Photos: NHRA

NHRA Pro Stock is tough but welcome challenge for Australian driver Shane Tucker

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Achieving success in NHRA Pro Stock competition is built one round and 1,320 feet at a time.

But for one budding racer on quarter-miles across the U.S., the distance to success is more like 8,300-plus miles.

That’s how far it is for Shane Tucker, from his native home in Gold Coast, Australia, and his adopted home and the location of his weekday business in Dallas, Texas.

After five years of building a company that specializes in external facades for commercial buildings back in his native land, the 34-year-old Aussie has spent the last five years building a similar business in Texas, while also working on making his mark in American drag racing.

Business here in the states is good. The 34-year-old Tucker now has 50 employees, a fabrication factory and by the end of this year, will make a complete transition where his Australia branch will become solely based in the U.S.

Now, the next big thing on his agenda is to build his Pro Stock program — in its first full season after four previous part-time campaigns — and challenge for the championship.

Shane’s father and crew chief, Rob Tucker, is a veteran drag racer in Australia who has enjoyed considerable success behind the wheel down under.

Now the elder Tucker is doing what he can to make his son fast, competitive and potentially turn him into a NHRA champion.

“My dad raced Pro Stock for 40 years in Australia,” Shane Tucker, who won the Australian Junior Drag Racing championship at the age of 16 (his sister Kristen also races competitively), told NBC Sports. “I jumped into a Pro Stock car when I was 19 in 2005 and started my (professional racing) career in Australia.

“A couple of years later, I got picked up by a team in the U.S. here and started doing some development driving here. But unfortunately, the sponsorship never eventuated.”

Tucker then went out on his own and picked up some major sponsors on his home turf including Monster Energy and Milwaukee Tools.

“I had some good success there and in 2013, we figured if we were going to do eight to 10 races a year, we might as well do it here in the U.S., it’s the same amount of money. This is the pinnacle of drag racing in the world and it’s where we want to be.

“Maybe we bit off a little bit more than we could chew, but we’ll chew like hell and maybe come out shining on the other end.”

Admittedly, it’s been a bit of a struggle for Tucker to climb the Pro Stock ranks here in the U.S. In his two most recent races, at Virginia two weeks ago and this past weekend in suburban Chicago, he lost in the first round of eliminations piloting his Auzmet Architectural/StructGlass Racing Chevrolet Camaro. His next race is in two weeks in Bristol, Tennessee.

“The guys race a lot more here and the attention to detail is a little tighter over here,” Tucker said about NHRA competition in the U.S. “You really need to be on your game and every little bit counts.

“But don’t get me wrong, the racing in Australia is very, very tough. But these guys here wear their stuff out week-in and week-out. They do 100 runs before they’ll turn up for the first race. It makes it tough.

“I would say the top 16 are usually separated by a tenth of a second in Pro Stock here. It’s a lot of pressure on a driver but I love that. It all comes down to three deciding factors, either car, motor or driver.”

Tucker is one of several Australian drivers trying to make their mark in the U.S. Others include Top Fuel drivers Richie Crampton (from Adelaide) and Wayne Newby (from Sydney).

Tucker is also a big fan of perhaps the best-known current race car driver from Australia, 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power, who serves as an inspiration to Tucker.

“I’m a big fan, he’s had a lot of success here in the U.S., and he’s a fellow Aussie,” Tucker said. “I was excited to see him race last week (in the Indianapolis 500). Unfortunately, he didn’t get the win.

“I’m not sure if he’s aware of what we’re doing over here (in NHRA), but I’m certainly aware of what he’s doing over here.”

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Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

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“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).