When weather forecasts trend toward the cool side, NHRA crew chiefs get great big smiles on their faces. Drivers, in turn, know to grip their steering wheels just a little bit tighter.
When conditions become ideal, everyone in the pits knows that record-breaking performances are within reach.
If Mother Nature keeps her current pattern going in eastern Pennsylvania, an atmospheric recipe for record-setting performances may be in the cards for this weekend’s Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals, Oct. 4-7 at scenic Maple Grove Raceway.
It's a familiar formula: Championship intensity plus record-breaking performances equals awesome action.
At last season’s event here, two national records were set, and every track record in the Professional classes was rewritten. With forecasts calling for temperatures in the low 70s and upper 60s throughout this weekend, teams will be throwing out as much horsepower as the track can handle in hopes of breaking even more performance records.
NHRA teams in title contention at round four of the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs will also be seeking to earn valuable 20-point bonuses that national records can bring. Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the event, which will be televised on ESPN2HD.
Defending Pro Stock world champion Line, who set the national elapsed time record at 6.477 seconds on his way to victory, says many teams will be in the hunt to better his year-old national record if conditions are favorable.
“With a Pro Stock car, it depends on two things,” said Line, who drives the Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro. “Before anything else, you have to have the right atmospheric conditions, otherwise you cannot make enough power. You also have to have the right racetrack and of course the right tune-up and the right setup. There are a lot of things that go into setting the record, and there are a whole bunch of cars that can do it, so yes, it is absolutely possible.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana set a track record last season on his Lucas Oil Buell during his winning run in the final round against Matt Smith.
“I love setting records,” Arana said. “Either track record, e.t., or mile-an-hour, anything you could break in a record and be the fastest in that area is always a big accomplishment and something I look forward to doing.”
Perhaps a national record could help Line reel in runaway Pro Stock points leader Allen Johnson, who has advanced to three consecutive finals in the Countdown playoffs and holds a 109-point advantage over Line heading to Pennsylvania. Line says catching Johnson is going to happen only through working hard, making the correct tuning decisions, and driving a perfect race on Sunday.
“We need to execute perfectly on all ends and try to make fewer mistakes than our competitors,” Line said. “It is not always easy to do. But if you have to depend on luck, you are in bad shape.”
Hector Arana Jr.
Arana could also use a national record to help catch Pro Stock Motorcycle leader Eddie Krawiec, who has earned seven victories this season on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Arana has posted three runner-up finishes but has yet to park his Lucas Oil Buell in the winner’s circle in 2012.
He is optimistic, however, that a victory is going to happen this season.
“I feel good,” Arana said. “I always feel like I have a chance to win. We haven’t won yet this year, but it’s not over yet, and I’m not going to give up.”
In Top Fuel, Chesterfield, N.J., native Antron Brown holds the series points lead after back-to-back wins in Dallas and St. Louis. He is leading Massey by 21 points as the playoffs hit race four of six. Several other drivers are in title contention, including seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, Al-Anabi Racing driver Shawn Langdon, Brandon Bernstein, Morgan Lucas, Steve Torrence, and Doug Kalitta.
In Funny Car, Ron Capps is trying to win his first world championship after many years of trying. He holds a 30-point lead over St. Louis winner Jack Beckman, who has the momentum heading to Maple Grove. Tim Wilkerson has moved from 10th to fifth in the standings and is also on the move. Several other drivers are among the pre-race favorites, including 15-time world champ John Force, his 24-year-old daughter, rookie driver Courtney Force, Mike Neff, two-time champ Cruz Pedregon, and Hight.
* SCHEDULE: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1 and 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5, and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 7.
* TICKETS: For tickets for the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals, call 610-856-7200 or log on to www.maplegroveraceway.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 7, which will be preceded by one hour of coverage at 12:30 a.m. ET. Three hours of eliminations coverage will air at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 7.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where some of the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8:45 a.m. on Oct. 4, and eliminations begin at 8:45 a.m. on Oct. 5 and continue through Oct. 7.