ESPN’s NHRA coverage to air live on ESPN3.com

When the National Hot Rod Association kicks off their 60th anniversary season this weekend in Pomona, Calif., drag racing fans will now be able to see live coverage of the elimination rounds for all 22 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events on ESPN3.com, ESPN’s live sports broadband network.

ESPN officials said that ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will continue to air qualifying and eliminations for all events on a same-day basis, starting with this weekend’s Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winter Nationals in Pomona. Qualifying airs on Saturday at 10 p.m. and eliminations will air on Sunday at 6 p.m.

Fans will be able to see live eliminations from Pomona on ESPN3.com on Sunday beginning at 1 p.m.

In the past, ESPN has carried live elimination rounds for the past several years for events only in the NHRA’s Countdown playoffs; however, this season will mark the first time in history that the coverage will include the full NHRA drag racing season.

“For the dedicated drag racing fan, the opportunity now exists to watch everything unfold as it happens, all day,” said Shawn Murphy, ESPN senior coordinating producer, who oversees production of NHRA telecasts. “Not only the professional classes with the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, but the Lucas Oil Series, the Pro Mod Series and every car that goes down the track on the final day.”

Murphy said the racing coverage will be led by veteran television sports broadcaster Paul Page, who became the lead announcer in 2006. He will be joined in the booth by Mike Dunn, a former NHRA drag racer who scored 22 wins during his career. Gary Gerould and Dave Rieff will return as pit reporters and John Kernan will serve as a third reporter for selected NHRA events.

ESPN officials said the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series will be featured on ESPN through 2016. The broadcasts are part of a five-year, multimedia rights agreement extension signed between the NHRA and ESPN in 2009. Since 2001, the NHRA has appeared exclusively on the ESPN networks.

Officials also said that ESPN2 will continue coverage of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, along with the Get Screened America Pro Mod Series. Both the Lucas Oil and Pro Mod series will air on a tape-delayed basis.

Kick Off Classic: San Antonio Raceway held their season-opening Kick Off Classic and Big Bucks Bracket race last weekend at the quarter-mile drag strip near Marion.

Saturday’s winners were Bart Nelson and Donny Burleson, Electronics; Nelson Friedeck, Footbrake and Daniel Aydelotte, Junior Dragster.

On Sunday, Bart Nelson won the Gunslinger race while Michael Pennington and Michael Tenn split victories in the Electronics division. Lee Bannister grabbed the win in the Footbrake class and Aydelotte notched his second victory of the weekend by winning the Junior Dragster race.

Thunderhill set for opener: Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle is set to kick off the 2011 racing season on March 5. Drivers this season will be competing in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

THR will host the NASCAR Modifieds as their feature NASCAR division in 2011. Drivers in this class will not only compete for a track championship, but for a national championship too. NASCAR will use the driver’s best 18 finishes in the feature division to determine the national champion.

In addition, Thunderhill Raceway will also have three support divisions that will be eligible for a NASCAR-sanctioned recognition program and a track points fund. These classes will include the NASCAR Texas Super Racing Series Late Models, NASCAR Trucks and NASCAR Super Stocks.

The season-opening race card will start at 6 p.m. and will also feature the TSRS Allison Legacys, Bandoleros, NasKarts, along with the THR Thunder, Grand and Mini Stock classes. Gates open at 4 p.m. and qualifying starts at 4:15 p.m.

I-37 Raceway ready for 2011 season: Jim Knudtson, track manager for I-37 Raceway reports that the track is almost ready for their season opener on March 12.

Knudtson said that during the winter break, track crews have been busy making repairs to the facility, including a recent expansion to the announcer’s booth above the grandstands and painting the restroom walls and snack bar area. A few projects remain and officials hope to have everything completed during track workday this Saturday.

I-37 Raceway will once again feature the IMCA Modifies, Southern SportsMods, Limited Late Models, Street Stocks, Pure Stocks and Front Runner cars this season.

IMCA Texas Lone Star Series: The inaugural Lone Star Series kicks off this weekend with the running of the Ice Break Special at Abilene Speedway.

The series will consists of four IMCA divisions — IMCA Modified, IMCA Sunoco Stock Car, IMCA Sunoco Hobby Stock and Smiley’s Racing Chassis Southern SportMod — all competing in nine different races across Texas in 2011.

The season schedule will also include the March 5-6 Spring Kick-Off at Kennedale Speedway Park and the March 13 Spring Fling at 281 Speedway in Stephenville. Other dates include April 17 at Boyd Raceway, March 29 at Heart O’ Texas Speedway in Waco and July 3 at Texas Thunder Speedway in Killeen.

The IMCA Modifieds will compete for a $3,000 point fund, which includes a $600 prize for the champion. The I-Stocks, Hobby Stock and Southern SportMods will compete for a $1,000 point fund in their respective classes. The champions in each division will earn $250.

Benefit race: Mud Drags San Antonio will have a benefit race on March 5 for track owner and promoter John Wyatt, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the races start at 8 p.m. More information is available at MudDrags.com.

Kart races: The first race of the spring season will be held on Sunday at the Hill Country Kart Club track in New Braunfels.

Registration begins at noon, time trials are at 1 p.m. and the feature races are set for 2:15 p.m. For more information, visit hckc.org.

A motor sports column by Mike Haag appears every Friday during the racing season. For information on area motor sports, visit Mike’s blog.

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