Stevenson named Texas Motorplex General Manager

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DALLAS — Long-time public relations and marketing specialist Gabrielle Stevenson, 35, was named Texas Motorplex General Manager today by owner Billy Meyer. Stevenson joins the Texas Motorplex after leaving her post at the United Way California Capital Region in Sacramento, California where she managed a broad range of marketing projects including donor relations, branding initiatives, marketing materials as well as Web site content. Stevenson has nearly 10 years of public relations experience working for both the Motorplex and the National Hot Rod Association sanctioning body.

“I am excited to bring someone with Gabrielle’s skill sets into the General Manager position. Her years of public relations and marketing experience will be a big asset for the Texas Motorplex in the North Texas region. She understands how critical public relations and marketing are to the growth of this facility and her positive, can-do attitude will make an immediate impact. We looked at a number of candidates and Gabrielle’s enthusiasm and ideas quickly moved her to the top of the list,” said Meyer.

Built in 1986, the Texas Motorplex was drag racing’s first super track and has hosted NHRA national events since its inception. The first all-concrete drag racing specific race track has consistently led the sport in both on-track performance records and innovative marketing and sponsorship promotions. This year the Motorplex in Ennis, Texas will host the 25th annual O’Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals, September 23-26.

“This is an unbelievable opportunity and a challenge that I am looking forward to tackling. The Dallas and particularly the North Texas region is one of the most competitive markets when it comes to sporting events and marketing. We have a great team here at the Texas Motorplex as well as a strong history. I am looking forward to continuing to grow our business, welcoming hundreds of thousands of fans through our turnstiles and developing strong marketing partnerships with our current and future sponsors in 2010 and beyond,” said Stevenson.

Stevenson joins a growing list of female executives and professionals rising to the top tiers of the motorsports industry. Currently Gillian Zucker is the President of Auto Club Speedway, Gill Campbell is CEO/GM of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Kim Isemann is GM of Daytona 500 Experience and Kim Walters is President of Universal Technical Institute.

The Texas Motorplex has a history of hiring women for management positions. In 2009 Meyer hired Ashley Kellough as Competition Director to oversee the weekly racing program. Kellough has grown the weekly racing program and developed a positive relationship with a number of racing promoters and race teams as the facility’s Competition Director.

“I reached out to Billy when the position became available and really didn’t consider the fact that there weren’t any other women in this kind of position in motorsports. I knew I could do the job and I was looking to get back into motorsports. This was the perfect opportunity and I appreciate Billy taking a chance on me,” added Stevenson.

Stevenson, a 1999 graduate of California State University in Sacramento started her career at the Contra Costa Times as a sports writer before joining the National Hot Rod Association as a media relations manager in 2001. While at the NHRA Stevenson managed all sports information duties for the largest motorsports sanctioning body in the world and expanded their media reach across all media platforms.

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NHRA Tech Bulletin

February 22, 2010 by  
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NHRA’s Technical Department made two announcements Friday effective at this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals in Phoenix regarding the Electrimotion Safety Shutoff Controllers and Alan Johnson Performance Engineering Superchargers.

Electrimotion Shutoff Receiver

NHRA has temporarily suspended mandatory use of the Electrimotion Shutoff Receiver while NHRA works with the manufacturer to meet driver requests.

Top Fuel and Funny Car teams, after the just-concluded Pomona event, raised certain concerns about the automatic shutoff process, including potential wear on certain engine components, and a desire among some drivers to keep their traditional routine in place at the end of the track and manually shut down the car when they were fully capable of doing so. As a result, NHRA and Electrimotion are working to develop an override to the Shutoff Receiver when both parachute handles have been enabled. When both chutes have been pulled, the driver will be able to shut down according to his or her normal procedures rather than having the automatic device shut off the vehicle. The override kit is expected to be available prior to the Gainesville event, which begins March 11.

The automatic shutoff procedure was implemented as a safety measure to stop a vehicle in the event of driver inability to do so. NHRA still encourages the use of the automatic shutoff even during this time period when its use is not mandatory. Therefore, NHRA will install Electrimotion Shutoff Transmitters to accommodate those teams wishing to continue to use the shutoff receivers.

The Electrimotion Safety Shutoff Controllers on Top Fuel and Funny Car vehicles, activated in the case of burst panel rupture, fire bottle activation or activation by the driver, will remain mandatory.

Alan Johnson Performance Engineering (AJPE) Superchargers

The NHRA Technical Department impounded superchargers on Top Fuel and Funny Car vehicles at the Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals last weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. This week in Phoenix, NHRA inspected each impounded supercharger with a representative from the applicable team. It was determined that certain AJPE Superchargers do not meet certain NHRA specifications. In addition, the NHRA Rulebook states that all engine component development, including superchargers, must be submitted to the NHRA Technical Department for review. The subject AJPE Superchargers were not submitted to the NHRA Technical Department for review. Therefore, AJPE Superchargers that do not meet the current specification cannot be used in competition. This information has been conveyed to all affected teams and to the manufacturer, and NHRA is informed that they are working to resolve the issue.

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Texas Motorplex Drivers Meeting/Chassis Certification this Sunday!

February 22, 2010 by  
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Ditch your winter scarf and gloves and grab your helmet….. It’s time to get back to the race track!

Help Texas Motorplex open the gates for its 25th year of drag racing as the 2010 season kicks off with a Racer Meeting and Chassis Certification on Sunday, Feb. 28.  Gates will open at 9 a.m. and the Drivers Meeting will begin at 10 a.m. in the Texas Motorplex Champions Club.  The meeting with provide important details for the 2010 Bracket Season, introduce the 2010 Driver Committee and have sign-ups for 2010 Bracket Points.

NOTE: The Test & Tune has been canceled due to cold conditions forecasted for Sunday. The next opportunity to race down the track will be Sunday March 7.

9 a.m.: Gates open
10 a.m. : Drivers Meeting in the Champions Club

Chassis Certification by appointment only: Spaces are still available; you must CALL THE TRACK to reserve your spot for a Chassis Certification. Please call 972-878-2641 to book your time slot.

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McClenathan, Beckman take delayed Arizona Nationals wins

February 22, 2010 by  
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by Phil Burgess, National DRAGSTER Editor

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Cory McClenathan and Jack Beckman completed a Don Schumacher Racing sweep of the delayed final rounds Monday at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. McClenathan’s win gives him the Full Throttle points lead in Top Fuel.

Weather delays Sunday had moved racing into the early evening, and deteriorating conditions forced the postponement of action. NHRA officials called a halt to Sunday’s racing after three rounds of Top Fuel and Funny Car and one round of Pro Stock and scheduled completion for Monday morning. More rain Monday delayed the final outcome, and the nitro cars didn’t hit the track until 2:45 p.m. local time.

The quarterfinal, semifinal, and final rounds of Pro Stock will be run during qualifying at the 41st annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. The unfinished rounds will be completed during the second, third, and fourth rounds of qualifying for the event in two weeks at the historic Florida dragstrip. Lucas Oil Sportsman eliminations will be completed Friday, Feb. 26, during the Division 7 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event.

Cory McClenathan

Despite a cool racing surface (82 degrees) that had not been run on since the previous day, McClenathan collected his 32nd Top Fuel victory with a strong 3.813 at 316.67 to defeat Doug Kalitta, who shook and smoked the tires before recovering to a 4.73, 219.47 runner-up.

McClenathan, who won in Phoenix 20 years ago in Top Alcohol Dragster and has won two other times in Top Fuel (1994 and 1998), powered his Fram dragster past Mike Strasburg, Troy Buff, and a broken Steve Torrence with consecutively quicker blasts of 3.84, 3.82, and 3.81 to reach the final, the 58th of his Top Fuel career.

“The FRAM dragster has become a bracket car,” said McClenathan. “[Crew chiefs] Todd [Okuhara] and Phil [Shuler] have got the car running well enough that we know whoever we’re racing has to step up to beat us. Getting our car in stride this early is a big deal for us.”

“We lost in Pomona, because we didn’t take Doug Kalitta seriously when we raced him in the semi’s. This time, they obviously took him seriously to run a 3.81, 316 on what was really a green track after the rain. After the run, I told Doug, ‘We weren’t taking you lightly,’ and he said, ‘We were throwing the whole trailer at it.’ I expect that out of [car owner] Connie Kalitta.”

Kalitta, runner-up at the season-opening Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals presented by Valvoline in Pomona, reached his second straight Top Fuel final of the season by defeating Chris Karamesines, teammate Dave Grubnic, and Morgan Lucas with a 3.99 and two 3.98s.

Eliminations in Top Fuel were full of upsets. Independent runner Steve Chrisman notched a win against tire-shake-plagued Larry Dixon in the opening round, and Torrence put away No. 1 qualifier Tony Schumacher in the second round by virtue of a holeshot.

Sunday got off to a rough start in Top Fuel with rain interrupting the first round, which concluded with a crash involving Antron Brown. Brown was not injured in the accident, but a woman who was struck by a tire from Brown’s dragster was pronounced dead at Good Samaritan Hospital that evening. NHRA is investigating the incident. The entire NHRA community is deeply saddened by the incident and sends its thoughts and prayers to the woman’s family and friends.

Jack Beckman

Beckman got back into the win column in Funny Car for the first time since last summer when he drove his MTS/Valvoline Charger to a 4.12, 301.13 to defeat John Force, who shook to a 6.31. The two drivers engaged in a mini burndown before fully lighting the Tree, but neither got a substantial advantage from it at the green.

“We’ve had a lot of luck against John Force, and I don’t care what you say, that guy is still the man in nitro Funny Car,” said Beckman. “The fan in me is so happy to see him back in top form. The racer in me was glad they weren’t perfect against us in the final. But to go out beat those guys as dominant as they have been for both races this year is pretty cool.”

“The other cool thing is that you kind of want to make that statement early in the year that you’re a team capable of winning races. If you can go the final round and rack up a lot of points, that’s cool, but the trophy symbolized a lot of stuff, and when you get that trophy early in the year I think everybody on the team knows that we can be the best on any given day, and that’s the attitude that it’s going to take to run for the championship at the end of the year.”

With the exception of a semifinal pedalfest win against Tony Pedregon, past Phoenix champ Beckman wore out his opposition Sunday with remarkable consistency. Tuner Rahn Tobler dialed in the car with a pair of 4.13s to start eliminations after running a 4.13 during qualifying. Beckman turned away Bob Tasca III and teammate Matt Hagan before using his cunning in the cockpit to survive a tire-smoking affair against Pedregon.

Force opened his eliminations account Sunday by escaping with a narrow .001-second victory against Cruz Pedregon, then powered to low e.t. and a career-best 4.044 blast in round two to defeat Jim Head. Force reached the final by defeating his teammate, reigning world champ Robert Hight, with a 4.08 in the semifinals.

Second-round pairings in Pro Stock — Mike Edwards vs. Greg Anderson, Allen Johnson vs. Jason Line, Ron Krisher vs. Greg Stanfield, and Bob Yonke vs. Rodger Brogdon – will be contested during the second round of qualifying in Gainesville Friday, March 12; the semifinal pairs will run during the third round of qualifying Saturday, March 13; and the final round will be held during the final round of qualifying Saturday. The runs will occur during the scheduled qualifying sessions of the event, and the times posted on those runs will count toward qualifying for the event.

Related stories
Friday: Kalitta, Hagan, and Edwards are opening-day leaders in Phoenix
Saturday: Force back atop the field; Schumacher, Edwards also front Phoenix fields
Arizona Nationals Sportsman racing to complete at Firebird LODRS
NHRA community saddened by loss in Phoenix

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Force returns to winner’s circle; Dixon, Edwards also snare opening wins

February 15, 2010 by  
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NHRA’s winningest driver, John Force, got back into the winner’s circle after a 20-month drought and was joined by Larry Dixon and Mike Edwards in collecting season-opening Full Throttle Drag Racing Series wins at the 50th Anniversary Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals presented by Valvoline.

The victory at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, during a weekend filled with nostalgic moments and memories, is Force’s record 127th and it came in his 203rd career final, but his first since the 2008 Topeka event, 623 days ago. The Top Fuel win by Dixon also marked a bit of a comeback as his team didn’t even qualify at last year’s race, where qualifying was shortened by rain. Edwards’ win continued the dominance that the reigning Pro Stock world champ showed in closing out his successful 2009 campaign.

John Force

Force, coming off his first winless season since 1986 and celebrating the 25th anniversary of his longtime partnership with Castrol, showed that he’s still in fighting form by winning the Winternationals title, his fifth, on a holeshot, 4.124 to 4.123 against Ron Capps. The last time that Force led the points was Nov. 12, 2006, when he won his most recent championship.

“This is really huge,” said Force. “You know, people say, ‘What’s it like to win?’ It wasn’t so much the winning but coming back from the cellar, and I was in the cellar. When you win all those championships, you just think that winning was easy, and then it got real tough. We scrambled everything around. Obama said change, and that word just stuck in my head. I don’t know if it’s working for him, but Mike Neff, Bernie Fedderly, and Austin Coil, that group is really jelling together, so change has worked for us. To be here at the Auto Club Raceway and win this race, that won’t ever come again, and the 100th, I may not be here for the 100th.

“My gym guy came in one day and I was down and I was just crying and I was just worn out. I said, ‘No matter how hard I work I’m just not going to be who I used to be,’ and that hurts. When your kids are out here like, ‘Dad, you’re Superman. We saw you beat the dragsters.’ Well, you’re not Superman, you’re just a man. But we jelled this team, and I got back on my game because I really wanted it.”

The win also proved that Force’s the decision to add sidelined tuner cum driver Mike Neff to the tuning mix with Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly was a wise one. His Mustang never seemed challenged  with consistent passes of 4.132, 4.120, and 4.125 to defeat Bob Bode, daughter Ashley Force Hood, and Jack Beckman.

Capps, the defending event champ who also won this race in 1998, powered his Ed McCulloch-tuned NAPA Auto Parts Dodge back to the final  the tough way, having to win without lane choice in round one, where he beat Jim Head, then beating former champ Cruz Pedregon, who had upset low qualifier and defending season champ Robert Hight in round one. Capps reached the final, the 60th Funny Car of his career, with a semifinal triumph over Bob Tasca III after a heroic thrash to repair a broken rear end. The car had to be transported back to the trailer on a flatbed, but with help from teammate Matt Hagan’s DieHard crew, they had the rear end and a new engine block installed in just 35 minutes.

Larry Dixon

Dixon’s victory, scored in a 3.80, 316.60 to 3.84, 310.05 decision over defending event champ Doug Kalitta, was his 49th career win, tying him with his former car owner, Don “the Snake” Prudhomme, for eighth place among all Pro winners and 14th among all NHRA drivers. Dixon previously had won the Winternationals in 1998 and back-to-back in 2002 and 2003.

“It’s beyond words,” said Dixon, a student of the sport who understands the significance of winning the Winternationals. “It’s a huge event in its own right whether it’s the fourth or the 12th or whatever and to win the 50th with all of the hype and everything and the gold Wallys, just having a shot at running for it and then doing, I feel very blessed.

“[Tying Prudhomme] I feel like I felt when I passed Don Garlits’ 35 wins; it’s not even fair to compare me with them. When ‘Snake’ was racing there were only three or five races in the season so he didn’t get to run his numbers up, and when he stopped driving the car, the car was winning and if he hadn’t put me in the car he would have kept winning. It’s apples and oranges to me. If I had the kind of season record that Prudhomme had [in 1975 and '76] I’d have more wins than John Force. I’m still grateful to get my first win back in 1995; it’s more than I ever thought I’d have the opportunity to do. You can wish for it, but you can’t make it happen, That’s why I feel so very lucky to have been in some great cars and had some great crew chiefs and the opportunity just to hold my end up.”

Dixon, who lost his low qualifying berth to Cory McClenathan in Saturday’s final qualifying session, looked nearly flawless en route to the final round, chalking up low e.t. of eliminations at 3.799 in round one to defeat Steve Chrisman, followed by a 3.85 conquest of longtime rival Brandon Bernstein. Dixon’s semifinal bash with Tony Schumacher, to whom he lost the season championship last year by a mere two points, was another legendary clash between the two modern-day Top Fuel titans. They ran identical e.t.s and identical speeds – 3.836s and 317.05s a pair – and it was only Dixon’s .068 to .085 reaction-time edge that made the difference 999 feet later for the Al-Anabi team.

Kalitta, who last year joined his uncle, Connie (1967), and cousin Scott (2005),as Winternationals Top Fuel champs, raced his way back to the money round again, the 59th of his career, by overcoming first-round engine woes that slowed him to a 4.51, but the Jim Oberhofer-led crew responded with passes of 3.92 and 3.84 to defeat tire-smoking Troy Buff and No. 1 qualifier McClenathan.

Mike Edwards

Twenty-nine years after winning his first Winternationals title in Modified Eliminator, Edwards, frustrated twice by Summit teammates Greg Anderson (2006) and Jason Line (2009), scored his first Winternationals Pro Stock title by besting Anderson, 6.57, 210.47 to 6.61, 209.62. Anderson got the holeshot, .031 to .069, but Edwards ran him down to win his 21st Pro Stock Wally by just .003-second.

Prior to beating Anderson, Edwards’ Penhall/Interstate/K&N Pontiac was the quickest car in all four qualifying sessions and had low e.t. of every preliminary round as he motored past Justin Humphreys, Greg Stanfield, and Allen Johnson with blasts of 6.604, 6.610, and 6.615 to reach the final, his 40th in the class. It’s the second time that Edwards has racked up the maximum points available at a race; the first was in Richmond, Va., late last year.

“It feels good to come out here and win a race right off the bat,” said Edwards. “It’s a major win. I was telling Lisa last night before we got to go to bed I won this race 30 years ago in Modified; it’s been a long time. What a way to start the season. Interstate Batteries’ is outrageously dependable, and that’s what my team is. They just make this car go up and down the track. It’s just a pleasure to be a part of this team. These guys are just that good. We’re just fortunate to have what we have.”

“I needed every bit of that last run there. Greg, man, he walloped me on the starting line. It was a great race in the final there in Pro Stock. My hats off to Greg, Jason, and all those guys with the tough winter there. Ken Black, we all want to see him back out here because we all miss him. Those guys are an awesome team, and we love the challenge they give us because they’re the best — they’ve got a lot of championships.”

Anderson continued his Pomona love affair by reaching the final. He won the 2009 season finale here, won the Winternationals three straight years from 2006-2008 and four times overall, and at this race last year reset the national record. He reached the final again, the 89th of his career, with his Summit Pontiac after running 6.608 in round one in a rematch with Kurt Johnson of final of the last event here, then moved on to beat good-looking rookie Shane Gray with a 6.626 and ended the great debut of Larry Morgan’s new Lucas Oil Mustang in the semifinals with a 6.632.

The Top Alcohol Dragster final pitted the runners-up from the last two years, and ’09′s second-place finisher Chris Demke finished first this time with a 5.33 victory over 2008 runner-up Joey Severence. Sean O’Bannon handed Doug Gordon his second straight Alcohol Funny Car Winternationals runner-up, beating the 2003 champ in the final, 5.54 to 5.64.

A pair of former Winternationals Comp champs battled for their second wins in a rematch of their 2006 final here, and the outcome was the same as Lou Ficco Jr. collected the win when 2004 Winternationals champ Dean Carter went -.117 red. In Super Stock, 2003 Winternationals champ Jeff Lane scored again, handing reigning world champ Jimmy DeFrank Jr. his fourth straight Winternationals final-round loss, while Brad Burton defeated Ryan McClanahan for Stock honors.

Kevin Wright got a bye run in the Super Comp final when 2003 Super Gas runner-up Ed Olpin’s dragster wouldn’t fire in the final. The guy who beat Olpin in that 2003 final, Brad Pierce, also won his second Winternationals title by beating former world champ Jimmy Lewis in the Super Gas final.

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