12-6-06-nhrainreview.jpgTorco's CompetitionPlus.com traveled the 23-race NHRA POWERade tour to bring you the inside stories that transpire in the pits as well as complete coverage of the high-powered events. We have compiled our coverage of these events into a two-part series. This is the second part of the series.


Scelzi, Connolly and Hines also claim victories at Mopar Mile-High NHRA

denvercover.jpg Rookie J.R. Todd upset Tony Schumacher Sunday afternoon at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals to score his first NHRA POWERade Series Top Fuel victory in just his ninth career start.

Todd, who with the victory becomes the first African-American to win an NHRA Top Fuel title, never trailed in the race at Bandimere Speedway, dismissing the three-time series champion with a performance of 4.906 at 291.63 mph in his Skull Shine/Torco Race Fuels dragster to Schumacher's4.966 at 306.33 mph in the U.S. Army dragster.

"You never expect to get your first NHRA win by outrunning Tony Schumacher in the final," Todd said. "I didn't even know how to act down there. I was stunned. To beat that team straight up is almostunbelievable. They were talking about me being the firstAfrican-American to win in Top Fuel but out here it's all equal, especially when the helmet goes on."

Gary Scelzi scored his first Funny Car win of the season to join Todd in the winner's circle of the $1.5 million race, the 13th of 23 in the 2006 season. Pro Stock winner Dave Connolly and Pro Stock Motorcycle victor Andrew Hines also won in their categories to close out a weekend that ended with three new POWERade points leaders.

Ron Capps was the only POWERade points leader to retain his top ranking through the weekend although his first-round loss to Bob Gilbertson allowed second-place runner John Force, who lost in the quarterfinals, to gain a round on him. Doug Kalitta took the Top Fuel points lead from Melanie Troxel, Line emerged with the Pro Stock lead and Hines moved in front of Angelle Sampey to regain the series lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle.




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seattlecover.jpgReigning NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher raced to his second victory in his last three starts Sunday at Pacific Raceways to continue his rapid climb up the points standings. The
three-time champ has gone from eighth place to fourth in the last four races -- including three straight final round appearances -- and has closed to within 150 points of Doug Kalitta's series lead with his win at the $1.4 million Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals presented by
Lucas Oil.

Whit Bazemore and Allen Johnson joined Schumacher in the winner's circle as each ended long winless streaks with victories here. Bazemore had gone 31 races without a win until beating points leader and teammate Ron Capps in the Seattle finale, while Johnson ended a 34-race dry spell by downing surprise finalist Tom Martino, who was racing for just the second time this year.

Schumacher had little trouble beating Dave Grubnic in the Top Fuel final with a 4.690 at 321.96 mph in his U.S. Army dragster to Grubnic's 4.761 at 316.75 in his StriVectin-SD dragster. It was Schumacher's 32nd career victory and second at this track.





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grapesofwrathcover.jpg Top Fuel rookie J.R. Todd upset three-time NHRA POWERade world champion Tony Schumacher for the second time in three weeks Sunday to earn the trophy of the $1.3 million Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals.

Just as he did in Denver 14 days ago, the 24-year-old Todd simply outran Schumacher, earning this win in 4.619 seconds at 309.27 mph to Schumacher's 4.679 at 316.01 mph.

Eric Medlen, Jason Line, and Chip Ellis joined Todd in Infineon Raceway's winner's circle. Medlen took the Funny Car crown against fellow Californian Tony Pedregon, 4.854 to 5.021. Pro Stock points leader Line got a holeshot victory over veteran Vieri Gaines, and Ellis benefited greatly from Pro Stock Motorcycle finalist Antron Brown's red-light start for his second win of the year.

Racing in just his 11th national event, Todd is now 2-0 in final-round appearances with both wins coming against Schumacher. The two men have faced each other in each of the last four national events, with each man winning twice.

"You couldn't write it any better than this," Todd said. "Beating Tony and that team once for your first trophy ever is like a dream. To do it twice in three races is unreal. I can't even believe this is happening. You work so hard just to get to this level and you don't even think what it will be like to actually win."

This was Schumacher's fourth final in a row and he moved up another spot in the championship standings to third place overall. He now trails POWERade leader Doug Kalitta by 106 points. He entered the race 150 points back. After her third first-round loss in a row, former points leader Melanie Troxel is now 82 points behind Kalitta and just 44 ahead of Schumacher.

Breaking a winless streak that dated back to last year's Memphis event, Medlen came through in the Funny Car final. After leaving with a slight advantage at the starting line, his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang drove away from Pedregon's Q Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo, taking the stripe in 4.854 seconds at 316.30 mph to Pedregon's 5.021 seconds at 271.62 mph.

"People ask me how aggravating it is to go a year without winning but I don't even think like that," Medlen said. "I'm out here having fun and we have a car that could have and should have won several times so you feel like you're right in there any way. Man, it's hard to win these things; that's the deal. It's not for lack of trying."

Ron Capps still leads John Force at the top of the standings, although Force did trim his deficit down to 70 points. Both Force and Capps lost to teammates Sunday, Capps to Whit Bazemore in Round 1, and Force to Medlen in the quarterfinals.




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BRAINERD - BERNSTEIN IMPROVES FINAL-ROUND RECORD TO 11-3 WITH TOP FUEL WIN OVER SCHUMACHER AT LUCAS OIL NATIONALS; Tommy Johnson Jr., Dave Connolly and Antron Brown round out Lucas Oil winner's circle

twinpeakscover.jpg Brandon Bernstein upset three-time series champion Tony Schumacher Sunday in the Top Fuel final of the $1.6 million Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals for his third victory of the season. Bernstein's 4.510-second pass at 329.34 mph was enough to dismiss the hottest driver on the NHRA tour, who smoked his tires a few hundred feet down Brainerd International Raceway.

Rounding out the Sunday winners were Tommy Johnson Jr. in his Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo (Funny Car), Dave Connolly in his Skull Shine Chevy Cobalt (Pro Stock) and Antron Brown on his U.S. Army Suzuki (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Bernstein shook off a forgettable Western Swing, where he failed to win a single round, with a stunning victory in his Budweiser dragster over the three-time and defending champion Schumacher, who went into tire-spin at half track. The pilot of the U.S. Army dragster was competing in his fifth consecutive final round, two short of his own NHRA Top Fuel record for consecutive final rounds (7).

"We knew we needed to run something in the final against Schumacher because he'd been running so well," said Bernstein, who improved to 11-3 running for the money in his career. "I figured we'd have a low 4.50 and that's what we did. We made up some serious ground in the points today. I really believe we have a car that can contend for the title. There are still seven races left. If we stay consistent like this anything can happen."

Schumacher defeated Top Fuel point leader Doug Kalitta in the second round and he was able to make up 45 points on Kalitta to move into a second-place tie with Melanie Troxel (81 points back). Six races ago, Schumacher was in eighth place and was 336 points off the pace.

Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. defeated reigning series champion Gary Scelzi, who also lost traction during his final-round run. Johnson saved his best pass of the event for the final, running a 4.741 at 321.73 mph to take the win and set low E.T. of the meet. Scelzi got a small jump at the lights in his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger, but was soon battling tire shake and smoke and could only watch as T.J. zipped away for the win.





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hotdoggincover.jpgThirteen-time Funny Car champion John Force raced to the lead in the POWERade Series points standings by winning the rain-delayed $1.6 million O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals Monday afternoon at Memphis Motorsports Park. Force, who has been in second place for most of the season, defeated former teammate Tony Pedregon in the final round to move in front of Ron Capps in the series standings by 17 points.

Sharing the winner's circle with Force at the NHRA POWERade Series event was Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta; Kurt Johnson in Pro Stock; and back-to-back reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Andrew Hines, who moved back on top in his category by three points.

Until Monday, it seemed every time Force had a chance to make up some ground on Capps in the points race, he'd let the opportunity slip away. Not so in Memphis as he recorded his 121st victory in his 194th career final after Capps was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Pedregon.

After leaving dead-even with Pedregon, Force's Castrol GTX Ford Mustang covered the quarter-mile distance in 4.786 seconds at 318.24 mph -- the quickest and fastest pass of the weekend -- to easily better Pedregon's tire-smoking 5.048 in his Q Racing Chevy Monte Carlo.

"I ain't trying to play it cool here but let's not get too excited about being in the lead by a few points," said Force of his second win of the season. "The heat's still killing us. It just wasn't too bad today. I guess I ran a track record there in the final so that proves it. Today was good, I didn't see Elvis at 1,000 feet and we got the win. They still feel just as good as the first one did."





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indy2006.jpgThree-time POWERade Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher drew within 54 points of the championship lead by earning his fifth Mac Tools U.S. Nationals victory Monday at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.

Schumacher's final round win over Brandon Bernstein at the $2.6 million NHRA POWERade Series race put him alongside fellow Indy champs Robert Hight (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle.) Like Schumacher, Anderson's win was his fifth at the world's most prestigious drag race, including the last four in a row.

Schumacher immediately dedicated his win to crew chief Alan Johnson's brother Blaine, who lost his life in a crash 10 years ago at this event.

Schumacher's U.S. Army dragster was the quickest of every round as he raced past J.R. Todd, Dave Grubnic, Rod Fuller, and Bernstein's Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster for his third win of the year and 33rd of his career.

"There are a lot of reasons to win races -- the fans, your sponsors, the championship chase, whatever -- but today we raced for Blaine," said Schumacher, the first nitro category driver this season to win from the No. 1 qualifying position. "My first Indy race was 10 years ago and I would've raced him in the first round if he hadn't died. To come back now and win with Alan as my crew chief, it was meant to be. This trophy is going on the Johnson family mantle. That's where it belongs."

With the victory, Schumacher cut Doug Kalitta's points lead to 54 with five races remaining. Kalitta was upset in the first round by David Baca.



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READING - ROOKIE JR TODD WINS HIS THIRD POWERADE SERIES EVENT; Other winners at Toyo Tires Nationals include Burkart, Anderson and Stoffer 


9-15-06-readingcover.jpgRookie J.R. Todd put himself in the driver's seat for the Auto Club Road to the Future award Sunday with his third Top Fuel victory of the year. Todd, who earlier this season became the first African-American to win an NHRA POWERade Series event in Top Fuel, used a career-best pass of 4.494 seconds to power past Melanie Troxel and take the trophy of the $1.5 million Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.In Funny Car, Phil Burkart scored an unlikely win over red-hot Robert Hight to win for the first time in 53 races.

Three-time Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson won his 42nd title, while Karen Stoffer was victorious in Pro Stock Motorcycle.There was movement at the top in the POWERade Series point standings as 13-time champ John Force inched past Ron Capps in Funny Car and Antron Brown regained the points lead over Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle; Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) maintained narrow points leads with three events remaining.

By advancing one round further than Schumacher, Kalitta was able to extend his lead over Schumacher from 33 to 52 points. Brandon Bernstein is 10 points back in third.In just 16 professional starts, Todd has pushed his final-round record to a perfect 3-0 with a string of career-best passes. After out-running Cory McClenathan in Round 1, he lowered his personal best time to 4.502 against Tony Schumacher and then posted a career-best top speed of 327.82 mph versus Dave Grubnic. Still, he saved his best for last, dipping into the 4.4s for the first time to extinguish Troxel with a 4.494 at 324.12 mph.

"I never thought I'd be standing here with three wins and people talking about Rookie of the Year," Todd said. "We were only going to run part-time this year but [sponsor] Evan Knoll stepped up his involvement and said straight out he wanted to beat Tony Schumacher. I was like, well who doesn't, but he's given us what it takes to do it."




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9-21-06-texastwister.jpgBrandon Bernstein and Robert Hight moved into their respective championship chases Sunday with convincing wins at the O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas.

 Both men started and finished the day third in the points, but not before gaining some serious ground on the category leaders at the 19th of 23 races in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Bernstein is now just 40 points out of the Top Fuel lead, while Hight closed to within 93 of Funny Car's top spot.

In Pro Stock, Richie Stevens scored his first victory in more than five years. Bernstein's fourth victory of the season and 12th of his career came at the expense of Rod Fuller, while Hight pulled away from first-time finalist Mike Ashley at half-track to earn his third win of the year and fifth overall.







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RICHMOND - LINE MOVES CLOSER TO CLINCHING FIRST POWERADE PRO STOCK CHAMPIONSHIP; McClenathan and Medlen also earn victories at Torco Racing Fuels NHRA Nationals

10-4-06-richmond.jpgJason Line raced to his fourth Pro Stock victory of the season Sunday at the Torco Racing Fuels NHRA Nationals and moved closer to securing his first NHRA POWERade world championship title.Cory McClenathan and Eric Medlen also were winners at the $1.6 million race at Virginia Motorsports Park, the 21st of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

 Line, who set a national performance record of 6.558 seconds during the weekend and scored the single race maximum of 138 points, now leads teammate Greg Anderson by 119 points. In the final, the former NASCAR dyno operator drove his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to a 6.597 at 208.42 to hold off Tom Martino, who clocked a 6.645 at 207.78, also in a GTO. To advance to the final, Line defeated Erica Enders, Dave Connolly and Anderson in an important semifinal showdown.





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LAS VEGAS - LINE CLINCHES NHRA POWERADE SERIES PRO STOCK CHAMPIONSHIP; Schumacher, Beckman, Stevens and Hines earn victories at ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals


10-26-06-vegasroulette.jpgThird-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.

After 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






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POMONA - SCHUMACHER COMPLETES GREATEST NHRA POWERADE SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP COMEBACK; Force and Hines also claim titles, while Anderson and Treble take victories at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona


11-9-06-pomona.jpgTony Schumacher completed the biggest comeback in NHRA drag racing history Sunday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona and clinchedthe 2006 POWERade Series world championship with a national record final-round run that has to be considered the greatest quarter-mile pass of all time.

In Funny Car, John Force used a holeshot start to win his 122nd racejust two rounds after clinching his 14th title. Greg Anderson bettered new champ and teammate Jason Line by three hundredths of a second in Pro Stock, while Craig Treble got his first Pro Stock Motorcycle win in morethan two years on a day that featured Andrew Hines winning his third straight motorcycle championship. Entering the final round at the Auto Club NHRA Finals needing to win the race with a performance quicker than 4.437 seconds, Schumacher and crewchief Alan Johnson delivered with a stunning 4.428 at 327.98 mph in the U.S. Army dragster that earned him the championship by 14 points over a devastated Doug Kalitta.





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