RICHARDS’ LEAVING BERNSTEIN RACING: With the end of the season fast approaching, POWERade Series teams are already looking to 2009 and making changes. The past week has been a flurry of activity for team crew chiefs. Longtime Bernstein Racing crew chiefs Tim and Kim Richards are retiring at the end of season. They have been with Bernstein Racing since 2001. Tim Richards has a career total of 81 race wins and six NHRA Top Fuel championships. Kim has partnered with Tim for 50 of those victories. Kim began her racing career working with her father Dick LaHaie on his Top Fuel car. She helped tune him to his 1987 NHRA Top Fuel championship.
SCHUMACHER CLOSES IN ON CHAMPIONSHIP WHILE OTHER CATEGORIES ARE UP IN THE AIR: Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon and Pro Stocker Dave Connolly closed out clutch wins on Sunday at the Virginia NHRA Nationals to go from afterthoughts to legitimate challengers in the race for the 2008 NHRA POWERade Series championships. The other winner at the fourth of six races in the NHRA Playoff, the Countdown to 1, was Top Fuel ace Tony Schumacher, who continued his record-breaking season with his 14th win and first at Virginia Motorsports Park.
Pedregon, the 1992 POWERade Series world champion, defeated first-place Tim Wilkerson in the semifinals and second-place Jack Beckman in the finals en route to his first win in more than two years (Las Vegas 1 in April 2006). With the win–his first win at Virginia Motorsports Park in four final rounds–Pedregon climbed all the way from sixth to third place, passing Ashley Force, Robert Hight and Tony Pedregon. He closed to within 69 points of Wilkerson after entering the weekend 115 points out of first. With two races left, Wilkerson leads Beckman by 51, Cruz Pedregon by 69, Tony Pedregon by 91 and Hight by 92.
Schumacher eliminated all but Hillary Will (-212) from championship contention, and all he’ll have to do at Las Vegas to clinch his fifth straight and sixth overall POWERade Series world championship is qualify. In Pro Stock, Connolly defended his Virginia NHRA Nationals race win by defeating Jeg Coughlin. The win vaulted Connolly to within 77 points of Cagnazzi Racing teammate Coughlin.
Coughlin still emerged from the weekend better off than he entered it, though. In fact, he more than doubled his lead over his closest pursuer, Kurt Johnson, who entered the weekend 32 points behind, and by day’s end was 74 points behind.
NHRA SOFTBALL CLASSIC TICKETS ON SALE: Tickets for the NHRA Softball Classic are on sale. To purchase tickets, call Ticketmaster at 213/480-3232 or go online to www.ie66ers.com or www.ticketmaster.com. The NHRA Softball Classic will be held November 12 at Arrowhead Credit Union Park in San Bernardino, California, home of the Inland Empire 66ers, the Class A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The first attempt at the game, at the Reading Phillies’ stadium in Pennsylvania, was rained out.
For fans who are interested in purchasing seats on the side of the field of their favorite team, Brown’s Bombers will occupy the home dugout, which is on the third base line, while Scelzi’s Superchargers will set up camp in the visitor’s dugout along the first base line. The first pitch is set for 7:30 p.m.
Gates will open at 5:00 p.m. Proceeds from the game will benefit the Drag Racing Association of Women (DRAW). The game will be played prior to the final NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event of the 2008 season, the 44th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, November 13–16 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. For tickets to the Auto Club NHRA Finals, call 800/884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.ticketmaster.com or www.nhra.com.
OTHER CREW CHIEF SILLY SEASON CHANGES: Some other teams are making crew chief changes in the 2009 season. Tasca Racing is adding Marc Denner to the team to head up the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Shelby Mustang Funny Car. Denner, who has spent the past 12 seasons working within the Worsham Racing organization, is currently Car Chief on Del Worsham's Funny Car. With the recent announcement of Worsham moving to a new team next season, the timing was right for both Tasca and Denner to make this addition to the race team for next season. In other crew chief news, Rob Flynn will be leaving David Powers Motorsports as head of the Caterpillar dragster driven by Rod Fuller.
2008 YEAR IN REVIEW DVD NOW ON SALE: Pre-orders are now being accepted for the upcoming DVD recounting the 2008 Countdown to the Championship battle. A preview clip is now available from the DVD that shows Ashley Force's historic first Funny Car win in Atlanta earlier this year. The 97-second preview clip includes racing footage from the event and a never-before-seen interview with Force.
Hosted by acclaimed NHRA announcer Bob Frey, the "2008 Countdown to the Championship Year In Review" DVD runs more than 90 minutes and costs $19.99 plus shipping and handling. The DVD is scheduled to be released in mid-December, making this the perfect holiday gift for the race fan in your family. For more information or to pre-order, log on to www.nhradvd.com.
ACDELCO LAS VEGAS NHRA NATIONALS, OCTOBER 30–NOVEMBER 2: The POWERade Series returns to Las Vegas for its second stop of the season as drivers in all four professional categories will fight it out at the fifth and next-to-last race of the Countdown to 1. Defending event winners include Rod Fuller (Top Fuel); Tony Pedregon (Funny Car); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock); and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
AUTOMOBILE CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NHRA FINALS, AUTO CLUB RACEWAY AT POMONA, NOVEMBER 13–16: The 2008 season concludes where it started: in sunny California. The Countdown to 1 comes to an end as POWERade world champions are determined in this final race. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock); and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
HE SAID, SHE SAID
EVERYONE’S A CHAMPION BUT LUCK IS GOOD TOO: Lucas Oil/Charter Communications Chevy Cobalt driver and Pro Stock championship contender Dave Connolly won his fourth race of the season in Richmond.
“In my opinion, every round, it didn’t matter if it was in the first or the finals, it was a championship driver pulling up next to me. Other than Kurt (Johnson), and honestly, he’s deserved to win championships, they’ve all been world champions. That just means they know how to win and we were just fortunate enough to turn on the win light,” Connolly said.
He was quick to add about Greg Anderson’s red-light in the semis: “You’ve got to have a little luck in this class, and we definitely had a little bit with us today.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
8: Of his 14 wins in 2008, U.S. Army dragster driver Tony Schumacher has defeated eight different drivers in Top Fuel. Brandon Bernstein has fallen three times to Schumacher, the most of any driver.
DID YOU KNOW…
…of the four drivers leading the points in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle, three have won at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car) won his first in the spring, and Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) have both won three times at the track. Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) is the only one to have never visited Winner’s Circle at the track.