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‘The Snake’ To Kickoff FallNationals at The Plex

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 8 2021

The Texas Motorplex will kickoff its NHRA weekend by honoring Don Prudhomme.

ENNIS, Texas – The business of deciding NHRA’s four 2021 professional world champions will pause Friday evening at Texas Motorplex in deference to drag racing royalty.

Legendary driver Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and award-winning photographer Richard Shute will be recognized as Texas Motorplex Legends during opening ceremonies of the 36th annual Texas NHRA FallNationals. The race at Hall of Famer Billy Meyer’s facility is Round 4 of the seven-event Camping World Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship and the inaugural nine-day Stampede of Speed.

Prudhomme won the FallNationals three times including a Funny Car title in 1989, Top Fuel in 1991 and his final professional Top Fuel win at the 1994 event. Shute has chronicled every Texas NHRA FallNationals Winner’s Circle during his 50-year career as one of the sport’s most popular photographers.

“These two legends, Don Prudhomme and Richard Shute, have made an enormous impact on the success of the Texas Motorplex,” said Meyer, a former Funny Car driver. “Prudhomme was one of the first Funny Car drivers to see this facility and he’s one of only four drivers to win in Funny Car and Top Fuel at the FallNationals.

“Richard has photographed every significant event and milestone this facility has produced. His eye behind the lens is legendary and it is my honor to celebrate these two amazing people.”

Legendary drag racer Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme will be in spotlight at the Texas Motorplex.

Prudhomme and Shute will be honored before the start of the second round of qualifying at approximately 7 p.m. (CDT). They will join Top Fuel stars Cory McClenathan (2019) and Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher (2020) as Motorplex Legends. 

Prudhomme concluded his 47th year in drag racing in 2009, his 15th season as an owner after logging 32 seasons behind the wheel as one of the sport’s elite drivers. His career was launched in 1962 with his first Top Fuel victory at “Smokers March Meet” in Bakersfield, Calif. He went on to log 49 NHRA career victories _ sixth-most all-time _ en route to his “Final Strike Tour” in 1994. Prudhomme reached the final of a national event 68 times during his career, posting a remarkable 35 wins in 45 Funny Car finals and 14 wins in 23 Top Fuel finals. 

Off the track, Prudhomme gained notoriety in the early 1970s when Mattel introduced the “Snake and Mongoose (Tom McEwen)” Hot Wheels car sets _ toys that introduced the sport of drag racing to a larger, more mainstream audience.

“The Texas Motorplex didn’t just change my career _ it changed drag racing,” said Prudhomme, 80. “It was the first all-concrete racetrack and was ‘the track’ on the tour. I won my last race as a driver there and it will always be a special place for me. I know this year’s race will be even more special with all the festivities they are planning. I am honored to be named a Texas Motorplex Legend.”

In 2020, Shute celebrated his 50th year of professionally pointing the lens at drag cars and archiving the history of the fastest accelerating machines on the planet. A longtime Southern California resident, Shute first shot drag racing at close range with a simple 126 Instamatic.

He began shooting professionally in 1971 and covered drag racing for several strips in Southern California. In 1979 he started Auto Imagery and began photographing all NHRA’s national events. Shute still provides professional quality photographic reproduction and film services out of his lab in Carlsbad, Calif., and his North Coast Photographer Services clientele extend well beyond drag racing. Auto Imagery has grown to house over 1-million photos, archiving each NHRA national event and all participating racers. The searchable website allows drag racing fans to purchase prints in various sizes with ease from an extensive archive that stretches back into the 1970s.

“What does it mean to me to be chosen as a Texas Motorplex Legend? Well first-off, it means someone noticed. Billy noticed what I do and what I’ve done,” said Shute, who has shot tens of thousands of photos at The Plex. “In a field of support professions like photography, you are oftentimes taken for granted. I met Billy in 1972 when he ran the OCIR Manufacturers Meet. I was a dumb kid taking pictures, and not very good ones I might add. In March of 1979 I started Auto Imagery and began covering all the NHRA national events and here we are today.”

Texas native Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Matt Hartford (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were winners of the 2020 event on the famed all-concrete surface here.

Texas Motorplex will host a “Friday Night Live” program today for NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle. Two rounds of qualifying are set for 3 and 7 p.m. (CDT) with the final two rounds of time trials on Saturday at noon and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Television coverage on Fox Sports 1 is scheduled to start with qualifying from 9:30-10:30 p.m. (CDT) on Friday following MLB’s American League Divisional Series coverage. Qualifying highlights also will air Sunday from 2:30-3:30 p.m., leading directly into eliminations on FS1 from 3:30-6:30 p.m.

Tickets are available at www.stampedeofspeed.com, www.texasmotorplex.com or by calling 800-668-6775. For more information about NHRA, visit www.NHRA.com.

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Four-time Pro Stock world champions Erica Enders and Greg Anderson headline a tight point race among Factory Hot Rod competitors at The Plex.

Native Texan Enders, the current two-time/reigning champ, pulled to within 17 points of Anderson via her victory at the recent NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill.

Anderson has been the point-leader after the first 14 races this year, but Enders has locked-in again during the Countdown. She has advanced to three finals in the past four events in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, won two of them and is eager to add a victory in Ennis.

“This means the world to me and I’m thankful for all of this, and I’m going to continue to have fun doing it,” Enders said. “It’s a true challenge to drive one of these cars and I love it, and I love those pressure-packed situations. We knew it could come down to the two of us. I think it’s great for the class. We have so much fresh blood out here and it speaks volumes for how much passion we all have for the class, but it’s going to be a dogfight. I’m up for the challenge and I know Greg is up for the challenge as well.”

Enders has earned four victories this season, but nothing has come easy in a category that has seen an influx of young talent to go with veterans like Anderson and Matt Hartford. Rookie Dallas Glenn has won twice and Kyle Koretsky won recently in zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., and is 97 points behind Anderson. Enders’ teammate, Aaron Stanfield, also has three victories this year.

“It’s going to take a lot of work to compete for this fifth championship, but I think I have the best guys in the world to try to be able to do that,” said Enders, who has 33 career victories. “We’ve put ourselves within striking distance of Greg and we just have to go to work.”

Anderson is a three-time winner and four-time runner-up in his Chevy Camaro SS through 14 races. His next victory will break a tie at 97 with Warren “The Professor” Johnson for the most in Pro Stock history.

“(Texas Motorplex) has been a good track for us all along and everything you want for Pro Stockers,” said Anderson, a five-time winner at the facility. “We’ve been able to parlay that into a lot of wins in the past. I need to get the win and extend the points out.”

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In Pro Stock Motorcycle, defending world champ Matt Smith is looking to get untracked in the Countdown after a solid regular season. He won four times during the first eight races, but hasn’t made a trip to the final round in the first two playoff races in the class. That has dropped him to third, just 30 points behind current leader Steve Johnson.

Smith has brought his Matt Smith Racing EBR into The Plex, a venue where he’s put up big numbers. But Smith will be challenged by Johnson; Angelle Sampey, who won at zMAX Dragway and is 17 points back of Johnson; Eddie Krawiec, Joey Gladstone and Scotty Pollacheck.

Smith prides himself on finishing strong, something that can happen by winning in Ennis for the first time in his standout career.

“If you look at the way we’ve run our program, we’ve always been good in the Countdown,” said Smith, who has 30 career wins. “We’ve never shined brightly in the regular season, but in the Countdown we’ve always pushed forward and come out stronger. I still think we’re the quickest and fastest bike and our goal is to prove that. We’ve always been fast (in Ennis), but I’ve never won there. It’s probably one of the few places I’ve never won, so I would love to do it this year.”

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In Top Fuel, point-leader Steve Torrence is chasing a record-tying fourth consecutive world title and is also a win away from his milestone 50th victory. The native Texan won last year at Ennis but will face strong competition from his father, Billy, Leah Pruett, Antron Brown, Justin Ashley and Mike Salinas.

“We love being able to race in front of family and friends at the Motorplex,” Steve Torrence said, “and we’ve been blessed to have had a lot of success. But this championship battle isn’t over. We’ve got the points lead (36 over Brittany Force), but there’s still a lot of racing to do.

“Our goal is to stay consistent and keep our focus and that’s always tougher when you’re racing at home. Everybody wants you to know they’re pulling for you. They all want to shake your hand and give you some words of encouragement. It’s a great problem to have, but it makes it harder to maintain focus.”

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Funny Car’s Matt Hagan took over the point lead at WWTR in pursuit of a second straight world title. Looking to stop his momentum are a number of star drivers, including Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps; 16-time world champ John Force and teammate Robert Hight; J.R. Todd, Cruz Pedregon and Bob Tasca III.

“We’ve been very successful at Dallas, having won there in 2019, and finishing as the runner-up there last year,” said Hagan. “The car is running great and obviously, we have great data to work off of, so I feel really good about this weekend. Our Western Tech Dodge has been so fun to drive lately, and it makes it exciting because you know you have a race car that can win every Sunday. We just need to focus on taking it one round at a time and not get ahead of ourselves.

“We have four qualifying runs this weekend, and during Q2, we get an extra 15-grand if we go low, so everyone will be swinging for the fence. (Crew chief) Dickie Venables’ mentality has and continues to be, ‘race the track’ and everything else will fall into place. The extra 15K is awesome but were focused on the points, racing smart, and putting ourselves in a good position heading into Sunday.

“Hopefully, we’ll scoop up more points this weekend and extend our lead on Capps, Force, and everyone else nipping at our heels.”

The event also includes the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series as well as the Top Fuel Harley category. The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service also will compete during the weekend.

After nitro qualifying on Friday night, fans can enjoy the “Walking Tall” P.T. Cruiser Wheelstander driven by “NitroMike” as well as the “Lone Star Lightning” and “Game X Change Jet Dragster” Jet Car Exhibition. Jet cars are thrust-driven vehicles propelled by jet engines featuring pre-run flame shows.

(Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1997) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was the inaugural recipient of the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Media Award (2010). His list of freelance clients has included Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, NASCAR Wire Service and Ford Racing).

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Point standings (top-10) following the 10th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill. (Note: Pro Stock Motorcycle did not compete at the event).

Top Fuel _1. Steve Torrence, 2,373; 2. Brittany Force, 2,337; 3. Billy Torrence, 2,247; 4. Mike Salinas, 2,239; 5. Justin Ashley, 2,235; 6. Leah Pruett, 2,222; 7. Antron Brown, 2,188; 8. Shawn Langdon, 2,164; 9. Clay Millican, 2,157; 10. Doug Kalitta, 2,096.

Funny Car _1. Matt Hagan, 2,354; 2. Ron Capps, 2,295; 3. John Force, 2,282; 4. Cruz Pedregon, 2,255; 5. J.R. Todd, 2,239; 6. Bob Tasca III, 2,234; 7. (tie) Robert Hight, 2,194; Tim Wilkerson, 2,194; 9. Alexis DeJoria, 2,163; 10. Blake Alexander, 2,120.

Pro Stock _1. Greg Anderson, 2,394; 2. Erica Enders, 2,377; 3. Kyle Koretsky, 2,297; 4. Dallas Glenn, 2,278; 5. Aaron Stanfield, 2,227; 6. Troy Coughlin Jr., 2,202; 7. Mason McGaha, 2,192; 8. Chris McGaha, 2,183; 9. Matt Hartford, 2,162; 10. Deric Kramer, 2,147.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Steve Johnson, 2,272; 2. Angelle Sampey, 2,255; 3. Matt Smith, 2,242; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 2,233; 5. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,177; 6. Joey Gladstone, 2,171; 7. Cory Reed, 2,125; 8. Angie Smith, 2,122; 9. Karen Stoffer, 2,117; 10. Andrew Hines, 2,110.

UPDATED 2021 COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE/PROFESSIONAL WINNERS

Sunday, Sept. 12 _ Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, Pa. Billy Torrence (Top Fuel); Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock); Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Sunday, Sept. 19 _zMAX Dragway, Concord, N.C. Josh Hart (Top Fuel); Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car); Kyle Koretsky (Pro Stock); Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Sunday, Sept. 26 _ World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison, Ill. Steve Torrence (Top Fuel); Matt Hagan (Funny Car); Erica Enders (Pro Stock).

Sunday, Oct. 10 _ Texas Motorplex, Ennis

Sunday, Oct. 17 _ Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway

Sunday, Oct. 31 _ The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Sunday, Nov. 14 _ Auto Club Speedway, Pomona, Calif.

 

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 8 2021
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