With only two weeks left in the 2011 edition of Friday Night Drags & MCR Safety Show-N-Shine at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the attention will now heavily focus on the point standings. Drivers in each division will be looking for good runs as they race down the pit lane drag strip.
With only two more opportunities to gain points, the importance of this week will be greatly intensified with double points being awarded to drag racers. Drivers who trail in the standings can use this opportunity to make up a considerable amount of ground on the leaders. At the same time, racers with a lead in the standings can take advantage of double points and take a major step towards sewing up a second half points championship.
It could be a major opportunity for drivers in several divisions. Last week's Super Pro final saw Bobby Daniel claim his first win of the season over points leader Tony Morse. Daniel has been coming on strong of late, while Morse has had a strong second half with first half points champion Mark White sidelined much of the time with mechanical issues. This week Morse will be out of town, while a substitute driver pilots his car. Points are awarded to the car, so Morse will collect the points his substitute claims, but it could be an opportunity for Daniel to tighten things up.
Another tight division is the Truck Advanced group. First half points champion Danny Mason and his "Nuclear Banana" currently lead the standings, but Chuck Poole lurks behind in second place. Only four points separate the two drivers. Another stiff competitor in Andrew Pride sits in third, but trails Mason by only five points. A slip-up by any of these three drivers could see a flip-flop of the standings. The division has been top heavy, as Mason and Poole have combined to win nine of the twelve events this season. Double points could be a major factor in determining who goes into championship night as the man to beat.
The season's first and second half points champions will race against one another on August 19 to determine the season's overall points champion. Overall points champions will be recognized during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 weekend, Sept. 2-4 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
MCR Safety Show-N-Shine Winners Recognized on NASCAR Race Weekend
One of the perks of competing in the MCR Safety Show-N-Shine is that winners are eligible to show their vehicles off on the fronstretch of Atlanta Motor Speedway in a special car show during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500, Labor Day Weekend at AMS. With large car counts each week and as many as eight classes for judging, it is not too late for fans to bring their vehicles out and compete for an MCR Safety Show-N-Shine trophy.
Domestic Division Racing: Cars You Can Drive Home
While some divisions of Friday Night Drags feature high octane, high horsepower machines that have been custom crafted for speed, the Domestic division features racing with cars that can essentially be driven home. Fans looking to get their own taste of drag racing can find that opportunity with the Domestic group.
"I've always liked racing," says Darren Lewis, who is currently second in the Domestic points standings. "I've had several street cars that I race. I get to go out there and go fast and do burnouts and not get in trouble. I don't want to spend a ton of money running something else. I built the car I race just to run the Domestic class."
Lewis pilots a 1970 Chevrolet Nova, and while he purposefully bought his car to race, your casual car that you drive to work is sufficient to race on Friday night at AMS. Even after purchasing a car specifically for racing, it's all about keeping the costs low for Lewis. "I only paid $1,100 for my Nova," says Lewis. "You can tell it's a low budget car just by looking at it."
And for some drivers, it's all about simply using the car the way it's depicted on the car commercials.
"I think you have to bear in mind that many of today's manufacturers are making more high performance cars, and I think people want a place to use the vehicle they bought without fear of retribution from law enforcement or medical personnel," says Ron Weise, the current points leader in the division. "That provides a good avenue for that and I think it's something that a younger driver who wants to go out and race a friend, you can take them off the street, and they don't have to worry about safety issues, speeding or wrecking. It's a good place to go and you don't have to watch over your shoulder."
The Domestic division is truly a "run what you brung" style of racing, with the only necessary items being a helmet, safety belt, and the entry fee. Wiese, who pilots a 1988 Ford Mustang, also notes that since drivers are competitive with affordable vehicles, it's a good level of racing for inexperienced drivers to start in. And while a trophy may not be the end result of the night's action, new drivers can get over their nervousness. With many drivers, once they are comfortable, they will look into add-ons for their car or possibly moving into a different machine.
"If you look at the age range, there are very young drivers and people that are probably in their 60s," says Weise. "It's something they like to still go out and do, and have fun. It's not strength or talent related. Everyone can go out and have fun. Everybody that I've ever ran with has been courteous to each other, and you spend time with each other between races, getting to know everyone. And it's very friendly competition."
The popularity of the Domestic division with competitors is evident, with over 40 cars entering into competition during the second half of the season. With the ability to race without building a custom car or needing a lot of specialty safety devices, this division is perfect for the curious spectator that would like to transition into competitor.
This division features a variety of cars, with years ranging all the way back to the 1930s up to current models. And the makes are a wide range as well. Naturally you will find vehicles with lots of horsepower, like the Mustang and Corvette. But average street cars get into the mix as well, with Buick Regals and Oldsmobile Cutlasses taking the trip down the drag strip at AMS.
And for some drivers, like Lewis, racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway becomes the highlight of the week.
Says Lewis, "On Monday morning, I'm already looking forward to Friday."
The 2011 Friday Night Drags season will run on Friday nights through Aug. 19. MCR Safety Show-N-Shine car show judging begins at 6:00 p.m. and practice drag runs begin at 6:15 p.m. Grandstand gates open at 6:30 p.m. with the drag eliminations starting at 9:09 p.m.
All racers ages 16 and 17 must have a fully-executed minor's release form on file at the speedway prior to competition and forms are available at the Speedway or at www.atlantamotorspeedway.com. Competitors must wear a DOT-approved helmet and have operational seat belts in their vehicle and pass a pre-race safety inspection.
Entry to drag race or for the MCR Safety Show-N-Shine is $20 or competitors can enter both for $30. Spectator admission is only $8 and exterior parking is free, while infield parking is $20.
For more information about Friday Night Drags and Atlanta Motor Speedway, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211 or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.