Downtown Expo welcomes NHRA to Houston

HOUSTON (March 20) -- A spectacular downtown expo complete with 330-mph racecars and the drivers who bravely strap themselves into these machines will officially kick-off this weekend's 14th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by...

HOUSTON (March 20) -- A spectacular downtown expo complete with 330-mph racecars and the drivers who bravely strap themselves into these machines will officially kick-off this weekend's 14th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil. The expo and display is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday, throughout the Bayou Place complex in downtown Houston and is open to the public. Admission is free.

An NHRA-sponsored media luncheon will be held from noon-1 p.m., Wednesday, at the Hard Rock Cafe, 502 Texas Ave. (in Bayou Place), and will provide one-on-one opportunities to interview the various participants. There will also be a test demonstration of a 6,000 horsepower nitromethane-powered Funny Car motor at 1 p.m., an absolute must-see event.

Championship-contending drivers Darrell Russell, Larry Dixon, Bob Gilbertson, Jerry Toliver, and Tony Schumacher will be on hand.

Russell, a rookie from Hockley, Texas, is the biggest surprise on tour this year. The upstart pro arrives in his hometown as the points leader in the Top Fuel dragster class. Driving for the legendary Joe Amato, the winningest Top Fuel pilot of all time, Russell already has one win and one runner-up finish on his resume. His professional record is a shocking 7-1.

Buoyed by title sponsorship from Houston-based Stewart & Stevenson, defending event champion Gilbertson has his "Camo Crew" in attack mode as they look to repeat last year's heroics. Gilbertson will be challenged once again by WWF pro Toliver -- the man he beat in the finals last year. Toliver will provide the fireworks to this year's press conference when he ignites his XFL-themed Pontiac Firebird and rattles the windows of downtown Houston.

Miller Lite's Dixon and the U.S. Army's Schumacher are poised to make big runs at Russell this weekend. Dixon showed the world the first ever sub-4.5 second run at Houston Raceway Park in 1999, the same year Pennzoil-backed Schumacher won the Top Fuel championship.

The 14th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Nationals presented by Pennzoil run Thursday through Sunday at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Texas. For more information or tickets, contact Houston Raceway Park directly at 281-383-2666.

-Robert Geiger

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Series Automotive , NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Jerry Toliver