FAITH DRIVES TOP FUEL CHAMPION When it comes to winning races, signing autographs and living the life of a celebrity, Top Fuel driver Bruce Litton is just fine with the attention he receives on the weekends. After all, with a lucrative sponsor...
FAITH DRIVES TOP FUEL CHAMPION
When it comes to winning races, signing autographs and living the life of a celebrity, Top Fuel driver Bruce Litton is just fine with the attention he receives on the weekends.
After all, with a lucrative sponsor in Lucas Oil and a job that allows him to drive over 300 miles per hour and get paid doing it, what is not to like about living the life of a professional race car driver?
But that is not what drives Bruce Litton.
What drives Litton is something that runs much deeper than just racing, it goes beyond all of the fame and fortunate associated with being one of the best Top Fuel drivers in the sport today.
What drives Litton is his faith and it is that belief system that keeps him motivated and competing at such a high level.
"Faith plays the whole role in my life and racing is just a part of that. Everything we do is tied to faith. I am a firm believer and it doesn't have anything to do with winning and losing, it has to do with our life and caring for the people around you," Litton said.
And it is that giving nature that has made him such a popular figure on the Nitro Jam tour.
On any given race weekend you will find hundreds of people gathered around his pits as he takes the time out of his busy schedule to sign autographs and chat with fans. During races you will also find people helping out in his pits as honorary crew members, people Litton has helped at some point in his life.
All of this and Litton still finds time to win races and be in championship contention week in and week out. And all of this, Litton admits, wouldn't be possible without his firm belief in God.
"I have been a Christian for 10 years now and I see things differently now. I feel for people that are in need and I want to help," Litton said. "I meet people who are struggling either physically or financially and I try to make a difference in their lives.
"I am blessed in what I do. This sport has been good to me and I am blessed because I have a sponsor who helps me do what I do in Lucas. It really has been a fascinating ride."
One example of Litton's charity is his involvement with the Riley Hospital for Children and Karsyn Bell.
Karsyn Bell lost her battle with cancer earlier this year at the age of four and since then Litton has dedicated his season to raising awareness for the Riley Hospital for Children and their efforts to work toward the care and cure of children facing terminal illnesses.
With a bright pink sticker on the front of his dragster with Karsyn's face and the hospital logo, Litton has brought awareness and thousands of dollars to the hospital thanks to his dedication to making a difference.
Litton even invited Karsyn's parents to the Northern Nationals in Martin, Mich. earlier this year to be a part of the team.
"It is great to see people come behind the efforts of this team to promote the good work of Riley with their support and prayers," Litton said. "Every victory for this Lucas Oil team is hopefully a small victory for Karsyn and Riley Hospital as well."
Along with his work off the track, Litton admits that faith has played a major role in his life on the track as well.
After suffering a horrific crash at New England Dragway in September of 2006 that cracked his skull, broke his nose and elbow and required numerous surgeries, Litton admits that faith allowed him to get back in the car just four weeks later.
"I got beat up pretty good and I was fortunate that I came through it," Litton said. "After the accident I thought it through and decided to come back in Rockingham a few weeks later to test and see if I could still do it. I wanted to get back in the car and get that under my belt."
Litton returned to the car that Fall and, little did he know at the time, his decision to get back in the car played a key role in his championship the following season.
"When I got back in the car and saw that everything was alright it gave us confidence going into the next year. I wanted to make a hard charge for the 2007 season and it was that year that we went on to win the championship," Litton said.
Fast forward two years later and you will still find Litton in a dragster going 300 miles per hour and once again he in the middle of the championship hunt.
But don't think for a second that a championship and a record 48 career final rounds has changed the humble driver from Indianapolis.
Before every run you will still find Litton saying a little prayer and after every run you will find Litton graciously accepting both victory and defeat.
"For several years right before I start the car I generally say a prayer. I pray for the safety for whoever I am running and myself," Litton said. "Then I pray for the outcome to be for the glory of God."
And it is that attitude that makes Litton one of the most well liked drivers in the pits, in the stands and anywhere racing and generosity meet.
"I am out here because I get sponsored to do this and because I feel that God allows me to be out here," Litton said. "It is my faith and love for what I do that keeps me going."
FLYING UNDER THE RADAR
At first glance there are a lot of names that stand out entering the 2009 version of the Elite 8 Pro Stock Shootout.
Drivers such as Frank Gugliotta, John Montecalvo and Pete Berner top that list, while even some lesser known drivers such as rookie Mark Martino, Elite Motorsports headman Richard Freeman, most recent race winner Bob Bertsch and surprise standout Cary Goforth can make a case for why they should be considered a favorite entering the $40,000 shootout this weekend at the IHRA President's Cup Nationals at Maryland International Raceway.
Then there is J.R. Carr.
Quiet, confident and without a doubt one of the dark horses entering this weekend's event, Carr has thrived in his first full IHRA season flying under the radar and quietly climbing the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock ladder.
A member of the three-car Elite Motorsports gang along with Gugliotta and Freeman, Carr has made quite a splash in his first season with two semifinal appearances and an 8-7 win-loss record in seven races.
"We are making progress and we are happy with that, but there is room for more improvement," Carr said. "Still, we are happy with where we are at, especially with how tough the drivers are in this class."
Thanks to that consistency, a season that includes six consecutive races with at least a round win, Carr has climbed from eighth to fifth in points over the last four races entering this weekend's President's Cup Nationals at Maryland International Raceway.
Carr has also been a consistent qualifier and it is his passes prior to Sunday that has positioned himself in the Elite 8 Pro Stock Shootout this weekend.
"I have never been in anything like this before so I am thrilled to have this opportunity and glad to be in it," Carr said.
With points awarded solely on qualifying, Carr qualified seventh of eight cars for the shootout and will unfortunately be matched up with teammate and point leader Gugliotta in the opening round.
"I got a good draw, didn't I," Carr said with a laugh. "But I am not complaining. I would rather be in it than not be in it so we are excited and we are going to give Frank a good race.
"I know I can get by Frank."
In two prior tries Carr has yet to beat his teammate, but if Carr can get around Gugliotta on Saturday -- watch out.
Carr is undefeated against Martino and Bertsch, the other two drivers in the bottom half of the bracket, and he is 1-1 against drivers in the top half of the bracket making Carr a serious contender for this weekend's $40,000 shootout.
But it won't be easy.
Gugliotta has been to four Pro Stock Shootout finals in the past six years including a win in 2003. Berner and Montecalvo are also former winners of this race, making the field very top heavy with former champions.
All of this and, of course, there is still a national event to be run as well.
"I would love to win one or the other. Heck I will take both if I can," Carr said.