Racing’s back! The NHRA season kicks off at Pomona

09 Feb

Yeah, the Daytona 500 is still two weeks away, and the Budweiser Shootout is next weekend, but the 2012 American racing season kicks off this weekend with the NHRA season opener at Pomona.

However, Larry Dixon, the 2010 Top Fuel champion and Del Worsham, the 2011 Top Fuel winner, isn't there. Dixon parted ways with Al-Anabi Racing at the end of 2011 and Worsham, who also drove for Al-Anabi Racing, retired from driving. Al-Anabi's two 2012 drivers will be Shawn Langdon and  Khalid al Balooshi, who is making his Top Fuel debut.

Other things to watch:

Can Tony Schumacher get back to victory lane? The seven-time champion was winless in 2011. He and teammate Antron Brown will be viewed by many as the title favorites after the departures of Dixon and Worsham.

How will Courtney Force do? John Force's middle daughter jumps into one of his Funny Cars for a full-season run. Will she follow (or surpass) sister Ashley Force Hood and reach a final round in her first Funny Car season? And can dad make another title run?

Will Erica Enders get a tournament win? Enders was oh-so-close in the extremely competitive Pro Stock division in 2011, reaching three final rounds and getting two pole positions. Just how close was the field in Pro Stock? In last year's final event, the field was separated by .077 in qualifying.

Tags: Al, Antron, Ashley, ashley force, Budweiser Shootout, , , , , , , , event, final rounds, Fuel, fuel champion, Funny, funny car, funny cars, john force, Khalid, lane, larry dixon, middle daughter, , NHRA, nhra season, , Pole, pole positions, Pomona, pro stock, , , season opener, Shootout, , sister ashley, , stock division, , time champion, , tony schumacher, top fuel, , , victory lane, weekend, ,
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Fox Sports has rolled out the details of its 15-event coverage this season, and there are a few surprises within. Fox will handle the first 13 Sprint Cup races plus the preseason Budweiser Shootout and Daytona qualifying.

There are some shifts in the announcing booth; Michael Waltrip will join his brother Darrell and Chris Myers for the prerace events. Once again, DW, Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds will handle in-race coverage. On pit road, you'll have Jeff Hammond, Dick Berggren, Steve Byrnes, Matt Yocum and Krista Voda.

Fox enjoyed a 9-percent bump in 2011 over its first 13 races. The average of 8.6 million viewers was the highest in three years. And last year's Daytona 500 had over 30 million viewers, making it the most-watched race since 2008. This year, with a new champion and new faces in the field (we don't need to draw you a neon-green picture, do we?), it's likely Fox will exceed that figure handily.

Here is the coverage start times, followed by the actual race start times (all times Eastern, all subject to change):

Sat. Feb. 18: Daytona Int'l Speedway (Budweiser Shootout), 8:00 PM; 8:29 PM
Sun. Feb. 19: Daytona Int'l Speedway (Daytona 500 Qualifying), 1:00 PM
Sun. Feb. 26: Daytona Int'l Speedway (Daytona 500), 12:00 PM; 1:30 PM
Sun. March 4: Phoenix Int'l Speedway, 2:30 PM; 3:14 PM
Sun. March 11: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 2:30 PM; 3:16 PM
Sun. March 18: Bristol Motor Speedway, 12:30 PM; 1:13 PM
Sun. March 25: Auto Club Speedway, 2:30 PM; 3:16 PM
Sun. April 1: Martinsville Speedway, 12:30 PM; 1:13 PM
Sat. April 14: Texas Motor Speedway, 7:00 PM; 7:46 PM
Sun. April 22: Kansas Speedway, 12:30 PM; 1:16 PM
Sat. April 28: Richmond Int'l Raceway, 7:00 PM; 7:44 PM
Sun. May 6: Talladega Superspeedway, 12:00 PM; 1:19 PM
Sat. May 12: Darlington Raceway, 6:30 PM; 7:15 PM
Sun. May 27: Charlotte Motor Speedway, 5:30 PM; 6:16 PM
Sun. June 3: Dover Int'l Speedway, 12:30 PM; 1:15 PM

Tags: April, bristol motor speedway, Budweiser Shootout, , Daytona, , , , ,
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Let's be honest, there's a fair amount of overlap between the demographics of NASCAR and the WWE. So it can't be all that surprising that WWE wrestler John Cena is the honorary starter for the Daytona 500, right?

Cena, who has already appeared in a Gillette commercial back in the days of the Gillette Young Guns, received his official "invitation" to be the starter when friend Carl Edwards appeared on Monday's WWE Raw.

"John Cena is the greatest Superstar in WWE today," Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said in a release.  "We look forward to seeing him on the flag stand waving the green flag to start 'The Great American Race' and kick off the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season."

It could be argued that Cena, who starred in that unforgettable movie 'The Marine,' is the WWE's version of Kyle Busch. He's marketable, sells a lot of merchandise and hears a lot of boos. Sound familiar? But hey, he's certainly a better fit than Mariah Carey, who served as the race's honorary starter in 2003.

Tags: , flag, Gillette, gillette young guns, John Cena, , wwe wrestler john cena
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Big Daytona payout includes bonus for leader at halfway

02 Feb

NASCAR has announced that the Daytona 500 will have a largest-ever payout of $19 million, with the winner getting at least $1.4 million. That's nice and all, even though you and I probably won't see a nickel of it.

However, here's the cool element: there will be a $200,000 bonus for the leader at halfway, Lap 100. The idea is that it'll reward drivers who actually race rather than running in the back of the pack until there are 20 laps remaining. This should add another element of life into the traditional ride-around portion of the race, particularly if NASCAR's efforts to disrupt tandem driving don't work as well as hoped.

Conspiracy-defusing note: If Lap 100 is under caution, the bonus will be deferred until the race goes green, and it'll then go to the driver who's leading the fifth lap after the race goes green.

The "Daytona 500 Mid-Race Leader Award" doesn't yet have a sponsor, but you can bet it will by race day. That would be February 26, for those of you keeping score.

Tags: Daytona, , element, keeping score, leader award,
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Join the Yahoo! Sports/Marbles fantasy league! Do it now!

24 Jan

All right, here's the deal: Fantasy NASCAR is coming up soon, and we at Yahoo! Sports want to fantasize with you. (Wait, that sounded really wrong.) Anyway, you need to get in on this action. Go to the Fantasy NASCAR homepage and sign up for a team. Then make sure you jump in on our special private league:

Fans of From The Marbles
Group ID: 31
Password: marbles
(sneaky password, yes?)

Anyway, the whole deal begins in a month or so with the Daytona 500. There'll be acclaim and love for the weekly winners, and you'll get the satisfaction of knowing that you're a better race analyst than [insert announcer name here]. Win-win all the way around. Get on it!

Tags: , , , fantasy nascar, , private league
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