Hines, Line, Force and Kalitta Hope to Ride Wave of Momentum to Strong Finishes At Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway
The four Mello Yello Drag Racing Series' No. 1 seeds headed into the first of the NHRA's six-race Countdown to the Championship are eager to ride their regular season success to strong finishes when the playoffs kick off Sept. 12-14 at zMAX Dragway during the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals.
To do so, all four drivers - Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) - said they would seek the same consistency in the post-season that helped them dominate during the regular season.
Kalitta said his Mac Tools dragster has run dependably enough all season to keep the 50-year-old racer atop the points following all but two events.
"Our class is incredibly competitive," Kalitta said. "Any one of the cars can win the thing, the top 16 on a Sunday. My car has been more consistent this year than it's been in a number of years, it's probably the best year that I've had that I can remember. That's our mission for sure, to go to each one of these things, qualify good, be consistent and be ready and going rounds on Sunday. We definitely plan on continuing what we've been doing."
Funny Car driver and 16-time champion John Force said he will continue -as he has all season - to rely on his teammates (daughter Courtney Force and son-in-law Robert Hight) to make all three of the John Force Racing Funny Cars as strong as they can be throughout the Countdown.
"If you look at my Traxxas Ford with Courtney and Robert Hight in the Auto Club Mustang, and me with Castrol, we work as a team," Force said. "I think we've been in the last seven or eight final rounds. We won a bunch of them. I got hot at the beginning of the year. I struggled. We got hot again. And something happened at testing. We tried some stuff, got off our game… And then we got back on our game with the Traxxas (Nitro Shootout), got the win there… I need a championship as much as the other drivers out there want it. And my focus is going to be dead on."
Perhaps no other driver will come into zMAX Dragway to kick off the Countdown with more confidence than Pro Stock racer Jason Line, who has notched four wins this season, including three in the last five races. Line and his Summit Racing teammates have historically performed very well at zMAX Dragway, which he considers his home track.
"I think I'm starting in a pretty darn good spot," Line said of his No. 1 seed heading into the Countdown. "Obviously a month and a half ago I was going to be happy if I was in the top five. So the last month has been pretty darn good to me. I don't know if I've entered the Countdown No. 1 before, I'm not sure if I have or not. But there's no better place to start.
"This is the best stretch I've probably ever had. So it gives me certainly a lot of confidence."
Hines rode his Vance & Hines Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson to the Winner's Circle four times in nine races this season, including the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals earlier this year. He is also the defending Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals champion.
"Keeping momentum is a key thing," Hine said. "Big thing for me is I like to be out front with having people chasing me, because it's less pressure on me because I just know I have to maintain where other people have to overcome. And if I can go out there and get a lot of qualifying points, qualify in the front where it makes race day a little easier, that's going to be key for the whole thing."
Fans can enjoy all of the weekend action with a three-day pass to the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals, with packages starting at just $99. Children 13 and younger will receive free general admission with a paid adult all weekend.
Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals qualifying opens on Friday, Sept. 12, with pro sessions scheduled at 3:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions scheduled to take place Saturday, Sept. 13, at 2:30 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 14.
To purchase tickets, call zMAX Dragway at 800-455-FANS (3267) or visit www.zMAXdragway.com. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
Connect with zMAX Dragway and stay up to speed with all the happenings at the Bellagio of drag strips on Facebook at www.facebook.com/zmaxdragway and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/zmaxdragway.