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Updated: 2 years 38 weeks ago

Paul Richards Racing, Lagana gear up for Denver

Tue, 07/19/2011 - 12:29pm

Paul Richards Racing has announced that TBC Retail Group has added the 32nd annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals to the team’s schedule with Dominick Lagana driving the Big O Tires/Service Central Top Fuel dragster at Bandimere Speedway.

Prior to the race weekend, Lagana and fellow Service Central drivers Johnny and Shane Gray will make a special visit to the Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation July 21, where they will greet oncology children and their families throughout the day. Lagana also will be giving goody bags that have been graciously donated by partners such as Summit Racing, McLeod Clutches, and Paul Richards Racing to children.

“Win, lose, or draw at the track this weekend, this event is the winner in my book,” Lagana commented. “The children are the winners, and I hope with our team’s visit, it will help them get better as they move forward in life. These visits are a big part of what we do as a team. Paul does every display or charity event possible, and my brother Bobby and I love doing them as well,” Lagana said.

Mopar Big Block event kicks off Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals

Tue, 07/19/2011 - 11:48am

The 32nd annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals will kick off on Thursday, July 21, from 6 to 10 p.m. with the free-admission 10th annual Mopar Big Block event, which will transform the quaint streets of downtown Golden, Colo., into one giant Mopar Nation celebration. Highlighting the event will be a Team Mopar autograph session scheduled from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. featuring NHRA stars including Allen Johnson, Matt Hagan, Vincent Nobile, V. Gaines, Jack Beckman, Spencer Massey, Roy Johnson, and Judy Lilly and SCCA road-racing star Cindi Lux.

“The Block Party is always a great time and something we really enjoy,” said Johnson. “All of the loyal Mopar fans are there, and it’s a neat experience. It doesn’t matter how many times you have done it, it’s enjoyable each and every time out there. Many of the Mopar enthusiasts come year after year to the Mile-Highs, and it’s the only time we get to see them each year, so we try to make sure we spend as much time as we can with the fans at the Block Party.”

Famed blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who will reclaim the keys to a special Dodge 330 built for him by Mopar, will also sign autographs at the event. SpeedFreaks radio hosts Kenny Sargent and Crash Gladys will emcee the proceedings, which will include a Mopar trivia contest where fans may test their knowledge about their favorite Mopar drivers in exchange for Mopar prizes. The Mopar Big Block Event will also feature a Personalization Station, where Mopar technicians will demonstrate the easy installation of select Mopar parts and accessories on to a Dodge Charger. In addition, a Mopar Express Lane exhibit will be on site to spotlight Mopar’s new quick oil-change service.

Mopar race car and display vehicles will line the streets, providing Mopar enthusiasts a glimpse at a variety of high-performance vehicles that perform both on the track and on the street. Mopar clubs from the area will also exhibit their personal rides. Local rock band Rated M will kick out the jams throughout the night, with food and beverages available for purchase at booths manned by local vendors. 

For tickets for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, log on to the
Bandimere Speedway website or call 800-664-UWIN (8946).

Gray, Hagan to sport special paint schemes in Denver

Mon, 07/18/2011 - 11:42am

Don Schumacher Racing drivers Johnny Gray and Matt Hagan will sport special paint schemes for this weekend’s 32nd annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. Gray’s Service Central Racing Lemonator Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car is part of a monthlong fundraising campaign for the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, and Hagan’s Mopar scheme honors the event sponsor.

The unique design of Gray’s car – chosen by fans of the Service Central Facebook page – celebrates the monthlong grassroots-fundraising effort at the TBC Retail Group’s family of retail tire and automotive-service centers (Tire Kingdom, NTB-National Tire and Battery, Merchant’s Tire and Auto Center, and Big O Tires) to raise money in the race to find a cure for childhood cancer.

“I’m very excited to help this cause any way I can,” said Gray. “I am honored to be chosen to drive the Lemonator.”

Hagan hopes a second year driving the Mopar/DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car at this race will produce another successful day at the event. Last year, his first carrying the Mopar livery, the 28-year-old DSR driver qualified first, setting low elapsed time and top speed of the event, en route to a semifinal finish.

“I’m really pumped about returning to Denver in the Mopar Funny Car,” said Hagan. “We had a really good showing there last year. The car sparked interest, and we had fun with the entire Mopar relationship, and they seemed to enjoy it as well.”

For tickets for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, log on to the Bandimere Speedway website or call 800-664-UWIN (8946).

Nitro Rewind winds up Chicago and swings for Denver

Mon, 07/18/2011 - 11:33am

With the Western Swing right around the corner, Nitro Rewind is back, talking about the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Chicago and taking a first look at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver, July 22-24. The show, an Internet-based broadcast hosted by Bill Stephens, features interviews from NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car competitors and is available on NHRA’s YouTube channel after every NHRA national event.

“Mike Neff is making it a habit of appearing on Nitro Rewind with his second win in a row. He gives us some great insight into the men behind the man, including Bernie Fedderly, Jon Schaffer, and Dan Hood,” said Ashley Force Hood, John Force Entertainment president.

“Antron Brown talks Western Swing, and Robert Hight talks about winning in Denver last year, which gives our viewers some cool perspective.”

Surprise Chicago first-round winner Dale Creasy Jr. talks about being part of a smaller team and going against the big teams. Also, Nitro Rewind host Stephens talks about another talent he has: media training with NHRA stars.

Every episode is posted on the NHRA YouTube channel the Thursday after each national event. For this week’s episode, log on to  http://youtu.be/IJ-XxjgKKDA.

To check out all of the episodes of Nitro Rewind, log on to www.youtube.com and search for Nitro Rewind or log on directly to the NHRA YouTube channel.
 

Smith revved up to continue the chase

Sun, 07/17/2011 - 12:19pm
Shortly after winning in Englishtown, Matt Smith lost his primary sponsor.

When Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Matt Smith won the NHRA SuperNationals in Englishtown earlier this season, he tallied a 13th victory in the category and jumped from eighth in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series standings to fifth. He was pumped up, but the elation was not to last for long.

Two days after beating then-points leader Karen Stoffer on a holeshot in the final at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, Smith, the 2007 world champion, received word that his sponsorship had dried up. The news was unexpected but fit a pattern of the highs and lows that Smith had been experiencing in recent times.

After successfully racing Pro Mod in Qatar during the winter – Smith drove both a car and motorcycle in the Arabian Drag Racing League during the off-season and set the record for the doorslammers with a 3.558 – the King, N.C.-based competitor was surprised and excited to learn in the eleventh hour that he would be among the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle title challengers for 2011 with the help of Al-Anabi Racing.

"We struggled the first part of the year because we didn't plan on running Pro Stock Bike," said Smith, who made the field at each of the first three events but was unable to garner more than a round-win in an outing until the SuperNationals.

"All of our stuff was kind of behind, but right before Englishtown, we found some power, and we ran good. When we got the call after that saying our sponsorship was done, at that point, I was frustrated and shocked more than anything, but we rebounded, and our team is looking good. I think we have a bike that can win the championship this year; you've just got to have funding to get to these races."

Smith bounced back from the disappointment and recorded a semifinal finish on his now stealth-black Buell in Norwalk.

Smith was down on financial support leaving New Jersey, but the Buell that he had debuted at the fall event in Las Vegas last season was lacking little. He rebounded from the startling news with a final-round finish in Norwalk, where he qualified No. 3 and had one of the quickest mounts during eliminations – he shone as low of the round in the semifinals – but broke a transmission gear in the final next to event winner Eddie Krawiec.

The points earned in Norwalk edged Smith up another position in the race to the Countdown to the Championship, into fourth, and in Chicago, he was at it again, blasting to the semifinals from the top half of the field and getting a fingerhold on another position higher in the standings. Smith, third after Chicago, had inched to within three rounds of the lead.

"Our goal at this moment is top 10, and right now, we're looking pretty good for that," said Smith.

The seasoned rider and his wife, fellow Pro Stock Motorcycle competitor Angie Smith, are hoping to take a bite out of the Western Swing and race at the upcoming Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver and the FRAM/Autolite NHRA Nationals in Sonoma. The Denver event holds fond memories for the engine builder/rider/tuner: He won back-to-back events at Denver's Bandimere Speedway, in 2008 and 2007, when he was also the leader during qualifying.

"I seem to run good there," said Smith. "We had a problem with our electrical [system] last year, but I think we could have won it then. Every year I've won up there, I did it when we had our own stuff.

"I'm approaching Denver a little different this year – if we go, we may not race every qualifying pass, and I can't run my best motor because you have to rev them so high. I can't afford to do that with our best stuff, so I'll save the motor that we found a lot of power in for Sonoma because you can give up horsepower in Denver and still run good."

The cautious strategy will allow Smith to save dollars at a facility where he understands the requirements of the conditions, and it will help to preserve his good form as the rest of the season plays out. Though Smith said that if he is leading the points, he will be pushing to get to every race, the tentative plan is to compete at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil in Indianapolis and the fall event at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte.

Smith has been working on getting his NHRA Pro Mod license.

Countdown aside, Indy will be a major focus for Smith this year because he recently earned his license to compete in the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series and intends to debut in the category at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Smith balked at the idea of pressure in pulling double duty at one of the most spotlighted events on the tour.

"Oh no," he said. "This is going to be fun. Dad [Rickie] is doing good and is ahead of schedule on healing [following a Pro Mod crash in Bristol], and he'll be at Indy with me, so it should be a good time driving the car and the bike. We'd like to win a championship for somebody with that bike, not just for ourselves but for a sponsor. We've got the power, and I believe we can do it, but hopefully, someone will come onboard and give us that chance."

Neff on Wind Tunnel Sunday night

Sun, 07/17/2011 - 12:31am

JEGS Allstars coverage to air this weekend

Fri, 07/15/2011 - 11:15am

The 27th running of the NHRA JEGS Allstars event will be televised this weekend during the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series TV show from the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway outside Chicago. 

The event showcases 80 of the best racers in 10 classes from across the country, highlighted by the 260-mph Top Alcohol Dragsters and Top Alcohol Funny Cars. Featured in the show will be final rounds of all categories, including the highly competitive Comp class, wheelstanding Super Stock, and Top Sportsman.

The show will air on ESPN2 Sunday, July 17, from 4  to 5 p.m. ET/1-3 p.m. PT. The program will also showcase NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series final eliminations from the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals.

 

Force Road Show revs up Denver-area Walmarts

Thu, 07/14/2011 - 7:09pm

Beginning this week, the John Force Road Show will be displaying five of the famed Funny Cars that helped the team win its 17 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championships at Denver-area Walmarts to promote the upcoming 32nd annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. The racing action will be at Bandimere Speedway July 22-24, but July 14-20, fans can see JFR Mustangs throughout the day and at some locations 24 hours a day at Walmarts in Littleton, Lakewood, and Wheat Ridge.

The five Mustangs on display will be John Force’s Superman Castrol GTX model as well as his 25th anniversary Castrol GTX High Mileage and Norwalk Night Under Fire P-51 Warbird-themed models, Robert Hight’s 2010 Auto Club model, and Ashley Force Hood’s Ronald McDonald Castrol GTX model that she raced in 2008.

“The Road Show has been all over the country at NASCAR races and the Indy 500. Partnering with Walmart to promote the national event coming to Bandimere Speedway was a special opportunity for us. Walmart is a big partner of Castrol’s, and I love supporting the Bandimere family that owns the racetrack,” said Force.

“I love being able to have five of our JFR hot rods all over Denver for nearly a week. We will be in front of over 250,000 people that go through those stores. This is what the Road Show is supposed to do, spread the gospel to people that might not be thinking about NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing. I hope they see one of these 8,000-horsepower Ford Mustang Funny Cars at a Walmart and then they want to come see it go nearly 300 mph at Bandimere Speedway.”

In addition to displaying race cars, the John Force Road Show educates and informs fans on NHRA, NASCAR, and IndyCar through videos shown throughout the day. Informational and contest kiosks will be at each store, where fans can sign up to win season-ending prizes, including a Ford Focus, AAA Travel vacation packages from Pleasant Holidays, Mac Tools toolboxes, and much more.

“This is an amazing opportunity for Walmart customers to see some of the most famous cars in NHRA history. Walmart customers will have an opportunity to be up close with 8,000-horsepower Funny Cars and get a discount coupon for the largest motorsports event in the Rocky Mountain region," said Mark Beatty, Bandimere Speedway sales and marketing. “Thanks to John Force racing and Walmart for putting together a great promo for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.”

Castrol representatives will be on site each day for a limited amount of time at each location distributing coupons and hosting promotions in the Tire & Lube Express.

After its time in Denver, the John Force Road Show will head north to the EAA AirVenure OshKosh Air Show in Oshkosh, Wis., July 24-31.

Walmart Store Displays
Denver Market
July 14-20, 2011

Walmart Store No. 5049
13420 W. Coal Mine Road
Littleton, CO 80127
Open 24 hours a day
303-979-2064


Walmart Store No. 1308
7700 Quincy Ave.
Littleton, CO 80123
Open 7 a.m.-midnight
303-971-0321

Walmart Store # 4284
440 Wadsworth Blvd.
Lakewood, CO 80226
Open 24 hours a day
303-205-0754

Walmart Store No. 2125
7455 W. Colfax Ave.
Lakewood, CO 80214
Open 24 hours a day
303-274-5211

Walmart Store No. 1208
3600 Youngfield St.
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
Open 24 hours a day
303-420-0640

Force Road Show revs up Denver-area Wal-Marts

Thu, 07/14/2011 - 7:09pm

Beginning this week the John Force Road Show will be displaying five of the famed Funny Cars that helped the team win its 17 Full Throttle NHRA Funny Car championships at area Denver Wal-Marts to promote the upcoming 32nd Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. The racing action will get underway at Bandimere Speedway on July 22-24 but from July 14-20 fans will be able to see John Force Racing Mustangs throughout the day and at some locations 24 hours a day at Wal-Marts in Littleton, Lakewood, and Wheat Ridge.

The five Mustangs on display will be John Force’s infamous Superman Castrol GTX Mustang as well as John Force’s 25th Anniversary Castrol GTX High Mileage, John Force’s Norwalk Night Under Fire P-51 Warbird-themed Mustang, Robert Hight’s 2010 Auto Club Ford Mustang and Ashley Force Hood’s Ronald McDonald Castrol GTX Mustang she raced in 2008.

“The Road Show has been all over the country at NASCAR races and the Indy 500. Partnering with Wal-Mart to promote the national event coming to Bandimere Speedway was a special opportunity for us. Wal-Mart is a big partner of Castrol’s and I love supporting the Bandimere family that owns the race track,” said John Force.

“I love being able to have five of our JFR hot rods all over Denver for nearly a week. We will be in front of over 250,000 people that go through those stores. This is what the Road Show is supposed to do, spread the gospel to people that might not be thinking about Full Throttle NHRA Drag Racing. I hope they see one of these 8,000 hp Ford Mustang Funny Cars at a Wal-Mart and then they want to come see it go nearly 300 mph at Bandimere Speedway.”

In addition to the race cars on display the John Force Road Show educates and informs fans on NHRA, NASCAR and Indy Car through videos showing throughout the day. Informational and contest kiosks will be at each store where fans can sign up to win season-ending prizes including a Ford Focus, AAA Travel vacation packages from Pleasant Holidays, Mac Tools tool boxes and much more. .

“This is an amazing opportunity for Wal-Mart customers to see some of the most famous cars in NHRA history. Wal-Mart customers will have an opportunity to be up close with 8,000 horsepower Funny Cars and get a discount coupon for the largest motor sports event in the Rocky Mountain region, said Mark Beatty, Bandimere Speedway Sales and Marketing. “Thanks to John Force racing and Wal-Mart for putting together a great promo for the MOPAR Mile-High NHRA Nationals”

Castrol representatives will be on site each day for a limited amount of time at each location distributing coupons and hosting promotions in the Tire & Lube Express.

After its time in Denver the John Force Road Show will head north to the EAA AirVenure OshKosh Air Show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, July 24-31.

Wal-Mart Store Displays
Denver Market
July 14 – 20, 2011

Wal-Mart Store # 5049
13420 W. Coal Mine Rd
Littleton, CO 80127
Open 24 Hours a day
303-979-2064


Wal-Mart Store # 1308
7700 Quincy Ave.
Littleton, CO 80123
Open 7am-Midnight
303-971-0321

Wal-Mart Store # 4284
440 Wadsworth Blvd.
Lakewood, CO 80226
Open 24 Hours a day
303-205-0754

Wal-Mart Store # 2125
7455 W. Colfax Ave.
Lakewood, CO 80214
Open 24 Hours a day
303-274-5211

Wal-Mart Store # 1208
3600 Youngfield St.
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
Open 24 Hours a day
303-420-0640

For Enders, a great drag race always begins with a perfect start

Thu, 07/14/2011 - 6:54pm

When Erica Enders starts her ZaZa Energy Pro Stock Chevrolet, she begins a long procedure that has made her one of the best drivers off the starting line in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. It's the same procedure she has used for years, and she repeats it every time she makes a pass down the dragstrip.

The procedure actually starts long before she crawls in the cockpit, when Enders takes 10 minutes of quiet time to begin focusing on the task at hand. Soon, she'll begin to clear her mind of outside thoughts and think only on cutting the best light.

"Once I buckle in, all the outside thoughts go away," Enders said. "I'm able to get all the distractions out of my head, and I think that's one of the reasons why I do a good job."

Easier said than done, of course, so Enders first asks for a little help from above.

"I pray for a clear head," Enders said. "Something my dad told me a long time ago was, 'Once you get in the race car, you can't change anything on the outside.' There are times when it's challenging to be able to do it, but most of the time, I'm able to forget everything else."

Before she fires the powerful Cagnazzi engine on her car, the actual starting-line procedure begins. And though the entire process only takes a few moments, Enders needs several minutes to verbally explain it.

First, she goes through a 12- to 15-step mental checklist before starting the 1,400-horsepower engine.

"That helps me to never forget anything," Enders said.

Then comes an array of moves, settings, and adjustments that boggle the mind: Enders fires the car, puts the transmission in 1st gear and rolls through the water box. She puts it in 2nd gear and then stops to make sure it's in gear. Next, she sets the brake pressure and revs the engine twice.

On the second rev, she drops the clutch and goes through the gears – 3rd, 4th, and 5th – as she drives across the starting line for the burnout.

When she stops after smoking the tires, she pushes in the clutch and begins to back up, listening to crew chief Dave Connolly on her radio as he positions her on the track and tells her where to stop.

Enders then goes through another mental checklist, this one more extensive than the first. Switches are toggled, then Connolly directs her forward to the correct spot.

Crewmember Rich Saulino then takes over at the side of the car and guides Enders to a spot just short of the starting line, inches from the pre-stage light.

And the checklist continues.

"I recheck everything," Enders said. "I'm one of the few drivers who hasn't ever forgot to turn my fuel pumps on or forgot to do this or that. I double-, triple-, quadruple-check everything."

She's communicating with her crew, too, confirming switches or changes, so she can check them off in her head and eliminate more things from her mind.

Before staging, Enders then puts the car in neutral to set the brake and clutch as the crew makes its last-second adjustments.

"Dave says, 'It's all yours,' " Enders said. "I take a deep breath, put my visor down, and make sure all my switches are in the right spot."

Enders pushes in the clutch and puts the transmission in 1st gear, rolling forward to turn on the pre-stage bulb. She sets the brake pressure and gets her left arm – her steering-wheel arm – in the correct position.

She revs the motor, gently lets the clutch out a little, and stages shallow in the second beam. The Christmas Tree will then begin, and Enders jams the throttle to launch, she hopes cutting a good light in the .020-second or quicker range.

Enders will then repeat the procedure – exactly – for the next session. And the next, and the next.

"There's always going to be something different every time you get in the car," Enders said, "but for the most part, I do my procedure the exact same way every time."

And that's with an incredibly long list of things to do, though Enders insists on repeating it every time – and with good reason.

"That's one of the things that is important to me," Enders said, "and I think it helps me drive better."

Time Travel Thursday: The Boertman husband-wife final

Thu, 07/14/2011 - 10:30am

Wife beats hubby in Boertman family final
Reprinted from the July 31, 1971, issue of
National DRAGSTER

Judi Boertman, near lane, earned her first and only national event Wally when husband Dave red-lighted in the Summernationals final.

NHRA SUMMERNATIONALS — We’ve seen many brother teams, father and son entries, and even entire clans, such as "Big John" Mazmanian’s "Armenian Army", but the newest and wildest yet is the Boertman husband and wife team, which methodically picked the Stock Eliminator field apart bit by bit until they achieved the ultimate in domination by meeting each other in the final. Whether he was suffering from the pressure of facing his wife in the final or being just plain courteous we don’t know, but defending champion Dave Boertman red-lighted in the final, letting his talented spouse Judi win Stock Eliminator! It is only the second time that a woman has won a major NHRA Eliminator title, but for the Boertmans, it was just another day at the races. As you probably already know, Dave had already won five previous Stock crowns.

It was no easy task for the duo as the field was flooded with "name" competitors. After dumping Bruce Haverland in the first round, Judi opened the second stanza with a win over super tough Jerry Stein when the latter broke out. Joe Kenney got past a red-lighting George Cureton, and Dave stopped Thomas Wilson with a 12.57. Loyed Woodland’s 12.12 got to Larry Lombardo, while Richard Feldman stopped Bob Beckert and Bobby Warren nipped Frank Cattone with a 12.87. Jim Kronenbitter’s 15.07 stopped Bob Pazos and Lyle Dokken dumped Frank Katie. Mark Mazzotti closed out the round with a win over Jim Waibel, who broke out.

Round three saw Judi lead off with a 12.75 win over Dokken, who ran out of his bracket, and husband Dave followed with a 13.16 pasting of Kronenbitter. Woodland’s 12.10 stopped Feldman and Warren hit a 12.76 to get past Kenney, Mazzotti singled for a bye, ending the round.

The fourth round began with Dave holding off Woodland’s 11.96 with a 12.52. Mazzotti got past the Springnationals Champions, Warren & Register, when the duo’s Chevy II broke out, and Judi singled with a 12.70.

In the semi’s, Judi hit another consistent 12.72, but it was not really needed as Mazzotti broke. Dave got the bye run, and produced an all-out 12.40, his quickest run of the day.

In the final, it was two Rod Shop cars, driven by two Boertmans coming up to the line. Judi had driven the Winternationals-winning station wagon all day long while Dave was in the Gatornationals-winning Charger. As mentioned earlier, Dave red-lighted, giving Judi the win.

It was not the first time that two cars from the same team had met in the final, as Candies & Hughes had pulled the same trick off at the 1970 Gatornationals with Larry Reyes driving the second car. But as mentioned before, it was the first time that a husband and wife had faced each other. And how about the Rod Shop team? With two finalists in Stock Eliminator and Mike Fons’ runner-up performance in Pro Stock, the enterprising group made their best showing yet.

But back to the husband/wife phenomenon. This performance shows best the unique benefits of drag racing, NHRA style. After all, there are few other motorsports in the country which permit your wife to work alongside you in the pits. And then when she gets to face you in the final of a national event, well that’s gotta be something else!

As part of the ongoing celebrations surrounding NHRA’s 60th anniversary, each Thursday, NHRA.com will reach back into the pages of National DRAGSTER and republish interesting and historic articles from past issues.

NHRA Review Panel modifies action regarding Strasburg suspension and fine

Wed, 07/13/2011 - 6:53pm

A three-person NHRA Review Panel has modified the NHRA’s action against Top Fuel driver Mike Strasburg, who was fined and suspended under its drug and alcohol testing policy. Strasburg was notified of the NHRA Review Panel’s decision in a letter dated July 6, 2011.

Strasburg originally was suspended for one year and fined $2,500 for not complying with NHRA’s drug and alcohol testing policy at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas earlier this year.  

The suspension was reduced until the 2011 FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals, July 29-31. However, the initial fine was upheld, and Strasburg will be required to pay the fine before he will be allowed to participate in future NHRA events.  
 

Late start a good thing for Grubnic

Wed, 07/13/2011 - 11:35am

Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel driver Dave Grubnic made big progress at the recent O'Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Chicago, where he drove his Candlewood Suites dragster to the final round of eliminations and vaulted right into the top 10 in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series standings. The final was his first of the year – in fact, it was his first since the Phoenix event in 2008 – but the belated blossoming wasn't the least bit unsettling for the amiable Aussie.

"You know, we've always been a little bit of a late starter," said Grubnic, whose car is tuned by legendary driver and team owner Connie Kalitta. "We went through the same sort of scenario last year, where we were fighting for the Countdown and ended up blasting ourselves into it in Reading.

"But we've been working with some stuff, and Connie has always been an innovator. We made some changes to our fuel system, and it seemed to pay some results [in Chicago] – the conditions were so demanding with trying not to strike the tires on that 130-degree racetrack, which is pretty much unavoidable, but the car ran great. Connie worked with that clutch, he knew what to do with it, and it was going down the racetrack."

Grubnic had a rough start to the season, recording a nonqualifying effort at the season opener at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, then seeing the door closed in the first round at six of the first 10 races of the 2011 season. But he qualified ninth at Route 66 Raceway – his best position since starting eighth at the Charlotte event this spring – and in the first round of eliminations, he got a little bit of a break when Abu Dhabi/Yas Marina Circuit driver Rod Fuller came up with a punctured left front tire and could not make the run in his DiGiorno pizza-backed rail. Grubnic showed promise right away; he was on a clean single pass until the tires began to spin downtrack, bringing the winning digits to a 4.26.

Conditions were changing for the worse, and crew chiefs were wearing very serious expressions as the quarterfinalists rolled to the starting line toward a track that was 10 degrees warmer than it had been in round one and hovered right below 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Kalitta had the right combination to get down the track, though, and Grubnic put a 4.04 on the scoreboard to defeat tire-smoking hometown favorite T.J. Zizzo. Although the winning number was good, it wasn't enough to earn lane choice in the semifinals, where he was to meet young holeshot ace Shawn Langdon, who had just issued a reminder of his quick reflexes when he beat reigning world champion Larry Dixon with a superior start and slower e.t., 3.96 to 3.95.

Grubnic took the upper hand in the meeting with Langdon and launched first, .075 to .090, then raced to a 4.10 as his opponent smoked the tires early. The final round set up Grubnic vs. incoming points leader Del Worsham, who had bested Grubnic's teammate Doug Kalitta in round two. Grubnic made a strong effort on a surface that had just barely cooled, but the win light flashed in Worsham's lane above a 3.97 to beat a 4.05.

There wasn't a win to be had, but the weekend was definitely one to be counted as a positive for the determined team: Both Grubnic and teammate Jeff Arend, driver of the DHL Funny Car, advanced to the last act, and a Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel dragster and Funny Car had never before been to the final at the same event.

Team owner Connie Kalitta

"Connie knew from past experience what it would be like and adjusted accordingly," said Grubnic. "The same with our Funny Car guys; it's all one big team. It was a great experience to sit in the car and watch Jeff and really hope he would win, and of course we wanted to have both our cars in the winner's circle. Unfortunately, we didn't achieve that goal, but we did get to the final round, and you have to get there to have a chance to win it.

"All the credit goes to Connie and my crew – James Riola, Gabe, Steve, Seth, Todd, Terry, Ed, and Mike, who was away and we missed that weekend. Corey Kalitta was on our car filling in for us, and that was pretty cool. They did a fantastic job, and for being out of touch with going rounds, they certainly haven't forgotten how to do it. They had that car ready well before we had to be up to the starting line."

Now the three-car team has a renewed enthusiasm and is busily gearing up to travel out west for the kickoff of the famed Western Swing, a strenuous stretch of back-to-back-to-back events in varying conditions that will begin in Denver.

At last season's Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, Grubnic set low e.t. of the meet in the first round on a 3.88 pass, which should have come as no surprise – success there has seemed to come almost easily for the group: Doug Kalitta walked away with the Wally last year, fallen teammate Scott Kalitta was a Denver Top Fuel winner in 1994, 1995, and 2004, and Connie has won on the mountain twice in a Top Fuel dragster (1984 and 1985).

"I'm excited," admitted Grubnic. "Last year, we'd done some work in other areas with our engines and tested some of those theories in Denver. The car ran pretty decent, and Connie wants to model what we did last year and see if we can improve on that. He did a great job there last year, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

"What we have to do is turn that performance into consistency because that's what wins races, and then we'll be in the hunt for the championship. You can't put the cart before the horse, so our goal is to qualify well, go rounds, and try to win every time we go to a national event. If we just continue with those short-term goals, then everything else should take care of itself."

For tickets for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, log on to the Bandimere Speedway website or call 800-664-UWIN (8946).