People, Places & Racing News

FORCE MAKES FIRST TIME-TRIAL RUN SINCE SEPTEMBER CRASH AND OTHER NHRA NEWSMAKERS

NEWS NUGGETS

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN: FORCE’S RETURN TO FUNNY CAR "TOPS CHARTS" AT FIREBIRD TEST: After four months of rehabilitation and an absence from the cockpit that seemed to last for an eternity, 14-time POWERade world champion and Funny Car legend John Force climbed back into the cockpit for the National Time Trials at Firebird International Raceway. Making his first passes since his September 23 accident in Dallas, Force set the pace for the rest to follow, running the lowest Funny Car E.T. of the day with a blistering 4.782 seconds.

“We didn’t know what we had (with the new car),” Force said, referring to the new chassis changes made for 2008. “We thought it would be good, but we didn’t know. We still have a lot of work to do, but that [4.78] was a good boost for the team.”

Defending POWERade world champion Tony Pedregon had the second fastest time of the day in Funny Car, powering his Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS to a 4.869 second run. In an impressive Top Fuel class that saw 12 drivers make runs on Monday, Rod Fuller stood on top of the field in his Caterpillar dragster, turning in a run of 4.468 seconds at 331.36 mph, but was followed closely by the defending POWERade champion, Tony Schumacher, who drove his U.S. Army dragster to a 4.480 second run at 332.75 mph.

BROWN CAN’T DRIVE 55, GRABS HIS CROSSOVER TOP FUEL LICENSE IN PHOENIX: With impending rain on the horizon for Sunday and his 2008 debut season in Top Fuel on the line, Matco Tools dragster pilot Antron Brown was able to make two 4.5-second passes on Saturday at Firebird International Raceway to secure his crossover Top Fuel license and ease his worries heading into the 2008 season. Brown made a successful pass in the right lane at Firebird, posting a 4.570-second run at 292.58 mph. His second and final pass of the day turned in a 4.582-second run at 296.89 mph in the left lane.

“I feel like a giddy 16 year old who just got their driver’s license,” Brown said. “I’m getting a lot more confident in myself in understanding what’s happening all the way down the race track.”

Brown’s 4.548-second run on Monday, the final day of testing, was the fourth fastest time in the Top Fuel category.

NHRA CAROLINAS NATIONALS NAMED 19TH OF 24 EVENTS ON 2008 POWERade SEASON SCHEDULE: After months of speculation and rumors, the NHRA announced that the September 11–14 national event in the 2008 POWERade Drag Racing Series schedule will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, at a new state-of-the-art facility being built by Speedway Motorsports Inc.

The Dragway @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway will be the home of the NHRA Carolinas Nationals, the 19th of 24 events on the 2008 POWERade Drag Racing Series schedule. NHRA President Tom Compton and SMI Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bruton Smith were on hand for a press conference held at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, announcing the future event and track. For more information on the announcement, including images of the track, click here

MEMORIAL SERVICES ANNOUNCED FOR JON AND JAMES HERBERT: The visitation and memorial service for Jon and James Herbert, sons of Top Fuel driver Doug Herbert, will be held Tuesday and Wednesday in Huntersville, North Carolina. Visitation will be held from 6–9 p.m. Tuesday, January 29, at Raymer Funeral Home, 16901 Old Statesville Road, Huntersville, N.C. 28078. Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, January 30, at SouthLake Christian Academy, 13901 Hager’s Ferry Road, Huntersville, N.C. 28078.

Both will be open to the public. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Speedway Children’s Charities in Jon and James Herbert’s names. To make a donation, click here. Condolences can also be sent, via e-mail, to condolences@dougherbert.com. Jon and James were killed Saturday morning in an automobile accident in Cornelius, North Carolina.

WALLY PARKS INDUCTED INTO EMPA HALL OF FAME: NHRA founder Wally Parks was inducted posthumously into the Eastern Motorsports Press Association (EMPA) Hall of Fame Saturday night during a ceremony at the 40th annual EMPA Convention held near Philadelphia. NHRA Division 1 director Bob Lang accepted the Hall of Fame induction on behalf of the NHRA for Parks, who died last September at the age of 94. Parks joined seven others who were influential in motorsports in the 2008 EMPA Hall of Fame calls, most notably NASCAR champion Ned Jarrett and famed Indy Car and NASCAR car owner Roger Penske.

ATLANTA DRAGWAY GETTING FACE LIFT FOR 2008 SEASON: Installing new sections of concrete and asphalt and texturing the racing surface, Atlanta Dragway began the process of track preparation in anticipation of the 28th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, April 24–27. For photos of the renovations, click here.

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.  

CHECKER SCHUCK’S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS, FIREBIRD RACEWAY, FEBRUARY 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 tour. 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

4.78 SECOND RUN? CHECK. CLIMBING OUT OF THE CAR? CHECK: Still walking with a noticeable limp from his accident last year in Dallas, one of the biggest concerns held by John Force and the rest of the drag racing community was not if he could run, but if he could climb out of the car.

“I had to get in my firesuit and do the drill (for NHRA officials), but I knew it wasn’t going to be a problem because I already had done it (climbed in and out) at the shop,” Force said. “Like I said, it ain’t pretty, but I can do it.”

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

22: The number of cities in the United States that the NHRA POWERade series will compete in for the 2008 season. The NHRA announced last week Charlotte, North Carolina, specifically The Dragway @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway, as the site of its 19th of 24 events in 2008.

DRIVERS TELL ALL

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: CAPPS FILMS NAPA AD WITH WALTRIP: Funny Car driver Ron Capps knew changes would come after the announcement that NAPA had come aboard as the full-time sponsor for his Dodge Charger Funny Car in 2008. But as he arrived to his first commercial shoot with NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip, it was apparent that this was more than a simple ad.

“I get there, and I get my own big motor coach with my name on it,” Capps said. “I hardly went in it because I felt so guilty. And then there are the makeup people and everything that you would imagine being on a full-blown movie set. We had people who were assistants to other people’s assistants.

"We had one guy who just followed me around who had to know where I was every single minute. And when they needed me, he would come by and say ’10 minutes out,’ and he’d follow me around and wouldn’t let me get out of his sight. It was like I had a leash on all day. It was just amazing.”