Fan’s View: Who to Watch in the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals in Charlotte

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The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series begins its Countdown to the Championship for all four top categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina, September 14 through 16. In spite of being one of the newest tracks on the circuit, it has already proven to be one of the quickest tracks, and has already produced a number of multiple winners. Here are the drivers to watch at zMAX Dragway this weekend.

Top Fuel - Antron Brown is the defending champion in the event and goes into the Countdown as the number two seed in Top Fuel. The former Pro Stock Motorcycle rider made it to the final round at zMAX in April for the 4-Wide Nationals, along with his Don Schumacher Racing teammates Spencer Massey, who won the event, and Tony Schumacher, as well as Doug Kalitta; Massey set the national speed record in April at the track (332.18 mph). Cory McClenathan, running a part-time schedule this season, has two wins at zMAX and will be looking for a third this weekend.

Funny Car - DSR's Jack Beckman and John Force Racing's Robert Hight both have two wins at zMAX, and Beckman also owns the Funny Car national speed record (318.99 mph), set last September. 2011 event winner Matt Hagan, who just missed the Countdown this year after winning the championship in 2011, holds the low e.t. national record (3.995 seconds), also set last year.

Pro Stock - Greg Anderson has three wins at zMAX Dragway, including the 4-Wide Nationals this season. Erica Enders finished second to Anderson that weekend, but finished the season with three wins in the final seven "regular season" races, plus a runner-up finish in the U.S. Nationals at Indy. Jason Line, qualified number two for the Countdown, holds the national speed record (213.91 mph), set in April at the 4-Wides. Mike Edwards, who qualified sixth for the Countdown, also has two wins at zMAX.

Pro Stock Motorcycle - no rider this season has been able to beat the team of Ed Krawiec and Andrew Hines, who rank 1-2 going into the Countdown. Krawiec is the defending winner of the event and the defending PSM champ (he also won in 2008); Hector Arana and LE Tonglet also have wins at zMAX.

Source: "O'Reilly Auto Parts 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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