HAPPINESS AND HEARTACHE IN READING AS FINAL FEW SPOTS DISAPPEAR IN COUNTDOWN TO 1: To say that Funny Car driver Jack Beckman had an exciting weekend would be an understatement. The Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger driver not only picked up his second win of the season, but he did it facing one of his drag racing heroes and drag racing school employer, Frank Hawley. But Beckman’s excitement began long before he reached the final round of Sunday’s Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania. In fact, some might say it was his second-round win against John Force that brought the most excitement. Not because Beckman had posted a 4.185-second run against the drag racing legend, but because Beckman’s win and Funny Car competitor Del Worsham’s second round loss secured his spot in the Top 10 in the point standings and a berth in the Countdown to 1 playoffs.
It was a similar scene for many drivers that day, as round wins and round losses paved the way for many drivers as more than 14 drivers clinched their spots heading into the last race of the regular season, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Such was the case for Top Fuel pilot Doug Herbert. With a first round loss to Dave Grubnic, Herbert was left on the outside looking in, though not for long. After Grubnic lost to Larry Dixon in the second round, Herbert’s spot was clinched.
A similar occurrence happened to Pro Stock phenom Dave Connolly. Connolly, who missed the first five races of the season, made it all the way to the final round only to lose on a red light to Cagnazzi-racing teammate Jeg Coughlin. But it was Connolly’s second round win against points leader Greg Anderson that secured the driver’s second Countdown to the Championship appearance. Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle points leaders Tony Schumacher and Matt Smith only strengthened their point lead over the competition with their wins at Maple Grove.
FIELDS SET FOR U.S. SMOKELESS SHOWDOWN, RINGERS PRO BIKE BATTLE: While some were clinching their spots in the Countdown to 1 playoffs, others were securing positions in the bonus events as the final fields were set for the U.S. Smokeless Showdown and Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle, which will occur during the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
In the U.S. Smokeless Showdown, Funny Car driver John Force moved into the final eighth-place spot in the field. Force qualified fifth for the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals last weekend while Gary Scelzi and Jerry Toliver failed to qualify for the event. The last-effort run will match father against daughter, as John will face Ashley Force in the first round of the event. Ashley enters the event in the top spot, while John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight sits second. Hight will face seventh-place Del Worsham in the first round, while brothers Cruz and Tony Pedregon will be the final first-round pair in the field.
In the Ringer’s Gloves Pro Bike Battle, Chip Ellis locked up the top spot in the field and secured a first-round matchup against eighth-place Matt Guidera. Second-place driver Matt Smith will do battle with seventh-place Chris Rivas, while three-time and defending bonus event winner, Andrew Hines will go head-to-head with sixth-place driver Karen Stoffer. Eddie Krawiec and Angelle Sampey round out the final first-round pair.
FORCE INDUCTED INTO MOTORSPORTS HALL OF FAME OF AMERICA: This past week, drag racing legend John Force was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Novi, Michigan. NHRA President Tom Compton introduced the 14-time champion to the celebrated audience during the presentation Wednesday night, August 13. Force joins a long list of motorsport greats, which include such drag racing legends as Don Prudhomme, Joe Amato, Shirley Muldowney and Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins.
MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS, O’REILLY RACEWAY PARK AT INDIANAPOLIS, 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).
NHRA CAROLINAS NATIONALS, zMAX DRAGWAY @ CONCORD, SEPTEMBER 11–14: In the first race of the Countdown to 1, the NHRA POWERade Series heads to the newly constructed zMAX Dragway @ Concord and its first visit to North Carolina. All four professional categories (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle) will compete in this inaugural event.
O’REILLY SUPER START BATTERIES FALL NATIONALS, TEXAS MOTORPLEX, SEPTEMBER 18–21: Making its second stop of the season in the Lone Star State, drivers in all four professional categories will fight it out in the second race of the Countdown to 1. Defending event winners include Larry Dixon (Top Fuel); Tony Pedregon (Funny Car); Dave Connolly (Pro Stock); and Peggy Llewellyn (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
HE SAID, SHE SAID
A TOUGH DAY; A TOUGH LOSS: Funny Car driver Del Worsham knew that to secure a spot in the Countdown to 1, he needed to make sure he stayed one step ahead of Jack Beckman and Mike Neff Sunday at Maple Grove. After a second round loss to Cruz Pedregon, Worsham could only watch as his hopes for the 2008 POWERade world championship came to an end with each round won by Beckman.
“When you wake up on Sunday and see that Jack (Beckman) had to race Wilkerson in round one, and then probably (John) Force in round two, you think maybe that part of the deal will go your way,” said Worsham. “That was an enormous mountain to climb, so give Jack and his team all the credit they deserve, because they took out some huge hitters to eliminate us from the Countdown. They earned every bit of it.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
7: The number of open spots left in the Top 10 point standings in all four professional categories heading into the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals; the final race of the Countdown to 10 regular season (two in Top Fuel, two in Pro Stock, three in Pro Stock Modified).
DID YOU KNOW…
…that four-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Andrew Hines has won the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle bonus event in Indianapolis three times in five appearances, but has never won the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.
For more information, visit www.nhra.com.