This weekend’s Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pennsylvania is the fourth race in the 2013 NHRA Countdown to the Championship. Action hits the track Thursday through Sunday, October 3rd through 6th. Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), V. Gaines (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) took home Wallys from last year’s event, where five of the eight national records were reset.
Defending Funny Car champ Jack Beckman, who is still seeking his first win of 2013, thinks the conditions could be right for more records at Maple Grove Raceway.
“The Pro Stock bikes and cars are slaves to weather,” said Beckman. “At Maple Grove, you can get high pressure, low temperature, low humidity and high oxygen content. That makes good power for them. For the nitro cars, the weather affects our horsepower, but more importantly we are slaves to the track. When the track temperature is down in the low 80s and the track surface is good we can give almost all the power it will handle out there. That’s what we do in the nitro categories.”
Beckman, who has at least one win each season since joining the Funny Car ranks in 2006, sits third in points, 44 behind his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan – he knows exactly what he’ll need to do to chip away at those points and defend his title.
“The problem is we keep opening the door wide open for ourselves and then we fail to take full advantage of it,” said Beckman, who has three runner-up finishes this season. “We have to win a race if we are going to win the championship. We are probably going to have to win two of the last three races. I guess the upside is we have a car that can do it.”
There’s a tight race in Top Fuel, with Shawn Langdon on top of the standings by 33 points over Doug Kalitta. The Al-Anabi Racing team, with Langdon’s teammate alBalooshi behind the wheel, is the defending race winner at Maple Grove, but this time Langdon wants the Wally.
“The Al-Anabi team left St. Louis with the points lead so with three races to go, we are in control of our own destiny, and that is how we want it,” said Langdon. “In the grand scheme of things, the Al-Anabi car is very strong right now, and we are very excited to be going to Reading this weekend. Reading has the capability of being a throw-down race so we are going to be prepared for that possibility when we arrive. We want the Al-Anabi car to be ready because if there’s an opportunity to get a national ET (elapsed time) record and pick up those extra 20 bonus points, we want to be the ones to do it.”
Another tight points race is in Pro Stock, where Mike Edwards got his points lead back after a runner-up finish at Gateway Motorsports Park last weekend. He’s only 10 points ahead of Jeg Coughlin Jr. and 30 points ahead of Jason Line, both of whom have multiple championships; Coughlin Jr. is a three-time winner at Maple Grove.
“It is going to be a dogfight to the very end,” Edwards said. “The Pro Stock championship is going to come down to the last race, and we just need to return to our pre-Countdown form and we will be just fine.”
Hector Arana Jr. lost the points lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle to last weekend’s winner Matt Smith, and finds himself tied with his father, Hector Arana; the father and son sit 75 points back of Smith. Smith, who won at Maple Grove in 2008, is seeking his second PSM title.
“We’ve had a dominant bike this year,” Smith said. “I feel like I’ve got the bike to beat and as long as we don’t have any problems, I think we’ll be fine. This Viper Motorsports bike is pretty bad. We’ll just see what happens the last three races.”
Qualifying for the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals begins Friday at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. ET, and concludes Saturday at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. ET; eliminations get underway Sunday beginning at 11 a.m. ET. Keep up with the action at www.nhra.com.
Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.
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