Top Fuel championship battle heats up heading to Las Vegas
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

As the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series nears the conclusion of the 2012 season, the battle atop the points standings in Top Fuel is heating up as teams head to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the 12th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals, Oct. 25-28.

Matco Tools pilot Antron Brown and FRAM/Prestone driver Spencer Massey sit first and second in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship points standings and are separated by 104 points. 

Brown, who is attempting to become the first African-American to win a major motorsports series title, has claimed six wins and three No. 1 qualifying positions this season. The final two races of the playoffs are crucial as he works to put the finishing touches on his first Top Fuel world championship.

“We’re basically going to the last two races keeping our head down, and we want to stay on the offensive side, keep attacking,” Brown said. “We have got to keep attacking if we want to have the hopes to actually bring this championship home. And that’s the way we’re looking at these last two races is that they’re do or die. We've got to go in and not leave one i undotted and one t uncrossed, and we’ve got to go in there and just keep digging and digging, and hopefully we can be there at the end and contend and try to bring this championship home.”

Keeping an eye on the prize and not letting distractions get in the way have been proven as keys to winning. Luckily for Brown, having a champion’s attitude comes naturally, and having a strong team makes it even better.

“You’ve just got to stay humble,” Brown said. “You’ve just got to appreciate the guys that make it happen because you can look at our team, Tony [Schumacher], Spencer, and myself, that, yeah, we have confidence in ourselves that we go out in a car and get a job done, but all three of us would be nothing if we didn’t have the stout teams that we have.”

Massey has also had a successful 2012 season, racing to four victories, three No.1 qualifying positions and winning the inaugural NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel that came with a $100,000 paycheck. The pressure is on as he tries to run down teammate Brown in the Countdown to the Championship, but he feels anything can happen during the final two races of the season.

“We’re going to get out there and try to get as many rounds and try and get a Wally or two before the end of the season,” Massey said. “With only two races left, it makes everybody hungry to at least get another Wally with only two of them sitting out there. And if stuff happens to fall for guys where it changes to where it makes it close at the Pomona race, we’ll see. But right now, obviously our goal would be to stay No. 2 in points, and if it happens to be, we can try and get the No. 1 spot. But let me tell you, with Antron doing how he’s been doing, it’s a tough one.”
The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been good to Massey: The Texas native won the fall event in 2009, made a final-round appearance in the fall of 2011, and took home the Wally from the 2012 spring race. Needless to say, he’s looking to sweep Las Vegas this year.

“I don't mind Vegas,” Massey said. “I mean, I tend to do kind of well there. I got my second win ever there with Don Prudhomme Racing, and obviously, the final round there a year ago for the fall race against Del Worsham and then winning in the spring, so I like racing there. Obviously, it's Vegas; we all have a good reason to like to go there, from hanging out on The Strip to actually racing on the dragstrip. It’s always a fun place, and it makes it that much more special whenever you’re racing for so much meaning, meaning that you’re racing for the championship, for the Countdown. I can't wait to get there.”

Also in striking distance of winning the title is U.S. Army pilot Schumacher with two wins and three No. 1 qualifying positions this season, Al-Anabi Racing’s Shawn Langdon with one victory, and Brandon Bernstein, who has had two-runner up finishes in his dragster.

* SCHEDULE: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for noon and 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26, and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28.

* TICKETS: For tickets for the 12th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals, call The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 800-644-4444, or log on to

* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 28, preceded by one hour of coverage at 1:30 a.m. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 8 p.m. ET, also on Sunday, Oct. 28.

* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The 12th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals also will feature competition in seven categories 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 a.m. on Oct. 25 and continues through Oct. 26. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8 a.m. on Oct. 27.

* NHRA PRO MOD SERIES PRESENTED BY PROCARE RX: NHRA’s popular Pro Mod touring series will make its final start of the 2012 season at the 12th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals. The first two qualifying sessions will be Oct. 26 at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Qualifying will continue on Saturday, Oct. 27, with a session at 10:30 a.m. and will be followed by the first round of eliminations at 4 p.m. Eliminations will continue Sunday, Oct. 28, at approximately 2:30 p.m.