People, Places & Racing News

DRIVERS PREPARE FOR SECOND LEG OF WESTERN SWING AND OTHER NHRA NEWSMAKERS

NEWS NUGGETS

DRIVERS READY FOR SEATTLE SEGMENT OF THE WESTERN SWING: The drivers of the POWERade Drag Racing Series are getting ready for part two of three of the Western Swing at Pacific Raceways near Seattle. Defending event winners Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) are looking forward to gaining valuable points when they visit the Pacific Northwest. Along with the difficulty of racing for three weeks in a row, the drivers are looking to gain valuable points as the Countdown to 10 is in the homestretch.
    Drivers on the bubble spots, like Top Fuel teammates Doug Kalitta and Dave Grubnic or Denver Funny Car runner-up Jack Beckman, need to perform well to have the opportunity to run for the championship in a few short weeks when the cutoff for the Countdown to 1 happens Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis.

WILKERSON, SCHUMACHER, ANDERSON AND SMITH TAME THE MILE-HIGH TRACK AT DENVER: Independent Funny Car racer Tim Wilkerson continued his dream season by defeating defending event winner Jack Beckman at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway near Denver. Tony Schumacher moved within five wins of Joe Amato’s Top Fuel record of 52 wins when he defeated Antron Brown for his 47th career win. Joining Schumacher and Wilkerson in the winner’s circle were Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson and defending Pro Stock Motorcycle winner Matt Smith.
    With the wins, Wilkerson and Anderson moved closer to clinching their positions in the POWERade Series Countdown to One. Smith was able to cut into Andrew Hines’ points lead by moving within two rounds of the top spot.

NHRA ANNOUNCES 2009 SCHEDULE AND PURSE INCREASES: The NHRA released its 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule recently featuring 24 events. In addition, NHRA announced an event purse increase in excess of $1.3 million. Beginning in 2009, national event winners in both Top Fuel and Funny Car will each receive $50,000, a 25% increase.
    Pro Stock national event winners will receive $25,000, and Pro Stock Motorcycle winners will receive $10,000. At the most prestigious drag racing event in the world, the 55th running of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, winners in the top two nitro classes will receive a check for $100,000, and Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle winners will earn $50,000 and $20,000, respectively.
    Increases at national events also were announced for runners-up, semifinalists and second-round finishers. At the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, increases were announced for semifinalists and second-round finishers in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock. Pro Stock Motorcycle received increases for runner-up and second-round finishers.
    In all, the total increase in event purses in the four Professional classes is $1,353,700. In 2009, the total purse for professional categories for all POWERade Series races, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals excluded, is $660,000 for events including Pro Stock Motorcycle and $625,000 for those without bikes. The total professional category purse for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in 2009 will be $862,500. 

SAFETY TASK FORCE MEMBERS ANNOUNCED: The NHRA has announced the members of its safety task force created to investigate, analyze and determine ways to implement the initiatives recently outlined by NHRA to continue to enhance safety. The current task force is made up of NHRA officials and Top Fuel and Funny Car crew chiefs and conducted its first conference call among its members earlier this week.
    The task force is headed up by Dan Olson, NHRA director of Top Fuel & Funny Car racing. He is joined by Austin Coil, crew chief for John Force Racing; Jim Head, Funny Car driver/crew chief; Alan Johnson, crew chief for the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster; Jon Oberhofer, crew chief for the Doug Kalitta-driven Top Fuel dragster; Mark Oswald, co-crew chief on Melanie Troxel's Funny Car; and Tim Wilkerson, Funny Car driver/crew chief.
    Other representatives from NHRA and the Professional Racers Owners Organization (PRO) will also participate. To learn about the safety task force, visit www.nhra.com.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

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).  

LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS, BRAINERD INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY, AUGUST 7–10: The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series returns to central Minnesota for the third to last race where drivers can earn points to get into the Countdown to One. Defending event winners include Brandon Bernstein (Top Fuel); John Force (Funny Car); Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock); and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

HE SAID, SHE SAID

TONY SCHUMACHER TALKS ABOUT HIS NEW TOP FUEL RIVAL: While every Top Fuel team in the POWERade Series has Tony Schumacher listed as a rival, Schumacher says he considers his biggest rival to be a former Pro Stock Motorcycle racer.
    “Antron (Brown) is a great dude. He and I are buddies, and he makes me sit up high in the seat and drive hard. If it's us battling it out for the championship, I'd be proud to have him as my adversary. Now that's a rivalry.”

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

17: The total number of points separating positions 10 through 12 in the Funny Car POWERade Series point standings.  With his runner-up finish in Denver, Jack Beckman moved to the valuable 10th position, but right behind him are Bob Tasca III (11th), whom Beckman knocked out, and Del Worsham (12th).

DID YOU KNOW…

…that in the 28 years of the Western Swing, only five drivers have swept all three races (Denver, Seattle and Sonoma). Those drivers are 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).

For more information, visit www.nhra.com.