People, Places & Racing News

NHRA CHANGES QUALIFYING RULES AHEAD OF FEB. 7 SEASON OPENER

NEWS NUGGETS

COUNTDOWN TO 2008: CARQUEST AUTO PARTS NHRA WINTERNATIONALS A MONTH AWAY

With only 21 days standing between now and the opening race of the 2008 season, many teams and drivers are making their final preparations for the 48th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 7-10 at the historic Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. For the latest news on team preparations, visit www.nhra.com http://www.nhra.com/. To request credentials for the season-opening CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals, click here.

RULE REVISIONS
COUNTDOWN: The 2008 NHRA POWERade Series will feature an 18-race regular season, followed by a six-race NHRA POWERade Countdown to the Championship playoff to determine world champions in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock. The fields for the championship playoffs, which will be set at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, will be expanded to the top 10 in each category, up from eight in 2007.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, the season will feature a 12-race regular season and a five-race playoff. The top 10 riders will advance to the championship playoffs following the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Championship playoff competitors will have their points readjusted and separated in 10-point increments. However, points leaders in each of the four professional classes after the regular season will be awarded with a 20-point bonus, increasing their leads over the second place qualifiers to 30 points.

Here's what the drivers have to say about the new format:
-Tony Schumacher: "The Countdown to the Championship has moved from a good idea to a well-fine-tuned machine with these changes."

-Brandon Bernstein: "You're still going to get the drama you had before, only this time there will be 10 cars battling for the championship in the final six races. It won't be a walk-away win for anyone by any means."

-Jeg Coughlin: "It's going to bring a lot more drama and excitement to the U.S. Nationals, with the regular season ending there and the Countdown to One beginning the next race. It will definitely be a model that will be simpler to follow for the fans and media as well. I think this is a nice refinement to an already exciting Countdown format."

QUALIFYING: NHRA has announced a change in qualifying procedure that will create an even playing field for all teams in the NHRA POWERade Series that is often made lopsided by weather and atmospheric conditions. Beginning with the CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the top 12 elapsed times in each pro category will be provisionally recorded prior to the last day of qualifying.
    Those teams who were unable to earn a provisional spot in the top 12 will have an opportunity to make the 16-car starting order during the final day of qualifying. While the 12 provisional times are officially recorded prior to the last day of qualifying, those positions are not locked-in. All teams will have the opportunity to improve their positions during the final day of qualifying and can bump in or be bumped out of the field.
    The field of 16 for each of the four professional categories will be set at the conclusion of the final round of qualifying, using the traditional 16-car race bracket for eliminations. For more information, please contact NHRA Director of Media Relations Anthony Vestal at (626) 250-2425.

NHRA EARNS AWARD FOR DIVERSITY: NHRA was named the Diversity in Motorsports Award winner Tuesday at the Fox Theatre in Detroit during the 12th annual Urban Wheel Awards, held in conjunction with the North American International Auto Show. The Urban Wheel Awards ceremony is the only official event honoring African-Americans, Latinos and Asians during the North American International Auto Show. Popular NHRA drivers Tony Pedregon and Peggy Llewellyn joined NHRA Vice President of Public Relations and Communications Jerry Archambeault to accept the award on behalf of NHRA.
     
PARKS, DENSMORE EARN HONORS FROM AARWBA: Late NHRA founder Wally Parks was honored last weekend at the 38th annual American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association's All-America Team ceremony in Indianapolis, along with longtime John Force Racing PR liaison Dave Densmore. AARWBA saluted Parks for his lifelong dedication to the drag racing community, while Densmore received the Jim Chapman Award for excellence in his field, presented by ESPN's NHRA broadcaster Paul Page, Mike Harris and Michael Knight.
    Also receiving the Jim Chapman award was Bob Carlson, veteran Porsche Cars North America publicist. Reigning Top Fuel and Funny Car world champions Tony Schumacher and Tony Pedregon also were in attendance and were given All-America first team honors.

ELLIS SNAPPED UP BY DSR AS 'SILLY SEASON' GRINDS ON: Chip Ellis is the latest driver to make a move in what's already been a tumultuous off-season for NHRA POWERade Series teams. Ellis will ride the Don Schumacher Racing-owned Schumacher Electric Suzuki in 2008, with tuner Steve Tartaglia heading up the crew. Tartaglia was formerly the mastermind behind U.S. Army Suzuki teammates Angelle Sampey and Antron Brown. Brown will drive the Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster for David Powers this season, while Sampey will pilot the Rush Racing Products Buell owned by Karl and Kim Klement.

COMING ATTRACTIONS
CARQUEST AUTO PARTS WINTERNATIONALS, AUTO CLUB RACEWAY AT POMONA, FEB. 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. To request credential for the event, contact NHRA Public Relations Manger Michael Padian at mpadian@nhra.com, or click here.

CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS, FIREBIRD RACEWAY, FEB. 22-24: This second race in the regular season features two defending event winners who eventually launched serious attacks for 2007 POWERade Series titles: Tony Pedregon, the season world champion in Funny Car, and Rod Fuller, who earned runner-up honors in Top Fuel after the best season of his career. Kurt Johnson (Pro Stock) also reached the winner's circle in Phoenix last year.

ACDELCO NHRA GATORNATIONALS, GAINESVILLE RACEWAY, MARCH 13-16: The Pro Stock Motorcycle category opens its 2008 season at the Gatornationals, annually one of the most popular stops on the NHRA POWERade Series. Defending event winners include: Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Ron Capps (Funny Car); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock); and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

HE SAID, SHE SAID
WHAT THEY DID ON VACATION: The world's fastest race car drivers have been hard at work since the Auto Club NHRA Finals. Find out what they've been doing at NHRA driver blogs.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS
18: Races NHRA POWERade Series drivers will have to make the 10-driver playoff field in each category.

DRIVERS TELL ALL
BECKMAN RETAINS MTS AND LONGTIME PARTNER VALVOLINE FOR 2008: Jack Beckman will start the 2008 season with the backing of Mail Terminal Services and its "Mail From Home" program, a way for fans to mail letters to American troops overseas, and Valvoline.
    "I tell you what I think is so cool, is that I'm able to race for companies I personally and overwhelmingly support," Beckman said. "With MTS, what we've been able to do for the troops with the Mail From Home program is outstanding and we still get thanks and e-mails from them. And I've been a Valvoline guy since my dad used Valvoline products when I was a kid."