Mike Edwards in Pro Stock and Robert Hight in Funny Car claimed their first NHRA Full Throttle world championships at the close of qualifying for the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals.
The points Edwards earned for his No. 1 starting spot combined with 10 qualifying bonus points gives him a 150-point lead over second-place Greg Anderson, which is more than enough to mathematically eliminate Anderson from championship contention (only 100 more points are available at the event). Though it is his first Pro Stock title, this is Edwards’ second overall NHRA crown; he also won the Modified championship in 1981.
Edwards had the dominant car of the 2009 season, wheeling his ART/Young Life Pontiac GXP to five wins (Atlanta, Bristol, Seattle, Charlotte, and Richmond) in 10 final-round appearances. He was also the No. 1 qualifier 15 times during the season, including at the eight events leading into the season finale. He held both ends of the national record during the season (he is the current e.t. holder at 6.509, but his 212.03-mph speed mark was bettered by Anderson). Edwards also tied Anderson’s single-season record for No. 1 starts at 16.
“I can say words, but they just don’t describe the feeling I have,” said an emotional Edwards. “It’s so exciting for me, and it’s been such a long time coming, but it’s all worth it. It’s Roger Stahl and a bunch of guys who got together a couple of years ago and decided to give it our best effort. We decided we’d try one time to do it the right way and started our shop, and we’ve all just kept pulling at the same end of the rope, and here we are, living our dream.
“We knew over the winter we were a lot better, but until you get out here and run against the Summit team, the Jegs team, the Johnsons, and everyone, you just don’t know. We started off well here and got on a roll. It wasn’t until the middle of the summer when we got four or five runners-ups and a couple of wins that I thought if we could keep our momentum going and keep fighting adversity that we knew we had a good chance. We made a lot of good decisions on the car and just tested and tested and tested. We did everything we could this year to make it happen, and it’s all paid off.
“There are a lot of people behind this, and they all give me great opportunities,” said Edwards. “It’s been a long time coming, but it sure feels good right now. [Our final run] just goes to show you what Terry Adams, Josh Robinson, Al Lindsay, and Nick and Paul and Carl and just the whole team can do — they’re fabulous. I feel like there were times I let them down, but they never gave up on me. They kept encouraging me and telling me that I could do it, and somehow I guess I believed them a time or two. I can’t forget my backbone, my friend, the one that keeps me in line and keeps encouraging me when I lose a little bit or get stressed out: my wife, Lisa. Thank you, Lisa, and thank you to my sister, Marilyn.”
Edwards is the 15th driver in NHRA history to win a Pro Stock championship. His previous best finish in Pro Stock was third, in 1996, when he also set his previous best mark for wins in a season at three. This is Edwards’ ninth top 10 finish.
Minutes after Edwards accepted the Wally trophy emblematic of his title, Hight became the second of two first-time NHRA Professional champions crowned when he earned enough points in qualifying with his Auto Club Mustang to mathematically eliminate his closest points rival, teammate Ashley Force Hood, to claim the Funny Car championship, the 16th for John Force Racing.
For Hight, who moved from clutch specialist on Force’s Funny Car to the cockpit in 2005, it has been a relatively short ride to glory — a path that has included his being named the winner of the Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as 2005′s top rookie and second-place points finishes in 2006 and 2007 – but it has been a rocky ride this season.
The fifth-year pilot struggled through the season’s first two-thirds, winning just 12 rounds at the first 17 events and twice failing to qualify, and he needed a last-second near-miracle to qualify for the Countdown playoffs, which he got with a runner-up finish to Force Hood at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil.
“We started with the same team we had last year, and I was so excited, and that’s how John won so many championships. We started struggling, but I still think that’s what got us through it. We never doubted each other and worked through the hard times. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this but never really got emotional about it until that last run. We’ve all worked so hard and so long for it.
“Coming so close so many times before makes this really special, but it’s really all about this team. It’s a whole team behind this, starting with John Force, who put me with the best people. The best advice he gave me was to team up with [crew chief] Jimmy [Prock] and become his buddy, like he and [Austin] Coil and just live with him, and that’s what I’ve done. He’s like my brother. I can’t thank John enough for taking a chance on a guy who’d never driven anything but a Ford F-150 truck and for the sponsors like AAA for supporting John.”
After Indy, Prock found the magic that had eluded him all season and turned up the wick on his Prock Rocket. They won back to back in Charlotte and Dallas to kick off the playoffs, then returned to the winner’s circle in Las Vegas with a performance that all but sealed the championship.
Hight, a son-in-law of Force (who has won 14 championships and was team owner for Tony Pedregon’s Funny Car title in 2003), is a former championship trapshooter and finally has zeroed in on another title target.
NHRA and primary sponsor Full Throttle Energy Drink will put a new face on drag racing’s premier series in 2010 with the unveiling of a new series logo.
NHRA’s top Professional series, consisting of Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle, first partnered with The Coca-Cola Company in 2001, and the association will continue through at least 2013. Full Throttle Energy Drink assumed the title sponsorship from POWERADE beginning with the 2009 season, launching what is arguably one of the strongest synergies between brand and sport in the sports and entertainment industry.
The association between NHRA and Coca-Cola North America, with support from Coca-Cola Enterprises, represents one of the longest-running series sponsorships in motorsports, and the move to Full Throttle Energy Drink marks the lead sports marketing association for the beverage company’s lead energy drink, which has been the official energy drink of NHRA since 2005.
NHRA’s top Professional series features 23 races from February through November, all of which are broadcast by ESPN2 in HD.
Here are the 2009 O’Reilly Bracket Racing Series Class Champions.
Super Pro Champion- Jeff Lopez
Pro Champion- Robby Lopez
No Electronics Champion- Austin Williams
Quick 16 Champion- Jeff Lopez
Jr Sportsman Champion- Bradley Wilson
Jr Modified Champion- Taylor Bright
Jr Top Eliminator Champion- Ryan Gleghorn
BRACKET OVERALL POINTS CHAMPION- Robby Lopez
JR OVERALL POINTS CHAMPION- Bradley Wilson
All CLASS Champions will be awarded trophies and 2010 Gold Cards at the 2009 Racer Appreciation Awards Banquet on December 5th at the Texas Motorplex Champions Club. Please RSVP for you and your guests by calling 972-878-2641. 2009
Results for October 31, 2009 O’Reilly Bracket Racing Series Final Race
Win – Jackie Jones Kemp, Tx 23T Roadster .012 7.622 160.86
R/U – Jeff Lopez Bedford, Tx 06 TNT Supercross -.006 7.964 127.29
Win – Robby Lopez Grand Prarie, Tx 66 Chevy .012 6.546 102.93
R/U – Jack Mauldin Jr. Groesbeck, Tx 70 Nova .023 6.724 110.39
Win – Jeff Lopez Bedford, Tx 06 TNT Supercross .029 4.765 143.12
R/U – Doug Haning Kaufman, Tx 09 TNT .032 4.575 151.10
Win – Allan Pratt Rockdale, Tx 81 Camaro .042 10.774 116.03
R/U – Jimmy Falkenbach Ennis, Tx 89 S-10 .031 10.609 117.74
Chris Brackman Euless, Tx 2002 CVPI .242 15.834 87.58
Wendell Finnegan Euless, Tx 2007 Mustang .329 13.719 100.43
JR Top Eliminator
Win – Ryan Gleghorn Watagua, Tx 06 McMillen .044 7.932 78.14
R/U – Kyle Armstrong Blooming Grove, Tx .126 8.057 78.31
Win – Taylor Bright Waxahachie, Tx 04 RPC .066 8.960 69.67
R/U – Adrian Acevedo Italy, Tx .110 9.325 69.10
Win – Rusty Price Corsicana, Tx 08 Infinity .143 12.972 49.13
R/U – Mikey Carver Blooming Grove, Tx 98 Spitzer .060 13.187 53.84
AER Race of Champions
The Texas Motorplex would like to congratulate Jeff Lopez of Bedford Tx and Jackie Jones from Kemp, Tx for making it to the finals for the AER Race of Champions and to Jackie Jones for winning the block from AER which will be given out at the 2009 Texas Motorplex Racer Appreciation Banquet on December 5. Click here for more info on the 2009 Racer Appreciation Banquet.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Friday: Hagan, Dixon, Edwards, Arana lead opening day in Las Vegas
Saturday: Friday leaders remain on point in Las Vegas
Gates open 9:00am.
Car show registration from 9am to 11am, judging begins at 11, awards ceremony at 4:30.
Race registration starts at 9am, heads up qualifying at 11:00, 12:00, & 1:00. Eliminations at 2:30, 3:30, & 4:30.
Car/truck/bike show, 1/4 mile drag racing , mixed martial arts expo, stereo crank it up contest, burnout contest, $400 hot body contest (*weather permitting – ladies, call 225-247-7223 to register), raffles and giveaways, models, vendors, and DJs.
SHOW PRICES – All registration on day of show at front gate
Spectator $15 with flier (regular $17) *flyers printed off computer ok to use – right click on flyer image, print. Coupon only good for spectator admission.
Children 10 and under FREE
Car Show Entry $25 (does not include free passenger pass). *Note, IFO only charges $25 per car show entry, not $50 to $60 like other events that claim to give a “free” passenger pass.
Test and Tune Drag Racer $25 (open to any make/model)
Competition Drag Racer $25 (imports or sports compacts only)
Burnout Contest FREE
Stereo Crank It Up Info: 605-376-3249 or www.SoundOff.org
INFO PHONE CONTACT: 225-247-7223
Click on images below to see the event flyer.