Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Top Fuel Competition as Tight as Ever as the NHRA Heads to Atlanta
COMMERCE, Ga. -- As the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads south to Atlanta Dragway, May 4-6, for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, the competition in Top Fuel is so tight predicting the race winner is nearly impossible.
Morgan Lucas has finished in 10th place in the championship points battle the last two years, but this season the outcome could be a lot different. The GEICO/Lucas Oil driver is coming off his second win and fourth No. 1 qualifying position of the season in Houston, which puts him in third place in the championship standings as the NHRA heads to Atlanta, site of his first career victory in 2009.
“Houston might have been the best race we’ve ever had,” Lucas said. “Not only did we qualify No. 1, but we had low elapsed time of every round on race day. That’s never happened for us before and the reason we're encouraged as we look forward to Atlanta.”
Top Fuel point leader and defending event winner Antron Brown hopes to continue the success he’s had this season. The Matco Tools driver has earned one victory in five final round appearances and has a little extra confidence from three career wins in Atlanta. Needless to say, Brown likes his chances as the team heads south.
"I've always considered it to be an East Coast track, an older track where guys like my dad and uncle raced," Brown said. "It's a track we visited often from Pro Stock Bike days to now. You get that sense of the great old tracks. It puts me back in my element - what I grew up around - and I feel real comfortable there.”
Brown’s DSR teammate Spencer Massey is in second place in the points thanks to three wins this season in his FRAM/Prestone Top Fuel dragster. As the circuit heads to one of Massey’s favorite tracks, he is out to prove that his second place finish last season was no fluke.
"For whatever reason, Atlanta likes me and I like Atlanta," Massey said. "Sometimes you shine at some tracks and others you don't. It's the luck of the draw in a way. It has nothing do with tune-up or whatever you might think, that's just how it works."
Massey’s DSR teammate Tony Schumacher may be experiencing the longest winless drought of his career, currently at 29 races, but thanks to three final round appearances this season “the Sarge” is in fourth place in the points order. Atlanta Dragway is one of the few tracks where the U.S. Army pilot has yet to win, but the way the Top Fuel competition has been, there is no reason why his 68th career victory couldn't also be his first in Atlanta.
“I’m a positive-minded person and truly believe we will take home a bunch of race trophies this year,” Schumacher said. “And, of course, we want to take home the biggest trophy of them all at the end of the year.”
Steve Torrence is making an impact in Top Fuel with his Capco Contractors dragster in his first season as a driver and team owner. He sits in sixth place thanks to back-to-back semifinal appearances and his first career No. 1 qualifying position. Al-Anabi driver Shawn Langdon is still seeking his first career win and sits in fifth place but with Alan Johnson (team manager) power, that car could end up in the winner’s circle on any given Sunday.
Team Kalitta drivers David Grubnic and Doug Kalitta are also keeping things interesting in the 7,000-horsepower class, as are Bob Vandergriff, Clay Millican, Brandon Bernstein, Terry McMillen and Khalid alBalooshi. The top 10 is anyone’s game this season and with 10 races remaining before the cut off for the Countdown to Championship the racing is expected to get even more exciting.
Funny Car has been dominated by John Force Racing as the team has won all six races this season led by Robert Hight who is the points leader, followed by Mike Neff who is in second and John Force who is seventh and Courtney Force in ninth. NAPA Auto Parts driver Ron Capps has rebounded well after a DNQ in Las Vegas and has moved to third after back-to-back final round appearances. His DSR teammate Jack Beckman is right behind him in fourth, Cruz Pedregon sits fifth, Bob Tasca III is eighth and Jeff Arend is in 10th.
In Pro Stock, the Summit Racing duo of Greg Anderson and Jason Line remain atop the points standings, while sophomore sensation Vincent Nobile moved to third after his win in Houston. Former Pro Stock world champ Mike Edwards is fourth, Nobile’s Dodge teammate Allen Johnson is in fifth, and Erica Enders sits sixth.
The two-wheel class heads to Atlanta for its third appearance of the season with the Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson duo of Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec leading the championship points standings. Lucas Oil Buell rider Hector Arana Jr. is right behind them in third, followed by GEICO Suzuki rider Karen Stoffer. Matt Smith, Hector Arana Sr., Scotty Pollacheck, LE Tonglet, Michael Ray, and John Hall round out the top 10 in the class.
* SCHEDULE: Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Friday, May 4, and 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 5. Final professional eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 6.
* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals. For tickets, call the NHRA at (800) 884-6472 or visit NHRATIX.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 7 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, May 5. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, May 6.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals also will feature competition in seven NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series categories, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8 a.m. on May 4. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8 a.m. on May 5 and continue through May 6.
* ON THE WEB: Get live timing, scoring, multimedia, and the latest news updates from every NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.nhra.com. Visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA SOUTHERN NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 32nd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, the seventh of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - earn points leading to 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Atlanta Dragway, Commerce, Ga. I-85 to Exit 149 (Hwy 441). After exiting the freeway, go north on Highway 441 to Steven Tanger Blvd. Take left on Tanger and then go right on Ridgeway Road.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, May 4-6
FRIDAY, May 4 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 9:30 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.
SATURDAY, May 5 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 9 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
SUNDAY, May 6 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, May 5, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 7 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, May 6, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, May 4, 10-10:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
Saturday, May 5, 6:30 -7 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
Sunday, May 6, 7-7:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
(3720 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.461470554 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2011 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Jason Line, Pro Stock; LE Tonglet, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Dave Schultz, 8, PSM; John Force, 7, FC; Warren Johnson, 5, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 4, TF/FC; Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Angelle Sampey, 4, PSM; Lee Shepherd, 4, PS.
Top Fuel – 3.820 seconds by Spencer Massey, April ’09; 323.19 mph by Massey, May ’11.
Funny Car – 4.072 seconds by John Force, May ’11; 312.13 mph by Ashley Force Hood, April ’09.
Pro Stock – 6.557 seconds by Greg Anderson, April ’09; 211.26 mph by Warren Johnson, April ’09.
PS Motorcycle – 6.877 seconds by Andrew Hines, April ’09; 195.34 mph by Michael Phillips, May ’11.
Top Fuel - 3.735 sec. by Del Worsham, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.995 sec. by Matt Hagan, Sept. ’11, Charlotte, N.C.; 318.99 mph by Jack Beckman, Sept. ’11, Charlotte, N.C.
Pro Stock - 6.477 sec. by Jason Line, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 213.91 mph by Jason Line, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
PS Motorcycle - 6.750 sec. by Eddie Krawiec, March ’12, Gainesville, Fla.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets call NHRA at (800) 884-6472, or visit www.NHRATIX.com.
GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $37. Saturday: Adult, $49 Sunday: Adult, $49; children 12 and under are admitted free with paying adult in general admission and pit access areas each day.
RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) – Friday: Adult, $43; Junior (6-12 years), $18; Child (5 years-under), $8. Saturday: Adult, $59; Junior (6-12 years), $24; Child (5 years and under), $12. Sunday: Adult, $59; Junior (6-12 years), $24; Child (5 years and under), $12. Call NHRA for four-day passes and campground information.