Six NHRA rookie drivers, representing three NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series categories, are the eligible candidates for the 2013 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, it was announced today by officials from NHRA and the Automobile Club of Southern California.
The candidates for the prestigious award are, in alphabetical order: Adam Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle); Brittany Force (Top Fuel, above); Sidnei Frigo (Top Fuel); Chad Head (Funny Car); Leah Pruett (Top Fuel) and Billy Torrence (Top Fuel). The award, which recognizes the top rookie competitor in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and offers a $20,000 prize and traditional trophy to the winner, will be presented during NHRA’s annual championship awards ceremony on Monday, Nov. 11 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles.
More than 120 of the nation’s leading auto racing journalists will select the winner through a voting system based on the following criteria: number of events participated, performance on and off the race track, participation in NHRA promotions and relationships with fans, sponsors and media.
“For more than 100 years the Automobile Club of Southern California has represented integrity, commitment and professionalism to our millions of members. The Road to the Future Award has come to symbolize these same attributes in the sport of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing,” said Robert T. Bouttier, president and CEO of the Automobile Club of Southern California.
“To be nominated recognizes not only that a rookie driver had a noteworthy first season, but also that they demonstrated exceptional potential for the future. We congratulate all six of the candidates for this year’s award and look forward to enjoying their achievements both on and off the race track for many years to come.”
Arana, 22, from Milltown, Ind., is a second-generation Pro Stock Motorcycle racer who raced to a runner-up finish in Epping, N.H. and scored a No. 1 qualifying position at Denver aboard his ProtectTheHarvest.com Buell motorcycle. He is the only rookie candidate who qualified for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Force, 27, from Yorba Linda, Calif., is the first member of her racing family to compete in a Top Fuel dragster. She earned six first round wins in eliminations and qualified a season-best third at Denver. She also led Top Fuel qualifying on Friday and Saturday at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
Frigo, 41, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, qualified for his first Top Fuel start at the tradition-rich NHRA Winternationals in Southern California. He also earned starting spots for historic races in Gainesville, Fla. and Englishtown, N.J.
Head, 39, from Westerville, Ohio, qualified No. 1 at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte and then raced to his first-career final round appearance at the same event. He qualified ninth for the field at the prestigious Indy event.
Pruett, 25, from Avon, Ind., powered to a semifinal finish at Topeka and defeated veteran drivers Antron Brown and Doug Kalitta along the way. She outran Tony Schumacher at the Countdown playoff opener in Charlotte as another highlight of her season at the controls of the Dote Racing Top Fuel dragster.
Torrence, 55, from Kilgore, Texas, started his rookie campaign at Indianapolis, but impressed from the start, qualifying sixth and claiming his first round win in his first start, against fellow Texan Spencer Massey.
In 2002 the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award and the NHRA Rookie of the Year Award were combined to create one award recognizing the future stars of the sport.
Past winners of the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award have developed into some of NHRA’s biggest stars, including Tony Pedregon (1996, Funny Car), Ron Capps (1997, Funny Car), Doug Kalitta (1998, Top Fuel), Antron Brown (1999, Pro Stock Motorcycle), Melanie Troxel (2000, Top Fuel), GT Tonglet (2001, Pro Stock Motorcycle), Gene Wilson (2002, Pro Stock); Brandon Bernstein (2003, Top Fuel); Jason Line (2004, Pro Stock); Robert Hight (2005, Funny Car); J.R. Todd (2006, Top Fuel); Ashley Force Hood (2007, Funny Car); Mike Neff (2008, Funny Car); Spencer Massey (2009, Top Fuel); L.E. Tonglet (2010, Pro Stock Motorcycle); Hector Arana Jr. (2011, Pro Stock Motorcycle); and Courtney Force (2012, Funny Car).
NHRA Rookie of the Year winners prior to the merger of the two awards included the late Darrell Russell (2001, Top Fuel), Don Lampus (2000, Top Fuel), Scotty Cannon (1999, Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (1998, Pro Stock), Gary Scelzi (1997, Top Fuel) and co-winners in 1996, Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
(Photos courtesy NHRA/National Dragster; Click to enlarge)