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NHRA Cuts More Events

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 3 2020

The U.S. Nationals are a go this weekend in Indiana.

NHRA’s revised 2020 schedule continues to hemorrhage race dates amid the COVID-19 pandemic even as the Southern California-based sanctioning body prepares to showcase its oldest and most prestigious event.

This weekend’s 66th annual DENSO Spark Plugs U.S. Nationals will mark the fourth consecutive race conducted at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis since NHRA restarted its season during the pandemic in mid-July. The facility located in Clermont, Ind., has served as NHRA’s “bubble” during a period that has seen the remnants of the original 24-race schedule significantly impacted.

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Alex Laughlin (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of an event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and the FOX network. Live finals coverage is set for 1 p.m. (EDT) Sunday, Sept. 6, on FOX. Force, the 16-time Funny Car world champion, and his Funny Car and Top Fuel teams have opted to not compete during the remainder of the 2020 season.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round on Friday, Sept. 4, at 6:30 p.m. with the final two rounds of time trials on Saturday, Sept. 5, at 12:45 and 5:20 p.m. TV coverage includes qualifying highlights on FS1 at 2 and 10 p.m. on Saturday. Sunday’s elimination coverage will start at 11 a.m. on FS1 before moving to FOX at 1 p.m.

On Wednesday, NHRA announced the remainder of its season that in collaboration with all stakeholders will feature six national events. Simultaneously, NHRA confirmed the events at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.; Bristol Dragway in Bristol, Tenn., and the originally scheduled season-finale at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., have been cancelled.

“We are grateful to the loyal NHRA fans who have stuck with us during these trying times,” NHRA President Glen Cromwell said in a news release from Glendora, Calif. “NHRA plans to hold these next six national events to conclude the 2020 season. Thank you to our fans, racers and partners for your continued support and cooperation.”

Dates for the remaining NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Sept. 3-6 _ DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals, Clermont, Ind.

Sept. 25-27 _ Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla.

Oct. 2-4 _ Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Pennzoil, Madison, Ill.

Oct. 14-18 _ AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Ennis, Texas

Oct. 23-25 _ Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil, Baytown, Texas

Oct. 30-Nov. 1 _ Dodge NHRA Finals presented by Pennzoil, Las Vegas

With elimination of the traditional Countdown to the Championship playoffs, every round of racing is crucial. At the conclusion of the Dodge NHRA Finals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, NHRA will crown champions in each of the respective professional categories _ Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Due to the pandemic and scheduling conflicts, the following national events have been removed from the 2020 schedule:

Sept. 18-20 _ NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Concord, N.C.

Oct. 9-11 _ NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Bristol, Tenn.

Nov. 13-15 _ Auto Club NHRA Finals, Pomona, Calif.

NHRA and its partners originally planned to reschedule an additional five national events. Due to location and traditional climates, these races also were cancelled:

Aug. 7-9 _ Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil, Morrison, Colo.

Aug. 14-16 _ Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Brainerd, Minn.

Aug. 21-23 _ Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals present by Minties, Topeka, Kan.

Aug. 28-30 _NHRA Southern Nationals, Commerce, Ga.

Sept. 11-13 _ Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals, Reading, Pa.

Originally scheduled for April 24-26 and then postponed until Sept. 18-20, the unique Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway found North Carolina facing restrictions on large gatherings through at least September.

“We want every drag racing fan to know that alongside the NHRA, we made every effort to keep the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals on the calendar for 2020,” said Greg Walter, executive vice president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway and zMAX Dragway. “With the uncertainty that still remains, it is simply not feasible to produce and host the world-class spectacle that fans have come to expect from ‘The Bellagio of Drag Strips.’ While it pains us to cancel such a marquee event, it simply gives us that much more motivation to work harder than ever looking ahead to 2021.”

Fans who purchased tickets through TicketMaster will have their purchase automatically refunded to the credit card used for the original purchase. Remaining Four-Wide Nationals ticket-holders on file with the speedway who have expressed interest in attending a future event automatically will receive an event credit for the full amount paid plus an additional 20 percent, or choose to receive a full refund of their purchase price (minus service charges).

The event credit can be applied toward any admissions, including, but not limited to, grandstand seating, camping, Top Eliminator hospitality, Bruton’s Suite, etc. The 120 percent event credit can be used for either the 2021 NHRA Four-Wide Nationals or the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals, subject to availability. Service fees are not included in event credits or refunds.

The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway originally were scheduled to take place on Father’s Day weekend June 19-21 before being re-booked for mid-October.

“After much deliberation with NHRA officials in respect to the pandemic, our intimate grandstand area and the vastly interactive nature of this event that fans have become accustomed to, we were left with the very difficult decision to cancel the race this season,” Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Dragway, said in a news release.

“The safety of our guests and participants is our top priority and we thank everyone involved in this event for their patience and understanding. We simply aren’t able to host our 20th anniversary race in a befitting manner, and we look forward to bringing the Thunder Valley Nationals back to Bristol Dragway in 2021.”

Ticketholders are eligible for a 120 percent credit for the 2021 NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, or they can request a full refund.

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Management of Texas Motorplex in Ennis has been working with NHRA officials to expand the racing offerings during next month’s 35th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals. The Plex and its all-concrete surface will be hosting NHRA’s professional stars Oct. 14-18 at the facility located just south of Dallas/Fort Worth. 

“There has never been any discussions between Texas Motorplex and NHRA about canceling or moving the FallNationals,” Motorplex General Manager Andy Carter said in a news release. “In fact, we have added the excitement of ‘Friday Night Live’ to our schedule and added an additional NHRA National Open running Wednesday and Thursday. This will be one of the biggest NHRA events of the season when you consider the number of days and classes contested.”

The FallNationals will feature five days of racing led by NHRA’s Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors qualifying and racing on Saturday and Sunday. Wednesday and Thursday will feature a National Open for Sportsman competitors from across the country. Friday will be highlighted by a “Friday Night Live” program featuring jet cars as well as an assortment of NHRA classes along with continued Sportsman qualifying. Additionally, the 2020 Top Fuel Harley champion will be crowned during the event. 

The variety of the race cars will be expanded by inclusion of the Pro Mod class competing in its penultimate event of the season, as well as the Factory Stock Showdown class.

“We will be featuring every major class that competes on the NHRA national tour,” Carter said, “everything from Top Fuel and Funny Car to Top Fuel Harley-Davidsons to Pro Mods and Factory Stock Ford Cobra Jets and Chevrolet COPO Camaros. I don’t think we have ever had this many classes at one event all racing in a playoff setting for so many different world championships. It will be an amazing weekend of racing for sure.”

Tickets for all sections are on sale and will be sold to 50 percent capacity. Each ticket order will receive a special commemorative 35th anniversary coin while supplies last. 

“We have been racing under a special order from the Governor of the Great State of Texas since the end of May and COVID numbers in our area are rapidly decreasing,” Motorplex owner Billy Meyer said in a news release. “We are providing a variety of safety measures throughout the facility to ensure fans, racers and sponsors have a positive experience. Our No. 1 goal is to host an exciting event.”

The entire event schedule will be posted on www.texasmotorplex.com as categories are confirmed. Fans also can order tickets by visiting the track’s website.

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Repositioning of Houston Raceway Park for the 33rd annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil could see Baytown turn into title town for the first time in history.

The race originally was scheduled for April 17-19. HRP now has emerged as the penultimate round, Oct. 23-25, on the revised schedule released by NHRA on Wednesday. With the Countdown to the Championship playoff system scrapped for the year, it’s highly likely that one or more of the four professional championships could be secured at HRP one week after the tour visits Billy Meyer’s Texas Motorplex in Ennis.

“Our family decided we really needed to be a part of this season,” said Seth Angel, vice president and general manager of HRP. “We feel strongly that our loyal fans and sponsors deserve this race and although it’ll be different than what we’re used to, we’ll all be able to get our nitro fix and enjoy the world’s fastest motorsport together.

“The timing of our race towards the end of the schedule gives us a very unique chance to crown NHRA champions right here at Houston Raceway Park. We’ve traditionally been a springtime stop on the schedule so this will be a special treat for all of us.”

Under current state guidelines, Houston Raceway Park may fill the grandstands to 50 percent capacity. Angel emphasized that health protocols will be in full effect, including social distancing, mandatory use of masks in all public areas and several stations with hand sanitizer positioned around the facility.

HRP officials noted that groups from the same household may sit together in the grandstands, while others will be appropriately spaced. Fans who already purchased tickets but wish to skip this year’s race will receive full value for their tickets at next year’s national event.

“I want to commend Gov. Greg Abbott and all of the local officials from Chambers County for working with us through these unprecedented times,” Angel said. “At half-capacity, we have already sold-out the popular Top Eliminator Club and our inventory for the Nitro Club at the starting line is very low. We can’t wait to see all of our friends.”

General admission seating starts at $15 for Friday and $40 on Saturday and Sunday. For further information, call 281-383-7223 or visit the web at HoustonRaceway.com.

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Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum officials have announced cancellation of the 29th annual California Hot Rod Reunion presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. The event was scheduled for Oct. 23-25.

“We made this difficult decision as we see the effects this pandemic is having on our country, fans, sponsors and racers,” said Martin Betz, executive director. “We believe this is the right decision given the continued high rate of COVID-19 cases in California and the restrictions implemented by the state and Kern County.”

Event participants and ticket-holders will receive additional information from the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum via mail soon.

“For 28 years, Famoso Raceway has hosted the California Hot Rod Reunion,” track-owner Blake Bowser said. “As much as I hate seeing the Reunion cancelled, the current restrictions placed upon large scale events in our state make hosting the event virtually impossible. We look forward to a bigger and better event in 2021.”

The California Hot Rod Reunion presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California is a production of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) educational and cultural organization. Ticket sales, racer entries, merchandise sales, memberships and donations go directly to helping the Museum preserve the past and inspiring the youth of today.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 3 2020
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