WESTWARD BOUND! DRIVERS PREPARE FOR WESTERN SWING AND FINAL COUNTDOWN PUSH: The 2010 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series will make its 14th stop on the schedule this weekend in Seattle, the first stop of the famed Western Swing, a grueling stretch of three-races-in-three weeks. For the first time ever, Seattle, not Denver, will be the first stop on the Swing. From there, drivers will head to Northern California for the FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway, then over to Denver and the Rocky Mountains for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, the final stop on the Swing. But weighing heavily on the minds of drivers aren’t the three different stops in the Western end of the United States, but the fact that these three stops, along with the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, Minnesota, just a few weeks following, are the final four races of the regular season. Following the Lucas Oil Nationals, only the Top 10 in the point standings will have the opportunity to battle for a championship in the Countdown to 1 playoffs, a six-race playoff round to determine the world champion in each of the four NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. With that in mind, a slip up during the famed Western Swing could mean the end of many drivers’ world championship hopes. “Don’t let up,” said Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson when asked what his strategy will be for the final four races. “We picked up seven rounds right at the time when those last three or four spots in the Top 10 were really getting tight, and we were literally one bad day away from falling right to 11th. That’s great timing, and we earned every bit of that, so the key now is to just focus on each round and try to avoid any shutouts in the next four races. If we can win round one, we’ll be in good shape.”
Top Fuel pilot Cory McClenathan has a similar approach planned for the Western Swing. “Yeah, I’d like to throw down some more wins before we get into the Countdown and move up in the standings, but when it really comes down to it, I would save it all for the Countdown. I have no problem with that. But these semifinal finishes are a little anti-climactic. At the same time, I know guys who have won the championship by going to a whole lot of semis, and that’s what we’ve been doing here lately.”
Top Fuel points leader Larry Dixon feels the stress and rewards will lie with the crew chiefs, and not necessarily with the drivers. “The Western Swing is more of a challenge for the teams and crew chiefs than the drivers. It has a lot of different track conditions and elevations. Add to that it’s a lot of miles, and they still have to arrive every Wednesday to set up; it’s tough. All of the teams try to go into Seattle and win because whoever wins that race is the only guy that can sweep the swing. The big thing for our team is that we really want to go into the playoffs as the number one seed. The 30 extra points that you get over No. 2 would have come in handy last year.”
To follow your favorite driver during the Western Swing, visit NHRA.com.
SCHUMACHER IN MIX FOR ESPY BEST DRIVER AWARD: For the fourth straight year, U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher has been nominated for the ESPY Best Driver award. The ESPY Awards, distributed for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly, were created by ESPN in 1993. Fans can vote for Schumacher at espn.com/espys or the ESPN Facebook page, facebook.com/espn. The ESPYs will be hosted by Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” anchor Seth Meyers Wednesday, July 14, at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. The awards show will be televised live by ESPN at 9 p.m. ET. Joining Schumacher on the Best Driver ballot are NASCAR drivers Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Ron Hornaday as well as open-wheel standout Dario Franchitti. Schumacher will be looking to become the first drag racer to win the ESPY Best Driver award. Other NHRA drivers who have been nominated in the past include John Force, Tony Pedregon, Greg Anderson and Melanie Troxel.
HYATT REGENCY CENTURY PLAZA TO AGAIN HOST NHRA FULL THROTTLE AWARDS CEREMONY: The Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on the posh Westside of Los Angeles will again host the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Awards Ceremony. The 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Awards Ceremony will take place Monday, November 15, and be broadcast on NHRA.com and NHRA’s YouTube home page beginning Wednesday, November 17. Last year, the full event was available to fans via the Internet with considerable fanfare and success. The invitation-only black-tie event, where NHRA will crown its Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world champions in all four professional categories, will feature a pre-event cocktail reception, a formal sit-down banquet and an afterparty. The property also will play host to the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Awards Ceremony, scheduled for earlier in the day.
NHRA NORTHWEST NATIONALS, PACIFIC RACEWAYS, July 9–11: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads to the Pacific Northwest for the 14th of 17 races in the NHRA Countdown to 10 and the first of the grueling three-races-in-three-weeks Western Swing. Defending event winners include Antron Brown (Top Fuel); Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car); and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock). For tickets, call 253/639-5927 or online at ticketmaster.com. For media credentials, please contact Director of Public Relations Michael Padian at email@example.com.
FRAM AUTOLITE NHRA NATIONALS, INFINEON RACEWAY, July 16–18: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads to Northern California for the 15th of 17 races in the NHRA Countdown to 10 and the second race of the three-race Western Swing. Defending event winners include Antron Brown (Top Fuel); Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car); Jason Line (Pro Stock); and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call (800) 870-7223 or online at infineonraceway.com. For media credentials, please contact Director of Media Relations Anthony Vestal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Top Fuel pilot David Grubnic|
MOPAR MILE-HIGH NHRA NATIONALS, BANDIMERE SPEEDWAY, July 23–25: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads to the Rocky Mountains for the 16th of 17 races in the NHRA Countdown to 10 and the third and final race of the grueling three-races-in-three-weeks Western Swing. Defending event winners include Antron Brown (Top Fuel); Ron Capps (Funny Car); Allen Johnson (Pro Stock); and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call (800) 664-UWIN or online at ticketreturn.com. For media credentials, please contact Director of Media Relations Anthony Vestal at email@example.com.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
STILL FLYING HIGH!:
Top Fuel pilot David Grubnic on finding out that team owner Connie Kalitta announced that he would keep the Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster, which is currently in the 11th-place spot, in full-time competition as the team fights for that Top-10 spot and a Countdown to 1 playoff berth:
“I have the utmost respect and admiration for Connie, and I would’ve supported his decision either way, but I must say I’m really glad he chose to keep going. I’m very optimistic about our chances of getting in the Top 10. Our Kalitta Air car has been getting much more consistent of late, and we’re going to need that consistency to get in the Countdown. We’re all confident we can do it.”
|Only seven drivers in 21 years have swept the Western Swing. Antron Brown and his crew did so in 2009.|
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
7: That’s the number of drivers in 21 years that have swept the Western Swing. Top Fuel pilot Antron Brown was the last to do so, sweeping the Swing in 2009. Below is a list of the drivers who have swept and the years they did so:
Joe Amato, Top Fuel, 1991
John Force, Funny Car, 1994
Cory McClenathan, Top Fuel, 1997
Larry Dixon, Top Fuel, 2003
Greg Anderson, Pro Stock, 2004
Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel, 2008
Antron Brown, Top Fuel, 2009
DID YOU KNOW…
…that current Funny Car points leader John Force holds the most wins in the class at all three races of the Western Swing? Force has seven wins at Pacific Raceways in Seattle (and is the only active Funny Car driver to have more than one at the track), seven wins at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California and five wins at Bandimere Speedway in Denver. As mentioned above, Force is also the only Funny Car driver to have ever swept the Western Swing (1994).