KENT, Wash. – With only three races remaining until the top 10 teams in each Mello Yello Series category are locked in for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs, every team on the bubble and those on the outside of the top 10 know the time is now to make a move.
In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence is feeling that strong sense of urgency.
Sitting 10th overall and recently squandering a couple of great qualifying performances with a pair of first round losses at Denver and Sonoma, Torrence feels like he needs to get back on the winning track at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals, Aug. 2-4 at scenic Pacific Raceways near Seattle. Courtney Force (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) joined Torrence as winners last year of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at the multi-purpose motorsports facility. Once again, the race will be the final stop in the grueling three-race Western Swing and it will be televised on ESPN2 HD (qualifying Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET and eliminations, Sunday, 7 p.m. ET).
Torrence, who qualified No. 1 at Denver but lost to Mike Strasburg in the opening round and qualified No. 2 at Sonoma but had a similar first round result with a loss to Tommy Johnson Jr., is ready to turn the trend at Pacific Raceways, where he put on a great show last year in taking round wins over Steve Chrisman, Khalid alBalooshi and Doug Kalitta before outrunning Shawn Langdon in the final round. He's hoping to draw off his victory from last year to help get his 2013 season in gear as the Countdown playoffs approach.
"I'm excited to go back there and it is a confidence booster going into the race where I got to share the winner's circle with two beautiful ladies in Courtney and Erica," Torrence said with a smile. "I said at the time I would rather that be me on the podium than my final round opponent Shawn Langdon. We had some eventful races there to get the win; a wild ride in the first round and a couple of tire-smokers. I am looking forward to getting back there. I like racing there and now it has a great memory for me of getting a Wally and getting a win."
Torrence heads to Seattle in 10th place, 125 points ahead of 11th place David Grubnic and 128 in front of 12th place Brandon Bernstein. Rookie Brittany Force is still within striking range at 155 back in her Castrol Edge dragster in the 13th spot. Torrence says his team, which is now led by veteran tuner Lee Beard, will continue to pursue every available point until they are securely locked in the Countdown. He says after being as far down in the standings as 14th and 13th after the Houston race in April, his team has been rallying to make the playoffs for most of the season.
"This team has been in that mode for several races now," Torrence said. "We've been digging deep and scratching and clawing to try to get every point we possibly can. We are right on the 10th spot we are paying really close attention to it. We know anything can happen, this is drag racing."
Once Torrence hired Beard in the middle of the regular season the team had an instant shot of success by winning at Bristol. That race put them into the top 10 and they have been hanging around the 10th spot since then. Torrence knows it is only a matter of time before everything will start to click like he wants it to with his 8,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster.
"We still have a strong race car to run and a good group of guys behind us," Torrence said. "We're going to go out and try to bring back the Capco car of last year and get back on the same pace as we've been. We've been struggling a little recently, but we're not too far from making that corner and getting the car to where it needs to be. I would be willing to sacrifice the first half of the season to be able to run our best in the last six."
In order to defend his Pacific Raceways title, Torrence will need to hold off red-hot Langdon, who won his fourth race of the season in the Al-Anabi Racing dragster at Sonoma and extended his series points lead to 102 over second place Spencer Massey, a three-time season winner. Seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher is third overall, also with three wins this season in the U.S. Army dragster. Meanwhile, defending world champ Antron Brown is working to get his season back on track, and Doug Kalitta, alBalooshi, Clay Millican, Bob Vandergriff and Sonoma runner-up Morgan Lucas are all running extremely well.
"It's getting so difficult, you don't have any slackers out here and everybody is on their game on the tree," Torrence said. "It's so tight right now and the competition is the toughest I've seen in my racing career. These cars are so closely matched. These teams are doing anything they can to get that advantage to go quicker and faster. There are several two-car teams and we are a one-car team and we've made a little bit of a splash and we're trying to keep our head above water this year. The competition is unreal and it makes winning one of these races and winning a round more gratifying just because of how hard it is to get that win light."
In Funny Car, Courtney Force is looking to return to the track where she earned her first career win and she’s well on her way to accomplish her goals with three final round appearances and two wins this season. But multiple drivers will aim to steal her thunder including current points leader Matt Hagan, Sonoma winner Ron Capps, who moved to second in the standings, four-time season winner Johnny Gray, and three-time season winner Cruz Pedregon. John Force, a seven-time Seattle winner, Tequila Patron Toyota Camry driver Alexis DeJoria, veteran Del Worsham and defending world champion Jack Beckman also will be racing hard for victory.
In Pro Stock, points leader and two-time Seattle winner Mike Edwards hopes to continue building on his red-hot momentum while defending world champion Allen Johnson along with teammates Jeg Coughlin and Sonoma winner Vincent Nobile are equally hot this season and continue in the climb to dominate. Former Seattle champs including Jason Line and Greg Anderson as well as notable 200 mph thrillers Shane Gray, V. Gaines and Rodger Brogdon.
Since 1960, Pacific Raceways been known as one of the most picturesque and welcoming venues of all NHRA Mello Yello event tracks. The Fiorito family has been committed to the sport since the NHRA’s beginnings making the facility a favorite among fans and drivers.
The teams in several categories of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds with intense side-by-side competition.
As always, every ticket purchased for the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals is an exclusive pit pass, allowing spectators to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their sophisticated hot rods between rounds. Fans can meet many of the drivers in the pits and get autographs. Fans will also want to check out NHRA Nitro Alley and the popular NHRA Manufacturers Midway.
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:45 and 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2, and will continue Saturday, Aug. 3, at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 4.
When the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series arrives in Seattle, families are encouraged to take advantage of a special ticket promotion: Children 12 and younger will receive free general admission with a paid adult all weekend. Fans can also bring an empty Mello Yello® bottle or can to Pacific Raceways box office and SAVE $8 on one adult single day NHRA race ticket, Friday – Sunday.
For tickets, visit www.NHRAtix.com or call 800-884-NHRA (6472). For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
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O’REILLY AUTO PARTS NHRA NORTHWEST NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 26th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries, the 16th 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: Pacific Raceways, Kent, Wash. The track is located 10 miles east of Interstate 5 on Highway 18. From I-5, use Exit 142A (Auburn exit) and travel east 10 miles on Highway 18, following the signs to the track. From other points, use Highway 18 and exit S.E. 304th St. or S.E. 312th St.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Aug. 2-4.
FRIDAY, Aug. 2 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2:45 and 5:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, Aug. 3 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, Aug. 4 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, Aug. 3, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying highlights at 10:30 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Aug. 4, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, Aug. 2, 10:30 - 11 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
Saturday, Aug. 3, 8:30 - 9 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
Sunday, Aug. 4, 8:30 - 9 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
(3720 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; Courtney Force, Funny Car; Erica Enders-Stevens, Pro Stock.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 7, FC; Bob Glidden, 6, PS; Joe Amato, 5, TF; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF; Warren Johnson, 4, PS.
Top Fuel - 3.802 seconds by Tony Schumacher, July ’08; 322.19 mph by Schumacher, July ’10.
Funny Car - 4.056 seconds by Robert Hight, July ’08; 308.85 mph by John Force, Aug ’11.
Pro Stock - 6.531 seconds by Jason Line, Aug ’11; 211.69 mph by Allen Johnson, Aug ’11.
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 www.NHRATIX.com.
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NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the 15th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series -
Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 1,210; 2. Spencer Massey, 1,108; 3. Tony Schumacher, 1,106; 4. Doug Kalitta, 924; 5. Antron Brown, 904; 6. Khalid alBalooshi, 865; 7. Clay Millican, 769; 8. Morgan Lucas, 768; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 726; 10. Steve Torrence, 688.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 1,034; 2. Ron Capps, 1,007; 3. Cruz Pedregon, 983; 4. John Force, 961; 5. Johnny Gray, 945; 6. (tie) Jack Beckman, 910; Courtney Force, 910; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 804; 9. Del Worsham, 799; 10. Robert Hight, 782.
Pro Stock: 1. Mike Edwards, 1,339; 2. Allen Johnson, 1,273; 3. Jeg Coughlin, 1,147; 4. Shane Gray, 948; 5. Vincent Nobile, 918; 6. Jason Line, 902; 7. Greg Anderson, 821; 8. Erica Enders-Stevens, 743; 9. V. Gaines, 742; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 660.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Hector Arana Jr, 795; 2. Matt Smith, 646; 3. Michael Ray, 599; 4. Hector Arana, 553; 5. John Hall, 534; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, 523; 7. Eddie Krawiec, 465; 8. Adam Arana, 462; 9. Shawn Gann, 428; 10. Steve Johnson, 424.