SCHUMACHER COMMITS TO THIRD TOP FUELER WITH FULL SPONSORSHIP FROM SCHUMACHER ELECTRIC CORP.: Don Schumacher Racing (DSR), with financial backing from Don Schumacher's Schumacher Electric Corp., will start the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series with the same number of teams it ended with last year, including the third-ranked Top Fuel team. In addition to reigning world champion Antron Brown and the Matco Tools Top Fuel team and Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army team, which finished seven points behind Brown last season, DSR will field a third team with crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler and driver Spencer Massey when the season begins February 14–17, with the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries in Pomona. The dragster that finished last season ranked third in points with four event titles will carry the banner of Battery Extender Powered by Schumacher. The status of DSR’s third-ranked team from last year was left in limbo for 2013 when longtime NHRA and DSR sponsor FRAM/Prestone opted last summer to not continue motorsports sponsorships upon the conclusion of the 2012 season. For more on this story, visit www.nhra.com.
DEFENDING NHRA MELLO YELLO WORLD CHAMPS READY TO BEGIN TITLE DEFENSES: The off-season couldn’t slip by quick enough for NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world champions Antron Brown, Jack Beckman and Allen Johnson. All three drivers can’t wait to get out to drag racing’s birthplace in Southern California in less than two weeks and get the 2013 season started. The three drivers will officially begin defense of their respective world championships in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock at the 53rd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries, February 14–17, at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The race, which will be televised on ESPN2HD, is the first of 24 events in the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Brown, who became the first African-American to earn a major auto-racing championship last year over seven-time champ Tony Schumacher, says he’s eager to begin working on becoming a two-time champ.
“Last year now is pretty much done and over with,” Brown said. “So we’re back at work, just like usual. We’re putting those hours in. The effort is definitely going forward. We want to contend for a championship again, and we want to defend our title.”
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MAIL TERMINAL SERVICES, BECKMAN CAR TO DELIVER SUPPORT FOR AMERICAN HEROES: Mail Terminal Services (MTS), owned by avid drag racers Rodger and Karen Comstock, has expanded its role for 2013 on the Don Schumacher Racing Funny Car driven by NHRA Funny Car world champion Jack Beckman. MTS will use exposure on Beckman's record-setting Dodge to promote the Mail for Wounded Warriors and Hire a Hero programs. MTS will have postcards at Beckman's pit area and in Don Schumacher Racing hospitality pavilions at each of the 24 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national events for fans to write notes to America's heroes. The Mail for Wounded Warriors/Hire a Hero MTS Dodge will debut its primary sponsorship February 22–24, at the NHRA Arizona Nationals near Phoenix and run at six other national events. At the other 17 NHRA Mello Yello events, the Mail for Wounded Warriors message will be prominently displayed on Beckman's car. MTS not only will deliver the cards to wounded warriors, but also will donate $1 to the Wounded Warriors organization for each postcard that fans complete at NHRA Mello Yello events. The postcards and a kiosk at Beckman's pit will be available at all 24 events beginning February 14–17 at the season-opening O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries in Pomona.
"MTS will have a kiosk available for NHRA fans to participate in this worthwhile program," said Rodger Comstock, president and chief executive officer of Mail Terminal Services. "We will supply postcards for fans to express gratitude, support, encouragement and thanks to those who sacrificed for our freedom. Mail Terminal Services, with the support of our partner Don Schumacher Racing, will honor service members injured while on duty fighting for our country. Postcards with words of encouragement and support will be sent to wounded warriors in areas hosting the 24 NHRA national events.”
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DSR HIRES VETERAN VENABLES TO TUNE HAGAN’S MOPAR/ROCKY FUNNY CAR: Don Schumacher Racing has announced that veteran NHRA crew chief Dickie Venables has been hired to lead the Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driven by Matt Hagan. Venables, 48, has worked for some of the top teams in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and won world championships as a crew chief and assistant crew chief.
“I don’t know Dickie real good, but he sure seems like a nice guy, and I know he can tune a race car,” Hagan said. “I’m ready to rock and roll.”
Veteran DSR crew chief Todd Okuhara, who helped tune Hagan’s Dodge to a 4.03-second run during testing last month, will help Venables adjust to the DSR operation.
“I helped Rob [Wendland] with Johnny Gray’s Funny Car at the end of 2011, but I left before I really got to know most of the other crew chiefs,” said Venables, a Houston native who has lived in Avon, Indiana, for the past 15 years.
In Venables, team owner Don Schumacher has found a talented team leader who he knows will fit into his system.
“An advantage to having seven teams is having a wealth of talented, knowledgeable crew chiefs who want to work together and share data that helps the entire DSR operation,” he said. “I’ve watched Dickie work in NHRA Drag Racing for a long time, and after he joined DSR to help us a couple years ago, I saw he would be perfect with other crew chiefs.” Venables added, “Team owners in our sport don’t have multicar operations because it’s cool. The more data you have leads to how much better your cars run.”
COMING ATTRACTIONS O’REILLY AUTO PARTS NHRA WINTERNATIONALS, Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, February 14–17: The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to Auto Club Raceway at Pomona for the start of the 2013 season with new colors. After a dramatic ending to the 2012 season, drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock are looking to pick up where they left off and bring more heat to the track for the season-opener. The 2012 winners of the event were Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock). For tickets, call 800-884-NHRA (6472) or log on to NHRATix.com.
NHRA ARIZONA NATIONALS, Firebird International Raceway, February 22–24: The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series makes its second stop of the 2013 season just south of downtown Phoenix. Drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock will earn points towards the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season points standings. The 2012 winners of the event are Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock). For tickets, call 602-268-0200 or visit firebird.ticketforce.com.
AMALIE OIL NHRA GATORNATIONALS, Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, March 14–17: The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series makes its third of 24 stops of the 2013 season in the sunshine state of Florida. Drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will earn points towards the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The 2012 winners of the event were Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800-884-6472or log on to NHRATix.com.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
DEJORIA EMBARKS ON NEW YEAR WITH NEW CREW CHIEF, NOT-SO-NEW TEAMMATE: During the 2012 season, Alexis DeJoria was a devoted student, experiencing the highs and lows of a rookie year. She qualified for all but three events on the 23-race schedule and earned a season-high start from the No. 5 position at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis to cap a memorable summer that began with a visit to her first final round as a professional Funny Car driver in Bristol.
"Last season didn't disappoint, I'll tell you that much," said DeJoria, who climbed steadily through the sportsman ranks before going pro, first driving a ’63 Corvette roadster in Super Gas and then a Super Comp dragster prior to transitioning into a Top Alcohol Funny Car. "I had pretty even expectations in the beginning just hoping to qualify, hoping to get past first round. Of course, every time we go out there, we always want to win, and that's my goal and motivation, but I didn't right off the bat expect that we would get to a final. We were building for the future really, so it was definitely exciting. These cars are so amazing in the amount of power and every little thing that happens on a run. Every time you go down the track, you learn something new.”
For more on this story, visit www.nhra.com.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
5: NUMBER OF STOPS DURING NHRA LOS ANGELES MEDIA TOUR WITH TOP FUEL ROOKIE BRITTANY FORCE AND FUNNY CAR FAN-FAVORITE COURTNEY FORCE: To preview the start of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, Courtney and Brittany Force visited with several media outlets in the Los Angeles area, Tuesday, February 5. The first stop was at the John Force Racing shop in Yorba Linda where the duo had a photo shoot and interview with the Orange County Register. You can’t have an all-day event without a little food, so during a quick lunch break at The Derby restaurant in Arcadia, the Forces met with reporters from the Los Angeles Times, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and Hot Rod magazine, as well as a few local radio personalities. In the afternoon, the Force sisters were interviewed by KABC anchor John Hartung and KCBS/KCAL sports anchor Gary Miller as they talked about the upcoming O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, February 14–17. The final stop of the NHRA LA Media Tour was at LA’s FOX affiliate KTTV for a live segment on the Studio 11 show with anchor Liz Habib.
DID YOU KNOW…
NEW ANCHOR, FRESH APPROACH FOR ESPN’S NHRA COVERAGE IN 2013: The NHRA will enter the 2013 season with a new anchor on its ESPN telecasts and a fresh approach to the television coverage of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. The 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season opens February 14–17, with the 53rd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Dave Rieff, who has been a pit reporter since ESPN began its NHRA coverage in 2001 and a staple of NHRA television for 17 years, will move into the anchor announcer position for the 2013 season. In addition to hosting coverage of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Rieff will continue his lead role on the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series telecasts. Joining Rieff in calling the action from the booth will be former NHRA racer Mike Dunn, who is beginning his 12th year with ESPN as a color analyst for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Gary Gerould will return as a pit reporter at all 24 events. Veteran announcer John Kernan, who joined the NHRA telecast team in 2007, will split pit reporter and trackside duties with Jamie Howe. Howe has served as a pit reporter for the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series telecasts since 2011, and this year she will increase her presence in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series telecasts.
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series viewers can anticipate a fresh approach to the telecasts in 2013. As ESPN and the NHRA work together, programs will capture even more of the drama of the NHRA, showcase the stars of the sport and incorporate new format changes to both the qualifying and race-day telecasts. ESPN will look to deliver more stories and analysis on the strategy of the sport, a stronger focus on head-to-head matchups and more technical pieces. The stars of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing will be showcased with all-access wired segments, features on the drivers, and the development of power rankings in the categories. ESPN and the NHRA also will work to make more use of social media platforms during the telecasts.
In all, ESPN will dedicate more than 110 hours of original programming to the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series on a same-day basis. The NHRA and ESPN will experiment with live coverage of qualifying and finals during the year. The first weekend to feature live racing action is the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries from Royal Purple Raceway in Houston, April 27–28. The final session of qualifying will air live on Saturday, April 27, from 3:00–5:00 p.m. (EDT). In addition, NHRA and ESPN will telecast live on Sunday, joining the racing action beginning with the semifinals in the Professional categories. The Sunday telecast will begin at 2:00 p.m. (EDT) April 28. The NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, August 28–September 2, will again feature 11 hours of wall-to-wall coverage, including complete coverage of final eliminations Monday, September 2, from 12:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m. (EDT).