NHRA SHORTENS RACE DISTANCE TO 1,000 FEET FOR TOP FUEL AND FUNNY CAR CLASSES: As the investigation continues into the tragic accident that killed driver Scott Kalitta, NHRA announced today that beginning at the Mopar Mile High Nationals in Denver, both the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes will race to 1,000 feet instead of the traditional 1,320-foot quarter mile. This is an interim step taken while the NHRA continues to analyze and determine whether changes should be made to build upon the sport's long standing safety record, given the inherent risks and ever-present dangers associated with the sport.
This interim change was made by the NHRA in collaboration with professional race teams. The NHRA believes that racing the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes to 1,000 feet will allow NHRA and the racing community time to evaluate, analyze and implement potential changes based on the safety initiatives outlined last week. With the change, fans will still be able to enjoy the sights, sounds and thrill of NHRA nitro racing with speeds around 300 MPH and quick elapsed times to 1,000 feet.
Over the years, the NHRA has implemented many initiatives to enhance safety, including measures to limit speeds from increasing, personal protective gear, vehicle improvements and track enhancements such as sand traps, catch nets and concrete barriers the entire length of the drag strip. This is the first time in NHRA history that competition in Top Fuel and Funny Car will be contested at a distance of 1,000 feet, instead of the traditional 1,320 feet.
Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle and all Lucas Oil Series sportsman categories will continue to compete in the full quarter-mile. National record performances in Top Fuel and Funny Car will not be officially recorded, and bonus points for setting national elapsed time records in the two nitro categories will not be available.
SHOWDOWN IN THE WILD WEST—TEAMS GET READY FOR FAMED WESTERN SWING: With only six races left before the end of the regular season and a cutoff spot for the top 10 drivers, many drivers in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season know that now is the time to make a stand if they want a shot at the POWERade world championship titles. And what better spot to do so than on the famed three-race stretch known as the Western Swing?
Competing in three races over three weeks, beginning with the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals this week in Denver, moving over to the Schuck’s Auto Supply NHRA Nationals in Seattle the following week, and finishing in two weeks with the FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals in Sonoma, California, the historic trek combines long hours, hot temperatures and non-stop action for teams and fans alike.
Many teams know that it’s these three weeks in the hot summer month of July that can either make or break your chances at a POWERade Series world championship. Top Fuel teammates Morgan Lucas and J.R. Todd are looking for success during this year’s Swing. Both sit 11th and 12th respectively in the point standings.
Funny Car’s Jack Beckman came close to sweeping last year’s Western Swing, picking up wins in both Denver and Seattle, but suffered a first round loss at Sonoma. Currently sitting 13th, Beckman needs to channel his success from last year if he hopes to crack the Top 10 before Indy. Dave Connolly also hopes to see the same success during this year’s Swing that he saw in the past.
Picking up a win in Seattle and a semifinal finish in Sonoma last year, Connolly hopes similar success will help push him into that 10th spot in the point standings.
SCHUMACHER AND ASHLEY FORCE NOMINATED FOR 2008 ESPY AWARDS: NHRA POWERade Series five-time world champion Tony Schumacher and Funny Car sensation Ashley Force have both been nominated for awards at this year’s 2008 ESPYs. Force was nominated for the ESPY Hummer Like Nothing Else award, which recognizes athletes who have attained unique accomplishments in their respective sports.
Competing against Force for the award will be Boston Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez, Pittsburgh Penguins scoring machine Sidney Crosby and former NFL player George Martin. Schumacher was nominated for the ESPY Best Driver award after winning his fifth POWERade Series world championship last season. Joining Schumacher on the ESPY ballot are NASCAR drivers Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch, former IRL driver Dario Franchitti, Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and IRL driver Scott Dixon.
MOPAR MILE-HIGH NHRA NATIONALS, BANDIMERE SPEEDWAY, JULY 11–13: The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series returns to the Mile-High city for the beginning of the Western Swing and 50th anniversary of Bandimere Speedway. Defending event winners include Rod Fuller (Top Fuel); Jack Beckman (Funny Car); Allen Johnson (Pro Stock); and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
SCHUCK’S AUTO SUPPLY NHRA NATIONALS, PACIFIC RACEWAYS, JULY 18–20: The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series heads to the northwest for the second race on the famed Western Swing. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Jack Beckman (Funny Car); and Dave Connolly (Pro Stock).
FRAM AUTOLITE NHRA NATIONALS, INFINEON RACEWAY, JULY 25–27: Heading to the beautiful Sonoma Valley, the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series travels to northern California for the third and final race of the Western Swing. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); John Force (Funny Car); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock); and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
HE SAID, SHE SAID
FOCUS ON NEW FINISHING LINE: Funny Car driver Del Worsham describes what the interim 1,000-feet racing will be like for the drivers and the fans at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals near Denver.
“Now, with the finish line being moved to 1,000 feet, it's going to be a new challenge to get our brains dialed-in to where we shut the cars off. When you race at a track for a long time, you have a sort of automatic knowledge of where the finish line is, so we're going to have to ignore the scoreboards and look for those 1,000-foot timing blocks until we get used to this.
"It's still a long way down there, I promise you that, and we'll still be going fast enough that you have to know what you're doing. You can't just look around at 290 or 300 mph, wondering where you are. It all happens way too fast to be doing that.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
5: The number of drivers who have swept the Western Swing: Joe Amato (1991, Top Fuel), John Force (1994, Funny Car), Cory McClenathan (1997, Top Fuel), Larry Dixon (2003, Top Fuel) and Greg Anderson (2004, Pro Stock).
DID YOU KNOW…
…that the famed Western Swing began in 1989. Though Seattle and Sonoma were added to the schedule in 1988, Bandimere Speedway in Denver was closed that year for renovations.