MOHNTON, Pa.- Maple Grove Raceway has always been a track that puts a gleam in the eyes of many NHRA competitors. The track is located in the middle of thousands of oxygen-producing trees. The location is nearly at sea level and the time of year...
MOHNTON, Pa.- Maple Grove Raceway has always been a track that puts a gleam in the eyes of many NHRA competitors. The track is located in the middle of thousands of oxygen-producing trees. The location is nearly at sea level and the time of year is conducive to cooler weather conditions.
That was the scenario for the original race date, Sept. 11-14. Persistent rain forced NHRA officials to postpone the event. The Lucas Oil Nationals will be back in eastern Pennsylvania this weekend in hopes of finishing what the NHRA started in September.
Imagine what three weeks can do, as summer is finally pushed aside for the cooler, fall conditions.
"I think if the weather holds as is predicted (high between 60-64 degrees all weekend) then we could see some 6.60-second runs in Pro Stock again. It could be just like Englishtown (N.J.) again," said Pro Stock record-holder Greg Anderson. "Maple Grove is a fast track and we could see some real quick times. I am not going to go as far as to say that I am expecting record times, but it could be very close and especially in Pro Stock, it all depends on the weather."
All four professional classes will be checking the weather as they make their way back to Maple Grove Raceway for the 18th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Oct. 3-5. Doug Kalitta, Tony Pedregon, Jim Yates and Angelle Savoie are the defending winners of the $1.9 million race, the 20th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
The times from the first qualifying session held in September will stand. The professional racers will get two more chances to qualify on Saturday. Final eliminations will start at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
Anderson is the Pro Stock points leader and holds both ends of the Pro Stock record. He drove to the record in May, during the Englishtown race, going 6.670 seconds at 207.18 mph. While Anderson isn't expecting to produce record performances, he is looking forward to making the attempt. So will some fellow competitors. Kurt Johnson, Anderson's biggest threat to the Pro Stock championship, is one of the many drivers who have not qualified after one round.
"We feel that we have made some gains in the motor department so if we run into the same conditions as when we set the record, it's possible that we could run just as good, if not a little better," Anderson said. "I thought the record might actually hold for a while, but I didn't think we'd be coming back to Reading already. Jeg Coughlin and Kurt Johnson are running real good and they have enough power to get the record too. I guess I will have to be on my best game and coming out blazing for some quick times."
One driver in particular might be a little more anxious to get back to Maple Grove Raceway. Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher recorded the fourth-quickest pass in NHRA history, a 4.465 in the U.S. Army dragster, during the night qualifying session that was held before the rain postponed the event. Schumacher needs to clock a 4.509 or quicker to back the run up within 1 percent to set the national record, which was threatened in Chicago by three drivers.
"I'm certainly thinking of that. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't," Schumacher said. "The record would be outstanding, but my ultimate goal is to win the race for the U.S. Army team."
In Top Fuel, defending event champion Kalitta, who posted the quickest run in history last week at Chicago with a 4.428-second run, is not qualified. He may not be qualified after one round, but if anyone can get qualified, certainly the quickest car in NHRA history has a shot of getting in the field, and setting the record as well.
Funny Car driver Gary Scelzi holds the speed record after he recorded a 329.18 pass in September at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill. Scelzi isn't convinced the nitro speed records can be touched. Ron Capps and Scotty Cannon join Scelzi as the only three Funny Car drivers not in the field yet.
"Cold weather makes up for a lot of things, but I am not sure if that track can hold anything faster than what we saw during the first qualifying sessions," Scelzi said. "Cool weather is great for the cars and Zippy (crew chief Mike Neff) has impressed me from the first day we started testing, so we'll just have to see what the weather brings."
Three-time Pro Stock Bike champion Angelle Savoie joins a host of riders who are not qualified yet as well as Andrew Hines and Steve Johnson. This weekend could present the two-wheel class with its best opportunity to win $10,000 to the first member of the Mickey Thompson 6-second club. The first run of 6.999-seconds or quicker will earn the cash bonus.
* SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying will continue at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 4. Final professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Oct. 5.
* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 19th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Call (610) 856-7200, or visit maplegroveraceway.com. Tickets from Sept. 13 will be honored Oct. 4. Tickets for Sept. 14 will be honored on Oct. 5.
* TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise one hour of highlights at 5 p.m. (ET) on Oct. 12. ESPN2 will televise NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute magazine show, at 11 a.m. (ET) on Oct. 5.
* ON THE WEB: NHRA news, photos and driver information available at www.nhra.com.