Since Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Chairman Bruton Smith delivered on his promise to build the Bellagio of drag strips, zMAX Dragway has received acclaim from fans and drivers alike. However, in only its second year, the NHRA Carolinas Nationals has grown to a status equal of the facility where it is held.

The first stop in the NHRA's Countdown to 1, the Carolinas Nationals is the first event of the NHRA's six-race postseason in which the field of 10 remaining drivers eligible for the championship is reduced to one, the Full Throttle Series world champion. Last year, Tony Schumacher was the only winner at zMAX Dragway that went on to win the series championship in his respective category.

Schumacher made history last year at the Carolinas Nationals, winning his 53rd race in Top Fuel to break motorsports Hall-of-Famer Joe Amato's record for class victories. "The Sarge" made history again on Monday, tying drag racing legend "Big Daddy" Don Garlits' record of eight wins in Top Fuel at the prestigious U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis.

NHRA history is sure to be made on Sunday, Sept. 20, at the Carolinas Nationals when for the first time, modern Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars will race four-lanes, four-wide, unleashing a powerful assault of 32,000 horsepower (the equivalent of 40 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars) on zMAX Dragway.

The drivers for each of the four-wide exhibition races will be determined that day among those who lose in the first round of eliminations. Drivers who have the higher standing in the NHRA championship points order will be given the first opportunity to participate in the unique exhibition.

On Monday, the NHRA added to the enormity of the Carolinas Nationals by announcing two major changes sure to add excitement to zMAX Dragway's event. The first will place an emphasis on each qualifying session as a new bonus points structure will offer teams opportunities to score critical championship points during qualifying sessions in all four professional categories: Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

The team in each category with the quickest elapsed time during each qualifying session will receive three bonus points.  In all, a team that records the lowest elapsed time in all four sessions could receive a total of 12 bonus points during qualifying. Teams with the second and third quickest elapsed times during each qualifying session will receive two and one bonus points, respectively.

These changes are designed to enhance the qualifying sessions by encouraging more side-by-side racing and providing an opportunity for all competitors to earn additional points toward their standing in the top 10, as well as their pursuit of NHRA Full Throttle Series world championship titles.

NHRA will also recognize official national elapsed time and speed records to 1,000 feet for both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Teams that set a national record for elapsed time will be awarded 20 points. Speed records are not eligible for bonus points. Top Fuel and Funny Car categories began racing to the 1,000-foot mark in mid 2008 as a safety measure put into place by the NHRA. The traditional mark is 1,320 feet or a quarter mile, which remains the distance for every other NHRA category.

In order for performances to be certified as NHRA national records, the eligible performance must be backed up by another performance within one percent during the course of a single event weekend. Only one 20-point bonus will be awarded in each category per event.

The current 1,000-foot elapsed time and speed records in Top Fuel and Funny Car are as follows:

  • Top Fuel: E.T. -- Tony Schumacher, 3.771 sec., Richmond, Va. (Oct. 2008) Speed -- Tony Schumacher, 318.92 mph, Las Vegas (Nov. 2008)
  • Funny Car: E.T. -- Ron Capps, 4.023 sec., Phoenix (Feb. 2009) Speed -- Ashley Force Hood, 312.13 mph, Atlanta (April 2009)

Tickets are still available for the Sept. 17-20 NHRA Carolinas Nationals and can be purchased by calling the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS or online. Tickets for Sunday's eliminations on Sept. 20, including the four-wide exhibition races, begin at $45 and the most affordable four-day ticket package in NHRA begins at just $99 each.