NHRA Atlanta round six preview

Atlanta Dragway

CLOSE FINISHES EXPECTED TO CONTINUE IN VERY TIGHT PRO STOCK CLASS AS NHRA FULL THROTTLE SERIES HEADS TO ATLANTA DRAGWAY

Atlanta Dragway Southern Nationals
Atlanta Dragway Southern Nationals

Photo by: Bob Harmeyer

COMMERCE, Ga. – The final round thriller between rookie Vincent Nobile and Rodger Brogdon two weeks ago in Houston continued to support the claim that the extremely close side-by-side racing in NHRA’s 200 mph Pro Stock category is as good as it gets in motorsports.

From the first qualifying run to the last pass in eliminations, NHRA Pro Stock racing has proven to be as cutthroat as it gets in the world of auto racing, as winning or losing is often decided by less than a thousandth of a second.

Second-generation racer Nobile beat Brogdon by a margin of .0016 of a second, which translates to a little less than six inches with both cars moving at that speed. Brogdon was confident he had enough in the performance tank to get his first victory, but Nobile had other plans and held him off in a very close photo finish.

Fans attending the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, May 13-15 at Atlanta Dragway can expect the same kind of doorhandle-to-doorhandle racing from the NHRA’s factory hot rod division when the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series rolls into North Georgia for the sixth race of the season. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending event winners. The “Professor” of Pro Stock, five-time event winner Warren Johnson from nearby Buford, Ga., who has six world championship titles to his credit along with 97 career victories, will compete in the event and be honored as the official NHRA Legend of the event as part of NHRA’s 60th anniversary celebration.

As Brogdon now understands all too well, just thinking you have a winning hand ultimately doesn’t get the job done at the end of the day in this high-stakes category of racing. Brogdon’s near-perfect reaction time of .009 was bettered by Nobile’s stellar .007 start. Even though Brogdon’s Racers Edge Pontiac GXP was a tick quicker all the way down the track, Nobile’s fast start at the green light made the difference at the end.

“If I offered a bet to 1,000 drag racing fans that gave them a .009 (reaction time) and the third quickest run of the day in the final round, virtually every one of them would take that bet; hell I would take that bet,” Brogdon said. “(At Houston) unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough. Nobile and the Mountain View Tire guys gave us all a race that we’ll still be talking about when the season is over with.”

Nobile, the 19-year-old sensation from New York who has advanced to three final rounds in the first five races and certainly has emerged as one of the frontrunners for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award if not the world championship, has been extremely quick behind the wheel of his Nick Mitsos-owned Mountain View Tire Dodge Avenger. The son of veteran driver John Nobile, Vincent grew up around the sport and is well versed in the nature of the class.

“It’s crazy how competitive Pro Stock is,” the younger Nobile said. “Every driver is great out here. There are no easy rounds.”

As tough as the competition is right now, you have to have the complete package.

Greg Anderson

Four-time Pro Stock world champ Greg Anderson, who drives the Summit Racing Pontiac GXP and is a three-time winner at Atlanta Dragway, says the category has evolved to the point where just having the fastest car isn’t enough.

“As tough as the competition is right now, you have to have the complete package,” Anderson said. “You’re not going to win because you have more horsepower, or a better car set-up, or even a better driver. You have to put all three together it you want to get the Wally, with no room for error.”

Once dominated by the likes of Bob Glidden, Lee Shepherd, Johnson and most recently by the Summit Racing tandem of Anderson and Jason Line, NHRA Pro Stock racing these days is proving to be filled with quite a bit of parity. In five races so far, there have been five different No. 1 qualifiers and four different winners. Line is the only driver who has repeated a victory, winning the first two races of the season. The 2006 world champ says there are so many factors at play during eliminations and each particular race that winning races these days is a tough chore.

“There really is no set way to win one of these races, as the circumstances are constantly changing,” said Line, a former NASCAR engine builder for Joe Gibbs Racing. “Sometimes you have to win with your right foot using all the power at your disposal, other times you have to win with your left foot, leaving the starting line first, while on occasion it just comes down to luck. In any case, it all comes down to doing a better job than your competitors adapting to the racetrack and the conditions.”

Other drivers to watch in Pro Stock include Erica Enders, who is trying to become the first female to win an NHRA Pro Stock race, Greg Stanfield, who finished second in the point standings last year, 2009 champ Mike Edwards, who is always a threat to win, and Allen Johnson, who is off to a slow start but hopes to turn his season around at Atlanta Dragway, where he won his second career race in 2002.

In Top Fuel, Del Worsham holds the series lead with three victories so far in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster. Worsham’s teammate, defending race winner and world champ Dixon, hopes to make his first visit of the season to winner’s circle at this event. A strong field of contenders also will be racing for the trophy, including seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, who has never won at Atlanta, along with a group of former winners at this track, including Antron Brown, Doug Kalitta, Brandon Bernstein and Morgan Lucas.

Mike Neff has been pulling double duty this season in Funny Car serving as both crew chief and driver for the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. His hard work is paying off as the Southern California native leads the point standings with one victory in two final rounds. His teammate, Auto Club Mustang driver Hight, is second with two wins. Other pre-race favorites include seven-time Atlanta Dragway winner John Force, 2009 event winner Jack Beckman, 2010 series runner-up Matt Hagan, two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon and Ron Capps, who has new tuner Tim Richards calling the shots for the NAPA Dodge Charger.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, the Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson team of Eddie Krawiec and Hines are first and second in the point standings and both have earned victories in the category’s first two races of the season. A strong group of challengers in the two-wheel class are eager to break into the victory parade at Atlanta, including Karen Stoffer, Hector Arana Sr., defending world champ LE Tonglet, speedy Michael Phillips, veteran Steve Johnson and newcomer Jerry Savoie.

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FUNNY CAR DRIVER BECKMAN PLEASED WITH CONSISTENT RACE CAR AS FULL THROTTLE SERIES RETURNS TO ATLANTA DRAGWAY

Jack Beckman, driver of the Aaron's / Valvoline Dodge Charger Funny Car
Jack Beckman, driver of the Aaron's / Valvoline Dodge Charger Funny Car

Photo by: Ted Rossino

COMMERCE, Ga. – Jack Beckman’s on-track performance so far this season has stirred a lot of talk around the NHRA pit area.

ESPN’s television announcers are talking, the NHRA track announcers are talking, other drivers are talking and even the fans are talking about the consistent performances posted by Beckman’s Aaron’s/Valvoline Dodge Charger. After not knowing if he would even be racing this season due to sponsorship concerns in the off-season, Beckman has suddenly emerged as the darkhorse title favorite for many in Funny Car.

Beckman, a veteran driver of several NHRA categories including Super Comp where he won a 2003 world championship, has heard the talk. While he enjoys hearing his name associated with a positive buzz in the pits, there is one group whose talk makes him really giddy.

“For the driver, you always are confident, but when I hear my crew chiefs, Rahn Tobler and John Collins, talk about how confident they are in the performance of the car, that’s when I get really excited,” Beckman said.

Beckman, who won the four-wide race in Charlotte and posted two semifinal finishes in the season’s first five races and currently sits third in the point standings, will try to improve on his position at the 31st annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, May 13-15 at Atlanta Dragway. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.

It is also an event that Beckman has won, back in 2009.

“It always feels good to get back to a track where you’ve had success,” Beckman said. “And Atlanta is Aaron’s home base so they are going to have more than 100 guests out there over the weekend and for many of them it will be their first time at a drag race, so I am very excited about Atlanta.”

He says it feels good going into an important race for his sponsors knowing that his car has been very steady throughout the season. Some recent testing for a hot track tuneup give the team even more confidence heading into the summer months of the 22-race schedule.

“It’s always nice to have a car that can set a national record in great conditions, but I think it is better to have a car that runs consistently fast on hot race tracks,” Beckman said. “I calculated that just about 85 percent of the runs during the season are going to be on hot tracks, so you have to have that part of your program down if your goal is to win a lot of races and the championship.”

And to win a championship in Funny Car, the successful driver must overcome a strong group of title contenders, starting with 15-time and defending world champion John Force, a seven-time winner at Atlanta Dragway. It doesn’t get any easier on down the lineup, as series points leader Mike Neff, who pulls double-duty as driver and crew chief on his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, leads the way with two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon, national record holder Matt Hagan, always quick Robert Hight and veteran Ron Capps, among others, providing a stern challenge.

“It is as tough as it has ever been to win a Funny Car race,” Beckman said. “That’s because there are 12 to 15 cars that can win a race at any time. Jeff Arend proved that at Houston. His car wasn’t the fastest of the weekend, but at the end of the day his team outlasted everyone and was standing in the winner’s circle holding the trophy. Last year at Brainerd we had the fastest car all weekend, but Bob Bode won the race. That just goes to show you that anyone who qualifies out here in Funny Car has the ability to win.”

Right now, nobody remembers who was runner up; nobody takes pictures of the runner-up.

Jack Beckman

And while Beckman gets into position for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs at the end of the season, he says the more wins the merrier.

“At this point of the year, we don’t care about points,” Beckman said. “We want wins, Wallys; that’s what we are shooting for on Sunday. Right now, nobody remembers who was runner up; nobody takes pictures of the runner-up.”

In Top Fuel, Del Worsham holds the series lead with three victories so far in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster. Worsham’s teammate, defending race winner and world champ Dixon, hopes to make his first visit of the season to winner’s circle at this event. A strong field of contenders also will be racing for the trophy, including seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, who has never won at Atlanta, along with a group of former winners at this track, including Antron Brown, Doug Kalitta, Brandon Bernstein and Morgan Lucas.

In a parity filled Pro Stock class, 2006 world champ Jason Line leads the way with two victories aboard his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP. Rookie phenom Vincent Nobile, defending world champ Greg Anderson and 2009 champ Mike Edwards have also claimed Wallys this season. Several drivers have emerged as title contenders as they chase their first career victories, including Pomona top qualifier Erica Enders, Houston runner-up Rodger Brogdon and Houston No. 1 qualifier Ronnie Humphrey.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, the Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson team of Eddie Krawiec and Hines are first and second in the point standings and both have earned victories in the category’s first two races of the season. A strong group of challengers in the two-wheel class are eager to break into the victory parade at Atlanta, including Karen Stoffer, Hector Arana Sr., defending world champ LE Tonglet, speedy Michael Phillips, veteran Steve Johnson and newcomer Jerry Savoie.

SCHEDULE: Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:45 and 6:15 p.m. on Friday, May 13 and 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 14. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 15.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals. Call NHRA at (800) 884-6472 or visit www.NHRATIX.com.

ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours and 30 minutes of qualifying highlights at 7 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, May 14. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage beginning at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, May 15.

LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals also will feature competition in five categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Series gain experience. In addition, the Top Sportsman category also will be featured. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 9 a.m. on May 13. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8 a.m. on May 14 and continue through May 15.

GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES: NHRA’s popular Pro Mod touring series will make its fourth start of the 10-race 2011 season at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals The series features some of the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer cars, with an eclectic mix of vintage and late-model body styles, in quarter-mile competition. Two of three scheduled rounds of qualifying will be held on Friday, May 13 at 3:15 and 5:30 p.m. The final round of qualifying is set for 12:45 p.m. on Saturday, May 14. The first round of eliminations is scheduled for Saturday, May 14 at 3:15 p.m. Eliminations will continue on Sunday, May 15 at approximately 2:30 p.m.

Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman

Photo by: Ted Rossino

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SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA SOUTHERN NATIONALS FACT SHEET

WHAT: 31st annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, the sixth of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - 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: Atlanta Dragway, Commerce, Ga. I-85 to Exit 149 (Hwy 441). After exiting the freeway, go north on Highway 441 to Steven Tanger Blvd. Take left on Tanger and then go right on Ridgeway Road.

WHEN: Friday through Sunday, May 13-15

SCHEDULE:
FRIDAY, May 13 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 9 a.m.
GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 3:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 3:45 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.

SATURDAY, May 14 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 8 a.m.
GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 12:45 p.m. and first round of eliminations at 3:15 p.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

SUNDAY, May 15 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

TELEVISION:
Saturday, May 14, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours and 30 minutes of qualifying coverage at 7 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, May 15, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).

2010 EVENT WINNERS: Larry Dixon, Top Fuel; Robert Hight, Funny Car; Jeg Coughlin, Pro Stock; Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle.

MOST VICTORIES: Dave Schultz, 8, PSM; John Force, 7, FC; Warren Johnson, 5, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 4, TF/FC; Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Angelle Sampey, 4, PSM; Lee Shepherd, 4, PS.

TRACK RECORDS:
Top Fuel – 3.820 seconds by Spencer Massey, April ’09; 318.09 mph by Doug Kalitta, May ’10.
Funny Car – 4.073 seconds by Ashley Force Hood, April ’09; 312.13 mph by Force Hood, April ’09.
Pro Stock – 6.557 seconds by Greg Anderson, April ’09; 211.26 mph by Warren Johnson, April ’09.
PS Motorcycle – 6.877 seconds by Andrew Hines, April ’09; 195.25 mph by Hines, April ’09.

Defending champion Larry Dixon piloting his Al Annabi Top Fuel Dragster
Defending champion Larry Dixon piloting his Al Annabi Top Fuel Dragster

Photo by: Ted Rossino

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.
PS Motorcycle – 6.777 sec. by Hector Arana, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.

TICKETS: For tickets call NHRA at (800) 884-6472, or visit www.NHRATIX.com.

GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $37; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Saturday: Adult, $49; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Sunday: Adult, $49; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Child (5 years-under), admitted free with paying adult in general admission and pit access areas each day.

RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) – Friday: Adult, $43; Junior (6-12 years), $18; Child (5 years-under), $8. Saturday: Adult, $59; Junior (6-12 years), $24; Child (5 years and under), $12. Sunday: Adult, $59; Junior (6-12 years), $24; Child (5 years and under), $12. Call NHRA for four-day passes and campground information.

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NHRA FULL THROTTLE DRAG RACING SERIES POINT STANDINGS

GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) for NHRA professional categories following the fifth of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series -

Top Fuel: 1. Del Worsham, 505; 2. Larry Dixon, 410; 3. Antron Brown, 363; 4. Tony Schumacher, 353; 5. Spencer Massey, 324; 6. Doug Kalitta, 288; 7. Morgan Lucas, 264; 8. Shawn Langdon, 249; 9. Brandon Bernstein, 244; 10. Steve Torrence, 202.

Funny Car: 1. Mike Neff, 399; 2. Robert Hight, 381; 3. Jack Beckman, 363; 4. Cruz Pedregon, 322; 5. Jeff Arend, 299; 6. Matt Hagan, 296; 7. John Force, 281; 8. Bob Tasca III, 247; 9. Ron Capps, 244; 10. Johnny Gray, 234.

Pro Stock: 1. Jason Line, 390; 2. Greg Stanfield, 389; 3. Greg Anderson, 371; 4. Vincent Nobile, 367; 5. Mike Edwards, 342; 6. Rodger Brogdon, 316; 7. Erica Enders, 278; 8. Ron Krisher, 253; 9. Allen Johnson, 215; 10. Ronnie Humphrey, 213.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 202; 2. Andrew Hines, 184; 3. Karen Stoffer, 179; 4. Hector Arana, 141; 5. LE Tonglet, 116; 6. (tie) Michael Phillips, 107; Gerald Savoie, 107; 8. Shawn Gann, 105; 9. Matt Smith, 88; 10. Steve Johnson, 82.

-source: nhra

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , John Nobile , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Shawn Gann , Bob Glidden , Cruz Pedregon , Greg Stanfield , Jack Beckman , Karen Stoffer , Ashley Force , Brandon Bernstein , Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray , Morgan Lucas , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Bob Bode , Rodger Brogdon , Matthew Smith , Tim Richards , Michael Phillips , Jeff Arend , Ronnie Humphrey , Steve Johnson , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Angelle Sampey , Steve Torrence , Bob Tasca III , Eddie Krawiec , Mike Edwards , LE Tonglet , Shawn Langdon , Vincent Nobile , Mike Neff , Spencer Massey , Hector Arana Sr. , Jerry Savoie
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing
Tags full throttle, funny car, pro stock, pro stock motorcycle, southern nationals, top fuel