Uncertainty Only Constant In NHRA POWERade Series As March To Playoffs Continues

BRAINERD, Minn. – When the NHRA POWERade Series Countdown to the
Championship was first announced in 2006, the motorsports world was forced to
change its way of thinking about the world’s fastest motorsport.
Suddenly, teams that would never have challenged for world championship
titles were possible contenders, and the previously solid leads larger, structured
teams had stood on for years became a little shifty. In an instant, the hopes of some of
the most elite racers in the world depended on something as fragile as a bubble – and
bubbles burst.

The NHRA POWERade Series comes to Brainerd International Raceway Aug.
7-10 for the 27th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. While seven drivers can rest easy
knowing their playoff tickets are punched, the event comes at a crucial juncture for
the teams that have, including Brainerd, three more events to crack the Top 10
playoff fields in all four professional categories before the end of the regular season.
In Top Fuel, Doug Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools dragster, is hanging on to
playoff contention by a mere nine points entering the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals –
and Morgan Lucas, driver of the Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster, is ready to hunt him
down in the comfort of his sponsor’s race, with the help of just-hired tuner Jimmy

“It kind of goes back to that phrase ‘God hates a coward,'” Lucas said. “You
know, we know we’ve got to be aggressive about getting the round wins and trying to
make our own destiny, trying to basically block out (team Kalitta drivers) Dave
Grubnic or Doug Kalitta. These are priorities for us. But you have to also go a level
ahead. You have to compensate, but you’ve got to know there’s still a chance. You just
basically have to put the extra work in. And as far as from the driving aspect, you
know the team has put the actual work in.”

Only two Top Fuel drivers have so far clinched their spots in the Countdown to
the Championship: Tony Schumacher, who has dominated the category with an
astonishing eight wins so far this year, and Antron Brown, who surprised nearly
everyone with his immediate success after crossing over from Pro Stock Motorcycle
to Top Fuel just this year. The rest are in limbo.

In Funny Car, independent team owner/driver Tim Wilkerson is the only one to
secure his spot in the Countdown. Wilkerson, who has won four events so far in 2008
with an alliance with team owner Don “the Snake” Prudhomme, is trailed by John
Force Racing’s Robert Hight, who currently sits in the No. 2 spot. What’s been a
surprise is the lack of success thus far by Don Schumacher Racing’s Funny Car teams
– currently, DSR’s highest-seeded driver is Ron Capps, and he’s in the seventh spot.
Jack Beckman, driver of the Valvoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge Charger R/T is
on the bubble at No. 10.

“I’ll give you a perfect example of why NHRA is ruining the drivers’ lives with
this Countdown format,” Beckman said. “Our team, we went into Seattle in 10th
place, won one round of racing, left in 10th place. (Under the) Pre-Countdown format,
it would have been a completely disappointing weekend. We didn’t achieve our goals
of making it to the final round and winning the race.

“Now that NHRA has implemented the Countdown and increased the level of
excitement, now we’re starting to look at crumbs as being more important. In Seattle,
we didn’t accomplish our goals. By the three cars behind us losing first round, we
actually left with a bigger points lead. Then the exact same thing happened in
Sonoma. Typically two second-round losses in a row would be a major letdown for any
team like ours. But it actually was a small sense of accomplishment for us simply
because we stretched our points lead in there. I think that’s the excitement that this
Countdown generates.”

Excitement or stomach aches, depending who you ask. In Pro Stock, three
drivers have clinched their spot in the Countdown to the Championship – Summit
Racing Equipment teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line, and Kurt Johnson,
ACDelco’s son and prot

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