NEFF, ALBALOOSHI, GAINES SCORE IN READING; PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE FINAL TO RUN IN LAS VEGAS: Funny Car racer Mike Neff kept his championship hopes alive by racing to victory Monday at the rain-delayed Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel) and V. Gaines (Pro Stock) also were winners at the fourth of six playoff events in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship. Neff defeated veteran driver Johnny Gray with a time of 4.030 seconds at 317.94 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to earn his fourth win of the season and his first of the year in the playoffs. With the win, Neff closed in on new series leader Jack Beckman, who set a national record and advanced to the semifinals over the weekend in his Schumacher Electric Dodge Charger. Neff trails Beckman by 54 points, and Ron Capps is in second place, 23 back of Beckman with only two races remaining in the season.
“You have to have it all right to get a win any more,” said Neff, who defeated Tony Pedregon, Jim Head, and John Force to advance to the final. “The biggest thing is it will be exciting. I want to be able to head out west with a chance. It would be a downer if we were out of it at this point. It is nice to be alive for the championship.”
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EIGHT ROOKIES ARE ELIGIBLE CANDIDATES FOR 2012 AUTO CLUB ROAD TO THE FUTURE AWARD: Eight NHRA rookie drivers, representative of all four NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series categories, are the eligible candidates for the 2012 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, it was announced today by officials from the NHRA and the Automobile Club of Southern California. The 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, will be presented during the NHRA’s annual championship awards ceremony Monday, November 12, at the Hollywood and Highland Center in Los Angeles. 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 racetrack, participation in NHRA promotions and relationships with fans, sponsors and media. The candidates for the award are, in alphabetical order: Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel), Blake Alexander (Funny Car), Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car), Courtney Force (Funny Car), John Hall (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Todd Lesenko (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and Scotty Pollacheck (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
“For more than 100 years, the Automobile Club of Southern California has represented integrity, commitment and professionalism to our millions of members. The Road to the Future Award has come to symbolize these same attributes in the sport of NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing,” said Robert T. Bouttier, president and CEO of the Automobile Club of Southern California. “To be nominated recognizes not only that a rookie driver had a noteworthy first season, but also that they demonstrated exceptional potential for the future. We congratulate all eight of the nominees for this year’s award and look forward to enjoying their achievements both on and off the racetrack for many years to come.”
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FREY TO RETIRE AT SEASON’S END: Bob Frey, the long-time announcer and voice of the NHRA, will retire from announcing at the end of the year. “I’ve been doing this since 1966 and traveling extensively, and it’s time to settle down,” Frey said. “There are a lot of things at home I would like to do and take care of. I have six grandsons, and I would like to see them grow up, play ball and be a bigger part of their lives. Plus, after all these years on the road, I’d like to share some time with my wife. In fact, I think next year I’d like to travel and see the world.”
He quickly added that he was only kidding about that last part. “If I never see another airport-security line in my life, I’ll be happy.”
Frey started announcing at Atco Dragway in 1966 and has been a part of the sport ever since. “I’ve been doing this since before Funny Cars or Pro Stocks were even classes,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to meet most of the stars of the sport and to be able to call them friends. It’s been a great ride, but it’s time to move on.”
He went on to say that he intends to stay involved in the sport but in a very limited and selective way. “I plan on doing the Don Garlits Hall of Fame inductions in March and the DRAW auction in October, along with other selected events but not in an announcing capacity. Plus, I hope to be able to continue to write my weekly columns for DragRaceCentral.com. That’s something I really enjoy, plus that’s something I can do from home, and that’s a real bonus. And I hope to continue to provide my stats to the folks at ESPN so they can use them on their shows.”
When asked about some of his most memorable moments, Frey said that it would be tough to pick out any single one. “There has been so much that I have seen, from twin-engine dragsters to today’s fuel cars and everything in between. I love a good Competition Eliminator race as much as a Top Fuel one, so I really can’t single out any particular moment. I’ve enjoyed every aspect of my career, but I’m looking forward to slowing down.”
Frey will finish out the season with the races in Las Vegas and Pomona and then begin his retirement. “I’d like to thank everyone who has been so kind to me over the years, especially everyone at NHRA. It’s been a dream job, and I will miss it.”
BIG O TIRES NHRA NATIONALS, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, October 26–28: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its 22nd stop of 23 events in the 2012 season, and the fifth race of the Countdown to the Championship—the NHRA’s playoffs. Drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will earn points towards the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships. The 2011 winners of the event were Del Worsham (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800-644-4444 or log on to LVMS.com.
AUTO CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NHRA FINALS, Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, November 8–11: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its final stop of the 2012 season. Drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will earn points towards the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships. One driver from each category will walk away a champion at the end of the day. The 2011 winners of the event were Del Worsham (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Greg Stanfield (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800-884-NHRA (6472) or log on to NHRATix.com.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
ROOKIE ALBALOOSHI DEFEATED THE BEST IN TOP FUEL EN ROUTE TO FIRST VICTORY: Al-Anabi Racing’s Khalid alBalooshi outran series points leader Antron Brown to earn his first career victory Monday at the rain-delayed Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania. alBalooshi, who is not in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, became only the third driver from outside North America to win a Full Throttle Series race joining Australian David Grubnic and Kenji Okazaki from Japan.
“I give my team owner, the crew guys and all the people who work with us thanks for making this win,” he said. “I try my best, and I know that everybody on the team is trying their best, and finally, I won my first race.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
5: NUMBER OF NATIONAL RECORDS RESET DURING READING EVENT: Weather conditions played a key role in the record-setting event that was the 28th annual Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals held at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pennsylvania. Four different drivers set five national records throughout the weekend. Matco Tools driver Antron Brown set the Top Fuel national record for elapsed time at 3.701 seconds. Jack Beckman, driver of the Schumacher Electric Dodge Charger in Funny Car, set the E.T. record at 3.986 seconds and the national speed record at 320.58 mph. In Pro Stock competition, Jason Line reset the national speed record at 214.35 mph behind the wheel of his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro. Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Andrew Hines set the national elapsed time record at 6.728 seconds on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
DID YOU KNOW…
FRANK MANZO EARNS 100TH CAREER NHRA NATIONAL EVENT VICTORY: Top Alcohol Funny Car driver Frank Manzo became the second driver in NHRA history to reach the 100-win milestone when he picked up the victory at the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading. All-time win leader John Force became the first driver to 100 wins when he scored in Houston April 14, 2002, and the 100-win club finally has a second member in Manzo. Manzo has a combined 217 wins when his 117 wins at NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series events are added to his 100 national event wins. He also has 21 Northeast Division titles. In the process of driving his Al-Anabi Racing Monte Carlo to his 100th win, Manzo clinched the 16th championship of his illustrious career, breaking his tie with 15-time Funny Car champion Force for most championships in NHRA history. It is his seventh consecutive title and 14th in the last 16 seasons.
“As a young kid when I started racing Alcohol Funny Car, I dreamed about winning one or two national events, beating Dale Armstrong and Ken Veney and all the big guys,” recalled Manzo. “I never really thought about winning the championship. I just thought about winning a race. I would have never dreamed about 100 wins.”
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