NHRA Notes: Maple Grove Safety Questioned

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, September 30 2011

Hector Arana Sr. says a bump in the Maple Grove track has been a problem. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Former NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Hector Arana Sr. is questioning a long-standing safety issue at Maple Grove Raceway heading into today’s Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa.

“I don’t know if they fixed Reading or not,” said Arana Sr., the 2009 PSM champion and rider of the Lucas Oil Buell. “There’s a bad bump right at the finish line. Because of that, no, I don’t like it. The bike really gets air, and it’s dangerous.”

Arana Sr., who has competed in 205 races since making his NHRA debut in 1990, said he chiefly is concerned about the safety of less-experienced riders in the class, including 22-year-old rookie Hector Arana Sr.

“The track-owners and NHRA have known about it for a long time, and yet it’s not been corrected,” said Arana Sr., 53, and winless in 2011. “Last year, the rumor was the whole track was going to get re-done. Mid-season, we heard it was only half of the track done. My concern was the finish line. Mainly, it’s for my son and for the people with less experience. If they look at history, there have been a lot of motorcycles that have gotten into problems there because of that.”

Riders in PSM will be approaching 195 mph at the end of the quarter-mile. “I’m hoping they (track management) address that and take care of it,” said Arana Sr., ninth in points entering the third of six

Larry Dixon is defending Top Fuel champ at Maple Grove. (File photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

events in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Defending event winners are Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle). Full Throttle qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. (EDT) today, and at 11:15 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 12:30 a.m. (EDT) on Sunday. A three-hour eliminations show will follow at 7 p.m. (EDT) Sunday on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD.

Arana Sr. doesn’t figure to be aiming for his own national elapsed-time record of 6.777-seconds set in Gainesville, Fla., earlier this year during the event. A series of glitches have plagued Arana Sr. and his new bike/engine, dubbed “Forrest.” Arana Sr. was a first-round loser during the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex in Ennis last Sunday when his bike failed to start at the line.

“I just want to make eight good runs, and that’s it,” Arana Sr. said. “I’m not worrying about records or anything. That’s all I need.”

Meanwhile, PSM points-leader Eddie Krawiec kept his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson in the Countdown top spot despite a second round-loss to Motorplex race-winner Michael Phillips. Phillips moved from 10th to seventh in points after his first win of the season aboard his The Edge Suzuki.

Krawiec, world champion in 2008, holds a 63-point lead over second-place Karen Stoffer and her

Biker Eddie Krawiec is leader of the pack heading to Reading.

GEICO Suzuki. Rookie Hector Arana Jr. moved into the third spot, 90 points out of first with a runner-up finish aboard his Lucas Oil Buell in Ennis.

Andrew Hines, a three-time world champion, said he and teammate Krawiec tested at zMAX Dragway in Concord,N.C., on the Monday after the Countdown opener (Sept. 19) in a bid to correct a clutch issue in their V-Rods.

“We smoked the (rear) tire like a Funny Car three runs in a row to start the day,” said Hines, fifth in points. “And on our fifth pass at the end of the day we were able to hit a home run. I came into Texas with a lot of confidence. Knowing that we’re able to make changes and see changes with the clutch setup that we have now is testament to how good my team is. We always try, we never give up.”

Spencer Massey logged a near-perfect weekend at Texas Motorplex, the facility where the Fort Worth native and resident cut his drag racing teeth. With a second consecutive runner-up finish after trailering Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown in the semifinals, Massey and his FRAM/Prestone dragster left The Plex in the points lead for the first time in his Top Fuel career. Massey lost in the final to first-time national event winner Bob Vandergriff Jr., who is not among the 10 drivers competing for Countdown points.

“It was a great weekend,” said Massey, who sits seven points ahead of Brown. “Of course, that was a

Spencer Massey is coming off big weekend. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

huge race against Antron. Beating him allowed us to take the top spot in the standings. When you face either of my teammates (Brown or seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher), you know you have to bring your best up to the starting line.”

Massey, Brown and Del Worsham of Al-Anabi Racing have led the Top Fuel standings since the Countdown began at zMAX Dragway Sept. 15-18.

In Funny Car, a first-round loss to Matt Hagan was not enough to boot Mike Neff of John Force Racing out of the points lead, although it did close the gap between the driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang and his rivals. Neff currently sits only four points ahead of second-place Hagan and his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T fielded by Don Schumacher Racing.

And after an impressive win Sunday in Ennis, two-time world champion Cruz Pedregon and his Snap-on Tools Toyota Solara sit third overall, just seven points out of the lead.

Less than one round (20 points) separates the leaders in Top Fuel and Funny Car, but Pro Stock presents a different scenario. After making it to his second-consecutive Countdown final, points-leader Jason Line defeated Kurt Johnson to score his fifth win of the season and stretch his lead. Line, who won at The Plex for the first time, now is 112 points ahead of KB Racing teammate Greg Anderson, the four-time/reigning world champion.

“I certainly appreciate being in the lead, but we’ve only completed two of the six Countdown events, so there is a lot of racing left before the title is decided,” said Line, driver of the Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GXP. “There are several drivers, including my own teammate, who have stumbled a bit out of the gate, but you know they’re going to turn it around very soon. So we definitely have our work cut out for us.”

Pennsylvanian Joe Amato, a five-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion, will headline NHRA’s 60th anniversary celebration at Maple Grove Raceway this weekend. Amato will be joined by drag racing greats Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, Bruce Larson and Larry Lombardo during the event.

In addition, NHRA legends Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney, Bob Glidden and Connie Kalitta will be on hand to meet fans and participate in the 60th celebration activities. Anniversary-themed festivities will include autograph sessions with all eight drivers as well as a special car corral of legendary vehicles.

Track records at Maple Grove Raceway:

Top Fuel _3.786-seconds by Larry Dixon, Oct. 2010; 322.42 mph by Dixon, Oct. ’10.

Funny Car _ 4.011-seconds by Matt Hagan, Oct. ’10; 312.35 mph by Cruz Pedregon, Oct. ’10.

Pro Stock _6.544-seconds by Greg Anderson, Oct. ’10; 211.43 mph by Anderson, Oct. ’10.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 6.828-seconds by Hector Arana, Oct. ’10; 196.56 mph by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’10.

Point Standings (top 10) for NHRA professional categories following the 18th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and second of six races in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs:

Top Fuel _ 1. Spencer Massey, 2,267; 2. Antron Brown, 2,260; 3. Del Worsham, 2,201; 4. Larry Dixon, 2,199; 5. Tony Schumacher, 2,195; 6. Brandon Bernstein, 2,160; 7. Doug Kalitta, 2,132; 8. Shawn Langdon, 2,083; 9. David Grubnic, 2,064; 10. Morgan Lucas, 2,046.

Funny Car _ 1. Mike Neff, 2,245; 2. Matt Hagan, 2,241; 3. Cruz Pedregon, 2,238; 4. Jack Beckman, 2,213; 5. Ron Capps, 2,178; 6. Robert Hight, 2,138; 7. Bob Tasca III, 2,107; 8. (tie) Jeff Arend, 2,096; John Force, 2,096; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,085.

Pro Stock _ 1. Jason Line, 2,312; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,200; 3. Erica Enders, 2,176; 4. Mike Edwards, 2,168; 5. Vincent Nobile, 2,167; 6. Greg Stanfield, 2,123; 7. Allen Johnson, 2,114; 8. Rodger Brogdon, 2,094; 9. Shane Gray, 2,071; 10. Ron Krisher, 2,042.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Eddie Krawiec, 2,295; 2. Karen Stoffer, 2,232; 3. Hector Arana Jr., 2,205; 4. Matt Smith, 2,198; 5. Andrew Hines, 2,176; 6. LE Tonglet, 2,164; 7. Michael Phillips, 2,153; 8. Jerry Savoie, 2,124; 9. Hector Arana, 2,106; 10. Jim Underdahl, 2,086.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, September 30 2011
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