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NHRA Countdown to the Championship begins in style

The NHRA countdown to the championship is about to begin. (Dennis Bicksler photo)

READING, Pa. – Playoff action in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series will heat up in a hurry as the NHRA countdown to the championship begins at one of the circuit’s fastest tracks with the 37th Annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals September 15-18 on the Maple Grove Raceway.

It’s the opening event of the six-race NHRA Playoffs as championship riders in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will look to start their World Championship bids with a win at the fan-favorite facility.

Brittany Force set the fastest run in NHRA history at the facility in 2019 with her run of 3.623 seconds – one of several memorable accomplishments that have occurred at the facility in nearly four decades. The track was also purchased in April by veteran NHRA racer Kenny Koretsky and his family, including current Pro Stock driver Kyle Koretsky.

Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won last year’s race.

In Top Fuel, Torrence ousted Justin Ashley on the last lap a year ago when Ashley put on a strong performance in his first Countdown to the Championship appearance. He finished fourth in points and is a championship contender again this year having already won two races.

Ashley will be looking for his first win at Maple Grove Raceway and he needs to be at his best to get it.

Brittany Force, who owns both ends of the course record, is the championship leader and has four wins this season, while other top stars include four-time defending champion Steve Torrence, Mike Salinas, Antron Brown, Leah Pruett, Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta and Clay Millican.

Robert Hight has had an excellent season in Funny Car, walking away with the points lead with six wins. It will be a championship-or-bust season for the three-time world champion and he will be looking to open the countdown to the championship with a victorious win.

It certainly won’t be easy going head-to-head with star drivers like John Force, who has a best seven wins in the NHRA at Maple Grove Raceway, defending champion Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Cruz Pedregon, Alexis DeJoria, Bob Tasca III, Tim Wilkerson and JR Todd.

Greg Anderson topped Warren Johnson on the all-time Pro Stock win list at Reading last year and beat Erica Enders in a thrilling final round to claim his 97th career win. He broke the mark later in the season en route to his fifth world title and is now one win in 100 career wins away.

He will be aiming to open the post-season at Reading but everyone is chasing Enders, who has dominated 2022 with six wins so far. She is after a fifth World Championship and takes on Seattle winner Troy Coughlin Jr., rookie Camrie Caruso, Dallas Glenn, Koretsky and Aaron Stanfield.

At Pro Stock Motorcycle, championship hopeful Steve Johnson will be looking to repeat last year’s success when the veteran won the playoff opener. That earned him the points lead in the countdown for the first time in his career as he enjoyed his all-time best season. He’s back in the championship mix again this year, although six-time Reading winner Angelle Sampey currently leads the points by just two points over Sonoma winner Joey Gladstone.

Others to watch at Reading are defending champion Matt Smith, Eddie Krawiec, Angie Smith, Karen Stoffer and Jerry Savoie.

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