Race Weekend Central

Nitro Shots: Great Scary News

For the second time this year, NHRA blew the audience numbers out of the water, amassing 1,367,000 viewers for the Sunday’s finals show for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals from Atlanta. Earlier this season, the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals from Las Vegas captured nearly 1.3 million viewers.

Overall, NHRA viewership is up over 61 percent over 2015. It would appear the transition from ESPN to FOX Sports has been a rousing success so far. One key element is that both of those events enjoyed a lead-in from NASCAR, an audience both NHRA and FOX were hoping to tap into.

This increased interest and viewership is, for the most part, great news. It’s good for the sport and it’s good for the teams who need to make a case for advertising dollars to support their efforts. We need to fill those fields in the Pro categories and increased viewership, attendance, and interest helps that to happen.

NHRA 2016 Topeka Jason Line burnout courtesy NHRA media
Viewership for NHRA Mello Yello Series events is up 61% over 2015. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

It will be interesting to see how audience numbers fare once the FOX portion of the NASCAR season concludes. Those are the numbers that will determine whether the interest in the sport is genuine. Will they seek it out when it’s not automatically served up to them?

Hopefully some of them will. It would be folly to think all of them will, and honestly, that’s OK if they don’t all keep watching. That sounds counterintuitive, but here’s why: NHRA drag racing is, as has been said repeatedly, about the experience as much as it is about anything else.

That experience can certainly weather more bodies at the race track, but how many more bodies? Can fans still have the same experience with 80,000 people at the track?

On a related note, a fan tweeted out a comment last week complaining that she had to wait for an hour to get Brittany Force’s signature. This was on race day and to be honest an hour doesn’t seem like very long to me, but I promise you most NASCAR fans would probably think: only an hour? They’d be overjoyed if it took just an hour to get the autograph of one of the most popular drivers in the garage.

What’s News?

* Get well wishes to Shirley Muldowney as she recovers from surgery in Charlotte, NC. Muldowney was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent a procedure to remove her right lung where a Stage II tumor was found to be growing.

“I’m a fighter, always have been, and I’m going to fight this as best I can with everything I got,” said Muldowney. “I’m ready for the pain to stop. It’s been getting worse the last few weeks as they did biopsies and the pre-op stress tests to make sure I was strong enough to have the surgery. Everything is good, so we’re getting it done.”

According to Muldowney’s Twitter feed, surgery went well.

* K&N Engineering, Inc., has signed a multiyear agreement with NHRA to continue sponsorship of the K&N Horsepower Challenge, the all-star event for the Pro Stock class.

“The K&N Horsepower Challenge is one of the most exciting all-star bonus events of the year and a fan favorite” said Graham Light, senior vice president of racing operations for NHRA. “The best Pro Stock racers in the world compete for a $50,000 purse and the fans have the opportunity to get directly involved with the racing by picking the eighth finalist with a fan vote.”

The K&N Horespower Challenge is contested every spring as part of the event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Driver Profile: Greg Anderson

NHRA 2016 Charlotte Greg Anderson credit Toni Montgomery
Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson. (Photo: Toni Montgomery)

Category: Pro Stock
Hometown: Duluth, MN
Date of birth: March 14, 1961
2016 car: Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro
Crew chief: Rob Downing/Tim Freeman
Team Owner: Ken Black

Career Highlights:
Career wins/runner-up finishes: 81/48
Best points finish: 1st in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2010
Career best ET: 6.457, Dallas, 2015
Career best speed: 215.48, Charlotte 1, 2015

2015 – Finished second in points; won four races; five No. 1 qualifiers

2011 – Tenth consecutive year finishing top three in points; won K&N Horsepower Challenge for the fourth time; won at the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis for the sixth time

2004 – In addition to winning his second championship, set an NHRA record for 15 event victories in a single season, earned single-season NHRA record for No. 1 qualifying awards with 16, most elimination rounds at 76, and the most final-round appearances with 19.

2003 – Won first NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock world championship, won 12 events, recorded 67 elimination round wins, set 19 track records, and earned 14 No. 1 qualifying awards.

2001 – Won first career NHRA national event at Bristol, earned first No. 1 qualifying position at Atlanta, won NHRA U.S. Nationals

Follow Greg: @GregAnderson_ps, @KBRacing1 on Twitter, KB Racing on Facebook

Some Things Most People Don’t Know About Greg: This may not exactly fall under the category of things people don’t know, but it’s worth thinking about the fact that two years ago entering the 2014 season, Anderson was not at the race track, but was instead recovering from open heart surgery. He needed the surgery to repair a bicuspid aortic valve, a condition he’d had since birth that now needed to be addressed. Doctors wanted to operate three years earlier but Anderson was hoping to avoid the procedure. He underwent scans on the artery every six months and at first there was no change in his condition, but a scan in early February of last year showed severe swelling. He was weeks, or perhaps days away from an aneurysm that would have killed him. The expected recovery period was 12 weeks, which would have caused him to miss the first six races, although he was eventually cleared to come back after only five. Anderson hardly missed a beat and just barely missed the Countdown that year, a good performance considering he spotted the rest of the field five races and underwent open heart surgery just days before the season opener in Pomona.

Hey Y’all, Watch This!

Watch these, technically. I believe we have already covered the term pedalfest in a previous edition of Nitro Shots, but this past weekend’s Nitro finals demonstrated the term beautifully. First up was Funny Car, where Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman fought some incredibly ornery machines. Hagan got his to the finish line first, and perhaps amazingly in one piece.

“My butt was puckered pretty good on that last run. It was one of those deals where it was ‘oh no, oh no, oh no.’ I don’t know how many times I hit the fuel pedal. Sometimes you’re just thinking ‘don’t blow up,’” said Hagan. “I didn’t expect to have to pedal the racecar like I had to. It caught me off guard.”

Not to be outdone, Top Fuel’s final also saw some wrestling. Antron Brown spun the tires on the hit but eventual winner Doug Kalitta didn’t have a trouble-free run either, getting very sideways and showing off some of his old USAC Sprint Car moves on his way to the finish.

Word of the Week: Interval Timers

Anyone who watches an event has seen the reaction time an elapsed time posted when a driver completes a run, but there are other timers set up along the track that record elapsed times at the 60, 330, 660, and 1000 foot marks. Teams can tell much about how their car is running by looking at their elapsed times at these secondary marks.

NHRA on TV:

ProgramDate/TimeChannel
AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS
QualifyingFriday, November 10, 6:30 PM ETFS1 (Live)
QualifyingSaturday, November 11, 6:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)
EliminationsSunday, November 12, 4:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)

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