the donation on behalf of the college. The college foundation annually presents two $500 scholarships – The Shav Glick Journalism Scholarship – to outstanding journalism students who are active members of the college newspaper.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

CARQUEST AUTO PARTS WINTERNATIONALS, AUTO CLUB RACEWAY AT POMONA, FEBRUARY. 7–10: Kick-off the 2008 NHRA POWERade Series Countdown to the Championship at the historic track where last year’s winners included J.R. Todd, Gary Scelzi and Greg Anderson.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

6: The margin of victory in the Pro Stock Motorcycle point standings for the POWERade Series world championship. When Matt Smith defeated Chip Ellis in the final round of the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona, Smith earned his first series crown in the all-or-nothing final round shootout.

HE SAID, SHE SAID

TODD JOINS LUCAS TEAM FOR 2008: J.R. Todd will join the Lucas Oil Racing Top Fuel team as a teammate with good friend Morgan Lucas in 2008, fielding a car sponsored by longtime Todd backer Evan Knoll through his Torco and Seelye Wright brands. John Stewart will be the crew chief; an assistant will be named later.
    “We’re very proud that J.R. is coming in to join the team,” said Charlotte Lucas. “Morgan and J.R. being buddies, they’ll do well as teammates, but you gotta watch ‘em, too! This year will be a lot of fun for all of us. The boys just get along so well.” “J.R. and I have been great friends,” added Morgan. “I can’t tell you how excited I am. You don’t get a lot of chances to race with a really good friend, and this is one of those chances you gotta enjoy. J.R. has a great brand and carries a lot of fan base. Evan Knoll will be coming over to support him. John Stewart will be keeping everything going. The car has been consistent, and he’s got a handle on it. We’re going to keep going and winning races next year.”
    Said Todd, “I feel really fortunate to be a part of a great team with Lucas Oil and Evan Knoll supporting us. [Knoll] and I talked about it and felt this was the best option we had. We can work well together, and hopefully we’ll both be in the Countdown next year. It’s going to be a great year next year.”

WHO’S HOT!

TONY SCHUMACHER: The driver of the U.S. Army dragster pulled off another miracle come-from-behind championship winning performance Sunday at Pomona, taking the must-win final round victory over Bob Vandergriff to edge “Hot Rod” Fuller for the Top Fuel world championship crown by 19 points. “After the second round, it was like déjà vu,” Schumacher said. “My knees started shaking, and I had that feeling like maybe we could do it again. The guys on this team are unbelievable when the pressure is on. They showed it again today.” 
    Schumacher tied Joe Amato for most Top Fuel world championships with five, and became the NHRA record holder for most consecutive Top Fuel world championship titles, with four. Last season Schumacher completed a 336-point comeback by winning the season-finale at Pomona and setting a national elapsed time record in the final round to take the title away from Doug Kalitta.

DRIVERS TELL ALL

PEDREGON EMOTIONAL AFTER WINNING FUNNY CAR CROWN: Tony Pedregon earned his second POWERade Series Funny Car world championship title, and his first as a team owner. He was emotional after he clinched the title on Sunday afternoon in Pomona.
    “This is racing, and we want to win races, but we have to remember we’re putting on a show, and I think the NHRA did a great job with this Countdown,” he said. “The biggest difference between this year and 2003 when I won a title with John Force Racing was the amount of media coverage. The stress is through the roof, but in the end, I think we have a better product now.
    "I had people doubting my sanity when I left John, but I wanted to race with my brother, and I wanted to see if I could do it on my own. I know how difficult it is to race a team like that. I know what they have over there. And to be able to beat them is special. Winning our first race on my own was huge. To win this championship, I can’t describe it."

For more information, visit www.nhra.com.