Series drivers break ground at LMS

NEFF TAKES TITLE AT HONORARY 'FIRST RACE' DURING VISIT TO zMAX DRAGWAY at CONCORD CONCORD -- John Force and Mike Neff started their engines. Both lurched closer to the starting line. Then the flag dropped on the...


CONCORD -- John Force and Mike Neff started their engines. Both lurched closer to the starting line.

Then the flag dropped on the first race at zMAX Dragway at Concord.

Sure, there was no pavement. There were no Ford Funny Cars.

What they did have were dump trucks and, technically, a track. So the drivers of the NHRA POWERade Series took advantage of it Saturday while on a tour of the facility.

Several of the top drivers of the NHRA POWERade Series are participating in events planned during NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway this weekend, including defending NHRA POWERade Series world champions Jeg Coughlin and Matt Smith; Antron Brown and Angie McBride, guests of Coca-Cola; and John Force and Neff, guests of Old Spice. Top Fuel pilots Hillary Will and Doug Herbert are also busy signing autographs and attending meet-and-greets with fans in Charlotte and the surrounding area.

At zMAX Dragway at Concord, where Bernie Fedderly and Austin Coil usually wait and watch, Dean "Guido" Antonelli, crew chief for Ashley Force's Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, stood guard. And instead of John Medlen giving advice to the Old Spice Ford rookie, it was three-time defending NHRA POWERade Series Jeg Coughlin Jr. who leaned in with some advice.

Missing were NHRA starter Rick Stewart and a Christmas Tree starting device. So Miss zMAX Leigh Ann Fields did the honors with a flag.

It was Miss zMAX that Neff thanked for the win -- she distracted his boss, he joked. That, and his crew chief gave him tips that helped Neff convert a starting-line advantage to a better 60-foot time, he said.

"I knew we had it if it didn't go up in smoke," Coughlin said.

Smith crewed for John Force, while Angie McBride, the second rider in the Buell team owned by Smith, served as car chief.

Brown stood at the finish line with a checkered flag, a nod to the events happening at the Speedway next door. All drivers wore logoed hard hats during the tour that they autographed and donated for auction to Speedway Children's Charities, the philanthropic arm of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. led by O. Bruton Smith.

"Bruton Smith has a plan to spend this kind of money," John Force said. "The guy is brilliant. Building this kind of stadium and what these kids are trying to do to get it built on time for our race later in the year, God bless them. The good Lord can build the Earth in seven days these guys can build this race track in five months."

Neff will return to the track's inaugural NHRA Carolinas Nationals September 11-14 confident in the right lane he won in, while Force anticipates seeing the seats fill in the main grandstand named in his honor, the John Force Grandstand. zMAX Dragway at Concord revealed the new name during the visit.

"They call John 'Elvis on Asphalt,' for a reason," said Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. "Not only is he the greatest drag racer that's ever strapped in to a Funny Car, he's also the most entertaining, and he's a great ambassador for the straight-line sport. It only seemed natural that our first grandstand at zMAX Dragway be named for drag racing's most legendary figure."

Located on 125 acres of Lowe's Motor Speedway property adjacent to The Dirt Track, zMAX Dragway at Concord will feature a 34,000 square-foot starting-line tower with luxury suites and an additional 4,000 square feet of roof access for guests; two pedestrian tunnels under the strip; and a grandstand seating capacity of 30,000.

Four-day tickets for the inaugural NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway at Concord start at $99 and $20 for children ages 12 and under. Tickets can be obtained by calling the Lowe's Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS or online at

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , John Force , Ashley Force , Matthew Smith , Hillary Will , Angie McBride , John Medlen , Mike Neff