AND THEN THERE WERE TWO: CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS HOPE FOR LAST-CHANCE EFFORTS IN FINAL TWO RACES OF THE SEASON: It was just one year ago that Funny Car driver Tony Pedregon and his Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS pulled up to the starting line at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway the first day of qualifying for the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals and first of the final two races in the Countdown to the Championship. Pedregon entered the race in the top spot in the point standings, but was just a mere 10 points ahead of second-place driver Gary Scelzi and only 30 points ahead of fourth-place driver Ron Capps.
The top four in the points standings all had a legitimate chance at taking the points lead and possibly securing the championship at the end of the event. Pedregon’s second-place qualifying effort and final round win over Ashley Force kept him at the front of the pack and strengthened his points lead to 91 over second-place Scelzi. A first-round appearance at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA finals proved just enough to secure Pedregon his second POWERade world championship and first as an owner.
Fast forward one year to Tim Wilkerson and his Levi Ray & Shoup Chevy Impala SS. Wilkerson will enter the eighth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals with just a 51-point lead over second-place driver Jack Beckman. Can Wilkerson finish his Cinderella season and finish the year the same as Pedregon’s 2007 championship run? Wilkerson enters the race with two wins in four races in the Countdown to 1 playoffs.
In Top Fuel, defending POWERade world champion Tony Schumacher has all but clinched his fifth-straight title and sixth overall. Schumacher sits an impressive 212 points ahead of second-place driver Hillary Will and has made a final round appearance in all but five of the 22 races so far this season. Pro Stock defending champion Jeg Coughlin sits in the top spot in the category, but is only 74 points ahead of second-place Kurt Johnson. Pro Stock Motorcycle defending world champion and current points leader Matt Smith is 42 points ahead of second-place driver Eddie Krawiec.
The eighth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals will be held October 30–November 2 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
PRUDHOMME RACING SIGNS MASSEY FOR 2010 TOP FUEL TEAM: Don Prudhomme Racing has signed Top Fuel rookie Spencer Massey to a multiyear agreement with plans to put him behind the wheel of a new Top Fuel dragster team beginning with the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle season.
Massey, who also collected one win in three final round appearances while competing in the Top Alcohol dragster category in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, will continue to compete in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series as Snake Racing finalizes plans for the debut of a new Top Fuel team in 2010. Massey will immediately be available to drive for Snake Racing should the new team be formed prior to the 2010 NHRA season.
“I’m honored and very excited to have this opportunity with Snake Racing,” said Massey. “This is something that I’ve always wanted to do and now I’m getting the chance to live the dream. I’ve always looked up to ‘Snake’ for everything he has accomplished over his career. Snake Racing is a top-of-the-line organization and now I am in a position to be a part of that, so I am very excited.”
NHRA HIRES PROMINENT WEB DESIGN FIRM TO RELAUNCH NHRA.COM: In a move to transform its website into one of the premier fan destination sites on the web, the NHRA has hired industry leader AmericanEagle.com to complete a wall-to-wall renovation of NHRA.com. In addition to enhancing the interface of NHRA.com’s traditional mix of news and critical race-related data, AmericanEagle.com will be charged with the task of devising efficient and innovative strategies for incorporating essential New Media touchpoints, such as eCommerce, streaming video and mobile platforms.
ACDELCO LAS VEGAS NHRA NATIONALS, OCTOBER 30–NOVEMBER 2: Making its second stop of the season in Las Vegas, 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 comes to an end where it started in sunny California and 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
COUNTDOWN CALIFORNIA: Currently second in the point standings with two final round appearances and one win in the past four races, Valvoline/MTS Dodger Charger R/T driver Jack Beckman feels that the POWERade Funny Car world championship will come down to the last race: the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals and Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.
“This Countdown deal is just shaping up to be like a novel,” Beckman said. “I said it’s going to come down to Pomona. I don’t know if it’s going to come down to the final round in Pomona, but it’s amazing. At the rate we’re going we’ll lose by nine points, so we have to find a way to make up another half round on Wilky (Tim Wilkerson) by the end of the season.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
4: The number of times Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson has finished second in the POWERade point standings. With only two races left in the season, Johnson currently sits second, only 74 points behind first-place driver Jeg Coughlin. Can Johnson come back and win his first POWERade world championship in his 16-year career?
DID YOU KNOW…
…that current Funny Car points leader Tim Wilkerson ended a nearly four-year winless streak and began his march toward his first POWERade world championship with his win at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in April of this year. Wilkerson enters next week’s ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals with six wins this season, four No. 1 qualifiers and a 51-point lead over the competition.