ROOKIE TONGLET ROLLS INTO TEXAS MOTORPLEX CHASING FULL THROTTLE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP AND AUTO CLUB ROAD TO THE FUTURE AWARD TITLES ENNIS, Texas - Not since Gary Scelzi pulled off an amazing Top Fuel run in 1997 has a rookie driver won both the...
ROOKIE TONGLET ROLLS INTO TEXAS MOTORPLEX CHASING FULL THROTTLE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP AND AUTO CLUB ROAD TO THE FUTURE AWARD TITLES
ENNIS, Texas - Not since Gary Scelzi pulled off an amazing Top Fuel run in 1997 has a rookie driver won both the Full Throttle world championship title and the Auto Club Road to the Future Award.
Pro Stock Motorcycle phenom LE Tonglet, winner of the first two playoff races in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, has emerged with an opportunity to join Scelzi in the NHRA record book as a rookie world champ.
In the first two playoff events - at Indianapolis and last weekend at Charlotte, N.C. - Tonglet rode his NitroFish Suzuki to victory over three-time world champ Andrew Hines.
Tonglet, who started the Countdown in the 7th position, will try to keep his incredible Cinderella run going at the O'Reilly Super Start Batteries Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec, Sept. 23-26 at the all-concrete Texas Motorplex, the sport's first supertrack. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised on ESPN2 HD.
Tonglet, who is a leading candidate for the NHRA's top rookie award along with Pro Stock's Shane Gray and Funny Car's Jeff Diehl, will find out his fate regarding that $20,000 prize at the season-ending awards ceremony following the nationwide media vote. He can control his own destiny, however, with his pursuit of the world championship title, as he now sits in second place and trails Hines and his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson team by 66 points.
"We're not even thinking about the rookie of the year anymore," Tonglet said. "We've got a bigger thing, the championship, on our minds. Hopefully, we just keep going rounds and we can run this good in Dallas."
Tonglet is in position to chase the championship and better his odds at earning the Auto Club Road to the Future Award thanks to fellow racer/team owner Kenny Koretsky, who partnered with Tonglet following his Indy win with a NitroFish sponsorship. Prior to that, Tonglet ended the regular season with a fizzle and admitted he didn't have the resources to make a run at the championship.
Now, he's making a major buzz on the track. If he's successful at earning the Full Throttle crown, the 20-year-old rider would become the youngest champion in history, taking that title away from Hines, who first won the crown in 2004 at age 21.
"With Nitro Fish behind us, we have a good shot," Tonglet said. "I'm still trying to believe that this is all happening. I owe it all to Kenny. Without him, we wouldn't be here."
In Top Fuel, Larry Dixon claimed his second straight playoff win and his 11th victory of the season in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster, increasing his series lead to 85 over veteran Cory McClenathan. Seven-time world champ Schumacher sits 148 back in his U.S. Army dragster. McClenathan and Schumacher will need to make a move at Dallas if they're to catch the runaway Dixon, who is chasing his third world championship title.
Jack Beckman posted a runner-up finish at zMAX Dragway in his Valvoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge Charger and now trails 14-time world champ John Force by four points in the Funny Car world championship hunt. Matt Hagan and Ashley Force Hood are third and fourth respectively. Charlotte winner Cruz Pedregon, a two-time world champ, has his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry running strong and may play a leading role in the championship outcome even though he is not Countdown eligible.
In Pro Stock, Anderson moved to second place in the standings with a convincing Charlotte victory in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP over Greg Stanfield, who with Koretsky's NitroFish sponsorship, has also moved into the championship hunt after starting the playoffs in the 8th position. Series leader Mike Edwards lost in the first round at Charlotte to Jeg Coughlin. Both of those drivers remain in the championship mix. Edwards leads Anderson by 27, while Stanfield is 34 back and Coughlin is fourth and trails by 80.
* SCHEDULE: Two qualifying sessions will be held Friday, Sept. 24 at 2:15 and 5:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will be held Saturday, Sept. 25, at 11:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday's final eliminations start at 11 a.m.
* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals. Tickets are available by calling (800) 668-6775 or online at www.texasmotorplex.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise more than five hours of coverage of the O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals on Sunday, Sept. 26, including one hour of qualifying highlights at 1 a.m. (ET), a repeat of qualifying coverage at 10 a.m. (ET), NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute news magazine show, at 6:30 p.m. (ET), and three hours of eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. (ET). The race also will air live on ESPN3.com starting at noon (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 26.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals also will feature competition in several categories of the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 23 and eliminations begin at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 24 and continue through Sunday, Sept. 26.