This week, the fastest accelerating machines on the planet will descend upon zMAX Dragway for the opening race in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs, the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals Sept. 14-16.

zMAX Dragway Provides Crystal Ball to Championship Hunt

In the last three seasons, eight of the 12 O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals winners have gone on to secure their respective season championships. Winning the opening race of the Countdown provides the momentum needed to propel a team to the championship, while having a bad race is enough to end championship hopes.

“You can’t win the Countdown in that first race but you could lose it,” said Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson. “An early exit there, like I had last year, is tough to recover from.”

National Records to Fall?

As one of the fastest tracks on the NHRA circuit, zMAX Dragway holds four of the eight national records, including the Top Fuel speed record of 332.18 mph, set by Spencer Massey and the speed record for Pro Stock set at 213.91 mph by Jason Line at the 2012 Four-Wide Nationals, as well as the Funny Car elapsed time record of 3.995 seconds set by Matt Hagan and Funny Car speed record of 318.99 mph set by Jack Beckman, both at the 2011 O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals.

With record setting runs at the last two events, conditions seem right to push those limits yet again at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals.

“The track is one of the best of the best of the best,” said Massey. “That’s why it’s zMAX Dragway. That’s why you can run four cars at once. That thing is prepared. It’s built to have speed, to have great numbers. That’s why whenever you see cars out there, there’s going to be speed records, there’s going to be ET records, it’s going to be spectacular. That’s why we love racing at zMAX Dragway.”

Night of Fire to Launch O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals

The O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals will begin with a Night of Fire, which will include a nitro session under the lights, jet cars and a spectacular fireworks show. Two nitro qualifying sessions are scheduled for Friday, one at 4 p.m. and one at 6:30 p.m. In the later session, the giant header flames of the Funny Car and Top Fuel classes are more visible, creating an awe-inspiring sight as the vehicles launch from the starting line. The night will also include a jet car exhibition and will conclude with a fireworks show. 

Women of NHRA Look to Continue Success at zMAX Dragway

Erica Enders and Courtney Force are on a roll. Enders has won three of the last six events and is currently the top Pro Stock qualifier heading into this weekend’s conclusion of the NHRA U.S. Nationals. Force recently picked up her first win in Seattle and is the top Funny Car qualifier prior to the final day of qualifying at the U.S. Nationals. Both women have clinched spots in the Countdown and will start the playoffs in a prime position when the series visits zMAX Dragway next week.

“Obviously that first race in Charlotte is really what sets you apart from the rest of the group,” Force said. “So if you can do well in the first race in the Countdown it’ll help you reach that goal of becoming the champion. It’s definitely an important race at zMAX Dragway.”

First Time Fan Program Educates New Fans

First-time fans at zMAX Dragway will have a special opportunity to learn about drag racing with NHRA 101 sessions conducted by Funny Car driver Jack Beckman and Top Fuel driver Antron Brown. The sessions will take place in the pavilion area after the final nitro round each day. Fans who are making their first trip to the Bellagio of drag strips need only to show their first-time fan credential for entry. To sign up for the program, fans can call the zMAX Dragway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267).

Every Ticket is a Pit Pass

As always, every ticket to the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals is also a pit pass. Fans can walk among the team pit areas and get autographs from their favorite drivers while they watch crews work on the cars.

Tickets for kids 13 and under are free for all three days of the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals and while at the track, children can enjoy the giant Powerade Play Zone. The Play Zone, located just inside Gate 1, will include the jet cars on display, race-themed bounce houses and plenty more for younger fans to enjoy.

Fans can purchase two tickets for $60 for any day and choose an upgrade of two hot dogs and two soft drinks or two beer vouchers. Children 13 and under are admitted for free every day of the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, but they must have a ticket.

Gates open at 7:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday. Sportsman action starts at 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Nitro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. On Sunday, final eliminations are scheduled to begin with nitro at noon.

Tickets and camping are still available for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, Sept. 14-16 at zMAX Dragway, by calling the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267).

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.