NHRA is working to make its Mello Yello Drag Racing Series even more enticing in 2015 - for entrants and fans alike. NHRA announced it will televise five eliminations live on either ESPN or ESPN2 through the 24-race 2015 schedule. The live action starts early in the season with the Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway in Charlotte, NC on March 29, airing from 2-5PM ET. When the series goes to Royal Purple Raceway outside Houston on April 26 (same time schedule), to the Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway on June 21 from 3-6PM ET, for the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Norwalk, OH July 5th (1-4PM ET) and at Chicago’s Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, scheduled for 12 and airing 2-5PM ET, viewers can watch eliminations live.
Three of those live races - Charlotte, Bristol and Norwalk - air on ESPN with the balance on ESPN2. All are available in HD. Fans can enjoy the information and banter offered by host Dave Rieff and analyst Mike Dunn, together with pit reporters Gary Gerould and John Kernan. In addition, NHRA has moved to make the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals even more points-worthy for its Mello Yello competitors in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle by increasing points for the biggest race of the year, traditionally held on the Labor Day weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway outside Indianapolis.
At the race where NHRA sets its 10-person Countdown to the Championship, points are truly important. Winners in each of the four Pro classes at the U.S. Nationals will claim 150 points, while runners-up earn 120 points. Semifinal finishers claim 90 points apiece, second round finishers earn 60 points each and first round finishers all claim 30 points. NHRA is richening the pot for qualifiers, too, awarding 15 points to each driver making at least one qualifying attempt, adding the 20-point bonus for setting a national record, eight points for earning the No. 1 qualifying position and a maximum total of 15 points for earning 3 qualifying bonus points in each of five qualifying sessions, making for a maximum of 208 points available at this event to a single racer.
“With more points up for grabs,” said Graham Light, NHRA senior vice president of racing operations, “we certainly expect to see a lot of movement throughout the top 10s in each class on the final day of the regular season.” With the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals being “one of the most pressure-packed events on the circuit, we expect that level of excitement to increase significantly with this points increase.” NHRA customarily awards winners with 100 points at its other 23 races, gives runners-up 80, 60 points to semifinalists, quarterfinalists are rewarded with 40 points and first round finishers with 20 points. Drivers/riders earn 10 points for one qualifying attempt, while national E.T. records earn 20, unchanged for this race. The 61st edition of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals is scheduled for September 2-7; this huge event also features the Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel and Funny Car. ESPN and ESPN2 devote 10 hours of coverage for NHRA’s biggest race of the year.