LAS VEGAS – For the third straight year, Top Fuel standout Spencer Massey is in the championship mix, currently sitting third in the points standings heading into the NHRA Toyota Nationals, which takes place Oct. 24-27 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The race is the penultimate event in the 2013 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and is the fifth of six playoff races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, and Massey is ready to make another championship push.
He trails points leader Shawn Langdon by 85 points heading into the NHRA Toyota Nationals, which will once again be televised by ESPN2HD, and Massey knows he must rise to the challenge if he’s going to accomplish his ultimate goal this season.
“After having a couple weeks off, I’m definitely recharged and motivated to get to Vegas,” Massey said. “I’m pumped up and ready to see how it goes. It’s going to be a dogfight to the end and to keep our hopes alive, it would be nice to win the race and gain some ground on Shawn.”
Massey, who is two points behind second place Doug Kalitta, is a two-time winner in Vegas, most recently during the spring race in 2012. He likes his chances in his 8,000-horsepower Battery Extender/Schumacher Electric dragster, in part because of the immense success crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler have had at the spectacular facility.
Putting together another solid season in 2013, one that has included four victories and six final round appearances, doesn’t hurt matters, either.
“With this car and this team we’ve always had success at certain tracks like Charlotte and Vegas,” Massey said. “We’ve always done well there and I love having Todd and Phil on our side. This is what I’ve lived and breathed for my entire life. Every time I sit back and look at this situation, driving this car and for Don Schumacher Racing, I’m in awe of it. We have a shot to win a championship and hopefully we can come through and do it.”
It would be the first in Massey’s standout NHRA career, but it certainly won’t be easy. Langdon is coming off a win in Reading at the most recent event and has a class-best six victories in 2013 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster, while Kalitta has been strong throughout the Countdown in his Mac Tools dragster.
Massey also can’t forget about those behind him the standings, including seven-time champ Tony Schumacher, defending world champion Antron Brown and Morgan Lucas, who won in Charlotte, went to the semis in Dallas and claimed No. 1 qualifying positions during the Countdown. Massey has been consistent in the Countdown, advancing to one final round and two semifinals, but he is hopeful the team starts a hot streak in Vegas.
“Obviously the best-case scenario is us winning the race and Shawn not getting a lot of points, but to sum it up we just want to win,” Massey said. “As long as we have a shot at Pomona I’ll be ecstatic. The last two years have come down to the final day and I’d love to have that shot again.”
Massey finished third a year ago and was second to Del Worsham in 2011. He led after the Vegas event that year, but Worsham won the final event in Pomona to gain the championship. Massey has learned from those important experiences and hopes he can rely on them to take the next step in finishing off his 2013 season in championship style.
“The more times you put yourself in those situations the better you will be,” Massey said. “I try not to change my approach and just win every round. Every little point counts. We want to be able to go down the track and get those bonus points. We’re watching what Shawn and the other guys are doing, but we have to stay on top of our car.
“You have to keep your head down, do what you can do and hopefully it falls your way.”
In Funny Car, 15-time world champion John Force took over the points lead after winning in Reading for his second straight victory in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. Matt Hagan, who won the 2011 world championship, trails Force by 65 points and will be looking to make a hard charge in Vegas at the controls of his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger. In addition to Force and Hagan, other notables in Funny Car who are still mathematically in contention in the Countdown are defending series champ Jack Beckman, who trails Force by 126 points, ’09 champ Robert Hight who is 134 back and two-time champ Cruz Pedregon, who is in fifth place in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry, 150 back of the leader. Four-time series runner-up Ron Capps is also still in the conversation at 160 points behind.
Pro Stock features a classic group of former world champions battling for the top prize, with everyone chasing JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger veteran Jeg Coughlin. Mike Edwards, the 2009 champ, is in second place and is this season’s winningest driver with six victories total, while Jason Line, who drives the Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro, is currently in third but will be bringing out a new car for the event after his primary car was sidelined following a crash during a recent test session. Defending world champ Allen Johnson, who won at Vegas in the spring, is 73 points back and still very much a threat in his Team Mopar Avenger.
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 during the weekend. Arana Jr., Michael Ray, Hector Arana Sr., and defending world champ Eddie Krawiec all will be racing hard to keep the championship battle in the two-wheel category going into the season-finale at Pomona.
Fans arriving early for the penultimate race-weekend will be treated to the traditional NHRA Fremont Street Fan Fest, annually one of the best-attended pre-race festivities on the circuit. The Fan Fest will be Thursday, Oct. 24th at 6 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 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 National Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Tequila Patron Funny Car/Alexis DeJoria 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 fans during the weekend with intense competition on the track.
Families can take part in a special ticket offer as children 12 and under, who will be admitted free into 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.
Saturday, Oct. 26, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise qualifying coverage at TBD (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.
TICKETS: For tickets call The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at (800) 644-4444, or visit www.LVMS.com online.
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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.