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Tue, 10 Sep 2019, 14:08 PM

NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Kicks Off at Mopar Express Lane NHRA
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2019 NHRA/National Dragster

MOHNTON, Pa. -- Nationals presented by Pennzoil

The opener for the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship will launch the most intense segment of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing competition at the 35th annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil, Sept. 12-15 at Maple Grove Raceway. The top 10 competitors in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will battle it out over the final six events of the 2019 season to determine who will be crowned world champion, and all the NHRA stars will look to start the playoffs in impressive fashion in Reading.

The action kicks off on Friday as competitors vie for valuable qualifying points at the 19th of 24 races during the 2019 season. During the second session of qualifying on Friday, fans can enjoy the new NHRA Prime Time qualifying at one of the fastest tracks on the NHRA circuit. During Prime Time, drivers perform a burnout to their favorite jams played by an on-site DJ. Sitting in the hills of beautiful Pennsylvania countryside, the 11,000-horsepower nitro-burning machines will put on a thrilling evening show, paving the way for another memorable weekend at Maple Grove. The Pennzoil Charity Challenge race will also take place on Friday, featuring local celebrities and dignitaries.

Current points leader Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year's winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including final eliminations on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. (ET). Both Torrence and Todd used that momentum from the opening Countdown to the Championship victory to claim their first NHRA world titles.

Steve Torrence, J.R. Todd, Vincent Nobile
and Hector Arana Jr celebrate wins.
For Torrence, it was just the start of his dominant Top Fuel run in the playoffs, as he became the first driver in NHRA history to win all six events in the Countdown to the Championship. He's heading to this year's playoffs in impressive fashion as well, having won eight races already in 2019. It shows Torrence has his sights set on a second straight world title, but a group of stars will look to stop him, including three-time world champ Antron Brown, Clay Millican, Leah Pritchett, 2017 world champ Brittany Force, top rookie Austin Prock, veteran Doug Kalitta and Mike Salinas.

In Funny Car, Todd got off to a great start in the Countdown to the Championship, and then closed in impressive fashion as well to claim his first world title. His team has annually performed well in the high-pressure playoff moments, and Todd will look to make another statement in Reading. To claim another win at Maple Grove Raceway, Todd will have to get past points leader Robert Hight, John Force, who recently picked up his 150th career win, Tommy Johnson Jr., Kalitta Motorsports teammate Shawn Langdon, Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Bob Tasca and Matt Hagan.

Pro Stock points leader Bo Butner picked up his first career win at Maple Grove in 2017, a year that also ended with his first world title in the class. He's had a strong start to his 2019 season, and Butner will look to keep a talented field of championship-caliber drivers at bay in Reading. KB Racing teammate Greg Anderson has two recent wins, while five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. has posted a class-best four wins at the track. Others to watch include Seattle winner Matt Hartford, Jason Line, Alex Laughlin, two-time world champ Erica Enders and Deric Kramer.

Hector Arana Jr. is after his first world title in Pro Stock Motorcycle and a third win at Maple Grove Raceway would certainly help the cause. He'll likely have to go through points leader and five-time champ Andrew Hines, who has been dominant to the tune of seven races in nine events thus far in 2019. He has won twice in Reading as well and will look to keep his remarkable season going against teammate Eddie Krawiec, defending world champion Matt Smith, Angie Smith, three-time world champ Angelle Sampey, Karen Stoffer and Ryan Oehler.

The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. Fan favorites in the Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car categories are sure to delight.

Along with exciting on-track action, the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil will honor first responders with NHRA's "Salute to First Responders" celebration.

NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Pro Stock School and Nitro School to learn how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Behind the grandstands, fans can check out the Dodge/Mopar show cars. Maple Grove Raceway will host the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello and pre-race ceremonies will include appearances by competitors vying for the championship. Another can't-miss experience is the winner's circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their victories.

As always, fans can 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 gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers as a DJ plays hit music.

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 Mopar Mega Block Party will rev up the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil race weekend for the fourth consecutive year. The free-admission fan event, set to roll into FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading from 4 -10 p.m. ET on Thursday, September 12, will offer a jam-packed slate of fun activities for Mopar and Dodge//SRT enthusiasts. NHRA stars and TV personalities will step up to the plate for the annual Mopar Mega Block Party home run derby with NHRA announcer Alan Reinhart providing the play-by-play.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 14, at 12:45 and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15.

Television coverage includes Friday Nitro Live from 7-8:30 pm ET on FS1 on Friday, Sept. 13, as well as live coverage on Sunday, Sept. 15 from 2-5 p.m. ET on FS1.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 610-856-9200. Tickets also are available online at Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets.

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