Ellis begins quest for first championship
Charlotte, pre-race: Chip Ellis, rider of the Schumacher Electric/XXX Racing Fuels Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle, remains calm and confident, despite the knowledge that he's one of the favorites to win his first NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle crown. The Countdown to 1 playoffs to decide the champion begin this weekend in spectacular fashion at the Inaugural NHRA Carolina Nationals at the new, state-of-the-art ZMax Dragway @ Concord.
Ellis will begin the playoffs No. 3 in the standings, just 40 points behind No. 1 Matt Smith.
While much of the attention will center around the all-concrete surface of this new facility, the story line will be the beginning of the Countdown to 1 for the racers competing for their respective class titles. And with scheduling limiting the Pro Stock Motorcycle class' 10 best riders to just five events of their Countdown (they will not race in Richmond), the pressure is palpable.
"There's definitely a lot of pressure to compete at the top of your game in every run," said Ellis, who has one win in a pair of final-round appearances this season. "The Schumacher Electric/XXX Racing Fuels Suzuki has been running almost flawlessly this season, thanks to (crew chief) Steve Tartaglia and crew members Jason Jones and Tom Patsis. They've performed at the top of their games all season and it's up to me get the bike in the winner's circle on race day."
Ellis has qualified in the top half of the 16-bike field at all 12 races leading up to the North Carolina event, including six times at No. 2. He entered the Ringers Gloves Pro Stock Bike Battle bonus race two weeks ago in Indianapolis from No. 1, advancing to the quarterfinals. The Florida native is confident the Suzuki he rides is capable of propelling his team to the NHRA championship.
"It's going to be great going to Concord," said Ellis. "Bruton Smith has the reputation of doing everything first-class, so I know the facility is going to be great. I'm just looking forward to getting there.
"All it takes is one slipup by our competitors for the Schumacher Electric/XXX Racing Fuels Suzuki to capitalize on someone else's mistake. We could be leading the points after one race; we just have to go out there and execute like we've been doing all year and everything should be fine.
"Having been involved in the Countdown last season I think will help because I know what the pressure is like. I just want to get out there and go rounds. I think if we can go enough rounds I think we'll win this championship. Right now, I'm not as focused on the championship as much as I am on just concentrating on the next round."
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