|Robert Hight||Ashley Force Hood||Tony Pedregon|
FUNNY CAR SHOWDOWN SET FOR ‘SIN CITY’: With a total of only 48 points separating first-place driver Robert Hight from third-place driver Tony Pedregon, the battle in Funny Car for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing world championship couldn’t be tighter heading into this weekend’s ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals, the fifth of six races in the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to 1 playoffs. Hight, and John Force Racing teammate, Ashley Force Hood, have held the top two spots since the Dallas race in September, but two-time world champion Pedregon sits a little more than two round wins out of the top spot. Considering that since the inception of the Countdown to the Championship playoffs in 2007, every winner in the Funny Car class at the October race in Las Vegas has gone on to win the world championship, the stakes couldn’t be higher for any driver within the top-10 point standings.
Just two years previous, a first-round loss at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway all but ended Hight’s chances of winning a world championship, while Pedregon’s win that year all but secured his second. But, if Pedregon wants to make it a third, he’s going to have to go around arguably the strongest pair of Ford Mustangs in the class.
“It’s the best spot that we could be in,” said Force Hood. “At the beginning of the year, when we have our big team meetings and we get ready to head off to the Winternationals, that’s always our goal. Obviously Robert and I aren’t not the only ones, but we are one and two. So (the others) are going to have to catch up and go around us.”
The ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals, the fifth of six races in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Countdown to 1 playoffs, will take place this weekend, October 29–November 1, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
NHRA VEGAS STYLE FAN FEST OCTOBER 29 ON FREMONT STREET: NHRA Vegas Style Fan Fest, the official kickoff to the 2009 NHRA Las Vegas Nationals, will take place Thursday, October 29, from 6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m. on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series stars Antron Brown, Larry Dixon, Tony Pedregon, Tim Wilkerson, Bob Tasca, Jeff Arend, Jeg Coughlin, Allen Johnson, Michael Phillips, Bob Bode, David Hope and others will participate in the autograph session. The first 500 fans in the autograph line will receive a free special-edition poster featuring select drivers in the NHRA’s Countdown to 1 playoffs. The Fan Fest will take place on the 3rd Street section of Fremont Street near the Four Queens Hotel & Casino, FitzGerald Casino & Hotel and the Fremont Hotel & Casino. For more information, visit www.NHRA.com.
NHRA ANNOUNCES SAFETY INITIATIVES FOR 2010: NHRA has announced its technical initiatives for 2010, which are designed to improve safety, as well as reduce unwanted downtime at events due to leakage on the track. Highlighting the changes in 2010 will be the implementation of a new Eject Helmet Removal System in all four professional categories, as well as Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. The system uses an inflatable bladder located in the top of the helmet to make removal of the helmet by safety personnel after an incident easier and safer. In addition, all participants in the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes will be required to use an Electrimotion Safety Shut-Off Receiver.
The device, when used in conjunction with the Electrimotion Shut-Off Transmitter and Electrimotion Safety Shut-Off Box, will automatically shut-off fuel and ignition as well as deploy the parachutes once the driver has passed the finish line if the driver has not done so already. The system will activate when the car passes by a wall-mounted transmitter. Other safety measures in NHRA’s top two classes include fireproof tubing on brake lines and, in Top Fuel, a required cable wrapped around the rear wing main element that will deploy the parachutes automatically in the event the rear wing becomes separated from its supports. The same mechanism will be required in the Top Alcohol Dragster class as well.
Beginning March 11, 2010, in Pro Stock, cars will be required to have formed and foamed seats as well an NHRA-accepted lateral head support system, along with an rpm limiter set at 4,000 rpms that will be activated after eight seconds into a run to slow the car in the event the driver is unable to do so. Finally, drivers will be required to wear SFI 3/2A/15 fire suits. Affecting all classes in 2010, where applicable, and to reduce the chance of fuel leaks, all NHRA-accepted fuel lines will be required to use ends that are specifically designed for the type of fuel line being used to reduce fuel leaks. For more safety initiatives for 2010, visit www.NHRA.com.
NHRA LAS VEGAS NATIONALS, THE STRIP AT LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, OCTOBER 29–NOVEMBER 1: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads back to Sin City for the penultimate race in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car); Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock); and Chris Rivas (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
AUTOMOBILE CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NHRA FINALS, AUTO CLUB RACEWAY AT POMONA, NOVEMBER 12–15: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and Countdown to 1 playoffs come to an end at this historical event in sunny Southern California. Defending event winners include Larry Dixon (Top Fuel); Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock); and Chris Rivas (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
HE SAID, SHE SAID
JUST TWO MORE WINS?: Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Hector Arana on the success he’s seen this season and a possible world championship at the end of it: “It’s amazing how everything has turned around for me to win five races this season; now I just need to win (two) more and I’ll be good.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
5/2: Those are the odds that Fred Crespi, famed oddsmaker for the sports books at The Palms Resort & casino and the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, gave Tony Schumacher for this weekend’s NHRA Las Vegas Nationals. Schumacher is seeking his fourth event win and fifth at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
DID YOU KNOW…
…that the final two races of the season, the ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals and the 45th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals boast the largest entry lists of the season. Below you’ll find the number of vehicles entered to compete in the four professional categories for each event:
|NHRA Las Vegas Nationals||Auto Club NHRA Finals|
|Top Fuel: 25||Top Fuel: 24|
|Funny Car: 20||Funny Car: 20|
|Pro Stock: 22||Pro Stock: 22|
|Pro Stock Motorcycle: 22||Pro Stock Motorcycle: 21|