People, Places & Racing News

DEFENDING CHAMPS PREPARE FOR AN EMOTIONAL TRIP TO VEGAS AND OTHER NHRA NEWSMAKERS

NEWS NUGGETS

RETURN TO VEGAS; DEFENDING CHAMPS HOPING FOR REPEAT OF EMOTIONAL 2007 WINS: It was one year ago when the John Force Racing camp rolled in to Las Vegas, nearly one month removed from the last time they had seen any racing. After losing teammate Eric Medlen in a testing accident a week after the Gatornationals, Funny Car legend and team owner John Force decided to have his teams sit out the preceding event in Houston. The SummitRacing.com Nationals not only marked the return of racing for JFR, but also the first event they’d compete in without Medlen. By the end of the event, it was apparent that Medlen’s memory was far from forgotten, as JFR driver Robert Hight and Eric’s close friend, Brandon Bernstein, took the win lights at Las Vegas in Funny Car and Top Fuel, dedicating their wins to Medlen. Greg Anderson also found winner’s circle in Pro Stock. “I know Vegas is going to bring back a lot of Memories,” said Bernstein. “I’ve already gotten a message from Mimi (Medlen, Eric’s mother) that she’s planning to be in Vegas, and I know it would mean a lot to her if we could repeat our victory there.” Though the emotion felt at last year’s event will always be remembered in the drag racing community, this year’s SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals will bring new memories for fans and drivers alike. For more information on the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals, April 10–13, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, visit www.nhra.com.

POWERade SERIES DRIVERS HIT A “DIFFERENT” TRACK IN LAS VEGAS: It’s not everyday that a Top Fuel driver has the chance to race against a Pro Stock world champion, but as the NHRA POWERade Series heads back to Las Vegas this week, many popular NHRA drivers will have that opportunity. POWERade Series drivers Jeg Coughlin, Doug Kalitta, Morgan Lucas, J.R. Todd, Allen Johnson and Gary Scelzi will face each other in the 15-lap, NHRA Stars in Short Track Cars, at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Saturday, April 12. For the evening, these kings of the quarter-mile will climb in to short track Thunder Roadsters for the 15-lap contest, while fellow Top Fuel competitor, Urs Erbacher calls the action from the booth, serving as color commentator for the event. “I’m just going to wax him,” Scelzi said of fellow Mopar racer Allen Johnson. “Allen Johnson is not going to have a chance unless he has dad (engine builder Roy Johnson) over there tuning on that engine.”

NHRA DRIVERS TO RAISE MONEY TO FUND DREAM HOUSE FOR MEDICALLY FRAGILE CHILDREN: NHRA POWERade Series drivers Mike Ashley, Melanie Troxel, Gary Scelzi, Frank Hawley, Jack Beckman and Matt Smith will participate in a special fundraising event to benefit the Dream House for Medically Fragile Children. The event, organized by Ashley and Gotham City Racing co-owner Roger Burgess, will be held Saturday, April 26, at Chateau Élan Winery & Resort in Braselton, Georgia. Dream House for Medically Fragile Children was created to give medically fragile children the quality of life they deserve by providing them with a dream home, a family and a future. For more information on the event, or to purchase tickets, click here

HOTEL UNVEILS COLLECTABLE POKER CHIPS HONORING NHRA POWERade WORLD CHAMPIONS: Drivers from the NHRA POWERade Series will participate in a free autograph session at The Palms Resort Casino, Thursday, April 10, from 6:30–7:30 p.m. As part of the autograph session, The Palms will have special gaming chips honoring 2007 NHRA POWERade world champions Tony Schumacher, Tony Pedregon and Jeg Coughlin, as well as unveiling a Palms Casino Resort design on Tony Pedregon’s Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS. To view some of the images of the collector chips, visit www.nhra.com.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

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).
 
O’REILLY NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS, GATEWAY INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY, MAY 2–4: Traveling back to Madison, Illinois, which sits just outside of St. Louis in view of the archway, drivers from the NHRA POWERade Series will look to gain some advantage in the Countdown to the Championship just before the start of the summer months. Defending event champions include Melanie Troxel (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

IN THE NEWS…

ACCESS, SPEED, AND DIVERSITY ALL A PLUS IN NHRA: In his column this past week, Florida Today Auto Racing reporter Mark DeCotis discusses how the appeal of NHRA POWERade Drag Racing, including the 300 mph speeds of Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, the diversity found in NHRA’s field and fan base and the amazing accessibility fans have to their favorite drivers, compares to that of other auto racing series he’s covered. To read more of DeCotis’ article, click here.

HE SAID, SHE SAID
 
PREPARING TO RACE, BOTH PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY: Driving an NHRA Pro Stock car is anything but a simple task. Reaching speeds of more than 200 mph where races are won or lost by tenths of a second, drivers have to prepare both physically and mentally for the daunting task that each run brings. For Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson, that means spending three to four days a week working out in his personal home gym. Focusing not only on the mental side of racing, Johnson spends time each week strengthening and conditioning himself for the upcoming race. “Still, even though I stay fit for myself as much as I do for our racing program, there is no denying it helps me stay focused,” said Johnson. “After all, just like the race car, a body is a machine that needs to be properly maintained. If that one extra repetition I do during my workout helps us put our ACDelco Cobalt in the winner’s circle, it’s well worth it.”

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

14: The number of round wins Funny Car driver John Force has at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This week at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals, Force will look to reach the historic 1,000 round win mark. He is currently four round wins (or one event win) away from the milestone. Force has only one win at LVMS and has never won there in the spring.
 
For more information, visit www.nhra.com.