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.

Las Vegas, NV
Written by Bob Wilson

(photos courtesy Bob Wilson, Bob Snyder, David Smith and Bill Jeffery)


At the end of the rainbow.....

.... 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.


TOP FUEL

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:

Larry Dixon 4-1
Antron Brown 5-1
Spencer Massey 6-1
Del Worsham 8-1
Tony Schumacher 10-1
the rest of the countdown racers 15-1
the rest of the field 25-1

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:

Antron Brown 4-1
Larry Dixon 6-1
Spencer Massey 8-1
Del Worsham 12-1
Tony Schumacher 20-1


the rest of the countdown crowd 100-1



FUNNY CAR

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.

While 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
the case of Australia's Peter Russo and a couple are nitro funny car rookies, Alexis de Joria and Todd Lesenko, so the qualifying battle could be very interesting. With funny
cars having a tendency to be much more unpredictable than dragsters, the final qualifying list could be quite interesting.

Here's my odds on the Big O Tires Nationals in Funny Car:

Jack Beckman 5-1
Matt Hagan 6-1
Mike Neff 7-1
Cruz Pedregon 8-1
Robert Hight 10-1
Jeff Arend 12-1
the rest of the countdown racers 15-1
the rest of the field 25-1

The odds for the World Championship in Funny Car are as follows:

Jack Beckman 5-1
Matt Hagan 6-1
Cruz Pedregon 7-1 (my dark horse pick)
Mike Neff 8-1
Robert Hight 10-1


PRO STOCK

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:

Jason Line 3-1
Greg Anderson 5-1
Vincent Nobile 10-1
Mike Edwards 12-1
Erica Enders 15-1 (sentimental favourite; she will win one of these sooner or later)
the rest of the countdown racers 25-1
the rest of the field 50-1

The odds for the World Championship in Pro Stock are as follows:

Jason Line 2-3
Greg Anderson 50-1
Erica Enders 65-1
Mike Edwards 75-1
Vincent Nobile 100-1



PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

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:

Eddy Krawiec 3-1
Hector Arana Jr. 4-1
Andrew Hines 5-1
Karen Stoffer 6-1
Hector Arana Sr. 7-1
Matt Smith 8-1

Who will will the title:

Eddy Krawiec 2-1

Hector Arana Jr. 3-1

Matt Smith 16-1

The rest 32-1



PRO MOD

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:

Danny Rowe 5-1
Khalid Balooshi 6-1
Melanie Troxel 7-1
Rickie Smith 9-1
Brad Personett 10-1 (a real darkhorse pick)
Von Smith 12-1
Mike Janis 15-1
the rest of the field 20-1

The odds for the Get Screened America championship in Pro Mod are as follows:

Khalid Balooshi 2-1
Danny Rowe 5-1
everyone else: infinity



TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER

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:

Joey Severance 4-1
Jim Whiteley 9-2
Chris Demke 5-1
Duane Shields 8-1
Cody Perkins 12-1
Don St. Arnaud 15-1

the rest of the injected fuel cars: 16-1

The odds for the World Championship in Top Alcohol Dragster are as follows:

Joey Severance 3-1
Duane Shields 4-1
Jim Whiteley 10-1
everyone else: infinity


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:

Tony Bartone 4-1
Doug Gordon 6-1
Roger Bateman 8-1
Jay Payne 10-1
Clint Thompson 15-1
the rest of the field 22-1

The odds for the World Championship in Top Alcohol Funny Car are as follows:

Frank Manzo 1-1
everyone else: infinity



As the Big O Tires Nationals draws ever closer, the pits at Las Vegas Motor Speedway are already filling with competitors, and sportsman qualifying is scheduled to start bright and early at 8:00 am Thursday. With no night-time, or at least after dark qualifying sessions on the books for this year's race, the only nitro flames we may see would be during the
second round of qualifying late on Friday afternoon. The grandstands definitely shade the track at that time of day and the fire in and out of the pipes should be visible. One more small treat for the spectators and photographers.

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:

Saturday, October 29th - Qualifying
10:30 PM - 12:00 AM ET (7:30 PM - 9:00 PM PT)

Sunday, October 30th - Eliminations
7:00 PM - 10:00 PM ET (4:00 PM - 7:00 PM PT)

Tuesday, November 1st - Re-air Eliminations
11:30 PM - 1:00 AM PT

Wednesday, November 2nd - Re-air Eliminations
2:30 AM - 4:00 AM ET

And for the Canadian drag racing fans, watch it on TSN:

Wednesday, November 2nd - Eliminations
1:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET (10:00 AM - 1:00 PM PT)

For 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.

Peter Farber racing is currently seeking marketing partnerships for the 2012 racing season - media contact brianlohnes@gmail.com


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. Mike’s 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 we’ll 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 mikejanisracing@gmail.com

Mike Janis is proudly sponsored by:

Aeroquip Performance Products www.eaton.com/aeroquipperformance

Eaton www.eaton.com

Jan-Cen Automotive www.jancen.com

Safety-Kleen www.safety-kleen.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

Precision Graphics

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 tit’s 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:

GRP www.grpconrods.com

WINBERG CRANKSHAFTS www.winbergcrankshafts.com


 

As he chases championships, Payne salutes Las Vegas first responders


LAS VEGAS (Oct. 25) – There's not much NHRA season left, but FireIce drag racer Jay Payne still has a chance to move up in the season points standings in both of the classes he races at this weekend's 11th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals.


The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the site of the season finale for the Get Screened America Pro Mod Series and Payne's FireIce supercharged Camaro is fighting to stay in the top 10 in season points.


"We spent half the season messing around with a turbo car and now we're back to the blown car," said Payne, a past world champion in the category. "The blower car is part of our grass roots, and it's a lot more fun to drive. It's a real Pro Mod car.


"I'm not sure if it's a car capable of winning, but it's capable of going a few rounds and doing well."


Payne currently sits in 10th place, eight points behind Dennis Radford for ninth and six points in front of 11th-place Donnie Martin.


In Top Alcohol Funny Car, Payne still has three races left on the schedule -- two nationals and a divisional -- and plenty of opportunity to move the FireIce Ford Mustang up in the standings.


"If we have good outings we could move up quite a bit," Payne said. "But it's not life or death either. We're solidly in the Top 10 nationally, so we've got next year covered. So we're really looking to win those races and have some fun. We've got a Division 7 championship to lock up before the season is over, so we if we win, the points will take care of themselves."


Payne is fifth in the national Funny Car standings, six points behind fourth-place Roger Bateman and 24 points behind Mickey Ferro for third place.


This weekend, Payne is dedicating the race to Las Vegas-area first responders, particularly the ones who worked the horrific crash at the IndyCar race that claimed the life of racer Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two weeks ago.


"The racing world is a small community and when we lose one of our own, everyone feels the pain," Payne said. "These first responders, many of whom are firefighters, do their best to keep everyone safe while we do what we love. This dedicated group of pros rarely get the credit they deserve, but my race team and FireIce have all the respect in the world for the work they do."


FireIce, the title sponsor of Payne's racing operation, routinely salutes the courage and dedication of the nation's 1.1 million firefighters. A subsidiary of GelTech Solutions, a publicly traded corporation (OTCBB: GLTC), FireIce is an environmentally friendly fire suppression gel firefighters add to water to help extinguish fires much quicker than with water alone. Earlier this year, FireIce was added to the United States Forest Service's Qualified Products List.


To remind fans of the sacrifice firefighters make every day, Payne will banner the Leary Firefighters Foundation (www.learyfirefighters.org), Angel Faces (www.angelfacesretreat.org) and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (www.firehero.org) logos on his FireIce-branded hot rods.


Get Screened America Pro Mod Series qualifying gets under way at 11:45 a.m. PDT Friday with two sessions at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Qualifying concludes at 10:45 a.m. on Saturday with the first round of eliminations later Saturday afternoon and eliminations continuing on Sunday.


Lucas looking for luck infusion in Las Vegas


LAS VEGAS (Oct. 25) – The GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster could use a fresh infusion of luck and this weekend's 11th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway seems a fitting place to find some.


"This is a track where I've won in Top Alcohol Dragster in 2004," Lucas said. "We get fans and drivers from all over the world that come to this track. The track is smooth and the weather looks like it's going to cooperate.


"I'm excited to get out to the race track."


The GEICO rail has struggled over the last four races missing the field in three of them. Lucas, who has also taken over tuning duties during the final stretch of the season, said that while times have been tough, the experience he's gained setting up the car has been valuable.


"Our weekend in Phoenix wasn't as bad as it appeared," Lucas said. "Our numbers looked good. We had a really good run Friday night, we just had a piston fail. We're not going to let it get us down. We're still learning and doing a lot better then people are giving us credit for."


Of course it won't be all work in Las Vegas. Lucas will be taking part in special events during the course of the race weekend.


On Thursday, Lucas will take part in the annual NHRA Freemont Street Experience FanFest starting at 5 p.m. PDT. Later that evening, Lucas will go up the street to The Stratosphere Hotel and Casino to take on fans in the annual Speedway Children's Charities Poker Tournament.


"The autograph session and poker tournament seem to build a bigger following every year," Lucas said. "It's become a staple for us and we love it. Freemont Street is an exciting place with the shows that are projected on the ceiling in the area, and the poker tournament is a fun way to get some great one-on-one time with fans while helping out people in the Las Vegas area."


Qualifying for the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals gets under way at 12:15 p.m. PDT on Friday from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Qualifying continues at 11 a.m. Saturday with eliminations starting at 11 a.m. Sunday. ESPN2 will broadcast the qualifying show starting at 10:30 p.m. EDT and it will show eliminations Sunday starting at 7 p.m.


Ike Maier to finish his season at
upcoming NHRA Las Vegas event


Canadian Top Fuel driver to compete in
Big O Tires Nationals next weekend

Courtesy: Tim Miller

TOTTENHAM, ONTARIO (October 22, 2011) – With several NHRA National events now behind him, Top Fuel driver Ike Maier is hoping to finish his season on a high note.

Driving the Paton Racing Team Top Fuel dragster, Maier acquired his license earlier this year and has competed in five events with the powerful car, which can obtain speeds of 330 mph down the quarter-mile drag strip.

“I’d like to go out with a qualifying run and a round or two,” he noted, adding that he believes the team does better in the hotter climates.

“We seem to do better in the heat,” he said. “But I’m just hoping we are able to qualify and we’ll take it from there.”

Maier will be entering the 11th Annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at Las Vegas October 28-30. This will be the 22nd race in the 23-event 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

Maier mentioned he will not be taking his 1963 Corvette Pro Modified car to race at Las Vegas in the Get Screened America Series for Pro Mods as he has done at previous NHRA events, concentrating on his Top Fuel efforts.

He also mentioned he would like to continue to race the Top Fueler in 2012, adding he is looking into sponsorship opportunities for next season.

After serious seat time in the car, Maier said he has settled in to driving a Top Fuel dragster, the quickest and fastest class of drag racing car in the NHRA. He also said driving the 8,000-horsepower car has been a dream come true.

“I’m comfortable driving the car now,” he said. “And I used to come to Vegas and watch the fuel cars and thought it would be great to drive one.

“And now I am living my dream.”

After obtaining his Top Fuel license earlier this year, Maier entered into an agreement with Barry Paton to drive the Paris, Ontario-based Paton Racing Top Fueler with crew chief James “Jimbo” Ermalovich.

Sponsorship for the Top Fuel effort is provided by John Hoey of Tim Hortons.

Qualifying for Top Fuel takes place Friday, October 28, and continues on Saturday October 29, with eliminations scheduled to begin at 11 am Sunday October 30.

Photo Credit: Dave Erauw Photography ~ www.erauw-photo.com

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Championship contender Arana Jr. as cool as the other side of the pillow


LAS VEGAS (Oct. 24) – The more the pressure mounts in the battle for the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle championship, the more relaxed Lucas Oil Buell rider Hector Arana Jr. seems to be.


Arana Jr. is second in the Pro Stock Motorcycle points standings entering this weekend's Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He's only 10 points out of the lead with two races remaining in the Countdown to the Championship.


But does Arana Jr. feel any more pressure?


"No, not really," Arana Jr. said. "I'm only saying this because we've been able to do it, but it does seems easier. I know how difficult this is, but now that I'm going rounds and going to finals, it's like, 'What's so hard? Why not us?'"


Arana Jr., a 22-year-old rookie, failed to qualify for the first race of the season and won only four rounds in the first eight national events. But since then, Arana Jr. has won three races and been to two other finals. Pressure? What pressure?


"I'm a rookie, a true rookie," Arana Jr. said. "I think that was partially what was happening at the beginning of the year. I wasn't used to all the pressure."


Now, Arana Jr. seems to thrive under the pressure. In the Countdown, he's qualified No. 1 three times, won two races and reached the finals in another. He leads the PSM class with six No. 1 qualifiers – including the last three – and has won from the No. 1 slot twice.


"I always dreamed about getting on a hot streak like this," Arana Jr. said. "Of course, you dream it'll happen in your rookie year, too. That doesn’t necessarily mean I expected it to happen. Either way, I'm loving it and I'm going to ride it as long as I can."


Like every track on the NHRA schedule this year, Arana Jr. will be racing at Vegas for the first time. But despite his relative lack of experience and the pressure of a championship battle, Arana Jr. will focus on what got him to this position.


Like at every race, Arana Jr. practices his starting-line procedures between rounds, focusing on lights held by his crew chief, Dan Gonzalez.


"Drag racing is all routine," Arana Jr. said. "It's all about trying to be consistent as possible. Any time I can sit on the bike and get practice, it's like making another lap. It just makes it that much easier in my subconscious. It becomes a natural habit.


"We're going to put some fresh Lucas Oil in our S&S-powered Buell and try to stay consistent. Hopefully we can make eight awesome passes this weekend."


Qualifying begins Friday with two rounds scheduled for 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.


Past champ Arana Sr. looking for strong ride down 'The Strip'


LAS VEGAS (Oct. 24) – Lucas Oil Buell rider Hector Arana Sr. spent most of the first half of the year focusing on getting his son, Hector Jr., up to speed in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.


Then, Arana Sr. spent the middle portion of 2011 battling a recalcitrant bike.


Down the stretch, Arana Sr. has worked on getting a new Lucas Oil Buell up to speed.


Finally, things seem to be going better for the 2009 Pro Stock Motorcycle champion. He's qualified fourth or better in the last four races, qualifying No. 2 in the most recent NHRA race, in Phoenix.


Also in Phoenix, Arana Sr. shook off the mechanical gremlins that plagued him in first-round losses in the prior three races to reach the semifinals in a race his son won.


Now, as Arana Sr. prepares for the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he's confident in continuing that momentum.


"I'm going to be more calm and concentrate on my program," Arana Sr. said. "Hopefully, we can go a little further."


Arana Sr. headed to Las Vegas right after the Phoenix race, parking the Lucas Oil hauler in the infield of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He'll gun for his first victory of the season in this weekend's race.


"I love going to Vegas," Arana Sr. said. "It's more relaxing. Then in the evening, you can go to the casinos and have fun and enjoy the crowd."


But Arana Sr. is quick to point out that he isn't much of a gambler.


"I only gamble over here in NHRA," Arana Sr. said. "That's it. That's all the gambling that I do."


Qualifying begins Friday with two rounds scheduled for 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.


With plenty of support, Stoffer plans for a big weekend in Vegas


LAS VEGAS (Oct. 24) – This weekend's Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a "home game" for GEICO Suzuki rider Karen Stoffer.


Stoffer lives in Minden, Nev., about 420 miles northwest of Las Vegas. So the Pro Stock Motorcycle veteran knows she'll have plenty of support at Vegas this weekend.


"It'd be nice to win at our home track," Stoffer said. "All these tracks on the West Coast are really my home tracks because I raced them a lot in Division 7. For (crew chief/husband) Gary (Stoffer) and I, we have a lot of Division 7 supporters out there, and a lot of family and friends. Plus, Vegas is a really nice track. It's going to be a big weekend.


"It's nice to be close to home. It's nice to go to these tracks and have your family and friends support you."


Stoffer has fond memories of Las Vegas, but they don't include gambling in the casinos that made the city famous.


"I was born and raised to Southern California, and we often made trips to Vegas," Stoffer said. "When I turned 21, my family took me to Vegas. I had saved my money to go and gamble. But when you live there and you can walk across the street to the closest casino, it's not as appealing and enticing. I frequent them more for the food and the other excursions they have, rather than putting money in the slot machines."


Stoffer is fourth in the Pro Stock Motorcycle points standings after a career season. She's won one race and reached the finals four other times. A series of mysterious mechanical problems has plagued the GEICO team in the Countdown to the Championship, but Stoffer still hopes to close out the season on a strong note.


"We'll be under the same conditions as Phoenix. It'll be dry, hot, and it's going to cater to the V motors again," Stoffer said. "It's a challenge, but the good Lord puts challenges on those who can handle it. We have a good team, we all stick together."


Qualifying begins Friday with two rounds scheduled for 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.


Enders aims to put last few finishing touches on career-best season


LAS VEGAS (Oct. 24) – A Pro Stock championship isn't in the cards this season for ZaZa Energy driver Erica Enders. But the 28-year-old can finish in the runner-up spot after the Countdown to the Championship ends in two races. That would be a big accomplishment for Enders, who races in this weekend's Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.


"Huge, huge," Enders said of what second place in the Pro Stock standings would mean. "It's within reach, too. We've just got to race smart and consistent. I say this every week, but I put my money on us. We've got a great team and a great car, and I'm driving well. If we all continue to do our jobs the way we have been, there's no reason why we can't earn that spot.


"But there are people behind us who want it almost as bad as we do, so they'll be racing their hearts out, too."


Enders is fourth in the Pro Stock standings, 201 points behind runaway leader Jason Line. But she's only 13 out of second and eight out of third place after fashioning a career-best season.


Enders has qualified No. 1 twice this year and has reached the final round of three national events as she tries to become the first woman to win in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class. Plus, Enders has qualified in the top half of the field 13 consecutive races.


She knows qualifying will be key at Las Vegas as drivers jockey for position on Sunday.


"It's going to be really important to make good runs in qualifying and race smart on Sunday to keep lane choice," Enders said. "Sundays are always a battle, and it will be again in Vegas."


And it will be a fun time in Las Vegas, too, Enders said.


"It's a great facility, and it'll be a fun weekend, too, because it falls over Halloween," Enders said. "We're always excited to go back to Vegas.


"All the ZaZa guys will be there too because they don't miss a party. It should be good fun, especially if we win."


Qualifying begins Friday with two rounds scheduled for 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.


Morgan to debut new car in Vegas, but he'll be driving his old one


LAS VEGAS (Oct. 24) – As the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season winds down, Lucas Oil Ford driver Larry Morgan already has his eyes in 2012.


Morgan hopes to unveil a new Ford Mustang at this weekend's Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But Morgan won't be driving it. Instead, young gun Buddy Perkinson will be breaking in the new car for Morgan.


"The car's for me, but Buddy can break it in for me," Morgan said. "We're working on 2012 already. Hopefully, this new car will run well, and we'll come out firing in the new year. New cars always need a little work before they're at their best, and this is a way for us to make sure the car will be right for next year."


Since the Lucas Oil hauler headed straight for Las Vegas after the Phoenix race two weeks ago, Morgan and his team went home to Newark, Ohio, to work on the new car and a new engine.


"We're trying to get another motor together," Morgan said. "And we may get another older car to have Buddy run in Pomona. The bottom line is I've got a brand-new car, and I went home to work on it."


Morgan returns to Vegas after a first-round loss in Phoenix, which came at the hands of eventual winner Vincent Nobile. The early exit came on the heels of first-round wins in the previous two races as Morgan builds momentum for 2012.


He hopes for a better performance at Vegas than earlier this year, where he qualified No. 15 and fell to Jason Line in the first round. Still, Vegas is near the top of his list of favorite tracks, mostly because it is owned by Speedway Motorsports' Bruton Smith.


"It's a good track," Morgan said. "If it's a Bruton track, it's a good one. He just does a good job, and he knows what he takes to make everybody happy."


Gambling at Las Vegas' famous casinos can make some drag racers happy, but don't count Morgan among them.


"I'll gamble if I have to," Morgan said. "I'm not afraid, I can tell you. But I'm not that big of a gambler. I do like Vegas, though. It's a fun town."



Pruett hoping to extend perfect streak in unbeaten R2B2 Pro Mod Mustang


LAS VEGAS (Oct. 24) – Leah Pruett has one mission heading into the Get Screened America Pro Mod Series season finale at this weekend's 11th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals -- keeping the season record of her ProCare Rx turbocharged Ford Mustang perfect.


The R2B2 Racing machine is a perfect 2-0 this season after wins in Indianapolis (with Eric Dillard behind the wheel) and the last Pro Mod race in Charlotte, where Pruett edged teammate Melanie Troxel in the final round.


"Keeping that winning streak alive is important to me," Pruett said. "I've been trying to learn so much so quickly this year that I've not had much time to dwell on winning. I feel so much more comfortable now and I want to keep that streak alive."


This weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will mark just the fifth race of her Pro Mod career, and Pruett has packed a lot of experience into just a handful of races.


"There a are a couple of things I haven't done yet in a Pro Mod car, but not many," Pruett said. "I've broken through a lot of milestones of winning rounds and winning a race."


As a driver early in her career, Pruett said she's been thankful for the opportunity to get behind the wheel of one of the best cars on the circuit.


"I'm fortunate to have this opportunity and kind of lucky that I don't have to worry about points this weekend," she said. "I can just go out there, drive my best and try to get another win."


Alongside Pruett and Troxel, R2B2 Racing team owner Roger Burgess is getting back in a race car for the first time since a July crash in Bristol, Tenn. The crew at R2B2 Race Cars have completely rebuilt the Pontiac Firebird that was damaged in the incident and Burgess is hoping to become the fourth driver on the team to get a win this season."


Get Screened America Pro Mod Series qualifying gets under way at 11:45 a.m. PDT Friday with two sessions at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Qualifying concludes at 10:45 a.m. on Saturday with the first round of eliminations later Saturday afternoon and eliminations continuing on Sunday.


Progress in Funny Car and top-three finish in Pro Mod on Troxel's mind


LAS VEGAS (Oct. 24) -- For the final time this season, drag racer Melanie Troxel will compete in two professional categories when the 11th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals takes place this weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.


On nine other occasions, Troxel has raced both her In-N-Out Burger Toyota Solara Funny Car and her In-N-Out Burger Chevrolet Pro Mod machine. Although the extra work makes those race weekends a tad more hectic, the popular Troxel says having twice as many chances to win makes it all worthwhile.


"It does get a little crazy at times but the crew guys have developed a system that allows me to jump from one car to the other without any hiccups," Troxel said. "There are times when one of the guys will warm up a car for me because I'm busy in the other one but everyone has been very helpful and supportive.


"As a driver, it affords us two chances to win, so that's really exciting. It paid off earlier this season in Bristol when we got the win in Pro Mod and there have been a couple other races when we've gotten close with both cars. It would really be something if we could pull off a double (win). Vegas is our next chance to give that a try so we are ready to get started."


Currently third in the Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, Troxel will have to hold off five drivers in the final Pro Mod race of the season to maintain her current ranking. She certainly has the power to do so as she holds both ends of the Pro Mod national record with a pass of 5.772 seconds at 258.71 mph run in New Jersey.


On the Funny Car side, Troxel and team elected to drive straight from the last tour stop in Phoenix to Las Vegas for some extra testing.


"We had three or four races recently when the In-N-Out Toyota really showed a lot of consistency," Troxel said. "Then we struggled in Phoenix when it got hot so Aaron (Brooks, crew chief) and John (Medlen, vice president of research and development) decided they needed to change some things up so we came early to test.


"Things went really well and we think we'll be back in line with the tune-up this weekend. The mood in this pit went sky high when the car got consistent and quick in Indy and we're emphasizing getting back to that at The Strip."


Qualifying begins Friday with two rounds of action in both Pro Mod and Funny Car. Pro Mod sessions are scheduled for 11:45 a.m. and 5 p.m., while Funny Car will run at 1 and 4 p.m.


Racing in Sportsman classes helps Langdon at the Pro level


LAS VEGAS (Oct. 24) -- In winning back-to-back Super Comp world championships in 2007-2008, current Top Fuel pro Shawn Langdon learned the value of staying in a racing mindset at all times when he's at the track.


That approach has continued to pay dividends for Langdon in his three years behind the wheel of the Lucas Oil/Speedco dragster. For whatever reason, Langdon always seems to do better when he stays busy, which these days happens whenever he races both his Top Fuel rail and anything else he can find to drive in the Sportsman categories.


"Maybe it's just one of those racing things that can't be explained but whenever I race more than just my dragster, I seem to have better lights that weekend," Langdon said, referring to the reaction time racers have to the starting tree. "There's actually a lot of possibilities and variations that can affect stuff like that but for me I think just having more chances at the tree really helps.


"The whole weekend is different. For one, Sportsman stuff usually starts early Thursday morning and continues around the clock from there. By the time I make my first hit in the dragster, I've usually already had two, three, four hits in whatever other car I'm driving. You get zoned in that much earlier, which certainly can't hurt. It makes for longer days, but I'm happiest when I'm in a racecar so I don't mind at all."


In Las Vegas, Langdon will be driving fellow racer Justin Lamb's Super Comp dragster in addition to his 8,000-horsepower Lucas Oil/Speedco dragster. He's hoping the trend of better racing when he doubles his workload will continue at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.


"We'd really like to end the year on a good note like we did in 2010," Langdon said. "It would lift the spirits of the guys up quite a bit heading into the off season and as hard as they've been working I'd say they deserve it.


"We're counting every point, including those little ones they give out in qualifying, so that means putting our best foot forward every round. They're gonna add all those points up at the end of the season to see who finishes where and one point could make a difference. We've seen that happen every year.


"Everyone likes Las Vegas. We go there twice a year so it's a place we all know very well. It'll be warm and that will level the playing field, which should help us. The Strip is very rarely an ultimate throw-down track like we had in Reading (Pa.) a few weeks ago. You have to find ways to get down under power and we've been getting better at that the last few races. We're excited."


Qualifying begins Friday with two rounds scheduled for 1 and 4 p.m.




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