Several NHRA pros will pursue a different kind of "300" performance when they bowl in the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships in Vegas.
One of the oldest major competitions in U.S. history, the USBC Open Championships brings together the best bowlers from around the world to compete in a five-month tournament. During that time the USBC (www.bowl.com) identifies and rewards the most elite pin smashers in a variety of classifications and different competitions.
Three five-man NHRA teams comprised of Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock drivers will compete at 2:30 p.m., April 2, in the team event as special guests of the USBC.
The NHRA competitors are in town for the 10th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals, April 2-5 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Tickets are still available for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event by calling (800) 644-4444, or by visiting www.lvms.com. The race will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD.
The USBC will provide each driver with a custom-drilled bowling ball and will treat them to the full Open Championships experience, including visits to the scale room and squad room and the traditional march down Center Aisle. More than 17,200 teams will participate in the USBC Open Championships during its 154-day run.
The three NHRA teams include the NHRA Floppers, NHRA Eliminators and NHRA Holeshots. Several of the participating drivers are avid bowlers with competitive averages and high single-game bests, including Robert Hight, who drives the Auto Club Ford Mustang for John Force Racing. He lists his single-game high at 279. Fellow Funny Car star Del Worsham, driver of the Al-Anabi Racing Toyota Solara, also is addicted to bowling. He had a pair of bowling lanes installed in his home and lists a 234 as his career best for a single game. Pro Stock's Allen Johnson was the Tennessee Junior State Champion in 1974.
Below are team rosters and a few quotes from select drivers on each team.
* Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang
* Del Worsham, Al-Anabi Racing Toyota Solara
* Jeff Arend, DHL Solara
* Jack Beckman, MTS/Valvoline Dodge Charger R/T
* Matt Hagan, Shelor.com Charger R/T
Hight: "I used to bowl on a junior league when I was a kid. We lived across the street from a bowling center. I bowled in high school and right up to when I went racing. It is a lot like my other passion, trapshooting, since you have to be focused every shot and be able to make minor adjustments from game to game. It's like what a crew chief does with changing track conditions.
"Everyone on my Auto Club team likes to bowl. When we get time, we bowl at a lot of the cities where we race. Del Worsham introduced me to pro bowlers Danny Wiseman and Jim Tomak. Danny was just named one of the 50 greatest bowlers in PBA history. He is a huge race fan. Now that I know him, I have attended several PBA tournaments. It is amazing what the pros can do with a bowling ball. Their lane conditions are constantly changing and they have to adjust. They are fun to watch and having Danny point out what is going on, which helps me understand what kind of focus it takes to win."
Worsham: "I grew up watching my dad bowl so I'm excited to bowl with him in Las Vegas. We always loved drag racing together, and bowling is something else we love to do together so it should be fun. At Reading in 2007, the weather was really bad. We raced like a round a day because of the weather, and it kept raining. We ended running the finals on Tuesday or Wednesday, so we had a lot of down time, and we spent most of it at the bowling alley. We would rather have been racing, but I ended up bowling my career high game during that time so it worked out pretty well. When we finally got back to racing, we lost in the semifinals, but at least we got to have some fun while we were waiting for the weather to clear."
Arend: "I am a pretty avid bowler. Working for the Worshams I had to get to be pretty good! I also used to bowl in a league when I lived in Canada. Right now I average around 170. I actually bowled a nice triple last year against Chuck Worsham: 260, 242, 229, which is not too bad for a driver."
Beckman: "I'm nervously excited, as I think this is a great opportunity to hang out with people who are at the top of their profession and glean some life lessons from time spent with them, but I may need those gutter inserts like the little kids use to keep the ball in the lane. If they laugh too hard at me I can always repay the favor with a surfing session one day."
* Morgan Lucas, GEICO Powersports/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster
* Shawn Langdon, Lucas Oil/Dixie Choppers Top Fuel dragster
* Spencer Massey, U.S. Smokeless Top Fuel dragster
* Rod Fuller, Las Vegas-based Top Fuel driver
* Chuck Worsham, legendary Funny Car team owner
Lucas: "It's exciting to watch anyone that's at the highest level of any sport. We bowl a lot so I know how hard it is. Believe me, it takes a lot of talent and when you see the top bowlers on TV I'm just in awe of them."
Langdon: "Morgan and I bowl quite a bit. It's something we both enjoy and we have fun with it. We tried to join a league called the PBA Experience last year but our schedules were too hard to get serious with it. The few times we went it was hilarious because they oil the lanes differently than a regular bowling alley and we were terrible. Hopefully, we can bowl some decent scores and surprise some people."
* Tom Hammonds, Race For Achievement Chevy Cobalt
* Allen Johnson, J&J Racing/Team Mopar Dodge Stratus
* Greg Anderson, Summit Racing Pontiac GXP
* Jason Line, Summit Racing Pontiac GXP
* Jason Gray, crew member for Summit Racing Pontiac GXP team
Johnson: "I bowled as a junior bowler, from the time I was nine until I was about 15, and I won just about every patch you could win. I actually won the junior/senior Tennessee state championship when I was 14. But in the last five years, I've probably bowled about five times, and I've done good to break one hundred! If I have a ball that fits me good, I may be able to do decent, but I wouldn't look for anything spectacular."
The 2009 USBC Open Championships is contested from Feb. 21 until July 24. During that time, more than 86,000 bowlers will travel from all 50 states and several foreign countries to compete. Competition runs from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m. daily as bowlers compete in team, doubles and singles. Bowlers post their scores in each event and see how they hold up as the tournament concludes. Overall, more than $7 million in prize money is awarded. This event pre-dates Las Vegas itself, the Indy 500, the Rose Bowl and the World Series. The first tournament was held in Chicago in 1901, and this year is the 106th event.