TOP FUEL Of the 40 NHRA competitors who performed well enough during the 18-event NHRA regular season to reach the Countdown to 1, nearly a third (12 of 40) will be racing in the NHRA playoffs for the first time. Four Top Fuel drivers, including two rookies, are in the Countdown to 1 for the first time and are joined by two Funny Car first timers; in the Pro Stock ranks, four Pro Stock Motorcycle riders will be joined by two Pro Stock drivers for their first experiences with NHRA's six-race sprint to the finish. Final five races in 2008: three first-round losses, one DNQ (attended four events) Quotable: "We switched from a Suzuki to a Buell engine program just 10 months ago, so to be running this close to the top in such a short time makes us feel that our chances are very good for anything, especially since we do everything on our own."
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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