Compiled by SEMA Editors
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLES RETURN TO FOUR-WIDE NATIONALS: When the NHRA returns to zMAX Dragway for the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals fueled by Full Throttle, April 19–21, fans will be treated to a four-wide assault from all four of the sport’s top categories, including Pro Stock Motorcycles, which haven’t raced four-wide since 2010. Pro Stock Motorcycles, which in recent years have only raced at "the Bellagio of dragstrips’ " traditional two-wide fall event, will take to the track with Pro Stock, Funny Car and Top Fuel dragsters. Matt Smith, who won the Four-Wide event in 2010, called it a great accomplishment for his team, which is based in nearby Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
“To be able to be the only one that’s won that race to date is a great accomplishment for me and my team,” said Smith. “I really adapted to the four-wide thing right away. A lot of people struggled with it, but I adapted to it right away.”
What does Smith think of his chances to repeat as champion? “I think we have as good a shot as anybody to win that event again,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s one person you’re running against or if it’s 30 people. You have to focus on your own deal. If you have all the right stuff and you do all the right things, then you should turn that last win light on.”
For more on this story, visit www.nhra.com.
NHRA AND NASCAR STARS SET FOR SOFTBALL SHOWDOWN: Drivers from the motorsports worlds of NHRA and NASCAR will find common ground Wednesday, April 17, when they square off to raise money for charity in a slow-pitch softball game, slated for 7:00 p.m. at CMC-NorthEast Stadium in Kannapolis, North Carolina. In addition, popular country recording artist Darrell Harwood will sing the national anthem prior to the game and will be the star of a post-game concert. A bevy of popular drivers has committed to participate in the charity softball game, and more players may be added in the near future. The big names from the NHRA include Top Fuel stars Tony Schumacher, Brandon Bernstein, Antron Brown, J.R. Todd, Shawn Langdon, Clay Millican and Bob Vandergriff Jr. They will be joined by a number of the brightest Funny Car competitors in the sport, including Courtney Force, Ron Capps, Del Worsham, Chad Head and Matt Hagan.
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HOMETOWN HERO'S WELCOME FOR GRAY FAMILY: When Thomas Wolfe wrote the novel, "You Can't Go Home Again" more than 70 years ago, he couldn’t have known the impact the late John R. Gray and Johnny Gray would have on the people in their hometown of Artesia, New Mexico. Gray, wife Terry, and sister Terry Chandler led Don Schumacher Racing’s (DSR) Pitch Energy Funny Car team to a layover in the southern New Mexico hamlet on Wednesday during the team’s return to DSR headquarters near Indianapolis after last weekend’s NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in Las Vegas. Gray and the nine-member Pitch Energy crew, both 18-wheel transporters, and tow vehicle turned south in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and headed for Artesia instead of continuing east. The stop was designated John R. Gray Day as part of the family’s season-long salute to the late patriarch—a legendary oilman who changed the lives of countless families in a tradition carried on by his son, who took over Marbob Corp. and his dad’s Pitch Energy business interests.
“People say they had the best dad, but they’re all wrong ’cause I had the best dad,” Gray has often said. Gray decided to bid his farewell to competing full-time on the NHRA Drag Racing circuit with the name Pitch Energy—a family business the late Gray named after his favorite card game, Pitch—on the Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car bodies and with likenesses of John R. on the rear quarterpanels. It was a very special day for the Gray family and Artesia residents, who turned out in force to visit with the Grays and see the team's 320-mph Dodge, which rested in the shadow of a massive statue of John R. and his original partner, Mack Chase. The statue is part of Artesia’s Monument Park, which honors local heroes of the oil-drilling industry. Visit www.nhra.com for more on this story.
DOLLAR GENERAL NHRA FOUR-WIDE NATIONALS, zMAX Dragway, April 19–21: The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series heads to the Bellagio of Dragstrips in Charlotte, North Carolina for the fifth of 24 events. Drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will compete in a four-wide configuration and earn points toward the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season points standings. The 2012 winners of the event were Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock). For tickets, call 800-455-FANS or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.
O'REILLY AUTO PARTS NHRA SPRINGNATIONALS, Royal Purple Raceway, April 26–28: The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series heads to the Lone Star State for the sixth of 24 events of the 2013 season. Drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will earn points toward the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The 2012 winners of the event were Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 281-383-7223 or visit www.royalpurpleraceway.com.
SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA SOUTHERN NATIONALS, Atlanta Dragway, May 3–5: The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to Atlanta for the seventh race of the 2013 season. Drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock will earn points toward the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The 2012 winners of the event were Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock). For tickets, call 800-884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.atlantadragway.com.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
NHRA FOUR-WIDE NATIONALS PROVIDES NEW CHALLENGES FOR DRIVERS: As fans get ready to experience the sensory overload of the 4th annual Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals fueled by Full Throttle at zMAX Dragway, April 19–21, several drivers are thrilled to race on four lanes and give fans what some have called the greatest spectacle in drag racing. Even for the most experienced driver in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, racing in a four-lane configuration is a challenge. Seven-time U.S. Army Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher says that the unique format brings out the best in each driver. “Well, if you don’t leave first, they’re really loud,” he said. “When you have a car on each side, you feel like the sky’s falling on you. It’s intense. It’s an incredible amount of pressure.”
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INSIDE THE NUMBERS
May 4: DATE ALLEN AND ROY JOHNSON WILL BE HONORED BY THE TENNESSEE SPORTS HALL OF FAME: The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame will honor 2012 NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock champion Allen Johnson; his father, Roy; and the J&J Racing team at its banquet, May 4, at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. From the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame: “For NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series driver and Greeneville, Tennessee, resident Allen Johnson, racing has always been a family affair—with a distinct Tennessee flavor. In 2012, Johnson, and his father and team, would achieve their collective dream. After a 17-year journey, the Tennessee boy broke through to earn his first NHRA Pro Stock championship. He wrapped up his season in style, winning the season-ending NHRA Finals event in November in Pomona, California, to complete his dream season.” The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame was founded in 1966 by the Middle Tennessee Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association.
DID YOU KNOW…
NHRA TOP FUEL PILOT MELANIE TROXEL TO RACE IN THE TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH PRO CELEBRITY RACE: The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro Celebrity Race has always featured some stellar celebrities ranging from actor Keanu Reeves to Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner. This year's celebrity race will include a familiar face from the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series family: Melanie Troxel. One of the NHRA's winningest female drivers will serve as one of the professional drivers competing in the specialty race, April 20. The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro Celebrity race will raise money for the organization, "Racing for Kids," to benefit children's hospitals in Long Beach and Orange County.