SEMA eNews Vol. 14, No. 19, May 12, 2011

NHRA: Mid-Pack Drivers Looking for First Wins of Season at Atlanta

NEWS NUGGETS

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MID-PACK DRIVERS LOOKING FOR FIRST WINS OF SEASON AT ATLANTA: After nearly a year-and-a-half since his last career win, Funny Car driver Jeff Arend powered his DHL Funny Car past Mike Neff two weeks ago in Houston to secure his first win of the season. The win catapulted Arend into the top 10 point standings in Funny Car, moving him up to the fifth spot in the standings. As the NHRA heads to Georgia for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals this weekend, the sixth stop of the year, many drivers hanging in the mid-pack position in the point standings hope to follow in Arend’s footsteps and get their first wins of the season.

One of those drivers, believe it or not, is seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher. After a runner-up finish to Del Worsham at the Tire Kingdom Gatornationals, the second race of the season, Schumacher has made it past the second round of eliminations just once in the past three races. He currently sits fourth in the point standings, a whopping 152 points behind first-place Worsham.

Right on his tail in the fifth spot is Schumacher’s teammate, Spencer Massey, who after winning the Auto Club Road to the Future Rookie of the Year award in 2009, found himself without a ride in 2010. A new start with Don Schumacher Racing in 2011 has produced two semifinal finishes in the past five races, but Massey is looking for more with a win in Atlanta.

In the Funny Car category, two-time world champion Cruz Pedregon is fourth in the point standings, surrounded by powerhouse team drivers for Don Schumacher Racing and John Force Racing on both sides. A No. 1 qualifier to start the season in Pomona and a runner-up finish at the next event in Gainesville gave Pedregon the launch to the season he was hoping for, but back-to-back first-round losses in the past two races have slowed the momentum of the Snap-on Tools team.

It’s a similar slump that 2010 Funny Car runner-up finisher Matt Hagan has also felt. Hagan started the 2011 season strong with a runner-up finish in Pomona and the No. 1 qualifier in Gainesville. But since then, Hagan has been unable to get his DieHard Dodge Charger past the second round and back into a final-round match-up for the season. Hagan sits two spots behind Pedregon in the sixth spot. Is Atlanta another spot for a first-time season winner, or will the Wally be hoisted in the Winner’s Circle on Sunday by someone who has already tasted victory this season? Tickets are still available for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. To purchase tickets, call 800/884-NHRA (6472) or go online at NHRATIX.com.

NHRA, RED CROSS JOIN FORCES IN ATLANTA TO PROVIDE RELIEF FOR TORNADO-STRICKEN SOUTHEAST:
The NHRA and the Red Cross have joined forces to provide Atlanta race fans the opportunity to give back to those affected by the tornado disasters that have struck the Southeast region of the country. Fans attending this weekend’s Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway will have the opportunity to make donations to the Red Cross at a booth set up in the midway in the pit area. The donations collected throughout the weekend will go directly to a tornado relief fund for the Southeast region of the country impacted by tornados and severe storms that ripped through the region. Fans will also have the opportunity Saturday following the second round of qualifying to not only donate, but also to get their favorite drivers’ autographs at a special autograph session with some of the biggest names in NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing, including Larry Dixon, Del Worsham, Bob Tasca, Spencer Massey, Allen Johnson, Steve Johnson, Dave Grubnic, Cruz Pedregon, Jeff Arend and LE Tonglet next to the Red Cross booth. For more on this story, visit NHRA.com.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA SOUTHERN NATIONALS, ATLANTA DRAGWAY, May 13–15:
The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series returns to the Atlanta area for its sixth stop of 2011. Defending event winners include Larry Dixon (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock); and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800/884-NHRA (6472) or go online at NHRATIX.com. For media credentials, please contact Media Relations Manager Zak Elcock, at zelcock@nhra.com.

NHRA SUMMER NATIONALS, HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA, May 20–22: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its seventh stop of the season during the start of the summer months. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock).

NHRA SUPERNATIONALS, OLD BRIDGE TOWNSHIP RACEWAY PARK, June 2–5:
The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its eighth stop of the season at historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. Defending event winners include Larry Dixon (Top Fuel); Bob Tasca (Funny Car); Mike Edwards (Pro Stock); and Michael Phillips (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

HE SAID, SHE SAID

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THE PEDAL DANCE: Pro Stock points leader Jason Line on how competitive this year’s Pro Stock class really is: “There really is no set way to win one of these races as the circumstances are constantly changing. Sometimes you have to win with your right foot using all the power at your disposal; other times you have to win with your left foot, leaving the starting line first; while on occasion it just comes down to luck.”

60 YEARS IN NHRA HISTORY

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2001, COCA-COLA JOINS NHRA WITH TITLE SPONSORSHIP:
In 2001, NHRA’s 50th anniversary year, Coca-Cola, an Atlanta-based company, and its POWERade brand became title sponsor of the NHRA Championship Drag Racing Series. Since then, Coca-Cola’s Full Throttle Energy Drink brand has taken over as the title sponsor of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

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3: Only three drivers have ever won at Atlanta Dragway in more than one Full Throttle Drag Racing Series category: Kenny Bernstein (2 TF, 2 FC), Mike Dunn (1 TF, 1 FC) and Antron Brown (1 TF, 2 PSM). Del Worsham (won in Funny Car, 1991) hopes to be the fourth member added to that list with a win in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster this weekend.

DID YOU KNOW…

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…that the very popular “Track Walk with a Legend” program that is part of the 60th anniversary celebration of the NHRA will be open to all Sunday ticket holders at this weekend’s Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals? If you have a Sunday ticket for the Atlanta Dragway event, you can have an opportunity to walk down the historic dragstrip with NHRA Legend and Pro Stock sensation Warren Johnson.

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