CONCORD, N.C. — Story by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Kalitta Motorsports photo —
If you looked around zMAX Dragway on Sunday afternoon, you might have seen as many NASCAR stars as drag racing veterans, as Thorsport Racing’s entire fleet of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers invaded the ‘Bellagio of Drag Strips’ for the seventh annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals presented by Lowes Foods.
Two-time NCWTS champion Matt Crafton, sophomore Cameron Hayley and rookies Ben Rhodes and Rico Abreu were all in attendance as the most unique event in all of drag racing kicked off final eliminations, taking in the sights and sounds of 40,000 horsepower and nitrous-fueled action ahead of their next race at Kansas Speedway on May 6.
The special opportunity was made possible by SealMaster, a leading manufacturer of pavement sealers and equipment and sponsor of both Todd’s Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel dragster and the Truck Series fleet at ThorSport, as well as Toyota — which shares the manufacturer support of both teams in their respective series.
Abreu, Crafton and Hayley have all taken in the power of an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in the past, and Crafton says the experience is “incomparable” to anything else in motorsports.
“And don’t look at me if J.R. (Todd) goes missing at some point today,” the veteran California racer laughed during the pre-race Track Walk. “I’d test out one of these things in a heartbeat.”
“I’ve been to the Four-Wide Nationals one time and that was the only drag racing event I’ve ever been to,” two-time Chili Bowl Nationals champion Abreu added. “It blew me away and it’s a huge thrill to be back. It’s a really fun time out here and all of us have been pulling for J.R. Todd this weekend because of our connection with Toyota and SealMaster.”
“I tell everyone that TV coverage doesn’t do being at a drag race justice, with the intensity and the vibrations and how much it rattles your body when the Pro cars go off … let alone four at once, instead of two. It’s cool for the fans to be able to experience … a hard event to follow … but fun nonetheless.”
Hayley is the veteran of the group, having been to multiple NHRA national events in the past in several places across the country.
“This is my third time at an NHRA event but I’d never been to Four-Wide Nationals before today, so it’s super cool to be around here,” Hayley said. “The nitro classes are insane. … They think we’re crazy for what we do on the ovals, but we all think they’re crazy for what they do here on the strip. I’d say it all balances out (laughs).”
For Rhodes, the straight-line rookie, he got the chance to take in his “Baptism by Nitro” during the first round of Top Fuel eliminations, and agreed with the enthusiastic assessments of his teammates.
“This was my first nitro experience, today,” Rhodes admitted. “They were trying to prepare me, but I don’t think anything they said would have prepared me for what it felt like when that first pass went off today. It was an unbelievable rush and it’s an awesome deal out here. There’s no better place to make your drag racing debut than the Four-Wide (Nationals) … I’ve had a great time.”
Kalitta Motorsports veteran J.R. Todd, an eight-time winner in the Top Fuel class and the No. 2 qualifier this weekend in Charlotte, hosted the quartet of stock car stars and said he greatly enjoyed the chance to “show them the ropes” and take the group into the heart of what drag racing is all about.
“This deal has been a lot of fun,” Todd expressed. “They’re making me a little nervous for my job, but they’ve all been great. They’re good people, great drivers, and I’ve been glad to be able to give them a deeper taste … and hopefully an appreciation … for what this sport is all about and what we do as drag racers, and I’ve learned plenty from them as well about it’s like on the stock car side. Just a fun time, like it always here at zMAX for the Four-Wide Nationals.”
“It’s cool being down here in NASCAR country. It was a packed house yesterday, and it’s looked the same way today. Thanks to the fans and to these guys at ThorSport for coming out, and I’m glad to race with them under the Toyota banner.”
For more information on SealMaster’s line of products and services, visit www.sealmaster.net.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Todd advanced out of the first round of Top Fuel eliminations, and will face Richie Crampton, Brittany Force and reigning world champion Antron Brown in the semifinals.
About the Writer
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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