Fans eager to kick off the NHRA's postseason can watch the fastest accelerating machines on the planet light up the night sky when the Night of Fire returns to the Bellagio of drag strips during opening night of the Carlyle Professional Hand Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts, Friday, Sept. 13.

Drivers, who will look to get off to a fast start in the all-important opening round of the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship, said zMAX Dragway's Friday night qualifying session will set the tone for an action-packed three days of racing at the sport's premier facility.

Back by popular demand, Friday qualifying sessions have been pushed later into the evening, giving fans a nitro-fueled thrill show under the lights. The first of two Friday pro qualifying sessions is scheduled to begin at 4:15 p.m. with Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock, followed by Funny Car and Top Fuel. The second round of pro qualifying is scheduled to start at 6:45 p.m.

Later start times mean cooler track temperatures, which has drivers excited about the opportunity to post record numbers as the fastest accelerating machines on the planet take to the Bellagio of drag strips on opening night.

"Whenever the track cools off, it's a great race track. It can easily hold a world-record run," said Ron Capps, who drives the NAPA Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR). "If you look at going there on a Friday night, when you know it's going to be cool, the crew chiefs start licking their chops. You can see yourself strapped into the car and hanging on for a sub four-second run. That's exciting for a driver, when you know you're on a track that good and the conditions are good."

Cooler temperatures mean the cars have more grip, which helps drivers like Capps' DSR teammate, Tony Schumacher, get the power from his 10,000-horsepower turbo-charged engine to accelerate to more than 330 mph in less than four seconds.

"Anyone can get down the race track when it's hot out. It's kind of an equalizer," said Schumacher, the winningest driver in NHRA Top Fuel history and driver of the Army Top Fuel dragster for DSR. "To be able to flex your muscles when it's cool, to be able to have that night run, to be able to show that the No. 1 spot is taken by the guy with the most power, with the smartest crew chief who can stick that power to the race track, that's how you want to start the championship off."

With flames that can shoot more than 10 feet above the headers on his Top Fuel dragster, Shawn Langdon, the defending Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals Top Fuel champion and driver for Al-Anabi Racing, said the Night of Fire provides a great show for the fans as well.

"The Friday night session at zMAX Dragway, as drivers, it's our favorite qualifying session because of the speeds and the ETs," he said. "Obviously, we want to go fast. It's really good for the fans who get to see these cars go fast and get to see the big header flames. It's something you don't get to see every day."

Fans can catch Friday night's qualifying session and all the action at the NHRA Carolina Nationals with the weekend pass, starting at just $99. Single-day tickets start at just $20, and kids 13 and under get in free. Every ticket is a pit pass, giving fans behind-the-scenes access to the pits, the chance to get an autograph or photo with their favorite drivers or access to the gigantic Nitro Alley vendor display, the Fan Zone and more.

To purchase tickets, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or visit To stay up to date with everything going on at the Bellagio of drag strips, log on to or connect with zMAX Dragway on Twitter at or on Facebook at