SONOMA, Calif. — With four races remaining in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Regular Season, many teams will need to add a new tool to their arsenal of wrenches, widgets and gadgets in their pit areas: a trusty calculator.
While each of the four Full Throttle Series classes have some intriguing plots and subplots regarding who will and won’t qualify for the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs, perhaps the most competitive top 10 battle will be in Funny Car.
As many as eight teams, from sixth all the way down to 13th in the points order, will be racing hard to grab one of the final spots in the playoff field over the course of the final four races of the regular season.
Next up for those who are trying to break into the top 10 is the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, July 27-29 in Northern California, just north of San Francisco. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tongelt (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN and ESPN2.
Sixth place Courtney Force, who raced to her second final round appearance of the season in Denver, sits only 128 points from 11th place Tim Wilkerson in the series standings. Defending world champ Matt Hagan is 13th in his Aaron’s/Mopar Dodge Charger, 152 points back of 10th place John Force.
There are a lot of scenarios that teams can work up on paper, but at the end of the day, it will all come down to performance on the track. For Hagan, his team needs a quick turnaround in that department if he’s going to be able to defend his world championship title. So far in 2012, he hasn’t advanced past the second round and has suffered eight first round losses and one DNQ.
“We won’t give up on the Countdown until somebody tells me it’s impossible for us to get into the top 10,” Hagan said. “And even then our Aaron’s team will never quit trying to get better and win. We have 10 more Full Throttle races left and that means we have a shot at winning 10 trophies. That’s our goal. We don’t give up; we never will.”
Wilkerson, who posted a runner-up finish at Norwalk and surged ahead, knows that 70 points stand between he and 10th place Force. With a great record of success at the four remaining races of the regular season – including multiple wins at Sonoma and Seattle – he knows the time is now or never. Of his 30 career final rounds, nine have come at those four races.
“We went from almost out of contention to right back in it, and we have four races left in the regular season to make the playoffs,” Wilkerson said. “I’d rather be the hunted instead of the hunter, though, so our goal is to just keep winning rounds and if we do that we’ll jam our way into the top ten no matter what anybody else does. That’s the only way to think about it and approach it, because right now there are eight great teams legitimately fighting for the last five spots in the Countdown, and you can do the math. It’s going to be a very interesting stretch of racing here, between now and Labor Day.”
As we’ve seen before in the Countdown with current series points leader Robert Hight in 2009 and Hagan last year, if you can qualify for the Countdown, a championship title is certainly within reach. Force hopes he can hang on to have a shot at winning world championship title No. 16.
“We’re 10th in points,” Force said. “You gotta be in the top 10 (to make the Countdown playoffs). At the end of the day, you know that if you make the Countdown, anything can happen.”
In Top Fuel, Bob Vandergriff is on the 10th spot, with Clay Millican 23 points behind in 11th. Terry McMillen is 115 points back in 12th and rookie Khalid alBalooshi, who earned his first eliminations round win at Denver, is 13th in the Al-Anabi Racing dragster, 117 out of 10th.
Rodger Brogdon is currently 10th in Pro Stock, but the Houston driver has decided to skip the Western Swing in order to test. He will surely drop out of the top 10 during that three-race span. A strong run at his home track in Denver pushed V. Gaines into 11th, eight points behind Brogdon. Four-time world champ Jeg Coughlin also is in the mix, sitting 12th in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger, 26 points out of the top 10. Lucas Oil Ford Mustang driver Larry Morgan is 13th, but only 27 points out of the playoff picture.
Veteran rider Steve Johnson is in 11th in Pro Stock Motorcycle, and trails 10th place Shawn Gann by 36 points. The two-wheel teams only have three races until their Countdown field is set, so those teams have even less time to make a move. Rookie John Hall is 64 points out of the top 10 and Jerry Savoie, who qualified for the Countdown last season, is 13th, 82 points back of Gann.
* TICKETS: For tickets for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, please call Sonoma at (800) 870-RACE or log on to www.racesonoma.com.
* ON TV: ESPNHD will televise two hours and 30 minutes of qualifying coverage at 7 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, July 28, and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, July 29.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The NHRA Sonoma Nationals will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8:15 a.m. on July 27; eliminations begin at 8:15 a.m. on July 28 and continue through July 29.
* ON THE WEB: Get live timing, scoring, multimedia and the latest news updates from every NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.nhra.com. Visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
NHRA SONOMA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 25th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals, the 14th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - earn points leading to 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. The track is located at the intersection of Highways 37 and 121
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, July 27-29.
FRIDAY, July 27 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 8:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
SATURDAY, July 28 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 8:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 29 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, July 28, ESPNHD will televise two hours and 30 minutes of qualifying coverage at 7 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 29, ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Saturday, July 28, Midnight - 12:30 a.m. (ET), AMC 1 / Transponder 23C
Saturday, July 28, 10 - 10:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 1 / Transponder 23C
Sunday, July 29, 10:30 - 11 p.m. (ET), AMC 1 / Transponder 23C
(4160 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.461470554 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2011 EVENT WINNERS:
Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock; LE Tonglet, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
John Force, 7, FC; Doug Kalitta, 5, TF; Greg Anderson, 4, PS; Warren Johnson, 3, PS; Jim Yates, 3, PS.
Top Fuel – 3.805 seconds by Antron Brown, July ’09; 321.65 mph by Tony Schumacher, July ’11.
Funny Car – 4.060 seconds by John Force, July ’11; 311.99 mph by Force, July ’11.
Pro Stock – 6.538 seconds by Allen Johnson, July ’11; 211.56 mph by Johnson, July ’11.
PS Motorcycle – 6.843 seconds by Hector Arana, July ’10; 197.65 mph by Michael Phillips, July ’10.
Top Fuel - 3.735 sec. by Del Worsham, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.995 sec. by Matt Hagan, Sept. ’11, Charlotte, N.C.; 318.99 mph by Jack Beckman, Sept. ’11, Charlotte, N.C.
Pro Stock - 6.477 sec. by Jason Line, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 213.91 mph by Jason Line, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
PS Motorcycle - 6.750 sec. by Eddie Krawiec, March ’12, Gainesville, Fla.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 870-RACE (7223). Tickets may also be purchased online at http://www.racesonoma.com/tickets/nhra_sonoma_nationals/
NHRA FULL THROTTLE DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the 13th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel: 1. Spencer Massey, 1,071; 2. Antron Brown, 1,060; 3. Tony Schumacher, 990; 4. Steve Torrence, 950; 5. Morgan Lucas, 762; 6. Doug Kalitta, 744; 7. Shawn Langdon, 685; 8. Brandon Bernstein, 661; 9. David Grubnic, 625; 10. Bob Vandergriff, 568.
Funny Car: 1. Robert Hight, 1,060; 2. Ron Capps, 994; 3. Mike Neff, 863; 4. Jack Beckman, 862; 5. Johnny Gray, 766; 6. Courtney Force, 701; 7. Cruz Pedregon, 680; 8. Jeff Arend, 661; 9. Bob Tasca III, 654; 10. John Force, 643.
Pro Stock: 1. Allen Johnson, 1,104; 2. Greg Anderson, 1,085; 3. Jason Line, 1,072; 4. Mike Edwards, 895; 5. Vincent Nobile, 884; 6. Erica Enders, 762; 7. Ronnie Humphrey, 550; 8. Shane Gray, 529; 9.Ron Krisher, 495; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 492.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 714; 2. Andrew Hines, 670; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 574; 4. Hector Arana, 510; 5. Karen Stoffer, 396; 6. LE Tonglet, 378; 7. Michael Ray, 354; 8. Scotty Pollacheck, 329; 9. Matt Smith, 308; 10. Shawn Gann, 284.