The National Hot Rod Association makes its second stop of the season at Concord’s zMax Dragway this weekend and a lot is on the line.
Here’s what you need to know about the NHRA Carolina Nationals, which has a new presenting sponsor in WIX Filters.
▪ The Concord event is the fourth of the NHRA’s six-race Countdown To The Championship playoffs. Steve Torrence (Top Fuel Dragster), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) are the divisional leaders. Races at Las Vegas and Pomona, Calif., remain in the 24 event-season.
▪ The weather is expected to be ideal, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the 70s. Those are near ideal conditions for drag racing (although overcast skies with those temperatures are mostly preferable to the racers).
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▪ Torrence has dominated the Top Fuel division, with eight victories (including all three previous playoff races far at Reading, Pa., St. Louis and Dallas. He leads Clay Millican by 103 points, with Don Schumacher Racing teammates Tony Schumacher, Leah Pritchett and Antron Brown in 3-5 places. Tony Schumacher, an eight-time Top Fuel Champion, says he’ll need everything to go right and everything to go wrong for Torrence for him to catch him and win a ninth title.
▪ Hight has a 50-point lead in the Funny Car division over J.R. Todd. There’s been much more parity this season in Funny Car, with Hight, Todd and Courtney Force each winning four times. Hight has won consecutive races at St. Louis and Dallas. Hight broke his collar bone when his car crashed at the finish line in St. Louis, but he came back two weeks later to win again at Dallas. John Force, who has 16 Funny Car championships (and is Hight’s father-in-law), is having an off year, with one victory and sitting in ninth place in the standings.
▪ Mooresville-resident Tanner Gray, 19, has been dominant in the Pro Stock series, with seven victories and a comfortable lead (89 points) over Vincent Nobile in the standings. Gray, the rookie of the year in 2017 who won the fall event at Concord, is leaving drag racing after this season for NASCAR’s K&N East Series.
▪ This will be traditional two-wide racing this weekend, unlike zMax’s four-wide counterpart in the spring.
Friday: Sportsman qualifying begins at 8 a.m. Pro Stock and Nitro qualifying is at 2:45 and 5:15 p.m.
Saturday: Sportsman eliminations begin at 8 a.m. Pro Stock and Nitro qualifying is at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m.
Sunday: Pro Stock and Nitro eliminations begin at noon.