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NHRA: Force Grasps Slim Lead With Three Races Left Before Championship



Funny Car driver Matt Hagan trails series leader John Force by 25 points with three races to go in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship. All four Full Throttle Series categories feature very close points races.


With three races to go in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, the regular season leaders remain at the top of the standings; however, in each of the four categories, a bit of momentum seems to have been picked up by a few drivers who started the playoffs back in the pack. With less than a few rounds of racing separating first, second, third and, in some cases, fourth place in each category, expect the intensity level to be at an all-time high at the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at scenic Maple Grove Raceway, October 7–10. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised on ESPN2 HD.

In Top Fuel, a trio of rivals will decide the championship. Series leader Dixon won for the first time at Maple Grove last year and hopes to defend his crown in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster. The two-time world champ has won 11 times this year and hasn’t lost in a final-round meeting. A rare second-round exit at Dallas two weeks ago opened the door for second-place Cory McClenathan and third-place Tony Schumacher, the seven-time defending world champ in the 7,000 hp category.

In Funny Car, 14-time world champ John Force has led the way all season in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang, but DSR teammates Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman have crashed the 61-year-old driver’s championship comeback party in recent weeks. Hagan trails by 25 in his DieHard Dodge Charger and Beckman sits 45 points back in his Valvoline/MTS Charger. Force’s daughter, Ashley Force Hood, also is very much in contention, only 68 points back in her Castrol GTX Mustang.

Back-to-back victories at Charlotte and Dallas have put three-time Pro Stock world champ Greg Anderson within range of reeling in series leader and defending world champ Mike Edwards. The driver of the Summit Racing Pontiac GXP trails Edwards by 16 points. Anderson is not the only driver from within the pack who has some momentum. Greg Stanfield, who won at Indy and was runner-up to Anderson in Charlotte, is also anchored in the Pro Stock mix in third place in his NitroFish/Indicom Electric GXP.

The Pro Stock Motorcycle championship battle has come down to two riders. Red-hot rookie LE Tonglet has won the first three races in the playoffs, beating series leader Andrew Hines in all three final rounds. The NitroFish Gear Suzuki rider trails three-time world champ Hines, who rides the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, by 44 points. For tickets, call Maple Grove Raceway, 610/856-9200, or log on to

  Darrell Gwynn tossed out the first pitch during the 1990 NHRA vs. NASCAR drivers celebrity softball game, held during race week in Reading, Pennsylvania. The game raised funds for Gwynn, who was seriously injured earlier in the year following a crash during an exhibition race in Santa Pod, England. Gwynn, who won Top Fuel titles at Maple Grove in 1988 and 1989, will be honored during several events this weekend. Gwynn’s Foundation also will donate a wheelchair to a deserving local resident.

GWYNN FOUNDATION TO DONATE WHEELCHAIR AT READING/GWYNN TO BE HONORED AT ALL-STAR SALUTE: The Darrell Gwynn Foundation will donate a wheelchair to a deserving Berks County resident as part of many festivities, which includes a salute to Gwynn, when the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals returns to Maple Grove Raceway October 7–10.

“Reading is a very special place to me,” Gwynn said. “The fans in Pennsylvania are some of the greatest in the world. I’m glad to be coming back and receiving this honor.”

The weekend will kick off with the All-Star Salute to Darrell Gwynn Thursday, October 7, at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, at 7:00 p.m. Several past and present NHRA stars will sign autographs. There will also be a memorabilia silent auction. The 2010 Maple Grove Raceway Walk of Fame inductees will be in attendance that evening, including Darwin Doll, Dallas Gardner, Steve Gibbs, Darrell Gwynn, Jerry Gwynn, Kenny Koretsky and Jack Redd. Several NHRA racers are expected to appear, including many contending for this year’s NHRA Full Throttle world championships: Jack Beckman, Antron Brown, Ron Capps, Larry Dixon, Cory McClenanthan, Matt Hagan, Tony Pedregon, Allen Johnson, Steve Johnson, Clay Millican, Greg Stanfield and Bob Tasca III, along with legends Joe Amato and Koretsky. Tickets for the event are $20, which all goes to the Gwynn Foundation. To purchase tickets, call Maple Grove Raceway at 610/856-9200.

Fans attending the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals Sunday will have the opportunity to walk the track in the morning with Gwynn, who will be driving an electric-powered dragster before eliminations begin. The $20 donation will also go to the foundation. At that time, Gwynn will present the wheelchair. For more information about the Darrell Gwynn Foundation, log on to or call Erica Woods, program services coordinator at 954/792-7333, ext. 112. For more information about the event, call Maple Grove Raceway at 610/856-9200 or log on to

TEAM SUMMIT DRIVERS TO SPEND THANKSGIVING VISITING U.S. TROOPS IN GERMANY: Team Summit drivers Jason Line, Warren Johnson, Rickie Jones and Dan Runte will spend Thanksgiving week giving thanks to American troops stationed at Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC) in Germany. The team will travel to KMC November 20–25 for a USO-sponsored support mission that will also include a visit to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to meet with wounded American troops.

“This trip is the least we can do to show our appreciation to the troops for everything they do for us,” Jason Line, driver of the Summit Racing Pontiac GXP, said. “As the saying goes, ‘freedom isn’t free,’ and the young men and women in the military, as well as their families, sacrifice so much to allow us to live as we do.”

The trip will be spearheaded by Major (retired) Dieter Protsch and Sfc (Retired) Wayne Reed, members of the Army Special Forces Association Chapter 64 based in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The USO will provide air transportation for the team, which will depart on an eight-hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany, on November 20. The team will be based at Ramstein Air Base, and the 86th Services Squadron will host the drivers and provide transportation and logistics support during the visit. The group will spend three days visiting with military personnel assigned to units in the Kaiserslautern Military Community and visit Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and Wounded Warrior Center to meet with wounded American troops and hospital staff members. The group will distribute 1,500 souvenir gift bags, along other assorted gift items and sign autographs, during the visit before heading back home on November 25.

“Having spent some time in the Air Force, I know how much they value any contact from home,” Line said. “Therefore, if our going over there helps to lift their spirits and show how much their country thinks of them, it’s a great thing, and I look forward to it.”


TOYO TIRES NHRA NATIONALS, MAPLE GROVE RACEWAY, October 7–10: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads back to the East Coast and Pennsylvania for its fourth stop in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Defending event winners include Larry Dixon (Top Fuel); Bob Tasca (Funny Car); Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock); and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 610/856-7200 or online at For media credentials, please contact Senior Communications Manager Scott Smith at

NHRA LAS VEGAS NATIONALS, THE STRIP AT LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, October 28–31: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads back to Sin City for its fifth stop in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Defending event winners include Spencer Massey (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); Larry Morgan (Pro Stock); and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800/644-4444 or online at For media credentials, please contact Director of Media Relations Anthony Vestal at

AUTOMOBILE CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NHRA FINALS, AUTO CLUB RACEWAY AT POMONA, November 11–14: The 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series comes to an end where it all began: in sunny Southern California for the final event of the season and the crowning of the NHRA Full Throttle world champions. Defending event winners include Antron Brown (Top Fuel); Mike Neff (Funny Car); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock); and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800/844-NHRA or online at For media credentials, please contact Director of Public Relations Michael Padian at




ROOKIE CHAMPION?: Pro Stock Motorcycle rookie LE Tonglet will try to add to his three-race winning streak at the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals. The 20-year-old rider, who is one of three candidates for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award, has beaten points leader Andrew Hines in three straight playoff races to move within 44 points of the series lead.

“My dad said he’s hungry for the championship and that we were going for it,” Tonglet said. “We want to keep the momentum. We are the underdogs, and we aren’t feeling the pressure.”

The last NHRA rookie driver to win a world championship title was Gary Scelzi in Top Fuel in 1997.


4: Only four past Top Fuel winners of this 26th annual event at scenic Maple Grove Raceway are entered to compete this weekend. All are in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship title hunt, including series leader Larry Dixon, who won here for the first time last season; second-place Cory McClenathan who won here in 1997; four-time Reading winner Tony Schumacher, who sits third in the point standings; and 2002 winner Doug Kalitta, who is fifth in points. A total of 16 different drivers have won NHRA Top Fuel titles at Maple Grove Raceway since “Big Daddy” Don Garlits won the first race there in 1985.


Larry Dixon raced to victory at Maple Grove Raceway for the first time in his career in 2009. He is one of 16 Top Fuel drivers to win at Maple Grove Raceway in NHRA history and among four past champs entered this weekend.

…that Veteran Funny Car driver Phil Burkart Jr. will return to professional drag racing at the upcoming 26th annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, competing for the first time since filling in for the injured John Force in the fall of 2007. The 42-year-old, four-time national event winner has signed a one-race deal to return to the event that he won in 2006 when driving for Del Worsham. Burkart will be flying the colors of two Keystone State companies—most notably, Boninfante Performance Clutch Parts of Yeadon, Pennsylvania, which will receive title signage for its new VR750 Clutch Grinder on Burkart's Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Sheetz Electrical Contractors of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, will also provide support, as will Midtown Autoworld of Herkimer, New York.

“I'm extremely anxious to get back in a Funny Car and race,” Burkart said. “It seems like it's been forever. I've been driving a lot of different cars over the past few years, just not at the top level of the sport.”

Burkart will be driving Paul Smith's Funny Car, which he has piloted at several match races in the past three seasons. Smith and his son John will tune the car. The last time Burkart drove for the Smiths, they reached the final, at the 2007 Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, and came within .09-second of taking the trophy.

“It's a good car, and Paul knows what he's doing,” Burkart said. “I don't think anyone will take us for granted. They know what we can do, and with the championship battles in full swing, we're hoping to get in there and mix things up a bit.”

For more information, contact NHRA Media Relations at 626/914-4761 or visit the NHRA Media Center online.