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Apr 24

New talent in NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series

The NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series has always featured a number of viable championship contenders. But with an impressive infusion of new talent, the list of title challengers possibly reads longer than it ev…

Apr 24

Houston team reports

Apr 24

Pedregon hopes past success leads to 2014 turnaround in Houston

Cruz Pedregon has had far too much success and has been around the sport far too long to get overly concerned about a slow start to his 2014 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. Plus, the two-time Funny Car …

Apr 23

Texan Torrence has first homestate Top Fuel win in sights

It’s taken just five races during the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series for Steve Torrence to realize his season is not like last year and for the Top Fuel standout, that’s a good thing.
Gone are the im…

Apr 23

Mike Dunn’s Houston Power Rankings

Antron Brown, Robert Hight, and Erica Enders-Stevens are the top picks in ESPN2 analyst Mike Dunn’s Power Rankings heading into the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries in Houston.

TO…

Apr 23

Anderson back in the seat in Houston

Former NHRA Pro Stock world champion Greg Anderson will be back behind the wheel of the Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro at the 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super start Batte…

Apr 23

Mark Cox collects back-to-back wins 12 years apart, rides into IHRA record books

Apr 22

J&A Service named presenting sponsor of NHRA Pro Mod event in Houston

J&A Service, a leader in oil and gas well servicing exploration, will be the presenting sponsor for the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series event at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals, April 25-27, at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas. The race is the second race of the season for the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.
Featuring the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer race cars, highlighted by ’63 Corvettes, ’68 Camaros, ’67 Mustangs and ’68 Firebirds, as well as a variety of late-model cars, the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series offers something for every kind of hot-rodding enthusiast.
‘J&A Service along with all the presenting sponsors of the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series are instrumental to the success of the series,’ said Gary Darcy, senior vice president of sales and marketing, NHRA. ‘Twenty-seven Pro Mod cars attempted to qualify for the season-opening event and we expect another full field of high caliber cars at Houston.’
J&A Service, owned by veteran racers Jim and Annie Whitely, is located in Grand Junction, Colo. The company, a national oil and gas well-servicing business, leases and operates all forms of well-completion equipment, and is the innovator of its patented Green Completions Unit, a self-contained, high-capacity mobile flowback separator that contains 99 percent of all airborne contaminates. Mobile units are available for sale or lease. J&A Service is also a proud sponsor of the nationally acclaimed YNOT Racing Team.
The 2014 NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series competes during a 10-race schedule, with each event televised on the Velocity Channel. The season kicked off at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals with Mike Castellana taking the opening victory over 2013 series champion Rickie Smith. Each race will air in a half-hour show on the Velocity Channel, which launched in October and is owned by the Discovery Network. The shows, produced by Masters Entertainment Group, will air during 10 consecutive weeks in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Apr 22

Wilkerson ready to end winless streak in Houston

Tim Wilkerson knew about the streak at the most recent NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event, just like he did last year at Royal Purple Raceway when he advanced to the final round. But with a 60-race winless streak dating back to Seattle in 2011, Wilkerson is eager to put the drought to rest.
The driver of the Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang gets his next opportunity to end the streak at the 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries, April 25-27, at Royal Purple Raceway.
Wilkerson is well-aware of the near misses, close defeats, bad luck, and whatever else that has kept him out of the winner’s circle for far too long, but he remains confident that the next victory, which would be the 18th in his successful career, is coming soon.
‘I absolutely feel like we have a lot of momentum going, and I’ve felt it building for a couple of races now,’ said Wilkerson, who advanced to the final foursome at the recent NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte. ‘In Charlotte, I felt pretty good going in, and basically the car did everything it was supposed to do until we hopped it up for the final round. We felt we had to roll the dice and run our best number of the weekend. Instead, we were the ones who messed up. Other than that, we have a good car, and the team is clicking.’
Bob Vandergriff Jr. (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), and Jason Line (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event at one of the circuit’s quickest and fastest tracks. The event, the sixth of 24 during the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, will once again be televised on ESPN2.
In all, Wilkerson has four final-round appearances since his last victory, but just making it to finals last year in Houston was an adventure. With ESPN2 broadcasting live during the semifinals and finals, teams worked through tighter turnaround times. That presented a strong challenge to Wilkerson, who qualified second, and his young team, but with a little assistance, they came through in that regard.
The only down note was falling to Pedregon in the finals when the two-time world champion won for the third time in Houston.
‘As soon as I heard about (the tighter turnaround times), I said ‘Well, I guess that guarantees that we’ll be in the final’ because our young crew was still really inexperienced at the time, and I didn’t think there was any way we could make it,’ Wilkerson said. ‘Sure enough, we really ran great there and went right to the final. Fortunately, the entire (Funny Car driver Bob) Tasca team was waiting for us in our pit when we got back after winning our semifinal, and without them, I’m not sure we could’ve done it. I wanted to win that one so bad for my guys, who really worked their butts off all weekend and all day on Sunday. I wish it would’ve worked out.’
That’s been a sentiment Wilkerson has felt far too often since winning in Seattle in 2011, but he remains as dangerous as anyone in the ultra-competitive class. After advancing to the final foursome at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, Wilkerson jumped to eighth in points, and he has been a top-10 finisher in Funny Car for the past six seasons. Wilkerson has also been successful in Houston, winning the event in 2004.

‘I’m not sure why we run well there because it’s a really unique place,’ Wilkerson said. ‘You’re at sea level, so there’s a ton of air, but you’re also right off the Gulf of Mexico, so the humidity is through the roof usually. It’s normally pretty hot, and we always run well on hot tracks, so maybe it’s the combination of the air being tricky and the sun baking the track, and we just find a way to handle it.’
Handling the impressive number of championship contenders in Funny Car is just as difficult. Points leader Robert Hight is red-hot after picking up his second win and fourth final-round appearance of the season in Charlotte, and teammate and 16-time Funny Car world champ John Force’s seven wins in Houston are the most for any driver.
Other favorites include Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Tony Pedregon, Del Worsham, Jack Beckman, and Tommy Johnson Jr., but Wilkerson is as focused as ever to return to the win column.
‘We haven’t won a race since 2011, but we’ve been in a bunch of final rounds, and we’ve lost too many of them by being safe by just trying to get down the track,’ Wilkerson said. ‘It stinks to have the chance and not seal the deal, but I’m really proud of my guys, and we took some huge strides (in Charlotte). We’re better than we were at the last race, and we feel like we’ve got a shot to win any weekend now.’
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 some cherished face time and get autographs from 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.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins Friday, April 25, with sessions at 4 and 6:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, April 26, at 12:30 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for Sunday, April 28, at 11 a.m. Pro Mod qualifying is set for Friday, April 25, at 6 p.m. and Saturday, April 26, at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Pro Mod eliminations are scheduled for Sunday at 9:45 a.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to www.royalpurpleraceway.com or call Royal Purple Raceway at 281-383-RACE (7223). Tickets for children 13 and younger are free in reserved sections on spectator side with paid adult tickets.

Apr 21

Vandergriff aiming for the stars in Houston

Bob Vandergriff Jr. described his victory a year ago at Royal Purple Raceway as having a touch of Hollywood. It’s not often that sequels are held in higher regard than the original in the movie industry, but the Top Fuel standout hopes the 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries, April 25-27, at Royal Purple Raceway provides the rare exception.
After winning a year ago, Vandergriff jogged back up his lane to greet his teammates, a customary move whenever the driver of the C&J Energy Services dragster wins a race. But with the event being the closest race for Vandergriff’s sponsor, the victory became that much more special.
‘Those are great memories, Hollywood movie type stuff,’ Vandergriff said. ‘Winning at your sponsor’s home track with their employees and customers rooting you on was incredible. If it had been a movie people would have said, ‘Yeah right, it would never ever happen like that,’ so it was pretty exciting.’
Along with Vandergriff, Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event at one of the circuit’s quickest and fastest tracks. The event, the sixth of 24 during the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, will once again be televised on ESPN2.
Vandergriff could also be due for a Hollywood-type stroke of luck after a run of unfortunate events to open his 2014 season. The Georgia native started the season with first-round losses at each of the first three events of the season before advancing to the second round at the most recent event in Las Vegas.
Despite the struggles, Vandergriff has been impressed with how his dragster has performed. Numerous strokes of bad luck in eliminations have proved to be costly, but Vandergriff remains confident the script will change soon.
‘Our car has been very good this season and we’ve already had more runs in the 3.70′s in the first few races than we did in the previous two years,’ said Vandergriff, who is currently 10th in points. ‘We set a personal speed record at more than 328 mph and our second quickest run ever at 3.743, (but) we just have had some freak parts breakage and bad luck.
‘I feel we are getting ready to go on a run and we have a car that’s more than capable of not only winning a race but winning multiple races. We just have keep moving forward. The car is capable and it’s time to start showing it.’
Vandergriff, who holds three career victories, certainly has good vibes heading into Royal Purple Raceway. It is the site of his last victory, as Vandergriff overcame the elements to defeat eventual world champion Shawn Langdon in the final round.

‘Last year was a huge curveball because of the huge amount of rain they had and what it did to the track,’ Vandergriff said. ‘I knew it was going to be one of those races where just going down the track was going to be a challenge. We didn’t make it down fully until the final round but they gave us enough chances and we ended up winning the race.’
Repeating that scenario will be difficult this year, but Vandergriff is fine with that so long as the outcome is the same. He will face heavy challenges from a loaded Top Fuel field that is currently headed by points leader Doug Kalitta, who has one win and three final round appearances in 2014.
Other marquee contenders include Tony Schumacher, who has two wins in Houston, reigning champ Langdon, 2012 world champ and 2008 Houston event winner Antron Brown, Steve Torrence, Spencer Massey, 2014 rookie Richie Crampton and Winternationals winner Khalid alBalooshi.
‘You just don’t get a round off in this class,’ Vandergriff said. ‘They are at least 12 cars at each race fully capable of running 3.70s and if you don’t have your act together each round you can plan on going home real quick.’
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 some cherished face time and get autographs from 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.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins Friday, April 25, with sessions at 4 and 6:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, April 26, at 12:30 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 28. Pro Mod qualifying is set for Friday, April 25 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, April 26 at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Pro Mod eliminations are scheduled for Sunday at 9:45 a.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to www.royalpurpleraceway.com or call Royal Purple Raceway at 281-383-RACE (7223). Tickets for children 13 and younger are free in reserved sections on spectator side with paid adult tickets.

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