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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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INDYCAR: Kanaan fastest in practice at Pocono

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Very fittingly, the fastest car in Saturday’s lone practice session for ABC Supply 500 was the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet of Tony Kanaan.

The 44-year-old Brazilian showed plenty of speed in Saturday’s two hour practice session at Pocono Raceway, turning a 216.354 mph lap around the 2.5-mile Pennsylvania superspeedway. The session was the only on-track activity of the day for the Indy cars, as heavy cloud cover and rain postponed the first practice session of the day and cancelled qualifying completely.

As the rain began to clear and the track drying got underway, INDYCAR officials made the decision to combine the postponed one-hour morning session with the one-hour afternoon session, creating a single two-hour session for drivers to reacquaint themselves with the track known as “The Tricky Triangle”.

Scott Dixon finished the session second fastest with a 215.761 mph lap, while Santino Ferrcucci ended the session third-fastest with an 215.377 mph lap.

Alexander Rossi (215.373 mph) was fourth fastest in the session, followed by Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud (215.368 mph), who ended the session fifth-fastest despite missing nearly 45-minutes of track time early on due to a gearbox issue.

Colton Herta was sixth-fastest at the completion of the session with a 215.338 mph lap, while Sebastian Bourdais (215.267 mph), Charlie Kimball (214.818 mph), Ryan Hunter-Reay (214.623 mph), and Graham Rahal (214.617 mph) rounded out the top ten.

Current series points leader Josef Newgarden ended the session 17th-fastest with a 214.174 mph lap.

Live coverage of tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 will begin at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Click here for full practice results 

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