People, Places & Racing News

DRIVERS GEAR UP FOR THE FINAL RACES OF THE REGULAR SEASON AND OTHER NHRA NEWSMAKERS

TEAMS HOPE TO CLOSE POINTS GAP AT LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS: With only three races left before the end of the NHRA POWERade regular season and cutoff point for the Top 10 in the point standings in each category, it’s do-or-die time for many drivers lingering in the bubble spots in the standings.
    One of those drivers is Morgan Lucas. Lucas is only nine points back of 10th place driver Doug Kalitta. Nine points could make or break Lucas’ chances of making the Countdown to 1 and fighting it out with the likes of Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown and Larry Dixon for a world championship, or simply spending those final six races wondering what might have been.
    Six-time Pro Stock World Champion Warren Johnson is in a similar situation. After getting timed out in the first round of finals last at the FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals in Sonoma, California, Johnson could do nothing more than sit and watch as competitor Dave Connolly collected his second win of the season and moved in to that 10th spot in the point standings, knocking Johnson back to 11th, 52 points back.
    A trip to the semis in Brainerd, Minnesota,  would make up the difference, picking up 60 points for Johnson, but only if Connolly doesn’t qualify for the event. Both Bob Tasca in Funny Car and Karen Stoffer in Pro Stock Motorcycle also know that now is the time to make a push out of that 11th spot and into the Top 10 if they want to continue their quest for the 2008 POWERade world championship in their respective categories. 

AREND TO DRIVE DHL FUNNY CAR FOR REMAINDER OF 2008 SEASON STARTING IN INDY: Kalitta Motorsports team owner Connie Kalitta announced plans to continue racing the DHL Toyota Solara Funny Car starting at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis with Jeff Arend named as the driver. Connie will continue his role as head tuner on the DHL Toyota Solara, with assistance from crew chief Glenn Mikres. The team plans to compete the remainder of the 2008 season.
    “We will never be able to replace Scott (Kalitta), and we’re not trying to,” said Kalitta. “Our Funny Car will always be Scott’s car, no matter who drives it. We want to get the car back out on the track to keep pursuing Scott’s dream of having a successful Funny Car program for our team. Our friends at DHL and all of our sponsors have been very supportive, and we owe it to them and to Scott and our fans to keep that dream alive.”

BONINFANTE NAMED CO-CREW CHIEF ON MAC TOOLS DRAGSTER: Veteran nitro tuner Nick Boninfante Jr. will join Kalitta Motorsports tuner Jon Oberhofer as co-crew chief on the Mac Tools dragster driven by Doug Kalitta. Boninfante begins his second stint at Kalitta Motorsports, first working for the team as a clutch specialist on team owner Connie Kalitta’s Top Fuel team in 1991 and 1992.
    Boninfante also served as the clutch specialist for the back-to-back championship Top Fuel dragster driven by Scott Kalitta ('94–'95). Before returning to Kalitta Motorsports, Boninfante worked as the crew chief for Bruce Litton’s Top Fuel dragster.

WALSH HIRED AS TUNER FOR LUCAS OIL DRAGSTER: Top Fuel tuner Jimmy Walsh will take over the primary tuning responsibilities on the Lucas Oil dragster driven by Morgan Lucas for the remainder of the season. Walsh, who began the season as crew chief for the Monster Energy Funny Car driven by Tommy Johnson Jr., will join Lucas’ team with John Stewart, who had been serving as the engine tuner for both Lucas and teammate J.R. Todd. Walsh will focus solely on Todd’s Lucas Fuel Treatment dragster. Walsh has tuned for drivers and team owners such as Kenny Bernstein, Dexter Tuttle, J.R. Todd and the late Darrell Russell.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

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 1. Defending event winners include Brandon Bernstein (Top Fuel); John Force (Funny Car); Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock); and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

TOYO TIRES NHRA NATIONALS, MAPLE GROVE RACEWAY, AUGUST 14–17: Returning to the East Coast, drivers in the NHRA POWERade Series have one final chance before Indy to make a run at the Top 10 in the point standings. Defending event winners include Doug Herbert (Top Fuel); Tony Pedregon (Funny Car); Dave Connolly (Pro Stock); and Matt Guidera (Pro Stocky Motorcycle).

MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS, O’REILLY RACEWAY PARK, AUGUST 27–SEPTEMBER 1: The final stop for the regular season, drivers in the NHRA POWERade Series will have one last chance at the historic Raceway in Indianapolis to secure a spot in the Top 10 in the point standings and advance to the Countdown to 1. Funny Car and Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors will also have the chance to compete for cash and bragging rights in the U.S. Smokeless Showdown and the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle.
    Defending winners of the race include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Mike Ashley (Funny Car); Dave Connolly (Pro Stock); and Craig Treble (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

HE SAID, SHE SAID

HIGHT LIVES DODGER DREAM: Long before he ever climbed into the seat of a Funny Car, driver Robert Hight had one dream and one dream only as a kid: play professional baseball for the team he loved, the Los Angeles Dodgers. On Tuesday, July 30, Hight got as close as anyone could to being on his dream team, throwing out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium.
    “I threw it right down Broadway,” said Hight. “It was an awesome experience. As a lifelong Dodgers fan, it doesn’t get much better than being able to throw out the first pitch at a game that the Dodgers eventually go on to win in a shutout.”  
    Hight will run a special commemorative Dodgers 50th anniversary paint scheme on his Auto Club Ford Mustang for the final two races of the season, the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals and the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals in Pomona, California. 

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

10: The amount of points Funny Car driver Robert Hight and Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Matt Smith need to clinch their spots in the Countdown to 1. Hight and Smith need to just show up for this week’s Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals to clinch their spots, while Top Fuel driver Rod Fuller, Funny Car driver Tony Pedregon and Pro Stock driver Jeg Coughlin need to qualify for the event to clinch their spots.

DID YOU KNOW…

…that five-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher was listed No. 1 in this week’s National Speed Sport News Driver Power Rankings, just ahead of NASCAR driver Kyle Busch. Schumacher has eight wins in 15 races this season and clinched a spot in the Countdown to 1 at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, seven races before the cutoff point.