Six NHRA Drivers On Road To The Future

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 27 2016
Pro Stock driver Aaron Strong is in the running for top rookie honors in the NHRA.

Pro Stock driver Aaron Strong is in the running for top rookie honors in the NHRA.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Six rookies representing four NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series categories are candidates for the 2016 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award.

Recognizing the series’ top rookie competitor, the award features a $20,000 prize and trophy to bugnhranotesthe winner. He or she will be honored during NHRA’s championship awards ceremony on Monday, Nov. 14, at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland in Hollywood, Calif.

The nation’s leading auto racing journalists will select the winner via a voting system based upon the following criteria: number of events participated, performance on and off the racetrack, participation in NHRA promotions and relationships with fans, sponsors and media.

Candidates for the prestigious award are, in alphabetical order: Jim Campbell (Funny Car), Cory Reed (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Aaron Strong (Pro Stock), Melissa Surber (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Trip Tatum (Top Fuel) and Brandon Welch (Funny Car).

“For over a century, the Automobile Club of Southern California has been a symbol of integrity, commitment and professionalism to our millions of members in the community,” said Robert T. Bouttier, CEO of the Automobile Club of Southern California. “The Road to the Future Award, honoring up-and-coming racers in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, has come to represent these same attributes in motorsports.

“This year’s nominees have not only demonstrated competitiveness, but exceptional potential for the future. We congratulate all of the candidates for this year’s award and look forward to watching them continue to achieve great things, on and off the track.”

Meanwhile, the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship rolls into The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend for Round 5 of six _the 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals. Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of an event that will be televised for the first time on FOX Sports 1.

The network will air one hour of live qualifying coverage Friday at 6 p.m. (EDT) and one hour of qualifying coverage Sunday at 10 a.m. (EDT). On Sunday, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage starting at 4 p.m. (EDT).

Campbell has qualified for nine races and had a quarterfinal finish at the spring race in Vegas, where he upset Funny Car veteran Tim Wilkerson in the first round. Campbell raced to career-best performances of 3.977-seconds and 315.93 mph at the U.S. Nationals.

Reed competed in a full Pro Stock Motorcycle schedule highlighted by a runnerup finish in Reading, Pa., where he defeated 2009 world champion Hector Arana Sr. and five-time/reigning world champ Andrew Hines before losing to three-time world champ Eddie Krawiec in the final. Reed qualified for the Countdown to the Championship and rode to career-best performances of 6.835-seconds in Brainerd, Minn., and 196.07 mph in Indianapolis.

Strong qualified for nine races including his first Pro Stock win at Kent, Wash., near Seattle. Strong upset four-time world champion Greg Anderson, two-time/reigning world champ Erica Enders, Bo Butner and Vincent Nobile for the victory.

Surber raced a full schedule and reached the quarterfinals at the Atlanta-area event, defeating 2010 world champion LE Tonglet in the first round. She rode to career-best performances of 6.853-seconds and 194.86 mph at the PSM season-opener in Gainesville, Fla.

Tatum’s Top Fuel rookie season is highlighted by his first start at Gainesville, where he defeated Leah Pritchett in the opening round. He went on to lose to Brittany Force in the quarterfinals. Tatum piloted his dragster to career-best performances of 3.785-seconds and 326.00 mph in Indianapolis.

Welch has raced at six events and qualified for three, losing in the first rounds to 2009 Funny Car world champion Robert Hight in Norwalk, Ohio, and Ennis, Texas, near Dallas, and to point-leader Ron Capps in Kent, Wash.

In 2002 the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award and the NHRA Rookie of the Year Award were combined to create one award recognizing future stars of the sport. Past winners of the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award have developed into some of NHRA’s biggest stars. The list features:

Tony Pedregon (1996, Funny Car); Ron Capps (1997, Funny Car); Doug Kalitta (1998, Top Fuel); Antron Brown (1999, Pro Stock Motorcycle); Melanie Troxel (2000, Top Fuel); GT Tonglet (2001, Pro Stock Motorcycle); Gene Wilson (2002, Pro Stock); Brandon Bernstein (2003, Top Fuel); Jason Line (2004, Pro Stock); Robert Hight (2005, Funny Car); J.R. Todd (2006, Top Fuel); Ashley Force Hood (2007, Funny Car); Mike Neff (2008, Funny Car); Spencer Massey (2009, Top Fuel); LE Tonglet (2010, Pro Stock Motorcycle); Hector Arana Jr. (2011, Pro Stock Motorcycle); Courtney Force (2012, Funny Car); Brittany Force (2013, Top Fuel); Richie Crampton (2014, Top Fuel) and Drew Skillman (2015, Pro Stock).

NHRA Rookie of the Year winners prior to the merger of the two awards included the late Darrell Russell (2001, Top Fuel); Don Lampus (2000, Top Fuel); Scotty Cannon (1999, Funny Car); Jeg Coughlin Jr. (1998, Pro Stock); Gary Scelzi (1997, Top Fuel) and co-winners in 1996, Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).


Recapping the playoff scenarios following the 31st AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex in Ennis:

Antron Brown (Top Fuel) claimed his seventh victory of the season two weeks ago to extend his point lead; Matt Hagan (Funny Car) won and jumped to third in points; Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) notched his second win of 2016 and now is sixth in points and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won his fifth race of the year and overtook teammate Andrew Hines for first place.

Brown, the two-time/reigning world champion from Don Schumacher Racing, has a 150-point/seven-plus rounds of racing lead over second place Doug Kalitta of Kalitta Motorsports _ and could clinch in Las Vegas.

Funny Car point-leader Capps, a five-time 2016 winner for DSR, posted a runnerup finish in Ennis and leads teammates Tommy Johnson Jr. by 64 points and Hagan by 88.

Two-time Pro Stock world champion Jason Line has a 26-point lead over Ken Black Racing teammate Greg Anderson while Vincent Nobile, who won in Reading, Pa., is third.

Krawiec controlled the Pro Stock Bike point lead until Indianapolis. He dropped as low fifth but now has a 17-point lead over Hines in a battle of Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammates.


NHRA Pro Stock veteran Allen Johnson and Marathon Petroleum Corporation have announced an extended sponsorship agreement to continue their partnership into the 2017 season.

“We are thankful for our continued partnership with Marathon Petroleum, both on and off the track,” said Johnson, the 2012 world champion and CEO of Johnson & Johnson Racing. “We learned much in 2016 as we improved our performance and adjusted to a new electronic fuel injection system. We’re excited to hit the track again in 2017, determined to bring home another championship.”

Johnson and his family-owned Dodge Dart sit ninth in Countdown points heading into the penultimate race this weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.




Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle, 5; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock, 4; Ron Capps, Funny Car, 4; Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel, 4; John Force, Funny Car, 3.


Top Fuel _ 3.722-seconds by Antron Brown, Oct. ’15 and 332.67 mph by Shawn Langdon, Oct. ’15.

Funny Car _ 3.931-seconds by Tommy Johnson Jr., Oct. ’15 and 325.92 mph by Del Worsham, Oct. ’15.

Pro Stock _ 6.559-seconds and 210.28 mph by Erica Enders, Oct. ’15.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 6.852-seconds by Jerry Savoie, Oct. ’15; 196.56 mph by Eddie Krawiec, Oct. ’11


Top Fuel _ 3.671-seconds by Steve Torrence, July ’16, Sonoma, Calif.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.

Funny Car _ 3.822-seconds by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.

Pro Stock _ 6.455-seconds by Jason Line, March ’15, Concord, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 6.728-seconds by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Concord, N.C.


Top-10 Countdown to the Championship standings following the 31st annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex, the 22nd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _1.  Antron Brown, 2,504; 2.  Doug Kalitta, 2,354; 3.  Shawn Langdon, 2,332; 4.  Brittany Force, 2,313; 5.  Steve Torrence, 2,307; 6.  Tony Schumacher, 2,295; 7.  J.R. Todd, 2,260; 8.  Leah Pritchett, 2,250; 9.  Richie Crampton, 2,195; 10.  Clay Millican, 2,168.

Funny Car _1.  Ron Capps, 2,465; 2.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,401; 3.  Matt Hagan, 2,377; 4.  Jack Beckman, 2,334; 5.  Del Worsham, 2,320; 6.  Robert Hight, 2,278; 7.  John Force, 2,267; 8.  Courtney Force, 2,238; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 2,228; 10.  Alexis DeJoria, 2,151.

Pro Stock _1.  Jason Line, 2,454; 2.  Greg Anderson, 2,428; 3.  Vincent Nobile, 2,340; 4.  Shane Gray, 2,320; 5.  Bo Butner, 2,314; 6.  Drew Skillman, 2,269; 7.  Chris McGaha, 2,222; 8.  Allen Johnson, 2,213; 9.  Jeg Coughlin Jr., 2,146; 10.  Erica Enders, 2,135.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1.  Eddie Krawiec, 2,425; 2.  Andrew Hines, 2,408; 3.  Jerry Savoie, 2,376; 4.  Angelle Sampey, 2,365; 5.  Chip Ellis, 2,328; 6.  LE Tonglet, 2,288; 7.  Cory Reed, 2,229; 8.  Hector Arana, 2,211; 9.  Matt Smith, 2,202; 10.  Hector Arana Jr., 2,183.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 27 2016
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