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2014 CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals: Who to watch

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The second race of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season is the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, taking place Friday through Sunday, February 21st through 23rd at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park (formerly Firebird International Raceway) in Chandler, Arizona. Three of the Mello Yello Series four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – will be back in action near Phoenix.

Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) took home Wallys from Arizona last season, but Funny Car legend John Force leads all drivers with eight wins at the track.

Schumacher has the most Top Fuel wins at the Arizona track with four, but suffered a first-round loss to Khalid alBalooshi in Race No. 1, the Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, California, two weeks ago. The competition in Top Fuel is fierce as usual, with Schumacher and his Don Schumacher Racing teammates Antron Brown and Spencer Massey keeping an eye on the Al-Anabi Racing duo of defending Top Fuel champ Shawn Langdon and Winternationals winner alBalooshi.

The driver to watch in Funny Car hasn’t changed: John Force, who not only won the 2013 Funny Car title and the Winternationals but is also this track’s all-time winner. More competition in Funny Car could come from DSR’s Jack Beckman, who has three wins at the track and is in need of another one – not only because he’s working with a nearly-new crew, but because he didn’t get one last season, the first time since his Funny Car career kicked off. Watch for Alexis deJoria as well, as the Kalitta Motorsports driver became the first woman to break into the 3-second bracket back in Pomona.

Enders-Stevens is with a new team this season, Elite Motorsports, but coming to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park feels like home for the driver, who has several family members in nearby Phoenix. Enders-Stevens and others tested at the track in the off-season, a grouping which also included reigning Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., who has two wins at the track (2000 and 2009). He’ll be among the drivers to beat on Sunday, as will his teammate Allen Johnson and Winternationals winner Jason Line.

Qualifying for the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals begins Friday, February 21st with sessions at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. MT. Qualifying continues Saturday, February 22nd at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. MT. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, February 23rd. Keep up with the action at www.nhra.com.

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