If Jimmy Alund has proven anything in the first three races of this NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, it’s that he’s certainly not afraid of a challenge.
The Sweden native immediately jumped right into the deep end in Pro Stock, filling in for four-time world champion Greg Anderson for the first six races as the perennial championship contender recovers from surgery. Since then, Alund has accepted every test head on and appears ready for the next big one, performing in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro at his sponsor’s race, the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals, this weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
It marks the fourth of 24 events in the 2014 season, which means it’s also the fourth start behind the wheel this year for the eager rookie driver, who is looking to make a favorable impression in Las Vegas.
“I've been to Las Vegas as a spectator before, but I have never had the chance to race there,” said Alund, who entered seven NHRA Pro Stock races in his own car prior to this season. “I'm really looking forward to it, of course. It's a very special place for this team because it's the hometown for our [Summit Racing] team owners, Ken and Judy Black. It's also a Summit race, and that makes it very important to all of us. I hope to do well there.”
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) are defending winners of the event that will again be televised on ESPN2.
Alund continues to show steady improvement breaking into the ultracompetitive factory hot rod category in the NHRA, but the Norrkoping, Sweden, resident boasts a wealth of experience on the European circuit. He won his first FIA European Pro Stock championship in 2004 and has eight overall in what has been a highly successful career.
The next step is picking up his first round-win in the NHRA Pro Stock category. He qualified ninth at the recent Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals – his best position through three races – before losing to Summit Racing teammate and 2014 Winternationals winner Jason Line in the opening round. Even in the loss, Alund chalked up the Gatornationals as a positive experience. A number of friends from Sweden attended the race, which added to the magnitude of the event for Alund. But he is ready to get back to business in Vegas and hopes a breakthrough performance awaits.
"It was fun having them there, and it is nice to have familiar faces around, but right now, I'm getting so comfortable with the rest of the guys that it doesn't bother me,” Alund said. “I'm feeling really comfortable going up to the starting line and seeing the faces. We have our procedures, and it's starting to really jell now. It's starting to work. Now we just need to get the round-win. That's what is next."
It certainly won’t come easy in a class that boasts an abundance of championship talent, including reigning champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. and his Mopar Dodge Dart teammate, Allen Johnson, who is the defending winner and has posted back-to-back victories in 2014 to take over the points lead.
Erica Enders-Stevens, V. Gaines, Shane Gray, Vincent Nobile, Larry Morgan, Chris McGaha, and Dave Connolly add to the tough competition, but Alund seems to be embracing that aspect of racing in the NHRA. The bright lights of Vegas won’t make things any easier, though Alund seems to welcome that spotlight, too.
“It will be a great race, that is for sure,” Alund said. “The car is coming along, and I’m getting more acquainted with the way they race over here. I’m learning where the tools are, getting my own routines now around this camp. It’s going to get better.”
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds and enjoy cherished face time with their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
On Thursday, March 27, NHRA will host a Fanfest at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino (5-7 p.m.). The NHRA Fanfest will give fans an opportunity to meet and greet drivers, get autographs, check out show cars, take photos with their favorite drivers, and more before the drivers go full throttle at LVMS.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins Friday, March 28, with sessions at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, March 29, at 1:10 and 4:50 p.m. The K&N Horsepower Challenge will run at 1, 3:45, and 4:45 p.m. Saturday. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday, March 30.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to www.LVMS.com or call Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 800-664-4444. General-admission tickets for children 12 and younger are free with any paid adult ticket.