WILKERSON, DIXON READY FOR PHOENIX HEAT AND LUCAS OIL SLICK MIST NHRA NATIONALS: With the first race of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing season officially in the record books, the series and drivers now turn their eyes towards the Arizona skies and the second stop on the circuit, the Lucas Oil Slick Mist NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway. For many drivers, the warm Arizona air will be a new start after rain soaked and stretched the season-opening Pomona event from four to six days, which gave many drivers only one pass on the season, after qualifying was shortened to only one session.
One such driver is 2008 Funny Car runner-up, Tim Wilkerson. Wilkerson shook the tires on his one qualifying pass for the Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals, placing him 17th, just one spot out of the field.
“It’s the start of a new season, right on the heels of our best season ever, and we sure wanted to come out (to the Winternationals) and give the Levi, Ray & Shoup people a great weekend, but Mother Nature and an airline got together and spoiled our party,” Wilkerson said. “That’s just the way it is, so we’ll have to bounce back out in Phoenix and make up for this.”
Wilkerson isn’t the only driver looking to “bounce back” in Phoenix. Another driver looking to recover from a less than impressive start to the season is Top Fuel pilot Larry Dixon. Dixon held high hopes coming into Pomona. He had just signed on with new team owner Alan Johnson to drive the Al-Anabi dragster and was returning to the site of his last win just a few months previous.
But bad weather and a one-shot qualifying session kept Dixon from advancing to the eliminations. Now Dixon not only looks to defend his 2008 win at Firebird International Raceway, but also to kick his drive for the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle world championship into high gear.
“Alan and I have both done well at Phoenix in the past so we’re definitely hoping for good things,” said Dixon. “I know I’m looking forward to getting four qualifying runs in, and once we get our car qualified, start looking forward to race day.”
KENNY BERNSTEIN TO BE INDUCTED INTO MOTORSPORTS HALL OF FAME OF AMERICA: Famed NHRA driver and team owner Kenny Bernstein was named as one of the seven who will be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in its annual ceremony Wednesday, August 12, at the Fillmore Theater in Detroit. Bernstein joins such racing legends and inductees as David Hobbs, Scott Parker, Les Richter, Al Unser Jr., H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler and the late Joe Weatherly.
“We are honored to have been chosen to join the elite members of the motorsports fraternity known as the Heroes of Horsepower,” said Bernstein. “We have been fortunate through the years to have some success on the racetrack, and to be inducted into this prestigious Hall of Fame is icing on the cake.”
LUCAS OIL NAMED PRESENTING SPONSOR OF MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS: Lucas Oil Products has been named a presenting sponsor of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the world’s most prestigious drag race. The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil is set for September 2–7, at historic O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis. The race is the final event of the regular season in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.
The commitment increases Lucas Oil’s involvement in NHRA Championship Drag Racing. The company also sponsors the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series for NHRA’s large sportsman racing community. It is also the sponsor of the popular Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, Minnesota, and was recently named the title sponsor of the Lucas Oil Slick Mist NHRA Nationals in Phoenix. In addition, Lucas Oil provides several sponsorships for race teams, including the Top Fuel dragsters driven by Morgan Lucas, Shawn Langdon and European champion Andy Carter.
FULL THROTTLE TV JOINS NHRA.COM: As part of the newly revamped NHRA.com, Full Throttle along with NHRA Championship Drag Racing has created Full Throttle TV. Full Throttle TV gives NHRA fans the chance to see some of their favorite drivers talk about their cars, their lives in racing and what the fans mean to them. Full Throttle TV also contains race recaps in all four professional classes for the 2009 season.
LUCAS OIL SLICK MIST NHRA NATIONALS, FIREBIRD RACEWAY, FEBRUARY 20–22: The 2009 NHRA Full Throttle series makes its second stop of the season in the warm desert of Phoenix, Arizona. Defending event winners include Larry Dixon (Top Fuel); Jack Beckman (Funny Car); and V Gaines (Pro Stock).
ACDELCO NHRA GATORNATIONALS, GAINESVILLE RACEWAY, MARCH 12–15: The Pro Stock Motorcycle category opens its 2009 season at the Gatornationals, annually one of the most popular stops on the NHRA Full Throttle Series tour. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Tony Pedregon (Funny Car); Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock); and Matt Guidera (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
O’REILLY NHRA SPRING NATIONALS, HOUSTON RACEWAY PARK, MARCH 27–29: Heading back to the Lone Star State, all four categories in the NHRA Full Throttle Series will compete for points towards the Countdown to the Championship. Defending event winners include Antron Brown (Top Fuel); Del Worsham (Funny Car); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock); and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
HE SAID, SHE SAID
DEFENDING AN EVENT WIN: Funny Car driver and defending event winner at Firebird International Raceway, Jack Beckman, talks about what it’s like returning to a track as a defending winner:
“It’s always fun to go back to a race as the previous event champion,” said Beckman. “You usually get your name in the fan guide and in the program and the announcers talk about you a little bit more. So that’s always cool.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
6: That’s the number of drivers who have ever won back-to-back events at Firebird International Raceway since NHRA Championship Drag Racing began competing at the track in 1985. Larry Dixon, Jack Beckman and V Gaines hope to be added to this list as they look to defend their wins in Phoenix.
- Brandon Bernstein (Top Fuel): 2003–2004
- Rod Fuller (Top Fuel): 2006–2007
- Dick LaHaie (Top Fuel): 1986–1987
- John Force (Funny Car): 1994–1997
- Bob Glidden (Pro Stock): 1985–1988
- Jim Yates (Pro Stock): 1996–1997
DID YOU KNOW…
…that Funny Car driver Ashley Force Hood and her cat Simba will be featured in an upcoming coffee-table-style book by noted photographer David Woo titled Top Dogs and Their Pets. The book will feature celebrities and their pets.
For more information, visit www.nhra.com.