MADISON — The fourth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals will provide excitement in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series as drivers continue their quests for world championships Sept. 25-27 at Gateway Motorsports Park, which sits just across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis.
The event, the second of six playoff races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, will feature drivers trying to continue their momentum from the opening race of the Countdown, the NHRA Carolina Nationals.
This year’s edition will feature side-by-side racing as drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle compete for their share of the $1.2 million purse and Mello Yello Series points. Antron Brown (Top Fuel); Courtney Force (Funny Car); Dave Connolly (Pro Stock); and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that once again will be televised on ESPN2.
Some of the biggest names in drag racing were victorious last season. Brown, the 2012 Top Fuel world champ, has reigned supreme at St. Louis, winning the last three races in dominating fashion. Brown’s Matco Tools dragster is a top contender again in 2015, fighting with teammate Tony Schumacher for the No. 1 seed in the Countdown. With this event moving to the second race of the Countdown this season, Brown will be counting on using his past history here to jump out to a fast start.
Force claimed her first St. Louis win last season, launching her toward the top of the Funny Car championship battle. A fourth-place season finish had many ready to crown her as the next major champion. This season has not gone according to plan. With one race remaining before the Countdown, Force sits outside the top 10. If Force can pilot her Traxxas Chevy Camaro SS into the Countdown, she could arrive at St. Louis refreshed and determined to repeat, which could again launch her toward a world title. Otherwise, she’ll play the role of Countdown spoiler, looking to salvage her season by racing to victory.
The Countdown to the Championship has provided numerous highlights since its debut in 2007 and has created increase excitement for fans and media as championships are decided during the final events of the season. With the second race of the Countdown taking place at the Gateway to the West, plenty of drama is promised when the 10,000-horsepower nitro machines thrill the standing-room only crowd by blasting off to 330-mph runs with the Gateway Arch standing tall in the distance.
Other drivers to watch in Top Fuel include eight-time and defending world champ Tony Schumacher, four-time season winner Richie Crampton, veteran racer and three-time world champ Larry Dixon and former Gateway winner Doug Kalitta. In Funny Car, the list is as long as ever for top contenders, including red-hot Jack Beckman, 16-time world champ John Force, two-time season winner Tommy Johnson Jr., two-time and defending world champ Matt Hagan, Del Worsham and Ron Capps, among others.
Pro Stock will feature a lineup of championship contenders including defending world champ Erica Enders, four-time world champ Greg Anderson, 2014 event finalist Jason Line, two-time season winner Chris McGaha, and veteran racers Allen Johnson and Larry Morgan. Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie is the defending winner of this event in Pro Stock Motorcycle and will face stiff competition from four-time and defending world champ Andrew Hines, points leader Eddie Krawiec, two-time season winner Karen Stoffer, Hector Arana Jr., Jim Underdahl, Steve Johnson and three-time world champ Angelle Sampey.
Drivers in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Series also will race hard in their quest to become winners of the thrilling event during the weekend.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass. This opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the mechanics service their hot rods between rounds and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s 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.
NHRA’s Baptism by Nitro campaign will make its first appearance of the season at St. Louis. Inspired by the phrase “baptism by fire,” Baptism by Nitro is NHRA’s call to encourage longtime fans to introduce a family member or friend to the heart-pounding atmosphere of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Throughout the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, NHRA fans are encourage to share first-time Baptism by Nitro fan experiences on social media. Prizes will be given all year to the best rookie reactions captured in the pits or in the grandstands and posted to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All posts should include the hashtag #BaptismbyNitro and tag @NHRA.
Prior to the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, fans are encouraged to go online and nominate a nitro rookie and explain why their candidate deserves a VIP Baptism by Nitro experience. The winning entry will receive four tickets to the 2015 AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, inside-the-ropes VIP access for a nitro warm-up and starting line access, where each new fan will be baptized by nitro. Fans can log on to www.NHRA.com or visit NHRA’s Facebook page for their chance to win this VIP experience. An exciting visual preview of the campaign can be seen and shared at http://bit.ly/BBNitroVid.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Sept. 25, with sessions at 2:45 and 5:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Sept. 26, at 1:45 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27. J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday at 2:15 and 4:45 p.m. with one final qualifying session on Saturday at 1 p.m. The first round will begin on Saturday at 3:45 p.m. and continue on Sunday.
Before the NHRA Mello Yello Series arrives in Illinois for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, the circuit will close the regular season with a visit to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, Sept. 2-7, for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals and open the Countdown to the Championship playoffs at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 18-20, for the NHRA Carolina Nationals. Keep up with all the action on ESPN and ESPN2.