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 fastest tracks on the circuit with the 37th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals on Sept. 15-18 at Maple Grove Raceway.
It is the opening event in the six-race NHRA playoffs as championship drivers 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. Located in the heart of Amish country, the track boasts a wonderful, scenic backdrop for the massive fanbase that turns out to see one incredible run after another.
Brittany Force made the quickest run in NHRA history at the facility in 2019 with her run of 3.623-seconds, one of several memorable performances that have taken place at the facility over 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, adding even more excitement to this year’s Pep Boys NHRA Nationals.
Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won last year’s race and the playoff opener will be broadcast on both the FOX broadcast network and Fox Sports 1 (FS1) in 2022. The race will also serve as the NFL adjacent broadcast on FOX, putting the NHRA on a huge platform to open its 2022 playoffs.
In Top Fuel, Torrence edged out Justin Ashley in the final round a year ago, as Ashley turned in a strong performance in his first appearance in the Countdown to the Championship. He finished fourth in points and is a championship contender again in 2022, winning a pair of races already. Ashley will look for his first victory at Maple Grove Raceway and he’ll have to be on top of his game to get it. Brittany Force, who owns both ends of the track record, is the points leader and has four wins this season, while other top stars include four-time defending world champ Steve Torrence, Mike Salinas, who has four wins this year, Antron Brown, Leah Pruett, five-time race winner Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta, and Clay Millican.
Robert Hight has enjoyed a banner season in Funny Car, running away with the points lead on the strength of six victories. It makes it a championship-or-bust season for the three-time world champ and he’ll try to open the Countdown to the Championship with a statement victory, but it certainly won’t be easy facing off with star drivers like John Force, who has an NHRA-best seven wins at Maple Grove Raceway, defending world champ Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, who has three wins in 2022, two-time race winner Cruz Pedregon, Alexis DeJoria, Bob Tasca III, Tim Wilkerson, and J.R. Todd.
Greg Anderson tied Warren Johnson on the all-time Pro Stock wins list in Reading last year, beating Erica Enders in a thrilling final round to earn his 97th career win. He broke the mark later in the season en route to his fifth world title and now sits just a win away from 100 career victories. He’ll aim for that in Reading to open the postseason, but everyone is chasing Enders, who has dominated to the tune of six wins thus far in 2022. She’s after a fifth world championship facing off with the likes of Seattle winner Troy Coughlin Jr., rookie Camrie Caruso, Dallas Glenn, Koretsky, and Aaron Stanfield.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, championship hopeful Steve Johnson will look to repeat last year’s success when the veteran won the playoff opener. That gave him the points lead in the Countdown for the first time in his career as he enjoyed his best season ever. He’s in the championship mix again this year, though six-time Reading winner Angelle Sampey currently leads the points by just two over Sonoma winner Joey Gladstone. Others to watch in Reading include defending world champ Matt Smith, Eddie Krawiec, who has five wins at the track, Angie Smith, Karen Stoffer, and Jerry Savoie.
The Pep Boys NHRA Nationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which includes some of the sport’s top drivers, as well as the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown category. On Friday, fans can witness all the thrills of a jet car exhibition, as the “Wicked Sinsation” jet car driven by Scott Arriaga will put on a show to end the night after nitro qualifying. The race also features the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League Shootout, with eight young drivers competing for the win. The final round will take place on Sunday and will be featured during the FOX broadcast. On Saturday, fans can also attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds.
Top Fuel Motorcycle star Larry “Spiderman” McBride will be in action at Reading as part of the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals. McBride went an incredible 268.38-mph in Virginia to make the fastest motorcycle pass in drag racing history and the veteran will make exhibition passes in Reading, attempting to go even faster at a track where several record-breaking performances have taken place over the years.
Race fans at Maple Grove Raceway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals event winners.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Reading. This unique opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family. The new Pep Boys midway display will include tire change challenges, oil change challenges, a slot car track, and much more, adding even more excitement to the midway.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 4:45 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 16, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 12:15 and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 18. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday, 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, and then eliminations on FOX at 2:00 or 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. Check local listings for Sunday broadcast times on FOX in your area.
To purchase tickets to the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, visit www.NHRA.com or call 800-884-6472. All children 12 and under will be admitted free in the general admission area with a paid adult. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.