Texas Motorplex pre-event notes

TEXAS MOTORPLEX READIES FOR ULTRA-QUICK SHOOTOUT FOR NHRA CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS ENNIS, Texas (Sept. 10, 2006) -- When people come to Texas, they expect big things. The state is big. The signs are big. The drinks are big. The Texas Motorplex, ...

TEXAS MOTORPLEX READIES FOR ULTRA-QUICK SHOOTOUT FOR NHRA CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

ENNIS, Texas (Sept. 10, 2006) -- When people come to Texas, they expect big things. The state is big. The signs are big. The drinks are big. The Texas Motorplex, however, is one giant contradiction.

The Texas Motorplex was one of the first super-stadiums in drag racing. It continues to host the O'Reilly Fall NHRA Nationals on the only all-concrete quarter-mile surface on the tour. It's big. Really big.

The margin for error is, well, small.

Not only is the event on one of the quickest surfaces on the tour, it's also toward the end of the season. Champions have been crowned at the Texas Motorplex. Championship hunters have lost all hope at the Motorplex. This year, the Motorplex plays host to its annual NHRA event on Sept. 21-24. As the 20th stop on the 23-race tour, the Texas Motorplex has been the place to make or break a season.

John Force knows all about the Texas Motorplex and what it can do to make a season go from good to great. Force, the all-time leader in NHRA victories, is a 13-time Funny Car champion. Force has earned 121 wins in his career and seven of them have been earned in his Castrol Start Up GTX Ford Mustang at the Motorplex. Force is 47-13 at the Motorplex in 19 starts. So he knows a thing or two about the facility.

"We've got lots of great stadiums, but the Motorplex, even though it's not as new as Chicago or the great Bruton Smith-owned Las Vegas or Bristol (Tenn.) tracks, is still my favorite because it's all concrete," Force said. "(Motorplex owner) Billy Meyer was a racer so he built the track for racers. If the weather's right, there's no better track out there. Bottom line, you can give it all you got -- and the track will take it."

Force beat Frank Pedregon in the Funny Car finals in 2005. He finished third in the final point standings. After 18 NHRA POWERade races so far in 2006, Force heads to the Motorplex in second place of the Funny Car standings, less than a round out of first place.

Greg Anderson knows a thing or two about the Motorplex too, setting his fair share of NHRA records throughout his career. The three-time NHRA Pro Stock champion became the all-time leader in wins in a season (15) in 2004. He has 40 career wins behind the wheel of his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GTO, including the 2005 Texas Motorplex win. He beat teammate Jason Line in the Pro Stock final round last season en route to his third title. Right now, Line is first in the point standings while Anderson is just behind him in second place.

"The Texas Motorplex is so fast and it can be the boost you're looking going into the final part of the season," Anderson said. "We clinched a championship title there and it was the best feeling you can have. But we've also lost in the first round there and that was awful because we knew we didn't take advantage of the track. The Motorplex is just above sea level and combined with the concrete surface, it can be a racer's dream facility if the weather's right."

The 2005 Top Fuel showdown between Tony Schumacher and Doug Herbert ended with a Schumacher victory in the U.S. Army dragster en route to his second consecutive NHRA Top Fuel championship and third title overall.

"The Texas Motorplex continues to be one of the premier tracks in the country," General Manager Arthur O'Bright said. "The fans come back every year because they know they are going to see the quickest and fastest racing possible. It's great competition every year and championships are always on the line.

"When Billy Meyer built this in 1986 he had a specific vision in mind. He wanted to cater to drag racers and drag racing fans. More than 20 years later, we still do that."

In 1986 Darrell Gwynn ran a 5.280 pass to open the Motorplex and set the Top Fuel elapsed time record. Eddie Hill recorded the first four-second pass (a 4.990) there in 1988. Cory McClenathan drove his Top Fuel dragster to the speed record -- a 321.77 -- in 1997, just to name a few. In short, Texas Motorplex fans have seen plenty of big records throughout the years.

"Fans know that when they come to the Motorplex, there is a chance they will see racing history," O'Bright said. "It's the highlight on our racing schedule and it's something everyone looks forward to every year. A win in Texas at the end of the season is big for any racer."

Sportsman qualifying begins at 10 a.m. on Sept. 21. The first of four rounds of professional qualifying is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Sept. 22, continuing at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying wraps up with sessions at noon and 3 p.m. on Sept. 23. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sept. 24.

Tickets for all four days of racing can be purchased by phone at 800-MOTORPLEX (688-6775) or at the track.

-credit: tm

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Frank Pedregon , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Cory McClenathan , Darrell Gwynn , Jason Line