CONCORD, NC – A regular season filled with struggles changed almost overnight for Tony Schumacher. The Top Fuel legend and eight-time world champ enjoyed a sizeable turnaround to open the Countdown to the Championship, advancing to the semifinals last weekend to kick off the playoffs.
He moved up to ninth in the points standings heading to this weekend’s betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway, determined to make another significant jump at a track that has served him well over the years in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series.
Schumacher has won the Charlotte fall race twice and is excited for another big weekend at the Bellagio of dragstrips. Last weekend was Schumacher’s best performance in his 11,000-horsepower SCAG Power Equipment/JCM Racing dragster in three months and it couldn’t have happened at a better time as the 86-time event winner has his sights set on a big playoff push.
KALITTA GETS 50TH WIN; HIGHT, HARTFORD AND M. SMITH ALSO OPEN PLAYOFFS WITH VICTORIES AT PEP BOYS NHRA NATIONALS
Tony Stewart moves back into Top Alcohol Dragster points lead with second victory of the season as well
READING, PA – Top Fuel’s Doug Kalitta picked up his milestone 50th career win on Monday at Maple Grove Raceway, earning his first victory in nearly three years after driving past Steve Torrence in the final round of the 38th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals, the first race in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Robert Hight (Funny Car), Matt Hartford (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won the 16th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, and the first of six events in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. The points lead changed hands in every class this weekend as well, with three of the four winners (Hight, Hartford and Smith) taking over the top spot.
In the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, Hall of Fame driver Tony Stewart moved back into the points lead as well with his second national event win – and fourth victory overall this season in his Mobil 1 McPhillips Racing dragster. Stewart’s run of 5.213-seconds at 271.19 mph gave him the victory over Madison Payne in the final round, which comes on the heels of winning the divisional event at Maple Grove Raceway in early August.
Action will begin at 10 a.m. ET with the completion of the semifinals in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, starting with the remaining Top Fuel semifinal between Steve Torrence and Tony Schumacher. Finals in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will also take place on Monday. The race will be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. ET on Monday on Fox Sports 1 (FS1).
Top Fuel’s Doug Kalitta is the lone driver who has advanced to the final round of the first race in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, putting together a string of runs in the 3.60s, including a pass of 3.684-seconds at 332.84 mph to get a holeshot win over Leah Pruett in the semifinals. If Kalitta wins in the final round, the veteran would pick up his 50th career victory. He’ll take on the winner of Schumacher and Torrence, who will meet in the other semifinal and will kick off raceday on Monday.
TASCA, ASHLEY, ENDERS AND HERRERA QUALIFY NO. 1 IN FRONT OF SELLOUT CROWD AT PEP BOYS NHRA NATIONALS
READING, PA – Bob Tasca III ended Funny Car qualifying in style on Saturday at Maple Grove Raceway, powering to the No. 1 position in front of a sellout crowd at the 38th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals, the first race in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Justin Ashley (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also qualified No. 1 at the 16th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, and the first of six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. It was the seventh sellout crowd of the 2023 season. Sunday’s eliminations were also moved up to 9:30 a.m. ET at Maple Grove Raceway.
Tasca, who entered the weekend fourth in points, raced to his fifth No. 1 spot this season with a standout run of 3.866-seconds at 328.30 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Motorcraft/Quick Ford Mustang. It’s the 14th career top spot for the veteran, who is seeking his second career win at Maple Grove Raceway and third this season.
READING, PA – Points leader Justin Ashley started the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs in impressive fashion at Maple Grove Raceway, powering to the provisional No. 1 spot in Top Fuel on Friday at the 38th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals.
Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 16th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, and the first of six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Ashley put together a run of 3.687-seconds at 335.57 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Phillips Connect Toyota dragster at his home track, vaulting to the No. 1 position after struggling during the opening session. If it holds, it would be Ashley’s third No. 1 this season and fifth in his career. Seeking his first world championship, it’s already been a banner season for Ashley, as the points leader has six wins heading into the playoffs. But he’s only focused on the task at hand during the Countdown to the Championship.
“That was a great run for this Phillips Connect Toyota team,” Ashley said. “We didn’t have a great run in the first session. This is basically a home race for me since I am from New York and we have a lot of friends and family here. You want to do well to start the Countdown and this was a great start. That run felt really good and it was a great way to wrap up the first day of the Pep Boys Nationals.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE POINTS LEADER GAIGE HERRERA EAGER TO MAKE PLAYOFF DEBUT AT PEP BOYS NHRA NATIONALS
READING, PA– A dominant and incredible regular season was one to remember for relative Pro Stock Motorcycle newcomer Gaige Herrera. Now, the second-year rider hopes to enjoy the same success in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, which opens at this weekend’s 38th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
It’s the first appearance in the Countdown to the Championship for Herrera, but the points leader seems eager to embrace the challenge on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. His points lead will be 29 points over reigning world champion Matt Smith to open the six-race playoff, with a host of talented riders close behind.
Herrera, though, has plenty of confidence, thanks in part to a standout season that has included six victories in nine Pro Stock Motorcycle races thus far and eight No. 1 qualifiers. With the challenges only getting bigger starting this weekend in Reading, Herrera hopes to take his own performance up a notch.
ST. LOUIS – The NHRA Countdown to the Championship hits the halfway point in St. Louis, as all the top stars in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series return to World Wide Technology Raceway for the highly-anticipated 12th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals on Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
The memorable three days of action serves as the third of six NHRA playoff races (and the 18th of 21 races in the 2023 campaign), with the annual stop in St. Louis always a huge attraction for fans wanting to get a taste of the incredible 11,000-horsepower, 330-mph action.
It starts with a special qualifying session under the lights on Friday to open the action, continuing with two more qualifying sessions on Saturday in front of what has traditionally been a sellout crowd in St. Louis, and is capped off by Sunday eliminations as the contenders in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle compete for a key Countdown to the Championship victory.
CONCORD, NC – As the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to zMAX Dragway for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs for the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals on Sept. 22-24, drivers remain focused on dreams of an NHRA world championship.
The event marks the second race of the six-race playoffs and with four NHRA professional categories on track, the event promises to deliver all the thrilling racing action fans expect at zMAX Dragway, the Bellagio of dragstrips.
The playoff event will open with one round of qualifying on Friday with a pair of qualifying sessions on Saturday before the contenders in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle gear up for race day on Sunday.
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) claimed victories in 2022. This year’s race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including eliminations coverage at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 24, as drivers look to impress the Carolina fans.
READING, PA – Heading into the opening race of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, this weekend’s 38th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, Funny Car standout Ron Capps knows the challenge that awaits.
The back-to-back world champ leads the loaded Funny Car field heading into Reading, and he’s also feeling great thanks to back-to-back wins to end the regular season. That includes a second straight U.S. Nationals victory, but Capps is fully aware that doesn’t make things any easier in the six-race sprint to a world championship.
He leads Matt Hagan by just 24 points and with a host of incredible standouts in the field, Capps will have his work cut out for him in his 11,000-horsepower NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra. But those are also the moments the 76-time event winner seems to live for, especially this time of year.
TOP FUEL’S ANTRON BROWN LOOKS TO KEEP ROLLING TO OPEN COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP AT PEP BOYS NHRA NATIONALS
READING, PA – Antron Brown won’t start the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship playoffs with the Top Fuel points lead. That honor goes to Justin Ashley on the strength of six wins and a series of spectacular performances during the regular season.
But nobody enters the Countdown to the Championship – and this weekend’s opener, the 38th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway – with more momentum than Brown, who heads into the playoffs on the strength of back-to-back wins in his 11,000-horsepower Matco Tools/Toyota dragster. That includes victories in Brainerd and at the U.S. Nationals in Indy, bumping Brown up to third in points.
Looking for his fourth career world championship, Brown trails Ashley by just 44 points, with four-time world champion Steve Torrence sandwiched in between at 30 points back of Ashley. With a host of standouts right behind Brown, including Leah Pruett and defending world champion Brittany Force, the veteran and 74-time event winner knows the Countdown will be a challenge. But an immediate win right of the gates this weekend at Maple Grove Raceway – and a third straight overall victory this year – would be a strong statement to start the playoffs.