Pomona: Rookie preview

MASSEY, HAGAN AND LANGDON BRING HIGH LEVEL OF ROOKIE ENERGY TO 2009 NHRA FULL THROTTLE DRAG RACING SERIES POMONA, Calif. - The competition for the $20,000 Auto Club Road to the Future award, which recognizes the NHRA Full Throttle Drag ...


POMONA, Calif. - The competition for the $20,000 Auto Club Road to the Future award, which recognizes the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series' best-performing rookie driver, promises to be as intense in 2009 as the battle for the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship in each pro category.

Though the official list of nominees won't be revealed until October when more than 100 of the nation's top motorsports journalists will vote to determine the winner, three drivers have generated an early-season buzz and staked an unofficial claim as the favorites to win the coveted award.

Matt Hagan, Shawn Langdon and Spencer Massey will enter the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series in 2009 with nervous energy and high expectations as they begin their careers in the world's fastest motorsport, NHRA Championship Drag Racing.

All three drivers have solid credentials, having constructed their resumes with reputations for winning races and championships and being ultra-competitive in other racing arenas.

All eyes will be focused on them as they compete in the Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 5-8, at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. The $1.8 million race, which will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD, is the first of 24 in the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

Native Texan Massey, who won the IHRA Top Fuel world championship last year and has won many races in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series in the Top Alcohol Dragster category, will be driving the U.S. Smokeless dragster for NHRA legend Don "the Snake" Prudhomme. The car finished second in the Top Fuel points standings last year with crew chiefs Donnie Bender and Todd Smith calling the shots.

"As a rookie guy coming in, being with Don "the Snake" Prudhomme is something I've always dreamed of," said Massey, who also worked as a crew member for several nitro teams, including those of Morgan Lucas, Ashley Force Hood and Scott Palmer.

"I'm not the type of guy to say we're going to go out and win every race, but we'd love to try to. My goal is to get a Wally. And I want to get to the Countdown. This car is very capable of making a run for the championship at the end of the year. And I've just got to do my job and drive the car to the best of my ability. I know how to do it. And 'Snake' obviously has high expectations for me or he wouldn't be putting me in the race car. But I think I can handle it, and I'm ready for it."

Hagan, a Virginia gentleman and cattle rancher who has had much success in Pro Mod competition and shined in his NHRA Funny Car debut last year at the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, is eager to begin the next chapter of his racing life as driver of the BrakeSafe Dodge Charger R/T for Don Schumacher Racing with crew chief Tommy DeLago.

"I'm really excited," Hagan said. "Being involved with a team such as DSR, which has so much knowledge, experience and great equipment, is going to be very rewarding. It's one of those opportunities that doesn't come around but once in a lifetime. I think that as a rookie driver sharing information with teams of the caliber that DSR has will help me improve my driving. Being able to use that equipment and having all the resources that DSR brings to the table will be great for my career."

Two-time Super Comp champ Langdon, a native of Southern California, was named by Lucas to be the driver of his team's second car, the Lucas Oil/Dixie Choppers dragster, which John Stewart will tune. Langdon has competed in six other NHRA categories, including joining Massey as a graduate of NHRA's Jr. Drag Racing League.

"This is definitely an exciting time," Langdon said. "I've got lots of nervous energy right now. I know it's going to be a big step up, and I'm really lucky to have Morgan as my teammate because he'll be there to bounce things off of as I learn to drive these things. I can't thank the Lucas family enough for this opportunity. Their commitment to drag racing at all levels is second to none. I feel very lucky to have this chance."

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Feb. 5-6 and at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Feb. 7. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 8.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals. Call NHRA at (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit nhra.com or ticketmaster.com.

ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 10 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, Feb. 7. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute pre-race show, at 11:30 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, Feb. 8. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours and 30 minutes of eliminations coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Feb. 8.

LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals 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. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8:15 a.m. on Feb. 5. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8:15 a.m. on Feb. 6.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ashley Force , Scott Palmer , Morgan Lucas , Don Schumacher , Matt Hagan , Shawn Langdon , Spencer Massey , Todd Smith