NHRA Top Sportsman - World's Best Racers Head To Chicago For JEGS Allstars Competition
CHICAGO, July 5, 2011: For the 27th consecutive year, the best racers from the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will head to Route 66 Raceway in the Chicago suburb of Joliet this weekend for the JEGS Allstars race.
A total of 76 drivers representing 31 states and Canadian territories will compete for a share of more than $120,000 in the competition, which is once again held during the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Route 66 Nationals.
The JEGS Allstars competition is a unique event that crowns individual champions in 10 separate eliminators, as well as an overall team champion. Racers qualify for the prestigious event by earning points in their home divisions during year-long battles in the following NHRA Lucas Oil categories: Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Competition, Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, Super Street, Top Dragster, and Top Sportsman classes.
Last year’s JEGS Allstars event will long be remembered for the epic battle between racers from the Northeast Division (Division 1) and the West Central Division (Division 5). At the end of the day, the teams were tied with 1,300 points apiece and after a brief debate, NHRA officials applied standard tie-breaker rules and declared the Northeast Division team the winner for a record seventh time.
This time around, the Northeast Division team will be looking to defend their title with 14-time Top Alcohol Funny Car champion and seven-time JEGS Allstars winner Frank Manzo and former NHRA Comp champ Frank Aragona Jr. leading the way. The Northeast Division squad also includes John Finke in Top Alcohol Dragster and Jason Kenny, who is one of four racers pulling double duty as he will compete in Super Comp and will also return as the blocker in Super Gas, a privilege afforded to the reigning champion in each class. Kenny’s father, Alan, is also part of the Division 1 team, joining his son in Super Gas.
Current Top Alcohol Dragster championship contender Duane Shields will once again be the cornerstone of a very competitive Southeast Division (Division 2) team that features Mickey Ferro (Top Alcohol Funny Car), Arnie Martel (Comp), and a pair of world champions in Sherman Adcock Jr. (Super Comp), and his friend and traveling partner, David Tatum III (Super Gas). The Division 2 squad will also field 20-year old Ray Miller III, who is the representative in Top Dragster. The Southeast Division team has a long history of success in the JEGS Allstars competition, having won six overall titles.
The host team from the North Central Division (Division 3) was not finalized until the completion of the rain-delayed Norwalk event a week ago but it still includes a number of talented racers including five-time Top Alcohol Dragster champion Bill Reichert, Comp eliminator ace Brian Browell, former JEGS SPORTSnationals winner Brad Zaskowski (Super Stock), and Chicago's own John Scali (Top Sportsman). The Division 3 team has also enjoyed a lot of success in the JEGS Allstars race, winning six overall titles, most recently in 2009.
The South Central Division (Division 4) has claimed five overall titles, although its last one came in 2003. The team headed for this weekend’s event in Joliet is formidable as it will include Tommy Phillips, who will be racing in Super Comp and Super Gas, as well as Slate Cummings, who is also pulling double duty in Super Stock and Stock. Another formidable racer on the Division 4 team is Tony Bartone, who is currently threatening to end Frank Manzo’s longtime stranglehold on the Top Alcohol Funny Car world championship.
After coming within an eyelash of winning their first team title in 2010, the West Central Division team returns more determined than ever to land their first overall crown. It could certainly happen this year as their roster includes former world champions Randy Meyer (Top Alcohol Dragster) and Gary Stinnett (Super Comp), as well as multi-time division champion Michael Miller, who is another racer who will be pulling double duty as the Super Comp blocker and the Super Gas representative. .
The team from the Northwest Division (Division 6) nearly challenged for the championship last year, posting a very respectable third-place finish. This time, their hopes will be pinned to Mike Austin and Brian Hough, who will represent the team in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car, respectively, as well as Top Sportsman driver Ray Martin, who hails from Anchorage, Alaska, and will be making a nearly 6,000-mile round trip journey to compete in Joliet. Historically, the Northwest Division has won two overall JEGS Allstars titles (1988 and 2005).
The squad from the Pacific Division (Division 7) also is looking for its first overall team title and this year’s line-up offers perhaps the best chance for a victory. Chris Demke, who came within a round of winning the 2010 Top Alcohol Dragster title, will be the cornerstone of the team and he will be joined by second generation racers John Lombardo Jr. (Top Alcohol Funny Car), Tony Mandella (Super Stock), and Chad Loge (Stock).
While the JEGS Allstars is a highly competitive event, camaraderie between racers and their crews is evident, especially during Friday evening’s racer appreciation barbecue which is open to all of the JEGS Allstars competitors, their families and crews. The barbecue is scheduled for 8 p.m., at the conclusion of Friday evening’s Pro Stock qualifying session at Route 66 Raceway.