Series teams prepare for return to Charlotte

Series teams prepare for return to Charlotte

NHRA Series press release

As Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship opens Top Fuel’s Antron Brown is getting hot at the right time


CONCORD, N.C. – Striking while the iron is hot tends to lead to the best results possible and that is exactly what Top Fuel pilot Antron Brown has in mind for his team during the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship. Not only is Brown coming off a win at the biggest race of the year, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, he won three of the last four races in the regular season and his Matco Tools team is getting hot when it matters most, during playoff crunch time.

“Well, that's been the game plan since day one, to get stronger and stronger as the year goes on,” Brown said. “We started off strong in testing in West Palm, and we were growing and growing, but we had to get used to our combination.”

Now we're in offense mode, we're going to look at the track and attack the track for whatever it can handle.

Antron Brown

Brown isn’t the only one who hopes to gain momentum as the Countdown begins at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals Sept. 15-18 at zMAX Dragway. Defending event champs Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all hope to start their quests for the 2011 championship by repeating last year’s success at zMAX.

With the points reset and Brown being only 30 points behind first place driver Del Worsham, he is feeling confident, but not too confident, as his Macto Tools team begins their journey for the 2011 Full Throttle championship.

“In the Countdown, you have to go there and be poised,” Brown said. “You have to be in that zone, medium zone, not too high, not too low, treat it like every other race we have where we have nothing to lose.”

In 2009 Brown started the Countdown in that coveted No. 1 spot but once the points were reset his lead of more than 200 points was erased. Brown and his team put unnecessary pressure on themselves and failed to perform when it mattered most. The team didn’t get past round one in Charlotte and fell short at the following race as well. Learning from that experience, Brown decided that they are coming into this year’s playoffs with an entirely different mindset.

“The thing about it is, when you put all that pressure on yourself, you do things that you tend not to do,” Brown said. “I think knowing that now, we're going to approach this Countdown different than we did the last two years. We're going to go in it and we're going to be in the offensive mode, not the defensive mode.

“I think the last two years we've been in the defensive mode because we've been up there saying, ‘we need to do this.’ Now we're in offense mode, we're going to look at the track and attack the track for whatever it can handle. That's what has made us successful so far this year. We're going to continue that on and attack it that way and see where the chips fall.”

Crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald have been working all year to make the Matco Tools dragster as competitive as can be and it seems to be coming into its own when it matters most. The combination of effective crew chiefs, dedicated crew and the lightning-quick Brown has proven to be a very successful recipe for the team.

“We just want to keep on doing the same thing that we're doing and hopefully we can do the right things,” Brown said. “We just want to be there at the end, at the last race the year, we just want to be there and have a chance to win the championship.”

As great as Brown’s team has been, he is still in second place behind Top Fuel newbie Del Worsham. Worsham’s lead before the points were reset was more than 100 points, but now the two are separated by only 30 and Brown has a 10 point lead over teammate Spencer Massey.

Antron Brown
Antron Brown

Photo by: Ted Rossino

“Competition right now in Top Fuel has really heated up,” Brown said. “I think this has been the most competition in Top Fuel in its history for sure looking back from all the days till now.”

With the competition being so tight, as confident as Brown is he knows that he has his work cut out for him if he wants to clinch his first Full Throttle championship. Any driver in the top 10 has a legitimate chance of taking what Brown wants and he knows it.

“The class that everybody loved watching was Funny Car because they had some really serious, serious competition, like the top 10 cars were incredible,” Brown said. “Now you're seeing that in Top Fuel with Del Worsham coming over from Funny Car and Spencer Massey coming back in the game on our race team. You see Brandon Bernstein stepping up. Bernstein and Kalitta cars, both of them are in the top 10 also. I mean, one race, you have one good race, you could go from fifth to second.”

As tight as the competition is in Top Fuel, the competition in Funny Car is intense as ever. Points leader Mike Neff joined Brown in the Winner’s Circle at Indy making his team’s push for the Countdown at the right time as well. Bob Tasca who sits eighth in the points standings caught everyone’s attention when he went to the final round at Indy. Neff’s John Force Racing teammates, Robert Hight and John Force, are also in the Countdown, as well as three of the Don Schumacher Racing Funny Car teams driven by Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman and Ron Capps. But don’t count out Jeff Arend, Tim Wilkerson and Cruz Pedregon. If any of them gain momentum at the right time they have as good a chance as any of the drivers to be championship contenders.

In Pro Stock the top two cars, Greg Anderson and Jason Line are not only teammates who have been dominating the Pro Stock class all season long, but also North Carolina residents. With the points reset, the Countdown is sure going to keep the Summit Racing Pontiacs honest as the rest of the class does their best to catch them. The 2009 Pro Stock champion Mike Edwards is sitting in third while young guns Vincent Nobile and Erica Enders sit just behind him; Allen Johnson, Roger Brodgon, Greg Stanfield, Shane Gray and Ron Krisher round out the top 10 in Pro Stock.

The 2008 Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Eddie Krawiec hopes to repeat his championship season success in 2011 as he leads the two wheel class. Krawiec is followed by the 2010 champ LE Tonglet who has plans to defend his championship season starting at zMAX. Karen Stoffer, who led the points for most of the season, has no plans of letting the top two run away with the championship and will to be right there in the fight. Two rookies, Hector Arana Jr. and Jerry Savioe, also made the Countdown as well as Andrew Hines, ’09 champ Hector Arana Sr., Matt Smith, Jim Underdahl, and Michael Phillips.

***

Funny Car driver Tasca ready to make a move in Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs


In the world of NHRA Funny Car racing, Robert Hight’s amazing championship run from the 10th place points position in 2009 continues to be the one that each and every driver south of fifth place looks to for inspiration once the six-race Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs begin.

We went to the finals in Charlotte at the beginning of the season in the four-wide event.

Bob Tasca III

After barely qualifying for the playoffs that season, Hight got hot at the right time behind the wheel of his Auto Club Ford Mustang, won three races, and as they say, the rest is history.

Sitting in eighth place as the 2011 Countdown playoffs are set to begin at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, Sept. 15-18 at spectacular zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, N.C., Bob Tasca must feel deep down inside that his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang team has the potential to pull off the same kind of miracle playoff run. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the event, which will be televised on ESPN2 HD.

With a semifinal run at Brainerd and a runner-up finish at the world’s most prestigious drag race in Indianapolis, Tasca feels like his team is gaining momentum with each race and that a victory may be just around the corner. And a victory in the first round of the Countdown to the Championship would go a long way in closing the 90 point gap he currently sits behind series leader Mike Neff.

“The guys have a much better handle on the car,” Tasca said. “We had some crazy part failures in Indy that unfortunately none of us can control when those things go wrong. But we feel very confident. We went to the finals in Charlotte at the beginning of the season in the four-wide event. It’s a place we've done very well at. It’s a great place for us to kick off the Countdown.”

It’s also a place that’s close to home for Tasca’s crew. His race shop is based in the racing-crazy North Carolina city. And as far as Tasca is concerned, every little bit helps.

“That gives you confidence,” Tasca said. “Our guys get to sleep in their own beds at night. As simple as that is, maybe it’s a little bit of an advantage. At the end of the day, it’s another drag race. You can’t try harder than we already try. We go to every race to win.”

Tasca says kicking off the Countdown playoffs at zMAX Dragway is a good call.

“Clearly, zMAX is a tremendous facility,” Tasca said. “We have a lot of runs on it. We race there twice a year, we test there. I think all the teams have a pretty good handle on that track.”

Even though he posted a runner-up finish there in April during the VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Tasca says everything about this race will be different. The teams will race in the traditional two-lane format, and there will be plenty of pressure. Playoff pressure.

“It was a long time ago, the four-wide event,” Tasca said. “These tune-ups, these race cars evolve. It’s not the same car. You don’t end with the same car you start with. I think the crew chiefs will look at data probably from a few races back that get us to similar conditions as what we’ll see the weekend coming up at zMAX. But when you race at a place like zMAX, I mean, the facility is incredible, but the racing surface is unbelievable. That’s what makes the difference with these race cars.”

In addition to Tasca and series leader Neff, other Countdown qualifiers in Funny Car are Hight, Four-Wide winner Jack Beckman, two-time champ Cruz Pedregon, Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, 15-time and defending world champ John Force, Jeff Arend and Tim Wilkerson.

Bob Tasca III
Bob Tasca III

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

In Top Fuel, former Funny Car driver Del Worsham enters the first playoff event as the top seed, ahead of hard-charging Antron Brown, who won five races during the regular season including the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Several other drivers also are among the pre-race favorites, including Spencer Massey, defending world champ Dixon and seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, who is still looking for his first victory of the season.

Anderson will try to defend his world championship title as the top seed in Pro Stock. A five-win regular season has the driver of the Summit Racing Pontiac in a good position at his home track to kick off the playoffs. Anderson’s teammate, Jason Line, will be hot on his heels, as will 2009 champ Mike Edwards, rookie Vincent Nobile and Erica Enders, who is trying to become the first female to win a Pro Stock race in NHRA history.

Former world champ Eddie Krawiec is at the top of the pack in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category, just ahead of red-hot defending world champ Tonglet, who led the two-wheel category with four victories in the regular season. A strong group of riders are pre-race favorites, including Karen Stoffer, who led the series for much of the season, three-time world champ Andrew Hines and rookie Hector Arana Jr., who claimed his first victory at the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals two weeks ago. A pair of former world champs, Matt Smith and Hector Arana Sr., are also among those to watch in the category.

***

O’REILLY AUTO PARTS NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET

WHAT: Fourth annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, the 17th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and the first 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: zMAX Dragway - Track is located on Bruton Smith Blvd., off I-85 at exit 49 in the Concord, N.C. area.

WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 15-18.

SCHEDULE:
THURSDAY, Sept. 15- LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 9 a.m.

FRIDAY, Sept. 16- LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations at 9 a.m.
GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 3:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.

SATURDAY, Sept. 17- LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 8:30 a.m.
GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 1 p.m.; first round of eliminations at 3:30 p.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 11:15 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.

SUNDAY, Sept. 18- Pre-race ceremonies, 11 a.m. \FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at noon.

Bob Tasca III
Bob Tasca III

Photo by: Ted Rossino

TELEVISION:
Saturday, Sept. 17, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 11 p.m. (ET).

Sunday, Sept. 18, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours and 30 minutes of eliminations coverage at 10 p.m. (ET).

2010 EVENT WINNERS: Larry Dixon, Top Fuel; Cruz Pedregon, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock; LE Tonglet, Pro Stock Motorcycle.

MOST VICTORIES: Cory McClenathan 2,TF; Mike Edwards, 2, PS.

TRACK RECORDS:

Top Fuel – 3.780 seconds by Del Worsham, April ’11; 326.71 mph by Tony Schumacher, April ’11.

Funny Car – 4.024 seconds by Robert Hight, March ’10; 316.38mph by Ashley Force Hood, March ’10.

Pro Stock – 6.520 sec. by Jeg Coughlin, March ’10; 212.46mph by Greg Anderson, March ’10.

Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.875 sec. by Matt Smith, March. ’10; 196.82 mph by Hines, Aug. ’08.

NATIONAL RECORDS:

Top Fuel – 3.770 sec. by Larry Dixon, Feb. ’11, Pomona, Calif.; 327.03 mph by Tony Schumacher, Feb. ’11, Pomona, Calif.

Funny Car – 4.011 sec. by Matt Hagan, Oct. ’10, Reading, Pa.; 316.45 mph by Robert Hight, June ’11, Bristol, Tenn.

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: Order tickets by phone at (800) 455-FANS. Tickets also are available online at zmaxdragway.com.

GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Thursday: Adult, $10; Child (6-12 years), FREE. Friday: Adult, $20; Child (6-12 years), $5; Saturday: Adult, $40; Child (6-12 years), $5. Sunday: Adult, $40; Child (6-12 years), $5.

RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) -Thursday: Adult, $10; Child (6-12 years), FREE. Friday: Adult, $25/35; Child (6-12 years), $5. Saturday: Adult, $45/55; Child (6-12 years), $5. Sunday: Adult, $45/55; Child (6-12 years), $5.

CONTACT: NHRA Communications Department, (626) 914-4761. Alex Baca (925)383-8922, cell

***

NHRA FULL THROTTLE COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STANDINGS

GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) for NHRA professional categories following the 16th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and prior to the first of six races in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA's six-race playoffs -

Top Fuel: 1. Del Worsham, 2,110; 2. Antron Brown, 2,080; 3. Spencer Massey, 2,070; 4. Larry Dixon, 2,060; 5. Tony Schumacher, 2,050; 6. Doug Kalitta, 2,040; 7. Brandon Bernstein, 2,030; 8. Shawn Langdon, 2,020; 9. Morgan Lucas, 2,010; 10. David Grubnic, 2,000.

Funny Car: 1. Mike Neff, 2,110; 2. Jack Beckman, 2,080; 3. Robert Hight, 2,070; 4. Cruz Pedregon, 2,060; 5. Ron Capps, 2,050; 6. Matt Hagan, 2,040; 7. John Force, 2,030; 8. Bob Tasca III, 2,020; 9. Jeff Arend, 2,010; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,000.

Pro Stock: 1. Greg Anderson, 2,110; 2. Jason Line, 2,080; 3. Mike Edwards, 2,070; 4. Vincent Nobile, 2,060; 5. Erica Enders, 2,050; 6. Allen Johnson, 2,040; 7. Rodger Brogdon, 2,030; 8. Greg Stanfield, 2,020; 9. Shane Gray, 2,010; 10. Ron Krisher, 2,000.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 2,110; 2. LE Tonglet, 2,080; 3. Karen Stoffer, 2,070; 4. Andrew Hines, 2,060; 5. Hector Arana Jr, 2,050; 6. Matt Smith, 2,040; 7. Hector Arana, 2,030; 8. Jerry Savoie, 2,020; 9. Michael Phillips, 2,010; 10. Jim Underdahl, 2,000.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , David Grubnic , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Greg Stanfield , Tim Wilkerson , Jack Beckman , Karen Stoffer , Ashley Force , Brandon Bernstein , Allen Johnson , Morgan Lucas , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Rodger Brogdon , Michael Phillips , Jeff Arend , Don Schumacher , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Bob Tasca III , Hector Arana Jr. , Matt Smith , Eddie Krawiec , Mike Edwards , LE Tonglet , Shane Gray , Shawn Langdon , Vincent Nobile , Jim Underdahl , Mike Neff , Spencer Massey , Hector Arana Sr. , Jerry Savoie
Tags charlotte, concord, nhra, zmax