AUTO CLUB’S HIGHT WANTS TO KEEP RACING LIKE IT’S 2009
ENNIS, TX (September 17, 2013) —- Four years ago Robert Hight and the Auto Club team rolled in the historic Texas Motorplex after having reached the finals at the U.S. Nationals and starting the Countdown with a win at the Carolina NHRA Nationals. That year he went on to win the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals and eventually his first Mello Yello Funny Car championship. Fast forward to 2013 and Hight has a strong feeling of Déjà vu as he once again enters the second race of the Countdown No. 3 in Mello Yello Funny Car points and on a hot streak.
“I have confidence in this Auto Club team but we are not overconfident. Last week was a big win for us but we didn’t make up a ton of ground on Matt Hagan who is the points leader. That final round was a 40 point swing for us. If we lose that race we are 120 points back instead of 80. It was big for everyone in Funny Car to get that win,” said Hight.
“You can’t rely on history to repeat itself you have to do the work and make the wins happen. My crew chief Mike Neff and my crew guys are giving me a great race car. I am trying to give them my best driving performance every time I get in this Ford Mustang Funny Car.”
Hight extended a streak that goes back to his rookie year when he won for the second time this season. Throughout Hight’s career which started in 2005 he has won at least two races a season, been No. 1 qualifier and led the points. This season Hight has not been on top of the point standing but with five races left in the season the crewman turned driver turned world champion is feeling pretty good.
“I look back at 2009 and think about how we got hot in the Countdown. Last year we got hot in the first part of the season and won four in a row before I lost the next 35 races. So far we have three finals this season and we have won the last two races. I am going to have to win some more races if we want to have a shot at this Mello Yello Funny Car championship and I have three of the next five races sponsored by my primary sponsor AAA,” said Hight.
The three AAA races start with this weekend’s AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals, then next weekend the tour will move to St. Louis for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals (Sept. 27-29) and the NHRA season will wind up with the Auto Club Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona (Nov. 7-10).
“You definitely want to do well and win at your sponsor’s races. The Automobile Club of Southern California is a great partner for John Force Racing and we want to get them in every winner’s circle,” said Hight, a 29-time winner on tour.
Two weeks ago Hight was in the Dallas area for the AAA Texas employee car show in north Dallas and now the two-time AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals winner is back looking for his third win in a row. If Hight can pick up another win it would be the third time in his career he has won three in a row going back to 2010 when he won St. Louis, Atlanta and then Topeka.
COURTNEY FORCE READY TO MAKE CHAMPIONSHIP CHARGE AT TEXAS MOTORPLEX
DALLAS (Sept. 17, 2013) – Having already moved up one spot in the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship last weekend, Courtney Force is geared up to take on the competition at the 28th annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex, Sept. 19-22.
So far in 2013, the 25-year-old sophomore driver has picked up two wins; the season-opening 53rd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries in Pomona, Calif. and the Inaugural Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, N.H.
“My team and I are excited to head to Dallas this week. The Texas Motorplex is a great facility and has an awesome staff for us to work with. They always make the AAA Texas Fall Nationals a memorable event to be a part of,” said Force. “We gained a few points last week in Charlotte and moved up a spot to No. 6, right behind my dad. I’m excited to see what this weekend brings.”
Dallas is home to Force’s primary sponsor, Traxxas, who came on board with the team at the start of her rookie year in 2012. Traxxas, “The Fastest Name in Radio Control,” is also the sponsor of the NHRA’s Traxxas Nitro Shootout, which pays $100,000 to winners of special bonus races in the Top Fuel and Funny Car divisions.
Last weekend at the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts at zMAX Dragway, Force went to semi-finals after taking out Bob Tasca III and Ron Capps, but eventually losing to teammate and brother-in-law, Robert Hight, Funny Car winner of the event.
At this event last year with the help of her Traxxas Ford Mustang team and Crew Chiefs, Ron Douglas and Dan Hood, Force picked up her second No. 1 qualifier award of her rookie season.
“Last year in Dallas, our Traxxas Ford Mustang team picked up our second No. 1 qualifier of the season; our second in just three races. It was an amazing feeling to have such a great, consistent race car to kick off the 2012 Countdown to the Championship and that’s exactly what we’re going for again this year,” said Force.
The Motorplex isn’t all good memories to the Force family after the crash in 2007 that left the 25-year-old’s father, 15-time World Champion John Force, fighting for his life and career.
“The Motorplex is where my dad had a near fatal crash in 2007 and that has always stuck out for me. It was a tough time for our family, but my dad showed what it is to overcome such a serious obstacle in life. He worked hard at coming back from that accident and since then has taught my sister Brittany and I a lot about racing at a professional level. He’s really an inspiration,” said Force.
The NHRA Funny Car driver most-recently featured on the cover of ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue currently sits in the No. 6 spot in the Countdown to the Championship, just 108 points (less than 6 rounds) out of first place.
FORCE HAS RIVALS WHERE HE WANTS THEM
15-Time Champion Poised to Beat the Odds Once More in Castrol GTX Ford
DALLAS, Texas – After stumbling in last week’s playoff opener in Charlotte, John Force has his Funny Car rivals right where he wants them as the Countdown to the Mello Yello Championship moves to Billy Meyer’s Texas Motorplex for the Friday start of the 28th annual AAA Texas Fall Nationals.
The 64-year-old drag racing icon, who over a 36-year career has made a habit of defying even the longest odds, was beaten in the second round of last week’s Carlyle Tools Carolina Nationals and, as a result, is in position this week to make even more history in an NHRA series in which he has been an A-List player for almost 30 years.
Force’s newest challenge is to become the first Funny Car driver in the NHRA’s Countdown Era to win the championship after failing to reach the semifinals in the first playoff event.
Not surprisingly, the 135-time tour winner believes he has just the race car with which to do it, a 10,000 horsepower Castrol GTX Ford Mustang capable of zero-to-320 mile-an-hour acceleration in less than four seconds.
Since he had crew chiefs Jimmy Prock and Mike Neff swap drivers six races ago, Force’s Ford has been one of the top performers in what has become the most competitive pro category in the sport.
The rub is that the Force-Prock collaboration has yet to produce a victory, a shortcoming that can be traced to the driver’s uncharacteristic inconsistency while adapting to a new car, a new crew and a new routine.
Nevertheless, the charismatic one-time truck driver appears to be regaining his rhythm – and a bit of his swagger – just in time to make a run at an unprecedented 16th series title.
To make that bit of history his own, however, he’ll have to start beating points leader Matt Hagan, to whom he lost in Charlotte and whom he now trails by almost 100 Full Throttle points.
“Hagan’s got a good hot rod,” Force said of the man he bested to win the title back in 2010, “but so do I. Everyone that pulls up there has a good car so it’s back on the drivers (to make the difference). Hagan’s in the gym all the time. Well, so am I. To keep up with these kids, I guess I’m gonna have to live in there.”
Force is encouraged this week because the tour is back in Texas where he has a history of success. In fact, in no other state except his native California has the 2008 inductee into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America won more races than he has in the Lone Star State.
He’s won seven times at the Motorplex, seven more times at Houston Raceway Park, but it’s on the all-concrete course at Meyer’s Dallas track that he feels most comfortable, ironic insomuch as he has crashed there three times, most seriously in 2007 when he was flown out of the track with life-threatening injuries.
Before that crash, Force banged the guardwall three times in an unsuccessful bid to catch Cruz Pedregon in the final round of the 1992 Fall Nationals and, in 1997, his car was rammed from behind as it decelerated beyond the finish line by the car of Ray Higley.
If he is impact-ful this weekend, though, the 15-time Auto Racing All-American hopes it is only in a figurative context as he tries to add yet another chapter to his voluminous racing legacy.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR CANDIDATE BRITTANY FORCE RETURNS TO THE LONE STAR STATE FOR THE AAA TEXAS NHRA FALL NATIONALS
DALLAS, Tex. (Sept. 17, 2013) – John Force Racing and all the professional drivers on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit return to the great state of Texas for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex. For Top Fuel’s Brittany Force, it’s a return to familiar territory.
Force competed at the Texas Motorplex back in 2008 when she was still competing her top alcohol dragster, but unfortunately did not make the final field in her only appearance at the track. She has come a long way since her days racing in the super comp and A/Fuel categories. Now racing in a Top Fuel dragster, the first in John Force Racing history, the 27-year-old daughter of racing legend John Force is ready to continue her stride as she prepares for the event.
“I’m glad to be going back to Dallas,” Force said. “It’s always comforting as a driver when you return to a racetrack that you raced at before. You have a good feel for the track if it pulls in certain lanes, like pulls you in or pulls you to the outside, if there’s dips in the track, little things like that help me out as a driver. I’m excited to get back there and see what this Castrol EDGE team can do.”
The Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award nominee is coming off a strong weekend in Charlotte, where she ran her career best elapsed time of 3.816 seconds as well as her second consecutive race of qualifying in the top half of the field. It has been an up and down season for Force and the Castrol EDGE team, but as time passed, they made huge improvements in the right direction and show no signs of slowing down.
“I’ve done the best job that I can and I’ve worked my butt off,” said Force. “I have had my ups and downs, I’ve made mistakes, and you can only learn from those mistakes. I always try to do that; you have a mistake; you can’t let it get you down. You have to learn from it and hopefully improve from there.”
Crew chiefs Dean Antonelli and Eric Lane also have help from two of the best in the industry. John Medlen and Castrol GTX crew chief Jimmy Prock have been assisting the team over the last couple of races and have made progress.
“Working with John (Medlen) and Jimmy (Prock), I mean they are two of the smartest guys in the industry,” Antonelli said. “Medlen was part of the original three-brain trust that John (Force) had in the 90’s and early 2000s when it was just a two car team. He brings a lot to the party and Jimmy obviously has success in dragster and is bringing us some real good knowledge, so it’s an honor to work with them.”
COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP OPENER SETS STAGE FOR MORE UNPREDICTABLE PERFORMANCES AT AAA TEXAS NHRA FALLNATIONALS
ENNIS, Texas – Surprises were plentiful in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship opener last weekend in Charlotte, N.C., as top seeds were upset in the first round of eliminations and one defending world champion failed to qualify.
Considering that everything is bigger in Texas, NHRA fans should expect more of the same when the NHRA playoffs kicks off round No. 2 at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Sept. 19-22 at the famed Texas Motorplex.
Last season, defending world champion Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle) earned victories at the event in the Lone Star State that will once again be televised on ESPN2 HD and ESPN News.
Brown hopes to recapture some of the magic he used last season when he powered his Matco Tools dragster to the victory in Dallas. The victory spurred him on to win his first world championship. His playoff quest to repeat got off to a rocky start at zMAX Dragway last weekend when he failed to earn one of the 16 starting spots for Sunday eliminations. It was the first time in 110 races that the popular driver posted a DNQ.
“You never imagine that something like that is going to happen,” said Brown, who dropped to ninth in the standings. “And we never imagined that’s how we’d start the Countdown. Sure, it’s going to be hard, but we haven’t given up on getting back to the top; no one on this team ever gives up. We made some great testing runs at zMAX Dragway on Monday and now we have to do that once we get to Dallas.”
Meanwhile, there were several upsets in Top Fuel, as season-long points leader and playoff top seed Shawn Langdon lost a close first round match to past Motorplex winner Bob Vandergriff. Langdon fell to second overall and heads to Dallas trailing new Top Fuel series leader Spencer Massey, a Fort Worth native, by 24 points.
“We had a minor setback in Charlotte, but we still feel good about things,” Langdon said. “The Al-Anabi car is still running strong, and team morale is still up so it’s not anything we’re going to let get us down. We just have to keep working like we have been, keep digging and keep fighting. Hopefully, we can get that No. 1 spot back at the end of the Dallas event.”
While a few of the top seeds fell down, several drivers at the bottom of the top 10 made strong moves to the top. Morgan Lucas, at the controls of a brand new GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster, showed off his new 8,000-horsepower ride in style. He swept the event, claiming the No. 1 qualifying position and winning over Massey in the final round. He jumped from eighth to third in the standings and has a ton of momentum heading to the Texas Motorplex.
“We’ve never been in the situation of chasing a championship,” Lucas said. “We just want to run good and do the best we can do. You start having problems if you count your chickens before they hatch. We’re comfortable saying that we know how to put ourselves in position to win races, but I don’t want to put us in an uncomfortable position by going beyond that. We’re trying to have fun and enjoy this.”
Meanwhile, in Funny Car, top seed Matt Hagan raced to a runner-up finish and increased his series lead to 82 points over second place Ron Capps, who made a second round exit. The Virginia cattle rancher has won at the Motorplex in the past and feels confident and comfortable in his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots team, which is led by veteran crew chief Dicky Venables.
“We’ve been consistent all year long and that’s what we’re aiming to do these last five races,” Hagan said. “We added to our lead at Charlotte but can’t afford any slip-ups. At the end of the day no matter what, we’ve already had a great season and I’m ready to see how it plays out.”
The Funny Car driver that made the biggest move in the standings was Robert Hight, who charged to victory in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. The 2009 world champ’s weekend was eerily similar to his ’09 playoff opener. If the winning trend continues for the surging Hight, who also won the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indy to end the regular season, expect him to make it three in a row at Dallas and better his chances at earning a second world championship crown.
“You can’t rely on history to repeat itself, you have to do the work and make the wins happen,” said Hight, a two-time winner at the Motorplex. “My crew chief Mike Neff and my crew guys are giving me a great race car. I am trying to give them my best driving performance every time I get in this Ford Mustang Funny Car.”
The competition in the Funny Car category is extremely intense. A talented field of challengers, including former Motorplex winner Capps, defending world champ Beckman, ultra-quick Cruz Pedregon, 15-time world champ John Force, Del Worsham, Johnny Gray and two-time season winner Courtney Force, all will be trying to reel in Hagan and knock Hight off his current stride in Big D.
“Our team is better than a second-round finish,” said Capps, a four-time title runner-up who is seeking his first world championship crown. “We know that. A lot of points moved around (at Charlotte). Hagan has moved out there pretty good, so we’re going to have to go to Dallas and battle back.”
Although he didn’t win, two-time Pro Stock world champ Jason Line made the biggest statement in Charlotte, by powering his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro to the No. 1 qualifying position and a runner-up finish. He moved to third in the standings and is now within striking position in the playoffs after enduring a lackluster regular season that produced only one victory and zero top qualifying positions.
“There is a lot at stake right now, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to try to win this thing,” Line said. “Team Summit is rejuvenated, and it feels good to have a competitive car again.”
Four-time world champ Jeg Coughlin proved that he can rise to the occasion in big moments when he defeated Line in the final round using a reaction time advantage. He moved to second in the standings in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger and likes where he stands, but realizes there are still five playoff races left.
“We’re going to race Dallas as if it was the first race in the playoffs because even though we got off to a great start, there’s still a long way to go,” Coughlin said. “There are a lot of extremely talented and hungry drivers in the mix and we can’t let up at all.”
A few of those challengers in Pro Stock include season-long points leader Mike Edwards, defending world champ and AAA Texas FallNationals winner Allen Johnson, three-time season winner Vincent Nobile and local favorite Erica Enders-Stevens, who was runner-up here one year ago.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana Jr. leads the two-wheel class with four wins aboard his Lucas Oil Buell, while battling a tough group of challengers, including two-time season winner and New Braunfels, Texas rider Ray and his Sovereign-Star Racing Buell, Matt Smith, John Hall, defending world champ Eddie Krawiec and Charlotte runner-up Hector Arana Sr. Three-time world champ Andrew Hines, who is not in the Countdown to the Championship, won the playoff opener on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
Category top seed and points leader Arana Jr. lost in the semifinals at Charlotte to father Arana Sr. on a red-light start, but says in the overall scheme of things, he’s still right where he needs to be, out front, 33 ahead of second place Matt Smith.
“It’s about going rounds,” Arana Jr. said. “The most important thing is winning the first and second rounds, because you can’t always win them all.”
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense competition on the track.
As always, every ticket purchased for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals is a pit pass, which offers an extraordinary look behind the scenes in the world of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service the high horsepower machines between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time with their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans will also want to check out NHRA Nitro Alley and the popular NHRA Manufacturers Midway where vendors and sponsors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun. Fans will also want to take advantage of Championship Sunday for the fun fanzone featuring driver introductions and a special Track Walk at 9:30 a.m. It’s free to all Sunday ticket holders.
The AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals qualifying opens on Friday, Sept. 20, with sessions at 2:15 and 5:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Sept. 21, at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22.
Tickets for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals are available now, 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. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
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AAA TEXAS NHRA FALLNATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 28th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, the 20th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the second of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Texas Motorplex- Track is located at 7500 W. Highway 287 in Ennis, Texas.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 19-22
THURSDAY, Sept. 19- LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, Sept. 20 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2:15 and 5:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, Sept. 21 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 22 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, Sept. 21, ESPN News will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 11:30 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 22, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will re-air 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 3:30 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 22, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of coverage starting at 8:30 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, Sept. 20, 8:30 – 9 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 3C
Saturday, Sept. 21, 7 – 7:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 3C
Sunday, Sept. 22, 7 – 7:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 3C
(3760 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Bob Tasca, Funny Car; Allen Johnson, Pro Stock; Michael Ray, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, FC, 7; Tony Schumacher, TF, 5; Warren Johnson, PS, 5; Greg Anderson, PS, 4.
Top Fuel – 3.784 seconds by Brandon Bernstein, Sept. ’10; 324.05 mph by Spencer Massey, Sept. ’11
Funny Car – 4.062 seconds by Matt Hagan, Sept. ’10; 309.63 mph by Jack Beckman, Sept. ’11
Pro Stock – 6.550 seconds by Allen Johnson, Sept. ’12; 211.99 mph by Johnson, Sept. ’12
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.828 seconds by Hector Arana Jr., Sept. ’11; 197.22 mph by Michael Phillips, Sept. ’11
Top Fuel – 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car – 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock – 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) MOTORPLEX (668-6775). Tickets also are available at www.texasmotorplex.com.
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NHRA MELLO YELLO COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. — Point standings (top 10) following the 19th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the first of six races in the Countdown to the Championship -
Top Fuel: 1. Spencer Massey, 2,174; 2. Shawn Langdon, 2,150; 3. Morgan Lucas, 2,144; 4. Doug Kalitta, 2,131; 5. Tony Schumacher, 2,112; 6. Clay Millican, 2,104; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 2,087; 8. Bob Vandergriff, 2,051; 9. Antron Brown, 2,050; 10. Steve Torrence, 2,044.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 2,214; 2. Ron Capps, 2,132; 3. Robert Hight, 2,128; 4. Jack Beckman, 2,122; 5. John Force, 2,116; 6. Courtney Force, 2,106; 7. Johnny Gray, 2,102; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 2,101; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,057; 10. Del Worsham, 2,037.
Pro Stock: 1. Mike Edwards, 2,194; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 2,184; 3. Jason Line, 2,147; 4. Allen Johnson, 2,134; 5. Shane Gray, 2,110; 6. Vincent Nobile, 2,095; 7. Erica Enders-Stevens, 2,085; 8. Greg Anderson, 2,083; 9. V. Gaines, 2,074; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 2,031.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Hector Arana Jr, 2,183; 2. Matt Smith, 2,150; 3. Hector Arana, 2,147; 4. Michael Ray, 2,135; 5. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,095; 6. John Hall, 2,094; 7. Eddie Krawiec, 2,085; 8. LE Tonglet, 2,082; 9. Adam Arana, 2,054; 10. Shawn Gann, 2,031.
NAPA’s Capps adjusts to role of hunter in NHRA Countdown after disappointing opening Sunday in championship playoff
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 17, 2013) – Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team didn’t match their start to last year’s NHRA Countdown to the Championship, but he likes the position is team is in.
“It didn’t work out for us last year, and sometime it’s better to be the hunter than the hunted,” he said after in losing the second round Sunday by two-thousandth of a second in the NHRA Mello Yello Series event near Charlotte.
Last season, Capps with crew chief Rahn Tobler and assistant John Collins, left the track at Concord, N.C., with a title at the first of six Countdown races and the points lead. But the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T team missed winning the season championship by two points that left Capps as the runner-up for a fourth time.
After losing early Sunday, Capps held onto second place in championship points but fell from 30 to 82 points behind Don Schumacher Racing teammate and points leader Matt Hagan, who was the event’s runner-up.
“Having the points lead was nice a year ago at this time but look where it got us,” he said. “We know every point is important. I’m not so sure that having the points lead and having a target on your back isn’t any easier than being second this early in the Countdown.”
Capps, who has won three of his 41 career titles this season, advanced to the semifinals a year ago near Dallas and held first in the standings after that race and through the following one at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis.
“We need to start winning rounds at Texas and someone has to get Matt out early,” Capps said. “Matt’s my teammate but when it’s the Countdown you can’t have any friends once you get on the track.”
The NAPA AUTO PARTS remaining at the North Carolina track Monday for testing and were pleased with the results.
Capps knows this weekend at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas could be pivotal and a second title at the track to go along with the one he won there in 1998 would go a long way toward moving atop the standings.
RON CAPPS, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Last event (Sept. 13-15, Concord, N.C.): Qualified No. 12; lost in second round to Courtney Force.
Last event at Dallas (Sept. 20-23, 2012): Qualified No. 6, lost in semifinals to teammate Matt Hagan.
Career at Dallas: Wins 1 (1998); runner-ups 1 (2011); poles 2 (2005, 1997)
(After 19 of 24 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national events; through Sept. 15)
Low spot in standings doesn’t lower Brown’s optimism that reigning championship Matco team will be back in race
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 17, 2013) – Antron Brown made a statement a year ago when the NHRA Mello Yello Series visited the Dallas area for the second of six events in the Countdown to the Championship.
Brown rallied to win last year’s event in Texas after losing in the first round the previous week to start the Countdown playoff. That provided momentum for him to win his first NHRA world championship two months later.
And the reigning Top Fuel world champion hopes to make more noise this weekend during the AAA Fallnationals at the Texas Motorplex.
The popular driver of the Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster for Don Schumacher Racing will need the boldest declaration of the year if he is to defend his prestigious championship because he is faced with a much higher mountain to climb.
Last weekend at the opening Countdown event near Charlotte, Brown did not qualify for Sunday’s championship eliminations. That ended the seventh longest qualifying streak among active professional NHRA drivers and stopped his run at 110 consecutive events where he qualified dating to November 2008.
It also was only the third time in his 16-year pro career and 281 NHRA events that he was not racing on eliminations day.
“You never imagine that something like that is going to happen,” said Brown, who dropped from sixth to ninth in the standings and is 124 points behind DSR teammate and points leader Spencer Massey.
“And we never imagined that’s how we’d start the Countdown.”
Only 10 drivers qualified for the Countdown after the 18-event regular season so Brown not only has to make up a 124-point deficit in five races but has to get around eight other drivers to reach the pinnacle.
“Sure, it’s going to be hard but we haven’t given up on getting back to the top; no one on this team ever gives up,” Brown said. “We spent Monday testing at zMAX Dragway (near Charlotte) and we made some great runs.
“Now we have to do that once we get to Dallas.”
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools
Last event (Sept. 13-15, Concord, N.C.): Did not qualify.
Last event at Dallas (Sept. 20-23, 2012): Qualified No. 8; defeated teammate Spencer Massey in championship round.
Career at Dallas: Wins 1 (2012); runner-ups 0; poles 0
Fort Worth native Massey ready for another shot at Wally trophy with No. 1-ranked Battery Extender dragster at Texas Motorplex
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 17, 2013) – The most wonderful time of the year doesn’t come in December for Spencer Massey. It comes in September and it takes place at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas.
A Fort Worth native, Massey will return to his home track with high hopes of earning a Wally trophy in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel class. Massey, who turned 31 on Sept. 13, first laid eyes on Top Fuel dragsters at the Motorplex as a child in 1986 and has been dreaming of winning there in a dragster ever since.
“It would mean a lot to me to win at Texas Motorplex,” Massey said. “I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid, dreaming of driving Top Fuel here. I still remember seeing Top Fuel dragsters there for the first time.
“That’s when I got hooked to drag racing. That’s when I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve come so close to winning that Top Fuel Wally here and I want that special cowboy hat they give the winner.”
Massey and the Battery Extender Powered by Schumacher team has momentum going into Dallas stemming from a runner-up finish at the last event near Charlotte that moved his team to No. 1 in the Top Fuel standings for the first time in 19 races this year.
“We’ve definitely got momentum on our side heading into Dallas,” said Massey, who has won four titles this season with crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler. “We had a great outing in Charlotte and took over the points lead, but we know we have to keep going rounds to stay in the fight for the championship.”
Massey has numerous wins from Texas Motorplex from his days of driving NHRA Jr. Dragsters and racing in NHRA Sportsman Super Comp class. He’s been runner-up the past two years near Dallas in Top Fuel.
“I’ve won lot of races at the Motorplex. From Jr. Dragster races to Super Comp races, even a track championship. But to win in Top Fuel there would be huge for me. I’ve been to the final round the past two years and just came up short. That just makes me want it more. My family and friends will there cheering me on and I’m ready to go.”
“We know what we have to do. We just can’t go out there and beat ourselves. That’s what we’ve said all season long. Now it’s time to show it.”
No. 1 Top Fuel
SPENCER MASSEY, Battery Extender Powered by Schumacher
Last event (Sept. 13-15, Concord, N.C.): Qualified No. 7; lost in championship round to Morgan Lucas.
Last event at Dallas (Sept. 20-23, 2012): Qualified No. 10; lost in championship round to teammate Antron Brown.
Career at Dallas: Wins 0; runner-ups 2 (2012, 2011); poles 0