DRIVERS WITHIN POINT LEADS LOOK TO GRAB TOP SPOTS IN PHOENIX: Funny Car driver Mike Neff is in a position he hasn’t experienced much this year. After leading the points since the Houston event, the fifth race of the season, Neff saw his advantage disappear two weeks ago in Reading, Pennsylvania, when a second-round finish moved Matt Hagan past him and into the top spot. Now, as the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its fourth stop in the Countdown to the Championship at the NHRA Arizona Nationals this weekend, Neff is looking for some of that mid-season success that kept his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in the lead for so long.
“The Countdown changes everything,” said Neff. “It would be a whole different ballgame (without the playoff format), and even though I’d still be taking it one run and one race at a time, I would have a big advantage and know that if I could just go a few rounds at the next few races, I would pretty much have it sewn up. But that’s not the case, and now it’s like starting over and fighting to hang on.”
Neff sits two points behind Hagan. Another driver looking to move back to No. 1 is Top Fuel pilot Antron Brown. In the top spot after the first race of the Countdown in Charlotte, Brown lost his lead when teammate Spencer Massey raced to a runner-up finish at the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals in Dallas and a win at the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals in Reading. Brown sits second in the standings, 65 points behind Massey heading into the final three races of the season.
“We’re still right there,” said Brown, driver of the Matco Tools dragster. “We want to go into the final round in Pomona (California) with a chance. We want to be either in the points lead or within 20 points. It’s going to be a tough deal down to the finish. As we’ve seen, you can lose or pick up three rounds, that’s 60 points, in one race, so Spencer’s lead is not insurmountable. This is anybody’s race.”
For the first time in Firebird International Raceway history, the Pro Stock Motorcycle class will be contested at the event. For rookie rider and recent winner Hector Arana Jr., the chance to race on a track that no other riders have competed on is exactly what he wants in his championship hunt.
“We don’t have a tune-up or any data to go look up from previous years, but neither does anyone else,” said Arana, rider of the Lucas Oil Buell. “So when we get there, it’s going to be an even playing field for everybody. Hopefully, we can stay on top of our game and be the first ones to nail that tune-up.”
Tickets are still available for the NHRA Arizona Nationals, October 14–16 at Firebird International Raceway; call 602-268-0200 or log on to firebirdraceway.com.
|Hector Arana Jr.||Justin Finley||Steve Kent|
|Dominick Lagana||Vincent Nobile||Buddy Perkinson|
|Michael Ray||Jerry Savoie||Brian Thiel|
NINE ROOKIES ARE ELIGIBLE CANDIDATES FOR 2011 AUTO CLUB ROAD TO THE FUTURE AWARD: Nine NHRA rookie drivers, representative of all four NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series categories, are the eligible candidates for the 2011 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, which recognizes the top rookie competitor in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and offers a $20,000 prize and traditional trophy to the winner. The candidates for the award are, in alphabetical order: Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Justin Finley (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Steve Kent (Pro Stock), Dominick Lagana (Top Fuel), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock), Buddy Perkinson (Pro Stock), Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) and Brian Thiel (Funny Car).
The award will be presented during NHRA’s annual championship awards ceremony, Monday, November 14, at the Hollywood and Highland Center in Hollywood, California. More than 150 of the nation’s leading auto racing journalists will select the winner through a voting system based on the following criteria: number of events participated, performance on and off the race track, participation in NHRA promotions and relationships with fans, sponsors and media. To see what each driver has done this season and for more information on this award, log on to NHRA.com.
NHRA ARIZONA NATIONALS, FIREBIRD INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY, October 14–16: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its fourth stop in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship in Chandler, Arizona, just outside of Phoenix. Defending event winners are Cory McClenathan (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock). (Pro Stock Motorcycle was not contested in 2010.) For tickets, call 602-268-0200 or log on to firebirdraceway.com. For media credentials, contact Director of Media Relations Anthony Vestal at email@example.com.
BIG O TIRES NHRA NATIONALS, THE STRIP AT LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, October 27–30: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its stop at the penultimate race of the season in Las Vegas. Defending event winners are Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 702-644-4444 or log on to ticketmaster.com. For media credentials, contact Media Relations Manager Alex Baca at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AUTOMOBILE CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NHRA FINALS, AUTO CLUB RACEWAY AT POMONA, November 10–13: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its final stop of 2011 where it all began, in sunny Southern California. It is also the spot where all four world champions will be crowned. Defending event winners are Antron Brown (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800-884-NHRA (6472) or log on to extremetix.com. For media credentials, contact Media Relations Manager Zak Elcock at email@example.com.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
ASK ME AT THE END OF THE SEASON: Funny Car point leader Matt Hagan on dealing with the pressure of the Countdown to the Championship: “This year, when they hand the trophies out at the end of the year, I think that’s when we’ll worry about whether we did a good enough job or not.”
60 YEARS IN NHRA HISTORY
1964, GARLITS FIRST TO 200 MPH: At Island Dragway in Great Meadows, New Jersey, NHRA Legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits officially broke the 200-mph barrier with a run of 201.34. Garlits had previously received 200-mph time slips, but not at an official NHRA event. Garlits’ record is one of seven top 10 moments in NHRA history that fans can still vote on to determine No. 1.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
11–1: That’s Pro Stock point leader Jason Line’s round win/loss record in the first three races of the Countdown to the Championship. Since the Countdown began, Line has racked up two race wins and a runner-up finish and has collected 379 points.
DID YOU KNOW
|Top Fuel pilot Larry Dixon and his family are part of the Real Families calendar.|
…that for the second year in a row, Andrea and Tony Pedregon have created an NHRA-themed calendar for charity, this one called NHRA Full Throttle Real Families. The 2012 calendar will benefit children’s cancer research through the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center. For more information on this calendar, including the drivers and families featured in it, log on to NHRA.com.
For more information, contact NHRA Media Relations at 626-914-4761 or log on to the NHRA Media Center.