People, Places & Racing News

PREVIEW THIS WEEKEND'S WINTERNATIONALS AND OTHER NHRA NEWSMAKERS

NEWS NUGGETS

READY. SET. 2008 SEASON KICKS OFF WITH CARQUEST AUTO PARTS NHRA WINTERNATIONALS: After a two-month off-season, the POWERade Drag Racing Series returns with the start of the 2008 season with the 48th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock will begin their march towards the 2008 POWERade World Championship, as the first of 18 races in the Countdown to the Championship, Countdown to 10, gets underway. "We're all back to square one," said Tony Schumacher, defending and five-time POWERade series world champion in Top Fuel. "Every team is tied for the top spot right now. We definitely want to get off on the right foot out in Pomona, and we want to serve notice that we're going to be a serious player in the Countdown to the Championship."

"I'm a big fan of the new Countdown format," said Brandon Bernstein, who finished third in the POWERade championship standings in Top Fuel last year. "I think 10 teams going after it for the last six races will create a great level playing field." For more information on the 48th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals, visit www.nhra.com.

COUGHLIN TAKES WIN IN PONTIAC PRO STOCK SHOWDOWN AT LVMS: Defending POWERade series world champion Jeg Coughlin started his season off right, winning the Pontiac Pro Stock Showdown at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Coughlin powered his Jegs.com Chevy Cobalt to a 6.711-second run at 204.94 mph over runner-up finisher Allen Johnson. The 2007 POWERade series runner-up Greg Anderson had a semifinal finish for the event, falling to Coughlin in the third round. In all, 16 Pro Stock drivers participated in the event.

"FUELED" FOR A NEW SEASON, NAYLOR PICKS UP SPONSOR FOR 2008: Pro Stock driver Max Naylor is ready to start the 2008 season off right, adding a new title sponsor for his Dodge Stratus. Naylor announced that Phoenix-based VegasFuel energy drink will join Naylor racing as the title sponsor for his ride for all 24 events on the POWERade series schedule. For photos of Naylors' new ride, click on NHRA.com.

RATT IS BACK; HARD ROCK FRONT-RUNNER TO SPONSOR FUNNY CAR TEAM IN 2008: Funny Car driver James Day will be driving a "Top Fuel" car for 2008, but not in the way most would think. The son-in-law of NHRA team owner Don Schumacher will drive the DLS Motorsports Funny Car sponsored by Top Fuel Records, the record company associated with rock 'n' roll front man, Stephen Pearcy. Pearcy and his heavy-metal rock band Ratt, got their first taste of NHRA POWERade Drag Racing in 2007 as the title sponsor of the Top Fuel dragster driven by Clay Millican.

GAINESVILLE TOWER NEARS COMPLETION WITH GATORNATIONALS APPROACHING: With the 39th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals just a month away, the new tower at Gainesville Raceway inches ever closer to completion. The tower will house track offices, race control and a new media center. To view photos of the new tower and its progress, visit www.nhra.com.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

CARQUEST AUTO PARTS NHRA 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

DRIVERS READY TO START THE 2008 SEASON: After two months away from drag racing, many, if not all of the drivers in the NHRA POWERade drag racing series are anxious to get the 2008 season underway. Here are just a few quotes from some of the top drivers in the POWERade Drag Racing Series.

  • J.R. Todd, Defending event winner in Top Fuel: "We're going to head into Pomona feeling very positive and just can't wait to defend my title."
  • Jeg Coughlin, Defending Pro Stock POWERade series world champion: "It's time to get after it and we're ready to go."
  • Gary Scelzi, Defending event winner in Funny Car: "Let's pull the cord on this thing and get this thing started."

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

93: The number of days since the end of the 2007 POWERade Drag Racing Series, which ended in the same place the 2008 season will begin, the historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

DRIVERS TELL ALL

GIRLS NIGHT OUT?: After an impressive rookie season in Funny Car which was capped off with an Auto Club "Road to the Future" award, Ashley Force will begin the 2008 season as a "sophomore" in the Funny Car class. But she won't be the lone woman in the class, as former Top Fuel contender Melanie Troxel will make her Funny Car debut this season, piloting the ProCare Rx Dodge Charger. In an interview with National Dragster, Force discussed her feelings on competing against Troxel this season, not only for the world championship, but for the bragging rights that come with being the first woman in NHRA history to win an event in Funny Car. "I can guarantee you a woman will win a race this year," Force said. "Hopefully, it will be our team, but I will be proud of her if she does it. I hope we can get an all-female Funny Car final. That would be awesome."

For more information, visit www.nhra.com.