NHRA series round two preview

Event: Gainesville

KURT BUSCH AMONG HEADLINERS DURING SPECIAL NHRA 60TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION AT TIRE KINGDOM NHRA GATORNATIONALS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Historic Gainesville Raceway has long been regarded as a very fast racetrack where amazing performances take place just about every time a pair of vehicles blast down the dragstrip. For NHRA fans who expect nothing but the best in hot rodding and high performance, the upcoming Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals, March 10-13, promises to deliver in every aspect.

NHRA will officially celebrate its 60th birthday during the weekend, as back on March 13, 1951 Wally Parks and several business associates signed the incorporation papers to launch what ultimately has become the world’s largest motorsports sanctioning organization.

2011 Wally with the snow capped California foothill mountains in the background
2011 Wally with the snow capped California foothill mountains in the background

Ted Rossino

Among the highlights planned for the traditional NHRA East Coast opener will be appearances from many legends of the sport, including most notably, famed Florida resident and the world’s No. 1 ranked drag racer, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, who will serve as an event dignitary and participate in many fan meet-and-greets and autograph sessions. Vintage car corrals, NHRA-exclusive Cacklefests, track walks with legends and special legends match races will highlight the 60th anniversary celebration off the track.

For those who crave speed and excitement on the track, there will be plenty of that to go around as well at the second of 22 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the race, which will be televised on ESPN2 HD.

While fans will be focused on many of the regular NHRA touring pros, there will be great curiosity surrounding a certain Pro Stock rookie who will be making his debut. Past NASCAR champ Kurt Busch will pilot the Shell Dodge Avenger and try to qualify for the field of 16 for Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations. It’s a rare opportunity for Busch to race in another major motorsports series as his tour takes the weekend off. Last year Busch competed in the Super Gas category at the Gatornationals and lost in the first round of eliminations. After finishing fifth in the Daytona 500 three weeks ago, Busch is looking forward to giving NHRA drag racing a go at one of the sport’s marquee events.

“It’s a whole different world than NASCAR,” Busch said, “The toughest part is staging the car and, of course, cutting a good light; the thrill of the launch and the speed at the top end is why I’m so fascinated with drag racing. But I do know that heading to the Gatornationals and running with the pros, I will get a full dose of humble pie.”

Busch will be competing against the world’s best Pro Stock drivers, including current points leader and recent Winternationals winner Jason Line, defending world champ Greg Anderson, and veteran racer Allen Johnson, who has been Busch’s mentor through testing and will provide engines for the new team.

“Kurt is right on target,” Johnson said. “His shifting is awesome for a newcomer, he’s got a simulator to work on it and practice, and in my opinion he’s right where he needs to be to qualify for Gainesville.”

Busch, who has earned 22 victories and 12 pole positions during his 12-year NASCAR career, is optimistic about his chances but realizes NHRA Pro Stock competition is among the most cut-throat in all of motorsports.

“Pro Stock is the tightest Pro category as far as the elapsed time is concerned, and it’s not going to be an easy task,” Busch said. “I feel me teaming up with Allen Johnson and the Mopar folks, we’ve given ourselves the best opportunity to make the show.”

While Busch hopes to qualify and go some rounds in Pro Stock, Top Fuel points leader Morgan Lucas is anxious to build on his promising start to the season. The driver of the GEICO Powersports/Lucas Oil dragster claimed an emotional win at the season-opener and now wants to keep the round wins coming for the first-time points leader.

“Someone on this race team has a horseshoe and it might be Dickie (Venables, crew chief),” Lucas said. “Since he’s been here the luck has been coming our way and the confidence among the guys is up. He’s making me want to become a better driver. The guy has two world championships in Funny Car and I hope he gets one soon in Top Fuel. I don’t want to dream too big but we feel real good right now.”

His competition in Top Fuel is extremely strong. Defending event winner Schumacher is a four-time winner of the event, as is defending world champion Larry Dixon, who reset the national elapsed time record at the Winternationals at 3.770 seconds in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster. A pack of hungry drivers follows those two, including Winternationals runner-up Shawn Langdon, Spencer Massey, Antron Brown, Brandon Bernstein, Doug Kalitta and Del Worsham, among others.

In Funny Car, the competition is just as stout. Defending world champ John Force is a seven-time winner at the Swamp. All of the Winternationals top performers will be looking to keep their strong starts to the season going, including winner Robert Hight, runner-up Matt Hagan and top qualifier Cruz Pedregon.

“You look at the class, it ain’t that easy to get wins,” Hight said. “If we would have slipped up just a little in the (Pomona) final, we would have been dust.”

This event is also the traditional season-opener for the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle category. Defending world champ LE Tonglet will open his title defense against some strong past champions including the Harley-Davidson team of Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec, Hector Arana and Matt Smith. A talented mix of rookies, led by Hector Arana Jr., Justin Finley, Paul Ray Jr. and Jerry Savoie should make the two-wheel category one of the most exciting to watch all season.

  • SCHEDULE: Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for noon and 2:45 p.m. on Friday, March 11 and 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 12. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 13.
  • TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 42nd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals. Call NHRA at (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit nhratix.com.
  • ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying highlights at midnight (ET) on Saturday, March 12. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage beginning at 6 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, March 13.
  • LUCAS OIL SERIES: The 42nd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals 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 March 10. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8 a.m. on March 11.
  • GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES: NHRA’s popular Pro Mod touring series will make its first start of the 10-race 2011 season at the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals. 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, March 11 at 1:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The final round of qualifying is set for 12:45 p.m. on Saturday, March 12. The first round of eliminations is scheduled for Saturday, March 12 at 3:15 p.m. Eliminations will continue on Sunday, March 13.
  • ON THE WEB: Get live timing, scoring, multimedia and the latest news updates from every NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.nhra.com. Visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
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TONGLET SET TO DEFEND HIS TITLE AS PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLES OPEN 2011 FULL THROTTLE SEASON AT TIRE KINGDOM GATORNATIONALS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The high-revving excitement of NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle competition will make its 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series debut at the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals when qualifying opens for the popular two-wheel category on Friday, March 11 at historic Gainesville Raceway.

The Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals, the second of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, and first of 16 events for the bikes, will be held March 10-13 at the tradition-rich dragstrip in north central Florida. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD.

Defending world champ LE Tonglet, who had a dream season in 2010 by becoming the youngest racer in NHRA history to win a world championship title and simultaneously collecting the $20,000 Auto Club Road to the Future award as the season’s top performing rookie, will try to continue his winning ways on his ultra-quick Nitro Fish Suzuki.

“Going into this year we really need to do what we did last year,” said Tonglet, who joined Gary Scelzi and Frank Hawley as the only rookies in NHRA history to win a championship title. “I know we are going to start the year a lot better. We are going to start with, basically, a target on our back. We just have to be on our A game and get ready for all the new people coming out. Everybody has been practicing over the winter, so we have to be ready.”

After a ho-hum regular season that put him seventh in points as the Countdown to the Championship began, Tonglet’s team received a cash injection from sponsor Kenny Koretsky and the young rider hit his stride during the playoffs, literally emerging from obscurity to capture four victories in five finals, including the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.

Tonglet realizes he won’t have the stealth factor going for him in 2011.

“I don't even think we had but three or four fans come by last year who really knew who we were, and they only knew me because of (older brother and past NHRA winner) GT,” Tonglet said. “Now they are going to be coming by because they know who I am. That’s just going to make it a lot more fun. I should be signing a lot more autographs.”

Tonglet’s competition will also be well aware of who he is. Several past world champions, including the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team of three-time champ Andrew Hines and 2008 champ Krawiec, will top the list of challengers to Tonglet’s crown. Hines had a strong season in 2010, posting five victories in nine final round appearances. Krawiec opened and closed the season with victories and finished the year by lowering the national elapsed time record to 6.811 seconds.

Another past champ, Hector Arana Sr., will try to duplicate his 2009 championship winning year aboard his Lucas Oil Buell. He will be joined this season by a rookie teammate as his son Hector Arana Jr. will pilot an identical Lucas Oil Buell.

The 2007 champ, Matt Smith, will again be one of the category’s toughest competitors on his Al-Anabi Racing Buell. Last season the North Carolina rider claimed two victories in three finals, and added two No. 1 qualifying positions to finish in fourth place in the point standings.

Other riders to watch include a trio of veteran racers in Steve Johnson, Michael Phillips and Karen Stoffer. Several rookies will join Arana Jr. in the race for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award, including Justin Finley, Paul Ray Jr. and Jerry Savoie.

“We are going to keep our eye out for all the new people coming out,” Tonglet said. “We have little Hector and he’s going to be on a really fast bike. He has power from his dad and his dad has been fast. He’s held the record. And then we have Jerry Savoie coming out. He is going to be tough, and (Paul) Ray and George Bryce coming back. George is always fast. The competition is getting to be really tough. It’s going to be a lot more like Pro Stock car, where everybody is within in couple hundredths in qualifying, and that’s going to be huge. Everybody’s going to have to ride the best they can, cutting the tree down. So it’s going to be fun.”

  • SCHEDULE: Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for noon and 2:45 p.m. on Friday, March 11 and 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 12. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 13.
  • TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 42nd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals. Call NHRA at (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit nhratix.com.
  • ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying highlights at midnight (ET) on Saturday, March 12. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage beginning at 6 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, March 13.
  • LUCAS OIL SERIES: The 42nd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals 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 March 10. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8 a.m. on March 11.
  • GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES: NHRA’s popular Pro Mod touring series will make its first start of the 10-race 2011 season at the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals. 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, March 11 at 1:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The final round of qualifying is set for 12:45 p.m. on Saturday, March 12. The first round of eliminations is scheduled for Saturday, March 12 at 3:15 p.m. Eliminations will continue on Sunday, March 13.
  • ON THE WEB: Get live timing, scoring, multimedia and the latest news updates from every NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.nhra.com. Visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
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TIRE KINGDOM NHRA GATORNATIONALS FACT SHEET

WHAT: 42nd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals, the second 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: Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, Fla. The track is located on 11211 North County Road 225 in Gainesville.

WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, March 10-13

SCHEDULE:

THURSDAY, March 10– LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 9 a.m.

FRIDAY, March 11–LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations at 8 a.m.

GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 1:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifyingat noon and 2:45 p.m.

SATURDAY, March 12–LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 8 a.m.

GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 12:45 p.m. and eliminations at 3:15 p.m.

FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifyingat 11 a.m. and1:30 p.m.

SUNDAY, March 13- Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.

FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminationsbegin at11 a.m.

TELEVISION:

Sunday, March 13, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying highlights at midnight (ET).

Sunday, March 13, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 6 p.m. (ET).

SATELLITE (Digital HD Feed):

Friday, March 11, 7–7:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 6 / Transponder 9C

Saturday, March 12, 7–7:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 6 / Transponder 9C

Sunday, March 13, 7–7:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 6 / Transponder 9C

(Downlink: 3880 MHz, vertical; Transmission: MPG-2; HD: 720p; Data Rate: 40.461470554 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)

Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.

2010 EVENT WINNERS: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; Tim Wilkerson,Funny Car; Jason Line, ProStock; Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.

MOST VICTORIES: Warren Johnson, 9, PS; John Force, 7, FC; Don Prudhomme, 5, FC; Joe Amato, 4, TF; Kenny Bernstein, 4, FC/TF; Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Don Garlits, 4, TF; Ed McCulloch, 4, FC; Dave Schultz, 4, PSM ; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF; Terry Vance, 4, PSM.

TRACK RECORDS:

Top Fuel - 3.797 seconds by Tony Schumacher, March ’10; 324.98 mph by Schumacher, March ’10.

Funny Car - 4.060 seconds by Robert Hight, March ’10; 316.15 mph by Matt Hagan, March ‘10.

Pro Stock - 6.520 seconds by Mike Edwards, March ’10; 212.23 by Edwards, March ’10.

PS Motorcycle - 6.847 seconds by Karen Stoffer, March ’10; 197.45 mph by Andrew Hines, March ’05.

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-6.509 sec. by Mike Edwards, Oct. ’09, Richmond, Va.; 212.46 mph by Greg Anderson, March’10, Charlotte, N.C.

PS Motorcycle-6.811 sec. by Eddie Krawiec, Nov. ’10, Pomona, Calif.; 197.65 mph by Michael Phillips, July ’10, Sonoma, Calif.

TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRATIX.com.

GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - FULL EVENT: $140. DAILY:Thursday: Adult, $16; Friday: Adult, $36; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Saturday: Adult, $58; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Sunday: Adult, $58; Junior (6-12 years) $10. Children (5 years-under), free with paying adult in general admission and pit access areas each day.

RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - FULL EVENT: $160. DAILY:Friday: Adult, $46; Junior (6-12 years), $20; Child (5 years-under), $10. Saturday: Adult, $65; Junior (6-12 years), $24; Child (5 years and under), $14. Sunday: Adult, $65; Junior (6-12 years), $24; Child (5 years and under), $14.

CONTACT: NHRA Communications Department, (626) 914-4761. Scott Smith(317)281-5049, cell; Michael Padian (626) 278-0312, cell.

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2011 NHRA FULL THROTTLE DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS

Updated 2/27/2011 (Following the first of 22 events; Season victories in parentheses)

TOP FUEL

Place Driver Points

1. Morgan Lucas, Indianapolis, GEICO Powersports/Lucas Oil dragster (1) 114

2. Shawn Langdon, Indianapolis, Lucas Oil/Speedco dragster 94

3. Antron Brown, Indianapolis, Matco Tools dragster 82

4. Del Worsham, Chino Hills, Calif., Al-Anabi Racing dragster 74

5. Larry Dixon, Indianapolis, Al-Anabi Racing dragster 64

6. Tony Schumacher, Chicago, U.S. Army dragster 58

7. Spencer Massey, Indianapolis, Prestone/FRAM dragster 57

8. Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., Kalitta Motorsports dragster 53

9. Terry McMillen, Elkhart, Ind., Amalie Oil dragster 51

10t. Brandon Bernstein, Indianapolis, Copart dragster 33

10t. Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Racing/Tuttle Motorsports dragster 33

FUNNY CAR

1. Robert Hight, Yorba Linda, Calif., Auto Club Ford Mustang (1) 118

2. Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., DieHard Dodge Charger R/T 93

3. Mike Neff, Indianapolis, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang 78

4. Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T 73

5. Cruz Pedregon, Indianapolis, Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry 63

6t. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang 55

6t. Jim Head, Columbus, Ohio, Head Racing Toyota Solara 55

8. Jeff Arend, San Dimas, Calif., DHL Funny Car 51

9. Johnny Gray, Artesia, N.M., Service Central Dodge Charger 43

10t. Jack Beckman, Corona, Calif., Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger R/T 32

10t. Bob Bode, Barrington, Ill., Alard Machine Chevy Impala SS 32

10t. Gary Densham, Bellflower, Calif., Densham Motorsports Dodge Charger 32

10t. Paul Lee, Anaheim Hills, Calif., Rislone Chevy Impala SS 32

PRO STOCK

1. Jason Line, Charlotte, N.C., Summit Racing Pontiac GXP (1) 112

2. Greg Stanfield, Bossier City, La., Safety Sentry Pontiac GXP 95

3. Greg Anderson, Charlotte, N.C., Summit Racing Pontiac GXP 80

4. Ronnie Humphrey, Charlotte, N.C., Genuine Hot Rod Hardware Pontiac GXP 72

5. Erica Enders, Houston, Texas, ZaZa Energy Chevy Cobalt 61

6. Ron Krisher, Warren, Ohio, Valvoline Chevy Cobalt 57

7. Kurt Johnson, Lawrenceville, Ga., Johnson Racing Pontiac GXP 53

8. Vincent Nobile, Melville, N.Y., Mountain View Tire Dodge Avenger 51

9. Allen Johnson, Greeneville, Tenn., J&J Racing/Team Mopar Dodge Avenger 38

10. V Gaines, Lakewood, Colo., Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger 35

-source: nhra

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Antron Brown , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Kurt Busch , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Don Garlits , Don Prudhomme , Greg Stanfield , Kenny Koretsky , Tim Wilkerson , Jack Beckman , George Bryce , Karen Stoffer , Ashley Force , Brandon Bernstein , Paul Lee , Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray , Morgan Lucas , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Bob Bode , Matthew Smith , Michael Phillips , Scott Smith , Jeff Arend , Ronnie Humphrey , Steve Johnson , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Steve Torrence , Frank Hawley , Hector Arana Jr. , Eddie Krawiec , Mike Edwards , LE Tonglet , Shawn Langdon , Vincent Nobile , Mike Neff , Spencer Massey , Terry McMillen , Hector Arana Sr. , Jerry Savoie , Justin Finley
Tags funny car, gainesville, nhra, top fuel. pro stock