SCHU GRABS TWO!; “THE SARGE” GETS BACK-TO-BACK WINS AFTER ROUGH 2009 START: After a slow start to 2009, which saw two second-round losses and a semifinal loss in the first three races, six-time and defending Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher found his mark in Houston and followed it up in Las Vegas, picking up his second consecutive win of the season at the Summitracing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
He moved from fifth to the top spot in the Full Throttle point standings.
“Most of the guys on this team have not won two races in a row, so that was great for them,” said Schumacher, who is starting out with a fresh team and crew chief after long-time tuner Alan Johnson left to start his own team.
“I did a good job of keeping it straight and all that stuff, but I didn’t drive as well as I did [in Houston], period. [In Houston] I had a pretty special week, and this week, it was the team. They did a heck of a job. The car ran right down the track every time.”
But Schumacher isn’t the only driver riding the wave of success early in the season. Funny Car’s Ron Capps and Pro Stock’s Jeg Coughlin also picked up additional wins in Las Vegas. Capps knocked off teammate and rookie driver Matt Hagan in the final round to pick up his third win of the season, just five races in.
“We have found that just trying to approach the season like a NASCAR team and saying, ‘Okay as long as we’re in the Countdown and in the top 10’ and trying to focus and peak at the right time doesn’t work,” said Capps. “So we stepped it up, and ‘Ace’ [Ed McCulloch, crew chief] is trying to rip their throats out every single run.”
Coughlin has had a similar start to the 2009 season. With two wins and three final-round appearances in just five races, the defending Pro Stock world champion is looking to add a fourth title to his career stats. “We’d love nothing more than to come out of Indy in first place in the Countdown with the extra bonus points that come with being No. 1,” said Coughlin. “But there are a lot of races between here and there.”
NHRA FLOPPERS EARN BOWLING BRAGGING RIGHTS AT UNITED STATES BOWLING CONGRESS OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP IN LAS VEGAS: The NHRA Floppers, one of three teams that competed in the USBC Open Championships, Thursday, April 2 in Las Vegas, led by the tandem of Auto Club Ford Mustang driver Robert Hight and Al-Anabi Racing Toyota Solara driver Del Worsham, squeezed out the victory over the other two teams and posted a team total score of 2,180.
Top Fuel rookie Shawn Langdon posted the overall high score of 528 among the 15 drivers who played, with Hight coming in second at 525.
“Bowling is a lot like a race car when you consider you have to make a lot of minor adjustments as you go and the lanes change just like a track will change,” said Hight. “It was a fun experience. The other NHRA teams were really good too. It went right down to the 10th frame of the last game.”
GIR, USO HONOR SERVICEMEMBERS WITH ‘THANK THE MILITARY’ NHRA TICKET PROMOTION: In an effort to show its appreciation for those who have volunteered their service to the U.S. armed forces, Gateway International Raceway (GIR) has initiated the “Thank the Military” ticket program. The program allows fans purchasing tickets to the O’Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals, May 1–3, to donate a ticket to the USO of Missouri, who will then distribute the tickets to area active-duty military. To purchase tickets, fans can call 866/357-7333 or online at www.gatewayraceway.com.
BRISTOL DRAGWAY AND zMAX DRAGWAY TEAM UP TO OFFER FANS INCREDIBLE TICKET PACKAGE: NHRA fans in both Bristol and Charlotte now have the chance of a lifetime as Bristol Dragway and zMAX dragway have teamed up to off an amazing ticket package for $199. With the package, fans will get three-day tickets to the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, May 15–17, as well as four-day tickets to the NHRA Nationals, September 17–20 at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte.
On top of the opportunity to attend two of the biggest races on the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series circuit, fans purchasing four tickets will be able to take laps at both Bristol Motor Speedway and Lowe’s Motor Speedway during each NHRA event weekend. And the first 100 fans to purchase the package will receive a free die-cast Funny Car. To purchase tickets for this special package, call Bristol Dragway at 423/989-6900 or online at www.bristoldragway.com.
SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA SOUTHERN NATIONALS, ATLANTA DRAGWAY, APRIL 16–19: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing heads south for its annual stop in Georgia. Defending event winners include Antron Brown (Top Fuel); Ashley Force Hood (Funny Car); Mike Edwards (Pro Stock); and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
O’REILLY NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS, GATEWAY INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY, MAY 1–3: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing returns to the Gateway to the West in Madison, Illinois. Defending event winners include Rod Fuller (Top Fuel); Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car); Kurt Johnson (Pro Stock); and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
NHRA THUNDER VALLEY NATIONALS, BRISTOL DRAGWAY, MAY 15–17: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing heads back to Thunder Valley and the Mountains of Northern Tennessee for the eighth of 24 events on the 2009 schedule. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Melanie Troxel (Funny Car); and Dave Connolly (Pro Stock).
HE SAID, SHE SAID
ALMOST A WIN: Funny Car driver Matt Hagan on losing to teammate Ron Capps in his first final-round appearance at the Summitracing.com NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas: “I think you have to pay your dues sometimes, and I think that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re learning as we go, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot this weekend. I’m going to take it back and try to use it at the next event.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
11: The number of wins out of 28 events that John Force Racing has at Atlanta Dragway. Mike Neff hopes to become the fifth JFR driver to win at Atlanta and second consecutive to collect their first career win at Atlanta Dragway (Ashley Force Hood).
John Force: 2005, 2000, '99, '95, '94, '93, '92
Tony Pedregon*: 2003, '96
Robert Hight: 2007
Ashley Force Hood: 2008
*Tony Pedregon picked up his third win at Atlanta Dragway in 2006 with Pedregon Racing.
DID YOU KNOW…
…that Top Fuel pilot Larry Dixon is just one round win shy of 500 round wins. If Dixon gets his 500th round win in Atlanta, he would join a list of 500-plus winners that includes John Force (1,019), Warren Johnson (853), Kenny Bernstein (681), Bob Glidden (597), Joe Amato (527) and Kurt Johnson (508).