Jane Miller: Washington drag racer reaches stars

Jane Miller

The NHRA Sportsman Series is the grassroots of the sport, and its biggest race of the year is coming up next weekend at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet.

The $100,000 JEGS Allstars features the best racers in eight Sportsman categories from each of the NHRA's seven divisions.

Ranked No. 1 in Division 3 Super Gas is Washington's Carl Root.

Points accumulation began last year. Root reached the finals of the first race of this season at Indianapolis, which gave him enough points for his No. 1 ranking. He was second in the Division 3 Super Gas points last year.

"It's really a hard thing to get into, and they say you're the best of the best," Root said. "Sometimes I'm not sure about that. You have your good days and bad days, and racing is lost by thousandths of a second. It's a tough crowd out there."

Root calls the JEGS event a race within a race.

"You have the national event, and then you have the JEGS Allstars," he said.

JEGS competition will be June 7, the day before the pro final eliminations.

There is a $100,000 purse, plus a double-up bonus if a driver wins the national event at the Torco Race Fuels Route 66 Nationals and the JEGS Allstars competition.

"They have a driver introduction, just like the pros," Root said. "Then you go back and get in your cars and then race. And then they call you back, probably in between the pro sessions. Then it ends Saturday afternoon."

Root has been racing for more than 20 years in the same class with the same car.

Super Gas is one of the three Super categories.

"Super Street is a :10.90 heads up," said Root, which means the car cannot run the quarter-mile faster than 10.9 seconds or it is disqualified, which is called a breakout

Root said he once drove a Competition Eliminator car for a season.

"The expense of that just pretty much ended that," he said. "That's a poor-man's Pro Stock. Pro Stock to me would be the ultimate class, but all I can say is it's big money."

Root has worked at Pearl Automotive Group for 22 years in the paint department of the body shop. He has his own shop in his home, where he paints race cars for himself and other drivers.

Root is looking forward to the competition next weekend.

"I'm a little nervous because I hurt my motor in Norwalk (Ohio) a couple of weeks ago, but it's back together now and we'll be OK," he said. "It's three rounds of racing with a lot of cameras and a lot of money. But just the fact that you made it there, win or lose, is probably the big thing."

Prelude to the dream

The fourth annual Prelude to the Dream, the Late Model race at Eldora Speedway, is Wednesday. The event features drivers from NASCAR and other series, including the NHRA, competing on a half-mile dirt oval owned by Tony Stewart.

Previous winners were Kenny Wallace, Stewart and, last year, Carl Edwards.

Again this year, the event will be televised on pay-per-view. The cost is $24.99 and can be ordered through cable companies and satellite providers.

Proceeds benefit a number of charities, including the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

Pit stops

Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports signed a two-year contract extension with Gordon's primary sponsor, DuPont. The sponsor-driver combination has been together since the final race of 1992. … Elliott Sadler signed a 'multi-year' contract extension with Gillett Evernham Motorsports earlier this week. … Three crew members from Brad Keselwoski's Nationwide Series team, including crew chief Tony Eury Sr., were penalized with fines, probations and suspensions following their altercation with members of Denny Hamlin's crew following last weekend's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Jane Miller is the Journal Star motorsports columnist. Write her at 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643, call (309) 686-3207 or e-mail jmiller@pjstar.com.