DRIVERS EYE LAST CHANCE TO MAKE COUNTDOWN AS EXCITEMENT BUILDS FOR FANS READING, Pa. -- Having the idyllic East Coast countryside of Pennsylvania play host to the NHRA POWERade Series' 7,000-horsepower fuel cars serves as a perfectly symbolic ...
DRIVERS EYE LAST CHANCE TO MAKE COUNTDOWN AS EXCITEMENT BUILDS FOR FANS
READING, Pa. -- Having the idyllic East Coast countryside of Pennsylvania play host to the NHRA POWERade Series' 7,000-horsepower fuel cars serves as a perfectly symbolic juxtaposition of calm and chaos as this will be the site where good friends and even family members may find themselves in a win-or-go-home drag race for the final playoff spot in the Countdown to the Championship.
The 17-race Countdown to the Championship regular season comes to a close Aug. 16-19 at Maple Grove Raceway, site of the 23rd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals, the 17th of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season. At the conclusion of the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals, only the top eight drivers in each category (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle) will remain eligible to win POWERade Series championships; that field will be reduced again, to four, after Race 21 in Richmond, Va.; and from that select group of four in each pro category, after Race 23 in Pomona, Calif., will emerge the 2007 POWERade Series world champions.
As any driver will tell you, pressure that comes with watching every point is crushing.
"(The Countdown to the Championship) has definitely increased the intensity of the season," said Del Worsham, who after Brainerd was sitting 84 points behind innovative privateer Jim Head, who is holding on to the bump spot at No. 8. "We're already halfway through the season. I already feel like it's the last race of the season. We're fighting for our Top 10 spot. We're watching the points very close in mid-season when we normally wouldn't. And every single round feels like a final round now, that's just the way we have to take it."
Going into the final race of the regular season, only one spot remains in Funny Car and five spots are open in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Two spots remain in Top Fuel and three in Pro Stock.
It is the last chance for Worsham and Tommy Johnson Jr. at Reading. For Top Fuel's Dave Grubnic, it's all about hanging on. Grubnic is No.8 in the standings, just points away from being knocked out by Melanie Troxel, Cory McClenathan, Doug Herbert, and Grubnic's teammates Doug Kalitta and Hillary Will. Kalitta is tied for 12th, 61 points behind Grubnic.
"We definitely have to be on our game," Grubnic said. "We have to go out there and perform well. And (the Countdown has) definitely made it a lot more exciting, whereas normally we'd sort of wait until we got close down to the end of the year or even in this position, my position, we may have been looking down the barrel and not have had a very good chance at this championship unless we would have had a severe miracle where I would have won every race.
"But at least with (the Countdown to the Championship) it does open it up for guys like myself. So I'm definitely looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to the next two events, that's for sure."
In Pro Stock seven drivers are battling for the final three positions. Kurt and Warren Johnson and Larry Morgan currently hold the three final spots, but Jim Yates, Vieri Gaines and Richie Stevens are in position to move into one of the spots with a successful run at Reading. In Pro Stock Motorcycle five spots are open, but Karen Stoffer and Chip Ellis appear to be in good position to secure their spots in Reading. Which leaves two positions up for grabs that are currently occupied by Craig Treble, Peggy Llewellyn and Eddie Krawiec. Steve Johnson, Chris Rivas and Antron Brown are outside the top eight looking to earn a spot with a solid performance at Maple Grove.
SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3 and 6 p.m. on Aug. 17, and 11 and 2 p.m. on Aug. 18. Pre-race ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. on Aug. 19, followed by the first round of professional eliminations at 11 a.m.
TICKETS: For tickets, call (610) 856-7200.
ON TV: On Aug. 18, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying at 6 p.m. (ET). On Aug. 19, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will telecast NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute pre-race show, at 11 a.m. (ET) and televise three hours of eliminations at 10 p.m. (ET).