Drivers, teams will have no time to lose in Las Vegas in countdown to championship event
Drivers and teams in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will be going all-in at the 15th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas, Oct. 29-Nov. 1, as only two races remain before world champions will be crowned.
The lucrative event, which is the fifth of six playoff races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship and the penultimate event of the 2015 season, will feature drag racing at its very best as every point is more crucial than ever. Drivers will hope to carry over their good fortunes from the first four Countdown to the Championship races - the NHRA Carolina Nationals, AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, NHRA Keystone Nationals and AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals - or do their best to change their luck.
This year's edition of the famed event will feature intense side-by-side racing as drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle compete for vital Mello Yello Series points. Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year's winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2.
Antron Brown in Top Fuel and Del Worsham in Funny Car have set the tone for their respective nitro classes heading into the homeward stretch of the season. Brown, the 2012 Top Fuel world champion, and Worsham, who didn't win in the regular season, raced to victories at both the NHRA Carolina Nationals and the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals to gain control of their respective points lead.
Brown entered the Countdown second in Top Fuel points, only behind defending and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, but took the lead with his win in Charlotte. Brown and Schumacher, Don Schumacher Racing teammates, have combined for nine Top Fuel wins this year.
Schumacher has a category-leading eight career wins at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but hasn't won the fall event since 2010. Schumacher currently sits 77 points behind Brown.
In third is three-time world champ Larry Dixon, who is 82 points behind Schumacher despite not winning a race this year. Dixon has five career wins at Las Vegas, but others like four-time 2015 event winner Richie Crampton, 2014 NHRA Toyota Nationals runner-up J.R. Todd, Brittany Force, Shawn Langdon and Steve Torrence will be vying for their first win at the track.
In Funny Car, Worsham jumped from fifth to first with his win at Charlotte to open the Countdown. Carrying his momentum into St. Louis to win a second consecutive race boosted him to a 90-point lead over defending Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan. Worsham, who defeated 16-time Funny Car world champ John Force in the final round at the NHRA Toyota Nationals last year, will be shooting for the winner's circle once again, pursuing his first Funny Car world championship title.
Funny Car competition won't be easy, though. Hagan, who has a good shot at defending his 2014 title, has reset the national speed record twice en route to four victories this season in his Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T. Hagan's DSR teammates, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Jack Beckman, hold the third and fourth spots in points, respectively, and have showcased some of the quickest Funny Car runs this year.
Others like Ron Capps, who has a category-leading five wins at Las Vegas, Tim Wilkerson, Robert Hight, Cruz Pedregon and Alexis DeJoria will competing for the coveted Wally trophy.
Enders defeated Jeg Coughlin in the final round at the NHRA Toyota Nationals last year to earn her fifth victory of the season. She then went on to become the first female to win a Pro Stock world championship two weeks later in one of the most exciting winner-take-all Pro Stock finals of all time. Enders has won a career best seven races this season in her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro.
Seven-time Las Vegas winner Greg Anderson, who trails Enders by 113 points, Jason Line, newcomer and St. Louis winner Drew Skillman and two-time 2015 event winner Chris McGaha will also be some headliners in the hypercompetitive Pro Stock category.
Hines earned his fourth NHRA Toyota Nationals victory last year, defeating Matt Smith in the final. Hines, the 2014 world champ, has raced to two victories this season, including a win to open the Countdown to the Championship in Charlotte. Hines has a 34-point lead over second place Hector Arana Jr., who won recently in St. Louis.
Others to watch in the two-wheel category include three-time world champion Eddie Krawiec, two-time event winner Chip Ellis, Jerry Savoie, Matt Smith and Karen Stoffer.
Drivers in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Series also will race hard in their quest to become winners of the thrilling event during the weekend.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they're granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA's popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
NHRA's Baptism by Nitro campaign will make its second appearance of the season at Las Vegas. Inspired by the popular phrase "baptism by fire," commonly used to describe when an individual is thrust into a new situation, experience or environment, Baptism by Nitro is NHRA's call to encourage longtime fans to introduce a family member or friend to the heart-pounding atmosphere of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Throughout the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, NHRA fans are encouraged to share first-time Baptism by Nitro fan experiences on social media. Prizes will be given all year to the best rookie reactions captured in the pits or in the grandstands and posted to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All posts should include the hashtag #BaptismbyNitro and tag @NHRA.
Prior to the NHRA Toyota Nationals, fans are encouraged to go online and nominate a nitro rookie and explain why their candidate deserves a VIP Baptism by Nitro experience. The winning entry will receive four tickets to the 2015 NHRA Toyota Nationals, inside-the-ropes VIP access for a nitro warm-up and starting line access, where each new fan will be baptized by nitro. Fans can log on to www.NHRA.com or visit NHRA's Facebook page for their chance to win this VIP experience. An exciting visual preview of the campaign can be seen and shared at http://bit.ly/BBNitroVid.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Oct. 30, with sessions at 12:15 and 3:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Oct. 31, at 12:15 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1.
To purchase general admission or reserved seats, call (800) 644-4444 or visit www.lvms.com. For more information about the NHRA, visit www.NHRA.com.