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The new track at Concord, North Carolina's zMax Dragway will host the first of the Countdown to 1 playoffs.

THE TIME HAS COME FOR THE COUNTDOWN AND A NEW TRACK: NHRA drivers and fans have been waiting nearly a year for the new track in Concord, North Carolina. It is now time to begin racing and everyone involved with the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series is excited for the inaugural NHRA Carolinas Nationals at zMax Dragway. As if all that is not enough, the first race of the Countdown to 1 playoffs will bring plenty of thrills.

Points leaders Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) have their 30-point leads they hope to increase when they leave North Carolina. For the other racers in the Top 10 who are vying for a world championship, Concord means a chance to unseat the leaders with winning performances. Pro racing begins on Friday with the first qualifying sessions scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday's qualifying is at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday's eliminations begin at noon.

NHRA WORKS WITH TEAMS, ELECTRIMOTION ON SAFETY SHUTOFF CONTROLLER: NHRA is working with the Top Fuel and Funny Car teams of Robert Hight, Jim Head, and Larry Dixon to test and evaluate a new Safety Shutoff Controller developed by Dave Leahy of Electrimotion. The Safety Shutoff Controller can shut off fuel and ignition to the engine as well as deploy the parachutes when triggered by a variety of conditions including depressing the steering-wheel-mounted driver's button, manifold burst panel rupture, fire-bottle activation, excessive oil-pan pressure, and dragster rear-wing failure.

NHRA will begin working with other teams and Electrimotion immediately to further evaluate the system. After system validation is complete, NHRA could mandate the use of the Safety Shutoff Controller on Funny Cars later this year. Use of this controller on Top Fuel cars also will be evaluated with the goal of mandating them for that class as well.

TASCA RACING BREAKS GROUND IN NORTH CAROLINA: Rookie Funny Car driver Bob Tasca and his Tasca Racing Team have announced that beginning in 2009 they will be headquartered in Concord, N.C. Essentially working from the road this year, the team will have a home base where they can test, work and house the racing team when they are not on the road.

"I see the Charlotte area as a great place to build our new racing home," said Bob Tasca III, owner and driver for Tasca Racing. "We'll have the nation's premier race track five minutes from our doorstep, and the location allows for our team to return home for more than half the races in the season, and to have a home shop to work out of between races."

HAMMONDS HIRES TOM AS CREW CHIEF: Pro Stock driver Tom Hammonds will now have the ability to focus on driving his Tom Hammonds Enterprises Chevy Cobalt after hiring Kenny Tom to be crew chief. Tom brings more than 23 years of motorsports experience and has been crew chief on other Pro Stock Cars.

"As the driver of our number 20 Chevy Cobalt, I have not sat in the lounge of our transporter for a long time. Bringing Kenny Tom onboard allows me to do what I do best, and that is driving our Chevy Cobalt down the track," said Hammonds.


NHRA CAROLINAS NATIONALS, zMAX DRAGWAY, SEPT. 11–14: In the first race of the Countdown to 1, the NHRA POWERade Series heads to the newly constructed zMAX Dragway and its first visit to the state of North Carolina. All four professional categories (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle) will compete in this inaugural event.

O'REILLY SUPER START BATTERIES NHRA FALL NATIONALS, TEXAS MOTORPLEX, SEPT. 18–21: Drivers in all four professional categories will fight it out in the second race of the Countdown to 1 in this second stop of the season in the Lone Star State. Defending event winners include Larry Dixon (Top Fuel); Tony Pedregon (Funny Car); Dave Connolly (Pro Stock); and Peggy Llewellyn (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

O'REILLY NHRA MID-SOUTH NATIONALS, MEMPHIS MOTORSPORTS PARK, SEPT. 26–28: The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series heads to the south for its third stop in the Countdown to 1 playoffs. Defending event winners include Melanie Troxel (Top Fuel); Gary Scelzi (Funny Car); Dave Connolly (Pro Stock); and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

BEING FIRST HAS ITS BENEFITS: Funny Car points leader Tim Wilkerson is enjoying his best season in his 13 years of racing. He has had his Levi, Ray & Shoup Chevy Impala on top since May. Wilkerson is learning what it means to be ahead of everyone else.

"We have worked so hard to do this and I'm very proud of our efforts," said Wilkerson. "It's interesting being first. They take you a little differently than when you were just a guy that went down the race track from time to time."


30: The number of points separating first-place from second-place in the POWERade Series championship standings. The leaders after Indy earned a 20-point bonus to have a more than one round lead over the drivers in the number two position. From second to 10th place the drivers are separated incrementally by 10 points beginning with 2,060 for second place and ending with 1,980 for 10th place.

...that the inaugural NHRA Carolinas Nationals at zMAX Dragway @ Concord will mark the first time in history that an NHRA national event has been held in the state of North Carolina.