DieHard Race Week Start-Up, Dallas
Thursday, September 20, 2012
With barely enough time to analyze what just happened in Charlotte, the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series is back at it as the second round of the Countdown to the Championship invades Texas Motorplex for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals. It’s a long tow (1,041 miles) and a short turnaround, but perhaps the best news for all involved: The forecast calls for sunshine and a dry weekend. That would be very welcomed by a beleaguered group of racers and their teams that still have three weekends of racing before a chance to regroup.
Despite enduring more of the wet stuff (last Sunday, racing was delayed by almost four hours due to … what else … rain!), the weekend wow factor was once again on the redline. Big stories, surprise winners, and more made it another incredible race. And with the points resetting following Indy, there have been some pretty dramatic moves in all four Pro categories. It’s almost time for the Do-or-Dunn line to come out on ESPN2!
It all began in Top Fuel when the points leader, Antron Brown, got Al-Anabi’d by non-Countdown driver Khalid alBalooshi in the first round. After only his third first-round loss of the year, Brown fell to fourth in the standings. Fast-forward to the final, where Shawn Langdon earned his first national event win over Tony Schumacher, becoming the 98th different driver to raise a Wally in Top Fuel. In the process, the former Jr. Dragster winner also became a championship contender, moving from seventh to third in the standings, and now sits just 19 points (less than one round of racing) behind “the Sarge,” who took over the lead in the sport’s premier class. Spencer Massey is just 10 points back in second. Consider that Alan Johnson, Al-Anabi team manager, has tuned or managed seven of the last eight championships in Top Fuel, including the last two, and you now know the reason that the game has changed in Top Fuel and Langdon is a real and legitimate threat to win it all!
Ron Capps’ 36th win in Funny Car (third-most overall in the category after breaking a tie with legend Don Prudhomme) was a big boost for the points leader as he extended his lead to 73 (four rounds of racing) over runner-up Mike Neff. By the time the semifinals rolled around, seven of the 10 Countdown drivers had been eliminated as Jack Beckman (third in the standings after Charlotte) and non-Countdown driver Matt Hagan joined Capps and Neff in the semifinals. Interestingly, all four semifinalists posted 4.06-second runs to get to that round. That alone was stunning! What it all boils down to is that fourth in the standings (Robert Hight) and back trail by six rounds of racing or more, which makes this weekend a must-get-healthy weekend. Do I need to mention that Capps has never won a championship?
In Pro Stock, Shane Gray’s crash was perhaps the most talked-about moment of the weekend, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you will … just keep watching us on ESPN2! The good news is that Shane, other than a bruised ego, is all right and will have his backup car in Dallas this weekend. When it was all said and done, defending series champion Jason Line was in the Charlotte winner’s circle for the first time. In the process, he pulled to within three points of race runner-up and points leader Allen Johnson.
And in Pro Stock Motorcycle, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson rider won for the 13th consecutive race, dating back to last year. In the fifth all-Harley final of the season, Andrew Hines used a holeshot to win his fifth race of the year and 30th of his career, which ties him with his brother, Matt, for fourth on the all-time win list in bike. Just 10 points separate the teammates who have tied Greg Anderson and Line for the longest consecutive winning streak by a team in NHRA history.
And that brings us to Dallas. Like the sun rising in the east, you can count on another dramatic weekend that will start on Saturday with the running (finally!) of the NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout in Funny Car; eight of the best Funny Cars will compete head to head, with the winner banking a cool $100,000. Of course, all of those "little" points will combine with qualifying points to change the points scenarios before round one is even competed. Then, who will get upset, rise to the occasion, or fall from grace? It’s reality racing at its best!
Tickets for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals can be yours by visiting TexasMotorplex.com or dialing 800-MOTORPLEX (668-6775).
ESPN2’s coverage is as follows:
Live second-session qualifying: Friday at 6 p.m. (all times ET) on ESPN3
Qualifying recap: Sunday at midnight on ESPN2
Qualifying recap re-air: Sunday at 1 p.m. on ESPN2
Live eliminations: Sunday at noon on ESPN3
Eliminations recap: Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN2
Of course, TV times are subject to change. We will always do our best to keep everyone up to date via Twitter (follow @DaveRieff), Facebook, and the Internet. It is also worth noting that the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series from Charlotte is scheduled to air at 2 p.m. ET Sunday, when you can watch Top Alcohol Funny Car’s Frank Manzo win his 99th national event and Richard Bourke get his first in Top Alcohol Dragster.
As always, thanks for your time and attention for the quickest and fastest motorsport on the planet: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing!