As the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads south to Atlanta Dragway May 4-6 for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, the competition in Top Fuel is so tight that predicting the race winner is nearly impossible.
Morgan Lucas has finished in 10th place in the championship points battle the last two years, but this season, the outcome could be a lot different. The GEICO/Lucas Oil driver is coming off his second win and fourth No. 1 qualifying position of the season in Houston, which puts him in third place in the championship standings as the NHRA heads to Atlanta, site of his first victory in 2009.
“Houston might have been the best race we’ve ever had,” Lucas said. “Not only did we qualify No. 1, but we had low elapsed time of every round on race day. That’s never happened for us before and the reason we're encouraged as we look forward to Atlanta.”
Top Fuel points leader and defending event winner Antron Brown also hopes to continue the success he has had this season. The Matco Tools driver has earned one victory in five final-round appearances and has a little extra confidence from three wins in Atlanta. Needless to say, Brown likes his chances as the team heads south.
"I've always considered it to be an East Coast track, an older track where guys like my dad and uncle raced," Brown said. "It's a track we visited often from Pro Stock Bike days to now. You get that sense of the great old tracks. It puts me back in my element -- what I grew up around -- and I feel real comfortable there.”
Brown’s Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey is in second place in the points thanks to three wins this season in his FRAM/Prestone Top Fuel dragster. As the circuit heads to one of Massey’s favorite tracks, he is out to prove that his second-place finish last season was no fluke.
"For whatever reason, Atlanta likes me, and I like Atlanta," Massey said. "Sometimes you shine at some tracks, and others you don't. It's the luck of the draw in a way. It has nothing to do with tune-up or whatever you might think; that's just how it works."
Massey’s DSR teammate Tony Schumacher may be experiencing the longest win drought of his career, currently at 29 races, but thanks to three final-round appearances this season, “the Sarge” is in fourth place in the points order. Atlanta Dragway is one of the few tracks where the U.S. Army pilot has yet to win, but the way that the Top Fuel competition has been, there is no reason his 68th victory couldn't also be his first in Atlanta.
“I’m a positive-minded person and truly believe we will take home a bunch of race trophies this year,” Schumacher said. “And, of course, we want to take home the biggest trophy of them all at the end of the year.”
Steve Torrence is making an impact in Top Fuel with his Capco Contractors dragster in his first season as a driver and team owner. He sits in sixth place after back-to-back semifinal appearances and his first No. 1 qualifying position. Al-Anabi driver Shawn Langdon is still seeking his first win and sits in fifth place, but with Alan Johnson (team manager) power, that car could end up in the winner’s circle on any given Sunday.
Team Kalitta drivers David Grubnic and Doug Kalitta are also keeping things interesting in the 7,000-horsepower class, as are Bob Vandergriff Jr., Clay Millican, Brandon Bernstein, Terry McMillen, and Khalid alBalooshi. The top 10 is anyone’s game this season, and with 10 races remaining before the cutoff event for the Countdown to the Championship, the racing is expected to get even more exciting.
Funny Car has been dominated by John Force Racing, which has won all six races this season. Robert Hight leads the points, followed by Mike Neff in second, John Force in seventh, and Courtney Force in ninth. NAPA Auto Parts driver Ron Capps has rebounded well after a DNQ in Las Vegas and moved to third after back-to-back final-round appearances. His DSR teammate Jack Beckman is right behind him in fourth, Cruz Pedregon sits fifth, Bob Tasca III is eighth, and Jeff Arend is 10th.
In Pro Stock, Summit Racing teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line remain atop the points standings, and sophomore sensation Vincent Nobile moved to third after his win in Houston. Former Pro Stock world champ Mike Edwards is fourth, Nobile’s Dodge teammate Allen Johnson is fifth, and Erica Enders sits sixth.
The two-wheel class heads to Atlanta for its third appearance of the season, with the Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson duo of Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec leading the championship points standings. Lucas Oil Buell rider Hector Arana Jr. is right behind them in third, followed by GEICO Suzuki rider Karen Stoffer. Matt Smith, Hector Arana Sr., Scotty Pollacheck, LE Tonglet, Michael Ray, and John Hall round out the top 10 in the class.
* SCHEDULE: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:30 and 6 p.m. on Friday, May 4, and 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 5. Final Professional eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 6.
* TICKETS: For tickets for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, call NHRA, 800-884-6472, or log on to NHRATix.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 5. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 6.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals also will feature competition in seven NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series categories, where some of the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8 a.m. on May 4. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8 a.m. on May 5 and continue through May 6.