Atlanta: Pre-race notes

22nd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals presented by Pontiac, April 26-28, Atlanta Dragway * With Frank Pedregon's Funny Car win at Atlanta Dragway, it gave each of the three Pedregon brothers a victory in the Peach State....

22nd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals presented by Pontiac,
April 26-28, Atlanta Dragway

* With Frank Pedregon's Funny Car win at Atlanta Dragway, it gave each of the three Pedregon brothers a victory in the Peach State. 1992 NHRA champion Cruz won at Atlanta in 1998 while youngest brother Tony scored his first career victory back in 1996 at Atlanta Dragway.

* Funny Car driver Del Worsham will bring his Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird to Atlanta Dragway, the track where he scored his first career victory back in his rookie season of 1991. Considered one of the legitimate contenders to knock perennial champion John Force off the top, Worsham realizes the importance of every round.

"We've been in second place since the opening race this year," said Worsham. "I can tell you our outlook is that it's a lot better to keep 20-some cars behind you in the standings rather than look up at them. We're looking up at John Force, and trying to catch him while we keep all these other great teams behind us. There is just zero room for error up here. You have to win rounds, and a lot of them, to fight it out with these guys."

* Second year Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell experienced a tremendous beginning to a professional career, as he scored two wins in seven final rounds and finished sixth in the 2001 final standings. This season has been quite the opposite experience compared to his rookie campaign. Russell didn't even win an elimination round until the fourth race of the year and the Amato Racing team has already changed crew chiefs and team members. However, coming off a runner-up finish in Bristol, Tenn. Russell is very optimistic

"Joe Amato is a proven winner, a five-time NHRA champion and the winningest Top Fuel driver of all-time," said Russell. "He's said from the beginning he will stop at nothing to field a car that can win the championship every season. He's already made some gutsy calls this year and now it's up to all of us on this team to live up to his expectations. I know we have the ingredients in place right now to challenge for the 2002 POWERade title."

* Three-time NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Hines is looking to regain his championship form at Atlanta Dragway where he has experienced quite a bit of success. The 29-year-old Hines has 28 career victories which places him 10th all-time among among professional competitors with national event wins. Hines won the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals in 1998 and was runner-up in 1997, 1999 and again in 2001. He also was No. 1 qualifier twice ('98, '01).

* Larry Dixon and the Miller Lite Top Fuel team jumped out to an impressive start in 2002 with hopes of improving on last year's runner-up finish to rival Kenny Bernstein in the standings. Dixon realizes what is necessary to win it all and is determined to stay focused on the ultimate goal: the NHRA POWERade championship.

"Nobody on our team is thinking about hanging ourselves," said Dixon. "It is a long year and the championship is won based on your average over 23 races, not how you have done over a one race or even a five race stretch. It is all about trying to maintain a high level of performance for a full season. Whomever can do that will deserve the championship. No one can win every race, not even John Force."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Matt Hines , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Del Worsham , John Force , Joe Amato