Climb to top of NHRA standings has a hitch

Rod Fuller sits atop the NHRA Top Fuel standings but still doesn’t have a major sponsor. He drives a plain white dragster for the David Powers Motorsports team.

An appropriate addition to his car for racing this weekend in Bristol, Tenn., would be a big red cross. Fuller, a Las Vegas resident, reinjured his left knee before Sunday’s second round of eliminations in Norwalk, Ohio.

Fuller was headed for a last-minute, personal pit stop — a portable toilet — and opted to climb a 6-foot fence to get to it. The driver easily got to the top of the fence, but his knee “popped” when he couldn’t stick the landing after jumping down.

“I couldn’t get up, and all these fans came over to me,” Fuller said. “They tried to lift me back over the fence, and I kept yelling for them to put me down.”

The fans yielded, and members of Fuller’s crew soon arrived with a golf cart to transport him to his dragster, which was ready to head for the starting line.

Fuller was lifted into the cockpit and won two races before losing in the championship round to Tony Schumacher.

Fuller, 36, injured the same knee in February while playing volleyball in Hawaii during a team function.

He was examined early this week and learned he tore an anterior cruciate ligament and will require surgery after the season.

A support sleeve will cover his left knee when NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series qualifying begins today at Bristol Dragway, where Fuller was runner-up the past two years.

The Arkansas native has a 98-point lead in the Top Fuel standings over Larry Dixon for his biggest margin of the year. Fuller has qualified no lower than fourth this season through 11 races and has been the top qualifier three times.

• NASCAR — NASCAR is expected to announce Saturday at a news conference that the Nextel Cup Series will become the Sprint Cup Series next year, ESPN.com reported.

Nextel, which bought naming rights to the series in 2004, merged with Sprint soon after that and has begun marketing only the Sprint name to consumers. …

Coverage of Saturday’s Pepsi 400 Cup race from Daytona International Speedway on TNT (Cable 18) will feature what the network is calling “Wide Open Coverage.”

The race will not be interrupted for national commercials, and local commercials will be limited to three per hour, according to a TNT release.

Sponsors will use an on-screen video box during the race, which begins at 3:30 p.m. …

Alex Haase of Las Vegas finished fourth in Saturday’s NASCAR Grand National West Series race in Roseburg, Ore., but was 16th Wednesday night in a race in Irwindale, Calif.

• DRIFTING, COMPACTS — The next event on the dragstrip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the July 13-14 nighttime D1 Drift Grand Prix and NHRA Sport Compact Nationals. The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. to midnight each day.

A free D1 and NHRA driver autograph session will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the ESPN Zone inside New York-New York.

For more information, call 644-4444 or go to LVMS.com, D1gp.com or NHRA.com.

• BULLRING DARK — The speedway’s Bullring is on hiatus until a special Wednesday night show on Aug. 8, which is to include the NASCAR All-American Series and ASA Speed Trucks Series.

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