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2014 Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals: Who to watch

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The 13th race of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season is the eighth annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, taking place Thursday through Sunday, July 3rd through 6th at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio. All four top Mello Yello Series categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – will be in action, as will the NHRA Pro Mod Series and the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.

Two of last season’s winners – Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) – return to Norwalk to defend their titles; last season’s Funny Car winner was Johnny Gray, while Mike Edwards won in Pro Stock.

alBalooshi is the latest in a string of Al-Anabi Racing Top Fuel drivers to win at Norwalk, a list that also includes Larry Dixon in 2009 and 2010, and Del Worsham in 2011. alBalooshi’s teammate, 2013 Top Fuel champ Shawn Langdon, is looking for his first win at Norwalk and second of the 2014 season after finally breaking through at Bristol last month.

“I think it will feel good to get back to Norwalk because I know I have done this before,” said alBalooshi. “I will not have any thoughts about not being able to win there because I won there last year, and that will give me an advantage. Norwalk is also a very good race track for our team so that is good, too.”

Smith comes to Norwalk with similar statistics as last year: fifth in points with one final round appearance and one semi-final appearance. He not only went on to win at Norwalk, but he took home the 2013 Pro Stock Motorcycle championship.

“This is a track where we can certainly win again,” said Smith. “The track is good and I love the facility. We could definitely have someone on our team win the race. We have a strong team and we’ve showed that all year. It’s been a pretty impressive performance out of our team. We’ve got a good team and good power, but we have to get some lucky breaks.”

2009 Norwalk Funny Car winner Jack Beckman is seeking his first win since 2012, and more importantly a boost in the points standings – he’s currently 11th, 22 points out of the all-important top 10 and out of the Countdown to the Championship standings.

“We’re just running out of time,” said Beckman. “You don’t know if every round is important but we know we can’t afford to keep losing early on Sunday. We’ll be out of the top 10 for two races in a row when we get to Norwalk and it is going to get harder to catch the cars ahead of us as they start solidifying their spots for the Countdown. We’re putting our backs to the wall and we’re getting to the position where we have to win two or three events to jump back into this thing.”

Another driver looking to get into the top 10 is Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson, currently 12th in points after missing the first six races of the season following heart surgery. He, too, is looking to snap a winless streak, currently at 44 races. He’s made two final-round appearances since his return, but has yet to collect a Wally.

“We’re definitely getting there, but we’re not where we need to be,” said Anderson. “We’re progressing and we’re finding a way to go rounds against some extremely tough competition. There has absolutely never been a year like this before. It’s a much tougher challenge to crack into the top 10. We have to get back to winning races. To get into the Countdown you have to be able to win and that’s the way it should be.”

Qualifying for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals begins Friday, July 4th at 4:45 and 7:15 p.m. ET, continuing Saturday, July 5th at 4:45 and 7:15 p.m. ET. Final elimination rounds kick off Sunday, July 6th at 11 a.m. ET. Keep up with the action at www.nhra.com.

Quotes and information in this piece provided by Al-Anabi Racing and the NHRA.

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