DEFENDING CHAMPS WILL BE ON HAND WHEN DALLAS STARS HELP USHER IN 22ND ANNUAL O'REILLY NHRA FALL NATIONALS
Texas Motorplex and the Dallas Stars have come together to the benefit of Texas sports fans. The Dallas Stars will host the Colorado Avalanche on Sept. 20 with some of the biggest names in NHRA drag racing on hand.
The Texas Motorplex will play host to the 22nd annual O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals Sept. 20 - 23 and the press conference for the event will be held in the AT&T Plaza on the south side of American Airlines Center prior to the Stars' preseason matchup with the Avalanche. The press conference will begin at 5:30 pm while the autograph session for all fans will begin at 6 pm, also in AT&T Plaza as fans approach the arena for the game that night.
|Ashley Force |
NHRA racers and cars will also be on hand for an autograph session for fans as they enter the third of seven preseason hockey game for the Stars in 2007. Ashley Force, Robert Hight, David Grubnic, Greg Anderson, Richie Stevens Jr., Eddie Krawiec, Peggy Llewllyn and Andrew Hines are just some of the racers scheduled to appear on Thursday.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for fans as they can take in a hockey game on September 20 against Colorado as well as have the opportunity to get autographs from some of the best in NHRA racing," said Dallas Stars Team President Jim Lites. "It's a win-win situation for everybody involved and we are thrilled to be a part of it."
Hight, driver of the John Force owned Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, will be at the Stars game. The current Funny Car points leader has earned two wins in five final round appearances and has been in the top three of the point standings all season.
Hight won the O'Reilly Fall Nationals in 2006 by beating Mike Ashley in the final. His team owner, Force, has earned seven wins at the Motorplex is his legendary championship-winning career.
“I love racing at the Motorplex," Hight said. "I like it a lot because of the success John Force Racing has had at the Texas Motorplex. We won there when I was working on John’s Funny Car and I won last season. Winning last year was great and we are looking forward to getting back. It is the only all-concrete track and that racing surface is something all the other tracks should look at.”
This year the race at the Texas Motorplex has become even more important than usual.
Starting this year, NHRA has developed a playoff format for all professional categories. The top eight competitors in each category advanced to the second round starting with the Aug. 29 U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis. The Texas Motorplex is the final stop in the second round of the Countdown to the Championship.
Only the top four racers in each of the professional categories will be eligible to compete for the 2007 NHRA POWERade championships. If a racer isn't in the top four once the final pair of cars has gone down the Texas Motorplex track, the last two races of the year won't mean much.
Hight said the Countdown has changed the way his team must approach the final three races of the season.
"Now that we are into the Countdown you have to think about how you want to race," Hight said. "This stretch run is not where you go into test mode. You have to race smart to get into the top four so you can race for the Championship. You have to be consistent and go rounds. It is a different deal now. You always want to win races and we are going to be ready to try and repeat at the Motorplex."
Richie Stevens Jr. is in a completely different position when it comes to the point standings but he has similar winning goals when it comes to this year's race at the Motorplex. Stevens didn't make the first cut of the Countdown but he is the defending winner at the Motorplex and has hopes of making that a habit in Texas.
He may not have the added stress of the Countdown weighing on his team, but they want to win just as badly as any other Pro Stock team in the field. Stevens will also be on hand at the Stars preseason game on Thursday before he starts going to work on adding to his six career wins when qualifying starts on Friday.
"I'm very excited to return to Dallas for the Fall Nationals," Stevens said. "My win there last season was huge. It put me on the road to two wins in the final four races of the year. I'm really focused on putting my Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T in the NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Top 10 and finishing the year on a high note.
"A win at the Texas Motorplex would go a long way toward making that happen."
This year fans will be in for even more intense competition as the Pro Stock Motorcycle category makes its return for the first time since 2000.
Eddie Krawiec is the newest member of the Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team. He's never raced at the Texas Motorplex and he's never been to a Dallas Stars game – something that will change next week.
Krawiec has earned two runner-up appearances this season and is still searching for his first career victory.
"Dallas is one of the places I've been looking forward to the most because the track surface is so unique in this sport," Krawiec said. "No other facility is all concrete and I think our Screamin' Eagle V-Rods are going to adapt very well to the Texas Motorplex.
"It's the final stop before they cut the Countdown eligible racers to four and that just adds to the excitement. None of the teams have been there for so long that everyone is going to have to find a tuneup quickly. The team that finds the best tuneup first is really going to shine."
If having the best hockey players and quickest and fastest racers all in one place at the same time wasn't enough, there will be discounts for fans when purchasing tickets. All Stars fans in attendance will receive an $8 discount for the O'Reilly Fall Nationals when they bring their Stars ticket stub from the Sept. 20 game to the Texas Motorplex and purchase NHRA tickets.
"This is a great time of year to be a sports fan in Dallas," said Texas Motorplex General Manager Arthur O'Bright. "NHL is getting back in action, football has started and we're set to host the best that motorsports has to offer. Combining the speed of hockey with the speed of NHRA racing is a great idea and the fans are going to be the biggest winners."
The Dallas Stars will be on site at the Texas Motorplex too. The Texas Motorplex was one of the first super-stadiums in drag racing and it might host another first on Sunday of final eliminations – a Zamboni race.
"The Texas Motorplex continues to be one of the premier tracks in the country and this year should be even more exciting with the Countdown to the Championship points format," O'Bright said. "The fans come back every year because they know they are going to see the quickest and fastest racing possible. It's great competition every year and championships are always on the line.
"When Billy Meyer built this in 1986 he had a specific vision in mind. He wanted to cater to drag racers and drag racing fans. More than 20 years later, we still do that."
Sportsman qualifying begins at 10 a.m. on Sept. 20. The first of four rounds of professional qualifying is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. on Sept. 22, continuing at 6:45 p.m. that evening. Qualifying wraps up with sessions at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Sept. 22. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sept. 23.
Fans can get tickets for all four days of NHRA racing can be purchased by phone at 800-MOTORPLEX (688-6775), at the track or online at texasmotorplex.com