NHRA Modifies Countdown
The NHRA Countdown to the Championship is about to begin. (Dennis Bicksler photo)

NHRA Countdown To The Championship Opens In Style

READING, Pa. — Playoff action in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series will heat up in a hurry as the NHRA Countdown to the Championship begins at one of the fastest tracks on the circuit with the 37th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals on Sept. 15-18 at Maple Grove Raceway.

It is the opening event in the six-race NHRA playoffs as championship drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will look to start their world championship bids with a win at the fan-favorite facility.

Brittany Force made the quickest run in NHRA history at the facility in 2019 with her run of 3.623-seconds — one of several memorable performances that have taken place at the facility over nearly four decades. The track was also purchased in April by veteran NHRA racer Kenny Koretsky and his family, including current Pro Stock driver Kyle Koretsky.

Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won last year’s race.

In Top Fuel, Torrence edged out Justin Ashley in the final round a year ago, as Ashley turned in a strong performance in his first appearance in the Countdown to the Championship. He finished fourth in points and is a championship contender again this year, winning a pair of races already.

Ashley will look for his first victory at Maple Grove Raceway and he’ll have to be on top of his game to get it.

Brittany Force, who owns both ends of the track record, is the points leader and has four wins this season, while other top stars include four-time defending world champ Steve Torrence, Mike Salinas, Antron Brown, Leah Pruett, Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta and Clay Millican.

Robert Hight has enjoyed a banner season in Funny Car, running away with the points lead on the strength of six victories. It makes it a championship-or-bust season for the three-time world champ and he’ll try to open the Countdown to the Championship with a statement victory.

It certainly won’t be easy facing off with star drivers like John Force, who has an NHRA-best seven wins at Maple Grove Raceway, defending world champ Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Cruz Pedregon, Alexis DeJoria, Bob Tasca III, Tim Wilkerson and J.R. Todd.

Greg Anderson tied Warren Johnson on the all-time Pro Stock wins list in Reading last year, beating Erica Enders in a thrilling final round to earn his 97th career win. He broke the mark later in the season en route to his fifth world title and now sits just a win away from 100 career victories.

He’ll aim for that in Reading to open the postseason, but everyone is chasing Enders, who has dominated to the tune of six wins thus far in 2022. She’s after a fifth world championship facing off with the likes of Seattle winner Troy Coughlin Jr., rookie Camrie Caruso, Dallas Glenn, Koretsky and Aaron Stanfield.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, championship hopeful Steve Johnson will look to repeat last year’s success when the veteran won the playoff opener. That gave him the points lead in the Countdown for the first time in his career as he enjoyed his best season ever. He’s in the championship mix again this year, though six-time Reading winner Angelle Sampey currently leads the points by just two over Sonoma winner Joey Gladstone.

Others to watch in Reading include defending world champ Matt Smith, Eddie Krawiec, Angie Smith, Karen Stoffer and Jerry Savoie.

 

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