COMPETITION WILL BE INTENSE AS NHRA FULL THROTTLE SERIES DRIVERS SEEK TITLE OF FIRST FOUR-WIDE WINNERS IN NHRA HISTORY CONCORD, N.C. - There's a first time for everything. However, in the world of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing...
COMPETITION WILL BE INTENSE AS NHRA FULL THROTTLE SERIES DRIVERS SEEK TITLE OF FIRST FOUR-WIDE WINNERS IN NHRA HISTORY
CONCORD, N.C. - There's a first time for everything.
However, in the world of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, those milestone opportunities come and go at rapid speed, often at more than 320 mph. Those drivers who are able to break through and become the first to accomplish a feat are long-remembered for their achievements.
Drag racing fans remember Kenny Bernstein as the first to eclipse the 300-mph barrier in official NHRA competition. Shirley Muldowney achieved legendary status for becoming the first female to win an NHRA Top Fuel race and world championship crown. Pro Stock legend Warren Johnson was the first to post a 200-mph speed in his category. Two years ago 14-time Funny Car champ John Force became the first driver to record 1,000 round wins in NHRA competition. Earlier that same year he watched his daughter Ashley become the first female to win a Funny Car race.
So now, the big question looms as to who will be the first drivers to win four-wide races in their respective categories?
The inaugural NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, one of the most anticipated NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events in NHRA history, will be held at the spectacular zMAX Dragway, March 25-28. The track is the only drag racing facility in the world to feature four all-concrete lanes for racing. The historic race will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD.
Not only is a solid place in the record books waiting for the four winners of the inaugural NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, but also critical NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championship points will be up for grabs. This is no exhibition. This event will be important for teams who are working to position themselves for a strong finish in the Countdown to 10, NHRA's 17-race regular season.
In Top Fuel, seven-time defending world champ Tony Schumacher moved back into the series lead with a victory at the tradition-rich Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals two weeks ago in Florida. The U.S. Army dragster driver will certainly be one of the favorites for this event, along with teammate and driver of the FRAM dragster, Cory McClenathan. Schumacher's arch-rival, Al-Anabi Racing's Larry Dixon, also will be a major threat to win the race, as will Matco Tools dragster pilot Antron Brown, runner-up at the Gatornationals. Others to watch include Doug Kalitta, who has advanced to two finals in three races this year, Brandon Bernstein, Morgan Lucas, Shawn Langdon and upset-minded Steve Torrence.
Force comes into the event as the Funny Car series leader based on a victory at the season-opening 50th Winternationals and a runner-up finish in Phoenix. The 60-year-old Funny Car icon is back on his game and will be hungry to win at his old pal Bruton Smith's "Bellagio" of drag strips. His daughter Ashley Force Hood finished second in the series standings last year and will be in the hunt to get her season on track after a slow start has her mired in ninth place. Defending world champ Robert Hight also will be in the mix in his Auto Club Ford Mustang, as will veteran driver Ron Capps in his NAPA Dodge Charger, second-year star Matt Hagan, who set the national speed record at 316.15 mph in Florida in his DieHard Charger, and Gainesville winner Tim Wilkerson, driver of the Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang, and one of the hardest working drivers in the business.
Defending Pro Stock world champ Mike Edwards continues to be the class of the field in his category. He has two victories, a runner-up finish and three No. 1 qualifying performances in three races this season and has built a 132-point lead over the second place driver in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP. North Carolina resident Jason Line and his teammate Greg Anderson will be Edwards' toughest competition in their identically-prepared Summit Racing GXPs. Line used a holeshot start at the last race to snag the victory away from Edwards in the final round. Other favorites in the category include Tennessee's Allen Johnson, who has posted three semifinal finishes in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger, four-time world champ Jeg Coughlin, who drives the JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt, and the always-tough Greg Stanfield, who can run with anyone in his NitroFish Gear GXP.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, 2008 world champ Eddie Krawiec opened the season with a victory at the Gatornationals aboard his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. His final round opponent was surprising Shawn Gann, who hadn't advanced to a final round since the 2004 season. Meanwhile, Karen Stoffer powered her GEICO Powersports Suzuki to the No. 1 qualifying position and the national E.T. record with an amazing 6.847-second run during the first round of eliminations. Defending world champ Hector Arana is currently fourth on his Lucas Oil Buell, while new Don Schumacher Racing rider Craig Treble anchors fifth place on his Valvoline Motorcycle Oils Suzuki. The King, N.C.-based husband and wife tandem of Matt and Angie Smith will be huge favorites among the Carolina locals.
* FOUR-WIDE RULES BREAKDOWN: Lanes will be identified from left to right facing downtrack as 1-4; Qualifying sessions and elimination rounds will be conducted using all four lanes; The standard Friday qualifying procedure of a top 12 format will not be in use at this event; 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).
* SCHEDULE: Full Throttle Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:15 and 3:45 p.m. on March 26 and 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. on March 27. Final eliminations begin at noon on Sunday, March 28.
* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the inaugural NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. Call zMAX Dragway at (800) 455-3267 or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com to purchase tickets.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 9 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, March 27. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute pre-race show, at 10 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, March 28. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours and 30 minutes of eliminations coverage beginning at 5 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, March 28.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The inaugural NHRA Four-Wide Nationals also will feature competition in six categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Series earn their racing stripes. All Lucas Oil Series competition at this event will be conducted in the traditional two-lane format. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 9 a.m. on March 25. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8:30 a.m. on March 26.