Plenty Of Fireworks Coming This Funny Car Summer
There’s a storm brewing in the NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car series.
The top five seem to be comfortably on their way to the Countdown to the Championship, but from sixth to 13th, there’s only a109-point spread and out of eight drivers contending, only five are going to make a challenge for the championship.
So the upcoming summer battles on the track will become crucial as those racers could swap positions every race until only those final five make the cut. The rest will start planning for next year.
Current points leader Mike Neff has a 98-point lead over second place runner Jack Beckman. From there, three through five in the standings, Robert Hight, Cruz Pedregon and Matt Hagen, are separated by a difference of 89 points.
There are only eight races remaining before the start of the Countdown, concluding with the U.S. Nationals at Indy. Meanwhile, teams like John Force, Jeff Arend, Ron Capps, and Bob Tasca are presently in the top 10.
On the outside are some pretty big names. Tim Wilkerson, Jim Head and Tony Pedregon are the teams that really need to step up their racing operations and get them heading the right way.
With such a tight points chase, who will make it?
Don’t those teams wish they had the answer? By the time we reach Labor Day the racers will have ventured all over the country. Different locations bring different tuning situations and let’s never forget the immense funding keeping a race team on the road for that long.
Starting Father’s Day weekend, the Ford Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol, Tenn., begins the journey. The trek of the remaining seven races include trips to Ohio, Illinois, Colorado, Washington, California, Minnesota and wrapping it up at Indy on Labor Day.
First up, the sixth-place contestant is Force. The most prolific driver in NHRA history has been down this road for nearly 30 years. He knows what he has to do and I do not doubt for a moment that you will see him back in the winner’s circle.
It could come as quickly as Bristol. His round win record for the season is 5-8 with only one semifinal appearance at Charlotte as his highlight of the year. Oh yeah, he has 132 wins and 15 Funny Car championships. He’s been down this road before.
How can he have less round wins than others in this department?
Qualifying points are given each of the four sessions of 3-2-1 for the top three. After the four sessions, more points are given out to the No. 1 qualifier. Eight for first, seven for second, going down to 13th through 16th getting one point.
Force has four No.1 low qualifying awards this season and has dominated many of the sessions, adding to his total.
Jeff Arend of Kalitta Motorsports is the only winner of the bunch, as he beat Neff in the Houston Finals. He’s 8-7 in 2011 round wins and is seventh in the points, only two behind Force. Besides his only win, Arend has four quarterfinal rounds and three first-round appearances. He has to do better to seal the deal and guarantee his Kalitta camp a spot in the Countdown.
The personable Capps is 7-8. He jumped two spots with his second semi-final round appearance of 2011 at Englishtown. He’s currently eighth in the NHRA FTS points. He has three first rounds and three quarterfinal runs so far. With the influence of Kim and Tim Richards as part of this team, only good things should come. It will be interesting to see how quickly Capps’ program turns around.
In a tie for ninth, we find Johnny Gray and Tasca. Gray has one final round appearance at Houston before falling back at Houston with a DNQ. He has accumulated a 7-7 record. Meanwhile Tasca is 5-8. He has one final round appearance this year at Charlotte, but is mired with four first round losses.
On the outside are Wilkerson, Head and Tony Pedregon. Here’s an interesting point. All together, just these three veterans alone own 65 NHRA National event wins. So there’s no question they understand what it is going to take to get back in the Funny Car hunt.
Here’s some close statistics. Wilkerson and Head have each earned a 4-8 in round wins/losses in 2011. Tony Pedregon, who occupies the lucky No. 13 position, is 3-8. The former two-time Full Throttle champion (2003 and 2007) has 15 consecutive appearances in the Countdown to the Championship. His Brother Cruz’s team is 12-8 and fourth in the points. Tony knows the team’s potential, but until he puts in on the track, he won’t be going anywhere in September.
Wilky is 40 points out of the top 10 right now, Head 45 and Tony Pedregon 89.
It’s going to be a heartbreaker for three of these teams. No one wants to be the one on the outside of the Countdown. Wilkerson has plenty of experience, so does Head and especially Tony Pedregon.
It won’t be easy to make up ground, but in the next eight races, anything is possible and in drag racing, it probably will happen just that way.
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