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NHRA: Seven Drivers Clinch Playoff Spots After Nationals in Brainerd

 Tony Pedregon
 Tony Pedregon earned his third victory of the season at the 28th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.


T. PED SHOWS WHY HE’S NO. 1, DESPITE CREW CHIEF WOES IN BRAINERD: Just three days after parting ways with longtime crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant crew chief Kurt Elliott, current Funny Car points leader Tony Pedregon showed why he’s the driver to beat for the championship, when he drove past Ron Capps to earn his third victory of the season at the 28th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.

Lucas Oil drivers Morgan Lucas and Hector Arana joined Pedregon in the Winner’s Circle as well as three-time Pro Stock world champion Greg Anderson. For Pedregon, the win was bittersweet as the driver entered the event minus his famous engine tuner.

“I’ve been fortunate to be able to drive for guys like Larry Minor and John Force,” said Pedregon. “I’ve learned a lot from them, and I really felt that I’d been through everything, and I really didn’t anticipate this happening on such a short notice. Thursday I knew the reality, and I didn’t really feel like I was in a panic.

"I’m very optimistic, and I really believed that I had a good foundation to work with. I addressed my team when I showed up, and I told them that I really need them.”

The win helped boost Pedregon’s points lead to 28 over second-place Capps and with only two races left before the Countdown to 1 playoffs, Pedregon is hoping to keep that top spot, and the 20-point bonus that comes with it.

For Lucas, the win moved him up the point standings, from seventh to sixth, and locked him into the Countdown playoffs. Anderson’s win was the first of the season and helped to continue his streak of seasons with at least one win, which currently stands at nine. To see how all of your favorite drivers did, visit

K&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE RETURNS WITH NEW QUALIFYING FORMAT AND SPECIAL FAN PROMOTION: NHRA has reached an agreement with K&N Engineering to renew its sponsorship of the popular K&N Horsepower Challenge, a lucrative bonus event for Pro Stock competitors. The bonus event will adopt a new qualifying procedure in which a special fan vote will determine the final driver to make the starting lineup, and a special fan promotion will center on a Harley-Davidson giveaway.

The K&N Horsepower Challenge is a special race-within-a-race bonus program for the top Pro Stock drivers in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. The K&N Horsepower Challenge will continue to be conducted at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk.

The race features a special eliminations pairing with eight Pro Stock drivers in the field, including seven who accumulate the most points in qualifying during the 24-race Challenge series and one who is selected to the starting lineup for the event via a special fan vote. For more information on this event, visit

NHRA FULL THROTTLE DRAG RACING SERIES AND McDONALD’S TEAM UP FOR MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS: Fans of NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series in the state of Indiana will have the opportunity to participate in a special discount offer for admission to the 55th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, September 2–7, at O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis. Beginning August 18, up to 155 participating Indiana McDonald’s restaurants will feature commemorative cups with the image of NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series driver Ashley Force Hood.

Besides becoming  “must have” collector items, the cups will provide a $7 discount for any adult general admission ticket on any day of the world’s most prestigious drag race, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil. Fans must present the cup to the O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis box office to obtain their ticket discount.

To support the program, the Series’ title sponsor, Full Throttle Energy Drink, will be arranging a series of special driver appearances. Headlining the promotion is Ashley Force Hood, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. Specific times and locations for driver appearances will be announced in the future. For more details on this promotion, visit a participating Indiana McDonald’s location beginning August 18 while supplies last.

MORE DRIVERS CLINCH SPOTS IN COUNTDOWN PLAYOFFS AT BRAINERD: Top Fuel racers Morgan Lucas, Spencer Massey and Shawn Langdon, Funny Car racer Jack Beckman, and Pro Stock Motorcycle riders Doug Horne, Craig Treble and Hector Arana all locked up their spots in the NHRA’s Countdown to 1 playoffs during Sunday eliminations at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd.

Former NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Matt Smith clinched his spot based on his qualifying efforts and veteran NHRA Top Fuel driver Cory McClenathan clinched his spot by virtue of making his opening qualifying pass in the FRAM Tough Guard dragster. For more information about the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, visit


TOYO TIRES NHRA NATIONALS, MAPLE GROVE RACEWAY, AUGUST 20–23: Making its second to last stop for the regular season, the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads to the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Jack Beckman (Funny Car); Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock); and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS PRESENTED BY LUCAS OIL, O’REILLY RACEWAY PARK, SEPTEMBER 2–7: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads back to the famed “Big Go”, the world’s most prestigious drag race. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); Dave Connolly (Pro Stock); and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle). 

NHRA CAROLINAS NATIONALS, zMAX DRAGWAY, SEPTEMBER 17–20: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads down to the Charlotte area for the second annual event and first race of the Countdown to 1 playoffs. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Jack Beckman (Funny Car); Justin Humphreys (Pro Stock); and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle). 

 Morgan Lucas
 Top Fuel pilot Morgan Lucas elated after earning his second win of the season at his sponsor’s event. 


WINNING ONE FOR THE MAN WHO PAYS THE BILLS: Top Fuel pilot Morgan Lucas on earning his second win of the season at his sponsor’s event: “It was the best day of my life, and this is the best feeling in the world. I’m still weak. I’ve got goosebumps all over my body, and it’s hot out. I don’t know what to do for the rest of the year because we’ve accomplished all the goals we set: to win multiple races, to qualify No. 1, and to have a team that’s competitive.

"I think we gained all those, and it’s been a really impressive day. I can’t tell you how proud I am and how proud I am of my parents to have given me this opportunity to race and be at this level. It’s a dream come true.”

14: That’s the number of drivers who have won back-to-back events at Maple Grove Raceway. Two of those drivers (Top Fuel’s Tony Schumacher and Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden) have actually had three-peat wins at the Reading event. This means that Tony Schumacher, Jack Beckman, Jeg Coughlin and Matt Smith have a 28% chance of picking up a second-straight win at Maple Grove this weekend.


…that several drivers are battling to secure their positions in the Countdown to 1, NHRA’s playoffs, during the final two races of the regular season at Reading and Indianapolis. In Funny Car, Mike Neff, Cruz Pedregon, Matt Hagan and Robert Hight are in a tight duel for the final two spots. In Top Fuel, Clay Millican has a 24-point lead over 11th place Joe Hartley.

Only 46 points separate 10th place Warren Johnson and 11th place Johnny Gray in Pro Stock. Five Pro Stock Motorcycle riders are in the mix for the final two spots, including Shawn Gann, Steve Johnson, Karen Stoffer, Michael Phillips and Junior Pippin. The six-race Countdown to 1 playoffs begins September 18 at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, North Carolina.