Held in mid-September since its inception in 1985, the race moves to an important date this year: It is the final event at which teams can earn points toward the Countdown to 8. Maple Grove Raceway has a long history of record performances, including the first side-by-side four-second and 300-mph Top Fuel passes. 





Top Fuel veteran Doug Herbert defeated “Hot Rod” Fuller in Wednesday’s rain-delayed final of the 23rd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals to earn the final spot in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship.

Funny Car racer Tony Pedregon, Pro Stock ace Dave Connolly, and Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Matt Guidera also scored big wins in the last regular season race of the season, while Cinderella hopefuls Del Worsham, V. Gaines, and Chris Rivas all came up short in their bids to make the Countdown playoffs.

In the biggest race of the event, Herbert launched with a stellar .039-second reaction time and zoomed down Maple Grove Raceway in 4.562 seconds at 323.43 mph to take the win over a back-pedaling Fuller, who ran a 4.709 at 324.98 mph.

Once as low as 16th in the points, Herbert spent 15 of 16 races this season outside the POWERade top 10. He entered this event knowing he needed to win the race and hope that former eighth-place racer Dave Grubnic advanced no further than the quarterfinals. Remarkably, both things happened with Grubnic losing a close race to Morgan Lucas in Round 2 and Herbert scoring his first victory in almost three years, a span of 65 races.

“Wow, nothing like a little drama, huh?” Herbert said. “I was ready for this race. It was the biggest round of my life and I didn’t want to have any regrets. I was ready, the team was ready, and we went out there and got it done.tonypedregonbytodddziadosz.jpg

“The Countdown to the Championship was designed to bring extra excitement to the sport and it’s definitely done that. Grubnic is my buddy and I hated that it knocked him out but he already called me to say congratulations. Now if we can get our act together we can make a real run at the championship. There is no team as fired up as this one, I promise you that.”

Fuller will enter the next phase of the playoffs – the Countdown to Four – as the top racer in the category. He’ll be joined by Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon, Brandon Bernstein, J.R. Todd, Bob Vandergriff, Whit Bazemore, and Herbert. This select group will have four races to make the four-man Countdown to One that will decide the 2007champion.

Force posted a quick 4.792 at 320.10 mph in the final but it was all for naught as his -.038-second red-light start gave the win to former employee Pedregon. Pedregon made a leisurely 6.061-second pass at 151.99 mph to score his second win of the year and 34th of his career.

“It was certainly worth the wait for us,” Pedregon said. “Mentally, I’m spent. We had to get up to race so many times only to have it start raining again. It stresses you out. The other thing was the track was totally different after all that rain so Dickie [Venables, tuner] and the guys did an excellent job of reading it today. To run a 4.78 right off in the semis probably helped us win the race because John had to look at that number and try to do something.”daveconnellybytodddziadosz.jpg

Del Worsham’s dreams of making the Countdown to the Championship ended in the semifinals when he was beaten by Pedregon, 4.789 at 318.99 mph to Worsham’s pedaling 5.772 at 200.38 mph. The end result was that Jim Head held onto the eighth and final playoff spot in Funny Car.

The eight racers eligible for the for the Funny Car championship, in order, are Ron Capps, Robert Hight, Force, Pedregon, “Fast Jack” Beckman, Mike Ashley, Gary Scelzi, and Head.

After eliminating V. Gaines from Countdown consideration in the semifinals, Connolly powered to his 13th career victory by defeating Johnson in the Pro Stock final. Connolly was sharp at the starting line, leaving with a .005 to .050 second advantage, before racing away from a tire-shaking Johnson to win with a 6.643 at 207.43 mph in his Chevrolet Cobalt to Johnson’s 6.857 at 206.80 mph in his Chevrolet Cobalt.

“It was one of those long deals when Mother Nature rolled in,” Connolly said. “Torco needed the win to pay for the hotel bills this weekend. Nothing against my partner Jeg Coughlin, but we had to get that point to get around him.”mattguiderabytodddziadosz.jpg

Connolly’s win moved him around teammate Jeg Coughlin into second in the final regular season standings. He’ll join Greg Anderson, Coughlin, Allen Johnson, Jason Line, Kurt Johnson, Warren Johnson, and Larry Morgan in the chase for the championship. Morgan made the field by 11 points.

Guidera and Sampey were side by side for most of the way down the track in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final but Sampey’s Suzuki was slowly drifting towards the centerline. Not wanting to lift, she tried to coax it back into the center of the lane but eventually clipped the 1,000-foot cone, which is an automatic disqualification. Guidera takes his first NHRA win with a 6.971 at 188.02 mph on his Buell V-Twin.

“My team is unbelievable,” Guidera said. “Mohegan Sun brought in Rich Manning, and it’s been five races that we’ve been getting to know each other and we’re finally starting to gel.”

Matt Smith, Andrew Hines, Sampey, Karen Stoffer, Chip Ellis, Eddie Krawiec, Peggy Llewellyn, Craig Treble are the eight riders who will fight for the 2007 title.




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Wednesday’s final results from the 23rd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.  The  race is the 17th of 23 in the  NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series:


Top Fuel – Doug Herbert, 4.526 seconds, 323.43 mph  def. Rod Fuller, 4.709 seconds, 324.98 mph.


Funny Car – Tony Pedregon, Chevy Impala, 6.061, 151.99  def. John Force, Ford Mustang, foul.


Pro Stock – Dave Connolly, Chevy Cobalt, 6.643, 207.43  def. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.857, 206.80.


Pro Stock Motorcycle – Matt Guidera, Buell, 6.971, 188.02  def. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, broke.


Top Alcohol Dragster – Aaron Olivarez, 9.699, 109.00  def. John Finke, Fouled.


Top Alcohol Funny Car – Frank Manzo, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.517, 261.52  def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 5.643, 258.91.


Competition Eliminator – Sal Biondo, Chevy Beretta, 8.289, 152.30  def. Al Ackerman, Dragster, 8.107, 156.44.


Super Stock – Kevin Helms, Olds Achieva, 9.335, 123.24  def. Dan Fletcher, Chevy Camaro, 9.777, 109.10.


Stock Eliminator – Peter Biondo, Chevy Camaro, 10.540, 117.35  def. Michael Iacono, Ford Mustang, 10.963, 109.38.


Super Comp – Jeffrey Strickland, Dragster, 8.884, 160.86  def. Scott Weney, Dragster, 8.839, 155.31.

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The new Countdown to the Championship playoff-style system to decide the 2007 POWERade champions is already delivering the big-time thrills NHRA officials were hoping for when they instituted the plan at the start of the season.

The first phase, which will end Tuesday at the conclusion of the rain-plagued 23rd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals, has trimmed each Pro class down to eight racers that will fight for their respective titles. Remarkably, all four Pro categories have been pushed to the very end with eight racers still alive for the last four Countdown spots.

After squeezing in two rounds of racing Monday before the rain returned, the ladders of the race are down to the final in Top Fuel and the semifinals in Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle. Action resumes Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. at Maple Grove Raceway.

Top Fuel pits points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller against Cinderella pro Doug Herbert, who has risen from the ashes to challenge for the final Countdown spot. If Herbert beats Fuller in the final, he supplants Dave Grubnic for the last slot by a mere two points.

Funny Car racer Del Worsham needs to beat Tony Pedregon in the semifinals and the winner of the John Force/Tim Wilkerson tilt on the other side of the ladder to secure the last Countdown berth in his class. Any other result, or even an oildown penalty against Worsham, would allow Jim Head to advance to the playoffs instead.

Vieri Gaines needs to beat Dave Connolly in their semifinal race to add his name to the Pro Stock Countdown roster. Should Gaines pull off the feat he'll erase Larry Morgan from consideration. Morgan supplies engines to Gaines. Greg Anderson and Kurt Johnson, who have already secured Countdown spots, are racing for the chance to face Gaines or Connolly in the final of this event.

Chris Rivas must win his Round 3 race against Matt Guidera to push his way into the Pro Stock Motorcycle chase, which would knock Craig Treble out of the eighth and final spot. Angelle Sampey and Eddie Krawiec, two more confirmed Countdown racers, face off on the other side of the ladder.

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DSA_9138.jpgThe 23rd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals have been postponed until Monday after a light but steady rain halted the action midway through the first round of Funny Car eliminations and continued to fall for many hours thereafter. Action will resume at the exact same spot in the proceedings Monday morning at 10 a.m.

A few things were decided in the first round of Top Fuel. The pool of drivers fighting for the final spot in the Countdown to the Championship was pared from six racers to three, with Dave Grubnic, Doug Herbert, and Cory McClenathan still alive. All three of those men advanced to Round 2, along with points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller, J.R. Todd, Morgan Lucas, Doug Foley, and Clay Millican.

In Funny Car, Ron Capps edged Kenny Bernstein, with John Force and Tim Wilkerson also advancing to the quarterfinals.

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sat_fullerDSB_4819.JPG Whit Bazemore, Bob Vandergriff, Kurt Johnson, Chip Ellis, and Karen Stoffer finished qualifying for the 23rd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals Saturday by securing positions in the Countdown to the Championship, the new playoff-style format to decide the 2007 POWERade Drag Racing Series champions.

The next phase of the Countdown -- the Countdown to Four -- begins Aug. 29 at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. The final seven open slots will be filled during Sunday's elimination racing at Maple Grove Raceway.

Top Fuel points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller, Funny Car Countdown hopeful Del Worsham, three-time Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson, and Pro Stock Motorcycle maven Angelle Sampey remained in control of their respective categories in Day 2. Sampey impressed the most in Saturday's cooler conditions, running a 6.901 on her Suzuki, which is tied for the second quickest elapsed time in history.

Top Fuel leader Fuller will try to break the curse of the No. 1 qualifier -- none have won this year -- for the fourth time this year. Fuller's Friday night pass of 4.521 at 327.19 mph in the Ransome Caterpillar dragster was mostly unchallenged Saturday.

sat_worshamDSB_4915.JPG The only bummer for Fuller is that he'll face his David Powers Motorsports teammate Whit Bazemore in Round 1 of eliminations. Bazemore is 16th here in his Matco Tools rail after a 4.668 at 320.28 mph but managed to clinch a Countdown spot because of the way the ladder sets up.

"I'm here to race," Fuller said, when asked about racing his teammate in Round 1. "We're teammates but we both have sponsors to answer to. We're trying to get Caterpillar on full-time and they're excited to be with us this race and he's got all the Matco people pulling for him. We're all on one team but there's a lot of pride between the two sides."

Countdown hopefuls Dave Grubnic and Melanie Troxel are fourth and fifth, Grubnic with a 4.545 at 330.88 mph in his Zantrex-3 dragster and Troxel with a 4.549 at 326.08 mph in the Vietnam Veterans/POW-MIA rail. Troxel faces teammate Morgan Lucas in Round 1. Either Troxel or Grubnic will earn the final Countdown spot.

Filling in for Brandon Bernstein, who had surgery to remove a kidney stone at 11 a.m. this morning at Reading Hospital and Medical Center, Rit Pustari is 13th in the Budweiser rail with a 4.607 at 323.35 mph, the fastest pass of his career.

Worsham's supporters are holding out hope that the Checker, Schuck's, Kragen driver can somehow pull off a miracle win in his Chevrolet Impala SS, which qualified on top of the Funny Car ladder for the first time this year with a 4.800 at 323.97 mph. Should Worsham win the race and No. 12 qualifier Jim Head lose in the first round, Worsham would earn the last Countdown spot. Tommy Johnson Jr., who could face Worsham in Round 2, is also alive in the chase. Worsham squares off against teammate Jeff Arend in Round 1.

sat_andersonDSB_4733.JPG "This weekend is huge," Worsham said. "Coming into this race, I don't want to say I had completely lost hope but I had just put the whole Countdown thing out of my head. It was just driving me crazy. Then we got the No. 1 qualifier yesterday for just the fourth time in my career and it was like, 'Maybe there's something there.' It's gonna take a miracle but we do have a chance.

"We've been talking about [our race with Arend] but we haven't made any decisions. It's a tough, tough call. I hate team orders. We've had the best car all weekend but it's so hard to say what we're going to do. I don't want to say it's not going to happen and make a liar of myself but I'm leaning towards racing him straight up."

Anderson used a double-track record pass of 6.583 at 209.88 mph to secure the No. 1 qualifying position for the 10th time this year and 61st time in his career. As it turned out, the driver of the Summit Racing Pontiac GTO wasn't overly happy to be No. 1 when he discovered he'd be facing teammate Jason Line in Round 1 of eliminations. Line qualified 16th with a 6.647 at 208.78 mph.

sat_sampeyDSA_8119.JPG "I had no idea how good it was going to get today," Anderson said. "I woke up this morning and the barometer had jumped up four-tenths of a point and the humidity had dried up from 60 to 20 percent, we knew right then it was going to be a good day. We hit our tune-up on the bulls-eye with my car but missed it twice with Jason's. He's lucky to have made the show at all."

Victor Cagnazzi racing teammates Dave Connolly and Jeg Coughlin Jr., who have managed to keep pace with Anderson and Line this year, are second and fourth on the ladder. Connolly's Torco/Seelye Wright Chevrolet Cobalt is second with a 6.606 at 208.75 mph, while Coughlin's JEGS.com Chevy is fourth with a 6.610 at 208.33 mph.

Sampey matched the second quickest Pro Stock Motorcycle run of all time in the final session of qualifying to re-take the No. 1 spot in the elimination field. Sampey's 6.901 at 193.96 mph on her U.S. Army Suzuki reset Maple Grove's elapsed time record and marks her fifth low qualifying effort of the season and 44th of her career.

"I was determined to get that No. 1 spot," Sampey said. "I did a poor job of riding in the first session and I really wanted to make up for it because I knew I had a bike capable of being No. 1 in the field. I need to do a better job of riding overall if I want to win the championship this year."

Chip Ellis had surged into the lead in Saturday's opening session with a career-best 6.906 at 192.03 mph on his Drag Specialties S&S Buell V-Twin, but Sampey answered back in the fourth round.

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First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the 23rd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, the 17th of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday.

Top Fuel -- 1. Rod Fuller, 4.521 seconds, 327.19 mph vs. 16. Whit Bazemore, 4.668, 320.28; 2. Tony Schumacher, 4.526, 332.75 vs. 15. Doug Foley, 4.643, 319.29; 3. Doug Kalitta, 4.545, 331.20 vs. 14. Doug Herbert, 4.642, 299.40; 4. David Grubnic, 4.545, 330.88 vs. 13. Rit Pustari, 4.607, 323.35; 5. Melanie Troxel, 4.549, 326.08 vs. 12. Morgan Lucas, 4.601, 322.04; 6. Larry Dixon, 4.557, 321.96 vs. 11. Cory McClenathan, 4.597, 320.81; 7. Clay Millican, 4.560, 324.75 vs. 10. Hillary Will, 4.588, 321.73; 8. Bob Vandergriff, 4.562, 322.42 vs. 9. J.R. Todd, 4.583, 321.50.

Funny Car -- 1. Del Worsham, Chevy Impala, 4.800, 323.97 vs. 16. Jeff Arend, Impala, 4.904, 309.70; 2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.800, 322.81 vs. 15. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.899, 309.13; 3. Tim Wilkerson, Impala, 4.819, 323.43 vs. 14. Gary Densham, Chevy MonteCarlo, 4.893, 318.69; 4. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.838, 314.17 vs. 13. Kenny Bernstein, Charger, 4.888, 306.95; 5. Tony Pedregon, Impala, 4.839, 321.27 vs. 12. Jim Head, Toyota Solara, 4.882, 316.82; 6. Gary Scelzi, Charger, 4.850, 316.45 vs. 11. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.875, 318.47; 7. Phil Burkart, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.854, 317.94 vs. 10. Ashley Force, Mustang, 4.870, 306.67; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., Impala, 4.859, 318.62 vs. 9. Tony Bartone, Monte Carlo, 4.862, 314.75.

Pro Stock -- 1. Greg Anderson, Pontiac GTO, 6.583, 209.88 vs. 16. Jason Line, GTO, 6.647, 208.78; 2. Dave Connolly, Chevy Cobalt, 6.606, 208.75 vs. 15. Greg Stanfield, GTO, 6.646, 207.85; 3. V. Gaines, Dodge Stratus, 6.610, 208.62 vs. 14. Mike Edwards, GTO, 6.645, 207.91; 4. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.610, 208.33 vs. 13. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.641, 208.97; 5. Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.612, 208.36 vs. 12. Ron Krisher, Cobalt, 6.634, 207.66; 6. Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.615, 209.20 vs. 11. Richie Stevens, Stratus, 6.621, 208.39; 7. Max Naylor, Stratus, 6.615, 208.75 vs. 10. Craig Hankinson, GTO, 6.619, 208.30; 8. Jim Yates, GTO, 6.616, 209.10 vs. 9. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.617, 209.04.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.901, 193.96 vs. 16. Shawn Gann, Suzuki, 7.074, 189.98; 2. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.906, 193.65 vs. 15. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.059, 189.66; 3. Peggy Llewellyn, Buell, 6.940, 193.24 vs. 14. Geno Scali, Suzuki, 7.057, 188.83; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.962, 191.78 vs. 13. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.021, 194.63; 5. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.966, 189.44 vs. 12. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.012, 191.38; 6. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 6.982, 194.13 vs. 11. Chris Rivas, Buell, 7.010, 190.11; 7. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.982, 192.99 vs. 10. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.009, 191.43; 8. Antron Brown, Suzuki, 6.997, 190.48 vs. 9. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.005, 192.49.

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worshamDSB_4149.jpgFunny Car veteran Del Worsham began his last-gasp fight for the eighth and final spot in the Countdown to the Championship by leading Friday's action at the 23rd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.

Worsham's 4.800-second pass at 323.97 mph placed him alongside fellow low qualifiers "Hot Rod" Fuller (4.521 in Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (6.685, Pro Stock), and Angelle Sampey (6.987, Pro Stock Motorcycle) at the midway point of professional qualifying.

Fighting for his playoff life, Worsham pulled out all the stops in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevrolet Impala SS Friday, blasting to the provisional pole with a 4.800 at 323.97 mph. Should Worsham stay No. 1 and win the race, and No. 8 points earner Jim Head -- who is qualified seventh here -- retain his position and lose in the first round, Worsham would make the Countdown to the Championship field by one point.

"I'm not going to say it's too little, too late, but I think we're down to needing a miracle at this point," Worsham said. "We've had miracles happen before with this team so we won't quit."

fullerDSB_4576.jpgMail Terminal Services Dodge Charger driver "Fast Jack" Beckman matched Worsham's elapsed time but settled for second on the grid with a slightly slower 322.81 mph top speed.

Ashley Force is sixth in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang with a best of 4.870 at 306.67 mph, while her father John Force is 10th with a 4.902 at 305.91 mph.

Gary Densham posted a ninth-best 4.893 in his Torco/Racebricks Impala but ended up deep in the sandtrap after his parachutes failed to deploy. Densham was uninjured but his crew is in for a long night.

Top Fuel points leader Fuller looked sharp in both Friday rounds in his Ransome Caterpillar dragster. He started the day with a 4.606 at 314.68 mph, which led the first session, and then uncorked his 4.521 at 327.19 mph under the lights.

"It was a great day even though I can pretty much guarantee you it won't hold through tomorrow," Fuller said. "Of course, you never know what Mother Nature will throw at you but everyone from this area has been telling me it'll be cooler.

andersonDSB_4103.jpg"The last three or four races we've been testing some different things but we went back to our tried and true tune-up for this race to get ready for the Countdown to Four. It's exciting that the car has responded."

Schumacher seemed relieved to miss the top qualifying spot, with the U.S. Army racer pointing to the fact that none of the low qualifiers have won a race this year. His 4.526 at 332.75 mph places him second.

Second-place points earner Brandon Bernstein missed Friday's action due to acute pain in his abdomen brought on by a kidney stone. Bernstein spent the day at Reading Hospital and Medical Center under the watchful eye of an urologist hoping to pass the stone. Bernstein, who has already secured a spot in the Countdown field, may be replaced by a fill-in driver if he's not able to qualify on Saturday.

Anderson's 6.685 at 206.26 mph was the only 6.6-second pass of opening day in the Pro Stock class. The Summit Racing Pontiac GTO driver led both sessions, opening with a 6.703 at 205.38 mph before improving under the lights. He also hinted of things to come for the GM professionals.

"This GTO has been a great car for me and I'm going to hate to see it go," Anderson said. "This old car is holding together well for us. I hope she has seven more races in her. She's beat-up and worn out, but it's still a fast piece."

sampeyDSB_4338.jpgDefending series champion and Anderson teammate Jason Line is second with a 6.702 at 205.51 mph in his identical GTO. Kurt Johnson, a three-time Maple Grove champion, is third in his ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt after a 6.709 at 206.01, while Vieri Gaines has the quickest Dodge with a 6.710 at 204.57 in his Kendall Stratus R/T.

Sampey recorded the only two six-second passes in Pro Stock Motorcycle of the day on her U.S. Army Suzuki, following her opening 6.987 at 190.35 mph with a 6.988 at 191.59 mph in the cooler evening session. Sampey always seems to do well at Maple Grove Raceway, as her six national event wins at this facility indicate.

"We say 'gris-gris' in Louisiana, and I definitely got 'gris-gris' at this racetrack," said Sampey, referring to magical amulets of good fortune in Cajun society. "I had a rodeo ride there after the finish line and it was probably the freakiest thing I've ever experienced. The track goes down right there and I must have been opening my hand to shut it off right at that point because the wind got under my hand and it just flew off the handlebars. I thought I was coming off. I don't know how I stayed on there."

Andrew Hines only made one pass Friday, a Round 1 run of 7.018 at 189.44 mph, but it was quick enough to slot his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod second overall. Hector Arana is off to his best start of the year after his 7.040 at 189.29 mph moved his Lucas Oil Buell up to third place.

Results Friday after qualifying for the 23rd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, 17th of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday's final eliminations.

Top Fuel -- 1. Rod Fuller, 4.521 seconds, 327.19 mph; 2. Tony Schumacher, 4.526, 332.75; 3.David Grubnic, 4.545, 330.88; 4. Larry Dixon, 4.557, 321.96; 5. Clay Millican, 4.560, 324.75; 6.Bob Vandergriff, 4.562, 322.42; 7. Doug Kalitta, 4.595, 327.19; 8. Melanie Troxel, 4.601, 325.45; 9. Morgan Lucas, 4.601, 322.04; 10. Hillary Will, 4.606, 321.73; 11. Doug Foley, 4.643, 319.29; 12.Whit Bazemore, 4.668, 320.28; 13. Doug Herbert, 4.690, 299.40; 14. J.R. Todd, 5.828, 157.43; 15.Cory McClenathan, 7.255, 96.44.

Funny Car -- 1. Del Worsham, Chevy Impala, 4.800, 323.97; 2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.800, 322.81; 3. Tim Wilkerson, Impala, 4.819, 323.43; 4. Gary Scelzi, Charger, 4.850, 315.93; 5.Tony Bartone, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.862, 314.75; 6. Ashley Force, Ford Mustang, 4.870, 306.67; 7.Jim Head, Toyota Solara, 4.882, 316.82; 8. Kenny Bernstein, Charger, 4.888, 306.95; 9. Gary Densham, Chevy MonteCarlo, 4.893, 318.69; 10. John Force, Mustang, 4.902, 305.91; 11. Cruz Pedregon, Impala, 4.908, 309.27; 12. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.910, 310.98; 13. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.911, 314.17; 14. Mike Ashley, Charger, 4.929, 315.64; 15. Tony Pedregon, Impala, 4.929, 313.95; 16. Jeff Arend, Impala, 4.943, 302.75.

Pro Stock -- 1. Greg Anderson, Pontiac GTO, 6.685, 206.26; 2. Jason Line, GTO, 6.702, 205.82; 3. Kurt Johnson, Chevy Cobalt, 6.709, 206.39; 4. V. Gaines, Dodge Stratus, 6.710, 205.10; 5. Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.713, 205.66; 6. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.715, 205.79; 7. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.715, 205.29; 8. Tom Hammonds, Cobalt, 6.717, 205.16; 9. Richie Stevens, Stratus, 6.720, 205.19; 10. Jim Yates, GTO, 6.721, 205.22; 11. Craig Hankinson, GTO, 6.724, 204.79; 12. Ron Krisher, Cobalt, 6.728, 204.88; 13. Max Naylor, Stratus, 6.729, 205.54; 14. Dave Connolly, Cobalt, 6.735, 204.88; 15. Justin Humphreys, GTO, 6.736, 205.91; 16. Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.747, 204.94.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.987, 191.59; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.018, 189.44; 3. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.040, 189.28; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.048, 188.94; 5. Peggy Llewellyn, Buell, 7.065, 189.71; 6. Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.073, 187.18; 7. Chris Rivas, Buell, 7.082, 187.21; 8. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.084, 187.08; 9. Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.094, 187.94; 10. Mike Berry, Suzuki, 7.109, 186.20; 11. Tom Bradford, Buell, 7.121, 188.46; 12. Geno Scali, Suzuki, 7.121, 188.28; 13. Shawn Gann, Suzuki, 7.122, 189.23; 14. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.138, 187.73; 15. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.148, 187.29; 16. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.152, 186.48.


Having the idyllic East Coast countryside of Pennsylvania play host to the NHRA POWERade Series' 7,000-horsepower fuel cars serves as a perfectly symbolic juxtaposition of calm and chaos. This will be the site where good friends and even family members may find themselves in a win-or-go-home drag race for the final playoff spots in the Countdown to the Championship.

The 17-race regular season comes to a close this weekend at Maple Grove Raceway with the 23rd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals. At the conclusion of the race, only the top eight racers in each Pro category will remain eligible to win POWERade Series world championships. Those fields will be reduced again, to four, after race 21 in Richmond, Va., and from that select group will emerge the 2007 POWERade Series world champions. As the racers have come to find out, the pressure that comes with watching every point is crushing.

“It's definitely increased the intensity of the season,” said Funny Car driver Del Worsham, who after Brainerd was sitting 84 points behind innovative privateer Jim Head, who is holding on to the bump spot at No. 8. “We're halfway through the season, (but) I already feel like it's the last race of the season. We're fighting for our spot. We're watching the points very close in midseason when we normally wouldn't, and every single round feels like a final round now; that's just the way we have to take it.”

Going into the final race of the regular season, only one spot remains in Funny Car, and five spots are open in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Two spots remain in Top Fuel and three in Pro Stock.

It is the last chance for Worsham and Tommy Johnson Jr. to catch Head in Reading. For Top Fuel's Dave Grubnic, it's all about hanging on. Grubnic is No.8 in the standings, just points away from being knocked out by Melanie Troxel, Cory McClenathan, Doug Herbert, and Grubnic's teammates, Doug Kalitta and Hillary Will. Kalitta is tied for 12th, 61 points behind Grubnic.

“We definitely have to be on our game,” Grubnic said. “We have to go out there and perform well. [The Countdown has] definitely made it a lot more exciting, whereas normally we'd sort of wait until we got close down to the end of the year or even in this position, my position, we may have been looking down the barrel and not have had a very good chance at this championship unless we would have had a severe miracle where I would have won every race.

“But [the Countdown] does open it up for guys like myself. So I'm definitely looking forward to it, that's for sure.”

In Pro Stock, seven drivers are battling for the final three positions. Kurt and Warren Johnson and Larry Morgan hold the three final spots, but Jim Yates, V. Gaines, and Richie Stevens Jr. are in position to move into one of the spots with a successful run in Reading.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, five spots are open, but Karen Stoffer and Chip Ellis appear to be in good position to secure their spots in Reading. That leaves three positions up for grabs, ones that are occupied by Craig Treble, Peggy Llewellyn, and Eddie Krawiec. Steve Johnson, Chris Rivas, and Antron Brown are outside the top eight looking to earn a spot with a solid performance at Maple Grove.