Hight closes on title with win; Massey, Morgan, Hines also victorious

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by Candida Benson, National DRAGSTER Associate Editor

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Robert Hight all but locked up his first NHRA Funny Car title when he drove to victory at the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals, a win that put him 105 points ahead of the rest of his competitors. Hight was joined in the winner’s circle by Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Larry Morgan (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

The championship picture got much clearer in Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle and a lot more complicated in Top Fuel in Las Vegas, the second to last event in the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season. The most interesting race heading into the final event is in Top Fuel, where just one point separates leader Tony Schumacher and second-place Larry Dixon. Cory McClenathan is just 48 markers out of the lead. Hight very likely put the title out of reach when he went the distance and his closest competitors fell early. His biggest boost came in round one when he defeated second-place Ashley Force Hood, who is now 105 points back. In Pro Stock, Mike Edwards all but clinched the championship. Edwards leaves Las Vegas 139 points in front of Greg Anderson, the only driver left in mathematical contention, meaning he can clinch the title during Pomona qualifying. The Pro Stock Motorcycle championship is now down to two riders, Hector Arana and Eddie Krawiec. The pair met in the semifinals with Arana coming out on top. Though Arana ultimately lost in the final, he holds a solid 54-point advantage over Krawiec heading to Pomona.

Spencer Massey

Though he realistically is out of the championship hunt (he has not been mathematically eliminated but would need a miracle), Massey may very well have locked up the 2009 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award when he drove Don Prudhomme’s U.S. Smokeless rail to his second win of the season; Massey also won in Chicago. Massey was on a rail through eliminations, capping the day with a 3.827, low e.t. of eliminations, to defeat Dixon in the final. This was a repeat of the Reading final, in which Dixon prevailed.

“I don’t like to think that I should or shouldn’t [win rookie of the year]; I don’t really think like that,” said Massey. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I would like for it to happen, but Shawn [Langdon] is an awesome racer and so is Matt Hagan and Doug Horne. Obviously, we’ve got a couple of wins now and the points are the points, but there’s a whole lot of different situations and things that happen for the rookie of the year. I don’t know if it draws a line under it or puts a check by my name or whatever, but I’d love to find out at the end of Pomona that it happened that way.

“It’s just unbelievable just being able to get to the final round. Every race car out here is capable of winning races. The competition is so tight out here. Every round was a key round and meant something because for points, we’re down to the wire. And not only for points, but we’re also going for the Wally at the end of the day. It means a whole lot to me personally and to ‘Snake’ and everybody because we’ve been struggling here in the Countdown; we just haven’t been on our game. So it’s nice to come in here and throw down these good numbers and go A to B and not beat ourselves because that’s what we’ve really been doing all year long. We got a handle on it, and now we’ve got some momentum.”

Massey advanced to his fourth career final round on the strength of 3.83- to 3.87-second passes. He opened with a 3.83 to oust fellow rookie Shawn Langdon, then clocked 3.87 and 3.84 runs to defeat No. 2 qualifier Steve Torrence and Richmond champ Brandon Bernstein.

Dixon just missed taking over the points lead when he came up short in the final, his ninth of the season and 92nd of his career. Dixon, who now sits one point out of first, had a perfect day leading up to the final, in which he smoked the tires. Dixon ran low e.t. of the first two rounds as he dispatched Morgan Lucas and Doug Kalitta. In the semi’s, he had the second-best time of the round, a 3.845 that was only bettered by Cory McClenathan, whom Dixon beat on a holeshot.

Robert Hight

Hight couldn’t have scripted his Las Vegas outing any better. His Auto Club-backed Mustang was the class of the Funny Car field on Sunday, running low e.t. of every round. In the final, Hight powered to a 4.125 to edge Jack Beckman by .012-second for the win. Beckman, who got the jump at the Tree .058 to .075, finished with a 4.154. The win is the third of the season for Hight, all of which have come during the Countdown to 1 playoffs, and the 14th of his career.

“To have a 105-point lead going into Pomona, it gives you a lot of confidence, but it’s still not over,” said Hight. “You hate to make predictions, but back when we didn’t qualify in Bristol, I said, ‘This car is too good. This team is too good, and we will still contend for the championship.’ We weren’t even in the top 10, and you wonder when you say that, you know, ‘Ah, those predictions will come back and bite you.’ But anything can happen. We could not qualify in Pomona, and that could be it. But with the way my car is running right now, I’m very confident, and I just know we can go out there and qualify and seal this deal up.

“Jimmy Prock has just done a great job since the Countdown started, really since Indy. Three wins in the Countdown and we’ve only been to five races, so that is stout. It’s all been on performance. We have not gotten lucky, and I’ve not had to pedal the race car; we have just outmuscled these guys. That was a close race in the final. I think our car fell off a little bit. It hurt itself, so we probably got a little lucky there in the final. All the rest of the runs this weekend, though, it was on performance.”

Hight’s big points day got off to a high-pressure start when he was matched with second-place points runner and teammate Force Hood. Hight was up to the task, running a 4.11 to defeat Force Hood, who faded on the top end and slowed to a 4.33. Hight then clocked a 4.12 to defeat boss John Force, who smoked the tires and crossed the centerline while trying to get his car to recover. Hight advanced to his fourth final of the year and the 26th of his career when he powered to low e.t. of eliminations, 4.080, to trailer Tim Wilkerson.

Beckman kept himself in mathematical contention with a clutch final-round performance that moved him up two spots in the standings, from sixth to fourth. Beckman’s day was the polar opposite of that of Hight as the Don Schumacher Racing driver struggled most of eliminations. In round one, Beckman outpedaled Mike Neff to win the tire-smoking affair on a 4.43 to 4.69 count. The following round, Beckman and teammate Matt Hagan both had troubles on the run with Beckman ultimately coming out on top with a 4.21. Beckman’s sluggish runs continued in the semi’s when he clocked a 4.35 to oust a tire-smoking Del Worsham and advance to his fifth final this year and the 17th of his career.

Larry Morgan

Morgan snapped a dry spell that dated back to Sonoma 2002 when he defeated Rickie Jones in the Pro Stock final. Morgan led the final wire to wire, cutting a .012 light and outpowering Jones, 6.72 to 6.79, to claim his 10th career win.

“My guys have worked so hard to get where we’re at, but now with this Ford program that we’re working on, I’m not sure how we could keep this Dodge running like we have,” said Morgan. “The best win I ever had been when I won Indy and the [NHRA K&N Horsepower Challenge] in 1989 and my oldest boy was born the week before, but this ranks right up there. It was just a great win for us.”

“I threw a hundred dollars in a slot machine and won $1,200, and I thought I might be pretty lucky here. I felt relaxed all day and everything was going our way. We put ourselves in a position to win and I guess I drove well enough to beat the bad guys out here.”

Morgan may not be part of the championship chase, but he played a key role in it during eliminations. In round one, Morgan defeated Jason Line, eliminating the Summit driver from championship contention. He then denied Mike Edwards the 2009 world title when he defeated the points leader on a holeshot, 6.72 to 6.67. Morgan advanced to his first final of the year and the 32nd of his career when he drove his Lucas Oil-backed Dodge past Greg Stanfield.

Jones combined solid driving with a solid-running car to advance to the first final of his young career. Jones began the day with a holeshot victory against Vinnie Deceglie, combining a .020 light with a 6.72 to better Deceglie’s .072-initiated 6.69. Jones then ran back-to-back 6.71s to defeat Roger Brogdon and Ron Krisher to advance to the money round.

Andrew Hines

Hines was mathematically eliminated from championship consideration in the semifinals, but he gave his teammate, Eddie Krawiec, a big boost in his bid to win back-to-back titles when he defeated Arana in the final. Arana made things easy when he left with a very early -.144 light. Hines also left before the green with a -.014, but at that point it didn’t matter. Hines punctuated his win, the third this season and 18th overall, with a 6.998.

“I felt really good today,” said Hines. “For some reason, I get into these races and get all caught up in the battles and rivalries, but today I was relaxed. Today, I didn’t really care. I just went out there to ride and have fun. I had no pressure today.

“In the final, Hector must have been rattled. He did a neutral burnout. He didn’t put the bike in gear, and that’s never a good thing. When I heard that, I had a feeling that I was going to get the win light.”

Hines really was the class of the field in eliminations. Though he wasn’t quickest of the class in his round-one victory over Fred Camarena, Hines was the best of the following three rounds. He clocked a 7.00 to trailer Doug Horne in round two, then blasted to a 6.992, low e.t. of the day, to defeat Matt Smith in the semi’s and advance to his fourth final of ’09 and 31st of his career.

“That was a big round against Matt Smith in the semi’s because he’s my biggest rival,” added Hines. “That was for third place and I think I’ve got it. For some reason I just knew I needed to get to the final today. It was a little bittersweet to see Hector beat Eddie in the semi’s, but for me to come back and take out Hector gives Eddie a glimmer of hope for the championship.”

Arana extended his lead, boosting it to 54 markers, with his final-round showing. Starting from the No. 1 spot, Arana clocked a series of 7.0s en route to the final, beginning with a 7.05 to defeat Mike Berry. He then put a 7.02 on the boards to end David Hope’s day. In the semi’s, Arana won an important match with second-place Krawiec and did so on the starting line, turning a .016 to .032 reaction-time advantage into a 7.039 to 7.028 victory. That gave him a spot in his sixth final of the year and ninth overall.

Related stories:
Friday: Hagan, Dixon, Edwards, Arana lead opening day in Las Vegas
Saturday: Friday leaders remain on point in Las Vegas

Info | Tickets | Schedule | Entries | Results
Team reports | Notebook | Photos | Video

Robert Hight all but locked up his first NHRA Funny Car title when he drove to victory at the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals, a win that put him 105 points ahead of the rest of his competitors. Hight was joined in the winner’s circle by Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Larry Morgan (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

The championship picture got much clearer in Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle and a lot more complicated in Top Fuel in Las Vegas, the second to last event in the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season. The most interesting race heading into the final event is in Top Fuel, where just one point separates leader Tony Schumacher and second-place Larry Dixon. Cory McClenathan is just 48 markers out of the lead. Hight very likely put the title out of reach when he went the distance and his closest competitors fell early. His biggest boost came in round one when he defeated second-place Ashley Force Hood, who is now 105 points back. In Pro Stock, Mike Edwards all but clinched the championship. Edwards leaves Las Vegas 139 points in front of Greg Anderson, the only driver left in mathematical contention, meaning he can clinch the title during Pomona qualifying. The Pro Stock Motorcycle championship is now down to two riders, Hector Arana and Eddie Krawiec. The pair met in the semifinals with Arana coming out on top. Though Arana ultimately lost in the final, he holds a solid 54-point advantage over Krawiec heading to Pomona.

Spencer Massey

Though he realistically is out of the championship hunt (he has not been mathematically eliminated but would need a miracle), Massey may very well have locked up the 2009 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award when he drove Don Prudhomme’s U.S. Smokeless rail to his second win of the season; Massey also won in Chicago. Massey was on a rail through eliminations, capping the day with a 3.827, low e.t. of eliminations, to defeat Dixon in the final. This was a repeat of the Reading final, in which Dixon prevailed.

“I don’t like to think that I should or shouldn’t [win rookie of the year]; I don’t really think like that,” said Massey. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I would like for it to happen, but Shawn [Langdon] is an awesome racer and so is Matt Hagan and Doug Horne. Obviously, we’ve got a couple of wins now and the points are the points, but there’s a whole lot of different situations and things that happen for the rookie of the year. I don’t know if it draws a line under it or puts a check by my name or whatever, but I’d love to find out at the end of Pomona that it happened that way.

“It’s just unbelievable just being able to get to the final round. Every race car out here is capable of winning races. The competition is so tight out here. Every round was a key round and meant something because for points, we’re down to the wire. And not only for points, but we’re also going for the Wally at the end of the day. It means a whole lot to me personally and to ‘Snake’ and everybody because we’ve been struggling here in the Countdown; we just haven’t been on our game. So it’s nice to come in here and throw down these good numbers and go A to B and not beat ourselves because that’s what we’ve really been doing all year long. We got a handle on it, and now we’ve got some momentum.”

Massey advanced to his fourth career final round on the strength of 3.83- to 3.87-second passes. He opened with a 3.83 to oust fellow rookie Shawn Langdon, then clocked 3.87 and 3.84 runs to defeat No. 2 qualifier Steve Torrence and Richmond champ Brandon Bernstein.

Dixon just missed taking over the points lead when he came up short in the final, his ninth of the season and 92nd of his career. Dixon, who now sits one point out of first, had a perfect day leading up to the final, in which he smoked the tires. Dixon ran low e.t. of the first two rounds as he dispatched Morgan Lucas and Doug Kalitta. In the semi’s, he had the second-best time of the round, a 3.845 that was only bettered by Cory McClenathan, whom Dixon beat on a holeshot.

Robert Hight

Hight couldn’t have scripted his Las Vegas outing any better. His Auto Club-backed Mustang was the class of the Funny Car field on Sunday, running low e.t. of every round. In the final, Hight powered to a 4.125 to edge Jack Beckman by .012-second for the win. Beckman, who got the jump at the Tree .058 to .075, finished with a 4.154. The win is the third of the season for Hight, all of which have come during the Countdown to 1 playoffs, and the 14th of his career.

“To have a 105-point lead going into Pomona, it gives you a lot of confidence, but it’s still not over,” said Hight. “You hate to make predictions, but back when we didn’t qualify in Bristol, I said, ‘This car is too good. This team is too good, and we will still contend for the championship.’ We weren’t even in the top 10, and you wonder when you say that, you know, ‘Ah, those predictions will come back and bite you.’ But anything can happen. We could not qualify in Pomona, and that could be it. But with the way my car is running right now, I’m very confident, and I just know we can go out there and qualify and seal this deal up.

“Jimmy Prock has just done a great job since the Countdown started, really since Indy. Three wins in the Countdown and we’ve only been to five races, so that is stout. It’s all been on performance. We have not gotten lucky, and I’ve not had to pedal the race car; we have just outmuscled these guys. That was a close race in the final. I think our car fell off a little bit. It hurt itself, so we probably got a little lucky there in the final. All the rest of the runs this weekend, though, it was on performance.”

Hight’s big points day got off to a high-pressure start when he was matched with second-place points runner and teammate Force Hood. Hight was up to the task, running a 4.11 to defeat Force Hood, who faded on the top end and slowed to a 4.33. Hight then clocked a 4.12 to defeat boss John Force, who smoked the tires and crossed the centerline while trying to get his car to recover. Hight advanced to his fourth final of the year and the 26th of his career when he powered to low e.t. of eliminations, 4.080, to trailer Tim Wilkerson.

Beckman kept himself in mathematical contention with a clutch final-round performance that moved him up two spots in the standings, from sixth to fourth. Beckman’s day was the polar opposite of that of Hight as the Don Schumacher Racing driver struggled most of eliminations. In round one, Beckman outpedaled Mike Neff to win the tire-smoking affair on a 4.43 to 4.69 count. The following round, Beckman and teammate Matt Hagan both had troubles on the run with Beckman ultimately coming out on top with a 4.21. Beckman’s sluggish runs continued in the semi’s when he clocked a 4.35 to oust a tire-smoking Del Worsham and advance to his fifth final this year and the 17th of his career.

Larry Morgan

Morgan snapped a dry spell that dated back to Sonoma 2002 when he defeated Rickie Jones in the Pro Stock final. Morgan led the final wire to wire, cutting a .012 light and outpowering Jones, 6.72 to 6.79, to claim his 10th career win.

“My guys have worked so hard to get where we’re at, but now with this Ford program that we’re working on, I’m not sure how we could keep this Dodge running like we have,” said Morgan. “The best win I ever had been when I won Indy and the [NHRA K&N Horsepower Challenge] in 1989 and my oldest boy was born the week before, but this ranks right up there. It was just a great win for us.”

“I threw a hundred dollars in a slot machine and won $1,200, and I thought I might be pretty lucky here. I felt relaxed all day and everything was going our way. We put ourselves in a position to win and I guess I drove well enough to beat the bad guys out here.”

Morgan may not be part of the championship chase, but he played a key role in it during eliminations. In round one, Morgan defeated Jason Line, eliminating the Summit driver from championship contention. He then denied Mike Edwards the 2009 world title when he defeated the points leader on a holeshot, 6.72 to 6.67. Morgan advanced to his first final of the year and the 32nd of his career when he drove his Lucas Oil-backed Dodge past Greg Stanfield.

Jones combined solid driving with a solid-running car to advance to the first final of his young career. Jones began the day with a holeshot victory against Vinnie Deceglie, combining a .020 light with a 6.72 to better Deceglie’s .072-initiated 6.69. Jones then ran back-to-back 6.71s to defeat Roger Brogdon and Ron Krisher to advance to the money round.

Andrew Hines

Hines was mathematically eliminated from championship consideration in the semifinals, but he gave his teammate, Eddie Krawiec, a big boost in his bid to win back-to-back titles when he defeated Arana in the final. Arana made things easy when he left with a very early -.144 light. Hines also left before the green with a -.014, but at that point it didn’t matter. Hines punctuated his win, the third this season and 18th overall, with a 6.998.

“I felt really good today,” said Hines. “For some reason, I get into these races and get all caught up in the battles and rivalries, but today I was relaxed. Today, I didn’t really care. I just went out there to ride and have fun. I had no pressure today.

“In the final, Hector must have been rattled. He did a neutral burnout. He didn’t put the bike in gear, and that’s never a good thing. When I heard that, I had a feeling that I was going to get the win light.”

Hines really was the class of the field in eliminations. Though he wasn’t quickest of the class in his round-one victory over Fred Camarena, Hines was the best of the following three rounds. He clocked a 7.00 to trailer Doug Horne in round two, then blasted to a 6.992, low e.t. of the day, to defeat Matt Smith in the semi’s and advance to his fourth final of ’09 and 31st of his career.

“That was a big round against Matt Smith in the semi’s because he’s my biggest rival,” added Hines. “That was for third place and I think I’ve got it. For some reason I just knew I needed to get to the final today. It was a little bittersweet to see Hector beat Eddie in the semi’s, but for me to come back and take out Hector gives Eddie a glimmer of hope for the championship.”

Arana extended his lead, boosting it to 54 markers, with his final-round showing. Starting from the No. 1 spot, Arana clocked a series of 7.0s en route to the final, beginning with a 7.05 to defeat Mike Berry. He then put a 7.02 on the boards to end David Hope’s day. In the semi’s, Arana won an important match with second-place Krawiec and did so on the starting line, turning a .016 to .032 reaction-time advantage into a 7.039 to 7.028 victory. That gave him a spot in his sixth final of the year and ninth overall.

Related stories:
Friday: Hagan, Dixon, Edwards, Arana lead opening day in Las Vegas
Saturday: Friday leaders remain on point in Las Vegas

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NHRA announces creation of new NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series

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New series will be recognized as the third competing at national events in 2010

What began as an exhibition in 2001 has become a full-fledged series for 2010, it was announced today by NHRA.  Made possible by funding from Pro Care Rx and its current Get Screened America initiative, the 2010 NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series will compete at 10 NHRA Full Throttle Series events and be televised on a tape-delay basis on ESPN2.

“We have been conducting Pro Mod exhibitions for quite some time,” said Tom Compton, president, NHRA.  “Clearly they bring entertainment value to our fans and we believe now is the time to highlight this popular form of drag racing.  Now, competitors can race for the coveted Wally trophy and an NHRA world championship title.”

The formation of the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series wouldn’t have been possible without the financial commitment of Pro Care Rx and Get Screened America.   A multi-year commitment by the group to fund the series made the series possible.

“I want to thank NHRA for working with us and especially Tom Compton for making the bold decision to add a new series that has been talked about for many years,” said Roger Burgess.  “I look forward to working with NHRA to grow the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series into a fan favorite for many years to come.”

An integral part of the series will be 10 half-hour broadcasts on ESPN2 on a tape delay basis.   The half hour shows will air around current NHRA programming on the worldwide leader in sports and will feature competition from the 10 series events.  Talent for the shows will be announced at a later date.

With body styles ranging from ’41 Willys to ’53 Corvettes, ’57 Chevys to ’70 Cudas, and first-generation Camaros and Firebirds, to profiles as racy as the latest Dodge Viper, along with show-quality “themed paint jobs,” Pro Mods have been crowd pleasers at NHRA events for several years as an exhibition. With huge slicks at the rear and superchargers poking through the hoods, there’s no doubt that these cars are a whole lot more than souped-up classics.

The inaugural NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series will kick off in Gainesville, Fla.   The schedule includes stops at some of the biggest events on the circuit including Houston, St. Louis, Atlanta, Englishtown, Bristol and Norwalk.    The second half of the season will see the 240 mph machines race at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis, the second Charlotte event, and conclude at the second Las Vegas event in October.

The series will conform to the NHRA Rulebook and competitors will race to the quarter-mile.  Each event will feature 16-car fields, where thanks to the Get Screened America sponsorship, they will compete for world championship points and an overall purse, including event purses and year-end bonus monies of $470,000.

In addition to the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, NHRA national events feature the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, and the premier series of the sport, the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, featuring Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

2010 NHRA Get Screened Pro Mod Drag Racing Series Schedule
41st annual NHRA Gatornationals March 11-14 Gainesville, Fla.
23rd annual O’Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals April 9 – 11 Houston
14th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals April 30 – May 2 St. Louis
30th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals May 14-16 Commerce, Ga.
41st annual United Association NHRA SuperNationals June 10-13 Englishtown, N.J.
10th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals June 18-20 Bristol, Tenn.
Fourth annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals June 24-27 Norwalk, Ohio
56th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Aug. 31 – Sept. 5 Indianapolis
Third annual NHRA Carolinas Nationals Sept. 16-19 Concord, N.C.
10th annualNHRA Las Vegas Nationals Oct. 28-31 Las Vegas
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Hamstra Escapes All Injury

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DEMOTTE, IN (October 29, 2009)  – While competing against Joshua Hernandez in a semi-final round of the National Guard ADRL’s championship-deciding Speedtech Battle for the Belts Oct. 23, Pro Extreme star Jason Hamstra lost control of his 1968 Camaro near the eighth-mile finish line and crashed heavily into the left retaining wall at the Texas Motorplex, narrowly missing Hernandez as he crossed in front of his ‘57 Chevy.

Hamstra, 22, had posted a 3.78-second pass at 203.46 miles per hour before the accident.

After the crash, he was transported via helicopter to Parkland Hospital in Dallas for observation, but by Sunday was home in Indiana recuperating. Other than some minor bruises, the young racer received no injuries.

“He’s doing well,” stated his mother, Karen Hamstra. “He came out of the ordeal in good shape, not even a concussion.”

Karen went on to say that the car is equipped with the latest and best in safety equipment, and was invaluable during the Friday evening Speedtech Battle for the Belts session.

“We’ve got the latest in safety equipment and it did its stuff,” she said.

Karen also was grateful for the help provided right after the crash, with many coming to the aid of her son.

“I want to thank everybody that helped. I would like to especially thank (Flowmaster Extreme 10.5 racer) Kenny Doak. He just jumped right in there and helped us,” continued Karen. “We also want to thank EMS attendants, the fire fighters, the ADRL and Texas Motorplex crews, along with the doctors and staff at Parkland Hospital.

”Thank you to (National Guard ADRL President and CEO) Kenny Nowling who drove over an hour to the hospital at 2 a.m. to check on Jason. And a special thank you to Jason’s number-one fan Brian Olson for his prayers and support. Thank you also to Dad, Mom, Brianna, Andy, Phil, Justin, the Barklages, the Tutterows, and everyone else who came to our need.”

The National Guard ADRL Web site (www.ADRL.us) received more than 600 e-mails following the crash, asking how Jason was doing, added Karen, who thanked family and friends for their prayers and concern.

Well wishes can be sent to Jason at promod@midwaynet.net.

(ADRL/Richards photos)

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Despite difficult season, Pedregon remains a contender

October 25, 2009 by  
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by Kevin McKenna, National DRAGSTER Senior Editor

Tony Pedregon’s turbulent 2009 season has included the departure of long-time crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Kurt Elliott, a much publicized top-end skirmish with former boss John Force, and a violent body-destroying engine explosion in Memphis, yet with two events remaining, the street-wise and battle-ready Pedregon somehow finds himself in contention for a third Full Throttle Funny Car championship. He currently is just 48 points behind leader Robert Hight and 35 behind second-ranked Ashley Force Hood with two races remaining in the Countdown to the Championship.

“When I look at where we are, I wouldn’t use the word surprised,” says Pedregon, who has three wins this season, including a memorable victory in Brainerd that came just days after the departure of Venables and Elliott. “I think most people are more surprised than I am. That being said, I do feel that we are fortunate that after three [recent] first-round losses, I’m still even within two rounds of first place. In that regard, I would say that I’m a bit surprised.

It’s been a season of highs and lows for Tony Pedregon. (Above) he was overcome with emotion after winning in Brainerd just days after losing his crew chief and assistant crew chief. (Below) The team has a setback in Memphis a few weeks ago with a body-tossing blower explosion.

Rahn Tolber, left, and Tony Shortall have gamely stepped in to help keep Pedregon’s Funny Car in the championship hunt.

“Make no mistake, this has been a tough year,” he said. “Financially, it has been very challenging to keep up with some of the other teams. I think that says a lot about our team and people that have stuck with me. We do not have a lot of depth, but there is a lot of loyalty and determination and a lot of untapped talent here. That has made the difference in the second half. When Dickie and Kurt left, I think most people expected that we’d fall out of contention. That wasn’t the case. [Crew chiefs] Rahn Tobler and Tony Shortall along with the guys who stayed and knew our routing, were able to re-focus and carry on. I called on them in Brainerd to dig deep and they have. The people who stuck with me are our biggest asset.”

Despite the upheaval, Pedregon is nothing if not optimistic as he prepares for next weekend’s NHRA Las Vegas Nationals, and why shouldn’t he be? Pedregon has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with three wins and two runner-up finishes. He also fondly recalls the 2007 Las Vegas event where he nearly clinched his second NHRA Funny Car championship. At that event, Pedregon came into the event locked in a multi-way battle for the top spot. In a bizarre twist of fate, all of his rivals lost early while Pedregon went on to win the event. As a result had to do little more than qualify for the final race in Pomona in order to secure the title.

“Based on what happened in 2007, I know the possibility exists for a repeat [championship],” Pedregon said. “One of the reasons why I’m so optimistic that that there are so many good cars in the class right now. We can’t rely on ourselves to beat either Ashley or Robert and I’m not going to try and go after either one of them. Our goal is simply to qualify and earn as many points as possible. Robert is very strong right now but he’s not untouchable. The same goes for Ashley. They are both very good but so is Del [Worsham] and so is Tim Wilkerson and so it Jeff Arend. Any one of them could win one of the last two races. That being said, going into Las Vegas I feel like we have a good opportunity to get to the final and if we can do that, we have a fighting chance.”

With his close ties to the Palms Resort and Casino and his love for competitive poker, Pedregon doesn’t need many addition reasons to look forward to the two annual stops that the NHRA Full Throttle tour makes in Las Vegas, but his career stats, which include three wins and two runner-up finishes at the famed Strip, certainly help add to the track’s appeal.

“Sure, I have a good history in Las Vegas, but that doesn’t mean a lot,” said Pedregon. “I’m not superstitious but maybe I should be. What matters now is what happens this year. If I do have an edge, it’s that I’ve got experience. I’ve been in this situation several times before and I know what it takes to get it done. Now, we just have to execute. This sport has a tendency to mentally weigh on you. It can make you better or worse. I just need to rely on that experience and use it to my advantage.”

With his mind firmly focused on the job at hand, Pedregon won’t allow himself to look too far into the future. However, he does acknowledge that if he were to somehow claim a third championship, it would rank as the greatest achievement of his career.

“That would be an amazing thing and I hope that is the case Sunday night in Pomona,” he said. We have put in our time an paid our dues but I’m really not thinking that far ahead. For now, the game  plan is to make the final Vegas and get close. If I can go to Pomona and still have a fighting chance, I’ll gladly take it.”

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November 1 – Muscle Car Club Challenge

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The Texas Muscle Car Club roars into the Texas Motorplex this Sunday November 1.   Rescheduled from October 13, gates will open at 8:00am.   Racers will be $30, spectators are $12 and children 12 & under are free.

For more information about the Texas Muscle Car Club Challenge visit tmccc.org

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For event information or tickets please call 972-878-2641
or 1-800-MOTORPLEX (1-800-668-6775)