With three races to go in the NHRA'S Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, the regular season leaders remain at the top of the standings; however in each of the four categories a bit of momentum seems to have been picked up by a few drivers who started the playoff series back in the pack.
With less than a few rounds of racing separating first, second, third and in some cases fourth place in each category, expect the intensity level to be at an all-time high at this weekend's Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at scenic Maple Grove Raceway, Oct. 7-10. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
In Top Fuel, a trio of rivals will decide the championship. Series leader Dixon won for the first time at Maple Grove last year and hopes to defend his crown in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster. The two-time world champ has won 11 times this year and hasn't lost in a final round meeting. A rare second-round exit at Dallas two weeks ago opened the door for second-place Cory McClenathan and third-place Tony Schumacher, the seven-time defending world champ in the 7,000-horsepower category.
In Funny Car, 14-time class champ John Force has led the way all season in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang, but DSR teammates Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman have crashed the 61-year-old driver's championship comeback party in recent weeks. Hagan trails by 25 in his DieHard Dodge Charger and Beckman sits 45 points back in his Valvoline/MTS Charger. Force's daughter, Ashley Force Hood, also is very much in contention, only 68 points back in her Castrol GTX Mustang.
Back-to-back victories at Charlotte and Dallas have put three-time Pro Stock world champ Greg Anderson within range of reeling in series leader and defending champ Mike Edwards. The driver of the Summit Racing Pontiac GXP trails Edwards by 16 points. Anderson is not the only driver from within the pack that has some momentum. Greg Stanfield, who won at Indy and was runner-up to Anderson in Charlotte, is also anchored in the Pro Stock mix in third place in his NitroFish/Indicom Electric GXP.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle championship battle has come down to two riders. Red-hot rookie LE Tonglet has won the first three races in the playoffs, beating series leader Andrew Hines in all three final rounds. The NitroFish Gear Suzuki rider trails three-time world champ Hines, who rides the Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, by 44 points.