This weekend, drag racing fans will see the world’s fastest accelerating machines compete at a facility with no equal. The Sept. 15-18 O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway will feature a spectacular night qualifying session on Friday and high-speed family fun the entire weekend as the NHRA begins the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship.

 Night Qualifying at zMAX Dragway

Friday night features the only night qualifying session of the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals. Cooler track temperatures and less humidity will result in some of the fastest runs of the weekend. Fans can also expect to see a “Night of Fire” as huge flames will erupt out of the headers of each of the nitro-powered machines. In addition, 40-foot flames will be shot off each of the scoring towers at the end of the track to indicate which lane had the fastest run. Nitro Funny Car driver Matt Hagan is enthusiastic about the night qualifying session.

 “It’s awesome,” said Hagan. “The coolest part is that you’ve got a six-foot flame coming out of each side of your car. It’s so loud. You can’t describe it to somebody. You’ve gotta come out and check it out. The nighttime deal is like no other. You see these cars run in the daytime and you see them run on TV and it looks great, but when you see that night run, it really makes a fan out of you.”

 zMAX Dragway is the Disney World of Racing

One of the finest facilities in drag racing, zMAX Dragway is known for fan amenities. Opened in 2008, the four-lane, all-concrete race drag strip features two pedestrian tunnels under the track, premium 20-inch stadium-style seating and a gigantic interactive midway. Known as the Bellagio of drag strips, zMAX Dragway has certainly made an impression on Top Fuel driver, Antron Brown.

 “When you actually go up to the drag strip and you’re driving up, you go down that four-lane road and bam, there it is,” said Brown. “It’s like you’re at the magic kingdom. It’s like you have arrived to the Taj Mahal of drag strips. Every time I go there I just get so excited like I’m a little kid going to Disney World because I’m like, ‘Mommy, Daddy, I’m here!’ Then when you get there, the facility does not disappoint. I just love being there. The atmosphere just brings you up to a stage that is like no other.”

Winning at zMAX Dragway Important for Title Hopes

Similar to NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs, the NHRA Countdown to the Championship features a “post-season” feel and begins this year with the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway. The top 10 drivers in series standings have locked themselves in to the fight for the championship in each pro category. In the six-race Countdown, wins are important, and in the last two years, three of four category winners at Charlotte’s fall event have gone on to win championships. Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher, winless so far this season, stresses the importance of a good start in the Countdown.

 “I think it’s very important,” said Schumacher. “No matter where you are in the top 10, you can win the championship given that you go out and win that race. Charlotte is critical. It’s the beginning of the championship. You could have performed and won 15 races throughout the season. If you can’t win those last couple races, it’s game over. You’re not going to be called a Full Throttle Champion. We’re going to go out and go at it hard, as hard as we’ve been developing parts and pieces all year long for those races, starting right there in Charlotte.”

 Every Ticket is a Pit Pass!

Fans at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals will enjoy accessibility unlike any other form of major motorsports. Each ticket is a pit pass and allows fans to walk right up to where drivers and teams work on the cars between each round. Greg Anderson, four-time NHRA Full Throttle Pro Stock world champion, explained the concept.

 “What that means is with every ticket you buy, you can stroll right into that garage,” said Anderson. “You can walk right up to that race team, watch them work on their race cars, get autographs from the drivers. You cannot do that in any other motorsport. I think that’s what makes drag racing so special. Not only can you, but we welcome you to. We love to have you come down and check out what we do and come mingle with us. It’s just a great deal to be a part of.”

 Tickets for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals start at $20 for Friday and $40 each day for Saturday and Sunday, and are still available at or by phone at 1-800-455-FANS (3267). Every ticket is a pit pass.

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