DEFENDING FUNNY CAR WORLD CHAMP HAGAN NEEDS STRONG INDY RUN TO ADVANCE TO COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP PLAYOFFS
INDIANAPOLIS – While every driver is heading to the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus to try and win drag racing’s most prestigious event and become a part of its rich history, several drivers in each category are looking for a winning performance to be able to continue their quests for a world championship title and advance to NHRA’s playoffs, the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.
One of those drivers is defending Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan.
Last year Hagan earned his first championship title in dramatic fashion at the last race of the year.
The Virginia cattle rancher will need to draw off of that experience in order to keep his hopes alive to defend that championship title this year. A season of struggles has kept Hagan out of the top 10 for most of the season. However, his Aaron’s/Mopar Dodge Charger has got hot in the last three races and posted back-to-back runner-up finishes at Sonoma and Seattle and a semifinal effort at Brainerd.
He comes to Indy in 11th place in the standings, trailing 10th place Bob Tasca by 19 points. Only the top 10 in each category advance to the six-race Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship with a shot at winning a world championship title.
Hagan is hoping to keep his recent momentum alive at the sport’s oldest and most tradition-rich event, Aug. 29-Sept. 3 at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Series event that will be televised on ESPN2HD in more than 10 hours of coverage during Labor Day weekend.
“I’m just glad we still have a fighting chance to go out there and do this thing,” Hagan said. “We still have a big hill to climb. Bob Tasca is in front of us and it’s just a matter of getting out there and making big plays and stepping up to the plate and trying to knock it out of the park. But things have got to line up, too. If Tasca goes out and wins the race, we can’t change that.”
Hagan says he plans to just focus on his routine and try to stay in the moment, a similar strategy he used in his championship-winning effort last November.
“You can’t change what other people do, you can only control what you have available in front of you and that’s what we have tried to focus on, is going out there, digging deep, keep on time, keeping it in the groove, turning the win light on and the rest will take care of itself,” Hagan said.
He says his season has been like a very bad dream. The first half of the year produced eight first round losses and a DNQ.
“We’ve had a horrible year,” Hagan said. “Nobody expected us to come out and struggle the way we have. But that’s life and that’s what you have to deal with. It’s just been nice that we have finally got a combination that the car has responded to, and the car is finally coming around.”
Hagan, who won the title last year from sixth place in the regular season, knows that once you are in the Countdown, each driver has a shot at winning it. He says his confidence is still there. He knows his team is capable of getting on a streak, winning some rounds and races. And who knows, maybe even another championship title.
“It’s been tough for me to deal with it a little bit, but on the flipside, you know, we have won a world championship, set three world records in the last two years and won a handful of races,” Hagan said. “I know that our team is capable of doing this and getting it done. I really believe in them and I believe in my crew chief and I believe in everybody. We are just ready to go out and hunt this thing down.”
If Hagan is going to rally for the dramatic entrance into the Countdown playoffs, he’s going to have to hold off a strong group of challengers, including series leader Ron Capps and 2009 Indy winner Robert Hight. Jack Beckman, Johnny Gray, Cruz Pedregon, four-time Indy winner John Force, rookie sensation Courtney Force and defending event winner Neff will certainly be racing hard for the victory.
Two other drivers join Hagan outside the top 10 who are trying to qualify for the Countdown, including 12th place Tim Wilkerson, who is 28 points out of 10th in his Levi Ray and Shoup Ford Mustang, and Alexis DeJoria, who has a very slim mathematical chance of making the playoffs from 13th place.
In Top Fuel, only three points separate 10th place Bob Vandergriff and 11th place Clay Millican. Rookie driver Khalid alBalooshi is 79 points back in 12th place and 13th place Terry McMillen is a longshot to make the playoffs.
As many as seven drivers are in the hunt to make the playoffs in Pro Stock, as 32 points separate the seventh place driver to the 11th place driver. Only 21 points stand between 8th place Shane Gray and 11th place Jeg Coughlin, a four-time Pro Stock world champ. Coughlin trails 10th place V. Gaines by only two points. Ronnie Humphrey is 21 points out of 10th and Rodger Brogdon is a longshot in 13th place, 81 points back of 10th.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, 11th place John Hall trails 10th place rider Shawn Gann by 22 points and two-time Indy winner Steve Johnson is 12th, 56 points back of Gann.
• SCHEDULE: The first of five qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 31. Two sessions will be held on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions will take place on Sunday, Sept. 2 at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 3.
• TICKETS: Tickets are available for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus. Tickets are available by calling (800) 884-NHRA (6472), or online at www.NHRATIX.com.
• ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise more than 10 hours of coverage of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus. Three hours of qualifying coverage and coverage of the Traxxas Nitro Shootouts will air at 11 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 2. Two additional hours of qualifying coverage and Traxxas Shootout highlights will also air on Sunday, Sept. 2 at 5 p.m. (ET). Eliminations for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus will be featured during six hours of coverage on Monday, Sept. 3, starting at noon (ET).
• TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUTS: The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus also will feature two Traxxas Nitro Shootouts. The first one will feature eight qualified Top Fuel drivers on Saturday, Sept. 1 with rounds at 4 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car will be held on Sunday, Sept. 2 for the eight qualified drivers, with rounds at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Winners in each Traxxas Nitro Shootout will earn $100,000.
• LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus also will feature competition in all categories of the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29 and eliminations begin at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 30 and continue through Monday, Sept. 3.
• NHRA PRO MOD SERIES presented by ProCare Rx: NHRA’s popular Pro Mod touring series will make its seventh start of the 10-race 2012 season at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus. The series features some of the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer cars, with an eclectic mix of vintage and late-model body styles, in quarter-mile competition. The first qualifying session will be Friday, Aug. 31 at 4:30 p.m. Qualifying will continue on Saturday, Sept. 1 with sessions at 2 and 5:30 p.m. The final qualifying session will be Sunday, Sept. 2 at 2 p.m. and the first round of eliminations begins Sunday, Sept. 2 at 5 p.m. and will continue on Monday, Sept. 3 at approximately 2:30 p.m.
• ON THE WEB: Get live timing, scoring, multimedia and the latest news updates from every NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.nhra.com. Visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
•ABOUT LUCAS OIL RACEWAY AT INDIANAPOLIS: One of five motorsports facilities owned and operated by NHRA, Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis sits on 267 acres of land just west of Indianapolis in the town of Clermont, and features three race courses: a championship drag strip, a .686-mile paved oval and a 2.5-mile, 15-turn road course
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MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS PRESENTED BY AUTO-PLUS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 58th Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus, 17th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and the last race in the NHRA Full Throttle Series regular season. At the conclusion of this event, the top 10 drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – will be locked in to begin the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs, leading to 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships. This season, NHRA is celebrating the Nitro Generation, a tribute to the many families both on the track and in the stands who have made NHRA the world’s largest motorsports sanctioning body.
WHERE: Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, Clermont, Ind. From I-465, exit Crawfordsville Road (Hwy. 136). Head west for
four miles past downtown Clermont. The facility’s main entrance is on the left, one-half mile past Raceway Road.
COURSE: Championship dragstrip; Track elevation is 700 feet above sea level; Track direction is south to north.
WHEN: Wednesday, Aug. 29 through Monday, Sept. 3.
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 29 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying, 8:30 a.m.
THURSDAY, Aug. 30 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations, 8 a.m.
FRIDAY, Aug. 31 – LUCAS OIL SERIES (includes MOPAR Hemi Challenge) eliminations, 8 a.m.
PRO MOD SERIES PRESENTED BY PROCARE RX qualifying at 4:30 p.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 5:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, Sept. 1 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations, 8 a.m.
PRO MOD SERIES PRESENTED BY PROCARE RX qualifying at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT (Top Fuel) rounds at 4 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 2 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations, 8 a.m.
PRO MOD SERIES PRESENTED BY PROCARE RX qualifying at 2 p.m.; first round of eliminations at 5 p.m.
TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT (Funny Car) rounds at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
MONDAY, Sept. 3 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
PRO MOD SERIES PRESENTED BY PROCARE RX eliminations continue at approximately 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 2, ESPN2 HD will televise three hours of qualifying coverage at 11 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 2, ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5 p.m. (ET).
Monday, Sept. 3, ESPN2 HD will televise six hours of eliminations coverage at noon (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, Aug. 31, 9 – 9:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 9 / Transponder 19C
Saturday, Sept. 1, 10 – 10:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 9 / Transponder 19C
Sunday, Sept. 2, 7:30 – 8 p.m. (ET), AMC 9 / Transponder 19C
Monday, Sept. 3, 6:30 – 7 p.m. (ET), AMC 9 / Transponder 19C
(4080 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.461470554 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.
2011 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Mike Neff, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock; Hector Arana Jr., Pro Stock Motorcycle
MOST VICTORIES: Bob Glidden, Pro Stock, 9; Don Garlits, Top Fuel, 8;Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel, 8; Don Prudhomme, Top Fuel and Funny Car, 7; Warren Johnson, Pro Stock, 6; Dave Schultz, Pro Stock Motorcycle, 6; Ed McCulloch, Funny Car and Top Fuel, 6; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock, 6; John Force, Funny Car, 4; Larry Dixon, Top Fuel, 4.
EVENT HISTORY: The most historic and prestigious event in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil has been contested annually since 1955. Originally known as “The Nationals” and first held at an abandoned airstrip in Great Bend, Kan., the event made stops at Kansas City, Mo., Oklahoma City and Detroit before eventually moving to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in 1961. Past winners include “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, an eight-time winner in Top Fuel; Shirley Muldowney, 1982 Top Fuel winner; Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, a seven-time winner and one of a handful of drivers to win the event in both Top Fuel and Funny Car; and Bob Glidden, the legendary Pro Stock driver who dominated the race by advancing to the final round in 13 consecutive seasons from 1977-’89. The Indiana native won the event a record nine times. It is the only major motorsports event to be contested on Labor Day. In 2004 the event celebrated its 50th anniversary in memorable fashion with spectacular racing witnessed by one of the biggest crowds in NHRA history. This year during the NHRA’s Nitro Generation celebration, there promises to be major drama as the event will be the last race during the NHRA Full Throttle Series regular season, and the top 10 drivers in each of the four classes will be determined for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
FAST FACTS: The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals is the final of 17 regular season Full Throttle Series races. Following conclusion of this event the top 10 drivers in each Full Throttle Series category will qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race playoffs that begin Sept. 14-16 at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C.… Tony Schumacher is a 10-time U.S. Nationals finalist in Top Fuel (winning eight)… Schumacher’s first career NHRA start came at the U.S. Nationals in 1996 and the then rookie posted a runner-up finish to Cory McClenathan… Pro Stock dominator Greg Anderson has won the race six times in the past 11 seasons… Six female drivers representing all four professional categories are pre-entered for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals… John Force, 15-time NHRA Full Throttle Series world champion and winner of a record 134 events, has won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals four times, his last coming in 2002… Pro Stock’s Bob Glidden is the winningest driver in the history of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, with nine victories… The event also will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx.
WHAT TO WATCH: The Traxxas Nitro Shootouts will offer $100,000 to the winners in special bonus events for qualified Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers… Tony Schumacher, who is third in the series with win one win, is seeking a record ninth Top Fuel victory at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals; with a win he will break his current tie with “Big Daddy” Don Garlits for most U.S. Nationals Top Fuel wins… A victory by Schumacher would tie Pro Stock’s Bob Glidden for most U.S. Nationals victories with nine… Four-time Pro Stock world champion Greg Anderson, the defending world champion and third in the series points entering the event, is seeking his seventh Mac Tools U.S. Nationals victory… Erica Enders became the first female to win a Pro Stock race in NHRA history in Chicago and captured two more victories in back-to-back fashion at Seattle and Brainerd. At Indy she’ll be going for three wins in a row… Reigning NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle champion and points leader Eddie Krawiec is riding a hot streak into the event, as he has entered the winner’s circle six times this season aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley Davidson… Two other drivers riding momentum into the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals are Antron Brown in Top Fuel and Ron Capps in Funny Car, who both took over the points leads in their categories at Brainerd. Brown has won four events, while Capps has three wins this season… Sophomore drivers – Pro Stock’s Vincent Nobile and Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Hector Arana Jr. – enter the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in the top 10; Nobile has won two races this season while Arana Jr. has posted two runner-up finishes.
TRACK HISTORY: In 1958, led by Tom Binford, Frank Dickie, Rodger Ward and Howard Fieber, 15 Indianapolis-area businessmen and racing professionals invested $5,000 each to fund the development of what would become Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. The group purchased a 267-acre farm about seven miles from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and developed a multipurpose auto racing facility. The original intention in creating Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis was to design a 15-turn, 2.5-mile road course. Nearly as an afterthought, and as an insurance measure against economic problems, the investment group decided to incorporate a quarter-mile drag strip into the long straightaway of the 2.5-mile road course design. Constructed with assistance from the NHRA, the drag strip was the first of the three courses to be completed, with the facility’s first event held on the strip in the fall of 1960. During the 1960 U.S. Nationals in Detroit, a handshake agreement between Binford and NHRA founder Wally Parks promised that the event would move to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in 1961. The historic three-year pact was signed and sealed under a tree in Detroit Dragway’s pits, and Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis eventually became the home of NHRA’s biggest annual event. The NHRA purchased the entire facility in 1979. The first major improvement came in 1983 with the construction and dedication of Parks Tower, the four-story drag strip tower. In 1998, new grandstands, suites and a tower complex on the front straightaway were completed at the oval track at a cost of nearly $2.5 million, which included the repaving of the entire oval surface as part of a three-phase facility improvement project. In 2001, NHRA and Lucas Oil Raceway constructed a new drag strip racing surface, replacing the strip with a 660-foot concrete pad and laying new asphalt on the remainder of the track and shutdown area. Prior to the 2003 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, eight new luxury suites were added along the top of the west-side grandstands of the drag strip, giving fans a unique perspective of the action on the famed quarter-mile track. In 2006, new soft barrier walls were added to the oval. In 2007, the track announced its first track entitlement with O’Reilly Auto Parts. In 2011, the track announced a new track entitlement with Lucas Oil Products. The track – formerly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park – is now known as Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. During the winter of 2008, a new main track office building was constructed near the track entrance.
Top Fuel – 3.735 sec. by Del Worsham, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C
Funny Car – 3.995 sec. by Matt Hagan, Sept. ’11, Charlotte, N.C.; 318.99 mph by Jack Beckman, Sept. ’11, Charlotte, N.C.
Pro Stock – 6.477 sec. by Jason Line, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 213.91 mph by Jason Line, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
PS Motorcycle – 6.750 sec. by Eddie Krawiec, March ’12, Gainesville, Fla.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
Top Fuel – 3.776 sec. by Larry Dixon, Sept. ’10; 324.83 mph by Tony Schumacher, Sept. ’10.
Funny Car – 4.026 sec. by Cruz Pedregon, Sept. ’11; 315.19 mph by Jack Beckman, Sept. ’11.
Pro Stock – 6.538 sec. by Jason Line, Sept. ’11; 211.03 mph by Greg Anderson, Sept. ’11.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.815 sec. by Andrew Hines, Sept. ’10; 196.76 mph by Hines, Sept. ’10.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also are available online atwww.NHRATIX.com.
CONTACT: NHRA Communications Department, (626) 914-4761; Scott Smith (317) 281-5049, cell.
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NHRA FULL THROTTLE DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. — Point standings for drivers through the top 13 positions following the 16th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel: 1. Antron Brown, 1,335*; 2. Spencer Massey, 1,277*; 3. Tony Schumacher, 1,196*; 4. Steve Torrence, 1,139*; 5. Doug Kalitta, 971*; 6. Morgan Lucas, 945*; 7. Shawn Langdon, 874*; 8. David Grubnic, 809*; 9. Brandon Bernstein, 800*; 10. Bob Vandergriff, 664; 11. Clay Millican, 661; 12. Khalid alBalooshi, 585; 13. Terry McMillen, 546.
Funny Car: 1. Ron Capps, 1,228*; 2. Robert Hight, 1,175*; 3. Jack Beckman, 1,068*; 4. Johnny Gray, 999*; 5. Mike Neff, 988*; 6. Courtney Force, 883; 7. Cruz Pedregon, 861; 8. John Force, 842; 9. Jeff Arend, 781; 10. Bob Tasca III, 770; 11. Matt Hagan, 751; 12. Tim Wilkerson, 742; 13. Alexis DeJoria, 621.
Pro Stock: 1. Allen Johnson, 1,432*; 2. Jason Line, 1,298*; 3. Greg Anderson, 1,270*; 4. Mike Edwards, 1,090*; 5. Erica Enders, 1,065*; 6. Vincent Nobile, 1,056*; 7. Ron Krisher, 634; 8. Shane Gray, 623; 9. Larry Morgan, 620; 10. V. Gaines, 604; 11. Jeg Coughlin, 602; 12. Ronnie Humphrey, 583; 13. Rodger Brogdon, 523.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 962*; 2. Andrew Hines, 856*; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 760*; 4. Hector Arana, 630*; 5. Karen Stoffer, 504*; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, 434; 7. LE Tonglet, 432; 8. Michael Ray, 419; 9. Matt Smith, 374; 10. Shawn Gann, 367; 11. John Hall, 345; 12. Steve Johnson, 311; 13. Michael Phillips, 259.
* Clinched berth in NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs.