NHRA Drivers Looking To Repeat

By: NHRA
By: NHRA
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These stories originally appeared at NHRA.com

Grubnic ready to defend Topeka Top Fuel title

A victory at Heartland Park Topeka one year ago ended a nearly six-year winless slump for veteran driver David Grubnic in the highly competitive Top Fuel category in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

This season, the driver of the Candlewood Suites Top Fuel dragster will try to claim his third victory at the popular Kansas multipurpose motorsports complex as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series pulls into the sprawling Midwest facility for the 25th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals, May 17-19.

The native Australian, who is off to a bit of a slow start this season, is eager to pick up the pace and defend his event win in Topeka and add a fourth coveted Wally to his mantel.

“Kalitta Motorsports and I have enjoyed a lot of success at Heartland Park Topeka,” said Grubnic, 10th in points with three quarterfinal appearances as his best results in 2013. “The fans in Topeka are some of the best in the country. They open their town up to us as if it were their house. We always have a great time, and the people are so friendly that it makes the event even more enjoyable. We always look forward to coming back and adding to those great memories. We still have our standing goal of winning events, which we have yet to achieve. We were fortunate last year with our win to achieve our goals, and our plan is to continue with the same this year."

Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) join Grubnic as the defending winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in Topeka, the eighth of 24 events in the 2013 season, which will be televised on ESPN2HD.

Along with Grubnic, the entire Kalitta Motorsports team is confident that its hard work will pay off and bring home some season wins.

"We are currently working on a new engine combination that once Connie [Kalitta, crew chief and team owner] has fine-tuned to his liking we are confident will help us to defend our Topeka title,” the 50-year-old resident of Ennis, Mont., said. “Connie Kalitta, James Riola, and the entire crew are doing a fabulous job with the Candlewood Suites race car.”

To defend his win in Topeka, Grubnic knows he will have to hold off a tough contingent of challengers, including national speed record holder and last season’s Topeka runner-up Spencer Massey, seven-time world champ and current points leader Tony Schumacher, Al-Anabi Racing’s Shawn Langdon, teammate and Mac Tools driver Doug Kalitta, GEICO driver Morgan Lucas, and rookie Brittany Force in her Castrol Edge dragster.

Defending NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car world champion Beckman in his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger will again be one of the drivers to beat in the loaded Funny Car division. Some of his toughest competition will come from teammate Ron Capps, a three-time winner in Topeka, and Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry veteran driver Cruz Pedregon, who has won four times in Topeka. Last season's rookie of the year, Courtney Force, who won the season opener in Pomona in her Traxxas Ford Mustang, also will be one to watch.

In Pro Stock, defending world champion Johnson is a two-time Topeka winner in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. His new teammate, Jeg Coughlin Jr., is also a past winner in Topeka and will be looking for more success in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger. Series points leader Mike Edwards, who has claimed two victories this season, and Greg Anderson are also past Topeka winners and will be trying to claim another victory there. Others to watch in the 200-mph factory hot rod class include Erica Enders-Stevens, Vincent Nobile, Jason Line, and Shane Gray, a past Topeka winner who has been to the last three final rounds.

The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense side-by-side competition.

As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers because every ticket is an exclusive pit pass, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds. Spectators also won’t want to miss the popular interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway.

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will begin on Friday, May 17, with sessions at 5 and 7 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, May 18, at 12:15 and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 19.

To purchase tickets, call 800-884-NHRA (6472). Children 12 and younger will be admitted free into general-admission areas at the NHRA Kansas Nationals when accompanied by a paid adult. Tickets are also available online at NHRATix.com.

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Beckman returns to Topeka, where 2012 championship run began

After winning a spectacular battle for the 2012 NHRA Funny Car season title against Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps at the season finale in Pomona last November, Jack Beckman is eager to return to the place where his world championship journey began: Heartland Park Topeka.

As he prepares to return to the scenic track in Kansas’ capital city with a reputation for producing great performances for the 25th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals, May 17-19, Beckman and the MTS Mail for Wounded Warriors/Valvoline Funny Car team are optimistic they’ll get back to their championship form in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

“When we get out there on the track, we remind ourselves we’re good,” Beckman said. “Topeka is what helped adjust our attitudes last year. Much like the stock market, there’s no guarantee you’re going to win in drag racing. It’s always a fresh start when you roll in, but it’s nice to go back to a track like Topeka, where I have stood in the winner’s circle before.”

Beckman will join fellow defending event winners David Grubnic (Top Fuel) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) at the eighth event in the 24-race season. The race will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD and will feature competition in the Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock categories.

With the great parity that exists in the Funny Car category this season, Beckman has been challenged by many championship contenders in the field, but he remains focused on his end goal.

“Right now, I would like to get the first trophy out of the way,” Beckman said. “We have not been performing at the consistent level as we expect. We’ve got to figure out quickness and consistency. It’s been tough in our lane the last few races, but we feel incredibly fortunate for our team. We have high expectations and know we are not far from those goals and returning to the winner’s circle this season.”

Prior to Topeka last season, Beckman faced some major hurdles, including switching cars and teams with teammate Capps and posting one DNQ. He rallied during the Countdown to the Championship playoffs and ended his title campaign with three victories in four final rounds and four No. 1 qualifying positions. This season, Beckman has only made it to one semifinal round and is seventh in the points standings.

“Last season heading to Topeka, we faced a lot of challenges,” Beckman said. “It was the third race with a new car and a new crew. Our overall attitude was not incredibly optimistic. It felt like we were bringing a pistol to a machine gun race. We were able to prevail in the final round to win with a holeshot. Topeka set the tone for our championship run, and I’m very optimistic about contending for another championship this new Mello Yello season.”

The former U.S. Air Force sergeant will have to bring out all of his troops to face a tough lineup of competitors, including current points leader Cruz Pedregon, a four-time winner at Heartland Park Topeka. Two-time Topeka winner Robert Hight, sophomore-sensation Courtney Force, and NAPA Dodge driver Capps, a three-time Topeka winner, are also among the pre-race favorites.

In Top Fuel, defending champ Grubnic will try to score a third victory at the Topeka event. He will be challenged by series points leader Tony Schumacher, defending world champ Antron Brown, last season’s runner-up Spencer Massey, Morgan Lucas, Doug Kalitta, and Brandon Bernstein, among others.

Reigning Pro Stock world champion Johnson, in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger, is building steam with two early season wins and is eager to get back to Topeka to try to defend his victory from a year ago. Johnson will have to battle with some stout contenders in the 200-mph factory hot rod category, including Summit Racing Chevy Camaro driver Greg Anderson, a four-time Topeka winner, and Erica Enders-Stevens, who has some early season momentum following a win in Phoennix and runner-up finishes in Las Vegas and Charlotte.

The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense side-by-side competition.

As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers because every ticket is an exclusive pit pass, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds. Spectators also won’t want to miss the popular interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway.

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will begin on Friday, May 17, with sessions at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, May 18, at 12:15 and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 19.

To purchase tickets, call 800-884-NHRA (6472). Children 12 and younger will be admitted free into general admission areas at the NHRA Kansas Nationals when accompanied by a paid adult. Tickets are also available online at www.NHRAtix.com.


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