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Jun 30, 2014 - 04:12 PM
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2014 NHRA: Op Fuel’s Khalid Albalooshi Heading Back To Right Track Entering Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals
Posted by: newsla on Jun 30, 2014 - 04:10 PM
NHRA
2014 NHRA: Op Fuel’s Khalid Albalooshi Heading Back To Right Track Entering Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals


The results might not have shown it recently, but Khalid alBalooshi knows that his Al-Anabi Racing Top Fuel team is close to returning to impressive performances. With the next race on the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series already a proven winner for alBalooshi, it could be a case of perfect timing.

 

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AlBalooshi and his 10,000-horsepower dragster will enter this weekend’s eighth annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk as the defending winner in Top Fuel and it couldn’t come at a more ideal time.

After starting the season with a victory in Pomona, alBalooshi has struggled to recreate that championship form. But alBalooshi, who has three career victories, believes a turnaround is coming and with it could come a second straight win in Norwalk.

“We’re finding out a lot of things about the car,” alBalooshi said. “Everyone is doing their job and we’re putting everything together to give me the best car we can, especially now that we’ve found the problem. We were trying something different and working on some different things, and I feel like I know exactly what it’s going to do this race. We know how to make the car keep getting better. I think you will see a lot from the Al-Anabi team very soon and I feel like we’ve got our hot rod back.”

Johnny Gray (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2.

This year’s event marks the 13th of 24 races during the 2014 season and alBalooshi carries plenty of fond memories of last year’s triumph into Norwalk. After qualifying 10th alBalooshi knocked off Antron Brown and Clay Millican to reach the final where he then defeated Doug Kalitta.

AlBalooshi’s victory in Pomona also included a final round win against Kalitta, but Kalitta has been nearly unbeatable since then, taking over the points lead with one victory and seven overall final round appearances.

“That was one of the best weekends I’ve had,” alBalooshi said. “Everything was working that day and we beat a lot of good competitors to get the win. Our car and team did a great job that weekend to get the win.”

In an effort to recreate that moment in Norwalk the team has put in heavy hours and made several changes to the car. AlBalooshi seemed poised to get back on track after a round win in Epping, N.H., but a first-round loss to J.R. Todd on Sunday in Chicago gave alBalooshi, who dropped to eighth in points with the early exit, three first round defeats in the past four races. Still, alBalooshi continues to see improvements and believes a breakout performance could be right around the corner.

“I feel more comfortable and we’re going to do a better job of getting down the track as well,” alBalooshi said. “The guys on the team are doing a great job and I haven’t driven my best. I have to do that to keep everyone at their best and make everyone happy. I think we can get better very soon and I think we will be in way better shape than we have been in the last four or five races.”

AlBalooshi will also have to deal with a host of championship-caliber challengers in Norwalk, including his teammate and reigning world champion Shawn Langdon, 2012 Norwalk winner Spencer Massey, Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown, who won in Chicago, reigning Auto Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner Brittany Force, Richie Crampton and Steve Torrence.

The good news is that the Al-Anabi Racing team has always fared well in Norwalk. Including alBalooshi’s win a year ago, Al-Anabi Racing has won the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals four of the last five years in Top Fuel, another reason alBalooshi is confident he can finish out this string of four straight race weekends with a strong performance.

“For me as a driver, I like it,” alBalooshi said of four straight races. “But it’s four straight weeks of work for our team and I feel for those guys. But as a driver, I enjoy it and it’s a chance for me to get better.”

With Johnny Gray having retired at the end of last season, the Funny Car field is wide open in Norwalk. Points leader Robert Hight has never won at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park but is seeking a fifth win in 2014. To get it he will have to get past a talented field featuring the likes of previous Norwalk winners Jack Beckman, Tony Pedregon and Tim Wilkerson, as well as Cruz Pedregon, reigning world champion John Force, Courtney Force, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Chicago winner Matt Hagan.

Greg Anderson is tied for the winningest Pro Stock driver in the history of Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park and will be looking for his third win. Vincent Nobile, who won last weekend in Chicago, also has two victories at Norwalk but everyone is chasing points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who has three victories in 2014. Reigning world champ Jeg Coughlin, Allen Johnson, Shane Gray, Dave Connolly, Jason Line and Chris McGaha are also drivers who will be challenging for the win in the 200-mph factory hot rod class.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith is the defending race winner and the reigning champion but he is still looking for his first 2014 victory. Andrew Hines’ two victories has given him the category points lead and teammate Eddie Krawiec has one victory and is second in points. Smith’s wife Angie, who won her first career event this year, Scotty Pollacheck, Michael Ray, John Hall and Hector Arana Jr., who is the most recent event winner, will all compete for the 2014 Norwalk Wally in the two-wheel category.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

The event will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, July 4, with sessions at 4:45 and 7:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, July 5, at 4:45 and 7:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 6.

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