Spencer Massey and the Prestone/FRAM Top Fuel team scored a $100,000 payday for winning the inaugural Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel held during qualifying at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus on Saturday, Sept. 1.
The special Traxxas Nitro Shootout events for Top Fuel and Funny Car, which will be contested on Sunday, were announced this season to give drivers in each category a chance to earn one of eight spots in a field with the winner earning a $100,000 prize. The first seven drivers to win an event (or first six drivers and the points leader if the leader had not won an event) during the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series were guaranteed a spot in the field with the eighth spot going to a driver picked in a special lottery drawing based on fan votes. With six Top Fuel winners this season, Doug Kalitta earned a spot based on his points total, and Brandon Bernstein was the lottery winner.
Massey slugged his way through the elite field with a strong run in the opening round followed by crushing performances in the semifinal and final rounds. His Todd Okuhara- and Phil Shuler-tuned dragster iced the win with an outstanding 3.780 at 325.61 mph in the final round to defeat fellow 29-year-old Texas native Steve Torrence, whose Capco Contractors dragster coasted to a 4.840 at 155.70 mph.
“I’m so happy for all of our guys because this couldn’t have happened without any of them, including the guys who show up at our shop every day to make our parts and build our chassis,” said Massey. “Just making it into the Traxxas Shootout is huge. To win a race out here is amazing because every car in the class is bad to the bone. Leading up to this event has been pretty nail-biting. We came out and tested last week for seven passes and made pretty good runs, so we had some data and knew we had what it took to win so long as we could put it all together on Saturday.”
Massey was the first driver to earn a spot in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel with a victory at the season-opening O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries in Pomona before going on to win additional events in Las Vegas, Charlotte, and Norwalk. This is the first time that Massey has competed in a special event as a Professional driver, though he previously won a race within a race as a Sportsman driver when he won the 2007 JEGS Allstars special event in Chicago in Top Alcohol Dragster.
“It’s similar in that both races take the best of the best throughout the country and have them compete in an eight-car field,” said Massey. “Winning that was amazing. I have the JEGS Allstars check hanging up in my house, and this check will hang right up next to it. It ranks right up there, and this is probably better because we’re racing Top Fuel in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout.”
Massey, near lane, collected a $100,000 payday for Don Schumacher Racing after powering his Prestone/FRAM dragster to a 3.78 to beat Steve Torrence in the final of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout.
Massey, who started from the No. 2 position based on his spot in the points standings, advanced out of an enthralling first round of eliminations by running a 3.815 to defeat David Grubnic. Upsets were abound with Massey’s Don Schumacher Racing teammates, Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown, being eliminated at the hands of lower-seeded drivers Morgan Lucas and Bernstein, respectively. Torrence had also scored a round-win in a close battle with Doug Kalitta.
“With the weather the way it was this morning, it was hard to even fathom getting to make all three runs today,” said Massey. “NHRA did an awesome job just prepping and getting everything together. Coming into the first round of the Shootout not qualified for the other event and needing to get the round-win made it a little nerve-wracking. We got by that and then had to run Morgan, who just ran low e.t. of the round. We knew we had to push for it.”
In the battle with Lucas, who won the most recent event in Brainerd, Massey rose to the occasion by running low e.t. of the event at 3.762 seconds at a blazing 324.51 mph beside Lucas’ tire-spinning 4.128 at 230.84. Torrence had run a 3.888 at a slowing 259.41 to beat Brandon Bernstein to set up the final between the two young drivers.
“Steve Torrence has been on a string all year long and wants to win just as much as I do,” said Massey. “We both grew up in Texas around the Division 4 bracket racing scene. As drivers, crew chiefs, and crewmembers, we all know what it takes to do this.
“The finals were a different situation because it’s night time, and the dew is setting in. My visor was fogging up real bad, I’m trying not to breathe, and it’s so humid that sweat is dripping down my face. I hit the light, and the car just stuck. It took on that Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler power and started moving. I saw that win light, and you know what it was like? It was like winning the Traxxas Shootout.
“It was amazing. For [Traxxas president] Mike Jenkins to come in and put up the money for Top Fuel and Funny Car is amazing. It’s awesome for a great company like that to come into NHRA with so much enthusiasm and create a great event like this. To be able to win the first one makes it that much better. Now, I can take it back to Texas where Traxxas is from.”