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Fan’s View: Who to Watch at the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals in Vegas

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The second-to-last event on the NHRA's 2012 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule takes place this weekend, Thursday through Sunday, October 25 through 28 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Going into the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals, there are still no clear-cut championship winners in any of the four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - and the Countdown to the Championship may go down to the last event at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, California. Here are the drivers and riders to watch as the NHRA does the championship Vegas-style.

Top Fuel - Antron Brown has a 104-point lead on his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey, but anything can happen in these last eight rounds of the season. If things do go south for Brown and/or Massey, Tony Schumacher, Shawn Langdon and Brandon Bernstein are still within striking distance of the championship.

Funny Car - one of the closest battles in the four categories is Funny Car, where Jack Beckman has a 23-point lead on his DSR teammate Ron Capps, who had a 94-point lead in the category just a few races ago. Sitting in third, just 54 points behind Beckman, is John Force Racing's Mike Neff. Remembering the spring race at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Capps missed the field of 16, and the resulting move by Schumacher was to switch Capps' and Beckman's teams completely. Capps went on to win four times following the switch, while Beckman, who also missed the event at Houston in the spring, earned three Wallys after the team change.

Pro Stock - five-time winner Allen Johnson leads 2011 champ Jason Line by 82 points and four-time winner Erica Enders by 125 points going into the second-to-last event. Johnson had a rough three-race start to the season, with two first-round losses and a second-round exit - then he won the first event of the season at LVMS. Line has been in the top three in points all season, while Enders has moved up in points since her historic win at Chicago.

Pro Stock Motorcycle - The Harley-Davidson duo of Ed Krawiec and Andrew Hines are separated by just 17 points, and they've got a race to finish up before eliminations begin on Sunday: the PSM final from Maple Grove Raceway, which was postponed due to rain on October 8, will be run as part of qualifying this weekend between the teammates. Krawiec is the defending event winner at LVMS, while Hines has three wins at the strip.

Source: "Big O Tires NHRA Nationals Fact Sheet," NHRA Media

Paula is a long-time auto racing fan who also covers the NHRA at Examiner.com.

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