Former Full Throttle Series World Champs ready to make a move at regular season midpoint as Countdown playoffs loom
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. – The first half of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series regular season has presented several prominent winning streaks, record-breaking performances, the end of a winless skid and a first time winner. It has also offered its share of slumps, high-profile droughts and bad breaks.
While Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the regular season mid-point series leaders and have been producing incredible results all season, four former NHRA Full Throttle Series world champs come to the Toyota NHRA SuperNationals, May 31-June 3 at historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park looking to change recent trends in their programs as the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship looms in the distance.
Seven-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher is second in points, but is hoping to put an end to a 32-race drought from the winner’s circle. Defending Funny Car world champ Matt Hagan is mired in a slump and is currently 13th in the points standings. Four-time Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin is also trying to find his way into the top 10 before the Countdown begins. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, 2010 world champ LE Tonglet sits 10th overall, but needs to press forward if he’s going to make the playoffs.
Much has been made about Schumacher’s slump in Top Fuel. He has advanced to 11 final rounds since his last win came in Oct. 2010 in Las Vegas. During that span he’s even led the points standings a few times. However, he desperately wants to end this stall and add more Wally trophies to his category-leading win total of 67 victories. As strong as his U.S. Army dragster has been running lately, Schumacher feels the time is now. He’s a past winner at Raceway Park, and feels this could finally be his week to end the drought and start a winning streak as the circuit rolls toward the playoffs.
“Even though we have yet to win a race, we’re definitely moving in the right direction,” Schumacher said. “At each event, we seem to get that much better and that’s what counts. We’ve been the points leader a couple of times, already, which is nice. As long as we remain in serious contention over the next nine races, we’ll be positioned where we need to be when the six-race Countdown to the Championship rolls around. Of course, that’s when you want to be running at your best. I would give up winning now in favor of winning six straight races in the playoffs and capturing another world championship.”
Meanwhile, in Funny Car, 2011 world champ Hagan has found defending his title to be somewhat of a tough chore. The Virginia cattle rancher has posted five first round losses and one DNQ. His best finishes have been two quarterfinal exits. He’s qualified in the top five only one time. Despite the slow start, Hagan feels confident that with crew chief Tommy DeLago calling the shots, his Aaron’s Dream Machine Dodge Charger will roar to life at Englishtown. Cool conditions during Friday’s evening qualifying session could allow the team to better its national record time of 3.995 seconds which they set last September in Charlotte, N.C.
“It’s going to happen and it could be this weekend,” said Hagan. “We are the same team we were when we won two races at the end of last season and won the championship. Our first goal now is to move into the top-10 in points before the last six events so we can defend our title.”
After sitting out a year, Coughlin returned to action full time this season and started off with a runner-up finish at the Winternationals. Since then his JEGS Dodge Avenger has reeled off four first round losses and two uncharacteristic DNQs. Coughlin hopes a strong performance at Raceway Park, where he’s won three times in five career finals, will get his team back on track and help improve upon his 13th place points position.
“We feel like we’re building momentum,” Coughlin said. “Every motor we build at JNR comes out a little bit better than the last one and the guys on the crew are making the right adjustments on the chassis. We’re pecking away at it. Just like in a golf tournament, our first big goal this year is to make the cut for the Countdown playoffs. We have nine races left to earn a spot and we’re focused on that goal. Englishtown would be a great place to take a big step forward. We’ve won there before, the fans are some of the most knowledgeable and passionate in the sport and the facility hold legendary status for drag racers. It’s one of our majors. We’re not holding anything back.”
The first three races of the 16-event Pro Stock Motorcycle season have gone to the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson tandem of defending world champ and points leader Eddie Krawiec and three-time world champ Andrew Hines. Krawiec, an Englishtown native, has two wins, while Hines has one. Tonglet, who comes to Englishtown with renewed sponsorship support from local resident and former NHRA driver Kenny Koretsky through his Nitro Fish brand, is eager to recapture the magic he had during his 2010 world championship run. Tonglet knows he got hot at the right time during his 2010 title run on his family-owned Suzuki and he feels he can do the same this season.
“We go in there in 10th place and we want to make sure we get into the Countdown to the Championship in a few months,” Tonglet said. “We have been working on a few things . . . trying to squeeze out every one-thousandth of a second we can on each run.”