SCHUMACHER AND JOHNSON TAKE PART IN DUAL BURNOUTS AT CHARLOTTE: Seven-time NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher and five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson took part in dual burnouts at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week. Charlotte Motor Speedway is the only complex in the world to host both NHRA Countdown to the Championship and Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup events. Schumacher in his 8,000-hp U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster and Johnson in his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet roared down the pit road side by side for the season ticket holders in attendance.
"I'm sitting there in my car getting ready to grab second gear and try to create a little more smoke, and that thing goes thundering by," Johnson said. "I had no clue what was happening. I thought a bomb went off next to me. That is incredible. This is impressive."
Said Schumacher, "You get out here, and you hear two cars; two champs are standing there, and you go, 'That's what I'm doing.' I know exactly why I showed up to do this. It's a great racetrack. To get to run a burnout next to another champion, he's won five championships, he knows how to do it."
LANGDON AND HIGHT ENTER COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP ON WAVE OF SUCCESS IN NITRO CLASSES: Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel) and Robert Hight (Funny Car) enter this weekend's Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts in Charlotte, North Carolina—the first race of the Countdown to the Championship—with momentum on their side following wins at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Langdon will carry the No. 1 seed into Charlotte on the strength of five wins and two runner-up finishes. He is aiming for his first Top Fuel championship.
"We've got a good thing going, and we're just focused on winning the championship," Langdon said. "That's what you were brought to the team to do. Our single goal is to win the championship."
Hight raced to his third Indy victory, broke a 35-race winless streak and secured his position in the Countdown to the Championship at the most recent event. The 2009 Funny Car world champion won that title as the No. 10 seed, and he knows that the level of competition will be tough this year, and has an idea of what it will take to win his second championship.
"If we want to win the championship, we are going to have to win at least two races and go to the semifinals in the rest of the races," Hight said.
Langdon and Hight and the other nitro competitors will take to zMAX Dragway, Friday at 5:15 p.m. for the first of four qualifying attempts. Eliminations begin Sunday at 12:00 p.m. for all racers in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. For tickets, call 800-455-3267.
EDWARDS AND ARANA JR. NO. 1 SEEDS IN PRO STOCK AND PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) lead their categories into the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts. Edwards, in his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro, has six wins this season to go with 13 No. 1 qualifying positions. Edwards, the 2009 Pro Stock world champion, is ready to do battle in the competitive class.
"When it comes down to the Countdown, if you don't drive good, you know you're not going to win these races," Edwards said. "We're not talking about hundredths of seconds anymore. We're talking about thousandths."
Arana has led the Pro Stock Motorcycle points since the season began for the two-wheelers in Gainesville, but the second-generation racer knows that retaining the lead won't be an easy task.
"My goal is to get as many points as possible in Charlotte and all the races," Arana said. "Because you never know what's going to happen down the road. A motor breaks or something happens, and for whatever reason, you can't make the round. So if you can make a point buffer just to make up for any little thing that can happen, it's very important."
Pro Stock qualifying begins at 4:15 p.m. Friday at zMAX Dragway, and eliminations start at 12:00 p.m. Sunday. For tickets, call 800-455-3267.
ENDERS-STEVENS TO CONTEND FOR CHAMPIONSHIP IN PRO STOCK: Erica Enders-Stevens will have the opportunity to contend for her first NHRA Mello Yello world championship with an 11th-hour sponsorship from Husky Liners. Bob Tyler, founder of Husky Liners, and team owner Victor Cagnazzi met at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals and struck a partnership that will put the popular driver back behind the wheel.
"I can't believe how fortunate we are that Mr. Tyler and his company have signed on to support us," Enders-Stevens said. "It's pretty crazy because I'm a Texas girl, and in high school, I had a 4x4 pickup truck that had floor mats and mud flaps from Husky Liners. This has given us new life, for sure. I think everyone in the class knows what we're capable of doing, and at the same time, we know what it takes to compete at this level. We all kind of feel like we need to make a statement, and winning some races and contending for the championship would say a lot about us."
DRIVER AUTOGRAPH SESSION THURSDAY IN THE QUEEN CITY: Drivers in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will meet fans during an autograph session in Charlotte, North Carolina, before the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts at Whisky River/Epicenter, September 12, from 6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m. Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, Erica Enders-Stevens, Johnny and Shane Gray, Steve and Billy Torrence, Matt and Angie Smith, Leah Pruett, Steve Johnson, Michael Ray, John Hall, John Gaydosh and Buddy Perkinson will be part of the autograph session. Whisky River/Epicenter is at 210 E. Trade St. in Charlotte.
AAA TEXAS NHRA FALLNATIONALS, Texas Motorplex, September 19–22: The AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals is the second race of the Countdown to the Championship and pivotal to the championship battle. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle) took home wins in 2012, and Brown and Johnson parlayed their wins into championships.
AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS, Gateway Motorsports Park, September 27–29: The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series thunders into St. Louis for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, the third of six races in the Countdown to the Championship. The series returned to the track last season, and a capacity crowd witnessed Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) race to victories. Brown, Beckman and Krawiec went on to win championships, and success at this event can be what makes or breaks a championship run. For tickets, call 866-RACE-TIK (722-3845) or log on to www.gatewaymsp.com.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
“We are extremely happy to extend our relationship with Sheikh Khalid, Al-Anabi Racing and the State of Qatar. We are very proud of our team's accomplishments in its first five years. Through our working and personal relationships with Sheikh Khalid, we have enjoyed learning a great deal about the Qatari culture as well as Sheikh Khalid's vision and commitment to the sport of drag racing and this great race team. Our relationship with Sheikh Khalid has been very rewarding in many ways."
—Alan Johnson, Top Fuel team manager of Al-Anabi Racing, on a five-year contract extension with Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani, Al-Anabi Racing and Alan Johnson
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
97: Number of national event victories that the Coughlin family has amassed in its historic racing career. Five family members have added to that total through the years: brothers John, Troy, Mike and Jeg Jr. and third-generation pro Troy Jr. Jeg Jr. has the most event wins, 70, and scored his first win in 1990 when he won Super Gas at the Springnationals near Columbus, Ohio.
"Getting that first Wally for our family at a national event still ranks as one of my all-time greatest moments," Jeg Jr. said. "The fact that it happened at our home track, National Trail Raceway, during the Springnationals, which was the race we all pointed to every year as the big one, was just incredible. It set such a tone for what was to come. Here we are a little more than 20 years later, and the tally is at 97. That is exciting."
DID YOU KNOW…
WORLD'S FASTEST TAILGATE PARTY FOR THE AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS SEPTEMBER 26: Fans of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series in St. Louis can meet their heroes during the free Fan Fest sponsored by Mid-America Chevy Dealers in downtown St. Louis, September 26. The event will take place from 5:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. on Washington Avenue (14th and Tucker) and have activities for fans of all ages. A driver autograph session, car show, interactive displays, food, music and ticket giveaways will all be part of the event. Downtown St. Louis will be electric with the excitement of Thursday Night Football, and this will be a way to rev up the action before the game. Log on to www.gatewaymsp.com for more information prior to the event.