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2014 NHRA Four-Wide Nationals: Who to watch

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The fifth race of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule is one of the most unique events in motorsports: the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, held at the “Bellagio of drag strips,” zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina, Friday through Sunday, April 11th through 13th. All four Mello Yello Series categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – will be in action at the strip this weekend.

Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were the winners of last year’s event; all but Edwards returns to defend their titles.

One race everyone will be watching is the race to 100 – 100 female victories, that is. 14 women have combined for 98 wins since Shirley Muldowney broke the barrier in 1976, and eight women are entered in this weekend’s Four-Wide Nationals: Brittany Force and Leah Pritchett in Top Fuel; Courtney Force and Alexis DeJoria in Funny Car; Erica Enders-Stevens in Pro Stock; and Angie Smith, Katie Sullivan and Elvira Karlsson in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

“I'm friends with Courtney, Alexis and Brittany. We're all working towards the same goal,” said Enders-Stevens. “It was awesome to share the first double women's winner's circle with Courtney in Seattle in 2012 and then again last week with Alexis in Vegas. So I think we're all rooting for each other, but of course we all secretly want to get that hundredth win for ourselves and our team. We'll see how it goes. I'm excited about it.”

Massey will be looking for here in a row at the Four-Wide Nationals, but will have to get through the usual tough competition in the Top Fuel class, including points leader Doug Kalitta, Don Schumacher Racing teammates Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher and Al-Anabi Racing teammates Khalid alBalooshi and 2013 Top Fuel champ Shawn Langdon.

“It’s an honor to have so much success at a track that has much so prestige,” said Massey of his first two wins. “It’s something that’s hard to do and being able to experience it is awesome. It’s definitely cool to have it on the resume.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, 2013 champ Matt Smith won the first-ever PSM Wally from the Four-Wide Nationals in 2010, and frequently tests at zMAX Dragway, making the track and the Four-Wide Nationals favorites of his. He’ll be fielding a four-bike team this weekend, with his wife Angie, John Hall and Scotty Pollacheck all attempting to make the field.

“Since this track has been built I’ve probably made the most passes on it than anybody out there,” said Smith said. “I feel confident we’re going to run well. It’s a really big race for us and we’re going to hit it hard and go for that No. 1 spot right away in qualifying. We’ve got a target on our back this year but the best thing we can do is throw our best shot out there.”

“I love the Four-Wide race,” Smith continued. “It’s just one of those races where I felt comfortable right off the bat. The key to being successful is running your own lane. If you focus on lane and do your job, it can be just like any other track. Once you start overthinking at a track like this that’s when you’re going to be in trouble. We have a great team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. We’ve been consistent at going down the race track and that’s huge in a race like this.”

On-track action for the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals kicks off Friday, April 11th with pro qualifying sessions at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. ET, continuing Saturday, April 12th with two more pro qualifying sessions at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. ET. Eliminations begin Sunday, April 13th at noon ET. Keep up with the action at www.nhra.com.

Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.

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