The eighth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals will provide high-action, playoff style, in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, as drivers begin their quests for world championships Sept. 18-20 at state-of-the-art zMAX Dragway.

The event, which has kicked off the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff since 2007, will feature drivers testing their limits early as they try to gain an advantage in the championship points standings. With the resetting of the points following the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, first and second will only be separated by 30 points, meaning a big points weekend in the Queen City could jumpstart a contender towards a coveted NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship crown.

This year's edition of the famed event, which will be conducted in the traditional two-lane format, will feature intense side-by-side racing as drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle compete for their share of the $2 million purse and the vital Mello Yello Series points. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Matt Hagan (Funny Car); Jonathan Gray (Pro Stock); and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year's winners of the playoff opener. ESPN2 will provide national television coverage of the NHRA Carolina Nationals.

Schumacher and Hagan both lived true to the tradition of getting a jumpstart to the championship by virtue of their dominating wins at the NHRA Carolina Nationals. A dominant first two weekends propelled "The Sarge" to his eighth world championship and first since 2009. Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army dragster, is in the fight for the No. 1 overall seed in the Countdown this season and he will arrive at zMAX Dragway looking for a quick advantage once again.

Hagan, just liked his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Schumacher, drove his Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger to a victory at the event, which helped him get the jump on the competition in 2014. The two-time Funny Car world champ claimed his second title at the end of the season, edging 16-time world champ John Force. Hagan will return to Charlotte with a great shot of being the No. 1 seed in Funny Car but has proved he can win from anywhere, entering the playoffs last season in eighth.

The Countdown to the Championship has provided numerous highlights since its debut in 2007 and has created intense excitement for fans and media as championships are decided during the final events of the season. With the beginning of the Countdown at the 'Bellagio' of drag strips, the 2015 Countdown to the Championship will be sure to add its world class highlights to the aura of the playoffs and championship pursuits.

Other drivers to watch in Top Fuel include Antron Brown, Larry Dixon, Richie Crampton and Doug Kalitta. In Funny Car, the list is long of top rivals for Hagan and Force, including red-hot Jack Beckman, two-time season winner Tommy Johnson Jr., Del Worsham and Ron Capps, among others. Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson will have his hands full dealing with challenges from defending world champ Erica Enders, teammate Jason Line, two-time winner Chris McGaha, Allen Johnson and veteran driver Larry Morgan, who won the Four-Wide Nationals here in April. Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ Andrew Hines is a two-time winner of this event and will battle defending winner Krawiec for the title, along with Hector Arana Jr., Jim Underdahl, Steve Johnson, Angelle Sampey, alligator farmer Jerry Savoie, and local favorite Matt Smith.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they're granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA's popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Sept. 18, with sessions at 3:15 and 5:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Sept. 19, at 12:45 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, Sept. 20.

Fans can be a part of the action all weekend with a three-day pass to the NHRA Carolina Nationals starting at $99. Tickets for children 13 and under are free with any paid adult ticket; to purchase general admission or reserved seats please visit or call the box office at (800) 455-FANS (3267). For more information about NHRA, please visit 

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