ACDELCO NHRA LAS VEGAS NATIONALS
SUNDAY - LINE CLINCHES NHRA POWERADE SERIES PRO STOCK CHAMPIONSHIP; Schumacher, Beckman, Stevens and Hines earn victories at ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals
Third-year Pro Stock driver Jason Line captured the first
NHRA POWERade world championship of the season Sunday at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas.
collecting the $200,000 series champion's check, Line shared the
spotlight with race winners Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Jack
Beckman(Funny Car), Richie Stevens (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro
StockMotorcycle) at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"I can't believe it," Line said. "This doesn't seem real. It's been
coming but now that it's finally happened I don't even know what to
Line needed to earn 20 more points than teammate and three-time
defending category champ Greg Anderson to clinch the crown and
accomplished that in a head-to-head meeting in the semifinals. The
championship is the fourth in a row for Las Vegas-based team owner Ken
"It's bittersweet to clinch it against Greg," said Line, who has earned
four victories in eight final rounds this season in his Summit Racing
Pontiac GTO. "He's the man. He's my champion. I love the guy and to me he'll always be the man. If not for him giving me the chance to drive inthe first place, I wouldn't be standing here. To keep the championship within the team is huge. There is a huge group of people responsible for what happens on the racetrack and this championship will be shared byall of us. It's a great group that Ken has put together and I'm proud tobe a part of it."
Schumacher charged back into the Top Fuel championship chase with his fourth win of the year, this one over J.R. Todd. He is now 45 points behind Doug Kalitta. Schumacher was slightly upset that he didn't set aworld record in the final, which would have put him 20 points closer to the lead. Still, his 4.469 at 313.58 mph in the U.S. Army dragster wasmore than enough to beat Todd, who posted a 4.550 at 320.81 mph in his Skull Shine dragster."We picked up 44 points today," Schumacher said. "If we do that again in Pomona I (will) lose the championship by one point," Schumacher said."That's why the record was so important for us to get. I don't mean tobe disappointed, but we wanted it so much. It's still a big win. That was probably the biggest win light of my career."
was thrilled to score his first win in just four professional starts.
The cancer survivor and drag racing school instructor drove away from
Tommy Johnson Jr.'s tire-smoking Skoal Chevy Monte Carlo to win
theFunny Car trophy with a 4.783 at 327.19 mph in his Matco Tools Dodge
Charger. Beckman took over the seat of his ride from Whit Bazemore
justfour races ago.
"One of the things about drag racing is that it will eat you alive if
you let the lows get to you, so I want to temper myself on this high,"
always said I want to be a dignified racer and accept defeat and
victory equally but I kind of blew the roof off that dealjust now. It
was just such a feeling."
John Force added 27 points to his Funny Car lead over Ron Capps and will now carry a 71-point advantage into the final race of the season atPomona, Calif. Robert Hight is two points behind Capps in third. Both Capps and Hight lost in the first round. Hight's Auto Club Ford Mustang broke on the burnout.
20-1 longshot with the local oddsmakers, Stevens rewarded the true
believers with a big Pro Stock win over new champ Line. The first
professional graduate of the Junior Drag Racing League to win a national event,
earned this one at the Christmas Tree, posting a pair of .007-second
lights earlier in the day and his stellar .002 in the final to claim
his sixth Wally. Line had the better car, running a 6.735 at 204.57 mph
in his SummitRacing GTO. But his sluggish .090-second light allowed
Mopar pro Stevens to win with a 6.789 at 202.85 mph in his Team Mopar
Dodge Stratus."We had a great day,"
Stevens said. "I knew I had to be on the Tree with the guys I was racing and I guess I pulled it off. Three double-ohlights is pretty good and like I always say, when it's your day to winone of these things it's your day no matter what."
Back-to-back defending Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Hines regained the points lead at the perfect time by riding through a tough field on his Harley-Davidson and beating teammate GT Tonglet in the final round. Hines went from 27 points back to 37 ahead of Antron Brown with his third victory of the season and eighth of his career.
"Every point seems so crucial this year," Hines said. "It was tough the first time we won because they added weight to us in the middle of the season. This year they gave the Suzukis more cubic inches and they'vebeen right there with us. It's hard to compare but this season has been the toughest. If we hold on now and win it all it will be special."
Hines looked every bit the rider that won the last two championships
Sunday, posting the quickest pass of each elimination round as he mowed down Tom Bradford, Brown, Ryan Schnitz, and Tonglet with a 7.080 at 188.65 mph on his Harley-Davidson V-Rod.
The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series makes its final stop of the season, Nov. 9-12, with the 42nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto ClubRaceway at Pomona in Southern California.
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SATURDAY - KALITTA RACES TO $100,000 BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT VICTORY AT ACDELCO LAS
VEGAS NHRA NATIONALS Schumacher, Hight, Line and Gann are No. 1 qualifiers at The Strip at LVMS
Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta raced to the $100,000 win in the Budweiser Shootout, highlighting Saturday's racing at the
ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals.
Kalitta held off Rod Fuller to claim his third victory in the Budweiser Shootout, a special race-within-a-race bonus event for the category's top eight qualifiers from the previous year.
Tony Schumacher, Robert Hight, Jason Line, and Shawn Gann earned No. 1 qualifying honors at the POWERade Drag Racing Series' penultimate event.
Schumacher (4.445 seconds in Top Fuel) and Hight (4.677 in Funny Car) neared national record numbers en route to the low qualifier podium.
Line (6.704 in Pro Stock) and Gann (7.090 in Pro Stock Motorcycle) settled for Las Vegas Motor Speedway records.
In the Shootout final, Kalitta and Fuller's cars were side-by-side all the way down the track until Fuller's David Powers Homes/Valvoline dragster lost its blower belt just past the 1,000-foot timer and slowed suddenly. Kalitta's Mac Tools/Von Dutch machine kept charging.
"That ride back down the return road on the Budweiser Clydesdales is pretty special," Kalitta said. "I guess the race was really close. We were two-thousandths apart at 1,000 foot and that's nothing. I didn't see him at all the whole run but I knew he was over there. I guess he pitched the belt so that worked out for us."
After pacing the Top Fuel field by eight hundredths of a second during Friday's action by running a track-record 4.445 at 333.08 mph, Schumacher tried to set a national record on his final qualifying attempt, which would be worth 20 bonus points. Instead, he blew his motor.
"I went as shallow as I could," Schumacher said. "The conditions were perfect and the tune-up was there. We just didn't get it done. Something happened and I saw that the burst panel was out so we'll see what it was when we get back to the pit.
Bottom line, we didn't get it done. I'm glad this happened in qualifying rather than tomorrow. We got lucky there."
Fellow championship hopefuls Brandon Bernstein and series leader Kalitta are also running well here. Bernstein moved up to second in the last round with a 4.522 at 329.58 mph, while Kalitta ended up fifth on the grid with a 4.530 at 329.38 mph.
Hight posted a track record run of 4.677 seconds at 333.08 mph in his Auto Club Ford Mustang to claim the top spot in Funny Car.
"Jimmy was swinging for a home run," Hight said. "We couldn't really believe we had a chance for a record here but it just set up perfectly and he went for it. I don't want to get greedy but it would have been awesome to get those 20 bonus points. It sure would make it interesting
in the championship chase."
Hight's father-in-law and championship rival John Force ended up second with a 4.711 at 329.34 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. His incremental numbers during his last run were actually quicker than Hight's but his engine expired just before the finish line. Second-place points earner Ron Capps is 11th overall with a 4.761 in his Brut Dodge Charger.
Line scored his sixth low qualifier of the year and the 17th for KB Racing this season with his 6.705 at 204.88 mph. When combined with his previous pass of 204.94 mph, the Summit Racing Pontiac GTO driver now owns both ends of The Strip's Pro Stock records.
"Everything's going as good as it could possibly go up to this point," said Line. "I see we open against Warren [Johnson.] He's the ultimate champion so I guess it's fitting we have him in Round 1. To be the champ you need to beat the champ and he's the champ's champ, so we'll have our
work cut out for us."
Gann appears to be emerging from the worst stretch of his career, earning his first low qualifier award in Pro Stock Motorcycle since the St. Louis race in 2003. Gann's unsponsored Suzuki carried him to a 7.090 at 188.12 mph, which set a track record for elapsed time.
"This new stuff I've got is so bad," Gann said. "I've always made my own motors but now I'm making twice as much of the stuff inside so the quality control I have is way better than when I was buying (engine components)."
The three riders vying for the 2006 POWERade championship -- Andrew Hines, Angelle Sampey, and points leader Antron Brown -- all earned top-half starting berths for Sunday's eliminations. Hines slipped one slot from his top perch on Friday to the No. 2 position with a best of 7.102 at 187.13 mph on his Harley. Sampey is close behind in third after a 7.107, while her Suzuki teammate Brown is seventh with a 7.130. Sunday's eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the Sixth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 22nd of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday.
Top Fuel -- 1. Tony Schumacher, 4.445 seconds, 333.08 mph vs. 16. Mike
Strasburg, 4.628, 326.56; 2. Brandon Bernstein, 4.522, 331.61 vs. 15.
David Baca, 4.597, 322.42; 3. J.R. Todd, 4.526, 320.89 vs. 14. Larry
Dixon, 4.587, 329.42; 4. Hillary Will, 4.527, 327.11 vs. 13. Alan
Bradshaw, 4.584, 326.24; 5. Doug Kalitta, 4.530, 329.18 vs. 12. Bob
Vandergriff, 4.583, 325.37; 6. Cory McClenathan, 4.536, 329.10 vs. 11.
Steve Torrence, 4.583, 326.56; 7. Melanie Troxel, 4.558, 329.42 vs. 10.
Rod Fuller, 4.571, 327.66; 8. Doug Herbert, 4.564, 324.28 vs. 9. David
Grubnic, 4.570, 327.19.
Funny Car -- 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.677, 333.08 vs. 16. Tony
Bartone, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.848, 315.71; 2. John Force, Mustang,
4.711, 329.34 vs. 15. Jim Head, Dodge Stratus, 4.816, 325.30; 3. Eric
Medlen, Mustang, 4.712, 323.43 vs. 14. Bob Gilbertson, Stratus, 4.809,
322.19; 4. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.720, 330.39 vs. 13. Gary
Densham, Monte Carlo, 4.806, 323.04; 5. Mike Ashley, Charger, 4.725,
331.36 vs. 12. Del Worsham, Monte Carlo, 4.794, 301.33; 6. Scott
Kalitta, Toyota Solara, 4.726, 325.69 vs. 11. Ron Capps, Charger,
4.761, 325.30; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Monte Carlo, 4.739, 323.97 vs. 10.
Phil Burkart, Monte Carlo, 4.750, 326.00; 8. Tony Pedregon, Monte Carlo,
4.742, 320.97 vs. 9. Gary Scelzi, Charger, 4.746, 328.30.
Pro Stock -- 1. Jason Line, Pontiac GTO, 6.705, 204.94 vs. 16. Warren
Johnson, GTO, 6.769, 203.09; 2. Allen Johnson, Dodge Stratus, 6.726,
204.01 vs. 15. Richie Stevens, Stratus, 6.761, 203.80; 3. Dave
Connolly, Chevy Cobalt, 6.727, 204.20 vs. 14. Bob Panella, Stratus,
6.759, 203.98; 4. Greg Anderson, GTO, 6.730, 204.88 vs. 13. Mike
Edwards, GTO, 6.756, 204.51; 5. Tommy Lee, Cobalt, 6.732, 204.17 vs.
12. Kenny Koretsky, Cobalt, 6.753, 203.95; 6. Tom Martino, GTO, 6.744,
204.26 vs. 11. Ron Krisher, Cobalt, 6.752, 203.28; 7. Greg Stanfield,
GTO, 6.745, 204.32 vs. 10. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.748, 204.05; 8. Jeg
Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.747, 203.83 vs. 9. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.748,
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Shawn Gann, Suzuki, 7.090, 188.12 vs. 16.
Marco Andreano, Buell, 7.166, 184.50; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson,
7.102, 187.13 vs. 15. Tom Bradford, Buell, 7.161, 187.70; 3. Angelle
Sampey, Suzuki, 7.107, 187.23 vs. 14. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.156,
185.92; 4. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.107, 185.69 vs. 13. Chris Rivas, Buell,
7.152, 184.85; 5. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.113, 184.67 vs. 12. Geno
Scali, Suzuki, 7.151, 188.10; 6. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.117, 189.23
vs. 11. Ryan Schnitz, Buell, 7.147, 185.74; 7. Antron Brown, Suzuki,
7.130, 185.43 vs. 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.147, 186.36; 8. Chip
Ellis, Buell, 7.132, 183.27 vs. 9. GT Tonglet, Harley-Davidson, 7.137,
Final round-by-round results from the 22nd annual Budweiser
Shootout at The Strip at Las Vegas Motorsports Speedway. The Budweiser
Shootout, which pays $100,000 to the winner, is a special bonus race for
the eight best Top Fuel dragsters from the past year.
ROUND ONE -- Rod Fuller, 4.571, 326.48 def. David Grubnic, 4.570,
327.19; Doug Kalitta, 5.669, 317.42 def. Brandon Bernstein, 9.055,
87.21; Larry Dixon, 4.587, 325.22 def. Melanie Troxel, 8.601, 87.98;
Tony Schumacher, 4.500, 324.59 def. David Baca, foul;
SEMIFINALS -- Kalitta, 4.543, 328.22 def. Dixon, 4.645, 321.58; Fuller,
4.518, 326.95 def.
Schumacher, 4.531, 326.71;
FINALS -- Kalitta, 4.567, 329.18 def. Fuller, 4.669, 266.95.
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FRIDAY - SCHUMACHER, HIGHT, LINE AND HINES LEAD QUALIFYING AT ACDELCO LAS VEGAS NHRA NATIONALS
Three-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher raced to a track record time of 4.445 seconds at 333.08 mph in his U.S. Army dragster Friday to highlight the opening day of qualifying at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals.
Robert Hight, Jason Line and Andrew Hines also were qualifying leaders in their respective categories at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The $1.8 million race is the 22nd of 23 events in the $50 million NHRAPOWERade Drag Racing Series.
Although he's 89 points out of the Top Fuel lead with just two races remaining, Schumacher's track-record run proved he won't go down without a fight. The pass was the seventh quickest ever and put him a full eight-tenths of a second ahead of the field, a titanic gap in professional drag racing.
"That run was perfect," Schumacher said. "Hey, we need these points. We need a world record. That was nine-thousandths short of one right there but Alan said that was all there was to get. We'll definitely go for itin Pomona but first things first; we need to win this race. We have no room for error."Doug Kalitta and Brandon Bernstein, first and second in the Top Fuelpoints order, qualified third and fourth. Kalitta posted a 4.530 at 327.74 mph in his Mac Tools/Von Dutch dragster, while Bernstein ran a 4.544 at 331.61 mph in the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster.
Hight powered his Auto Club Ford Mustang to a track record run of 4.687 at 330.46 mph lead the Funny Car starting lineup.
"When the car runs 330 mph the motor is definitely happy," Hight said."I drove it around a little down there but I didn't want to lift because I knew it was running strong. I think I drove it past the finish line and it banged the banged the blower."
Force was the second quickest, completing a 4.711-second pass in his Castrol GTX Mustang, while Medlen followed one thousandths of a second behind in his Castrol Syntec Ford.
Ron Capps, who is between Force and Hight in the points race, lost traction in his Brut Dodge Charger during both rounds and is not qualified.
We're in a tight points race right now with our Auto Club Ford and
tobe running like this at this point in the season makes it exciting,
that's for sure," Hight said. "We really want that three-car race for
the championship in Pomona so if I can gain some ground on John
[Force]and Ron [Capps] here I'll be real happy."
Line appears determined to clinch the championship in team owner Ken Black's hometown, running a track record 6.720 at 204.94 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO. Line can clinch his first Pro Stock world championship if he survives one round further than teammate Greg Anderson at this race. Anderson missed the first session when he wastimed out at the starting line. He is now ninth with a 6.759.
"I'm trying not to think about [the championship] but everyone keeps reminding me," Line said. "I'm not superstitious but you sure don't want to get this close and then not win it. Hopefully I can go four rounds Sunday and end it. That way we can enjoy Pomona and just forget about stressing out."
Hines is doing his best to chip away at Antron Brown's 27-point lead
inthe Pro Stock Motorcycle standings by qualifying No. 1 Friday. Hines
posted a track record time of 7.102 at 187.13 mph on his Screamin'
Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson in the first session, while
Brown struggled to qualify 14th overall with a 7.187 on his U.S. Army
"It seems like we're going in the right direction due to my team and all the work they have put in trying to find as much horsepower as they can," Hines said. "Luckily we're in the running for a third championshipand every point is important."
Qualifying continues Saturday at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations. Schumacher will try to win his second straight $100,000 Budweiser Shootout Saturday, starting at 12:30 p.m. The Budweiser Shootout is a lucrative race-within-a-race bonus event for the eight best Top Fuel dragsters from the last year.
Results Friday after qualifying for the sixth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 22nd of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday's final
Top Fuel -- 1. Tony Schumacher, 4.445 seconds, 333.08 mph; 2. Hillary
Will, 4.527, 327.11; 3. Doug Kalitta, 4.530, 327.74; 4. Brandon
Bernstein, 4.544, 331.61; 5. J.R. Todd, 4.557, 320.89; 6. Doug Herbert,
4.564, 324.28; 7. Melanie Troxel, 4.574, 327.43; 8. Cory McClenathan,
4.581, 326.48; 9. Rod Fuller, 4.584, 327.66; 10. Alan Bradshaw, 4.584,
326.24; 11. Larry Dixon, 4.603, 329.42; 12. Mike Strasburg, 4.632,
326.56; 13. Morgan Lucas, 4.632, 296.70; 14. Joe Hartley, 4.633, 323.66;
15. Steve Torrence, 4.676, 323.97; 16. Clay Millican, 4.689, 311.05.
Funny Car -- 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.687, 330.96; 2. John
Force, Mustang, 4.711, 329.34; 3. Eric Medlen, Mustang, 4.712, 320.81;
4. Scott Kalitta, Toyota Solara, 4.726, 325.69; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr.,
Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.739, 323.97; 6. Gary Scelzi, Dodge Charger, 4.746,
320.05; 7. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.770, 328.46; 8. Mike Ashley,
Charger, 4.787, 326.71; 9. Del Worsham, Monte Carlo, 4.794, 301.33; 10.
Tony Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 4.805, 317.72; 11. Bob Gilbertson, Dodge
Stratus, 4.809, 321.04; 12. Phil Burkart, Monte Carlo, 4.821, 322.65;
13. Tim Wilkerson, Monte Carlo, 4.868, 309.42; 14. Gary Densham, Monte
Carlo, 4.883, 294.56; 15. Tony Bartone, Monte Carlo, 4.957, 293.92; 16.
Cruz Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 5.087, 256.84.
Pro Stock -- 1. Jason Line, Pontiac GTO, 6.720, 204.94; 2. Dave
Connolly, Chevy Cobalt, 6.727, 204.20; 3. Allen Johnson, Dodge Stratus,
6.742, 203.89; 4. Tom Martino, GTO, 6.744, 204.11; 5. Tommy Lee, Cobalt,
6.751, 204.17; 6. Greg Stanfield, GTO, 6.753, 204.17; 7. Kenny Koretsky,
Cobalt, 6.753, 203.77; 8. Mike Edwards, GTO, 6.757, 204.48; 9. Greg
Anderson, GTO, 6.759, 204.01; 10. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.760, 203.71;
11. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.768, 203.34; 12. Ron Krisher, Cobalt,
6.769, 203.28; 13. Dave Northrop, Stratus, 6.773, 203.46; 14. Jim Yates,
GTO, 6.775, 202.58; 15. V. Gaines, Stratus, 6.778, 203.77; 16. Richie
Stevens, Stratus, 6.792, 202.88.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.102, 187.13;
2. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.117, 189.23; 3. Shawn Gann, Suzuki, 7.120,
186.87; 4. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 7.128, 185.10; 5. Matt Smith, Buell,
7.136, 185.69; 6. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.138, 184.04; 7. GT Tonglet,
Harley-Davidson, 7.152, 185.03; 8. Chris Rivas, Buell, 7.158, 184.85; 9.
Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.161, 185.92; 10. Marco Andreano, Buell, 7.169,
184.50; 11. Ryan Schnitz, Buell, 7.173, 184.60; 12. Tom Bradford, Buell,
7.178, 185.97; 13. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.180, 188.02; 14. Antron
Brown, Suzuki, 7.187, 183.39; 15. Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.194, 183.27; 16.
Scott Lewis, Suzuki, 7.201, 184.85.
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Eleven drivers still competing for four POWERade titles
Apparently the drivers in the NHRA POWERade Series couldn’t wait for
the 2007 Countdown to the Championship playoff format announced at this
year's Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. By all appearances, they wanted the
extreme excitement to start now.
"You're getting a good preview of what we're going to get next year when they even the points out with two races to go," said three-time and defending POWERade Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher, who is in third place and 89 points behind Doug Kalitta. "I wish they started it this year."
He’s not the only one.
Under the new format, only 30 points will separate first place from fourth place with two races remaining in the season – in other words, 16 drivers will be within 30 points of a championship with two events to go.
This season, while the points races aren’t quite that close with only two events remaining in Las Vegas and Pomona, Calif., they are awfully close, providing fans with a taste of the exciting finishes to come in 2007 and beyond.
In Schumacher’s Top Fuel category, it’s Kalitta with an 83-point lead on Brandon Bernstein, and he’s 89 points clear of Schumacher. These are not insurmountable deficits, but Bernstein and Schumacher know they have their work cut out for them.
"I'd much rather be in Doug's position right now, don't get me wrong," said Bernstein, the 2003 Auto Club Road to the Future winner who is seeking his first championship. "(But) I think as a points chaser, you really have nothing to lose. You know the job at hand, and you have to go after it."
Given the current system, this year’s points races are about as deep and competitive as would be conceivably possible, and NHRA fans in the southwestern U.S. will get a firsthand look as the 2006 NHRA POWERade Series season draws to a dramatic close with the final two races of the season, beginning with this weekend's ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The $1.8 million race is the 22nd of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
The NHRA POWERade Series has basically -- although unofficially -- crowned its champions by Labor Day, with 83 percent of the points leaders after Indy continuing on to win championships. But the days of the NHRA victory tour are numbered, if not already a thing of the past.
The drivers exiting Indy with the points lead in 2006 – Kalitta (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) – may well hoist the championship trophy, but the road to Pomona in 2006 has already seen two of the four drop back to second place.
One of the two to lose his hold on first place has been Capps, who led Funny Car for most of the season but has since slipped into second place, 46 points behind John Force (the other is Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle). And while those two have been trading punches for most of the summer, Force’s son-in-law, Robert Hight, got in the mix himself with two wins and a runner-up to join the fray. The 2005 Auto Club Road to the Future Award winner is just 54 points out of first with two events remaining.
"First off, I'm really excited to be here with these other two drivers, a chance to win this POWERade Series championship," said Hight, who has a Funny Car-leading eight No. 1 qualifiers. "We were kind of written off going into the Western Swing. It looked like it was going to be a two-car race with Ron and John. We kind of held our own through the Western Swing, then have come on really, really strong."
Hight’s back-to-back wins in Indianapolis and Dallas launched him from afterthought (he was in fifth place, 219 points back of Capps) to legitimate title contender. No sophomore jinx here.
Capps and Hight are looking for their first POWERade Series championships while Force, winner of four of the six previous NHRA events in Richmond, has won an NHRA-record 13 POWERade Series championships.
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. Here are the top contenders with two races remaining:
TOP FUEL Points
Doug Kalitta, Ann Arbor, Mich., Mac Tools dragster (5 wins) 1,515
Brandon Bernstein, Lake Forest, Calif., Budweiser dragster (4) 1,432 (-83)
Tony Schumacher, Long Grove, Ill., U.S. Army dragster (3) 1,426 (-89)
FUNNY CAR Points
John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang (2) 1,463
Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., Brut Dodge Charger R/T (5) 1,417 (-46)
Robert Hight, Anaheim Hills, Calif., Auto Club Ford Mustang (3) 1,409 (-54)
PRO STOCK Points
Jason Line, Terrell, N.C., Summit Racing Pontiac GTO (4) 1,591
Greg Anderson, Charlotte, N.C., Summit Racing Pontiac GTO (2) 1,417 (-119)
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE Points
Antron Brown, Indianapolis, U.S. Army Suzuki (2) 971
Andrew Hines, Indianapolis, Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson (2) 944 (-27)
Angelle Sampey, New Orleans, U.S. Army Suzuki (3) 907 (-64)
As is evident, the Pro Stock category is a bit clearer, with teammates Line and Anderson setting the pace in their identical Summit Racing Pontiac GTOs. The only surprise is that it’s Line and not three-time champ Anderson leading the way; he needs to add only 20 more points to his lead over Anderson to clinch in Las Vegas.
Pro Stock Motorcycle is set to come down to the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona, with the two U.S. Army Suzukis squaring off against the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson of two-time defending champion Hines. Brown is in search of his first POWERade Series world championship and Sampey is seeking her fourth, which would be the most of all time by a female in POWERade Series history.
"Right now, I mean, Angelle, she’s a three-time world champion who is on my team who I see all the time," Brown said. "She just handles every round, every race the same. She wants to go out there and dominate every race. Ever since I teamed up with her, she’s given me that mental attitude. I think that’s what makes you a champion, makes you win. Especially now I think this year the championship race has been tighter than what it’s ever been between more drivers."
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