People, Places & Racing News

DRIVERS REMEMBER ERIC MEDLEN IN HOUSTON AND OTHER NHRA NEWSMAKERS

NEWS NUGGETS 

HEADING BACK TO HOUSTON; FOURTH STOP ON POWERade SERIES AN EMOTIONAL TRIP FOR DRIVERS: It was just one year ago that the NHRA POWERade Series rolled in to Houston for the 20th running of the O’Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals, though the race was like none other at Houston Raceway Park. Just one week before the event, the NHRA family lost one of their own when Funny Car driver Eric Medlen was killed in a testing accident at Gainesville Raceway.
    With heavy hearts, the teams and drivers descended on the Baytown area, hoping that a return to racing would bring some normality to their lives. None was more emotional than Top Fuel driver and close friend to Medlen, J.R. Todd. Todd traveled to Houston just one day after the funeral services for Medlen, waiting out the rain showers of Friday and Saturday qualifying to go on and win the event.
      “I want to win every race I’m in but this one more than ever,” Todd said. “I guess Eric was watching over me.” Now one year later, Todd returns to Houston in hopes of not only defending his win, but grabbing his first “Wally” in over a year. Along with Todd, Ron Capps, Jason Line and Angelle Sampey will look to defend their 2007 event wins in Baytown, Texas.
    Qualifying for the O’Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals will be televised on ESPN2 Saturday, from 4:30–5:00 p.m. (ET), then again from 10–11 p.m. (ET), with the finals airing Sunday, 4:30–7:00 p.m. (ET).

NEW ROUTE HELPS TRAFFIC FOR O’REILLY NHRA SPRING NATIONALS: Thanks to an addition made to the Houston Grand Parkway, fans and media attending this week’s O’Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park will find travel to the track a bit easier than years past. With the addition of the FM 565 exit off the Houston Grand Parkway, fans will be able to travel directly from Interstate 10 to the entrance of the track.
    Whether traveling eastbound from Houston or westbound from golden triangle on I-10, attendants can simply take exit 799-Grand Parkway/Highway 99 and travel south for less than a mile to the FM 565 exit, which sits adjacent to Houston Raceway Park. To learn more about this expansion and travel tips for this weekend, click here.

NHRA DRIVERS TO PARTICIPATE IN PRO/CELEBRITY RACE IN LONG BEACH: Funny Car world champion Tony Pedregon, Whit Bazemore and Marty Nothstein will join racers and celebrities alike to participate in the 34th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 19. The 10-lap race on a 1.97-mile street circuit through downtown Long Beach will pit professional drivers against famed celebrities to raise money for local charities. 
      Notable celebrities include That "70s Show’s" Wilmer Valderrama, four-time NBA champion and sportscaster for "Best Damn Sports Show Period," John Sailey, and singer and former group member of 98 Degrees, Drew Lachey.
    Joining Pedregon, Bazemore, and Nothstein in the Pro category will be professional off-road racer Beccy Gordon, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Mike Skinner and Grand-Am race car driver Sarena Traver.

TEXAS NATIVE BRADSHAW TO DRIVE SHELL-EDITION DESIGN IN HOUSTON: Returning to his native state of Texas, Top Fuel pilot Alan Bradshaw will drive a special-edition design for the O’Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals this weekend at Houston Raceway Park. Bradshaw’s normal maroon and yellow Vis Viva dragster will change to the red and blue of Shell’s V-Power fuel additive.
       “I’m really looking forward to racing in my home state,” said Bradshaw, who had the No. 1 qualifier for the previous race, the ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals. “We have a ton of Texas race fans who are looking forward to the Shell V-Powers/Vis Viva Energy dragster doing them proud in the Lone Star state.”
    Bradshaw will also race the Shell colors at The SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, as well as the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta. To view Bradshaw’s new paint scheme, click here.

FROM POSTS TO PILLARS; CONSTRUCTION CONTINUES AT THE DRAGWAY @ LOWE’S MOTOR SPEEDWAY: In anticipation of the inaugural NHRA Carolinas Nationals, September 11–14 in Charlotte, construction of The Dragway @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway continues along. To view some of the latest photos of the track, click here.

FUNNY CAR VETERAN, 1995 RUNNER-UP HOFMANN DIES: Former NHRA POWERade Series Funny Car driver Al Hofmann died March 20 of a heart attack at his home in Eustis, Florida. He was 60. A 15-time national event winner, Hofmann finished in the NHRA top 10 standings from 1991–1996, highlighted by a five-win, runner up finish for the world championship to John Force in 1995.
    Hofmann was the second driver in Funny Car to exceed 300 mph when he recorded a run of 301.10 mph, on February 19, 1994, in Phoenix.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

O’REILLY NHRA SPRING NATIONALS, HOUSTON RACEWAY PARK, MARCH 28–30: Drivers in all four categories in the POWERade Drag Racing Series will duel it out for a Texas win (at this fourth race in the regular season). Defending event winners include: J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

SUMMITRACING.COM NHRA NATIONALS, THE STRIP AT LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, APRIL 10–13: The NHRA POWERade series travels to Nevada for the fifth event of the 2008 season. Defending event winners include: Brandon Bernstein (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock).

SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA SOUTHERN NATIONALS, ATLANTA DRAGWAY, APRIL 24–27: The NHRA POWERade series heads back down south, as drivers in four categories will compete at the sixth event of the season. Defending event winners include: Brandon Bernstein (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock); and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

HE SAID, SHE SAID

BRADSHAW, TASCA JOIN NHRA.COM BLOG FAMILY: Did you know that Funny Car driver Bob Tasca’s sponsors, Motorcraft and Quick Lane, debuted their new interactive display for fans at the ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals two weeks ago?
    “You can’t miss it,” Tasca said. “It’s 4,800 square feet and three trailers long!”
    Or that Top Fuel driver Alan Bradshaw was heckled, not at the track, but while having a meal at the Waffle House on his way to Gainesville? 
      “Our waitress immediately informed us that (the heckler) had been doing this all night and that she had called the police,” Bradshaw said. “She asked us to stay until the police showed up because she and five other ladies didn’t want to be there alone with him and that they were glad we had come in.”
    Read more about their experiences, plus other drivers in the NHRA POWERade Series, at www.nhra.com.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

7: The most wins by a single driver, John Force, at Houston Raceway Park. Warren Johnson, who currently holds six wins at HRP, could tie Force with a win this weekend.

DRIVERS TELL ALL

RACING LEATHERS—CHECK. 340 HORSEPOWER BUELL—CHECK. CRYSTAL CHANDELIER...: After receiving a Swarovski Crystal-decorated drivers suit as well as finding a crystal chandelier installed in her hospitality tent, Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Angelle Sampey has been pleasantly surprised at some of the “add-ons” that have come with her move to the Rush Racing Product/Karl & Kim Klement team for 2008.
    “My team has nicknamed me ‘Queen Bling’ and Karl’s wife Kim is my 'Princess Bling',” Sampey said. “I am the one who should be showering them with gifts for the opportunity they have given me.