For the thousands of racers who compete in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, the only thing better than qualifying for the JEGS Allstars team is winning a JEGS Allstars title, and that will be the goal of the 80 racers from across North America who are headed for Route 66 Raceway for the specialty event, which will be held Saturday June, 5, during the United Association Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Miller Welders.
Launched more than a quarter-century ago at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Ky., before moving to Chicago, the JEGS Allstars is an annual competition at which drivers from each of NHRA’s seven geographic regions compete for individual and team honors. Racers can only qualify for the event by earning points in their home divisions during a yearlong battle in the following NHRA Lucas Oil Series categories; Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Comp, Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, and Super Street. This year, a pair of exciting new classes, Top Dragster and Top Sportsman, have been added to the mix, expanding the field from 64 to 80 drivers. At the end of the competition, the winning team will share a $20,000 bonus from a purse of more than $100,000.
Last year, the host team from the North Central Division (Division 3) won the team title for the sixth time, using a late rally to stave off the Northeast Division crew. With a roster that includes Ken Perry in Top Alcohol Dragster, Andy Bohl in Top Alcohol Funny Car, and reigning NHRA national champion Ray Connolly in Super Gas, the North Central team again figures to be a force to be reckoned with.
The Northeast Division (Division 1) team will be looking for a measure of revenge and its seventh team title, and with 13-time Top Alcohol Funny Car champion Frank Manzo and former NHRA Comp champ Frank Aragona Jr. leading the way, it will again be among the favorites. The Northeast Division squad also includes John Finke in Top Alcohol Dragster and Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals Stock winner Joe Santangelo, who will be racing in Super Stock.
Top Alcohol Dragster racer Duane Shields, who drove to victory at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX in Topeka, will be the cornerstone of a very competitive Southeast Division (Division 2) team that also will feature Mickey Ferro (Top Alcohol Funny Car), Arnie Martel (Comp), and 19-year-old Ray Miller III, who will be doing double duty as a JEGS Allstars representative in Super Comp and Top Dragster. The Southeast Division team has a long history of success in the JEGS Allstars competition, having won six team titles.
The South Central Division (Division 4) has claimed five team titles, the most recent in 2003. This year's formidable team will include Malcolm Wahle (Top Alcohol Dragster), Burl Brown (Top Alcohol Funny Car), Adam Hickey (Comp), and veteran Gary Emmons (Super Stock).
Amazingly, the West Central Division (Division 5) team has never won a JEGS Allstars title, but that could change this year with a roster that includes Ed Schmeeckle (Top Alcohol Dragster), Roger Bateman (Top Alcohol Funny Car), and Matt Harris (Comp) as well as newcomers Josh Vettel and Clarence Mayo, who will be the team representatives in Top Sportsman and Top Dragster, respectively.
The team from the Northwest Division (Division 6) will be looking to rebound after a disappointing finish in 2009. This year, its hopes are pinned on Shawn Cowie in Top Alcohol Dragster, Ken Webster in Top Alcohol Funny Car, and former Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil winner Doug Lambeck in Comp. The Division 6 team also features the only female driver in the field, Jackie Alley, who earned her spot in Super Stock. The Northwest Division has won two JEGS Allstars team titles (1988 and 2005).
The squad from the Pacific Division (Division 7) is also looking for its first team title, and this year’s lineup offers perhaps the best chance for a victory. Jim Whiteley (Top Alcohol Dragster) and Steve Gasparrelli (Top Alcohol Funny Car) will be joined by past national event winner Mike DePalma in Comp and Val Torres Jr., who finished the 2009 season as NHRA’s fourth-ranked Super Gas driver.
Though the JEGS Allstars is a highly competitive event, camaraderie between racers and their crews is evident, especially during Friday’s racer-appreciation barbecue, which is open to all JEGS Allstars competitors, their families, and crews. The barbecue is scheduled for 8 p.m., at the conclusion of the second Friday Pro Stock qualifying session.