Series teams ready for Firebird Raceway in Phoenix
NHRA Series press release
Former rookie rivals Massey and Hagan now leading the way in their respective 7,000 horsepower categories
CHANDLER, Ariz. — Two drivers who competed for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award in 2009 are back in the spotlight this season and they are both in the driver’s seat in their respective categories as they chase world championship glory in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.
We might not be the fastest, but we’re consistent and we’re along with the hunt every round.
Spencer Massey, who won the rookie title from an all-star cast of candidates two years ago, is currently 65 points ahead in the Top Fuel standings after posting one win in three final round appearances in the first three races of the Countdown in his FRAM/Prestone dragster. Meanwhile, Matt Hagan has a two-point advantage in Funny Car over season-long leader Mike Neff. Hagan, the lone Funny Car driver in that star-studded 2009 rookie class, raced to a milestone performance of 3.995 seconds in his DieHard Dodge Charger in winning the first playoff race in Charlotte three weeks ago and is riding a wave of momentum as he tries to win the series title this season after coming so close one year ago.
The two drivers will lead their respective 7,000 horsepower categories into competition at the NHRA Arizona Nationals, Oct. 14-16 at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix. Cory McClenathan (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) are defending winners of the race, which will be televised on ESPN2 HD and is the fourth of six playoff races in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.
Massey, who sat out last year while looking for a ride, has found consistency with his new teammates at Don Schumacher Racing. The Fort Worth, Texas native has used his patented “Stab and Steer” routine to perfection this year and has been nearly perfect so far in the playoffs, compiling an impressive 10-2 record in eliminations and having one of the most consistently fast dragsters on the track.
He knows, however, he’ll have to continue to run strong in the final three races of the season if he’s going to close the deal and earn his first championship title. There are two former champions, a former winning motorcycle racer and one veteran Funny Car racer who are going to be trying their best to crash his party.
“There’s tons of pressure with (Del) Worsham, with (Larry) Dixon, with Antron (Brown) and Tony (Schumacher),” Massey said. “It’s a lot of pressure. It’s the Countdown. I try to tell myself to do the same job every time I get up there. We all know it’s hard to do that. It’s for everything in the world, and our world is drag racing. It’s what we live and breathe for all season long, it’s for this, for that moment, that instant, that thousandth of a second that you could be late or have a good light or be one thousandth of a second slow at the top end. It’s drag racing. It’s quite amazing.”
Even though Massey has jumped out to a three-round lead, the competition for the Top Fuel title hasn’t been this much of a toss up in several years. Last season Dixon dominated the competition in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster with 12 victories. Prior to that Schumacher won six titles in a row in his U.S. Army dragster. For much of this season new Top Fuel driver Worsham, who raced for more than 20 years in Funny Car, has been the leader in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster. At Pennsylvania last weekend Worsham lost in the final to Massey but set the national record for elapsed time with the quickest run ever in the sport at 3.735 seconds. Former Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Brown has also hit his stride lately, winning the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals and the first playoff race in North Carolina.
Massey says winning the title this year, with so much talent on the race track, would make his lifelong dream even better.
“We might not be the fastest, but we’re consistent and we’re along with the hunt every round,” Massey said. “My main thing is, 'Hey, let’s not worry about setting the national record, let’s not worry about the points, let’s worry about round wins.' If that comes, that comes with a race win, and that happens with points, and hopefully that means a championship. Keep my fingers crossed. I’m loving life. Three races to go. I’m excited.”
Across the pits in Funny Car, Hagan is trying to claim the championship title that eluded him last year in a dramatic battle with John Force. The Virginia cattle rancher ultimately came up short in his bid as Force put together one of the greatest championship comebacks in NHRA history.
With crew chief Tommy DeLago making the tuning decisions, Hagan’s record-setting DieHard Dodge Charger has been very fast and it will need to keep up the pace to hold off Neff, Robert Hight, Cruz Pedregon, Jack Beckman and Ron Capps. The top six cars in the championship hunt are separated by 90 points, which is a little more than four rounds of competition. That basically translates to everything can change in the blink of an eye.
“Obviously the goal out here is to win,” Hagan said. “We’re trying very hard to make that happen. We tried very hard last year. I think things don’t always go your way. You have to learn from that and move forward. I’m just really glad to be back in this hunt. To have the opportunity to come out here and mix it up with these guys, phenomenal racecars, phenomenal drivers, to be able to say we’re still battling out with these guys is a pretty neat thing for me.”
Hagan feels like last season’s disappointment will give him the extra edge in motivation that he’ll need in the ultra-competitive battle.
“This year when they hand the trophies out at the end of the year, I think that’s when we’ll worry about whether we did a good enough job or not,” Hagan said. “It’s so easy to put pressure on yourself out there. Just being there once in the mix of things, it really has helped me. I’m taking it all in. I’ve got a pretty big smile on my face when I sit in that car because I know this DieHard hotrod has the potential to go out and set records, to be a really competitive car out here and win races. I think everything kind of takes care of itself when you have confidence like that.”
Rookie Hector Arana Jr. Looks to make history in Arizona while veteran Jason Line wants to continue career season
CHANDLER, Ariz. — Most NHRA competitors work their entire careers to win a Full Throttle world championships, but rookie rider Hector Arana Jr. is in position to earn one during his debut season.
The quest for his first world championship continues as Arana Jr. looks to become the first Pro Stock Motorcycle winner at the NHRA Arizona Nationals, Oct. 14-16 at Firebird International Raceway, the fourth race of the Countdown to the Championship, a track where the two-wheel class has never competed during its 24-year history.
“We don't have a tune-up or any data to go look up from previous years, but neither does anyone else,” Arana Jr. said. “So when we get there, it's going to be an even playing field for everybody. Hopefully we can stay on top of our game and be the first ones to nail that tune-up for the track and stay on top.”
Cory McClenathan (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) are defending event winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised on ESPN2 HD.
The rookie Lucas Oil Buell rider experienced the growing pains of being a newbie in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, but has become a stronger competitor with each pass down the drag strip. The second-generation rider has earned two victories in four final round appearances and has secured five No. 1 qualifying positions this season, making him a top contender for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award, NHRA’s rookie of the year honors. Last season LE Tonglet won both awards, only the third racer in NHRA history to accomplish that feat.
“It would mean everything in the world,” Arana Jr. said about earning the championship title in his rookie season. "It would be a dream come true. It’s my goal for my entire career, it's everything I wanted to do; get Rookie of the Year and of course the championship, so we’re on the right track.”
With his rain-delayed win at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa. two weeks ago, the rookie moved up to second in championship standings, 35 points behind 2008 champ Eddie Krawiec.
“The (championship) pressure is what you make it,” Arana Jr. said. “All I can do is to make sure that I’m mentally prepared, physically prepared, and that the bike, everything is ready to go on the bike. We look over everything on the bike, make sure there’s nothing that can go wrong as far as we can help. All we can do is be consistent and be prepared.”
A rookie may be a front-runner for the bike championship, but it’s a veteran that’s way out in front in the Pro Stock category. Summit Racing’s Jason Line has all but locked away the Full Throttle championship in the factory hot rod class. During the first three races of the Countdown Line has been nearly flawless, collecting three No. 1 qualifiers and advancing to three final round appearances, winning two of them.
“I’m just the lucky guy who gets to drive this Summit Racing Pontiac,” Line said. “I’m grateful for all their [crew] hard work, and for being the best at what they do. We have a really good group of guys right now on this KB Racing team, and even though we’re working really hard, we’re having a lot of fun, enjoying this run we’ve been on.”
The 2006 Full Throttle champ has won a career high six races this season in eight final round appearances, earned the No. 1 qualifier at seven events and set the national E.T. record during the last event in Reading, Pa. Line started the Countdown in second place behind teammate Greg Anderson, but with his dominant KB Racing horsepower and lightning quick reaction times, Line has built a 181-point lead over Anderson and has nearly secured his second career championship.
“Although things look good for us in the championship, it’s not over till it’s over,” Line said. “There are still three races left and a lot of racing and work to be done. Just as I’ve never won six races in a season before, there’s no reason we can’t go for seven or more.”
NHRA ARIZONA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 27th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals, the 20th of 22 races in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and the fourth of six playoff races in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship. The top 10 drivers in four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - earn points leading to 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships. NHRA is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2011 and will pay tribute to the evolution of the hot rod and honor its legendary racers as well as the sport’s current stars.
WHERE: Firebird International Raceway, Chandler, Ariz. Track is located off Interstate 10 from the west at exit 162. From the east, take exit 162. Follow the signs.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Oct. 14-16.
FRIDAY, Oct. 14 – Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES QUALIFYING SESSIONS at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
SATURDAY, Oct. 15 – Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8 a.m. \FULL THROTTLE SERIES QUALIFYING SESSIONS at 11:15 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.
SUNDAY, Oct. 16 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m. \FULL THROTTLE SERIES ELIMINATIONS begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 15, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour and 30 minutes of qualifying highlights at 10:30 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 16, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).
2010 EVENT WINNERS: Cory McClenathan, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Mike Edwards, Pro Stock; Pro Stock Motorcycle, Not Contested
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, FC, 8; Bob Glidden, PS, 5; Kenny Bernstein, TF-FC, 3; Tony Schumacher, TF, 3; Cory McClenathan, TF, 3; Darrell Alderman, PS, 3; Kurt Johnson, PS, 3; Warren Johnson, PS, 3.
Top Fuel – 3.802 sec. by Larry Dixon Feb. ’09; 317.57 mph by Dixon, Feb. ’10.
Funny Car – 4.023 sec. by Ron Capps, Feb. ’09; 311.34 mph by Matt Hagan, Feb. ’10.
Pro Stock – 6.598 sec. by Mike Edwards, Feb. ’09; 209.82 mph by Edwards, Feb. ’10.
Pro Stock Motorcycle–This is the first time this category will be contested at this event.
Top Fuel- 3.735 sec. by Del Worsham, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 327.90 mph by Tony Schumacher, Sept. ’11, 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.; 213.57 mph by Erica Enders, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
PS Motorcycle- 6.777 sec. by Hector Arana, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets call Firebird International Raceway, (602) 268-0200. Tickets also are available at ticketforce.com.
GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $33; Saturday: Adult, $46; Sunday: Adult, $48. Kids 12-under are admitted free to general admission areas with paying adult.
RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $43-55; Saturday: Adult, $56-80; Sunday: Adult, $58-85.
FULL THROTTLE COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the 19th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and the third of six races in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA's playoffs -
Top Fuel: 1. Spencer Massey, 2,390; 2. Antron Brown, 2,325; 3. Del Worsham, 2,316; 4. Larry Dixon, 2,282; 5. Tony Schumacher, 2,250; 6. Brandon Bernstein, 2,193; 7. Doug Kalitta, 2,165; 8. David Grubnic, 2,136; 9. Shawn Langdon, 2,114; 10. Morgan Lucas, 2,074.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 2,303; 2. Mike Neff, 2,301; 3. Cruz Pedregon, 2,271; 4. Robert Hight, 2,251; 5. Jack Beckman, 2,248; 6. Ron Capps, 2,213; 7. Bob Tasca III, 2,169; 8. Jeff Arend, 2,168; 9. John Force, 2,136; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,122.
Pro Stock: 1. Jason Line, 2,459; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,278; 3. Mike Edwards, 2,233; 4. Erica Enders, 2,229; 5. Vincent Nobile, 2,198; 6. Greg Stanfield, 2,175; 7. Rodger Brogdon, 2,168; 8. Allen Johnson, 2,145; 9. Shane Gray, 2,103; 10. Ron Krisher, 2,076.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 2,362; 2. Hector Arana Jr, 2,327; 3. Matt Smith, 2,292; 4. Karen Stoffer, 2,265; 5. Andrew Hines, 2,253; 6. Michael Phillips, 2,205; 7. Jerry Savoie, 2,196; 8. LE Tonglet, 2,195; 9. Hector Arana, 2,150; 10. Jim Underdahl, 2,118.
Shawn Langdon set for Phoenix weekend
Rod Fuller prepped for Firebird Raceway