Paul Nero has been racing in NHRA's Top Dragster class since 2010 and in other classes and events before then, but only recently did he decide to compete for a national championship, and he's doing better than most other racers would in such a short time chasing a title.

"I had been concentrating mostly on divisional events, but last year we decided to seriously focus on national events as well," he said. "I figured I had the equipment and the car and the resources to do it. Plus, I know my car is not the fastest, and at some point the class is going to get out of range and go faster, so it was now or never. So far it has worked out pretty good both years."

In 2017, Nero finished No. 2 in the nation, and he currently leads the championship standings with 600-plus points -- more than 100 than the next racer in the standings -- after scoring wins at both the national event and divisional race in Phoenix on back-to-back weekends. He also went on to win the Division 6 race in Mission, B.C., later in the season.

"My goal at the beginning of the year was 600 points. That was the benchmark I was shooting for," he said. "I felt I'd have a chance at winning the championship with that total."

Still, Nero remains grounded knowing other racers can catch him.

"I'm proud of the points I've earned, and of course I'd like to have more, but I feel like I've gone out there and put a number that someone is going to have to work to get to," he said. "But anybody in the top 10 right now has a shot at it. All it takes is for one of them to reel off some good races to make a move."

Nero joined the Top Dragster ranks after years competing in other classes.



"I originally started bracket racing, then raced in Super Street and Top Comp before it was split," he said. "My dad John raced in the 70s and 80s. My brother and I used to go with him a lot. I had a car in high school and then just got my own stuff and worked my way up in the classes.”

One of the biggest challenges Nero has faced during his racing career has been finding the time to get ready to compete with a race car that is slower than many of the other cars he races against.

"Time commitment is a challenge. Not only just getting to the races but just being prepared," he said. "I try to roll into every race thinking no one is better prepared and no one has better equipment than I have, and that’s the result of a lot of late nights and a week in the shop after work just getting stuff ready.

"The biggest learning curve in Top Dragster was that my car runs from 191 mph to 200 mph and I have to race cars that are going 235-240 mph. They are going so fast at the finish line that it's tough. That's where you have to spend the time and effort to continually make your car better so that when you race those really fast cars you're running close to the dial."

To be ready before and during competition, Nero relies on the assistance of wife Kristi and the support of daughters Sami and Lauryn and major sponsors Dave Stickland Motorsports, Dan Provoast at RAD Torque Systems, John Sharps at Sharps Bros., and Shane Thompson at Silver State Plumbing. He also receives support from Dunks Performance, Monkey Rat Design, MetalWorks Speed Shop, Mickey Thompson Tires, VP Racing Fuels, and Reher-Morrison Racing Engines.

"If I had 650 points, that would block a lot of guys out, but you just don't know. I just have to put more in the bank. I have to make the guy who's going to make a run at me work a little bit harder," he said. "My goal has always been to be competitive in whichever class I'm racing or whatever I'm driving. When my name comes up, I want people to say that I'm really competitive and never make a lot of mistakes."