If you have been waiting to grab a ticket for the 35th annual NHRA SpringNationals at legendary Houston Raceway Park, it may be time to hit the tree and light up the candles so that you do not miss out.
Houston Raceway Park General Manager Seth Angel said. “We’ve already sold out of all the full event packages for both the Nitro Club and the Top Eliminator Club and single-day passes for both of those areas are becoming pretty scarce."
On Tuesday, the NHRA Communications group brought Pro Stock's Erica Enders, Funny Car's Alexis DeJoria and Top Fuel's Tony Schumacher together with NHRA on FOX announcer Brian Lohnes and members of the media to discuss the upcoming and final NHRA SpringNationals at Houston Raceway Park.
Schumacher, an Austin, Texas resident, is Top Fuel’s winningest driver and has three wins in Houston and has returned to full-time racing for the 2022 season. DeJoria is also an Austin, Texas resident and most recently advanced to the final quad in Las Vegas. Alexis is after her first win of the 2022 season and her first in Houston. Finally, Enders is a Houston-area native and grew up racing at Houston Raceway Park. She’s gone on to become a four-time world champion, posting Pro Stock wins at the track in 2014 and 2015. Enders is off to a hot start this season and has already picked up a pair of victories in 2022, including the last event at Las Vegas.
Schumacher, who enters the event in the 7th point position, is looking to repeat his 2020 success in Houston and is hoping to take the final Wally from Houston back to Austin. With 85 national event wins, Schumacher still has room on the shelf for a few more and he spoke about how winning the 2020 Wally from Houston, his last win, was something that he was never going to forget.
When asked about where his performance currently was compared to expectations, Schumacher said, "Exactly where we thought. I have never worked with Todd Okuhara before, his brother Scott, Mark and new guys for me. I drive a little different so they are kinda catching up to me and I am catching up to where they are and we got a car that even though we are 7th in the points is way better than it even looks."
Standing in Schumacher's way is another decorated Texan who took home the Wally in 2021 and is looking for a repeat. Four-time and reigning Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence of Kilgore arrives in his home state with the points lead in the 10,000-horspower + Top Fuel category. He’s definitely one of the favorite's to claim the final Top Fuel Wally at the track, having won last year’s Houston event in grand style.
“Winning at HRP last year capped off our CAPCO team winning at least one time at every track on the current NHRA tour,” Torrence said. “Naturally, it was also a big deal to win in Texas again. We’d won in Dallas, but Houston had alluded us until 2021.
“I’ve got a lot of memories at HRP, going all the way back to being a fan in the stands. My dream of becoming a drag racer started at HRP and the Texas Motorplex because those were the races we always attended when I was younger. When I started racing I’d match-up with Erica at HRP when we were both running Super Comp dragsters. I just hate to see it close but I’m happy to have one more big chance to make some noise down there.”
Along with Tony Schumacher and Steve Torrence, plenty of other Texas based Top Fuelers will be trying to keep the Wally in state including Billy Torrence, also of Kilgore, Alex Laughlin from Bluff Dale and Buddy Hall from Grand Prairie. Something tells me that these 5 won't allow this particular Wally to leave the state.
On the funny car side of things, Alexis DeJoria is looking to earn her first Wally from the Houston Raceway Park facility as she and her team continue to dial in the new Toyota Supra body. With Alexis spending most of her time in nearby Austin, this is effectively a "home race" for her and she is looking to make the most of it.
"I have had some good luck in Houston, I have never won though. Anytime I get to race in the state that I live in is a gift." DeJoria stated. Along with speaking of her disappointment in the track's eventual closing, she went on to discuss her desire for COTA (Circuit Of The America's) to fill the void once Houston Raceway Park closes.
After making it to the final quad in Las Vegas, DeJoria has shown moderate success in 2022 and is ready for her 7th career Funny Car Wally.
"It's been good." added DeJoria. "A little bit of a learning curve with the new Supra body but that body is incredible. It's much quicker, the guys love it, Del loves it, it reacts a little bit differently, a little bit quicker on the steering wheel. I think I am used to a little bit of slop in my Camry."
The Funny car field includes two other Texans, Terry Haddock of Temple and Chad Green out of Midland and between the three of them, they hope to keep the Funny Car Wally within the border and Alexis DeJoria might just be the favorite to make sure of it.
In Pro Stock, much of the focus in Houston will be centered on Erica Enders who cut her teeth in the Jr. Dragster almost 30 years ago. Enders, a four-time world champion, is the latest winner on the circuit and arrives at her home track just three points out of the Pro Stock points lead. Aside from her victory earlier this month in Las Vegas, Enders won the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif.
Born and raised in Houston, Enders started her career at Houston Raceway Park at the age of 8, racing in the Junior Dragster ranks. She also won her first national event there in 2004 when she triumphed in Super Gas. Ten years later in 2014 she claimed the coveted Pro Stock trophy against Allen Johnson at HRP, a feat she repeated in 2015 versus Chris McGaha.
Enders leads all female racers with four NHRA world titles and also has 36 national event wins.
“HRP has meant so much to me my entire life,” Enders said. “I literally fell in love with the sport watching my dad race here before I was old enough to drive. When they first announced the Junior Dragster program, I couldn’t get down here fast enough to start racing myself. It’s always been my home track and a place where I want to win more than any other. Winning the last race here would be huge.”
On Tuesday, Enders also spoke about how emotional the last visit to Houston Raceway Park will be. "Definitely, it's for real its bittersweet. If I ever have kids I won't be able to take them out to the track and show them where I made my first passes as a Jr. Dragster driver when I was 8 years old," said Enders.
"A ton of memories at that facility if you can imagine and I am definitely sad to see it go," Enders added.
Pro Stock will see many other Texans battling Enders for the final HRP Wally including Rodger Brogdon from Tomball, the three Cuadra's from McAllen (Fernando, Cristian & Fernando Jr.) along with Chris & Mason McGaha from Odessa. Mike Calahan from Whitesboro is also scheduled to make an appearance.
Enders is the emotional favorite for the weekend and we think she is "Right On Track" to earn her third victory of the young season.
While Pro Stock Motorcycle doesn't have any Texans competing, it will certainly be a shootout for the final Wally from Houston Raceway Park and the bikes always put on a great show. In Gainesville, The ladies took the top spots as Karen Stoffer got the best of Angie Smith as she took home her 11th national event Wally.
Few would be surprised if Stoffer earned her 12th in Houston.
We look forward to seeing everyone there!
Get one of the few tickets remaining for the final NHRA professional drag race at Houston Raceway Park:
Look back to 2019 to learn more about how Erica Enders went from Jr. Drag Racer to Pro Stock champ:
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