BAYTOWN, Texas – One of the biggest requirements for those who compete in the world of NHRA Top Fuel racing is patience. The competition is so close, that it can be easy for a team to become frustrated when the results aren’t immediately matching their expectations.
For defending O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries Top Fuel winner Morgan Lucas, the early part of the 2013 season has been an exercise in patience.
His GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster has shown a ton of promise and has been producing great performances, but he has yet to add to his career win total. In sharp contrast to last season where Lucas opened the season with a pair of dominating victories, this year he is still waiting to grab that first Wally of the year.
Lucas hopes all of his team’s hard work will pay off this weekend at Royal Purple Raceway and he can become a back-to-back winner at an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event for the first time. Mike Neff (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) join Lucas as defending winners of the event that will be televised on ESPN2 HD, with live coverage of Saturday qualifying and Sunday’s semifinals and final rounds.
Lucas enjoys racing at the ultra-quick dragstrip that sits only 10 feet above sea level just east of downtown Houston.
“Going to Houston is exciting when you’re the reigning champion there,” Lucas said. “It can be a really fast race track. It was surprisingly good there last year when it was hot out, so the track is capable of so much. We want to go down there and make sure we have our game together to be able to try to repeat what we did in the past. We know we have the right parts and pieces and people. It’s pretty much the same group as last year. Right now, our focus needs to turn into being consistent going into this race. It’d be nice to win the same race back to back because we’ve never done that before, and that would be one of those cool things to check off the list.”
This season Lucas has posted a runner-up finish at Phoenix and a semifinal effort at the recent NHRA Four-Wide event in Charlotte, N.C. He is currently fifth in the points standings. He feels like his team is right on the verge of moving on up in the series standings.
“We’re learning a lot every time we go to the track,” Lucas said. “Some weekends don’t pan out to be how we like them to be, but the resiliency of the team is getting better and stronger and going the right direction. Sometimes when we have those bad races, we might be able to get up. Dust ourselves off and go to the next one and win. That’s what we’re trying to build here, the thought that we can win any race at any time, so when we go into a long stretch of events, we don’t need to get ourselves into a mental rut and mess ourselves up. Big picture, it’s consistency, working hard and being able to keep persevering whenever we need to.”
Which goes back to the patience motto. With seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, defending world champ Antron Brown, recent Four-Wide winner Spencer Massey, Al-Anabi Racing’s Shawn Langdon, veteran Doug Kalitta and a host of other extremely talented drivers in the category the competition has never been better, Lucas says.
“Everybody’s driving at the top of their game, and the cars are all running so close together,” Lucas said. “Three years ago, if this many cars were running within a tenth of each other, it would’ve been a shock. And now, everybody’s within five-hundredths of each other. It just goes to show the quality of the class has gotten better. As a whole, everybody has to be on their game and everybody’s been forced to step up and compete with the demanding changes that are involved.”
In Funny Car, Charlotte winner Matt Hagan leads the Funny Car points standings over Cruz Pederegon. Courtney Force has been strong in her Traxxas Ford Mustang with two final round appearances thus far in the season with one win in Pomona. Also splitting time atop the points standings have been Ron Capps and Johnny Gray, who will both be serious contenders when the series visits the Lone Star state. Others to watch in Funny Car include Las Vegas winner Cruz Pedregon, a two-time winner at RPR, seven-time event winner John Force and Del Worsham, who has earned both Top Fuel and Funny Car wins in Houston.
In Pro Stock, two-time and defending event champion Vincent Nobile will be looking for continued success at the facility where he secured his first career victory in 2011. Points leader Mike Edwards, defending world champ Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin will all be vying to end Nobile’s domination of the track and take home a win at the event. Hometown favorite Erica Enders-Stevens would love to get a victory at her home track.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana Jr. rides into the event as series points leader on the strength of his season-opening win in Gainesville and will be looking for continued success aboard his Lucas Oil Buell at a track where he has fond memories. However, Andrew Hines will be going for his fourth consecutive victory at the Texas track on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Other two-wheel racers to watch include three-time and defending world champ Eddie Krawiec, Matt Smith, Scotty Pollacheck, veteran rider Steve Johnson and Hector Arana Sr.
The NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense side-by-side competition.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as every ticket is an exclusive pit pass, allowing them firsthand to see the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds. While visiting the pits, interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway are two popular areas fans won’t want to miss.
• SCHEDULE: Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. on Friday, April 26 and continue on Saturday, April 27 at noon and 2:15 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 28.
• TICKETS: Tickets are available for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries at www.royalpurpleraceway.com or by calling Royal Purple Raceway at (281) 383-RACE (7223). Children 13 and younger will receive free general admission tickets with a paid adult.
• TELEVISION: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 3 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, April 27 and three hours of eliminations coverage at 2 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 28.
• ON THE WEB: Get instant results, access to photos, video and audio clips, and the latest news updates from every NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.NHRA.com.
* * *
O’REILLY AUTO PARTS NHRA SPRINGNATIONALS presented by Super Start Batteries FACT SHEET
WHAT: 26th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries, the sixth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Royal Purple Raceway, Baytown, Texas. From Interstate 10 take the State Hwy. 99 (Grand Parkway) exit, which is exit 799. Take a right on State Hwy. 99 and go to the first exit (2 miles) which is FM 565. Take a right on FM 565 and Royal Purple Raceway will be on your right. For additional information about directions please visit www.royalpurpleraceway.com.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, April 26-28
FRIDAY, April 26 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 3 and 5:15 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 3:30 and 5:45 p.m.
SATURDAY, April 27 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 1:45 p.m. and eliminations at 4 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at noon and 2:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, April 28 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11a.m.
Saturday, April 27, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 3 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, April 28, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of coverage at 2 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, April 26, 9:30 - 10 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 03C
Saturday, April 27, 5:30 - 6 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 03C
Sunday, April 28, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 03C
(3760 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.46147055 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.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Morgan Lucas, Top Fuel; Mike Neff, Funny Car; Vincent Nobile, Pro Stock; Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 6, FC; Warren Johnson, 5, PS; John Myers, 4, PSM; Angelle Sampey, 4, PSM
Top Fuel - 3.772 seconds by Larry Dixon, April ’10; 327.74 mph by Morgan Lucas, April ’12.
Funny Car - 4.021 seconds by John Force, April ’10; 316.08 mph by Force, April ’10.
Pro Stock - 6.539 seconds by Mike Edwards, April ’10; 212.43 mph by Edwards, April ’10.
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.846 seconds by Hector Arana Jr., April ’12; 197.83 mph by Eddie Krawiec, April ’12.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets call Royal Purple Raceway at (281) 383-RACE (7223) or visit www.royalpurpleraceway.com.
* * *
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. – Mello Yello Drag Racing Series points standings following the fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series -
Top Fuel: 1. Tony Schumacher, 479; 2. Antron Brown, 405; 3. Spencer Massey, 370; 4. Shawn Langdon, 326; 5. Morgan Lucas, 274; 6. Doug Kalitta, 272; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 252; 8. Brandon Bernstein, 249; 9. Clay Millican, 235; 10. David Grubnic, 216.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 399; 2. Cruz Pedregon, 349; 3. Courtney Force, 347; 4. Johnny Gray, 311; 5. Ron Capps, 309; 6. Robert Hight, 271; 7. Jack Beckman, 263; 8. Del Worsham, 259; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 247; 10. Bob Tasca III, 240.
Pro Stock: 1. Mike Edwards, 494; 2. Allen Johnson, 410; 3. Erica Enders-Stevens, 396; 4. Jeg Coughlin, 369; 5. Vincent Nobile, 309; 6. Jason Line, 303; 7. V. Gaines, 284; 8. Greg Anderson, 269; 9. Shane Gray, 227; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 200.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Hector Arana Jr., 248; 2. Scotty Pollacheck, 155; 3. Eddie Krawiec, 143; 4. Steve Johnson, 127; 5. Hector Arana, 121; 6. John Hall, 112; 7. Jim Underdahl, 104; 8. Matt Smith, 101; 9. Andrew Hines, 87; 10. Shawn Gann, 85.