Brown hopes to keep title hopes alive at Maple Grove Raceway and Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals
MOHNTON, Pa. – Familiar ground is something that Top Fuel pilot Antron Brown has come to expect at Maple Grove Raceway.
The East Coast native who grew up in the small town of Chesterfield, N.J., no more than a two-hour drive from the track near Reading, Pa., has taken many laps down the two lanes of Maple Grove Raceway.
We’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing because we’ve been doing really well the last eight races...
After a string of success that includes four wins in the past six races, including the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil at historic Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, Brown and his Matco Tools dragster enter the third event in the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs in a place he’s never been in Reading: seven points shy of the lead in the Top Fuel standings.
Brown will be battling to take back the top spot at the Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals, Sept. 29-Oct. 2 at Maple Grove Raceway. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the event, which will be televised on ESPN2HD.
But as Brown heads to a familiar setting and an all-too-familiar track, he knows that the success he is riding is more than just a fluke.
“Our strategy has been to peak at the right time, which we are,” said Brown, who has six wins in seven final-round appearances this season. “Somebody said we had been flying under the radar, but we know we’re on everybody’s radar now. That’s OK; we just have to do our thing to be successful.”
Brown’s “thing” all summer has been winning. He is coming off of a recent three-race win streak in which he racked up 12 round-wins and a No. 1 qualifier on his way to the first-place spot in the point standings. But after a semifinal-round loss at the recent AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals in Dallas, Brown lost his lead to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey. As Brown enters this weekend’s event, he knows that to regain the point lead, he’ll have to grab the one thing that has eluded the highly decorated driver: a win at Maple Grove Raceway.
“I always love going to Reading,” said Brown. “I love going to the East Coast tracks because it’s going home for me. It’s always great running with family and friends and my peers in attendance, and they’ll be there in Reading.”
With such strong competition in the Top Fuel class, including the Al-Anabi Racing duo of Del Worsham and Larry Dixon, as well as Brown’s fellow Don Schumacher Racing teammates, Massey and Tony Schumacher, success at Maple Grove Raceway could be the difference between competing for the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Top Fuel world championship or just dreaming about what might have been.
“We’re still in good shape in the Countdown to the Championship,” said Brown. “We’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing because we’ve been doing really well the last eight races given our four wins and four semifinals. It should be cool at Maple Grove Raceway, so we might see some world records.”
Brown will have plenty of competition in the 7,000-horsepower Top Fuel class, as defending world champion and event winner Dixon will look to race his way to the top spot in the field. Dixon’s teammate and the regular-season point leader Worsham is also hoping to gain momentum and take back the spot at the top of the standings that he once held. Seven-time world champion Schumacher is looking to keep his streak of nine consecutive seasons with at least one win alive with a score at Maple Grove Raceway, a track where he has four victories.
In the Funny Car class, point leader Mike Neff is hoping to maintain his success and race to his first win of the Countdown. Second-place driver Matt Hagan is hoping history will repeat itself and put him atop the point standings following the event. Dallas winner, defending event winner and third-place driver Pedregon will look to continue his performance and race his way to the top of the point standings.
Pro Stock point leader Jason Line will aim for his second win of the Countdown when he returns to Reading this weekend. Line’s teammate and second-place driver Greg Anderson hopes to find the momentum he had heading into the Countdown and take the lead from his teammate. But don’t count out rookie and fifth-place driver Vincent Nobile, who is looking to grab his third win of the season.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, dominant Eddie Krawiec will be competing for his fourth win of the season and second at Maple Grove Raceway, while second-place Karen Stoffer will look to dethrone the point leader heading into the final events of the season. Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner Hector Arana Jr. is hoping to follow his first win with a victory at Maple Grove.
Record-setting Hagan readies to build on momentum as Diehard team heads to the northeast
MOHNTON, Pa. – Being the quickest competitor in NHRA Funny Car isn’t new to the driver of the DieHard Dodge Charger. Matt Hagan has reset his own national e.t. record three times, but he’d like to do a few more things, including make more history of his own as the Countdown to the Championship continues with the 27th annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.
The defending event winners of the third of six events in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship are Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
During last season’s stop at Maple Grove, Hagan set the national e.t. record and earned a runner-up finish, which set him up for a spectacular run for the championship. Unfortunately for Hagan, the team couldn’t turn that success into his first championship, but he doesn’t plan to let those struggles hurt this year.
“Last season was a perfect example that it doesn’t matter until the last day is over at Pomona,” Hagan said. “When things change, they change quickly in this sport. To me, the Countdown is nothing to worry about until it’s all said and done, but it is great to know, though, that we might have a chance to win a few more races and see where we are when we head to Pomona.”
The team has dealt with many struggles this season, collecting its first win just two races ago, in Charlotte, N.C., as well as setting the national e.t. record. After testing different combinations all season, crew chief Tommy DeLago decided to go back to the car they ran last season, and Hagan couldn’t be happier.
It’s nice to know we have a car that can go out there and have a chance to win these races.
“This is a huge confidence boost for me and our guys,” Hagan said. “We’re back in last year’s car where we set two national records, and then we go out to Charlotte two weeks ago and set another one and get the win. If that’s not a good change, I don’t know what is. I’m not saying we’re going out and going to run the table every weekend, but it’s nice to know we have a car that can go out there and have a chance to win these races.”
Four races remain in the Countdown, and although Hagan suffered a second-round loss in Dallas, he knows that Maple Grove Raceway has been good to him, and he hopes to build on that success.
“We love running at Reading,” Hagan said. “We’d love to repeat our record run from last year — those 20 bonus points would be great for the Countdown. It’s a great track, and considering we’re in the fall, it’s probably going to be fast. We’re looking to go rounds, gain points and improve our Countdown position.”
Hagan’s goals are the same as those of the nine other Funny Car drivers in the Countdown: They all plan to do what they can to be championship contenders. His teammates Jack Beckman and Ron Capps are fourth and fifth, respectively. Mike Neff still leads the point standings, and Cruz Pedregon, who won the last event in Dallas, is right behind Hagan in third. Robert Hight, Bob Tasca, Jeff Arend, John Force and Tim Wilkerson round out the playoff field for Funny Car.
With the tightening of the points two races into the Countdown, the standings have been shaken up not only in Funny Car, but in Top Fuel as well. Del Worsham led the points from the second race of the season until the first race of the playoffs but is now third. Spencer Massey and Antron Brown have capitalized on his early exits at the last two races and sit first and second, respectively. 2010 champ Dixon has moved up to fourth, and Tony Schumacher is fifth. Brandon Bernstein, Doug Kalitta, Shawn Langdon, David Grubnic and Morgan Lucas round out the Top Fuel playoff field.
Pro Stock is dominated by the one-two punch that is the KB Racing team of Jason Line and Greg Anderson. They seem to have a combination that others are doing their best to figure out but just haven’t been able to. Though Anderson has suffered two first-round losses in the Countdown, no other competitors have capitalized on his struggles, and he still sits second. Erica Enders moved up to third with her success in Dallas. The top 10 also includes Mike Edwards, Vincent Nobile, Greg Stanfield, Allen Johnson, Rodger Brogdon, Shane Gray and Ron Krisher.
The playoff drama is getting to all of the Pro Stock Motorcycle riders. After two rounds of the Countdown, Eddie Krawiec still leads the class despite his semifinal exit in Dallas. Karen Stoffer, who sits second, didn’t capitalize on Krawiec’s misstep as she exited in round two. Rookie Hector Arana Jr. is third, Matt Smith is fourth, and Krawiec’s teammate, Andrew, Hines, is fifth. 2010 world champ LE Tonglet sits sixth, Dallas winner Michael Phillips is seventh, followed by Jerry Savoie, Hector Arana Sr. and Jim Underdahl.
AUTO-PLUS® NHRA NATIONALS
WHAT: 27th annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals, 19th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and the third of six races in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship. The top 10 drivers in four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - earn points leading to 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Maple Grove Raceway, Mohnton, Pa. Track is located off the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Exit 298), 10 miles south of Reading, Pa.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 29-Oct. 2
THURSDAY, Sept. 29 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 8:45 a.m.
FRIDAY, Sept. 30 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations at 8:45 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 2:00 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.
SATURDAY, Oct. 1 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 8:45 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 11:15 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
SUNDAY, Oct. 2 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Sunday, Oct. 2, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour and a half hours of qualifying coverage starting at 12:30 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 2, ESPN3.com will televise of coverage of eliminations starting at 11 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 2, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two and half hours of coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).
2010 EVENT WINNERS:
Larry Dixon, Top Fuel; Cruz Pedregon, Funny Car; Dave Connolly, Pro Stock; Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Top Fuel - 3.786 seconds by Larry Dixon, Oct. ’10; 322.42 mph by Dixon, Oct. ’10
Funny Car - 4.011 seconds by Matt Hagan, Oct. ’10; 312.35 mph by Cruz Pedregon ,Oct. ’10
Pro Stock - 6.544 seconds by Greg Anderson, Oct. ’10; 211.43 mph by Anderson, Oct. ’10
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.828 seconds by Hector Arana, Oct. ’10; 196.56 mph by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’10
Top Fuel - 3.770 sec. by Larry Dixon, Feb. ’11, Pomona, Calif.; 327.90 mph by Tony Schumacher, Feb. ’11, Pomona, Calif.
Funny Car – 3.995 sec. by Matt Hagan, Sept. ’11, Concord, N.C..; 318.99 mph by Jack Beckman, Sept. ’11, Charlotte, N.C.
Pro Stock - 6.495 sec. by Rodger Brogdon, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.; 213.57 mph by Erica Enders, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
PS Motorcycle - 6.777 sec. by Hector Arana, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets call (610) 856-7200. Tickets also are available at maplegroveraceway.com.
GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Thursday: Adult, $12; Junior (6-12 years), free. Friday: Adult, $37; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Saturday: Adult, $49; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Sunday: Adult, $49; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Child (5 years and under), free in general admission and pit areas each day.
RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $44; Junior (6-12 years), $20; Child (5 years and under), $10. Saturday: Adult, $59; Junior (6-12 years), $20; Child (5 years and under), $10. Sunday: Adult, $60; Junior (6-12 years), $25; Child (5 years and under), $15.
NHRA FULL THROTTLE COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif.--Point Standings (top 10) for NHRA professional categories following the 18th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and the second of six races in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA's six-race playoffs-
Top Fuel: 1. Spencer Massey, 2,267; 2. Antron Brown, 2,260; 3. Del Worsham, 2,201; 4. Larry Dixon, 2,199; 5. Tony Schumacher, 2,195; 6. Brandon Bernstein, 2,160; 7. Doug Kalitta, 2,132; 8. Shawn Langdon, 2,083; 9. David Grubnic, 2,064; 10. Morgan Lucas, 2,046.
Funny Car: 1. Mike Neff, 2,245; 2. Matt Hagan, 2,241; 3. Cruz Pedregon, 2,238; 4. Jack Beckman, 2,213; 5. Ron Capps, 2,178; 6. Robert Hight, 2,138; 7. Bob Tasca III, 2,107; 8. (tie) Jeff Arend, 2,096; John Force, 2,096; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,085.
Pro Stock: 1. Jason Line, 2,312; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,200; 3. Erica Enders, 2,176; 4. Mike Edwards, 2,168; 5. Vincent Nobile, 2,167; 6. Greg Stanfield, 2,123; 7. Allen Johnson, 2,114; 8. Rodger Brogdon, 2,094; 9. Shane Gray, 2,071; 10. Ron Krisher, 2,042.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 2,295; 2. Karen Stoffer, 2,232; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 2,205; 4. Matt Smith, 2,198; 5. Andrew Hines, 2,176; 6. LE Tonglet, 2,164; 7. Michael Phillips, 2,153; 8. Jerry Savoie, 2,124; 9. Hector Arana, 2,106; 10. Jim Underdahl, 2,086.