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Fri, 28 Sep 2007, 06:44 AM

Five Rookie Drivers Headline Nominees for 2007 Auto Club Road to Future Award
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2007 NHRA

GLENDORA, Calif. -- Five National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) rookie drivers, representative of three pro categories, have been selected as nominees for the 2007 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.

The nominees for the prestigious award include, in alphabetical order, Ashley Force (Funny Car), Craig Hankinson (Pro Stock), Barry Henson (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Justin Humphreys (Pro Stock) and Matt Scranton (Pro Stock).

The award, which recognizes the top rookie competitor in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series and offers a $20,000 prize and traditional trophy to the winner, will be presented during NHRA's annual championship awards ceremony on Monday, Nov. 5, at the spectacular Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles.

Ashley Force
"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 five 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."

Force, 24, from Yorba Linda, Calif., drove her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car to semifinal finishes at Atlanta, St. Louis and Dallas. In Atlanta she became the first female Funny Car driver in NHRA history to defeat her father, 14-time POWERade Series world champion John Force. She is only the 10th woman to compete in Funny Car in NHRA history and equaled the best finish for a female Funny Car driver (semifinals).

Craig Hankinson
Hankinson, 44, from Newark, Ohio, turned in his wrench set for a pair of driving gloves in NHRA Pro Stock competition, and raced to a career-best quarterfinal finish at the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals. He clocked performance bests of 6.619 seconds and 208.30 mph in his Boscoe HVAC Pontiac GTO.

Henson, 43, from Nicholasville, Ky., powered his Velocity Suzuki to a career-best performance of 7.066 seconds at 189.31 mph. He also qualified 13th in Pro Stock Motorcycle for the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis.

Humphreys, 30, from Monrovia, Md., raced to semifinal finishes at St. Louis and Bristol in his Knoll Gas & Energy Pontiac GTO. At the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, Humphreys qualified a season-best sixth and posted a quarterfinal finish in Pro Stock eliminations.

Justin Humphreys

Barry Henson
Scranton, 36, from Land O' Lakes, Fla., earned a semifinal finish at the ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals in Florida, and produced a career-best performance of 6.599 seconds at 209.43 mph in his Scranton Brothers Pontiac GTO.

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); Jason Line (2004, Pro Stock); Robert Hight (2005, Funny Car); and J.R. Todd (2006, Top Fuel).

Matt Scranton
NHRA Rookie of the Year winners prior to the merger of the two awards 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.

In addition to the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, the company is the title sponsor for the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Nov. 1-4 at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The company also is a major sponsor for John Force Racing, providing primary sponsorship for the Mustang driven by Hight, as well as associate sponsorship for the Ford Mustangs driven by John and Ashley Force. In addition, the company is the title sponsor for the Automobile Club of Southern California Hot Rod Reunion presented by Holly, as well as the presenting sponsor for the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.

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