NASCAR & Auto Racing

NHRA to kick off 'Countdown' with event at new Charlotte drag strip

The inaugural event at a new drag strip at Lowe’s Motor Speedway will also be the first in the National Hot Rod Association PowerAde Series’ revised Countdown to the Championship.

Details on the Sept. 11-14 event at the facility being built near Charlotte - still listed as “to be announced” on the NHRA schedule - are expected to be formally announced Jan. 24 during the annual preseason motorsports media tour hosted by LMS.

Last fall, owner Bruton Smith threatened to move his company's speedway and related businesses when plans for the drag strip prompted a seven-week struggle with public officials of Concord, N.C., where LMS is situated.

Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., now plans to proceed with the drag strip and also make $200 million in improvements at the speedway, in exchange for $80 million in government incentives.

Because of neighborhood concerns, a separate noise-abatement plan was expected to be submitted this week, officials said.

In the revised Countdown schedule, the Charlotte event will open a six-race championship playoff in the NHRA’s version of NASCAR’s “Chase” format.

The U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis will conclude an 18-event regular season for Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock classes, and a 12-race season for Pro Stock Motorcycles.

Points will be reset with the top-10 drivers in each class advancing to compete for the championship over the final six events (five for motorcycles).

The regular-season leader’s total will be reset to 2,090 points. Second place will start the Countdown at 2,060 point, with third at 2,050, fourth at 2,040 and so on in 10-point increments.

In the first year of the Countdown in 2007, eight drivers in each class made the first of two cutoffs. Drivers making the first cut had their points reset, then competed in four events before the championship field was cut to four. After another reset, the final two races determined the champions.