Wednesday, May 01, 2013


COMMERCE, Ga. — With five different winners in six races and several more drivers showing they have the potential to win races, to say the NHRA Funny Car category has been competitively balanced would be an understatement.

Perhaps brutally tough would be a more fitting description.

If there has been a driver that has stood out so far among the pack it would be two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon. The veteran driver who is pulling double-duty as both driver and crew chief this season for his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry has raced to victories in Las Vegas and Houston and has been the No. 1 qualifier two times.

For his efforts Pedregon has ascended to the No. 1 position in the points standings in the early goings. It is the first time since his brother Tony held the lead in Sept. 2009 that a driver who is not a part of John Force Racing or Don Schumacher Racing has led the points standings. If you’re counting, that’s a span of 78 events.

Pedregon hopes to keep the momentum going at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, May 3-5 at Atlanta Dragway. Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.

The last time Cruz held the series lead was at the end of the 2008 season, when he won the second of his two world championship crowns (also 1992). He’s very proud to be back on top once again, especially since he’s doing it with his well-publicized “No Name” crew.

“It’s a by-product of what we’re doing and it’s an honor and a nice feather in the cap,” said Pedregon, whose only win at Atlanta Dragway came in 1998. “It’s still early and there’s some guys grouped together pretty tightly (in the points), but we’ll take it. It’s a credit to the team and what we’ve been able to accomplish. We have a little momentum going and that’s important.”

With back-to-back final round appearances, another driver in the 8,000-horsepower category with some momentum is also one who makes the tuning decisions and drives the car. Tim Wilkerson posted a runner-up finish to Pedregon at Houston and feels certain that he’s a win waiting to happen in his Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang.

“As good as it’s been, being in contention to win the last two races, I’m about tired of wearing my bridesmaid’s dress,” said Wilkerson, who last hoisted a Wally at Seattle in 2011. “It’s worn out, over the last year or so, and now we’re working on a streak of being in four straight final rounds without getting the win. Believe me, we all want to take that next step and get back in the Winner’s Circle.”

The talent level runs very deep in Funny Car. Sophomore driver Alexis DeJoria has pushed her way into the top 10 at the controls of her Tequila Patron Toyota Camry by posting a pair of semifinal finishes and two eighth place qualifying efforts. She is one of several young drivers – including Charlotte runner-up Blake Alexander and Charlotte No. 1 qualifier Chad Head – who have been making great progress in the Funny Car category.

DeJoria, who has defeated John Force, Robert Hight, defending world champ Jack Beckman and last season’s top rookie Courtney Force in recent head-to-head elimination pairings, is confident that more success is coming her way.

“I’m proud of my team,” said DeJoria, currently ninth in the standings. “We’re going rounds and gaining points with every round, and that’s what’s important right now. I’m looking forward to getting right back out there in a few days in Atlanta.”

Speaking of veteran driver Hight, the two-time winner at Atlanta Dragway says the incredible level of competition in Funny Car could force many teams to start counting points a lot earlier than they would have in previous seasons.

“The points are tightening up and we are only six races into the season,” said Hight, who was the runner-up and No. 1 qualifier last season at Atlanta. “I am not really looking at the points, but you do want to qualify well and go rounds so you get data for the Countdown. We want to be peaking in the Countdown and there is no doubt we want to get one of the guaranteed spots in the Traxxas Shootout. There have been five different winners in Funny Car, so there are only two guaranteed spots left.”

Others to watch in Funny Car include defending event winner Capps, 15-time world champ J. Force, who is a seven-time winner at Atlanta Dragway, Johnny Gray and Matt Hagan, the 2011 world champ who won the recent Four-Wide Nationals in North Carolina.

In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher is again a championship contender early in the season after securing two early season wins, in Phoenix and Las Vegas, at the controls of his U.S. Army dragster. Antron Brown and Spencer Massey have had success this year as well and will be aiming to top their Don Schumacher Racing teammate in the standings. Al-Anabi Racing's Shawn Langdon, Doug Kalitta, Houston winner and local favorite Bob Vandergriff, Clay Millican and Morgan Lucas will challenge for the win as well.

The Pro Stock category is once again shaping up to be a tight battle with Mike Edwards holding the series lead over defending world champ Allen Johnson. Jeg Coughlin, Vincent Nobile, Shane Gray and Erica Enders-Stevens are also among the pre-race favorites in the 200-mph factory hot rod category.

The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense side-by-side competition.

As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers because every ticket is an exclusive pit pass, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds. Spectators also won’t want to miss the popular interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway.

For the second consecutive year, fans can take advantage of an exciting ticket offer: NHRA is offering a special NHRA Fan Pack that includes two Tier 2 reserved adult tickets and a preferred parking pass. This allows the easiest access into Atlanta Dragway via a separate gate entrance and provides parking in the nearest lot next to the main ticket office. Other Fan Pack benefits include two hot dogs and Cokes, one NHRA Fan Guide, and a waived service fee on each transaction. Limited quantities are available for each race day. Friday’s NHRA Fan Pack is only $80, and the Saturday or Sunday Pack is just $112. 

• SCHEDULE: NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 3, and will continue Saturday, May 4, at 1 and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 5.

• TICKETS: For tickets, log on to or call the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at (800) 884-NHRA (6472).

• TELEVISION: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 8 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, May 4, and three hours of eliminations coverage at 6:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, May 5.

• 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

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WHAT: 33rd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, the seventh of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.

WHERE:  Atlanta Dragway, Commerce, Ga. I-85 to Exit 149 (Hwy 441).  After exiting the freeway, go north on Highway 441 to Steven Tanger Blvd. Take left on Tanger and then go right on Ridgeway Road.

WHEN: Friday through Sunday, May 3-5

FRIDAY, May 3 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.

SATURDAY, May 4- LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.

SUNDAY, May 5 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

Saturday, May 4, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 8 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, May 5, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. (ET).

SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):      
Friday, May 3, 9 - 9:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 05C
Saturday, May 4, 7:30 - 8 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 05C
Sunday, May 5, 7 - 7:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 05C          
(3800 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:  Steve Torrence, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock

MOST VICTORIES:  Dave Schultz, 8, PSM; John Force, 7, FC; Warren Johnson, 5, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 4, TF/FC; Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Angelle Sampey, 4, PSM; Greg Anderson, 4, PS; Lee Shepherd, 4, PS.

TRACK RECORDS:            
Top Fuel - 3.815 seconds by Tony Schumacher, May ’12; 323.19 mph by Spencer Massey, May ’11.
Funny Car - 4.072 seconds by John Force, May ’11; 312.13 mph by Ashley Force Hood, April ’09.
Pro Stock - 6.557 seconds by Greg Anderson, April ’09; 211.26 mph by Warren Johnson, April ’09.
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.
TICKETS:  For tickets call NHRA at (800) 884-6472, or visit  

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GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the sixth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel: 1.  Tony Schumacher, 510; 2.  Antron Brown, 440; 3.  Shawn Langdon, 423; 4.  Spencer Massey, 413; 5.  Morgan Lucas, 347; 6. (tie) Khalid alBalooshi, 333; Doug Kalitta, 333; 8.  Bob Vandergriff, 295; 9.  Brandon Bernstein, 281; 10.  David Grubnic, 250.

Funny Car: 1.  Cruz Pedregon, 470; 2.  Matt Hagan, 433; 3.  Courtney Force, 384; 4.  Ron Capps, 381; 5. Johnny Gray, 362; 6.  Tim Wilkerson, 348; 7.  Jack Beckman, 318; 8.  Robert Hight, 308; 9.  Alexis DeJoria, 295; 10.  Bob Tasca III, 293.

Pro Stock: 1.  Mike Edwards, 532; 2.  Allen Johnson, 465; 3.  (tie) Jeg Coughlin, 450; Erica Enders-Stevens, 450; 5.  Jason Line, 419; 6.  Vincent Nobile, 361; 7.  Shane Gray, 327; 8.  V. Gaines, 317; 9. Greg Anderson, 304; 10.  Greg Stanfield, 270.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Hector Arana Jr, 375; 2.  Scotty Pollacheck, 256; 3.  John Hall, 187; 4.  (tie) Hector Arana, 174; Eddie Krawiec, 174; 6.  Steve Johnson, 159; 7.  Andrew Hines, 144; 8.  Michael Ray, 141; 9. Jim Underdahl, 136; 10.  Matt Smith, 133.