LAS VEGAS – Currently sitting in third place in Pro Stock, two-time world champion Jason Line already knows he has to make up ground to leap past Mike Edwards and current points leader Jeg Coughlin during the final two events in the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. A recent mishap in testing might have made the task even more difficult, but Line remains as determined as ever to claim another season championship title for his Summit Racing Equipment team heading into the NHRA Toyota Nationals, Oct. 24-27 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Line was uninjured following a crash during a private test session earlier this month, but the team had to replace his Chevy Camaro with a new one, making for a steep learning curve on the eve of the fifth of sixth races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. Bob Vandergriff (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), and defending world champions Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) raced to victories last season at the popular event that will once again be televised on ESPN2HD.
“Obviously it was not great timing,” Line said. “We had our Summit Chevy Camaro running good, and we struggled a bit this year, so it felt really good to finally have the car running good, and certainly as fast as anybody's, and now we've got to start over. It's just one of those things. But right now you have to somehow find enough strength to remain focused and be focused better than your opponents at this point in time. That's what's going to make you the champ or not.”
After both he and teammate Greg Anderson struggled for most of the season in their Camaros, Line caught fire at the perfect time, advancing to two straight final rounds to open the Countdown. He won in Dallas – his first victory since a win at Houston in April – and moved into the points lead for the first time in 2013.
A first round loss in St. Louis a week later sent him back to third, but he still only trails Coughlin by 50 points in what is expected to be a heated championship battle over the final two events. Edwards, who has a class-best six wins this season, is just 45 points behind Coughlin, who won the most recent event in Reading. Defending world champion Johnson is 73 points back in fourth place, but Line said he is only focused on his own performance in Las Vegas.
“You have to win, and you really need to win this race,” Line said. “I've said that the last two races, and if we wanted to put ourselves in a better position we needed to, and just didn't make it happen. But I also think I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about the points because that's all that matters.”
To even be in the championship hunt is nothing short of remarkable considering the team’s struggles in 2013. Anderson has yet to post a win – putting his streak of 12 straight seasons with a victory in jeopardy – and Line had only one heading into the Countdown. But the team continued to work hard to turn the season around.
“We had to do something because the Countdown was upon us, and again, we wanted to be able to contend for a championship,” Line said. “It's great competition in this class, and that's what brings out the best in you hopefully.”
Line also knows he’ll face an uphill climb to get the new Camaro running at a championship-caliber level this late in the season. But with a potential world championship looming, it’s a challenge he’s ready to take on.
“To have to start over is tough and it wouldn't have been the path that I would have chosen,” Line said. “But that's the way it goes, and you have to just deal with those things the best you can and make the best of it. That's racing, that's life. You've just got to make the best of it. Like I say, I feel like we'll have at least a competitive car. We're just going to keep working at it.”
In Top Fuel, Shawn Langdon is the series leader over tough competitors Doug Kalitta and Spencer Massey, who trail by 83 and 85 points respectively. Should Langdon increase his series lead to 151 points over second place at this event he will clinch the championship title. Several others are still in title contention, but will need a strong showing in Las Vegas to boost their title hopes, including fourth place points-sitter Morgan Lucas, defending world champ Antron Brown and four-time NHRA Toyota Nationals event winner Tony Schumacher.
In Funny Car, 15-time world champion John Force is the current points leader in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. He will slug it out with Matt Hagan and his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger on The Strip, but drivers like defending champ Jack Beckman and former world champs Robert Hight and Cruz Pedregon remain in contention and can all be wild cards in the title hunt.
The battle in Pro Stock Motorcycle will showcase the brewing rivalry between 2007 world champion and points leader Matt Smith and Hector Arana Jr. Smith has a 125 point lead over Arana Jr. and could clinch the championship title if he can add 26 more points to his lead at this event. Arana Jr., Michael Ray, Hector Arana Sr., and Krawiec all will be racing hard to keep the championship battle in the two-wheel category going for one more event.
Fans arriving early for the penultimate race-weekend will be treated to the traditional NHRA Fremont Street Experience Fan Fest, annually one of the best-attended pre-race festivities on the circuit. The Fan Fest will be held Thursday, Oct. 24th at 5 p.m. on Fremont Street and will feature the sport’s top drivers participating in one of the biggest autograph sessions of the year and will also showcase a spectacular NHRA-themed light show over Freemont Street. Ticket giveaways and music will also be a part of this exciting kick-off event for the weekend.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time with their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family. Also in support of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, Alexis DeJoria’s Tequila Patron Funny Car team has partnered with Nevada Health Centers to offer free mammograms all weekend long in the Midway for female race fans over 40.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense competition on the track.
Families can take part in a special ticket offer for children 12 and under, who will be admitted free in general admission areas with a paid adult.
The NHRA Toyota Nationals qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:15 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 25. Qualifying continues at 12:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27.
Tickets are available for the NHRA Toyota Nationals online at www.lvms.com or by calling (800) 644-4444. For complete event coverage of the 13th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, please visit www.nhra.com.
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NHRA TOYOTA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 13th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, the 23rd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the fifth of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. 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: The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas. Track is located approximately 15 miles north of Las Vegas off I-15.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 24-27
THURSDAY, Oct. 24 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, Oct. 25 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 12:45 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:15 and 3:45 p.m.
SATURDAY, Oct. 26 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2:15 p.m. Round 1 of eliminations at 4:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:15 and 2:45 p.m.
SUNDAY, Oct. 27 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Sunday, Oct. 27, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 2:30 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 27, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will re-air 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 3 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 27, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of coverage starting at 8 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, Oct. 25, 9:30 - 10 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
Saturday, Oct. 26, 9:30 - 10 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
Sunday, Oct. 27, 9 - 9:30 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: Bob Vandergriff, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Allen Johnson, Pro Stock; Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Greg Anderson, PS, 4; Tony Schumacher, TF, 4; Ron Capps, FC, 4; Andrew Hines, PSM, 3.
Top Fuel - 3.773 seconds by Tony Schumacher, Oct. ’12; 327.11 mph by Doug Kalitta, Oct., ’12
Funny Car - 4.030 seconds by Matt Hagan, Oct. ’09; 317.27 mph by Robert Hight, Oct. ’12.
Pro Stock - 6.590 seconds by Jason Line, Oct. ’12; 209.72 mph by Line, Oct. ’12.
PS Motorcycle - 6.879 sec. by Hector Arana Jr., Oct. ’11; 196.56 mph by Eddie Krawiec, Oct. ’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.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
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NHRA MELLO YELLO COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif.-- Point standings (top 10) following the 22nd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the fourth of six playoff races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship -
Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 2,441; 2. Doug Kalitta, 2,358; 3. Spencer Massey, 2,355; 4. Morgan Lucas, 2,316; 5. Antron Brown, 2,312; 6. Tony Schumacher, 2,302; 7. Clay Millican, 2,232; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 2,223; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 2,187; 10. Steve Torrence, 2,125.
Funny Car: 1. John Force, 2,457; 2. Matt Hagan, 2,392; 3. Jack Beckman, 2,331; 4. Robert Hight, 2,323; 5. Cruz Pedregon, 2,307; 6. Ron Capps, 2,297; 7. Courtney Force, 2,266; 8. Johnny Gray, 2,223; 9. Del Worsham, 2,214; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,175.
Pro Stock: 1. Jeg Coughlin, 2,433; 2. Mike Edwards, 2,388; 3. Jason Line, 2,383; 4. Allen Johnson, 2,360; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens, 2,319; 6. Shane Gray, 2,313; 7. Greg Anderson, 2,260; 8. V. Gaines, 2,219; 9. Vincent Nobile, 2,215; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 2,083.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Matt Smith, 2,486; 2. Hector Arana Jr, 2,361; 3. Michael Ray, 2,359; 4. Hector Arana, 2,357; 5. Eddie Krawiec, 2,345; 6. LE Tonglet, 2,299; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,256; 8. John Hall, 2,238; 9. Adam Arana, 2,157; 10. Shawn Gann, 2,125.