TWO TO GO! COMPETITION GETS TIGHT AS COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP APPROACHES ITS FINAL TWO RACES: With 21 races already in the record books for 2010, the competition couldn’t be tighter heading into the final two races of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship. In all four classes, the top two drivers in the point standings are within striking distance of each other, with less than 100 points separating each driver. In Top Fuel, points leader Larry Dixon has been strong all year long, posting a perfect final-round record of 12 wins in 12 appearances, and tallying up an impressive eight No. 1 qualifiers for the year. But second-place driver Cory McClenathan has stayed hot on his trail and currently sits just 89 points out of the lead heading into the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals next weekend.
“It isn’t over,” said McClenathan after losing in the final round to Dixon at the recently completed Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. “I never stop fighting. It’s not over.”
In Funny Car, 14-time world champion John Force lost his points lead to 26-year-old Matt Hagan after Hagan raced to a final-round appearance and also posted a national record for time in Reading, giving the young driver a 20-point bonus for the event. Now Force enters the final two races of the season 64 points out of first place.
“We got beat up today,” said Force after his first-round troubles in Reading. “It ain’t over.”
Possibly the tightest competition in the Full Throttle Series exists in the Pro Stock class. After all but dominating the regular season, defending world champion Mike Edwards has struggled to find success in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, while three-time world champion Greg Anderson has come alive. In the playoffs alone, Anderson has been to three final rounds and won two races. His final-round appearance in Reading was just strong enough to dethrone Edwards and become only the second driver all season to hold the points lead in the class.
“There’s a lot of racing left this season, and as close as the competition is in Pro Stock, no lead is safe,” said Anderson. “But where we are means that if we can run error-free for the last two races, we have a good chance of being the champion.”
The Pro Stock Motorcycle class has been a two-rider battle since the start of the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Since the playoffs have started, both the one and two drivers in the class, three-time world champion Andrew Hines and rookie sensation LE Tonglet, have met in every final round. Though Tonglet has the advantage with three of the four wins, it was Hines’ national record-setting run at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis and his recent win at the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in Reading that have given the rider a 72-point lead over Tonglet with two races to go.
“We have a nice cushion,” said Hines after his Reading win. “It could come down to just a few measly points there at the end.”
The next stop on the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship is the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals, October 28–31 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. For tickets, call 800/644-4444 or online at lvms.com.
BRISTOL DRAGWAY PRESIDENT BYRD, LONGTIME FRIEND TO NHRA, DIES: Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway President and General Manager Jeff Byrd, a longtime friend to and supporter of the NHRA, passed away October 17 following a lengthy illness. He was 60. Prior to working at BMS, Byrd served for 23 years in the sports marketing department at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., departing as vice president of business development, and was a key figure during R.J. Reynolds’ sponsorship of NHRA’s flagship series through its Winston brand from 1975 through 2000.
“The NHRA racing community lost one of its dearest friends and staunchest supporters with the passing of Jeff Byrd,” said NHRA President Tom Compton. “From his days with R.J. Reynolds to his tenure at Bristol Motor Speedway, Jeff was a devoted fan of drag racing and was loved by everyone in the community—from those who worked directly with him at NHRA to the extended racing community. The role he played working with us to bring a state-of-the-art drag racing facility to Bristol and the legacy that followed will always be remembered and appreciated. Jeff taught us all a little something about customer service. He was the best at it, and it rubbed off on all who worked for and with him. On behalf of NHRA, we want to pass along our sincere condolences to his wife Claudia, his son Christian, his daughter Belton, his extended family and to everyone mourning the loss of someone who made such an impact on so many in the motorsports industry.”
For more information, including times of services, please visit NHRA.com.
VENABLES TAKES OVER GEICO POWERSPORTS/LUCAS OIL DRAGSTER: Morgan Lucas, driver of the GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster and team manager of his car and the Lucas Oil/Speedco/MavTV dragster driven by Shawn Langdon, announced that veteran crew chief Dickie Venables has officially been hired as his crew chief. Venables will be joined at Morgan Lucas Racing by longtime co-crew chief Kurt Elliott. The highly decorated Venables has won two NHRA Funny Car world championships—in 2003 as assistant crew chief for John Force Racing with Tony Pedregon behind the wheel and in 2007 for Pedregon as driver/owner. He most recently led Del Worsham’s efforts in the Al-Anabi Racing Toyota Solara Funny Car. Although he has been most recently associated with some of the elite Funny Car programs in the sport, Venables made his name in Top Fuel dragsters, working with such NHRA luminaries as Shirley Muldowney, Don “Snake” Prudhomme, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Connie “The Bounty Hunter” Kalitta, the late Gary Ormsby and Cory McClenathan. For more information, visit NHRA.com.
NHRA LAS VEGAS NATIONALS, THE STRIP AT LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, October 28–31: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads back to Sin City for its fifth stop in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Defending event winners include Spencer Massey (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); Larry Morgan (Pro Stock); and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800/644-4444 or online at lvms.com. For media credentials, please contact Director of Media Relations Anthony Vestal at email@example.com.
AUTOMOBILE CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NHRA FINALS, AUTO CLUB RACEWAY AT POMONA, November 11–14: The 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series comes to an end where it all began: in sunny Southern California for the final event of the season and the crowning of the NHRA Full Throttle world champions. Defending event winners include Antron Brown (Top Fuel); Mike Neff (Funny Car); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock); and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800/844-NHRA or online at NHRATIX.com. For media credentials, please contact Director of Public Relations Michael Padian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KRAGEN O’REILLY AUTO PARTS NHRA WINTERNATIONALS, AUTO CLUB RACEWAY AT POMONA, February 24–27, 2011: The 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and 60th anniversy season of NHRA kicks off at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona at the 51st running of this event. Defending event winners include Larry Dixon (Top Fuel); John Force (Funny Car); and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock). For tickets, call 800/844-NHRA or online at NHRATIX.com. For media credentials, please contact Director of Public Relations Michael Padian at email@example.com.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
RACING A CHAMP: Funny Car points leader Matt Hagan on meeting 14-time world champion John Force seven times this season during eliminations and competing against him for the NHRA Full Throttle world championship: “You have to block that all out. It’s tough to do when you have a 14-time champion driving next to you. But we race our lane. We try not to think about who is next to us. That’s helped us.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
5th: After his second-round loss to Mike Edwards at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, current points leader Greg Anderson sat in the fifth position, the furthest he had been from the lead all season. Anderson followed his second-round loss with back-to-back wins in Charlotte and Dallas and a runner-up finish in Reading to take the points lead from Edwards with two races to go.
DID YOU KNOW…
…that Funny Car driver Melanie Troxel has issued a challenge to the rest of NHRA’s nitro competitors to make a 108-story free fall from the top of the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas to raise money for Speedway Children’s Charities? The Troxel Challenge is set for 9:00 p.m. Thursday, October 28, at SkyJump Las Vegas at the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel and Tower. For more information, visit NHRA.com. For more information, contact NHRA Media Relations at 626/914-4761 or visit the NHRA Media Center online.