COUNTING DOWN FOR THE FIRST TIME by ProQuest

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									 COUNTING DOWN
FOR THE FIRST TIME
A dozen racers are ready for their first experiences with NHRA’s playoffs. We count them down, one at a time.
   by Duke Ritenhouse                                           TOP FUEL
   O the 18-event NHRA regular season to reach the Countdown to
        f the 40 NHRA competitors who performed well enough during
                                                                                                Clinched: Brainerd
   1, nearly a third (12 of 40) will be racing in the NHRA playoffs for                         Starting Countdown to 1 position: sixth, 70 points
   the first time. That group represents a wide range of experience,                            behind first place
   from three rookies to seasoned veterans, such as Funny Car driver                            Career wins/finals: 1/3
   Del Worsham, who had near misses in the final Countdown points                               Previous-best Countdown finish: none (rookie)
   standings in both 2007 and 2008.                                                             2009 highlights: Simply keeping his head above water
      The dozen first timers are divided evenly between the two fuel-                           would have been enough of a highlight for a rookie
   burning classes and the two Pro Stock classes. Four Top Fuel drivers,                        driver in the sport’s quickest class, but it didn’t take
   including two rookies, are in the Countdown to 1 for the first time and                      Massey long to begin reaching the late rounds. His
   are joined by two Funny Car first timers; in the Pro Stock ranks, four                       first career win in Chicago is the obvious high point
   Pro Stock Motorcycle riders will be joined by two Pro Stock drivers                          of the season, but final-round showings in Atlanta
   for their first experiences with NHRA’s six-race sprint to the finish.                       and Reading were also impressive.
      Overall, the dozen newcomers will be joined by 18 drivers who                             Final six races in 2008: not applicable (rookie)
   have qualified for all three of NHRA’s Countdown playoffs and 10 who                         Quotable: “We’ve had our ups and downs, but by
   have reached the playoffs twice. The 2009 Countdown to 1 begins at                           clinching early, we’ve been able to work on
   the 2nd annual NHRA Carolinas Nationals in Charlotte and ends five
   events later with NHRA’s annual season-closing race in Pomona.
                                                                                                some things to get more consistent for the
                                                                                                Countdown to 1. Our goals are pretty well-      SPENCER MASSEY
      The following is an overview of the 12 Countdown to 1                                     known: to be right up there with Antron
   newcomers, ordered by final positions in the points standings                                [Brown], Larry [Dixon], and Tony [Schumacher] and have a consistent enough car
   following the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.                                                      to turn win lights on. We’re going for it; there’s no holding back now.”

Clinched: Brainerd                                                                                                                       Clinched: Brainerd.
Starting Countdown to 1 position:                                                                                                        Starting Countdown to 1 position: eighth,
seventh, 80 points behind first place                                                                                                   90 points behind first place
Career wins/finals: 2/7                                                                                                                 Career wins/finals: 0/0
Previous-best Countdown finish: 12th                                                                                                    Previous-best Countdown finish: none
(2008)                                                                                                                                 (rookie)
2009 highlights: After losing in his first                                                                                             2009 highlights: Four semifinal finishes in a
five career final rounds, getting event                                                                                                five-race span from Las Vegas to Topeka
wins this season in Atlanta and                                                                                                       certainly showed what this first-year team is
Brainerd was a positive                                                                                                               capable of. Going rounds in Reading and
breakthrough.
Final six races in 2008: one             MORGAN LUCAS                                                                                 Indianapolis, the last two pre-Countdown to
                                                                                                                                      1 events, was also encouraging.
semifinal, five first-round losses                                                                                                   Final six races in 2008: not applicable
Quotable: “I’m extremely satisfied with our performance so far; I feel like we’ve gone from                                          (rookie)
an also-ran to a definite contender. That gives us a lot of confidence going into a situation                                                 Quotable: “It’s a big
where we’re chasing a championship. It’s been a complete 180-degree difference as far as                                                      accomplishment for us, especially
I’m concerned, and I’m just really looking forward to the next race because I feel like
everything just keeps getting better and better.”
                                                                                                         SHAWN LANGDON                        with having both cars [teammate
                                                                                                                                              Lucas] in there. Some of the goals
                                                                                                       we set this year were to get some wins for the team and to get both
                                                                                                       cars into the Countdown to 1, so we accomplished that. It’s exciting,
                                                                                                       but it’s important to remember to take things one race at a time and
                                                               CLAY MILLICAN                           to not get too far ahead of ourselves
								
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