Infinenon Raceway Sears Point
Massey Eyes Victory At Fram/Autolite NHRA Nationals And Western Swing Sweep
Earlier this season Spencer Massey proved that his FRAM/Prestone dragster team has what it takes to sweep the Western Swing. The Fort Worth, Texas driver powered his expertly tuned machine to a whopping 40 consecutive runs without a single issue. No tire shake. No tire spin. No engine malfunctions. Just a ton of high-performance perfection.
He drove a very consistent hot rod to the zenith of its capabilities.
It was during that amazing six-race stretch from the first qualifying session in Atlanta to the first round of eliminations in Chicago, where Massey emerged as a serious contender for the championship. He moved from fifth to second in the point standings.
Now riding high following a victory in Denver, Massey hopes to keep the momentum going and perhaps put together another string of consistent runs that will give him opportunities for victories through the final two legs of the grueling Western Swing. The next stop is the FRAM/Autolite NHRA Nationals, July 29-31 at Infineon Raceway. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Michael Phillips (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN2 HD.
Massey knows if he’s able to put together another streak of perfect runs his chances for becoming the eighth driver in NHRA history to sweep the Western Swing will be very good.
“Both of my DSR teammates (Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher) have Western Swing sweeps to their credit, so we would love to join that elite crowd,” Massey said. “It’s a matter of remaining focused on the job at hand. If we get back on our roll, we have a chance to do it. We just have to get another streak going, get back to getting down the race track by going from A to B without beating ourselves. That’s the most important part of what we’ve been doing – we have not been beating ourselves.”
Massey is one of a few drivers on the circuit who actually drives a motorhome across the U.S. to each event. He enjoys the scenery and checking out the beautiful landscape along the way and he knows there isn’t a more scenic stop on the circuit than the one in Northern California’s Wine Country. That race also holds a little extra significance for Massey because it is sponsored by his team sponsor, FRAM.
“There is some extra pressure competing in a FRAM/Autolite race, but we always want to do well for our sponsors, regardless of where the race is,” Massey said. “We approach the actual race the same every time, which is the only way to race. It would be great to win the race and receive the trophy from the sponsor at the top end and in the Winner’s Circle.”
Massey, who sat out the 2010 season while he was looking for a driving opportunity, is enjoying the ride this season, both on and off. He showed great promise during his rookie season in 2009 as he won two races in five finals and claimed the coveted Auto Club Road to the Future Award against some tough competition, including Matt Hagan, Shawn Langdon and Doug Horne. He’s proving this season that the one-year layoff did nothing but increase his desire to prove his worth behind the wheel of a 7,000 horsepower dragster.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” Massey said. “We are having the kind of success expected of us because of the caliber of the FRAM/Prestone team. The car I’m driving has shown greatness for years and the results we’re achieving are what Don (Schumacher) expects and deserves. (Co-Crew Chiefs) Todd (Okuhara) and Phil (Shuler) are doing a great job, giving me a great car each race. I just have to do my job – get a good light, then stab (the accelerator pedal) and steer.”
This season Massey has claimed two victories in four final rounds and posted two No. 1 qualifying positions. He’s beat past champions Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon in head-to-head matchups, along with the rest of the top contenders in the class – Antron Brown, Brandon Bernstein, Doug Kalitta, Shawn Langdon, Morgan Lucas and series points leader Del Worsham. Massey is extremely proud of his 3-1 season record against seven-time world champ Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army dragster.
“Beating someone like “The Sarge” is obviously very big,” he said after beating Schumacher in the Denver final round. “He’s Tony Schumacher, “The Sarge,” the man – as the saying goes, to be the best, you have to beat the best. I’m not there yet; I have a long way to go, but these are the kind of wins you need to the top of the pack. And I don’t do anything differently whether I’m driving against Tony Schumacher or Larry Dixon or any other Top Fuel driver. I just get in my race car and do my job.”
In Funny Car, Mike Neff holds the series lead with four victories, followed by teammate Robert Hight, who also has four victories. Jack Beckman, Cruz Pedregon, Matt Hagan and 15-time world champ John Force who won in Denver are also among the drivers to watch.
Jason Line holds the series lead in Pro Stock by six points over surging Mike Edwards, who raced to victory in Denver. Greg Anderson is a three-time winner at Infineon and will be leading the charge for the 200 mph category, along with rookie phenom Vincent Nobile, Team Mopar’s Allen Johnson and Erica Enders, who is trying to become the first female winner in the factory hot rod category.
Local favorite Karen Stoffer is riding a wave of momentum in Pro Stock Motorcycle as the Minden, Nev. resident enters the race as the series points leader fresh off a victory in Denver. Defending winner Phillips was the runner-up at Denver and is looking to earn more points to boost his position in the top 10 as the Countdown to the Championship playoffs approach. Defending world champ LE Tonglet, Eddie Krawiec, three-time champ Andrew Hines and Hector Arana Sr. are among the long list of pre-race favorites in the two-wheel category.
Red-Hot Stoffer Hopes To Capitalize On Homecoming At Fram/Autolite NHRA Nationals
Everybody loves going home and the drivers of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series are no exception. The hometown favorite’s fan base grows as does their media attention and the pressure to perform. Pro Stock Motorcycle driver Karen Stoffer’s home race is the 24th annual FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma July 29-31 and she is keen on making it her best performance of the season. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Michael Phillips (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN2 HD.
Although she hails from Minden, Nev., she considers the Northern California track home. The 1993 Division 7 Motorcycle champ has fond memories of the track starting back when she competed in the Lucas Oil Series. The memories continued into her professional career when she set the first No. 1 qualifying position of her career in 1998 at Infineon.
“Sonoma is my home track,” Stoffer said. “I'm a Division 7 racer and love all those race tracks out west. It's only 250-300 miles from my house. We can drive over, and all our friends and family join us.”
Coming off winning Denver, Stoffer is ready to head back to sea level and continue the team’s successful season, which has included four final round appearances in seven races.
"Infineon Raceway is a challenging track early on,” Stoffer said. “The riders and crew chiefs are getting adapted to putting everything back to what it was before Denver, back to our regular set-ups. We're hoping to use our momentum from Denver and put on a good showing out there and maintain our consistent program.”
The 2011 season has been great for the GEICO Pro Stock Motorcycle driver. She has been to four finals, collected one win and recently regained the lead of the NHRA Full Throttle championship points with her victory in Denver. The self-proclaimed motorcycle enthusiast truly enjoys heading to the Northern California track not just because she considers it home, but she also appreciates the extra support at Infineon for the two-wheel class.
"As a competitor and motorcycle enthusiast, it's always exciting to go to Sonoma because of the unbelievable support we get there,” Stoffer said. “It's the best stop on tour for bikes, without question. The motorcycle class just gets a ton of support there. You look up on the hill where they park everyone and you see isles and isles and rows and rows of motorcycles up there. It's a pretty cool scene.”
With only three races to go for Pro Stock Motorcycle until the Countdown to the Championship kicks off, Stoffer has shown that she has what it takes to become a championship contender. Others to watch in the two-wheel class are Eddie Krawiec and his Vance & Hines teammate Andrew Hines, as well as defending event champ Phillips, who was runner-up in Denver.
Fellow female competitor, Pro Stock driver Erica Enders, is making waves in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class this season. Enders has advanced to two finals this year and currently sits seventh in the championship points. The ZaZa Energy Chevy Cobalt pilot has her eyes set on becoming the first female to win in Pro Stock, the only NHRA class that hasn’t had a female victor. The Cagnazzi owned Cobalt that is tuned by Dave Connolly seems to be the perfect combination for Enders to finally achieve that lifelong goal. Reigning champ Greg Anderson recognizes her talent and was quoted at the Chicago event saying “she’s the real deal; she’s going to win many races.” As hot as Enders is right now you can’t forget about points leader Jason Line, rookie Vincent Nobile and 2009 champ Mike Edwards, who won in Denver.
Reigning Funny Car champ John Force swept the Western Swing in 1994 and he is in position to be the first driver to ever do it twice. Force has been struggling so far this season but collected his first win of the year at least weekend’s event in Denver. The 15-time champ has taken home the Wally at Infineon seven times in his career and is hoping to do it once more this year. His JFR teammates aren’t having as many struggles this season as Mike Neff has won four times, sits atop the points standings and just clinched a spot in the Countdown to the Championship and Robert Hight has won three times and sits second. Jack Beckman sits third and has been hot all season long. Matt Hagan and Cruz Pedregon are two drivers to keep an eye on as well, both are hungry for their first victory of the season.
Defending event champ in Top Fuel, Dixon earned his first and only win of the season at Bristol in June. This time last season he already had seven victories under his belt heading into Sonoma. Don’t count him out of championship contention just yet though, his win count may be low but he’s been quietly going rounds and currently sits third in championship points behind Al-Anabi teammate and points leader Del Worsham and FRAM pilot Spencer Massey, who both clinched playoff berths at the prior event.
FRAM / AUTOLITE NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 24th annual FRAM / Autolite NHRA Nationals, the 13th 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: Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. The track is located at the intersection of Highways 37 and 121
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, July 29-31.
FRIDAY, July 29 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 8:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 3:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, July 30 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 8:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 31 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, July 30, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one and a half hours of qualifying coverage at 5:30 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 31, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two and a half hours of eliminations coverage starting at 11 p.m. (ET).
2010 EVENT WINNERS: Larry Dixon, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Jeg Coughlin, Pro Stock; Michael Phillips, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 7, FC; Doug Kalitta, 5, TF; Darrell Alderman, 3, PS; Greg Anderson, 3, PS; Warren Johnson, 3, PS; Jim Yates, 3, PS.
Top Fuel – 3.805 seconds by Antron Brown, July ’08; 319.75 mph by Larry Dixon, July ’10.
Funny Car – 4.063 seconds by Jack Beckman, July ’10; 311.56 mph by Beckman, July ’10.
Pro Stock – 6.545 seconds by Allen Johnson, July ’10; 210.77 mph by Johnson, July ’10.
PS Motorcycle – 6.849 seconds by Hector Arana, July ’10; 197.65 mph by Michael Phillips, July ’10.
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.; 316.45 mph by Robert Hight, June ’11, Bristol, Tenn.
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 (800) 870-RACE (7223). Tickets also are available at www.infineonraceway.com.
RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $50; Junior (12 years and under), $20. Saturday: Adult, $55; Junior (12 years and under), $20. Sunday: Adult, $60; Junior (12 years and under), $25.