Bristol: Round six preview

McCLENATHAN SEEKS BRISTOL VICTORY FOR HOMETOWN CARRIER BOYZ TEAM BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Cory McClenathan's "To Do" list grew by one major objective when he became the driver of the Carrier Boyz Racing team's FRAM Boost2 Top Fuel dragster in ...

McCLENATHAN SEEKS BRISTOL VICTORY FOR HOMETOWN CARRIER BOYZ TEAM

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Cory McClenathan's "To Do" list grew by one major objective when he became the driver of the Carrier Boyz Racing team's FRAM Boost2 Top Fuel dragster in 2004.

CORY MAC -- TO DO:

3. Win the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis for the third time

2. Win the POWERade Series Top Fuel world championship

1. Win the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway

Bristol Dragway is the home track for McClenathan's team owners, Tri-Cities natives Andy and Mark Carrier, sons of the late Larry Carrier, who built the original Bristol Dragway back in the 1960s. The Carrier Boyz Racing team carries on the Carrier tradition of excellence in motorsports through their NHRA Top Fuel team and McClenathan is proud to be a part of the legacy.

McClenathan would love to give the brothers a victory to remember at the sixth annual O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Q, April 28-30 at scenic Bristol Dragway. The event, which will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD, is the sixth of 23 races in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Series. Doug Kalitta, Gary Scelzi and Warren Johnson are the defending winners of the $1.5 million race.

"With all of the Carrier family history at Bristol, if we won, we would bring the house down, that's for sure," McClenathan said. "It would be a big deal for FRAM and the rest of our sponsors and for the community there, which the Carrier family has been such a big part of over the years. That family put the first shovel in the ground at Bristol Dragway so it would be great to go and dig up some roots there and make Larry, who passed away last year, and everybody associated with that family very proud."

For Andy Carrier, to celebrate in the Winner's Circle at his home track would be a dream come true.

"There are a couple of races out here that I want to win and that's No. 1 on the list," Andy said. "Just to win in front of my family and friends at the track that my dad built and Bruton (Smith) rebuilt, it would be unbelievable. I look forward to trying. We have a good race car right now. We'll keep our fingers crossed."

Since joining the team, McClenathan has raced to one victory in three final round appearances and posted POWERade Series Top 10 points finishes each of the two seasons. He has posted three No. 1 qualifying efforts, including his most recent, earlier this season at Houston.

"This is huge for us, we really need to do well at Bristol," said McClenathan, who comes into the race 10th in the current POWERade point standings. "The car is starting to show some real promise right now. Wes Cerny (crew chief) and Tony Shortall (assistant crew chief) have a brand new combination for the car. Right now our car is a win waiting to happen. We need to have something go right and get that one lucky round, so maybe we can get to that final round. It's funny we used to think if we can get through first round we start looking at who we are going to race and try to get to the final. Now I'm losing sleep over the first round because the competition is that much tougher than it used to be when I first started this category 15 years ago."

McClenathan has had some success at Bristol Dragway since it was renovated and reopened in the late '90s. In 2000 he drove his Top Fuel dragster to the victory over Ron Capps' Funny Car in the NHRA Showdown, a unique all-star event that featured cross-category competition in the two nitro categories. He says doing well at the track nestled in the mountains of northeast Tennessee all depends on what Mother Nature decides to throw at you during the weekend.

"Track conditions change at that track so much and it all depends on the weather," McClenathan said. "Bristol can be a little more temperamental than others for some reason. I am hoping we get some good weather and the track stays consistent throughout the weekend. These days I size up the track even more than I do the competition."

And when the competition starts on Friday, expect sparks to fly. Especially during the dramatic Friday evening session, where the combination of the sights and sounds can leave fans breathless.

"A night session at Bristol is like nothing anywhere else," Carrier said. "When you have that thunder in the valley it really is something special. When you sit back and look at the track, it just looks wicked. It is really just an awe-inspiring track."

While McClenathan will look to improve on his 10th place spot in the Top Fuel point standings, Melanie Troxel has been outstanding, advancing to the final in the first five races and winning twice. Native Australian Dave Grubnic has posted one victory in two finals in his StriVectin-SD machine and is second in the standings. Two-time world champ Larry Dixon is third Miller Lite dragster and is a past Bristol winner (2002). Others to watch in the category include Houston winner Brandon Bernstein, last season's runner-up Rod Fuller and two-time Bristol winner Doug Kalitta.

In Funny Car, defending winner and series champ Gary Scelzi is looking for more consistency and to improve on his 14th place points position. Meanwhile, his teammate, Ron Capps, is off to a great start with two victories in four final round appearances in the Brut Dodge. Capps, who holds a 105 point lead over second place John Force, won at Bristol in 2001. Force, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Cruz Pedregon, who ended a long winless drought at Las Vegas two weeks ago, are among drivers to watch.

Greg Anderson leads the Pro Stock point standings in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO and defending winner Warren Johnson is currently sixth overall with one victory this season in his GM Performance Parts GTO. Mike Edwards and Kurt Johnson -- both early season winners -- also are drivers to watch at Bristol in the 200 mph category.

* SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on April 28 and 12:30 and 3 p.m. on April 29. Final eliminations start at noon on April 30.

* TICKETS: For tickets, call Bristol Dragway at (423) 764-1161. Tickets are also available at Ticketmaster or online at bristolmotorspeedway.com.

* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET) on April 29. ESPN2 also will telecast NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute weekly news magazine show, at 11:30 a.m. (ET) on April 30. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. (ET) on April 30.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Melanie Troxel , Brandon Bernstein , Rod Fuller , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.