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Charlotte

NHRA Top Fuel Driver Antron Brown Ready For ‘The Ultimate Throwdown’ At Visitmyrtlebeach.Com Four-Wide Nationals

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The phrase “business as usual” isn’t something you’ll hear many NHRA Full Throttle Series drivers say very often when the circuit visits Bruton Smith’s state-of-the-art zMAX Dragway this weekend.

While just about everything about the VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA Four-Wide Nationals remains routine for the crew members who service the cars between rounds, the drivers are required to make a bit of an adjustment for competing in the unique format.

Antron Brown, pilot of the Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster
Antron Brown, pilot of the Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster

Photo by: Ted Rossino

From inside the cockpit, the resulting 28,000 horsepower eruption on each run requires a distinctive focus.

“Racing four-wide is just an incredible experience,” Top Fuel driver Antron Brown says of the April 14-17 event which will be televised on ESPN2 HD. “It is intense and action-packed.

“It’s the ultimate throwdown.”

In the inaugural running of the event last year, Brown advanced to the final round and finished third behind winner Cory McClenathan and second-place Doug Kalitta. Brown edged fourth-place Doug Herbert in the final. In one of the special twists offered only by Four-Wide racing, Brown actually finished in front of local favorite Herbert in all three rounds of racing during eliminations. In the first two rounds of competition, the two quickest finishers in each elimination set advance to the next round. In the final, the drivers place in order as they cross the finish line.

“If you make it to the final in the four-wide race like we did last year, then you have the top four gladiators of the event all racing at the same time,” Brown said. “Last year I got my butt whipped in the final. But we licked our wounds and we’ll try to win it this time around.”

Brown says all Top Fuel drivers must alter their usual race strategies just a little bit.

“Instead of one driver you have to focus on three other opponents in each round,” he said. “You have to look at everybody you are racing and their performances over the weekend and you can’t race on the strategy of trying to go quicker than your one opponent. You have to go out there and give the track all it can handle and you have to hit it hard because you know those three other guys are going to do the same thing. It’s definitely a rush.”

We’re still hungry to go out and prove that we can win again.

Antron Brown

After winning in Las Vegas two weeks ago Brown is ready to continue to build on his position in the point standings. He’s currently second overall, eight points behind series leader Del Worsham. In addition to Worsham, a strong cast of Top Fuel challengers awaits him at the event, including defending world champ Larry Dixon, seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, Winternationals winner Morgan Lucas, Las Vegas runner-up Brandon Bernstein and Spencer Massey, who is the new driver for the Prestone/FRAM dragster that won the event last year.

Brown says his Matco Tools dragster team will be ready for the challenge.

“We’ve got some momentum from Las Vegas but Charlotte is a brand new race,” Brown said. “We’re still hungry to go out and prove that we can win again. We’re ready to go out there and work hard and try to win another race.”

In Funny Car, the John Force Racing team has a stronghold on the category, as they have won the last five races in a row, dating back to the final two events of the 2010 season. Series leader Robert Hight has won two of three races this season in his Auto Club Ford Mustang and teammate Mike Neff pulled double duty as driver and crew chief in his Gatornationals victory. Team leader John Force, who won the final two races last season to earn his 15th world championship title, is the defending winner of this event and sits ninth in the point standings in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. A strong group of challengers will try to break the Force team streak in North Carolina, including two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon, DieHard Dodge Charger driver Matt Hagan, Las Vegas runner-up Johnny Gray and veteran Ron Capps.

Defending VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Pro Stock winner Mike Edwards has momentum heading into the event as the Oklahoma driver and 2009 world champ ended a dry spell from the winner’s circle with his win two weeks ago in Las Vegas. Local favorites Jason Line, who has claimed two wins in the first three races this season, and defending world champ Greg Anderson will be trying to win for their hometown friends and family in their Summit Racing Pontiac GXPs. Other favorites in the 200 mph category include Greg Stanfield, Erica Enders, world record holder Rodger Brogdon, veteran Allen Johnson and rookie Vincent Nobile, who finished runner-up in Las Vegas.

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MATT HAGAN NOT LOOKING FOR ANOTHER WILD RIDE THIS TIME AT VISITMYRTLEBEACH.COM NHRA FOUR-WIDE NATIONALS

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Matt Hagan figures if he and his DieHard Dodge Charger team can make it through qualifying unscathed during this visit to spectacular zMAX Dragway, his chances for victory in the VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, April 14-17, will greatly increase.

Matt Hagan, Sears DieHard Dodge Charger Funny Car Driver
Matt Hagan, Sears DieHard Dodge Charger Funny Car Driver

Photo by: Ted Rossino

His last two trips to Bruton Smith’s Bellagio of Drag Strips presented some challenges for his team to overcome. At the inaugural Four-Wide Nationals last March, Hagan’s car suffered a massive engine explosion in Saturday’s first qualifying session, sending his car’s carbon fiber body flying into the air in a million little pieces. He was able to wrestle his 7,000 horsepower car to a stop as it veered into the left lane and close to Del Worsham’s machine. In October, another engine explosion on his Dodge flashed through the night as his car streaked down track during Friday evening qualifying.

Hagan, who regrouped with talented crew chief Tommy DeLago and went on to have success in eliminations following both incidents, even advancing to the final round at the Four-Wide Nationals, says he really enjoys racing at zMAX Dragway, but this time around he wants to make the highlight reels for his winner’s circle celebration instead.

“It seems like something always happens to us in Charlotte,” Hagan said. “I’ve got my fingers crossed and my visor pulled down tight this time around. Qualifying seems like the tough thing for us. Last year at the Four-Wide race that was a wild ride. I just thank God that the parachutes pulled us back down quickly. I am thankful for the Safety Safari and all the rules that NHRA has put in place to help out when things go a little crazy like that. These cars are a handful and you have to be on your toes and ready for anything when you’re in the driver’s seat.”

The same driver’s philosophy holds true for racing in the Four-Wide format. Hagan says this event really provides a great challenge to each and every driver in the pits.

“We’re all trained to do everything exactly the same when we go up to the starting line, so when you put in a new wrinkle like that it can throw you off your game a little bit if you are not very focused,” said Hagan of the unique staging routine required when four cars are preparing to launch. “I am sure you are going to see some slower reaction times out of everyone. This race kind of levels the playing field a little bit. You can only worry about your own car and try to have the best reaction time and make the fastest run that you can. Sometimes we all get caught up in racing our opponents and not the track. At this event you can’t worry about the other three cars beside you. You have to race your own lane and focus only on what you are doing.”

And speaking of opponents, several drivers are revealing themselves as challengers for the Funny Car world championship title this year. Last season Hagan battled John Force down to the wire and ultimately finished in second place in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.

While defending Four-Wide winner Force and Hagan were the pre-season favorites for many prognosticators, two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon, Gatornationals winner Mike Neff, ’09 world champ and Las Vegas winner Robert Hight and a trio of Hagan’s teammates including Las Vegas runner-up Johnny Gray, drag racing instructor and past Charlotte winner Jack Beckman and veteran Ron Capps, are all proving to be consistent threats to win races and the series title.

You have to race your own lane and focus only on what you are doing.

Matt Hagan

“It’s going to be a fight all year long, not just in the Countdown,” Hagan said. “It amazes me how these crew chiefs are able to tune these cars to run so close together in performance. There’s definitely no gimmies out here and plenty of competition to go around.”

After going to the wire with the legendary Force last year, third-year driver Hagan says he has seen quite a boost in his fan club this season.

“I enjoy getting out there in the pits, signing autographs and talking to all the fans every weekend,” Hagan said. “I am still a young guy in the sport, but it seems like there’s a lot more fans rooting for us this year, which is nice. A lot of the fans who come over to visit with us have farms or are into farming, so sometimes I talk more about farming at the track more than I talk about racing. It’s pretty cool.”

Hagan, who spends his time away from racing working on his cattle ranch in Christiansburg, Va., says he considers zMAX Dragway, along with Bristol Dragway, as his two home tracks on the circuit.

“zMAX is such a great place to race,” Hagan said. “We always enjoy racing at Bruton Smith tracks. I am going to have a lot of family and friends come out for that race so I am excited and looking forward to having a good weekend.”

In Top Fuel, longtime Funny Car ace Del Worsham leads the point standings in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster, while recent Las Vegas winner Antron Brown has the momentum heading into a race where he advanced to the final round one year ago. Multi-time world champs Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon are focused on placing a notch in their respective win columns this weekend, while young guns Spencer Massey, Morgan Lucas, Shawn Langdon and Brandon Bernstein are all among the pre-race favorites to win.

Defending VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Pro Stock winner Mike Edwards has momentum heading into the event as the Oklahoma driver and 2009 world champ ended a dry spell from the winner’s circle with his win two weeks ago in Las Vegas. Local favorites Jason Line, who has claimed two wins in the first three races this season, and defending world champ Greg Anderson will be trying to win for their hometown friends and family in their Summit Racing Pontiac GXPs. Other favorites in the 200 mph category include Greg Stanfield, Erica Enders, world record holder Rodger Brogdon, veteran Allen Johnson and rookie Vincent Nobile, who finished runner-up in Las Vegas.

* SCHEDULE: Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 and 4 p.m. on Friday, April 15 and 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 16. Final eliminations begin at noon on Sunday, April 17.

* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. Call zMAX Dragway at (800) 455-3267 or visit www.zmaxdragway.com.

* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 6 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, April 16. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage beginning at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 17.

* FORMAT: Qualifying sessions and elimination rounds will be conducted using four lanes in the three Full Throttle Series classes; Lanes will be identified from left to right facing downtrack as 1-4; The standard Friday qualifying procedure of a top 12 format will not be in use; Two Christmas trees will be in use, one between each two lanes; The Compulink Autostart system will continue to be utilized and it will not activate until all four vehicles are pre-staged and one vehicle has staged; The ladder structure will feature Race A: qualifiers 1, 8, 9, 16, Race B: qualifiers 4, 5, 12, 13, Race C: qualifiers 2, 7, 10, 15, and Race D: qualifiers 3, 6, 11, 14; Race A and Race B will be on one side of the ladder, while Race C and Race D will be on the other; Lane choice for eliminations goes to the driver with the quickest E.T., then the second-quickest, and so on; The first two drivers in each elimination round to cross the finish line advance to the second round and final; In the final round, teams will finish in the order they cross the finish line (barring any red-light starts), with winner, runner-up and two semifinalists in that order.

* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The SummitRacing VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA Four-Wide Nationals also will feature competition in seven categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Series gain experience. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 9 a.m. on April 14. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8:30 a.m. on April 15 and continue through April 17.

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VISITMYRTLEBEACH.COM NHRA FOUR-WIDE NATIONALS FACT SHEET

WHAT: Second annual VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, the fourth of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock - 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: zMAX Dragway- Track is located on Hwy 29 off I-85 at exit 49 (Speedway Blvd.) in the Concord, N.C. area.

WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, April 14-17

FORMAT: Qualifying sessions and elimination rounds will be conducted using four lanes in the three Full Throttle Series classes; Lanes will be identified from left to right facing downtrack as 1-4; The standard Friday qualifying procedure of a top 12 format will not be in use; Two Christmas trees will be in use, one between each two lanes; The Compulink Autostart system will continue to be utilized and it will not activate until all four vehicles are pre-staged and one vehicle has staged; The ladder structure will feature Race A: qualifiers 1, 8, 9, 16, Race B: qualifiers 4, 5, 12, 13, Race C: qualifiers 2, 7, 10, 15, and Race D: qualifiers 3, 6, 11, 14; Race A and Race B will be on one side of the ladder, while Race C and Race D will be on the other; Lane choice for eliminations goes to the driver with the quickest E.T., then the second-quickest, and so on; The first two drivers in each elimination round to cross the finish line advance to the second round and final; In the final round, teams will finish in the order they cross the finish line (barring any red-light starts), with winner, runner-up and two semifinalists in that order.

SCHEDULE:

THURSDAY, April 14 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying begins at 9 a.m.

FRIDAY, April 15 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begins at 8:30 a.m.

FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.

SATURDAY, April 16 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 8:30 a.m.

FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

SUNDAY, April 17 - Pre-race ceremonies, 11 a.m.

FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at noon

TELEVISION:

Saturday, April 16, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 6 p.m. (ET).

Sunday, April 17, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).

2010 WINNERS: Cory McClenathan, Top Fuel; John Force, Funny Car; Mike Edwards, Pro Stock.

TRACK RECORDS:

Top Fuel - 3.790 seconds by Cory McClenathan, March ’10; 321.12 mph by McClenathan, Sept. ’10

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

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

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.; 316.38 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.

-source: nhra

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Series NHRA
Tags charlotte, four-wide, full throttle, funny car, pro stock, top fuel