CONCORD, N.C. — Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and seven-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher thundered into the playoffs in both motorsports series with a never-before-seen dual burnout on pit road at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
With 12 titles between them, the two are each considered favorites as the playoffs for their respective series kick off this weekend.
Charlotte Motor Speedway and zMAX Dragway combine to be the only motorsports complex in the world big and bad enough to host key playoff events with the Bank of America 500 on Oct. 12 and the Carlyle Professional Hand Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts, Sept. 13-15.
Inside his No. 48 Lowe’s Home Improvement Chevrolet, Johnson was awestruck by the sound and violence of the Top Fuel dragster. Seeded second in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, Johnson will vie for his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship beginning this weekend in Chicago.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m sitting there in my car getting ready to grab second gear and try to create a little more smoke and that thing goes thundering by,” said Johnson. “I had no clue what was happening. I thought a bomb went off next to me. That is incredible. It’s been a lot of years since I’ve seen nitro. I was pretty young, probably seven or eight years old, the last time I was at a drag race. To see 10,000 horsepower next to you, tires smoking. That is impressive.”
Schumacher powered his U.S. Army-sponsored Don Schumacher Racing Top Fuel dragster for the burnout prior to the first race of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship across the street at zMAX Dragway.
“You get out here and hear two cars; two champs are standing there and you go that’s what I’m doing,” said Schumacher. “I know exactly why I showed up to do this. It’s a great racetrack. To get to run a burnout next to another champion, he’s won five championships he knows how to do it.”
Johnson, whose appearance was part of the NASCAR Chase Across America program to kick off the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, will return to Charlotte Motor Speedway Oct. 12 for the only Saturday night race in the Chase, the Bank of America 500.
“The Chase is going to be great for us,” said Johnson. “We have great racetracks in the Chase. We’re able to hold that each and every year. The end of August is always tough for us. Those aren’t our best tracks. We tried hard this year to make sure they were good tracks for us, but it didn’t play out that way. I really feel good with the tracks that are on the Chase schedule, especially coming back to Charlotte Motor Speedway. This has been one of our best tracks.”
The Bank of America 500 is part of three days of exciting on-track action beginning with Bojangles’ Pole Night on Thursday, Oct. 10, the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dollar General 300 on Friday, Oct. 11, and culminating with the Bank of America 500 on Saturday, Oct. 12.
This weekend, the NHRA kicks off the Countdown to the Championship at zMAX Dragway with the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals. Tickets start at $25 for Friday and $45 for Saturday and Sunday. Children 13 and younger will receive free general admission with a paid adult all weekend.
Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals qualifying opens on Friday, Sept. 13, with pro sessions scheduled to begin at 4:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 14, at 12:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15.