NHRA Full Throttle coverage is presented by Sonny's Racing Engines.
October 27-30 , 2011
Big O'Tires Nationals event preview
Team Press releases are at the bottom of the page.
(photos courtesy Bob Wilson, Bob Snyder, David Smith and Bill Jeffery)
.... Lies the proverbial pot of gold that NHRA pro racers have been battling throughout the year for the right to claim in just a few weeks time. With this weekend's Big O Tires Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway being the penultimate event on the schedule, the tension is at a fever pitch, the margins for error are less than zero, and the time to make it happen is now. There are no second chances and as is the case for many racers, the odds of success are so slim now that a few thousandths of a second in e.t. or a fraction of a mile per hour could mean the difference between a big payday and mere pocket change.
Since the NHRA changed from a season-long cumulative points system for determining championships to the current countdown style, it's drastically increased the pressure to perform for the ten finalists in each category. Even if a racer has been consistent all year long, gathered lots of points and would be in a good position to take the championship crown, if they have one or two bad races early in the countdown series, his or her chances could be over very quickly. Even if a racer has a huge lead in the standings, when the countdown starts everyone's totals are reset and the leader has only a 30-point margin to start their quest for the title during the six-race "playoff" season.
With just this weekend's Big O Tires Nationals and the AAA Auto Club Finals at Pomona in two weeks remaining on the schedule, the championship picture is coming into focus and will be very easy to see by the end of this week. Let's look at the players and pretenders in each of the pro categories, and then check out the chances for the Top Alcohol Dragster championship. The Top Alcohol Funny Car title is already in Frank Manzo's possession for the 97th consecutive season (it certainly seems that way). Congratulations to Manzo and his crew for another great season, coming back from some so-so performances early in the season and some sad personal circumstances that must have tested his mettle, and he's always done over the years, met the challenges and overcame some very competitive racers for another championship.
Starting at the top with the "kings of the sport", Top Fuel Dragster, there's been a constant shuffling of the deck since the countdown started following the US Nationals. At that time, Del Worsham had the lead, albeit only by 30 points, and was closely trailed by Don Schumacher Racing teammates Antron Brown and Spencer Massey. Trailing, but only marginally, were the other Al-Anabi (Larry Dixon) and DSR (Tony Schumacher) team members. One race later, Brown and Massey leapfrogged Worsham to take the lead, and fought a one-two battle over the next two events, while the other serious contenders maintained their third through fifth positions in the standings.
The first big change on the charts occurred at the Phoenix event two weeks ago, when Brown took over the lead, Dixon moved into second, and Massey dropped to third, moving Worsham to fourth and left Schumacher still in fifth, but only 91 points from the top. All the other top ten racers were basically eliminated at this point, with Doug Kalitta (in 6th) trailing Brown by 178 points and with no real hope of overcoming that deficit. So, it's down to five racers and an early round loss or even a bad qualifying position that could lead to a loss of lane choice might prove fatal to their hopes.
A mini-controversy erupted prior to the Phoenix event, and it really was a minimal issue, despite the best efforts of some journalists to whip it into a big story. The situation involved the NHRA-ordered removal of some roll-cage shrouds that the DSR cars had been running all year. Despite the prior approval of the shrouds, an apparent complaint from a racer or race team prompted NHRA to investigate and issue the mandate to remove them. Whether the shrouds made any difference in performance is a moot point, but the issue apparently stirred up an emotional response from the DSR team and led to a definite increase in tensions in the pit area. It will be interesting to see if the issue has been laid to rest or whether another challenge or protest may be in the offing this weekend.
So who has the best chance of winning the championship? You could almost toss the top five names in a hat and picking any one of them wouldn't be a bad choice. With only 25 points separating the top three (Brown, Dixon and Massey respectively), their qualifying positions and the ladder created from them will be critical. On the outside, but just barely, at a 49 point deficit is Worsham and trailing, significantly at this point, is Schumacher. As stated at the top, it's "zero mistakes" time and safe runs won't get the job done. The cars and drivers are going to have to be on kill from this point forward. There's no clear favourite yet, but by the end of this event there could be, or the picture could get even cloudier and more complicated.
Picking a winner or coming up with odds for this race will be difficult, as the latest entry list shows a monstrous turnout of... hang on to your earmuffs.... 27 cars. Looking at the list of names and seeing quite a few non-regular cars and some lesser-experienced drivers brings to mind last year's disastrous fall race here at the Strip where it seemed there was more oil on the track than in the sumps of some of the cars. I really don't expect everyone to show, but if 24 cars run that will make it even more of a battle to get a preferred qualifying and ladder position for the front-running racers.
Here's my odds on the Big O Tires Nationals in Top Fuel:
Yes, I realize that there's some bets near the top and I've set the odds fairly long on everyone as there really isn't a lot to choose between the top three and the next two (Worsham and Schumacher) are very close. It's going to come down to careful preparation, smart tuning decisions, good driving and reaction times, and at least a little bit of luck.
The odds for the World Championship in Top Fuel are as follows:
Moving over to the shorter nitro-burning Funny Cars, the scenario of last year's late collapse by Matt Hagan might seem to be playing itself out again, but this time with a new beneficiary in the form of Jack Beckman, who has been coming on strongly over the last few races. Let's wind the clock back to the start of the countdown and see just how this has evolved. At the start of the six-race chase, Mike Neff was in the lead, followed by Beckman, Hight, Pedregon and Capps. Hagan trailed the lead pack in sixth place and the defending champion, John Force, was in seventh.
After the first race, at Charlotte, Neff was still the leader but with his record-setting, event-winning - and first in the threes - performance, Hagan zoomed up the charts all the way to the second spot, moving everyone down a notch and opening up a considerable gap even in the top five, with Hight more than 100 points out of the lead. Following the Dallas race, Neff still held a very narrow margin over Hagan, Pedregon moved within seven points of the top and even Beckman, now in fourth, remained just 32 points out of the lead. Very close totals for the top four and at that point the only top tenners more or less eliminated from contention were the eighth-place Jeff Arend and John Force and Tim Wilkerson who sat at the bottom of the charts.
Following the conclusion of the Reading event, Funny Car saw a new points leader, as Hagan took over from Neff, but by only two points and Pedregon kept pace, just 32 points in arrears. The #4 and #5 racers, Hight and Beckman were still within striking distance, only 50-something points behind, while #6 Ron Capps started to fall out o contention with a 90 point deficit. Everyone below that mark was more or less done. The latest race, at Phoenix, saw another dramatic shuffling of the leaders, as Beckman flew into the lead, with a five point margin over Hagan, while Mike Neff kept pace, just 22 points back of the top spot and Pedregon still hung in, less than 50 points behind. Even Robert Hight, at less than 60 points back of the lead was still well within the leading lap, so to speak.
The picture is even tighter in Funny Car than Top Fuel as we head into this week's second to last event on the 23-race NHRA Full Throttle schedule, and just like their longer, skinnier brothers, the flopper gang has five legitimate contenders for the title. To their credit, the DSR team races without "team orders" so Beckman and Hagan will battle it out on a level playing field, but that same lack of orders may play into the hands of the other contestants if the two DSR cars end up facing each other in eliminations, especially in an early round. Qualifying will play out like a very high-stakes chess match as Saturday's two sessions may very well determine the eventual fate of more than one racer. All I can suggest to the fans is to just hang on and watch it play out.
the entry list for this event isn't quite as long as the Top Fuel list, there
are 23 cars on the roster and even though some of them haven't run here often
or at all in
Here's my odds on the Big O Tires Nationals in Funny Car:
The odds for the World Championship in Funny Car are as follows:
Moving down the performance ladder a few notches and the pecking order by one position, we come to the third of NHRA's four pro categories, Pro Stock. The closest the battle for the championship has been was the week following the US Nationals, when the points totals were reset giving Jason Line a 30-point edge over Summit Racing teammate Greg Anderson. Since then, Line has increased his lead over Anderson at every event, leaving only the race for second place without an obvious conclusion at this time. I'll admit that the points stayed close after the first race of the countdown (Charlotte) with Line only 31 ahead of Anderson and 54 up on third-place Vincent Nobile, but the following race at Dallas saw Line open up the gap to 112 points over Anderson and 136 points over a new third-place Erica Enders.
The Reading race saw the lead increase to 181 points, while the third place shuffle continued, with Mike Edwards overtaking Enders, but sitting 226 points in arrears with just three events left in the season. Line's margin over Anderson increased yet again, to 187 points following the Phoenix race and with a good performance at this race in Las Vegas, even the mathematical chances left to Anderson would be gone and the season championship trophy could be awarded early on Sunday. There is a serious race for second place though, as Nobile has jumped back to within five points of Anderson, and Enders and Edwards trail by only 13 and 20 points respectively. Looks like that's the only drama left for the Pro Stock crowd.
Here's my odds on the Big O Tires Nationals in Pro Stock:
The odds for the World Championship in Pro Stock are as follows:
While these racers are battling for an event title and competing in the second to last race for their season championship, I struggle to find positives about the class in general. The Harley's have had such an advantage and having only one team can run them, (not really true, but the cost to start from scratch to form one is prohibitive), almost to the point of not allowing anyone else in the class, is distressing to say the least. Yes, there are a couple of Suzuki's and Buell teams that are not outside the realm of winning, infact the odds are even for either Hector Arana Jr (Buell) and Eddie Krawiec (Harley) to win. But the class is so polarized between the factions and it does not seem that the NHRA is going to change the totally screwed up rules. If a Motorcycle races down the track, does anyone watch or care? When the stands empty as soon as the bikes come out of the lanes, the answer is obvious: people just don't care, and they certainly don't want to watch. For the past few months there has been a problem with the people and personalities in this category, all of it stemming from what I've been watching on ESPN and reading in the online magazines, and I'm frankly more than tired of the posturing, the name-calling, the trumped-up controversies and the general lack of professionalism shown by too many of the racers, crew chiefs, owners and others involved.
This perception is in no small part due to the efforts of the media involved as they attempt to inject some life, some controversy, some "edge" into the racing to cover up for what is just a lack of entertainment value by the Pro Stock Motorcycles. And that's the way I see it.
But it is one of the Professional classes (thanks to a huge corporate sponsor)
So here are SpeedZone's picks:
Who will will the title:
Eddy Krawiec 2-1
Hector Arana Jr. 3-1
Matt Smith 16-1
The rest 32-1
As the last race on the 10-event schedule for the fast doorslammer crowd, this race will determine the 2011 Get Screened America champion for Pro Mod. While the defending series champion, Von Smith, will be in attendance, he's certainly not in contention for a repeat title as he currently resides in the #22 spot in the standings. The only racers with even a mathematical chance at the crown are the current point's leader Khalid Balooshi in his nitrous entry and Danny Rowe in a blown car. No one else is within a mile of those two so it's going to be simply a battle between Balooshi and Rowe for the championship. But with a 55-point lead, Khalid will be very difficult to beat. A good qualifying position and a performance advantage over a lesser opponent in the first round will almost guarantee him the title.
For the race itself, a total of 22 cars are entered, with the vast majority being of the forced induction variety. Only four nitrous cars are in the field and of those, only two, Balooshi and "Tricky" Rickie Smith have a serious shot at winning. While the turbocharged combination seemed to be the flavor of the moment at the start of the season, due in no small part to Brad Personett's awesome performances at this event last year, the bloom is somewhat off that rose as a number of racers that jumped on the bandwagon jumped off almost as quickly. However, it appears that as many as seven of the turbo cars will be in the pits. Since the nitrous and turbo combinations can be less repeatable than the blown alky engines, my consensus is that there will be at least one blown car in the final, but possibly as many as three different combos in the semi-finals.
We've all seen the incredible performances that the turbocharged cars can crank out when all is right with them, but the very consistent blown alcohol cars are a good match and the nitrous magic exhibited by Balooshi and Smith are not that far off in absolute e.t. numbers. It could be a very interesting race to watch, but very difficult to handicap. Nevertheless, we will try to do so as follows.
Here's my odds on the Big O Tires Nationals in Pro Mod:
The odds for the Get Screened America championship in Pro Mod are as follows:
While it's been a very difficult season for the blown alcohol and injected nitro dragster racers, it looks like they're going to finish on a higher note than they've played for most of the year, as 20 cars are scheduled to be in the pits at The Strip. The mix is as usual dominated by the A/Fuelers, with 14 of them facing a small six-car contingent of blown alky cars. The winner of this year's spring race here, Shawn Cowie, will sadly not be in the field, but his final round opponent that day, Joey Severance, is in attendance and very much in contention for the World Championship.
The battle for the event title this weekend will in some ways mirror that for the championship, as Bill Reichert (who can't earn any more points) is the only driver of the top five title contenders not in attendance. Current point's leader Duane Shields will be making a rare appearance at his home track in a blocking capacity, trying to keep the blown alky cars of Severance and Jim Whitely from closing in on his lead. While conditions this weekend will see reasonable temperatures, the advantage for either induction type should only be slightly in favour of the nitro-holics.
The season-long point's battle is shaping up this way: Severance is just 44 points behind Shields and can start closing the gap if he gets past the first round. Winning this event would give Severance the championship, and a runner-up finish would cut the deficit to just 11 points. Even if he fails to get it done this weekend, there's still a chance at Pomona to do the deed. Frankly, Severance is in a very good position right now as long as the parts hold out long enough. Another racer who has an outside chance is Jim Whiteley, but his situation is much more tenuous, as he not only has to do well this weekend, he has to win or at least runner-up at the Lucas Oil Series race here next weekend, then repeat that feat in Pomona. Long odds indeed. And perennial contender, Chris Demke, in fifth place in the standings has been mathematically eliminated from consideration.
With a lot of quality cars on the entry list, it's going to be a real crapshoot to pick a winner, but we've got to roll the dice or hand them back to Dean "The Dealer", so here goes:
Here's my odds on the Big O Tires Nationals in Top Alcohol Dragster:
rest of the injected fuel cars: 16-1
The odds for the World Championship in Top Alcohol Dragster are as follows:
ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR
With the world championship decided when he won the Reading event; Frank Manzo is sitting at home in Morganville, New Jersey savouring the success of another great season. Second place has also been clinched by Tony Bartone, but he can only cut the gap between him and Manzo to 42 points if he stays in Vegas for the Lucas race next weekend and takes that event win. He's already gained the maximum points possible at national events and 3rd place Mickey Ferro can't catch him at this point. The only racers near the top of standings with a chance to move up are Canada's Roger Bateman, who's been on a bit of a hot streak lately, going to the finals at three out of the last four races his team has attended, and Jay Payne, who also could move up to third in the final standings.
With only one induction choice in this category, the battle will be to see who can find a combination that can stick to the surface without shaking the tires and still run fast enough in the thin-ish air and changing conditions over the weekend. Experience will count and a quick glance at the odds for the top racers at this event shows lots of years of blown alcohol experience in evidence. With just 16 cars on the entry list, this might be a short field, but the upper half of the ladder will certainly be top caliber competitors.
Here's my odds on the Big O Tires Nationals in Top Alcohol Funny Car:
The odds for the World Championship in Top Alcohol Funny Car are as follows:
The weather forecast is for reasonable temperatures all weekend, starting with highs in the low to mid 70's and migrating upwards to low 80's for eliminations on Sunday. Sunny and warm conditions, perfect for the fans and quite acceptable for the racers, so it should be a very good event. The only problem may be with the number of lower-budget and/or less experienced nitro teams that could prove problematic for the entertainment side of the equation. Unlike last year's fiasco, I'm sure that NHRA will take a very firm and decisive stand with any miscreants (i.e. leakers) and keep the show moving at all costs.
For the fans at home, the race will be televised on ESPN2 in the USA at the following times:
October 29th - Qualifying
October 30th - Eliminations
November 1st - Re-air Eliminations
November 2nd - Re-air Eliminations
And for the Canadian drag racing fans, watch it on TSN:
November 2nd - Eliminations
all the qualifying and eliminations results, the stories behind them and the pictures
that bring it all to life, be sure to keep checking back at SpeedZone Magazine
throughout the weekend, starting on Thursday evening.
Vegas Big'O Tire Nationals Team Press releases
Farber and Crew Look to Cap Impressive Second Half of Season in Las Vegas
Baldwinville, MA - Peter Farber and the rest of the TJ and Sons Towing Auto Repair team have had one of the most roller coaster years in the sport over the course of 2011. The good news is that the last couple of months have been on hell of a ride.
Early year frustrations culminated with a horrifying crash at Bristol, followed by an epic thrash to have the car mended in time to make the following event. Since those wild weeks of no sleep and constant work, the iconic 1969 Charger Daytona that Farber pilots has been on kill and the whole crew is looking forward to their final Get Screened America Pro Mod race at the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas.
"We have had a really strong run going the last couple of months," Peter Farber said. "We've made two consecutive final round appearances in ADRL races and at the last Get Screened America race in Charlotte we made the semi-finals. With the ADRL experience we have gotten consistent on the front half of the track, which is so crucial in these cars."
The wild Mopar, which is a fan favorite, got a great reception at both the Norwalk and Dallas ADRL races, especially with consistent runs in the low 3.90 zone and round wins.
"People really love the car and now that we've gotten to a place where we are comfortable with the tune up, I love it too," Farber said with a laugh. "The conditions in Vegas are always different with the elevation and all, but the team and I are coming into this race feeling good about where we are with the car and how we've been running."
Being the last blast of the season, the TJ and Sons Auto Repair team will be ready to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at car this weekend in Las Vegas. You can bet on it.
Peter wanted to thank the whole crew at TJ and Sons Auto Repair, CRC Products, Champion Spark Plugs, Al Billes Racing, G-Force Race Cars, and his dedicated crew.
Farber racing is currently seeking marketing partnerships for the 2012 racing
season - media contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Eaton Aeroquip Pro Mod Team Looking to Vegas for Strong Finish
Elma, NY The 11th annual NHRA Big O Tire Nationals marks the final race of the 2011 NHRA Pro Mod season; with veteran Mike Janis still looking for his first NHRA Pro Mod win the New York based team is sure to go for broke.
We ran the ADRL Dallas event last weekend and the car was running very well. I think if the conditions favor us we have a decent shot as long as we can stay away from the turbo cars. No one really has a chance against them, but it sure would be nice to head back to Buffalo for the long winter with a Wally in tow, said Janis.
Janis is refereeing to the late season dominance shown by cars using Turbochargers as the power adder. Turbocharged vehicles have won the last two events and set the national top speed record.
All we can do is run our race and hope for the best, said co-crew chief Kevin Peters. We know that we have a great car and a really good driver. Mikes reaction times have been great all year. We need that for us to have a chance against the tough group in Vegas. I can guarantee that well hold nothing back this weekend.
Mike Janis and his Eaton Aeroquip crew will have three shots at cracking the tough 16 car NHRA Pro Modified field. Their first effort will be on Friday, October 28th at 11:45 A.M and a second Friday evening at 5:00 P.M. Pro Modified competitors will receive one final chance on to make the cut on Saturday at 10:30 A.M. before the first round of eliminations later the same day at 3:30 P.M.
The remainder of eliminations will be contested on Sunday along with the other NHRA Pro classes
Parties Interested in becoming marketing partners with Mike Janis Racing can contact the team at email@example.com
Mike Janis is proudly sponsored by:
Aeroquip Performance Products www.eaton.com/aeroquipperformance
Jan-Cen Automotive www.jancen.com
VP Racing Fuels www.vpracingfuels.com
Competition Designs http://www.competitiondesigns.com
LAT Racing Oil www.lubeatech.com
NGK Spark Plugs www.ngk.com
Probell Racing www.probellracing.com
Goodyear Racing www.racegoodyear.com
BDR Torque Converters www.bdrtorqueconverters.com
Motorsports Unlimited www.motorsportsraceparts.com
Baileigh Industrial www.bii1.com
FireCore50 Plug Wires www.firecore50.com
MAHLE Clevite Inc. www.mahleclevite.com
R & R Racing Products www.rrconnetingrods.com
Weber's Mustard www.webersmustard.com
B&J Transmissions www.bandjtransmission.com
Dan Page Race Cars www.danpageracecars.com
GZ Motorsports www.gzmotorsports.com/
KP Fabrication and Design
Line to Line Coatings
Knowles and Personett Take in the Vegas Nightlife at the Monte Carlo Prior to Big O Tire Nationals
Grand Junction, CO Mike Knowles and his teammate, Brad Personett, had both their NHRA Pro Modifieds on display at the Monte Carlo Hotel and Resort. Knowles once again displayed his Pro Mod at the hotel and resort prior to the NHRA event. Knowles association with the Vegas landmark is continuing into tits fourth year. New for this event were the addition of teammate Brad Personett and his turbocharged Pro Mod.
Our association with the Monte Carlo continues to grow each time we race in Vegas. Their business and the theme of my Blown Money team are a perfect match, said Knowles.
The Monte Carlo also hosts the modern dance/hip hop crew, Jabbawockeez. Tune in to MÜS.I.C., an audiovisual story of inspiration brought to life through the harmonization of sound and movement with acclaimed dance crew Jabbawockeez. Dressed in expressionless white masks and white gloves, these one-of-a-kind dancers guide your attention to visualize the music through their intricate moves, leaving audiences in awe.
Knowles and Personett will have three shots at cracking the tough 16 car NHRA Pro Modified field. Their first effort will be on Friday, October 28th at 11:45 A.M and a second Friday evening at 5:00 P.M. Pro Modified competitors will receive one final chance on to make the cut on Saturday at 10:30 A.M. before the first round of eliminations later the same day at 3:30 P.M.
The remainder of eliminations will be contested on Sunday along with the other NHRA Pro classes
Mike Knowles' Blown Money Racing would like to thank their sponsors:
WINBERG CRANKSHAFTS www.winbergcrankshafts.com
As he chases championships, Payne salutes Las Vegas first responders
Lucas looking for luck infusion in Las Vegas
Ike Maier to
finish his season at
Championship contender Arana Jr. as cool as the other side of the pillow
Past champ Arana Sr. looking for strong ride down 'The Strip'
With plenty of support, Stoffer plans for a big weekend in Vegas
Enders aims to put last few finishing touches on career-best season
Morgan to debut new car in Vegas, but he'll be driving his old one
Pruett hoping to extend perfect streak in unbeaten R2B2 Pro Mod Mustang
Progress in Funny Car and top-three finish in Pro Mod on Troxel's mind
Racing in Sportsman classes helps Langdon at the Pro level