As the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series readies to kick off the grueling three-race Western Swing, Top Fuel points leader Spencer Massey feels as confident as ever in his FRAM/Prestone Top Fuel team. The crew heads to Bandimere Speedway for the 33rd annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals coming off its fourth win in five final-round appearances, something no other Top Fuel team has accomplished this season.
“It’s great to have the win in our pocket with the Swing coming up; we’re going into the Swing with a win, so I like that, and we hope to build some momentum,” Massey said.
Not only is Massey coming off his fourth win of the season, but he also enters the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals as the defending event champion, another confidence boost for the points leader as the NHRA heads to one of the toughest races of the season for the teams because of the unique atmosphere in the mountains of Colorado.
“It’ll be tough racing in the altitude, but it’s when the crew chiefs shine, and hopefully mine can do it again this year,” Massey said. “Plus it’s an awesome track, and I love the town. The racing views are beautiful; I can’t wait to get there.”
Last season, Massey took out his Don Schumacher Racing teammate and seven-time champ Tony Schumacher in the final round at Bandimere Speedway, the same driver he took the points lead from with his win at the most recent NHRA event.
“If we can repeat that final round, that would be awesome,” Massey said. “I know Tony and I race each other a lot, and we’re really competitive with each other, but we’re just like every other driver: We just want to win. It doesn’t matter if it’s my teammates or any other team, I just want to win. Bottom line: I don’t care who I’m racing, I just want to win.”
John Force (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock), and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also 2011 winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN2HD.
Schumacher is one of seven drivers to sweep the Western Swing, in 2008. His DSR teammate Antron Brown, who sits third in the points standings, did it in 2009. If Massey can put together a winning streak and become the eighth driver to sweep the Swing, it would not only add his name to the NHRA history books, but it would also give his team confidence heading into the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.
“Coming off the win and being the defending event champ helps our confidence, and obviously we’d like to do that thing with the broom and win them all, but I don’t want to jinx ourselves, either,” Massey said. “To do that means we’d have to put together four in a row. Not saying we can’t do it, but it’ll be tough.”
Not only is the Western Swing important for the history books, but it’s also important for teams hoping to qualify for the Countdown. With just five races left in the regular season, Massey and all the other drivers in the top 10 are fighting for that top spot.
“It would be awesome to be able to be successful in the Western Swing simply for the fact that we want as many round-wins, race wins, and points as we can get,” Massey said. “We want to be No. 1 in points when the Countdown starts to get the 20-point bonus, especially with how we lost the championship last year by a few points to Del Worsham; it just proved that all the 'little' points are extremely important.”
The teams at the top may be fighting for the points lead, but the teams near the bottom of the top 10 and those sitting just outside it will fight even harder to secure a spot in the Countdown, including Clay Millican and Bob Vandergriff Jr., who are both fighting for their first berth in the Countdown and are tied for the 10th and final spot. Terry McMillen sits 12th and also is hoping to make his first appearance in the Countdown, as is rookie Al-Anabi pilot Khalid alBalooshi, who is in 13th and still looking for his first round-win of the season.
Funny Car competition for the Countdown also will kick into high gear as the NHRA heads to Bandimere. Points leader Robert Hight looks to hold on to his lead through the final five races of the regular season, but his John Force Racing teammate Mike Neff and DSR competitor Ron Capps hope to take that lead from him. The biggest shocker of the season is reigning Funny Car world champ Matt Hagan, who sits in 13th behind rookie Alexis DeJoria and veteran Tim Wilkerson, who are all fighting to earn a spot in the top 10. A little more than 100 points separate sixth place from 11th, which means that the next five races are imperative for those teams that want to make the Countdown.
The story is the same in both Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle; respective points leaders Greg Anderson and Eddie Krawiec look to maintain their leads, but the drivers behind them are working to take that lead for the lucrative 20-point bonus. Four-time Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. sits in 11th in Pro Stock, just four points out of 10th, with Larry Morgan and Kurt Johnson behind him and hoping to gain momentum starting at Bandimere. Veteran Steve Johnson is working to make the Countdown in Pro Stock Motorcycle, and rookie John Hall is right there, hoping to make his first playoff appearance.
* SCHEDULE: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:45 and 7:15 p.m. on Friday, July 20, and 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 21. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 22.
* TICKETS: For tickets for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, call Bandimere Speedway, 800-664-UWIN (8946), or log on to www.ticketreturn.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 21, and two hours of eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 22.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Mopar Mile-High 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 noon on July 20; eliminations begin at 9 a.m. on July 21 and continue through July 22.