THE STAGE IS SET FOR CLIMACTIC END TO FIRST-EVER NHRA PLAYOFF, THE COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP AUTO CLUB RACEWAY HOSTS SECOND LEG OF TWO-RACE CHAMPIONSHIP GLENDORA, Calif. (Oct. 28, 2007) - The inaugural season of the Countdown to the ...
THE STAGE IS SET FOR CLIMACTIC END TO FIRST-EVER
NHRA PLAYOFF, THE COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
AUTO CLUB RACEWAY HOSTS SECOND LEG OF TWO-RACE CHAMPIONSHIP
GLENDORA, Calif. (Oct. 28, 2007) - The inaugural season of the Countdown to the Championship has already had its share of "thrill-of-victory, agony-of-defeat" moments and there are sure to be at least a couple more next weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, in Southern California, site of the second and final leg of the championship round of the NHRA Playoffs, the Countdown to 1.
The Countdown to the Championship consists of a 17-race regular season that reduces the field of eligible championship contenders to eight, a four-race playoff that halves the field of contenders to four, and finally a two-race championship that determines the POWERade Series world champions.
The new NHRA Playoff has already delivered some "Instant Classic" moments, including most notably:
* Doug Herbert ending a 65-race winless streak at Reading, the last of the 17 regular season races, to move around three drivers - Cory McClenathan, Melanie Troxel and Dave Grubnic - to secure the eighth and final berth in the TF Countdown to 4;
* Peggy Llewellyn winning her first career race at Dallas, the last of the three first-round playoff races in Pro Stock Motorcycle, to move around Angelle Sampey and Craig Treble to secure the fourth and final berth in the PSM Countdown to 1;
* Gary Scelzi winning two of the four races in the Coundown to 4 - after facing a championship-ending DNQ on his final qualifying pass at each race - to enter the final stage in second place.
And amid those individual achievements were some of the most exciting racing the NHRA POWERade Series has ever seen.
The first round at Richmond, site of the fourth and final race in the Countdown to 4, the first round of the NHRA Playoffs, was regarded as one of the best rounds of racing in POWERade Series history.
It began in Top Fuel with Brandon Bernstein's Budweiser team locking up the final berth in the TF Countdown to 1 with its heads-up win over Bob Vandergriff's fifth-place UPS team.
Then in Funny Car, Mike Ashley was eliminated by Tim Wilkerson, but Jack Beckman, Ron Capps and Scelzi all won to set the table for a sensational series of must-win passes for Scelzi and Capps during the quarters and semis.
And in Pro Stock, Kurt Johnson beat Allen Johnson heads-up in the first round to give himself a chance to get around the Mopar driver for the fourth Countdown to 1 berth only to have Allen Johnson's Mopar teammate, Richie Stevens Jr., eliminate him in the second round.
All of which sets the table now for the two-race championship round at Las Vegas (Oct. 28) and Pomona (Nov. 4) with both races being shown at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2HD.
The top four drivers entering the Countdown to 1 in each category have had their points reset in 10-point increments from 3,030 for first place to 3,000 for fourth place (points below reflect Las Vegas results).
[NOTE: Drivers earn 10 points for attempting to qualify, 1-8 points based on qualifying position and each round achieved in Sunday final eliminations is worth 20 points with a minimum of 20 going to first-round losers and a maximum of 100 going to the winner.]
Some interesting items worth noting as the POWERade Series turns for home are the performance histories of the drivers at these last two races.
Tony Schumacher (TF) and Greg Anderson (PS) are the two most accomplished with a combined five wins apiece, Jeg Coughlin (PS) has won these two races a combined four times and Tony Pedregon (FC) has three career wins; no other racer in the Countdown to 1 has won more than twice at these two races.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are seven remaining drivers - Rod Fuller and Brandon Bernstein in Top Fuel, Robert Hight in Funny Car, Dave Connolly and Allen Johnson in Pro Stock, and Matt Smith and Peggy Llewellyn in Pro Stock Motorcycle - who have never even reached a final round at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals or the Auto Club NHRA Finals.
SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1 and 2. Qualifying continues at 11 and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3 and final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4.
TICKETS: Tickets are available for the Auto Club NHRA Finals. Call Auto Club Raceway at (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or check online at ticketmaster.com.
ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise qualifying highlights at 10 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, Nov. 3. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise NHRA Raceday, a 30-minute pre-race show, at 11 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, Nov. 4. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise three hours of final eliminations beginning at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Nov. 4.