Sponsorship News And Palm Beach’s PRO Winter Warm-Up Testing Acce
The 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing season is picking up momentum and with testing coming up this week at Palm Beach International Raceway, the news is abundant and here’s some of the recent key announcements.
Aaron’s has extended its partnership with Don Schumacher Racing through the 2012 season and will be the primary sponsor for NHRA Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan’s Dodge Charger R/T. Aaron’s will be the primary sponsor for Hagan at 13 NHRA national events and the primary sponsor on Antron Brown’s Top Fuel dragster for four events during the 23-event NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing season.
“It’s really exciting to kick off the season as the champion with Aaron’s on our car,” said Hagan. “They have the Lucky Dog, and I sure hope he brings me some luck.”
DSR will sport Aaron’s colors for 17 events, which is two more than last year. Other associate sponsors for Hagan’s Charger will be Mopar and Freightliner.
Drag racing’s biggest birthday party is about to happen…and it will be BIG! The greatest driver in NHRA history is celebrating his 80th birthday. In addition, to mark the occasion, a special Don Garlits 80th birthday “Rat Roast” charity event will be held Feb. 11 at the Sheraton Fairplex during the weekend of the 52nd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 9-12 at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
The “Rat Roast” is being presented by NHRA, with proceeds to benefit the Quarter Mile Foundation, whose mission is to collect and archive the history of the sport of drag racing and related aspects of the high performance aftermarket.
The Quarter Mile Foundation focuses on capturing the first person, oral histories of the greatest pioneers and legends of the sport. The event will include silent and live auctions, including one-of-a-kind memorabilia items. Individual tickets for the Don Garlits 80th birthday “Rat Roast” are $80, with a limited number of 10-people VIP tables available for $2,500.
To buy tables to the event, contact Rachelle Litwin at NHRA at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (626) 250-2269. For individual tickets, go to www.NHRATIX.com and click on the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals ticket page and scroll down to the Special Don Garlits 80th birthday “Rat Roast” charity event. For tickets to the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals, call 800-884-NHRA (6472) or log on to NHRATIX.com.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A has expanded its participation in NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing by becoming the title rights sponsor of the event at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown. The 43rd annual Toyota NHRA SuperNationals will be held May 31 – June 3.
“Toyota is proud to expand its NHRA involvement with this title-sponsorship initiative,” said Les Unger, Toyota national motorsports manager. In addition to becoming the sponsor of the Englishtown event, Toyota will have an advertising presence on the ESPN2 broadcasts of NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing with commercial inventory, an in-show sponsored feature, and race ticker. Toyota will also increase its national footprint in the sport and expand its on-site display visibility at various races.
Put on the B.R.A.K.E.S., a nonprofit 501 ©(3) organization dedicated to teen safe driver training, will host its inaugural Southern California Benefit Dinner Feb. 24 at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California in Pomona.
The night will include a special program, dinner, cocktails, silent and live auctions, and celebrity guests. All proceeds from the dinner will benefit Doug Herbert’s Put on the B.R.A.K.E.S., which provides free hands-on driver training to teens. Since 2008, B.R.A.K.E.S. has trained more than 3,000 students from 19 states and two countries. The program has a waiting list of several hundred students.
“Our goals are to double the number of teens we train in 2012, alleviate the waiting list, expand into other states, and be nationwide within the next three to five years,” said Herbert.
Those interested in sponsoring or attending the inaugural Southern California Benefit Dinner should log on to www.putonthebrakes.org or call the B.R.A.K.E.S. offices at (704) 720-3806.
Al-Anabi Racing dragster pilot Shawn Langdon after running a career-best 3.784 seconds during pre-season testing in Florida: “It’s been great to come out here and run so well right off the bat. These guys are awesome; it feels great to be a part of this team. They’ve set the bar with their performance over the past two years so I’m going to do the best job that I can in the driver’s seat. It’s definitely going to be a fun and exciting year with the competition out here.”
KB racing Pro Stock duo Greg Anderson and Jason Line have won six of the last eight season-opening O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries. Mike Edwards (2010) and Dave Connolly (2005) are the only non KB Racing drivers to have won the event in Pro Stock since 2004.
Funny Car driver Jack Beckman best summed up the purpose of testing this week at Palm Beach International Raceway.
"They don't give you points or a trophy for how well you do in testing.
"We're here to try new parts and new combinations to sort out what will work when we get to Pomona."
Since before the end of last year's NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing season, technicians and crew chiefs at the sprawling Don Schumacher Racing headquarters in Brownsburg, Ind., have been developing new parts and ways to go quicker and faster.
Judging from Wednesday's results of closed testing at the South Florida speed complex that included other top NHRA teams, DSR is close to where it wants all seven of its teams to be when points and trophies are awarded at the NHRA Winternationals season-opener on Feb. 9-12 in Pomona, Calif.
Tony Schumacher was quickest among Top Fuel dragsters with his final run of 3.761 seconds at 324.28 mph in the U.S. Army rail that featured a fully enclosed and experimental driver's pod.
The seven-time NHRA world champion was more pleased with the success of the new capsule than his car's speed and time.
"It's safer. That's what matters most," Schumacher said. "This capsule would be available to any team that wants to use one. It's not about a performance advantage; it's about keeping the driver safer."
In Funny Car, Beckman's header pipes sent flames high in the evening sky above the roofline of his Dodge Charger R/T when his last run produced the day's best time of 4.073 seconds at 311.49 in the category.
"You have to be wise in testing because it's so expensive," Beckman said. "But everything crew chief Rahn Tobler and the team did pay off with that last run."
Team owner Don Schumacher, who resides about 30 minutes from the track, didn't miss a run and was very pleased with the first two of five testing days. Moreover, that was before "Sarge" unloaded his big run near the end of the day.
"Very happy. Very happy,” Schumacher said as he stood in the staging lanes.
"Our program is not to come down here and run big elapsed times and big speeds. We came to learn what will work and what will not when the season starts.
"I agree with Tony that the most impressive aspect of what we've accomplished so far has been how well the driver's compartment has worked with Army dragster.
"It's all been really good."
Closed testing continues today. The week culminates Friday and Saturday nights with the PRO Winter Warm-Up at PBIR.
Here's how other DSR drivers did Wednesday:
Johnny Gray, Service Central Dodge
Best run: 4.084 seconds, 312.06 mph
"We did that with a brand new chassis," said Gray, who was the hottest Funny Car driver over the last six events of 2011.
"We brought the car we finished with last year, but it's wrapped up in plastic in the top of the trailer."
Their Service Central Dodge Charger R/T is the only Funny Car that advanced to the semifinal round in five of the six Countdown races and was runner-up three times.
They just missed earning one of the 10-playoff spots by finishing 11th in points after the first 16 events. Had they slipped into the top-10, Gray would have finished the year ranked second.
"We sure would like to start off this year the way we finished last year," Gray said. "I really like my team. It's just fun to be around the guys."
Gray, 58, lives about 20 miles from Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Fla., where his team is testing this week. He is confident going in to the year and Rob Wendland marvels at what the team was able to accomplish.
Wendland took over crew chief duties after the 10th race of the past season in Norwalk, Ohio. The team quickly began making strides. Five events later at Brainerd, Minn., Gray and won his first NHRA professional title when he beat teammate Ron. Four races later, they won the pole at Reading, Pa., and advanced to the championship round.
Wendland plans to unveil a new chassis and body this week in Florida, possibly during Friday and Saturday's runs in the PRO Winter Warm-Up at PBIR.
"This offseason has been a lot different than a year ago," Wendland said.
"For one thing, we know where to find all of our Matco tools in the trailer."
Ron Capps/NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge
Best run: 4.10, 306 mph
"That was a great run for us," Capps said, adding the team didn't make a run on Tuesday because he was in Charlotte, N.C., filming NAPA AUTO PARTS television commercials.
"Our guys had to stand around yesterday and watch the other teams run."
Matt Hagan, Aaron's Dream Machine Dodge
Best run: 4.140 seconds, 307.44 mph
"We're trying new things and not that worried about making a full pull. We went 4.14 (Tuesday night) and clicked it off at 900 feet. It might have been a 4.06.
Spencer Massey/FRAM Top Fuel Dragster
3.802 seconds, 322.81 mph
"While we're trying some new things I've been working on my driving; keeping it in the groove. You forget how rusty you can get.
"It was a little warm (Wednesday) and tough on me, but it mainly was tough on the crew guys."
Antron Brown/Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster
3.814 mph, 321.58 mph
"It's been great," Brown said of changes made by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald.
"It's so helpful to make so many back-to-back runs in preseason testing that I can work on my driving to keep the car on a tight rope."
"We're just looking forward to burning up the Goodyears."
Brown started preseason testing Tuesday at Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Fla., and after three days of private testing, the teams will participate in the PRO Winter Warm-Up on Friday and Saturday nights at the South Florida track.
Brown, 35, is a frequent visitor to DSR headquarters that is close to his home in Pittsboro, Ind. He was ready to jump into his Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster since returning from Louisiana where he spent the recent holidays.
"I'm in the same shape I was in at the end of last year," he said. "But I have to get stronger as my car gets stronger."
Brown, a track standout in high school and college, always is in top physical shape but plans to begin working with a new personal trainer when he returns next week from testing.
"I want a new exercise regiment for the whole year and a game plan that will have me peaking for when the Countdown for the Championship starts up.
"I want to do whatever I can to push us over the edge and bring that championship home."
The father of three intends to improve on his remarkable 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing season when he won six titles, three top-qualifier spots and finished third in the final points standings.
He's very pleased the way his dragsters ran last year and that this team returns intact.
"There hasn't been a lot of change. That's a bonus for us," he said of the Matco team.
"We'll have two good cars from last year in Florida, and we should have new cars by the third or fourth race of the year."
If you’re interested in watching live coverage of the NHRA PRO Winter Warm-up Testing at PBIR, please log onto www.bangshift.com starting Friday morning around 9. Testing will continue through Saturday.