BROWN, TASCA, JOHNSON, RAY COLLECT DALLAS WINS: Antron Brown raced to the Top Fuel victory last Sunday at the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at the all-concrete Texas Motorplex near Dallas. Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the second of six playoff events in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship. Brown claimed his fifth victory of the season and moved into a tie for the points lead with the driver he beat in the final round—teammate Spencer Massey. Brown powered his Matco Tools dragster to a 3.898-second run at 311.49 mph to hold off Massey’s FRAM dragster, which finished with a 3.945 at 300.60.
“This is definitely the way to rebound,” said Brown, the playoff top seed who dropped to fourth in the standings after a first-round loss at the playoff opener last weekend in Charlotte. “I have to give credit to my team for sticking together. We were winning in the first round in Charlotte when we broke an input shaft. It’s so easy to get down after something like that. We came here, and the car was throwing us fits by being overaggressive. Brian [Corradi] and Mark [Oswald, co-crew chiefs] kept backing it off until they got a good handle on it in the semi's.”
Brown and Massey lead seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher by 24 points and the suddenly surging Shawn Langdon is 41 back as the playoff race in the 8,000hp category gets intense.
“In that final, we had to give it everything we had against the FRAM car,” said Brown, who beat three Countdown contenders—David Grubnic, Langdon and Morgan Lucas—in the first three rounds. “We edged them, and it felt really good to win and to tie them in the points lead. We have four races left, and it’s going to be a slugfest to the end. Everybody’s throwing haymakers. It’s an all-out battle royal right now.”
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NHRA RACING RETURNS TO GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK THIS WEEK; AUTOGRAPH SESSION SET FOR THURSDAY: On Thursday, September 27, the NHRA and Gateway Motorsports Park will host a special NHRA driver autograph session at the Lucas Park Grille in downtown St. Louis starting at 6:00 p.m. The drivers featured at the autograph session include Alexis DeJoria, Allen Johnson, Shawn Langdon, Erica Enders, Hector Arana, Hector Arana Jr., T.J. Zizzo, Terry McMillen, Todd Lesenko and Khaldi alBalooshi. Following the autograph session, NHRA racing will return to Gateway Motorsports Park Friday, September 28, for the first time since 2010. This time around, the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals will be part of the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship—the NHRA’s post-season playoffs. Many of the sport’s biggest stars will be competing in the event, including Antron Brown, Ron Capps, Tony Schumacher, John Force, Courtney Force, Spencer Massey, Cruz Pedregon, Robert Hight, Morgan Lucas, Brandon Bernstein and local favorite Tim Wilkerson.
“The NHRA is one of the biggest motorsports events to come to St. Louis,” said Curtis Francois, Gateway Motorsports Park owner, real estate developer and former race car driver. “We are very excited to have the unbelievable support of both the city of Madison and the city of St. Louis for the rebirth of Gateway Motorsports Park.”
RECORD-SETTING PERFORMANCES EXPECTED AT AUTO-PLUS NHRA NATIONALS: The pressure is building for NHRA Full Throttle Series teams who are eager to return to scenic Maple Grove Raceway for the 28th annual Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals, October 4–7, which is also the fourth race in the six-race Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship—the NHRA playoffs. The Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals, which is always an event where teams can take advantage of cool temperatures and produce record-setting performances, will also pay special tribute to one of the NHRA’s most iconic names in Pro Stock—Pennsylvania native Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, who passed away earlier this year. A Grumpy Car Corral, Grump Parade and a Sunday Track Walk with members of the Jenkins family are planned in commemoration of his life and legacy. All Sunday ticket holders can take advantage of this free tribute Track Walk with the opportunity to walk side-by-side, interact with some of the NHRA’s most popular drivers while they remember “Grumpy”—one of drag racing’s greatest pioneers.
In celebration of Maple Grove Raceway’s 50th Anniversary, fans will be treated to numerous festivities all weekend long, including the “50 Cars for 50 Years” display featuring some of the coolest cars selected from events held at Maple Grove. The display will be near Nitro Alley on Sunday. By the time the top 10 drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle make it to Maple Grove, they will have made their mark on the demanding playoffs that kicked off mid-September at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries in Charlotte. Defending event champions Spencer Massey (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); Jason Line (Pro Stock); and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are pushing hard to return to the winner’s circle at the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals en route to the NHRA Full Throttle world championship. As always, every ticket is a pit pass giving fans unlimited access to the sport’s biggest stars for autographs and photo opportunities. For tickets for the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals please call 610-856-7200 or log on to www.maplegroveraceway.com.
COMING ATTRACTIONS INAUGURAL AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS, Gateway Motorsports Park, September 28–30: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series returns to St. Louis and this time it is for round number three of the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship—the NHRA’s playoffs. For tickets, call 800-884-NHRA (6472) or log on to NHRATix.com.
AUTO-PLUS NHRA NATIONALS, Maple Grove Raceway, October 4–7: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series returns to Reading to make its 21st stop of 23 events in 2012, and the fourth race of the Countdown to the Championship. The 2011 winners included Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800-884-NHRA (6472) or log on to NHRATix.com.
BIG O TIRES NHRA NATIONALS, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, October 26–28: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its 22nd stop of 23 events in the 2012 season, and the fifth of six races in the Countdown playoffs. Drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will earn points leading to NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships. The 2011 winners of the event were Del Worsham (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800-644-4444 or log on to LVMS.com.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
RAY MAKES BIG MOVE IN HOMESTATE OF TEXAS: NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Michael Ray couldn’t have asked for a better start to the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Ray defeated Karen Stoffer in the final round of the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex to earn his first career victory.
“It’s really surreal, and I don’t think it’s really sank in yet that I’m getting to go home with the biggest thing that I’ve worked my whole life for,” Ray said. “When we got here this weekend, we knew we had a great bike that could go out there and be competitive, coming off our performance in Charlotte.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
10: JOHNSON EARNS 10TH NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITION OF SEASON: For the first time in his career, Pro Stock points leader Allen Johnson posted a season-best double digits in No. 1 qualifying positions, as the driver of the Team Mopar Dodge Avenger claimed his 10th top qualifying effort of the season at the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex. Johnson went on to win the race, his fifth of the season, and now holds a 93-point lead over defending world champ Jason Line with four races remaining in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
DID YOU KNOW…
JOHN FORCE WINS TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT: John Force became the first winner of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car, held September 22, at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas. As the No. 6 seed in the specialty all-star race-within-a-race, Force outran Jack Beckman, Jeff Arend and final-round opponent and event top seed Ron Capps to take the $100,000 victory.
“It’s a great day, and we won," said Force. "The $100,000 goes to my employees. I don’t take any money. It’s not about that for me. It’s about winning for them and the fans and the sponsors. Traxxas putting up that $100,000, it’s good for our sport. It’s good to have money out here that can subsidize teams, that can help teams, and anybody can win it, and I won it."