NHRA hard hit by sponsor exodus

NASCAR teams have laid off hundreds of workers, and teams have merged or are trying to. Some speculate Sprint Cup races will not be able to field traditional 43-car fields at all races next year. But the racing series headed for the biggest hit is NHRA professional drag racing.

Sometime this week it’s expected that Caterpillar will announce it is pulling sponsorship of the David Powers Motorsports Top Fuel team. That means Las Vegas resident Rod Fuller is out of a ride.

Fuller said he heard Saturday that Powers was shuttering the team. He heard it from an Internet reporter before he heard it from Powers. A call by Fuller to Powers confirmed it.

Also out of Top Fuel rides are Hillary Will and David Grubnic. Will drove for the team owned by Las Vegan Ken Black and operated by Kalitta Motorsports, which also owned the car Grubnic drove.

Neither have enough sponsorship support.

Within the past few months, UPS left Bob Vandergriff’s Top Fueler, and SnapOn Tools packed up and left Doug Herbert.

At some point next year, it was expected that Anna Smith, daughter of billionaire motor sports mogul Bruton Smith, would begin driving a Top Fueler.

But that was before she sustained serious injuries on Dec. 10 when she was thrown from her street car after it crashed off a road in North Carolina. Not to mention this week’s resulting charge of DWI in connection with the crash.

In Funny Car, Del Worsham was left without of job when Checker Schucks Kragen Auto Parts pulled out, but Worsham was hired to drive for the new Alan Johnson Al-Anabi Racing team.

(In a related matter, two-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon was named Thursday to drive the Top Fueler for the Johnson Al-Anabi team with Jason McCulloch serving as crew chief.)

And John Force Racing lost Old Spice sponsorship of top rookie Mike Neff’s Funny Car when Old Spice had to increase its support of Tony Stewart when the NASCAR star became part owner of Stewart Haas Racing in the Cup series.

ACDelco’s decision to cut back might keep Warren Johnson’s Pro Stocker parked next year, and the fall NHRA event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will lose the General Motors division as its sponsor.

While Pro Stock will continue to have at least 20 cars qualifying for 16-car championship eliminations, Funny Car might be stretched to fill every field, and Top Fuel surely is in jeopardy of having a dozen dragsters show up on a regular basis. If that many. lvjr.com

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