DieHard Race Week Start-Up, Houston
Thursday, April 26, 2012
On behalf of the entire NHRA membership, it is time to call this DieHard Race Week Start-Up meeting to order (cue the gavel sound effect)!
I’d like to begin by thanking all of you who read this page and of course invite any and all forms of comment, question or otherwise. You may direct those to me via email at email@example.com or through Twitter (@DaveRieffNHRA) or Facebook.
Let’s begin with old business! It has been nearly two weeks since the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, and as expected, opinions still vary widely. I am only here to present the facts.
1) Eliminations proved to be very exciting, with the three Pro finals each producing moments that will be talked about for quite some time. After winning the one-off race in Pro Stock for the second time in three years, Summit Racing’s Greg Anderson said, “I’ve complained about this [four-wide] concept, but I guess it’s time to embrace it.” In Funny Car, Robert Hight and his Auto Club crew became the fifth in class history to win four straight races (joining Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, Cruz Pedregon, and some guy named John Force). And it was the kings of the sport, most notably FRAM’s Spencer Massey, who blew us all away when he registered a 332-mph pass, the fastest ever. Let the record show it was Army driver Tony Schumacher who hit the 330-mph mark first.
2) As an ordained pit reporter, this journalist did take note of what Adrian Parker and the rest of the staff at zMAX Dragway happily reported: a 20-percent increase in ticket sales from the year before and the biggest three-day crowd for the Four-Wide Nationals. Well done!
3) And finally, ESPN2 reported the best rating that the NHRA has received since 2009. In addition, the Four-Wide Nationals was the most-viewed program on ESPN2 that day.
Everyone is free to make his or her own conclusions about what all of this means. Might I add one little tweak? The sound of 30,000 horsepower is undisputable. Take that sound and add the sight of 8-foot header flames, and we are talking sensory overload! Might have to push the race back a month or so, but … just a thought.
One last piece of business: I spoke with Chris “the Greek” Karamesines about the team’s starting-line incident in Charlotte. Both injured men are going to be OK. Dennis Swearingen took the hard fall and suffered rib fractures and bruising, and Phil Paul still has soreness in his ear. Everyone is healing, and "the Greek" said that they will rejoin the tour in Atlanta.
Now let’s move on to new business: the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Royal Purple Raceway in Houston. That’s right, we’re heading to Texas, where everything is big! The sixth race of the year for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series is the second time we’ll have Pro Stock Motorcycles this season.
To recap Gainesville, Eddie Krawiec ran the table aboard his Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson, resetting the elapsed time (6.750) and speed (199.26 mph) records, qualifying No. 1, and gobbling up every point possible (150). Among those who took note was NHRA’s Tech Department, which has since added 20 pounds to the Harleys. It is a big story and will garner lots of attention this weekend. Twenty-one two-wheel warriors are pre-entered, and it will be nice to have them back on tour!
You can’t race in Houston without mentioning Erica Enders and her GK Motorsports crew, who are looking for their first Pro Stock win. A native of H-town, Enders has raced at Seth Angel’s facility for more than 20 years, and many of her firsts came there (Jr. Dragster win at age 8 and her first NHRA national event win in Super Gas, among others). Another name with plenty of clout is David Nickens, legendary engine builder and quarter-mile campaigner, who will have Chris McGaha behind the wheel and could give all the regulars all they want to handle! And let’s not forget about Tomball, Texas’ Rodger Brogdon. A total of 20 cars will compete for the coveted Wally!
Of course, the nitro divisions will have plenty to talk about as we follow the path of Hight and team in Funny Car as they try to add to their streak of four event wins in a row. Plus, we will see how Matt Hagan and the Aaron’s team rebound after a rough weekend. John Force Racing also looks to continue its season sweep; the 15-time champ began the season in the winner’s circle before Hight's team took fire! Terry Haddock and Todd Simpson will represent the home state at the event, which boasts 20 very capable cars on the entry list.
And in Top Fuel, a familiar face will be back in a car: J.R. Todd! He will drive a second car for Bob Vandergriff Jr., who will play host for his sponsor C&J Energy Services, which calls the Houston area home. Massey leads the points and will be joined in the field by two other Texas digger drivers, Steve Torrence and Troy Buff. After two straight series titles, when will the Al-Anabi group get it together? ESPN is on the case, with Top Fuel boasting a solid 21 pre-registered entries!
To purchase tickets to the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries, call Royal Purple Raceway, 281-383-RACE (7223), or log on to RoyalPurpleRaceway.com.
ESPN’s schedule for the weekend: Friday qualifying, ESPN3.com, 6 p.m. (all times ET); Saturday qualifying, ESPN2, 5-7 p.m.; Sunday final eliminations, ESPN2, 7-10 p.m.
Go Hard or Go Home! We’ll see you this weekend … I’ll be the one smiling!