Six-race Countdown playoffs to start at spectacular zMAX Dragway
Tuesday, September 06, 2011

NHRA’s 60th Anniversary season will begin the turn for home when it kicks off its six-race Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs with the 4th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, Sept. 15-18, at the famed “Bellagio of dragstrips,” zMAX Dragway.

With its state-of-the-art track and fan-friendly amenities – such as comfortable stadium seating, spacious campgrounds including trackside camping options, two pedestrian tunnels to enhance fan movement, and always helpful staff – zMAX Dragway has elevated itself as one of the must-attend tracks for drag racing fans regardless of the event.

But when you add to that a marquee list of some of the sport’s greatest legends and all of the drama and pressure that comes with being the opening race in NHRA’s six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs, you have the ingredients for a truly memorable experience for fans.

“We’re really pleased to be able to add such tremendous value, on and off the track, to what is already one of the most coveted tickets in motorsports,” said Gary Darcy, NHRA senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Highlighting the season-long Legends program will be one of NHRA’s most colorful characters, "TV Tommy" Ivo. The charismatic Ivo will be on-site throughout the weekend to meet and greet fans, sign autographs and copies of his book, and show off some of his legendary cars, including the four-engine Showboat, in the Pavilion near the Pro staging lanes behind the John Force Grandstand.

Ivo is well-known for being one of the first professional drag racers in the country, but he didn’t earn his nickname by becoming a race car driver. Ivo spent most of his childhood and young adult life working in Hollywood as an actor. The NHRA legend made sure to bring the flair from Hollywood with him to the racetrack, a place that wasn’t known for its flamboyance, which earned him his nickname.

Throughout the weekend, some of Ivo’s most memorable moments from his television and movie career will be highlighted at the Pavilion. Some of his best-known features will be shown during his autograph sessions, where fans will be able to engage in Q&A sessions with the legend.

The weekend will also feature the Don Garlits-Darrell Gwynn match races in specially designed dragsters and the increasingly popular Track Walk with a Legend on Sunday. All fans who purchase a Sunday ticket will be invited to walk beside and listen to stories told by one or more of these famed NHRA legends prior to the pre-race ceremony.

In addition to the spectacular night qualifying session on Friday, fans will see world-famous fire acts Jimmy Pyro and Srikanta Barefoot perform Friday and Saturday evening during zMAX Dragway’s Nights of Fire. Energemata Poi, featuring Pyro, is a blend of fire arts including fire eating, fire breathing, and more. Barefoot’s performance will feature beautiful and exciting fire dancing. The performers will greet fans at the gates as well as put on a show Friday and Saturday nights.

In honor of NHRA’s 60th anniversary, fans can purchase two tickets to any day of the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals for a total of only $60 and receive a choice of a free upgrade: two NHRA 60th Anniversary hats, two NHRA 60th Anniversary shirts, two beer vouchers, or two Coca-Cola soft drinks and two hot dogs. To purchase tickets, log on to or call 800-455-FANS (3267). 

Meanwhile, on the track, the motorsports-savvy fans at zMAX Dragway will get the first look at the Countdown to the Championship qualified drivers, which will be set Labor Day weekend during the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil. Drama is sure to rise and competition to intensify as the championship contenders are officially introduced to NHRA fans for the first time during the Kickoff to the Countdown ceremony prior to the first session of qualifying.

“No matter where you are in the top 10, you can win the championship if you go out and win that race,” said seven-time NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher. “Charlotte is critical. It’s the beginning of the Countdown to the Championship. You could’ve won 15 races throughout the season, but if you can’t win in the Countdown, game over. You’re not going to be called the Full Throttle champion. We’re going to go at it hard. We’ve been developing parts and pieces all year long for those races, starting in Charlotte.”

The reigning Full Throttle champions, led by defending Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson from nearby Moorseville, N.C., will then begin their quest for the 2011 championships. The other defending series champions are Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle).