NHRA

NHRA: Pro Stock to return to 5 former venues in 2020, but not 5 others

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In what will mark its 50th year of Pro Stock competition, the National Hot Rod Association on Monday announced a significantly altered list of venues on the 2020 Pro Stock national event schedule.

The NHRA reduced Pro Stock from a 24-race national event season schedule to just 18 races for 2019. It will remain at 18 races in 2020, but nearly one-third of the venues that played host to Pro Stock cars this season will not do so next season.

Here’s how it breaks down:

* Five tracks that did not host Pro Stock races in 2019 will see them once again return in 2020 as in previous seasons: Houston, Atlanta, Topeka (Kansas), Bristol (Tenn.) and Epping (New Hampshire).

* Conversely, five tracks that hosted Pro Stock races in 2019 will not have the so-called door-slammers back next season: Richmond (Virginia), Chicago, Denver, Brainerd (Minnesota) and St. Louis. Taking St. Louis off the schedule is noteworthy in that it means Pro Stock will compete in only five of the six Countdown to the Championship playoff events next season.

* The other tracks that will remain the same on next season’s schedule are Pomona, California (two races); Phoenix; Gainesville, Florida; Las Vegas (two races); Norwalk, Ohio; Sonoma, Calif.; Seattle; Indianapolis; Reading, Pa.; Charlotte; and Dallas.

* Pro Stock will once again skip the spring 2020 race at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina, as it did earlier this year, but will compete there during fall’s Countdown playoffs.

* By not competing at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Pro Stock will not be part of all three races of the mid-summer “western swing” for the first time ever (although it will still take part in the “swing’s” other two races at Sonoma, California, and Seattle).

The overall 24-race national event schedule for Top Fuel and Funny Car was previously announced. Click here to see that schedule. The 16-race 2020 schedule for Pro Stock Motorcycle is expected to be released later this week.

Here’s the 16-race 2020 NHRA Pro Stock race schedule:

2020 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES PRO STOCK SCHEDULE

NHRA Mello Yello Series Pro Stock Regular Season

Feb. 6-9 – Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals, Pomona, Calif.

Feb. 21-23 – Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Arizona Nationals, Phoenix

March 12-15 – AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla.

April 3-5 – DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Las Vegas

April 17-19 – Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals, Houston

May 15-17 – NHRA Southern Nationals, Atlanta

June 12-14 – Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals, Topeka, Kan.

June 19-21 – NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Bristol, Tenn.

June 25-28 – Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, Norwalk, Ohio

July 24-26 – NHRA Sonoma Nationals, Sonoma, Calif.

July 31-Aug.2 – Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Northwest Nationals, Seattle

Aug. 21-23 – NHRA New England Nationals, Epping, N.H. (Moved from early July)

Sept. 2-7 – NHRA U.S. Nationals, Indianapolis

NHRA Mello Yello Countdown To The Championship playoffs

Sept. 17-20 – Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals, Reading, Pa.

Sept. 25-27 – NHRA Carolina Nationals, Charlotte

Oct. 15-18 – AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Dallas

Oct. 29-Nov. 1 – Dodge NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas

Nov. 12-15 – Auto Club NHRA Finals, Pomona, Calif.

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Newgarden, Rossi ready for a red-white-and-blue INDYCAR finale

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MONTEREY, California – In an international series that personifies diversity from all over the globe, the two main combatants in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship are from the United States.

Josef Newgarden of Tennessee takes a 41-point lead over Alexander Rossi of Northern California into Sunday’s double-points season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca. This year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud of France, is just 42 points out of the lead.

It’s been quite a while since the two drivers entering the final race of the season were both Americans. Four of the top 10 drivers in the series are from the United States. Last year, five of the top 10 were from the USA.

All but one race in the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule is contested in the United States.

Patriotism still matters in IndyCar.

“I think so,” said Andretti Autosport driver Rossi, who is the last American driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. “I know I’ve read a lot of things from other drivers saying, ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s not important, no one cares.’

“I can’t really get onboard with that.

“I think me as an American, growing up, being a fan of the Olympics and everything, like you cheer for Americans, right? That’s what you do as a patriotic person. Canadians cheer for James. We see the Swedish contingent that comes to the races for Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist.

Getty Images“I think Americans will cheer for Americans. I would love to see an American to win the championship. I think it’s important for the young kids watching hoping to be IndyCar drivers one day, that they see someone who grew up in Tennessee or California or wherever. It’s like, there’s a lot of relate-ability to that for a young kid with aspirations of being a racecar driver.”

Since Sam Hornish, Jr. won the final of his three IndyCar Series championships in 2006, just two American drivers have won the title – Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and Newgarden in 2017. During that span, Scott Dixon of New Zealand won four of his five NTT IndyCar Series championships and Dario Franchitti of Scotland won all four of his IndyCar titles.

The last time two Americans had a chance to win the championship in the final race of the season came in 2001 when Hornish won the championship over Colorado’s Buddy Lazier. Connecticut’s Scott Sharp was third and Arizona’s Billy Boat was fourth in the final standings that year.

That was a much different time and place for IndyCar. At that time, many of the top drivers were in CART while the old Indy Racing League featured a predominantly American lineup. Once unification brought the two sides together in 2008, the championships have been fought on American soil, but international drivers were victorious.

The last time two American drivers finished 1-2 in CART was 1996 when Jimmy Vasser of California defeated Pennsylvania’s Michael Andretti for the crown. In 1992, Bobby Rahal of Illinois defeated Andretti and Al Unser, Jr. of New Mexico for the CART title.

Prior to that, the IndyCar “National Championship” was dominated by drivers from the United States.

 

While Rossi openly choose to wrap himself in the American flag, it’s not as important to Newgarden.

“For me, it’s never been something I put a lot of emphasis on,” said the Team Penske driver. “I’m proud to have grown up in such a wonderful country as the United States, but what I’ve always loved about the IndyCar Series is that they bring the best of the best from around the world. That’s always been important to me.

“It means more I think when you have the best from all over the place coming to compete at the Indianapolis 500, during the whole championship. You really feel like you have that in the IndyCar Series. You get the best drivers from around the world.

“To pair with that, I think we need strong Americans running, as well. So for sure, having guys like Alex and Graham Rahal, some young guys coming up like Colton Herta, myself, it’s really great to have young American competition representing as well and running so strongly.

“What I’ve always loved is the great mix of talent from around the world. To me that’s just so important. If it was all Americans running in the championship, I don’t think it would mean as much. I like that we have that great diversity and that great mix from around the world.”

Although these two drivers are both from the USA, they are fierce rivals. They have mutual respect for each other, but they sure aren’t considered close friends.

“Josef and I honestly aren’t that close,” Rossi admitted. “He never lived in Indy when I moved here, or he was just moving. I actually never really hung out with Josef.

“We obviously have a lot of respect for each other. We raced together for a short period of time in Europe. We have a lot of mutual friends.

“Josef and I don’t talk or socialize really. So, it doesn’t have any impact.”

Newgarden agrees that these two men choose to embrace the rivalry.

“I think it’s just really business,” Newgarden said. “He lives in Indianapolis. I live in Nashville. I don’t see him too often outside of the racetrack. We go and we compete. He’s a great competitor. He’s definitely a tremendous talent, has done a great job in his career.

“It’s been a good, competitive relationship I would say.”

With the return of American drivers capable of winning races, championships and Indianapolis 500s, it has sparked a rejuvenation in IndyCar racing. With drivers from all over the world fighting it out for glory, this series that was born and bred in the United States can take pride in featuring some of the best racing in the world as the series continues to grow in popularity.

“I think we just need to continue a focus on our product,” Rossi said. “I think we have the best race product on the planet in terms of entertainment, the variance of winners that we have throughout a season, how many guys are capable, teams are capable of winning races.

“But that’s an ever-moving target. I think IndyCar has done a good job of placing the priority on that. I just think we need to continue doing that and everything will be moving in the right direction.”