The NHRA Countdown to the Championship hits the halfway point in St. Louis, as all the top stars in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series return to World Wide Technology Raceway for the highly-anticipated 12th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals on Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
The memorable three days of action serves as the third of six NHRA playoff races (and the 18th of 21 races in the 2023 campaign), with the annual stop in St. Louis always a huge attraction for fans wanting to get a taste of the incredible 11,000-horsepower, 330-mph action.
It starts with a special qualifying session under the lights on Friday to open the action, continuing with two more qualifying sessions on Saturday in front of what has traditionally been a sellout crowd in St. Louis, and is capped off by Sunday eliminations as the contenders in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle compete for a key Countdown to the Championship victory.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won last year in St. Louis and this year’s playoff event will again be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), with action from eliminations set to air at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1.
Torrence won for the second straight year in St. Louis a year ago in Top Fuel, giving the Texan and four-time world champ four victories at the playoff race. He’s currently second in points to open the Countdown to the Championship, trailing only leader Justin Ashley, who has impressed his way to six wins this season. Others to watch include defending world champ Brittany Force, Antron Brown, who has five St. Louis victories, Doug Kalitta, Leah Pruett, Austin Prock and Clay Millican.
Funny Car’s Hight earned his third career St. Louis victory last season and finished second in points to Ron Capps. Hight enters the playoffs third in points in a loaded field, one that includes Capps, who is seeking his third straight world title, as well as Matt Hagan, 16-time world champion John Force, J.R. Todd, Bob Tasca III, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon, Chad Green and Alexis DeJoria.
Nobody has dominated World Wide Technology Raceway more than Pro Stock’s Erica Enders. The reigning world champion won for the sixth time in St. Louis last year and she’s also won the race four straight years. A fifth straight would put her in the thick of another championship hunt and the five-time champ is currently chasing points leader Dallas Glenn, who has four wins this year, and Indy winner Matt Hartford. Other top drivers include Troy Coughlin Jr., Greg Anderson, Aaron Stanfield and Deric Kramer.
Speaking of dominant performances in St. Louis, defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ Matt Smith has five wins at the facility, including the last two. He used last year’s victory to fuel his path for a sixth world championship and Smith is aiming for a seventh this year. To do so, he’ll have to get past points leader Gaige Herrera, who has six wins in his dominant 2023 campaign, as well as the likes of Angie Smith, Eddie Krawiec, Hector Arana Jr., Steve Johnson and rookie Chase Van Sant.
The NHRA Midwest Nationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by Type A Motorsports, Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown and the new Factory X presented by Holley category. It is also the penultimate race in the Pro Mod’s “Road to the Championship” as they get close to crowning a championship. The ET Racing Showcase, Jr. Arch Shootout, Budweiser Challenge, high school challenge and Jr. Dragster Shootout will all take place during the weekend as well.
Fans are invited to the Nitro Alley Stage all weekend, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into Nitro Alley. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets and much more. As always, fans get a pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. Fans can see their favorite teams in action and servicing their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. They can also visit NHRA’s Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, merchandise, food, and fun.
Race fans at World Wide Technology 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 St. Louis event winners.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 6:00 p.m. CT on Friday, Sept. 29, and the final two rounds on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11:00 a.m. CT on Sunday, Oct. 1. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 29 and 2 p.m. ET on Sunday Oct. 1, with eliminations starting at 3 p.m. ET on FS1 on Sunday.
Tickets may be purchased at the WWTR ticket office, by phone at (618) 215-8888, or online at www.wwtraceway.com. All children 12 and under will be admitted free in the general admission area with a paid adult. For more information on NHRA, visit www.NHRA.com.