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Wed, 12 Oct 2005, 02:31 PM

Beckman, Ellis, Enders and Hight are Nominees for 2005 Auto Club Road to The Future Award
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2005 Auto Imagery, Inc. and NHRA

GLENDORA, Calif. -- Four National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) rookie drivers, representative of all four pro categories, have been selected as the nominees for the 2005 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, it was announced today by officials from the NHRA and Automobile Club of Southern California.

Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman (Top Fuel), Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Robert Hight (Funny Car) were nominated for the prestigious award, which annually recognizes the top rookie competitor in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series and offers a $20,000 prize and sleek ceremonial trophy to the winner.

The Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award will be presented during the NHRA's annual championship awards ceremony on Monday, Nov. 7 at the scenic Westin Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

"For more than 100 years the Automobile Club of Southern California has represented integrity, commitment and professionalism to our millions of members. The Road to the Future Award has come to symbolize these same attributes in the sport of NHRA POWERade Drag Racing," said Thomas V. McKernan, president and CEO of the Automobile Club of Southern California. "To be nominated recognizes not only that a rookie driver had a noteworthy first season, but also that they demonstrated exceptional potential for the future. We congratulate all four of the nominees for this year's award and look forward to enjoying their achievements both on and off the race track for many years to come."

Chip Ellis
Beckman, 39, from North Hills, Calif., has driven his Menards/Mail Terminal Services Top Fuel dragster to a semifinal finish at Englishtown and two quarterfinal finishes while competing on a limited schedule. He posted a qualifying best of eighth and recorded career-best performances of 4.563 seconds, 324.28 mph. He qualified for the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis and is currently 15th in the POWERade Series point standings.

Ellis, 35, from Americus, Ga., rode his G-Squared/S&S Buell to one victory and three semifinal finishes in Pro Stock Motorcycle. He clocked performance bests of 7.024 seconds and 193.35 mph. After being as high as second in the POWERade Series standings, Ellis is sixth with two races remaining.

Erica Enders
Enders, 21, from Houston, drove her Slammers Ultimate Milk Chevy Cobalt to a runner-up effort at Chicago to become the first woman in NHRA history to advance to a final round in Pro Stock eliminations. Last weekend at Dallas she posted a semifinal finish. She is only the fifth female to ever compete in the 200 mph category. Having qualified for 11 races, she has recorded career-best performances of 6.670 seconds and 206.48 mph, with a top qualifying effort of fifth.

Hight, 36, from Anaheim Hills, Calif., drove his Auto Club Ford Mustang to two victories in four final rounds. He also has posted a season-best six No. 1 qualifying positions and led the Funny Car point standings for five races late in the season. He is currently fourth overall and still in contention for a world championship title with two races remaining. His season-best performances include a time of 4.711 seconds and a speed of 330.31 mph.

Robert Hight
In 2002 the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award and the NHRA Rookie of the Year Award were combined to create one award recognizing the future stars of the sport. Past winners of the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award have developed into some of NHRA's biggest stars, including Tony Pedregon (1996, Funny Car), Ron Capps (1997, Funny Car), Doug Kalitta (1998, Top Fuel), Antron Brown (1999, Pro Stock Motorcycle), Melanie Troxel (2000, Top Fuel), GT Tonglet (2001, Pro Stock Motorcycle), Gene Wilson (2002, Pro Stock); Brandon Bernstein (2003, Top Fuel) and Jason Line (2004, Pro Stock).

Recent NHRA Rookie of the Year winners have included the late Darrell Russell (2001, Top Fuel), Don Lampus (2000, Top Fuel), Scotty Cannon (1999, Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (1998, Pro Stock), Gary Scelzi (1997, Top Fuel) and co-winners in 1996, Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Rookie drivers in all four of NHRA's professional categories are eligible to win the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award. More than 100 of the nation's most distinguished auto racing journalists will select the winner through a voting system based on the following criteria: number of events participated, performance on and off the race track, participation in NHRA promotions and relationships with fans, sponsors and media.

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