"Holy Toledo!"

October 30, 2008

2008 NHRA Season Roars To The Top End At Full Throttle

Filed under: NHRA — Bill @ 3:49 pm

“Top Fuel dragsters are an absolute assault on the senses just watching them. The ground quakes, the sound waves sends shivers through your body. The nitro nuzzles your nose and eyes, the tire smoke fogs in the starting line. Aren’t they great?” —Steve Evans (1998)

Like the snug fit of a racing glove nothing could be more fitting than a quote from the famed late great announcer Steve Evans. As we enter this Halloween weekend only two races remain, just eight rounds of racing to find out who will take home the treats and who gets stuck with the tricks. The 2008 NHRA POWERade season is coming to its conclusion and titles are at stake.

Winning an NHRA Championship is the pinnacle of a professional drag racer’s career. Like most sports few will ever achieve such a lofty goal. Those in contention must stake their claim now because they might never get another shot. Then there are the former champions hoping to regain their position at the mountain top. Some will return to compete again, others will fade away into the sunset. Winning an NHRA title is much more than the culmination of a season’s worth of hard work, it places your name on a list of legends that can never be erased.

Perhaps now you begin to grasp the importance of these final two races. The beginning of the end starts Friday at The Strip at Las Vegas, the site of the AC Delco Las Vegas Nationals. The season ends two weeks later in Pomona at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. The time is now, produce or go home dreaming of what could have been.

Of the four pro classes only one (Top Fuel) is virtually locked up. In Funny Car, Pro Stock, & Pro Stock Motorcycle the battle rages on. Here is a review of the standings.

The smallest lead is held by Pro Stock Motorcycle driver Matt Smith, who holds a slim 42 point edge over Ed Krewiec. Chris Rivas is 79 points back. Angelle Sampey (-102) and Steve Johnson (-119) are still mathematically alive but their hopes look dim.

Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson has dominated most of the season, surviving attacks from several of the big budget teams. Currently Wilkerson is 51 pts. ahead of the red hot Jack Beckman, and 69 pts. ahead of the consistent Cruz Pedregon. Last year’s champ Tony Pedregon is 91 back, just one point ahead of JFR’s Robert Hight. Ashley Force, daughter of John, has had a fine season. Still not officially eliminated at 130 pts. down, she must know that it would take a miracle to win it all.

From this fan’s perspective I sure would love to see the low buck independent Wilkerson knock off the big boys to claim his first ever championship.

In Pro Stock the battle appears to be down to just four. Jeg Coughlin sits at the top, followed by Kurt Johnson (-74) and the young gun Dave Connolly (-77). Former champ Greg Anderson has slumped of late and is now 82 behind. Given the competitive nature of this class combined with the volume of cars that can win on any given weekend it is difficult to predict how this battle will end up. My rooting interest is with KJ, it would be nice to see him bring home his first NHRA crown.

What we witnessed this year in Top Fuel was by far the most dominating performance ever by a drag racing team in any catagory in the history of this sport. Move over John Force, make room Snake, even the great Big Daddy, Bob Glidden, & Shirley Muldowney never had a year like this one.

Most career wins in T/F, most cnnsecututive races won,most races won in a season most round wins in a seasn, most round wins in a row, they made more records than Elvis.

Now it is time to honor the greatest drag racing team ever assembled. The US Army dragster tuned by Alan Johnson and driven by Tony Schumacher has been virtually unbeatable since early July. This team has carved up the record books like they were taking apart the Thanksgiving turkey. For those who follow this sport you know how dominant they have been, to the point that seeing them win every weekend has become almost boring. Alan Johnson, in my opinion the greatest fuel tuner of all-time (a subject for a future article), is moving on to form his own team next year. The dynasty is being broken up. Meanwhile every other Top Fuel team is planning a parade. Before they go however, let’s give them their just due, tip out hat, and watch these last two races for they will be the last time we will ever see this amazing team work together.

The battle for second place in Top Fuel is still undecided. Hillary Will is currently 32 points ahead of Antron Brown and only 37 pts. up on Cory McClenathan. Next is a group of three, of which any could catch Hillary. Larry Dixon (-62), Doug Herbert (-70) and Brandon Bernstein (-75). One could argue that the battle for 2nd place in Top Fuel could be the most competitive.

Drag racing fans all across America will be watching this weekend as the championship chase nears its final chapter, but like every good book we will hate to see it end.

Happiness is a low E.T.

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