The results might not have shown it recently, but Khalid alBalooshi knows that his Al-Anabi Racing Top Fuel team is close to returning to impressive performances. With the next race on the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series already a proven winner for alBalooshi, it could be a case of perfect timing.
AlBalooshi and his 10,000-horsepower dragster will enter this weekend’s eighth annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk as the defending winner in Top Fuel and it couldn’t come at a more ideal time.
After starting the season with a victory in Pomona, alBalooshi has struggled to recreate that championship form. But alBalooshi, who has three career victories, believes a turnaround is coming and with it could come a second straight win in Norwalk.
“We’re finding out a lot of things about the car,” alBalooshi said. “Everyone is doing their job and we’re putting everything together to give me the best car we can, especially now that we’ve found the problem. We were trying something different and working on some different things, and I feel like I know exactly what it’s going to do this race. We know how to make the car keep getting better. I think you will see a lot from the Al-Anabi team very soon and I feel like we’ve got our hot rod back.”
Johnny Gray (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2.
This year’s event marks the 13th of 24 races during the 2014 season and alBalooshi carries plenty of fond memories of last year’s triumph into Norwalk. After qualifying 10th alBalooshi knocked off Antron Brown and Clay Millican to reach the final where he then defeated Doug Kalitta.
AlBalooshi’s victory in Pomona also included a final round win against Kalitta, but Kalitta has been nearly unbeatable since then, taking over the points lead with one victory and seven overall final round appearances.
“That was one of the best weekends I’ve had,” alBalooshi said. “Everything was working that day and we beat a lot of good competitors to get the win. Our car and team did a great job that weekend to get the win.”
In an effort to recreate that moment in Norwalk the team has put in heavy hours and made several changes to the car. AlBalooshi seemed poised to get back on track after a round win in Epping, N.H., but a first-round loss to J.R. Todd on Sunday in Chicago gave alBalooshi, who dropped to eighth in points with the early exit, three first round defeats in the past four races. Still, alBalooshi continues to see improvements and believes a breakout performance could be right around the corner.
“I feel more comfortable and we’re going to do a better job of getting down the track as well,” alBalooshi said. “The guys on the team are doing a great job and I haven’t driven my best. I have to do that to keep everyone at their best and make everyone happy. I think we can get better very soon and I think we will be in way better shape than we have been in the last four or five races.”
AlBalooshi will also have to deal with a host of championship-caliber challengers in Norwalk, including his teammate and reigning world champion Shawn Langdon, 2012 Norwalk winner Spencer Massey, Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown, who won in Chicago, reigning Auto Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner Brittany Force, Richie Crampton and Steve Torrence.
The good news is that the Al-Anabi Racing team has always fared well in Norwalk. Including alBalooshi’s win a year ago, Al-Anabi Racing has won the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals four of the last five years in Top Fuel, another reason alBalooshi is confident he can finish out this string of four straight race weekends with a strong performance.
“For me as a driver, I like it,” alBalooshi said of four straight races. “But it’s four straight weeks of work for our team and I feel for those guys. But as a driver, I enjoy it and it’s a chance for me to get better.”
With Johnny Gray having retired at the end of last season, the Funny Car field is wide open in Norwalk. Points leader Robert Hight has never won at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park but is seeking a fifth win in 2014. To get it he will have to get past a talented field featuring the likes of previous Norwalk winners Jack Beckman, Tony Pedregon and Tim Wilkerson, as well as Cruz Pedregon, reigning world champion John Force, Courtney Force, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Chicago winner Matt Hagan.
Greg Anderson is tied for the winningest Pro Stock driver in the history of Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park and will be looking for his third win. Vincent Nobile, who won last weekend in Chicago, also has two victories at Norwalk but everyone is chasing points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who has three victories in 2014. Reigning world champ Jeg Coughlin, Allen Johnson, Shane Gray, Dave Connolly, Jason Line and Chris McGaha are also drivers who will be challenging for the win in the 200-mph factory hot rod class.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith is the defending race winner and the reigning champion but he is still looking for his first 2014 victory. Andrew Hines’ two victories has given him the category points lead and teammate Eddie Krawiec has one victory and is second in points. Smith’s wife Angie, who won her first career event this year, Scotty Pollacheck, Michael Ray, John Hall and Hector Arana Jr., who is the most recent event winner, will all compete for the 2014 Norwalk Wally in the two-wheel category.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
The event will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, July 4, with sessions at 4:45 and 7:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, July 5, at 4:45 and 7:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 6.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park at (419) 668-5555 or visit www.summitmotorsportspark.com. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
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SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA NATIONALS
WHAT: Eighth annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, the 13th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, Norwalk, Ohio. The track is located at 1300 State Route 18, half way between Cleveland and Toledo; just an hour and a half north of Columbus. The Ohio Turnpike is less than 10 minutes away.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, July 3-6.
THURSDAY, July 3 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 9 a.m.
FRIDAY, July 4 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 4 and 6:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:45 and 7:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, July 5 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 4 p.m.; First round of eliminations at 6:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:45 and 7:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 6 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, July 5, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 11 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 6, ESPN2 will televise three hours of elimination coverage starting at 9 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE: (Digital HD feed)
Friday, July 4, 10 - 10:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 1 / Transponder 01C
Saturday, July 5, 10:30 - 11 p.m. (ET), AMC 1 / Transponder 01C
Sunday, July 6, 7 - 7:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 1 / Transponder 01C
(3720 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2013 EVENT WINNERS: Khalid alBalooshi, Top Fuel; Johnny Gray, Funny Car; Mike Edwards, Pro Stock; Matt Smith, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Andrew Hines, 3, PSM; Larry Dixon, 2, TF; Mike Neff, 2, FC; Greg Anderson, 2, PS; Vincent Nobile, 2, PS; Matt Smith, 2, PSM.
Top Fuel - 3.752 seconds by Shawn Langdon, July ’13; 327.74 mph by Doug Kalitta, July ’13.
Funny Car - 4.021 seconds by John Force, July ’13; 319.67 mph by Courtney Force, July ’13.
Pro Stock - 6.583 seconds by Ron Krisher, June ’11; 209.92 mph by Mike Edwards, July ’13.
PS Motorcycle - 6.887 seconds by Hector Arana Jr., June ’11; 194.77 mph by Michael Ray, July ’13.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ‘12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.965 sec. by John Force, Feb. ’14, Pomona, Calif.; 324.12 mph by J. Force, Feb. ’14, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock - 6.4 sec. by Erica Enders-Stevens, May ‘14, Englishtown, N.J.; 215.55 mph by Enders-Stevens, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla
TICKETS: For tickets, call (419) 668-5555 or purchase online at www.summitmotorsportspark.com.
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NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the 12th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
Top Fuel: 1. Doug Kalitta, 1065; 2. Antron Brown, 963; 3. Shawn Langdon, 835; 4. Spencer Massey, 747; 5.Tony Schumacher, 711; 6. Steve Torrence, 688; 7. Brittany Force, 638; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 620; 9. Richie Crampton, 600; 10. J.R. Todd, Indianapolis, 557
Funny Car: 1. Robert Hight, Yorba Linda, 1032; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., 786; 3. John Force, 769; 4. Ron Capps, 748; 5. Alexis DeJoria, 747; 6. Courtney Force, 732; 7. Del Worsham, 684; 8. Matt Hagan, 681; 9. Cruz Pedregon, 651; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 603.
Pro Stock: 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, 1036; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 846; 3. Allen Johnson, 845; 4. Jason Line, 830; 5. Vincent Nobile, 785; 6. Dave Connolly, 782; 7. Shane Gray, 769; 8. V. Gaines, 552; 9. Chris McGaha, 525; 10. Jonathan Gray, 432.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Andrew Hines, 536; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 515; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 474; 4. John Hall, 371; 5. Matt Smith, 361; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, 341; 7. Hector Arana, 320; 8. Michael Ray, 302; 9. Angie Smith, 300; 10. Steve Johnson, 249.