Seven-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher and five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson thundered into the playoffs in both motorsports series with a spectacular, never-before-seen dual burnout on pit road at Charlotte Motor Speedway. With 12 titles between them, each is considered a favorite as the playoffs for their series kick off this weekend.
zMAX Dragway and Charlotte Motor Speedway combine to be the only motorsports complex in the world to host key playoff events, the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts Sept. 13-15 and the Bank of America 500 Oct. 12.
Inside his No. 48 Lowe’s Home Improvement Chevrolet, Johnson was awestruck by the Top Fuel dragster. Seeded second in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, Johnson will vie for his sixth championship beginning this weekend in Chicago.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m sitting there in my car getting ready to grab 2nd gear and try to create a little more smoke, and that thing goes thundering by,” said Johnson. “I had no clue what was happening. I thought a bomb went off next to me. That is incredible. It’s been a lot of years since I’ve seen nitro. I was pretty young, probably 7 or 8 years old, the last time I was at a drag race. To see 10,000 horsepower next to you, tires smoking, that is impressive.”
Schumacher powered his U.S. Army-sponsored Don Schumacher Racing Top Fuel dragster for the burnout prior to the first race of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship across the street at zMAX Dragway.
“You get out here and hear two cars; two champs are standing there, and you go, that’s what I’m doing,” said Schumacher. “I know exactly why I showed up to do this. It’s a great racetrack. To get to run a burnout next to another champion, he’s won five championships, he knows how to do it.”
Johnson, whose appearance was part of the NASCAR Chase Across America program to kick off the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, will return to Charlotte Motor Speedway Oct. 12 for the only Saturday night race in the Chase, the Bank of America 500.
This weekend, NHRA kicks off the Countdown to the Championship at zMAX Dragway with the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts. Tickets start at $25 for Friday and $45 for Saturday and Sunday. Children 13 and younger will receive free general admission with a paid adult all weekend. Qualifying opens Friday, Sept. 13, with Pro sessions scheduled to begin at 4:15 and 6:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 14, at 12:15 and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 15. The race will be televised on ESPN2HD with qualifying coverage Saturday and three hours of eliminations coverage Sunday beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET.
For tickets, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office, 800-455-FANS (3267), or log on to www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.