Dallas’ Texas Motorplex Shaping Up The NHRA Full Throttle Countdo
Going into the second race of the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, it boils down to five races to go, starting with the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex this weekend.
What makes the Texas Motorplex so different from all the other dragstrips is the all-concrete surface. So, if records were broken in Charlotte, then in Texas, some of those same records could be shattered.
Del Worsham, the leader of the Top Fuel points since the second race of the season, was defeated in the first round of eliminations at Charlotte, and with Antron Brown winning that moved Worsham to third place in the standings, 38 points out of the lead.
In between these two is Don Schumacher’s Fram/Prestone team driven by Spencer Massey, which is only 16 points out of the lead.
Following Worsham are three-time Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon, 45 points away from the lead, and seven-time champion Tony Schumacher, rounding out the top five, needs 55 points to regain his championship status.
None of the top three has even won the Top Fuel championship. The last person to win a championship in that division was Kenny Bernstein, won his second Top Fuel championship in 2000.
That’s what makes all this jostling of rounds so interesting - when you have these top five able to beat anyone in the other lane.
Now in sixth place, Doug Kalitta and seventh-place runner, Brandon Bernstein, have great race cars. Kalitta has been in the championship trenches before when in 2006 when he lost to Schumacher by a mere 14 points.
Bernstein’s destiny is just one ET away. His Copart crew ran low 4.80s at Charlotte all day and was eventually upended by Dixon by half a car length in the quarterfinals. He can’t run this consistent without winning more rounds very soon.
Funny Car is turning out to be in a true battle for supremacy of the Fuel Coupe class. Mike Neff, the only tuner and driver since the 1974 champion Shirl Greer, is showing such a strong potential for his John Force Racing team. His only problem is now it looks like Don Schumacher Racing’s Funny Car division has been saving tits best for last.
To witness the Matt Hagan record-breaking 3.995 run from last Friday was outstanding to say the least. His DieHard rocket run could be duplicated this weekend at Texas Friday night. Breaking any barrier is the best, but in addition, the 20 additional points for a NHRA National ET record gained by Hagan puts him in the catbird seat to make his mark in this class. Only 22 points separate these two title contenders. Hagan earned 147 last race.
Lurking over their shoulder is NHRA Funny Car National Speed holder Jack Beckman, 53 behind, and at fourth is two-time champ Cruz Pedregon, 96 points behind. Rounding out the top five is 2009 title-holder, Robert Hight, now 106 uncharacteristic points out of contention.
With Hagan setting the record, winning the race and Neff taking the runnerup role just shows how quick a team can pick up points in just one race.
All three of these teams can make comebacks. There’s not a doubt in the world. Just overcoming the quick deficit that already has been built will determine the overall outcome in this category at Dallas.
Anyone thinking of winning the Funny Car championship will have to march through the Beckman, Pedregon and Hight camps to reach the top.
Neff and Hagan clearly showed they were capable in Charlotte and looking further, we see one of the tightest battles brewing.
From sixth to tenth is only 30 points (2,082-2,052). Ron Capps, Jeff Arend, defending champion John Force, Bob Tasca, and Tim Wilkerson are all still contenders. Last place is 157 points behind and with only five races to go, all five of these teams need the luck to go along with performance.
Pro Stock is clearly in the hands of Mooresville’s KB Racing team with Jason Line and Greg Anderson leading the way. These two have reached a level so untouchable in Charlotte that the only way to beat them was to pounce on any mistake they made - and the competition did.
Despite Anderson getting beat on a hole shot in the first round and Line red lighting in the finals were their only mishaps of the weekend. They were No. 1 and No. 2 in qualifying and had the cars to beat for most of the weekend in Charlotte.
Now there are only 31 points between the two and close on their heels is strong rookie candidate, Vincent Nobile, 54 points behind. Mike Edwards, one of KB Racing’s nemeses, is 61 points behind and Erica Enders, 83 points in arrears.
Allen Johnson, Greg Stanfield, Roger Brogdon, Shane Gray, and Ron Krisher are sixth through tenth. All are great leavers and run with the best that KB racing has to offer. With only five races remaining in the FTS Countdown, Dallas could be a make or break race for many these teams if they don’t get additional points this weekend.
Now we can’t forget the spoilers in the PS field and with names like Kurt and Warren Johnson, Larry Morgan and Ronnie Humphrey, who can upset the biggest names in the class and did at Charlotte clearly with Kurt Johnson claiming his 40th win.
Pro Stock Motorcycle Countdown could be over before it gets started, if someone doesn’t slow down the Harley-Davidson riding Eddie Krawiec.
He dominated the opening race in the Countdown and it appears he’s not looking back, taking the Charlotte PSM title and setting low ET of the meet at 6.810 seconds. Karen Stoffer is second in the standings, trailing Krawiec by 63. Matt Smith is 116 behind and Andrew Hines 124, with defending champion LE Tonglet 126 points in Krawiec’s wake.
Hector Arana, Jr., and his father, Hector Arana, Jim Underdahl, Jerry Savoie, and Michael Phillips finish out the PSM Countdown field. Arana won the championship in 2009 and his son is a quick learner winning the biggest race of the year, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, in his rookie season. They are capable of snagging Krawiec’s chances.
One of the biggest news stories going into the AAA Texas Fall Nationals is the long–awaited Funny Car debut of Alexis DeJoria.
At a Wednesday night press conference in downtown Dallas, she unveiled her dazzling black and green-striped Tequila Patron Funny Car in front of celebrities, friends, family, and media at the upscale venue The Apartment.
DeJoria begins her eagerly anticipated career in the Nitro Funny Car class after several years of successful competition as a driver in the NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car class, including a recent NHRA national event win at the NHRA Northwest Nationals in Seattle.
“This is an incredible night and wonderful time for me and my family,” DeJoria said. “This is something I’ve dreamed about for a long time, and now for that dream to finally be coming true is just something amazing.
“Making the move up to Funny Car with the Kalitta Motorsports team is a perfect fit for my family and me. We already feel like members of the Kalitta family and that’s very important to me. I’m sure we’re going to have years of success together. I can’t wait.”
The Tequila Patrón Funny Car joins the Nitro racing stable of Kalitta Motorsports. The iconic team, led by NHRA drag racing legend and pioneer Connie “the Bounty Hunter” Kalitta, also fields the DHL Funny Car driven by Jeff Arend, the Technicoat Top Fuel dragster driven by Doug Kalitta, and the Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster driven by David Grubnic. All welcomed their new teammate Wednesday night.
Changing channels: The regular viewing times for the NHRA shows this weekend are Sunday morning at 1:15 a.m. EDT for qualifying with a replay at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Eliminations will air on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
For those more interested in the qualifying and race results, you can follow more closely on ESPN3.com. At 6:15 p.m. Friday, you will able to watch the qualifying live and on Sunday, login at 12 noon EDT and view the eliminations live.
You can find a TV schedule with all this information by clicking the Motorsports TV tab on this website.
The NHRA 60th anniversary continues with legends Kenny Bernstein, Billy Meyer, and famed Blue Max Funny Car champion Raymond Beadle on the Motorplex grounds for autograph sessions. They will give the command to start engines on Sunday.
Dallas is the second race of three in a row of the six races that make up the NHRA Countdown to the Championship with Reading, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Pomona remaining on the racing calendar.
This is such a pivotal race to make up ground on your competitors or get further ahead in the standings.
In predicting winners this weekend, I have to say that Motorsportsunplugged.com contributor Brown will continue his hot streak of wins. He’s taken four out of the last five Top Fuel events, including the last three in a row.
It’s still a tossup in Funny Car. Hagan is the hottest driver, but I feel Neff will reprise and take the win in the Lone Star State.
Since Greg Anderson went out early at Charlotte in the Pro Stock eliminations, the four-time champion is looking strictly at win lights this weekend to take back his lead with his Summit Racing teammate, Jason Line, right in tow in the finals.
Until Krawiec’s momentum is stopped, he’s the legitimate pick to run the field in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category. Arana, Jr. and Tonglet seem to be his main competition for the weekend.
Qualifying starts on Friday with the first session starting at 3:15 p.m. EDT, Friday.