JOHN FORCE: Last year was trying for the National Hot Rod Association legend. Eric Medlen, driving for Force's team, died in March after a crash in Gainesville, Fla. Then, in Texas on Sept. 23, Force, 58, crashed and suffered a broken ankle, broken bones in his hands and feet and other injuries. With 125 victories and 14 funny car championships, Force vowed to come back. Force is well on his way to keeping that promise -- he had the quickest pass in testing at Phoenix.
TOMMY JOHNSON JR. AND MELANIE TROXEL: Troxel moves from top fuel to funny cars this year in the NHRA, which means she will inevitably line up beside Johnson in a race where the loser goes home. The significance of that? Troxel and Johnson are husband and wife. Being in the same division isn't something they planned, but Troxel got a deal with car owner Mike Ashley's team and Johnson was offered the ride when Kenny Bernstein retired.
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BRUTON SMITH: The drag strip he's building across the road from Lowe's Motor Speedway will host the inaugural Carolina Nationals Sept. 11-14.
|OPEN WHEEL STORY WATCH|
DANCER AND DANICA: Helio Castroneves got as much fame for a television dance-off as he did for consecutive Indianapolis 500 wins. Publicity hasn't been Danica Patrick's problem, but winning has been trickier. Can either outrun Dan Wheldon, Scott Dixon and the rest of the IndyCar drivers for the title Dario Franchitti won last year?
ONE PLUS ONE = ONE? The reunion of IndyCar and Champ Car to form one series that competes primarily in North America will be worth keeping an eye on.
HAMILTON'S YEAR? Lewis Hamilton was the rookie phenomenon in Formula One in 2007, but he and his McLaren team sputtered in the last race and opened the door for Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen to snatch the championship. Hamilton and Fernando Alonso couldn't co-exist as teammates. So Alonso is back with Renault, the team with which he won the 2005 and '06 titles.
NHRA POWERADE DRAG RACING
Feb. 7-10: Pomona, Calif.; Feb. 22-24: Phoenix; March 13-16: Gainesville, Fla.; March 28-30: Houston; April 10-13: Las Vegas; April 24-27: Commerce, Ga.; May 2-4: Madison, Ill.; May 16-18: Bristol, Tenn.; May 30-June 1: Topeka, Kan.; June 5-8: Joliet, Ill.; June 19-22: Englishtown, N.J.; June 26-29: Norwalk, Ohio; July 11-13: Denver; July 18-20: Seattle; July 25-27: Sonoma, Calif.; Aug. 7-10: Brainerd, Minn.; Aug. 14-17: Reading, Pa.; Aug. 27-Sept. 1: Indianapolis; Sept. 11-14: Charlotte; Sept. 18-21: Dallas; Sept. 26-28: Memphis, Tenn.; Oct. 10-12: Richmond, Va.; Oct. 30-Nov. 2: Las Vegas; Nov. 13-16: Pomona.
MARCH 22: The 58th season of racing begins at Hickory Motor Speedway with the Easter Bunny 150 for Pro All-Star Series Cars.
APRIL 5: East Lincoln Speedway runs its first weekly show for the 2008 season.
APRIL 18-19: The Circle K Colossal 100 at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway finishes up with a 100-lap feature for dirt late models that pays $50,000 to win. Legend Scott Bloomquist won this event in each of its first two years.
APRIL 26: The Hooters Pro Cup Series makes its annual visit to the half-mile at Concord Motorsport Park.
SEPT. 1: Hickory Motor Speedway hosts its annual Bobby Isaac Memorial race with a 200-lap feature for late models.
OCT. 17-19: Rockingham Dragway host the final race of the International Hot Rod Association season, the World Finals. The IHRA also runs April 18-20 at Rockingham.
OCT. 30-NOV. 1: The World of Outlaws winged sprint and late model series cap their seasons with a visit to The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
NOV. 6-8: The North-South Shootout brings together the best modified cars and drivers at Concord Motorsport Park.