NHRA In The News

September 23, 2011 by  
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September 23: Terry Blount of ESPN.com:
Matt Hagan wants chance at redemption

September 23: John Sturbin for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
Fort Worth drag racer must challenge teammate as NHRA playoffs come to Texas

September 23: Russ Goodall of the Houston Chronicle:
Top Fueler Brown hitting his stride

September 22: Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
Antron Brown sees no barriers on road to Top Fuel crown

September 22: Gary Graves of USA Today:
Antron Brown still smoking as NHRA playoffs head to Dallas

September 21: Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News:
Antron Brown has dominated Top Fuel competition with a 41-11 record

September 22: Anthony Andro of FoxSportsSouthwest.com:
Heiress taking unusual career path

September 22: Bob Tasca for the Detroit Free Press:
NHRA Driver Diary: On the outside looking in with five races to go

September 18: Ryan McGee, ESPN The Magazine:
Hagan, Brown off to hot starts

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HIGHT LOOKS FOR MOMENTUM AT MOTORPLEX

September 20, 2011 by  
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DALLAS, TX (September 20, 2011) — At the end of August Robert Hight took a quick trip to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to promote the 26th annual AAA Texas Fall Nationals and take in a little baseball. Hight met with Texas Rangers ace CJ Wilson and the pair of SoCal residents talked motorsports, baseball and the play-offs. The Rangers are on the verge of clinching the American League West for the second year in a row and Hight is already in the midst of his own play-off run.

In Charlotte Hight and his Auto Club team did not get off to a fast start but like Hight and Wilson both agreed outside the Rangers’ locker room in late August it is not who starts hot it is who ends hot that most likely wins the championship.

“Talking with CJ was really interesting. There are a lot of similarities between pitching and racing. You have to concentrate so hard in both disciplines but you also have to have a very short memory. As a pitcher if a hitter hits a homerun off you then you have to forget about that right away and not let that affect your next pitch. It is the same in the Countdown,” said Hight who slipped from No. 3 to No. 5 in the point standings. “We did not have a good race in Charlotte but I have forgotten about that. We tested on Monday and now I am looking at the AAA Fall Nationals as a chance to get bonus points in qualifying and going rounds on Sunday.”

Hight is just 10 points (less than a round) behind Jack Beckman in 4th place. The gap is a little more substantial between Hight and Hagan who sits in second place, 84 points. Drivers can earn qualifying bonus points and with a good qualifying effort Hight could earn a full round on Hagan by picking up five more points in qualifying. On an all-concrete track like the Texas Motorplex quick times will be available for the taking.

“I love racing at the Texas Motorplex for a couple of reasons. It is the first super track to there is some history at the Ennis track. I have won that race a couple of times and it is a great feeling because the Texas fans are so great. This is also my sponsor’s race so I want to give the AAA Texas people a great show and bring them into the winner’s circle with my AAA Texas Ford Mustang,” said Hight.

“Finally, this is the 60th anniversary of the NHRA and the Texas legends are Raymond Beadle, Kenny Bernstein and Billy Meyer. These guys are the real deal when it comes to Funny Car and I want to make them proud of our class. We have some of the baddest hot rods at John Force Racing but also the class is really tough.”

Hight like most of the competitors was impressed by Matt Hagan’s record performance at zMax Dragway last weekend and he knows that in order to make a move up the point standings he will have to battle not just Hagan but his Don Schumacher Racing teammates as well as the Pedregon brothers, Jeff Arend, Tim Wilkerson and Bob Tasca III.

“It may sound like a broken record but top to bottom the Funny Car class has never been tougher. Matt Hagan won for the first time this season last week. Beckman has won a couple times. Mike Neff has been dominant. Anybody can win one of these races so you have to be totally focused,” said Hight a world class marksman. “That is another thing I talked with CJ about was how he blocks out distractions. At this time of the season you need to be focused on your team and your personal performance. This is what we live for. You want to do everything right.”

John Force Racing is on the verge of winning its 2,000th round of Funny Car racing and the entire team will celebrate that feat. Currently JFR sits at 1,996 round wins.

“If we all qualify and then win first round we’ll be one away from 2,000. I would love to get the 2,000th round win for JFR but really that would mean that I was going to the semi-finals and would be getting round wins. That is what it is all about,” concluded Hight.

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25-YEAR-OLD TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR DRIVER CASSIE SIMONTON WILL ASSIST DRAG RACING ASSOCIATION OF WOMEN AT ANNUAL AUCTION

September 19, 2011 by  
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INDIANAPOLIS – The Drag Racing Association of Women (DRAW) recently welcomed their newest official member in preparation for DRAW’s largest fundraiser of the year. The annual DRAW auction at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas is held during the 26th annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals, Sept. 22-25.

Cassie Simonton, the 25 year-old Top Alcohol Funny Car driver for Kon Rodz Racing, made the decision to get involved with the DRAW program after hearing about the organization’s success since their launch in 1985.

The event will be held on Saturday, September 24, 2011 in the Champion Club. The auction is open to the public and admission is free. The Champion Club will open at 6:30PM and the auction is scheduled to begin at 7:00PM taking into account delays in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing run schedule.

This is Simonton’s second year racing the Kon Rodz Racing Top Alcohol Funny Car, owned and operated by Spiro and Fay Kontos. The team competed in their first national event of 2011 at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., where she recorded a career best ET of 5.56 at 260 mph.

Most recently, Simonton and the Kon Rodz Racing team competed in the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway Park where Cassie had a quarter finals finish.

The Drag Racing Association of Women (DRAW) is a non-profit organization that provides financial and emotional support to drivers and crew members involved in drag racing accidents while at the track. DRAW came into play in 1985 following a successful 1984 fundraiser for injured racer, Shirley Muldowney. Members of the drag racing community who were involved in the relief endeavor were blown away by the support of fellow racers and fans. In turn, many were inspired to create an organization that would financially assist individuals involved in drag racing accidents.

“It’s a huge honor to be associated with The Drag Racing Association of Woman. Not only has it been around for over 26 years, but it is extremely successful in that it has helped so many people in the racing community. We all know racing is dangerous and NHRA definitely takes all the right precautions to keep the series as safe as possible, but it is nice to know that there is a large group of people ready to step in and help out if an accident does happen,” said Simonton, driver of the Kon Rodz Top Alcohol Funny Car. “I’m really looking forward to this weekend and physically seeing the DRAW auction come together.”

The organization operates by the slogan, “Fast Help for Fast Friends” and has been victorious in each effort to provide support. From 1985-2010, DRAW raised over $3,754,442 to aid more than 732 families. Last year, 45 families alone were supported, with funds raised exceeding $220, 125.

“As a team, we are proud of Cassie (Simonton, driver) for taking an interest in this particular project and we are very happy to display the DRAW logo on our car and trailer at each event we attend. DRAW is a big deal, but is the type of organization that needs to be bigger. Kon Rodz Racing is prepared to do their part in building awareness to make it bigger. We’re hoping we’ll rub off on others who aren’t yet involved,” said Spiro Kontos, team owner of Kon Rodz Racing.

DRAW Persons of the Year, Company of the Year and Volunteer of the Year will be named during the evening’s activities. Volunteers are needed on Saturday at both the booth and to help prepare the auction area during the day and to work the auction during the evening. If you would like to volunteer you may call 217 345-6537 or e-mail rnoble@consolidated.net.

For other ways to become involved in DRAW, please visit www.drawonline.org

You can donate financially by:

  1. Mail-in form – Mail a check or money order to DRAW.
  2. PayPal® – Pay online with PayPal® using your Checking Account or Credit Card. We will be electronically notified of your donation. Click the PayPal® icon to make a secure online donation to DRAW. If you are making a donation in honor or memory of an individual, please add that information in the “add special instructions to merchant” section of the PayPal donation page.
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HIGHT LOOKING TO GAIN COUNTDOWN MOMENTUM WITH STRONG SHOWING AT AAA TEXAS NHRA FALL NATIONALS

September 19, 2011 by  
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ENNIS, Texas — Robert Hight knows all about Countdown momentum.

In 2009, he used three victories in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship — NHRA’s six-race postseason playoffs — to claim his first world-championship title in Funny Car.

One of those victories came at the Texas Motorplex in round two, and it enabled Hight to get out in front of the Funny Car pack and capture his first series crown. It was an important win for Hight because he started the playoffs in 10th place. His dramatic run continues to stand as a great example for his peers that any of the top 10 drivers can win a championship title in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.

Though Hight entered the playoffs in a much better points position this season, he knows that there are no guarantees and he’ll need to earn victories if he’s to claim his second world-championship trophy.

Hight hopes to gain momentum and score another victory at one of his favorite tracks on the circuit with a strong showing at the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals, Sept. 22-25 at the all-concrete Texas Motorplex. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the event, which will be televised on ESPN2HD.

Hight, who won four races and claimed one No. 1 qualifying position during the 16-race regular season, believes that his team is in prime position to make another run for the championship.

“Going to the Texas Motorplex is an important race for us for a number of reasons,” Hight said. “Starting the Countdown with three races in a row is big because you want to get momentum for the championship. Getting a win at Texas Motorplex would be huge. Every qualifying point and round-win counts so much now, and you want to race your best at the best facilities. You can put up big numbers on that all-concrete track that Billy Meyer built. That race is also my sponsor’s race, AAA Texas. You want to do well in front of your sponsors, and I want to get another Funny Car championship. Getting a win in Dallas will be a big step towards that.”

Hight, a two-time winner at the Motorplex, understands the important role the track has played in NHRA history and how it continues to be one of the quickest and fastest racetracks on the circuit.

“You look at the history of the Texas Motorplex, and it is an important facility for NHRA,” Hight said. “It was the first supertrack. Now we have great facilities all over the country, but the first one was Texas Motorplex, and Billy Meyer did a great job with that track. It has stood the test of time. I have won at Dallas, and the crowds there are great. I heard they are giving custom cowboy hats to the winners now, and I would love to get one of those this year.”

He says grabbing every point will be critical during the Countdown.

“Our focus on the next (five) races is to look at qualifying bonus points and round-win points as the most important things,” Hight said. “I honestly think if you can average semifinal finishes, you will have one of the best shots at the championship. What you almost have to avoid is first-round losses.”

For Hight to win the season title, he’ll need to outrun a host of strong Countdown to the Championship contenders, including his boss, 15-time world champ John Force, the most prolific winner at the Texas Motorplex with seven victories, his last in 2005. Several other Countdown favorites have also won at the sport’s first stadium supertrack, including Hagan, who made NHRA history last weekend when he posted the first three-second run in Funny Car en route to the event win in Charlotte, N.C., Cruz Pedregon, Ron Capps and Tim Wilkerson. Point leader Mike Neff is looking for his first visit to one of the Full Throttle Series circuit’s wildest winner’s circles.

“This year, any one of the Funny Cars in the Countdown could get hot and rip off a couple wins in a row,” Hight said. “I plan on that car being my Auto Club Ford Mustang.”

In Top Fuel, Schumacher has dominated at this event recently behind the wheel of his U.S. Army dragster, winning the race five times since 1999, including the last two seasons. If he’s going to three-peat, he’ll need to hold off local favorite Spencer Massey, a Fort Worth, Texas, native and resident who would like to grab a Countdown playoff victory in front of a bunch of his family and friends. Red-hot Antron Brown, the point leader and winner of the last three races, also is among the favorites, as well as two-time event winner and defending world champ Larry Dixon. The regular-season point leader, Del Worsham, will be trying to join featured NHRA Legend Kenny Bernstein, Mike Dunn, Don Prudhomme and Ed McCulloch as the only drivers to win in both nitro categories at the Motorplex. Dallas native Brandon Bernstein, who won here in 2006, ’02 winner Doug Kalitta, Morgan Lucas and Shawn Langdon also are certainly capable of closing the deal.

Defending Pro Stock world champ Anderson gained the momentum necessary to win his series crown with a victory here last year, his fourth at the Texas Motorplex. Once again, he is in the hunt in the 200-mph category and will be working hard to hold off a strong group of Countdown challengers, including his teammate and point leader Jason Line, ’98 winner Mike Edwards, ’08 winner Greg Stanfield, rookie phenom Vincent Nobile, Houston native Erica Enders and the always-tough Team Mopar driver Allen Johnson.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, defending winner and world champ Tonglet is back in the Countdown playoffs mix on his Nitro Fish Suzuki. He will be trying to hold off the strong Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team of point leader Eddie Krawiec, the most recent winner on tour, and three-time world champ Andrew Hines, who posted a runner-up finish here last season. Others to watch in the two-wheel category are rookie Hector Arana Jr., who claimed his first victory at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, along with past world champs Hector Arana Sr., who won this race in 2009, and Matt Smith. Karen Stoffer, Indy runner-up Jerry Savoie, Michael Phillips and Jim Underdahl are also hungry for a win at the Texas Motorplex.

* SCHEDULE: Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:15 and 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23, and at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25.

* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals. Please call the Texas Motorplex at (800) MOTORPLEX (668-6775) or visit www.texasmotorplex.com.

* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 45 minutes of qualifying coverage at 1:15 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 25. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise a one-hour re-air of qualifying coverage later that day at 2 p.m. (ET). A three-hour eliminations show will follow at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 25 on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD.

* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals also will feature competition in seven categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 10 a.m. on Sept. 22. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 23 and continue through Sept. 25.

* 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.

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HOMETOWN FAVORITE MASSEY HUNGRY FOR FIRST TOP FUEL VICTORY AT TEXAS MOTORPLEX

September 19, 2011 by  
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ENNIS, Texas — Spencer Massey, who grew up in nearby Fort Worth, Texas, and continues to call the famed steer city home today, is feeling no pressure as he heads to the Texas Motorplex as a top contender in round two of the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s postseason playoffs.

With lots of family and friends watching and an overwhelming desire to do well at his home track, one would think that Massey might be feeling a little stressed to try to get the job done and claim the Top Fuel win so he could celebrate Texas style in what many say is by far the rowdiest winner’s circle on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series circuit.

As far as Massey is concerned, there is no extra pressure because he’s already claimed a few trophies at the famed all-concrete Motorplex, drag racing’s first supertrack. When he started his driving career — in 1998 — he raced to victory in the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League at the track and claimed the Jr. championship there.

So when Massey hits the Texas Motorplex for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals, Sept. 22-25, he’ll have plenty of confidence that he knows how to perform on the ultrafast drag strip. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the event, which will be televised on ESPN2HD.

However, that’s not to say that Massey will be so relaxed that he won’t be giving it his all. He doesn’t know how to race any other way. His patented aggressive “stab and steer” style is what led him to three victories in six final rounds and at one point during the season an amazing stretch when he reeled off more than 40 consecutive error-free runs down the track in his FRAM/Prestone dragster.

Massey hopes he can use his years of experience racing at the Motorplex in the Jr. category and then as a top NHRA sportsman competitor to his advantage. He is one of a few drivers on the circuit who will have a home-track advantage during the playoffs. In his two Top Fuel starts at the Motorplex, Massey has posted a first-round loss (2008) and a semifinal finish (2009). He hopes to take it one round further this time around.

“I saw my first national event at this track, the first track at which I saw a Top Fuel dragster,” Massey said. “It was THE Motorplex from when I was a kid, and I’ve been going there since it opened in 1986. Winning there would be huge. Of course, my family and friends will be there, so winning in front of them would be awesome, and we have this thing called the Countdown, so winning in Dallas would be a huge boost to our championship effort.”

After starting his Top Fuel driving career late in 2008 with Don Prudhomme, Massey went on to score two victories in five final rounds and earn top rookie honors in the series in 2009 and finish sixth in the point standings. However, after that season, Prudhomme parked his racing operation due to lack of sponsorship, and Massey found himself on the sidelines. After sitting out the 2010 season, Massey was hired by Don Schumacher to drive the FRAM/Prestone dragster this season, and the results have been impressive.

“If you work at something hard enough, you have a chance to achieve your dreams,” Massey said. “I still find it hard to believe I’m in this position, driving this car for Don (Schumacher, team owner) and the folks at FRAM/Prestone. It’s also unbelievable I’m sitting ahead of the likes of Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon, the guys who have won every Top Fuel championship for the last 10 years. I don’t want to be pinched and wake up from this dream.”

After finishing third in the regular season, then posting a runner-up finish at the opening race of the Countdown to the Championship, the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals in Charlotte, N.C., Massey is in prime position to continue living the dream.

“This is what it’s all about — going for the championship,” Massey said. “Sure you want to win races, and we’ve won three, but the title as champion is the ultimate prize.”
Massey has a strategy for the Countdown and for racing at the Texas Motorplex, which will be a very busy race for the Texas native.

“We have to approach this as just another race,” Massey said. “We need to qualify well for the points, for lane choice on Sunday and to get data for race day. And I have to go to the starting line concentrating on my job and not worrying about who’s in the other lane or what the outcome means. I have to get a good light and then stab (the throttle) and steer because I’m confident Todd (Okuhara) and Phil (Shuler, co-crew chiefs) will give me a great car. Yes, the pressure is on because this is the Countdown. I just have to go up there and run my race, go rounds and do well. I really think we have a good shot at that championship.”

Massey’s competition includes Schumacher, who has dominated at this event recently behind the wheel of his U.S. Army dragster, winning the race five times since 1999, including the last two seasons. Red-hot Antron Brown, the point leader and winner of the last three races, also is among the favorites, as well as two-time event winner and defending world champ Dixon. Dixon’s teammate, Del Worsham, will be trying to join featured NHRA Legend Kenny Bernstein, Mike Dunn, Prudhomme and Ed McCulloch as the only drivers to win in both nitro categories at the Motorplex. Dallas native Brandon Bernstein, who won here in 2006, ’02 winner Doug Kalitta, Morgan Lucas and Shawn Langdon will also be looking for playoff victories.

In Funny Car, 15-time world champ John Force is the most prolific winner at the Texas Motorplex with seven victories, his last in 2005. Last season, Hagan powered his DieHard Dodge Charger to the win over Force in a dramatic final round and hopes to follow up his record-setting three-second pass in Charlotte and race win with a second Countdown victory in Dallas. The 2009 world champ, Robert Hight, is a two-time winner at the Motorplex in his Auto Club Ford Mustang, and several other Countdown favorites have also won at the sport’s first stadium supertrack, including Cruz Pedregon, Ron Capps and Tim Wilkerson. Regular-season point leader Mike Neff is looking for his first visit to one of the Full Throttle Series circuit’s wildest winner’s circles.

Defending Pro Stock world champ Anderson gained the momentum necessary to win his series crown with a victory here last year, his fourth at the Motorplex. Once again, he is in championship contention in the 200-mph category and will be working hard to hold off a strong group of Countdown challengers, including his teammate and point leader Jason Line, ’98 winner Mike Edwards, ’08 winner Greg Stanfield, rookie phenom Vincent Nobile, Houston native Erica Enders and the always-tough Team Mopar driver Allen Johnson.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, defending winner and world champ Tonglet is back in the Countdown playoffs mix on his Nitro Fish Suzuki. He will be trying to hold off the strong Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team of point leader and Charlotte winner Eddie Krawiec and three-time world champ Andrew Hines, who posted a runner-up finish here last season. Others to watch in the two-wheel category are rookie Hector Arana Jr., who claimed his first victory at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, along with past world champs Hector Arana Sr., who won this race in 2009, and Matt Smith. Karen Stoffer, Indy runner-up Jerry Savoie, Michael Phillips and Jim Underdahl are also hungry for a win at the Texas Motorplex.

* SCHEDULE: Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:15 and 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23, and for 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25.

* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals. Please call the Texas Motorplex at (800) MOTORPLEX (668-6775) or visit www.texasmotorplex.com.

* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 45 minutes of qualifying coverage at 1:15 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 25. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise a one-hour re-air of qualifying coverage later that day at 2 p.m. (ET). A three-hour eliminations show will follow at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 25 on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD.

* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals also will feature competition in seven categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 10 a.m. on Sept. 22. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 23 and continue through Sept. 25.

* 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.

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or 1-800-MOTORPLEX (1-800-668-6775)