33rd annual Matco Tools SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions, May 16-19, Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, Englishtown, N.J. * Larry Dixon had a career-best finish in the standings last season, winning six events in nine final rounds and...
33rd annual Matco Tools SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions,
May 16-19, Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, Englishtown, N.J.
* Larry Dixon had a career-best finish in the standings last season, winning six events in nine final rounds and grabbing the No. 1 qualifying spot four times in his Miller Lite dragster. Out of seven races in 2002, Dixon has proved that last year was not a fluke, but only the beginning. The current Top Fuel points leader has scored five victories in six final rounds and has snagged the top spot in qualifying four times. He has amassed a win-loss record of 23-2 in elimination rounds. The record for Top Fuel wins in a season is nine (Gary Scelzi, 2000), and the most Top Fuel round wins in a year is 61 (Kenny Bernstein, 2001).
"You dream about having seasons like this," said Dixon. "You certainly don't ever imagine it. The only person who can think of having a season like this, I think, is (Formula 1 Champion) Michael Schumacher. He is an awesome driver and he is in an awesome car. For me, I have been out here racing for a long time and I have never even been close to that, even when I worked for 'The Snake' (Don Prudhomme) when he was driving we never had a package of races this good. The most I have ever won is a season was last year with six and I have already won five. We have got 16 more races to go. It's more than I could ever imagine."
* Former NHRA Funny Car champion and ESPN analyst Cruz Pedregon returned to full-time action this season behind the wheel of the Advance Auto Parts Pontiac Firebird. His last win came at Old Bridge Raceway Park in 2000. He also visited the winner's circle there in 1995 and was the runner-up in '99. He also has been the top qualifier at the event twice ('92, '98). The 1992 series champ is looking to repeat his past success at Englishtown and move into the Top 10 for the first time since 1998 when he finished third. He is currently 13th in the standings, 45 points behind Johnny Gray for the 10th spot.
* For the first time in NHRA history, seven different Pro Stock winners have been crowned in the first seven races of the season. George Marnell, Bruce Allen, Darrell Alderman, Ron Krisher, Mike Edwards, Warren Johnson and Allen Johnson have all been victorious this year. However, Jim Yates' consistency has paid off in the NHRA POWERade Pro Stock standings. Yates has not scored a win on the year, but is in second place entering the Matco Tools SuperNationals, 47 points behind W. Johnson.
"We don't need to win a race bad enough to shoot ourselves in the foot and have a red light or not qualify," said the 48-year-old Yates. "We've won a lot more rounds than a lot of cars out there. I feel very strongly about our program and our Pontiac Grand Am. Right now we're one race win away from being just as good as anybody. We race very conservatively, we race for the round win and we race to try and win the championship. We're trying to make sure we don't beat ourselves. Our program has been successful so far so we're going to stick with it."
Not only does Yates enter Englishtown within striking distance of the points lead, he will compete in the NHRA Pro Stock Challenge as the No. 1 qualifier. The Challenge is a bonus event for the top eight Pro Stock drivers who earn the most points based on their qualifying positions over one calendar year. The winner of the eight-car field will receive $50,000, and, if the driver can win the Challenge and the event, he will earn a $25,000 bonus from the NHRA. Drivers started earning points for the Challenge at last year's Matco Tools SuperNationals through the recent Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
* Defending NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Angelle Savoie is coming off a win at Atlanta Dragway that put her in the points lead for the first time this season. She visited the winner's circle at Old Bridge Raceway Park for three consecutive seasons ('98-'00) before rival Matt Hines won in New Jersey last year.
"Now I have the No. 1 spot and I know what it is like to be the POWERade points leader," said Savoie. "After 23 (career victories) the feeling never lightens up. It feels like my first win every time."
Hines was the runner-up to Savoie at Atlanta recently and has not scored a victory since the 2001 Matco Tools SuperNationals, the longest drought of his illustrious career.
MATCO TOOLS SUPERNATIONALS GENERAL INFORMATION
SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is scheduled for 4:15 and 7:15 p.m. on May 17 and will continue at 12:30 and 4 p.m. on May 18. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on May 19.
TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 33rd annual NHRA Matco Tools SuperNationals. Call Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at (732) 446-7800. Tickets are also available through Ticketmaster.
TELEVISION: ESPN will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 5 p.m. (ET) on May 18. ESPN2 will televise three hours of eliminations at 7 p.m. (ET) on May 19.
ON THE WEB: NHRA news, photos and driver information available at nhra.com.