RECORDS, MILESTONE PERFORMANCES ON THE LINE AT RACEWAY PARK AS FULL THROTTLE SERIES HITS REGULAR SEASON MIDPOINT
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. – John Force Racing crossed one record off its 2011 to-do list in Kansas, becoming the first NHRA race team to join the 200 victory club. Now, the team has its sights set on conquering another longstanding record, and will try to push team owner John Force to the top of the all-time NHRA No. 1 qualifying positions order when the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series visits historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, June 2-5 for the 42nd annual NHRA SuperNationals.
Force could pass NHRA Pro Stock icon Warren Johnson at the top of the all-time list by qualifying first in the 16-car Funny Car lineup at the event where Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Michael Phillips (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending event winners. Force and Johnson are currently tied at the top with 138 No. 1 qualifiers apiece.
Records are motivation for me.
To accomplish that goal, the 15-time world champion who has earned 132 victories during his legendary career, including four at the New Jersey track, will likely surpass a category performance milestone in the process, as many drivers and crew chiefs feel conditions at ultra-fast Raceway Park may be perfect for someone to record the first three-second Funny Car run.
The national record for Funny Car is currently set at 4.011 seconds and held by Matt Hagan, who posted the time last October at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa. Force teammate Robert Hight, who won two weeks ago in Topeka, holds the Englishtown track record at 4.025 seconds in his Auto Club Ford Mustang.
Should cool conditions persist in the Friday evening qualifying session, the sea-level track just might become the site of a little bit of history.
“Records are motivation for me,” Force said. “But I don’t like to talk about them until they’re done. You let records get in your head and you lose your focus; you forget that your job is to win the race and right now I need to focus.”
Even more than a record, Force says he is in hot pursuit of his first win of the season. He needs a win to improve on his seventh place points position as teams jockey for playoff position during the second half of the regular season.
“I’ve got a good race car,” Force said, “but I can’t seem to get a win. Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas (co-crew chiefs) have given me a hot rod that has been No. 1 (qualifier) four races-in-a-row but, on race day, I’m just struggling.”
Another Force team driver, Mike Neff, leads the series standings with one win in four final rounds. Neff, who pulls double-duty as both driver and crew chief, has had his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang running very consistently all season. The other driver in the Force Racing trio, Hight, has won three races, while former drag racing instructor Jack Beckman has won two in his Aaron’s/Valvoline Dodge Charger. Two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon is fourth in points and his Snap-on Tools Toyota team seems to be building momentum at the right time.
“This is the busy part of the season where you’ve got to make your move to secure your spot in the Countdown and we’re starting to see the top 10 take shape,” Pedregon said.
In Top Fuel, longtime Funny Car driver Del Worsham leads the points based on his three early season victories in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster. Worsham, who drove a dragster on a limited schedule in the early 1990s, has made a seamless transition from Funny Car to Top Fuel. He says he is now going to focus on getting into position for the stretch run. With a win at Englishtown, Worsham could join Kenny Bernstein and Mark Oswald as drivers to win in both nitro categories at the legendary track.
“Now that we’re in the heart of the season…I see that we all feel more comfortable,” said Worsham, a two-time winner in Funny Car at Raceway Park. “I do, the team does, and I can see little things like the crew guys all being in their roles and in their rhythms. This is the time when we’ll all continue getting ready for the Countdown (to the Championship) in the fall; the playoff races are the ones that matter the most.”
As the second-half of the regular season unfolds, Worsham will have his work cut out to maintain his top spot. Seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher is second in points, followed by Worsham’s teammate, the defending world champ Dixon, a six-time winner at Raceway Park. A hungry group of would-be championship drivers follows, including Topeka winner Spencer Massey, two-time season winner Antron Brown and two-time E-town winner Doug Kalitta.
“There is a lot of talent in the Top Fuel class this season and it is going to be a real dogfight from this point forward,” said Brown, a New Jersey native who earned two victories at the track in Pro Stock Motorcycle before he switched to Top Fuel in 2008.
Jason Line has raced to three victories in Pro Stock and leads the way in NHRA’s top doorslammer category behind the wheel of his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP. Line is a three-time winner at Raceway Park.
“We’re off to a tremendous start this year, and I attribute that to the people we have working on these Summit Racing Pontiacs,” Line said. “Every member of this KB Racing team is focused and working hard, and even though we’re not where we want to be in terms of performance, we’re gaining on it.”
A bunch of drivers are making noise in Pro Stock this season as rookie Vincent Nobile, sophomore driver Shane Gray and ’09 champ Mike Edwards have all claimed victories. Rodger Brogdon, Erica Enders, Greg Stanfield and Allen Johnson have all been knocking on the door to winner’s circle as well. Line’s teammate, defending world champ Greg Anderson, has one victory and sits second in the point standings.
“I have to find a way to beat that guy,” Anderson said with a smile. “Seriously, I am very happy for Jason’s success. They have their Summit Racing Pontiac running really well, and he’s doing a great job behind the wheel.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, veteran racer Karen Stoffer leads the series standings for the second time in her career. Her GEICO Powersports Suzuki has been extremely consistent, as the Nevada racer has posted two runner-up finishes and a semifinal effort in three races.
“The team is just jelling really well,” said Stoffer, one of 11 females to have won an NHRA national event. “We’ve put a lot of coins in the bad luck jar over the past year and now we’re moving them back to the good luck side of the jar.”
A host of riders will challenge her for the top spot over the last few regular season races, including three-time world champ Andrew Hines, ’09 champ Eddie Krawiec and last year’s champ LE Tonglet. While all three of those riders have posted victories so far this season, Tonglet has been quick on his Nitro Fish Suzuki and also claimed two No. 1 qualifying positions.
“The bike is running phenomenally right now,” Tonglet said. “It’s just a matter of me getting good reaction times.”
NEW YORK’S VINCENT NOBILE ENJOYING FAST START TO ROOKIE SEASON; HEADS HOME TO RACEWAY PARK LOOKING FOR MORE SUCCESS
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. – A fast-talking 19-year-old New Yorker has quickly gained a reputation as a fast leaver in NHRA Pro Stock competition in 2011, and as the regular season hits its midpoint, second generation racer Vincent Nobile has already adjusted his goals for the season in one of motorsports’ toughest divisions.
His lighting quick reflexes on the starting line have already pushed him and his Nick Misos-owned Mountain View Tire Dodge Avenger into the winner’s circle in Houston and final round appearances at two other races.
As he heads to his home track, historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park for the NHRA SuperNationals June 2-5, Nobile is excited about the prospect of winning in front of the large group of supporters he will have on hand. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Michael Phillips (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN2 HD.
There are no easy rounds.
“I can’t wait for that,” said Nobile, who grew up in Melville, N.Y. “All of my family will be there and I hope to make them proud. We’ll have about 50 extra people there and hopefully we can do well for them. It will be a lot of fun. We would like to qualify in the top half and hopefully go a few rounds. Our goal is to win every race. Winning any race is good, but winning that race (at Englishtown) would be extra special to me just because my whole family will be there to witness it.”
Many drivers credit his young age or the fact that he grew up in a video game generation for his starting line advantage, but Nobile says there is really no secret to his consistent quick starts.
“One of the biggest aspects of this deal is cutting a good reaction time,” Nobile explained. “If you are late, you are going to lose. For some reason, I just have a quick reaction. I don’t do anything any differently than any other driver. I see yellow and let go of the clutch. It’s pure concentration. You are not thinking anything else except hitting your shift points on time and doing a perfect burnout. You can’t give anything up it is so competitive.”
One of several drivers eligible for the prestigious $20,000 Auto Club Road to the Future Award this season which recognizes and rewards NHRA’s top performing rookie, Nobile says he has slightly altered his game plan from the beginning of the season given his solid start. With a win in Houston and runner-up finish in Las Vegas and final round appearance in the VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Nobile holds down the sixth position in the series point standings at the regular season midpoint.
“My main goal at the beginning of the season was to just qualify and win a race,” Nobile said. “I would really like to win rookie of the year. We’ll take it one race at a time and see what happens come the Countdown (to the Championship, NHRA playoffs) if we make it in the top 10.”
After Nobile’s historic victory in Houston where he became the youngest driver to win an NHRA Pro Stock race, his father, John was extremely emotional. John is a veteran Pro Stock racer who competed in NHRA for many seasons without a victory or even a final round appearance. Young Vincent would come to the races with his dad and watch and help out as he grew older. John says Vincent always told him he could be a good driver if given the chance.
“My father is my biggest influence,” the younger Nobile said. “If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be where I am at today. I grew up watching him and I owe everything to him. I am not really surprised at how well we are doing because I knew I had such a great team behind me and we have great horsepower from Allen Johnson and his father Roy and a great car. I knew we would do well; I didn’t know we’d do this well, but I am just taking it all in. The best part of my Houston win was making my team owner Nick Mitsos happy and seeing my father cry at the top end because he was so proud.”
Many veteran drivers have said Vincent is the real deal for the category and have high expectations for him. However, Vincent knows it will take hard work and determination if he is going to join the exclusive club of rookie drivers who also claimed a world championship trophy in their first year. LE Tonglet did it last year to join Gary Scelzi and Frank Hawley as the only drivers in NHRA history to accomplish the feat.
To do it, he will have to outperform a host of past champs and a ton of experienced drivers in his category, including current series leader Jason Line, who has three wins this season, and defending world champion Greg Anderson, along with Edwards, Greg Stanfield, Allen Johnson, Erica Enders, Shane Gray and many more.
“Every driver and every team out here is excellent,” Nobile said. “There are no easy rounds. If you are the No. 1 qualifier then the No. 16 car has a chance to beat you, so every time you go to the line on Sunday you need to give it your all.”
In Top Fuel, Del Worsham leads the way with three victories behind the wheel of his Al-Anabi Racing dragster. His teammate, defending world champion Dixon, is a six-time winner at Raceway Park. Topeka winner Spencer Massey, New Jersey native Antron Brown and Lucas Oil dragster driver Morgan Lucas have all won races this season in the ultra competitive class. Former Englishtown winners Tony Schumacher and Doug Kalitta also are among the pre-race favorites in the category.
In a class that could see a milestone three-second performance given the right weather conditions during the weekend, Mike Neff holds the series lead in Funny Car. His teammate, Robert Hight, has won three races so far in his Auto Club Ford Mustang while Jack Beckman is a two-time winner in his Aaron’s/Valvoline Dodge Charger. Other pre-race favorites in the 7,000 horsepower category include two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon, a two-time winner at Raceway Park, and Virginia cattle rancher Matt Hagan, who holds the national record at 4.011 seconds in his DieHard Dodge Charger.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Karen Stoffer holds the series lead on her GEICO Powersports Suzuki with two runner-up finishes and one semifinal effort. Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec are both at the top of the standings on their Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidsons, while defending world champ LE Tonglet has posted one win and two top qualifying efforts on his Nitro Fish Suzuki.
NHRA SUPERNATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 42nd annual NHRA SuperNationals, the eighth of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. 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. NHRA is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2011 and will pay tribute to the evolution of the hot rod and honor its legendary racers as well as the sport’s current stars.
WHERE: Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, Englishtown, N.J. From the North, take N.J. Turnpike South to Exit 9, follow the signs to Rt. 18 South. Go six miles to the Englishtown exit. Take Rt. 527 South five miles. Make a left onto Pension Rd. Go ¼ mile, track entrance on left.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, June 2-5
THURSDAY, June 2 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 10:15 a.m.
FRIDAY, June 3 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 10:15 a.m.
GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 3:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 3:45 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, June 4 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations continue at 10:15 a.m.
GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 1:45 p.m.; first round of eliminations begins at 4:15 p.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at noon and 2:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, June 5 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, June 4, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, June 5, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two and a half hours of eliminations coverage starting at 4:30 p.m. (ET).
2010 EVENT WINNERS: Larry Dixon, Top Fuel; Bob Tasca, Funny Car; Mike Edwards, Pro Stock; Michael Phillips, Pro Stock Motorcycle
MOST VICTORIES: Kenny Bernstein, 7, (4 FC, 3 TF); Joe Amato, 6, TF; Larry Dixon, 6, TF; Don Prudhomme, 6, FC.
Top Fuel – 3.752 seconds by Cory McClenathan, June ’10; 324.75 mph by McClenathan, June ’10.
Funny Car – 4.025 seconds by Robert Hight, June ’10; 313.73 mph by John Force, June ’10.
Pro Stock – 6.513 seconds by Mike Edwards, June ’10; 211.49 mph by Edwards, June ’10.
PS Motorcycle – 6.855 seconds by Michael Phillips, June ’10; 197.16 mph by Phillips, June ’10.
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.; 316.38 mph by Ashley Force Hood, March ’10, 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: Order tickets by phone at (732) 446-7800. Tickets also are available online at www.racewaypark.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 access areas each day.
RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) – Friday: Adult, $42-$44; Junior (6-12 years), $15-$20; Child (5 years and under), $5-$10. Saturday: Adult, $54-$59; Junior (6-12 years), $15-$22; Child (5 years and under), $5-$12. Sunday: Adult, $54-$60; Junior (6-12 years), $15-$25; Child (5 years and under), $5-$15.