FUNNY CAR STAR ROBERT HIGHT WELCOMES ADDED PRESSURE THAT COMES AT AAA TEXAS NHRA FALLNATIONALS

September 17, 2014 by  
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robertpressurearticle-imgENNIS, Texas — Robert Hight enjoyed a tremendous 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season, winning five times and leading the points for an impressive 13-race stretch, the most in his career.

But as noteworthy as that is, Hight knows his Funny Car season will ultimately be determined on how he performs in his 10,000-horsepower Auto Club Ford Mustang during the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.

Hight, currently second in points behind teammate and reigning world champion John Force, can make a big step towards his second Funny Car world championship by racing well at this weekend’s 29th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex. The stakes are certainly raised during the Countdown, but that has often brought out the best in Hight.

“We had a great regular season but the key is to be leading the points after the last race of the season,” Hight said. “It is a whole new ballgame now. The first 18 races are in the past. If you want a championship you better be on top of your game. Winning in the Countdown is what it is all about.”

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2. It marks the second of six races in the Countdown to the Championship. The continuation of eliminations for the Countdown opener, the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals, will also be completed during qualifying rounds at the Texas Motorplex. In Top Fuel and Funny Car three rounds of racing remain, while Pro Stock still has all four to be completed. Four pairs of Pro Stock cars also need to complete their first round runs.

Hight won his first-round matchup in Charlotte and will face Jeff Arend in the quarterfinals. It sets up what could be a huge weekend for Hight, who knows how crucial it is to start well during the Countdown. With two races now being completed at the Texas Motorplex the spotlight will be even bigger in Dallas.

“With four races in a row getting a good start is important,” Hight said. “You want to build momentum and not fall behind. You better not waste any round wins. Also that all-concrete track (in Dallas) is key for qualifying bonus points. It might be hot but we have a good hot weather tune up so I am excited.”

Following a victory in Denver, Hight, who has 34 career victories, ran into a rough spot, dropping first-round matchups in three of the four races heading into the Countdown.

But Hight has always performed well during the Countdown, as his six victories are second only to Pedregon’s eight for most in Funny Car history. Plus Hight’s standout crew chief Mike Neff is aiming to win a Funny Car championship with a third different driver, something no Funny Car crew chief has done.

Standing in Hight’s way is an abundance of championship contenders that features Countdown participants John Force, Pedregon, Del Worsham, Courtney Force, Matt Hagan, Alexis DeJoria, Ron Capps, Tim Wilkerson and Tommy Johnson Jr.

“There are so many tough Funny Cars and I have some of the toughest competition coming from my own teammates,” said Hight, who has two career wins in Dallas. “In the Countdown anything can happen. This is a tough, tough category and if you slip up just a little you aren’t going to get any freebies. Neff and I have been talking and we have a great game plan for the Countdown. I have so much confidence in Neff and my Auto Club crew guys.”

The Auto Club involvement also makes it a special event for Hight but that extra attention simply means the reward is that much better if he is able to come through with a memorable performance at the Texas Motorplex.

“I love racing for AAA Texas,” Hight said. “We will see a lot of AAA Texas people at the race and you do feel some pressure but I wouldn’t call it extra pressure. You want to do well for your sponsor at every race. With the championship on the line it is pretty cool to have your sponsors around at the Countdown races. We are lucky because we have sponsors involved in three of the six Countdown races with Dallas, St. Louis and Pomona.”

In Top Fuel, Kalitta has advanced to nine final rounds in 2014 and will be after a second straight Dallas Top Fuel win, while the ultra-talented field also features Countdown qualifiers Tony Schumacher, who has five Dallas wins, Antron Brown, reigning world champion Shawn Langdon, Spencer Massey, Brittany Force, Khalid alBalooshi, Richie Crampton, Steve Torrence and J.R. Todd.

Line, last season’s Dallas winner in Pro Stock took over the points lead after winning in Brainerd and is after his third career championship. Line will try to thwart off challenges from a strong field that includes reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin, Allen Johnson, four-time 2014 winner Erica Enders-Stevens, Dave Connolly, V Gaines, Shane Gray, rookie Jonathan Gray, Vincent Nobile and Texas resident Chris McGaha.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Krawiec and his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team has been the most consistent this season. Teammate Andrew Hines is the current points leader and Krawiec enters the Countdown off his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals win. Reigning world champ Matt Smith, Michael Ray, Angie Smith, Steve Johnson, Hector Arana, Hector Arana Jr. and Scotty Pollacheck are a few of the Pro Stock Motorcycle riders who will attempt to take home a Dallas victory.

The race will also mark the return to competition for three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ Angelle Sampey-Drago. After sitting out the last five seasons to start a family, she is returning to action at this event riding the Star Racing Buell owned by George Bryce. It is a fitting return for the Louisiana native during a season where women have made a huge impact with a record number of wins on the track. She is the winningest female NHRA racer in history with 41 career victories.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

The event will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for Friday, Sept. 19, with sessions at 2:15 and 5:15 p.m. (also Charlotte PS and PSM eliminations). The final two qualifying sessions, which will both include Charlotte eliminations, will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. The Charlotte final rounds will be held Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations for the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Texas Motorplex at (800) MOTORPLEX (668-6775) or visit www.texasmotorplex.com. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.

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THREE-TIME PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE WORLD CHAMPION ANGELLE SAMPEY-DRAGO RETURNS TO COMPETITION AT AAA TEXAS NHRA FALLNATIONALS

September 17, 2014 by  
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268-AngelleStarRacing-smENNIS, Texas — In her mind, Angelle Sampey-Drago was happily retired. But after a trip to an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event earlier this year, the itch to compete started to come back. When the team that gave the winningest female in NHRA history her start in Pro Stock Motorcycle called asking her to return to competition, Sampey-Drago knew she had to at least consider it.

After getting the full support of her family, the three-time PSM world champion knew it was time end her retirement. Sampey-Drago and George Bryce’s Star Racing team announced the return of one of the sport’s most popular drivers during a press conference at last weekend’s Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals in Charlotte.

Sampey-Drago and her Star Racing team won’t waste any time in getting back on the bike, either, as she will make her first appearance since 2008 at this weekend’s 29th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex.

“I never thought I was going to be back here again,” said Sampey-Drago, who has 41 career wins. “When I retired seven years ago I really thought that was it for me. As the years went on I started thinking about it. I went out to Houston (in April) and there was something about being there. I had my little girl with me and she loved it. This is such an awesome family sport and I thought maybe I could do it.

“It’s pretty awesome. It’s a whole new perspective on how awesome this is going to be. I’m looking forward to the fun of it this time around, the fun of sharing it with my family and especially my little girl.”

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2. It marks the second of six races in the Countdown to the Championship. The continuation of eliminations for the Countdown opener, the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals, will also be completed during qualifying rounds at the Texas Motorplex. In Top Fuel and Funny Car three rounds of racing remain, while Pro Stock still has all four to be completed. Four pairs of Pro Stock cars also need to complete their first round runs.

Star Racing wanted something big to celebrate its 35th year in racing in 2015. Enticing Sampey-Drago to end her retirement qualifies as that, but an opening on Star Racing’s two-bike team made her first appearance much more immediate. After being away from the sport starting in 2009, Sampey-Drago had her doubts about returning to racing. With her family firmly on board, it took 10 passes over a two-day test session to convince her that she was still capable of competing at a high level.

“I didn’t know if I could even ride anymore,” Sampey-Drago said. “I didn’t know if I could physically do it. We went testing and I was scared to death for my first run. I had to tell myself to do what I knew how to do. After I was done, I told them I was ready.”

Sampey-Drago’s legacy was firmly secure when she retired following the 2008 season where she finished in the top five for an incredible 12th straight year. After making her debut with Star Racing in 1996, Sampey-Drago went on a remarkable tear, winning three straight championships from 2000-2002.

She passed Shirley Muldowney for the most victories by a female in 2001, earning seven victories that year, which also stands as a record for most victories by a female in a single season. But the one mark she is still chasing in Pro Stock Motorcycle – the 45 career wins by Dave Schultz – provided a big motivating factor.

“That’s the main reason why I did say yes,” Sampey-Drago said. “If I had the title of the winningest racer I don’t think I would have anything else to accomplish. I accomplished every goal I wanted to except I didn’t win those four races to tie Dave and five to beat him. I know with the way the competition is now it could take a while to get that but I can’t do it if I don’t try.”

To get to that point Sampey-Drago knows she will again have to compete at a high level, especially against the current crop of Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors that includes Countdown standouts Krawiec, points leader Andrew Hines, reigning world champ Matt Smith, Michael Ray, Angie Smith, John Hall, Steve Johnson, Hector Arana, Hector Arana Jr. and Scotty Pollacheck.

Going as quick as 6.90 seconds in testing – not far off her career-best pass of 6.871 – showed her the potential to run well is there. But the two-day test session also validated something else that was just as important heading into Dallas.

“I don’t think I’ve lost the desire or drive,” Sampey-Drago said. “I think I still have the passion. I didn’t know if I did until we went testing. But when we went that 6.90 and I started screaming, I knew I still had the desire. Whether I still have the capability we will see. It’s going to be a work in progress. I have to get used to the bike and the competition again. I have a lot to learn and get back into and that’s why we wanted to start as soon as the opportunity opened up.”

In Top Fuel, Kalitta has advanced to nine final rounds in 2014 and will be after a second straight Dallas win, while the ultra-talented field also features Countdown qualifiers Tony Schumacher, who has five Dallas victories, Antron Brown, reigning world champion Shawn Langdon, Texans Spencer Massey and Steve Torrence, Brittany Force, Khalid alBalooshi, Richie Crampton and J.R. Todd.

In Funny Car, two-time world champ Pedregon took home the Wally last season but he is chasing points leader and reigning world champion John Force. Two-time Dallas winners Del Worsham and Robert Hight, Courtney Force, Matt Hagan, U.S. Nationals winner Alexis DeJoria, Ron Capps, Tim Wilkerson and Tommy Johnson Jr. are among other championship hopefuls.

Line, last season’s Dallas winner in Pro Stock took over the points lead after winning in Brainerd and is after his third career championship. Line will try to thwart off challenges from a strong field that includes reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin, Allen Johnson, four-time 2014 winner Erica Enders-Stevens, Dave Connolly, V Gaines, Shane Gray, rookie Jonathan Gray, Vincent Nobile and Texas resident Chris McGaha.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

The event will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for Friday, Sept. 19, with sessions at 2:15 and 5:15 p.m. (also Charlotte PS and PSM eliminations). The final two qualifying sessions, which will both include Charlotte eliminations, will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. The Charlotte final rounds will be held Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations for the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Texas Motorplex at (800) MOTORPLEX (668-6775) or visit www.texasmotorplex.com. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.

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The Harry M. Schmidt Foundation to hold 2014 Sparkles and Speed Fundraising Event at Texas Motorplex featuring Award Winning Country Artist Tracy Lawrence

September 16, 2014 by  
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COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP CONTINUES THIS WEEKEND AT TEXAS MOTORPLEX; TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE

September 15, 2014 by  
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ENNIS, Texas (Sept. 15, 2014) – Fans heading to Texas Motorplex this weekend for the 29th annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals will now get to see twice the excitement for the price of one race.

Rain forced postponement of last weekend’s finals at ZMax Dragway, the kickoff event in the Countdown to the Championship, causing it to be moved to Texas Motorplex.  The event will be completed during qualifying rounds as three rounds of racing remain for both Top Fuel and Funny Car and all rounds remain for Pro Stock Motorcycle. Four pairs of Pro Stock cars will also complete their first round runs.

Texas Motorplex general manager Gabrielle Stevenson said fans heading to Ennis will now have double the fun.

“Obviously, we hate that the fans didn’t get to see all the action in Charlotte, but hopefully they’ll just come on down to Texas Motorplex where they’ll get to see what amounts to two finals,” Stevenson said. “For our fans it’s a pretty nice little bonus to get to see all that extra racing.

“Typically, when they leave here, you’ve got a pretty good idea of who the top contenders are going to be for the championships. It’s always a really exciting weekend because of the playoffs but now with all the extra racing going on, it’s going to be even more of a drag racing fan’s dream weekend.”

Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will begin Charlotte eliminations during the second round of qualifying on Friday. Saturday’s schedule is as follows:

Charlotte Round 2 will be during Ennis Q-3: PSM 11:15 a.m., PS 11:30 a.m., TF noon, FC 12:30 p.m.; Charlotte Semi-finals will be during Ennis Q-4: PSM 2:15 p.m., PS 2:30 p.m., TF 3:00 p.m., FC 3:30 p.m.; Charlotte Final will be an extra run: PSM 4:30 p.m., PS 4:32 p.m., TF 4:35 p.m., FC 4:40 p.m.

In Pro Stock action, Jason Line, Shane Gray, Jeg Coughlin and V. Gaines all won their opening rounds. Pairs yet to race include Erica Enders-Stevens vs. John Gaydosh; Jonathan Gray vs. Rodger Brogdon; Vincent Nobile vs. Larry Morgan; and Dave Connolly vs. Shane Tucker.

Top Fuel quarterfinal pairings are J.R. Todd vs. Spencer Massey; Billy Torrence vs. Tony Schumacher; Steve Torrence vs. Leah Pritchett; and Morgan Lucas vs. Khalid alBalooshi.  The quarterfinal pairings in Funny Car are Dave Richards vs. John Force; Bob Tasca vs. Ron Capps; Robert Hight vs. Jeff Arend; and Matt Hagan vs. Tim Wilkerson.

Tickets for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals are still available, ranging from just $10 to $380 for weekend packages. Youth tickets for children 12 and under start as low as $5.   For tickets or more information, please call the Texas Motorplex office at (800) MOTORPLEX or visit www.texasmotorplex.com.

Gates open for the 29th annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 18 with sportsman qualifying runs between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Two rounds of professional qualifying, at 2:15 and 5:15 p.m., highlight the Friday, Sept. 19 schedule, along with sportsman qualifying throughout the day. Saturday, Sept. 20, is packed with sportsman eliminations and the final two rounds of professional qualifying at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.

Gates open at 8 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 21, with pre-race ceremonies at 10 a.m. and final eliminations getting under way at 11 a.m.

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CONTINUATION OF PEP BOYS NHRA CAROLINA NATIONALS ELIMINATIONS MOVED TO TEXAS MOTORPLEX NEXT WEEKEND

September 15, 2014 by  
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NHRA officials announced today that the continuation of eliminations for the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals, round one of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs, will be completed during qualifying rounds at next weekend’s AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas.

Three rounds of racing remain for both Top Fuel and Funny Car and all rounds remain for Pro Stock Motorcycle. Four pairs of Pro Stock cars also need to complete their first round runs.

Persistent rain showers moved into the Charlotte area on Sunday afternoon and halted racing after only the first round in Top Fuel and Funny Car had been completed. Four pairs of cars in Pro Stock had finished and the rain began to fall just as the NHRA Safety Safari was cleaning up the racing surface following a crash during Pro Stock eliminations.

In Pro Stock racing, Shane Gray, Jeg Coughlin, Jason Line and V. Gaines all won their opening rounds. Gaines, whose Dodge Dart went out of control and crashed past the finish line in his round win over Allen Johnson, was uninjured in the incident and he will be allowed to use a replacement car for the continuation of eliminations. Four first-round Pro Stock pairs remain, including Erica Enders-Stevens vs. John Gaydosh; Jonathan Gray vs. Rodger Brogdon; Vincent Nobile vs. Larry Morgan; and Dave Connolly vs. Shane Tucker.

Top Fuel quarterfinal pairings are J.R. Todd vs. Spencer Massey; Billy Torrence vs. Tony Schumacher; Steve Torrence vs. Leah Pritchett; and Morgan Lucas vs. Khalid alBalooshi.  The quarterfinal pairings in Funny Car are Dave Richards vs. John Force; Bob Tasca vs. Ron Capps; Robert Hight vs. Jeff Arend; and Matt Hagan vs. Tim Wilkerson.

With one round of pro nitro eliminations complete, fans attending today’s event at zMAX Dragway are entitled to a 50-percent credit for a one-day ticket to either NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at zMAX Dragway in 2015.

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