Murto: NHRA has lots of horsepower

When most fans are asked what first attracted them to racing, the answer is usually, “Speed.” Speed comes from horsepower, and nothing celebrates pure horsepower more than NHRA drag racing.

J.R. Todd earned his first Top Fuel win of the season and first since 2008 at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway outside Denver, Colorado. Robert Hight (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were winners in their respective categories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.

Just how much speed are we talking about? Keep in mind that the Top Fuel and Funny Car divisions do not race the entire quarter-mile strip; for safety, their track ends at 1,000 feet.

Todd defeated Brittany Force in the Top Fuel category with a run of 3.878 seconds at 317.87 mph. In Funny Car, Hight defeated his team owner John Force for his fifth win of the season and 34th of his career with a 4.166-second run at 306.05 mph.

The Pro Stock and Pro Stock motorcycle divisions flirt with 200 mph; could you imagine doing 200 mph in a quarter-mile on two wheels?

The NHRA is all horsepower, all the time. The series will return to our region Sept. 12-14 at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Oct. 2-5 at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pennsylvania. Both races fall within the NHRA’s “Countdown to the Championship,” which is their version of NASCAR’s championship-deciding Chase. More information about the NHRA can be found at NHRA.com.

All racing is a celebration of speed, and they were celebrating in Germany when favorite son Nico Rosberg won the German Grand Prix in his Mercedes. Valtteri Bottas drove his Williams to second, and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton drove from 20th on the grid to third.

Super Late Model driver Travis Benjamin was celebrating in Oxford, Maine, after winning his second straight Oxford 250. The race attracted 70 cars and started 44. In the 41-year history of the event the only other drivers to win back to back were Geoff Bodine, Ralph Nason, Ben Rowe and Eddie MacDonald.

IndyCar ran a doubleheader in Toronto. Sebastien Bourdais returned to victory lane by winning the first race, while Mike Conway won the second. The Toronto crowd looked larger than the crowd at Chicagoland Speedway who saw Chase Elliott win the NASCAR Nationwide race. It appeared the cameras were placed in such a way as to not focus on the empty grandstands.

The cameras were rolling at Grays Harbor Speedway in Elma, Washington, on Sunday for the AMA Flat Track Grand National motorcycle races. Those who checked the schedule on www.fanschoice.tv and logged on for the free broadcast saw some great racing. Jared Vanderkooi won the Pro Singles class, and former national champion Jared Mees won the Expert main. The Flat Track riders come to 1.25-mile oval at Colonial Downs in late August to compete on the fastest track they see all year.

Late Models race on pavement at Shenandoah Speedway on Saturday night, and also on the dirt at Winchester Speedway. Hagerstown Speedway features the 33rd Annual Conococheague, which will run 44 laps for Late Models.

The biggest regional race this weekend is the Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway. The race is part of the Virginia Triple Crown, comprised of the three largest NASCAR Late Model Stock Car races in the Commonwealth. South Boston has closed for the weekend to allow its racers to go to Langley and compete for the $10,000 winner’s check. Only a few hours away, Langley Speedway is one of the best run tracks in the country, not just in the region. It always has full grandstands and pits. Don’t miss the Hampton Heat 200 on Saturday night if you can help it.

We can’t help our addiction to things that go fast, but be sure to experience a variety of motorsports when feeding that addiction. Racing always looks better in person than it does on TV, and it’s certainly more exciting when seen live. Whether you like cars or motorcycles slinging dirt, the finesse of road racing, the beating and banging of short track Late Model racing, or the horsepower overload of drag racing, you can find it within driving distance. With only a little effort you can feed your need for speed.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.