Compiled by SEMA Editors
SCHUMACHER READY TO DIAL UP CLUTCH PERFORMANCE: Through a standout career that includes eight Top Fuel world championships, Tony Schumacher has displayed an incredible ability to produce remarkable late-season runs to grab a world title. Trailing teammate and reigning world champion Antron Brown by 141 points, Schumacher will again need to dial up something special in his 10,000hp U.S. Army dragster over the final three events, including this weekend’s 31st annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex.
“With the way the U.S. Army team has been performing down the stretch of the regular season and the first half of the Countdown, anything is possible,” Schumacher said. “You never know what’s going to go down on any given weekend, so the way we approach it is to take care of what we can control, and that is to go out and try to be fastest in every qualifying session, then run the table on Sunday.”
TEXAS NATIVE TORRENCE HOPES FOR HOME WIN: It is easy for Steve Torrence to reminisce when he is in the staging lanes at the Texas Motorplex—the site of the 31st annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, October 13–16. The Top Fuel standout and Kilgore, Texas, native grew up racing at the track just two hours from his house, and every time he returns, it is an opportunity to look back on his rise through the drag-racing ranks at the famed facility. After advancing to the final round at the race last year, Torrence’s next step is his first Top Fuel win at the track, something that would add another memorable accomplishment to his impressive 2016 season.
“It was just a few years ago you’re pulling into the water box in your Super Comp car, just aspiring to be in this position,” said Torrence, who is currently sixth in Top Fuel points and has two wins in 2016. “It’s just an unbelievable feeling to accomplish those goals and be at the pinnacle of the sport you love,” said Torrence. “It holds all the more meaning to say I grew up here and every aspect of my racing career took place here. It’s always been a special place to me and where I grew up racing.”
MAINTAINING CONSISTENCY IS CAPPS' GOAL FOR REST OF COUNTDOWN: As he chases his first career NHRA Mello Drag Racing Series Funny Car world championship, Ron Capps has been a model of consistency throughout the 2016 regular season. That consistency has stretched into the six-race NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, where Capps has continued to be in top form. Capps, who leads teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. by 24 points, has advanced to the semifinals or better in the first three playoff races in his 10,000-hp NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T—a stretch that now goes back to 12 of his past 13 races. It’s been a winning formula that Capps will try to continue to pick up his first 2016 Countdown to the Championship win at this weekend’s 31st annual AAA Texas NHRA Fallnationals at the Texas Motorplex.
“Of course it’s better to be chased than be the chaser at this point,” said Capps, who has five wins and nine finals appearances in 2016. “But we’ve still got a long way to go. It’s nice we’ve kept up the consistency, and I said to win a championship you’ve got to average a semifinal finish or better. We’ve had such a great season and we want to keep it going. We’re clicking really well as a team and it’s time to take advantage of it.”
He Said, She Said
“This is a big weekend at the Texas Motorplex for my AAA Texas Chevy Camaro team. I still 100% believe I have a shot at the championship. We need to win races for sure, and I have won the AAA Texas Fallnationals before. I am ready to get to the track because we will have a lot of things going on with AAA Texas, so we’ll be busy, which I think helps keep you focused.”
—Robert Hight, driver of the AAA Chevy Camaro for John Force Racing. In addition to racing on the dragstrip, Hight will also ask fans at the AAA Texas Fallnationals to choose Drags over Checkered Flags. As the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series winds down, Hight is in a tight race with NASCAR’s Joey Logano. Both drivers are sponsored by Auto Club, and all season fans across the country have been voting at select events choosing between Drags/Robert Hight and Checkered Flags/Joey Logano. Fans can vote all weekend at the AAA Texas display at the Texas Motorplex.
Inside the Numbers
September 21–24 and September 29–October 1: The new dates respectively for the 2017 Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pennsylvania, and the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park. The two events are switching their event dates for the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship. The AAA Insurance NHRA Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois, will move back one week to September 29–October 1, and The Dodge NHRA Nationals will take place September 21–24. The change will improve the overall schedule for both venues.
“I think we will see some benefits from this by moving off the weekend of the NASCAR races at Dover [Delaware],” said Lex Dudas, vice president and general manager at Maple Grove Raceway. “We know fans over the years wanted to do both, but they had to pick and choose.”
Did You Know
HOW NHRA CHAMPIONS WERE CROWNED BEFORE THE COUNTDOWN: The Countdown to the Championship six-race playoff system was established in 2007 to determine the season championships in the professional categories, but that hasn’t always been the case. The very first Top Fuel champion was Jack Williams in 1964. He earned his championship title based on the jackpot system that consisted of a 50-race schedule where drivers earned points at nine events of their choosing. Then in 1965, Maynard Rupp was crowned champion through the introduction of the world finals raced in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Racers had to participate in six events during the season to be eligible to compete for the championship. In 1974, Gary Beck, Shirl Greer and Bob Glidden became the first champions to earn their respective titles based on their season-long performance. This system stayed in place until the Countdown Championship crowned its first champions, Tony Schumacher, Tony Pedregon and Jeg Couglin and Matt Smith nine years ago.