FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 NHRA DRIVERS TO CONTINUE CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE AT NEW DALLAS RACE ENNIS, Texas -- Texas Motorplex traditionally is the spot where NHRA Winston championships are decided.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761
NHRA DRIVERS TO CONTINUE CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE AT NEW DALLAS RACE
ENNIS, Texas -- Texas Motorplex traditionally is the spot where NHRA Winston championships are decided. This year, it also could be the place where a run toward a championship is born. The inaugural, $1,481,100 Lone Star Nationals, May 1-4, is the first of two NHRA national events this season at Texas Motorplex. This race is the seventh event of the 22-event, $30- million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series in 1997. At least one driver has clinched an NHRA Winston season championship since 1991 at the Dallas Nationals, contested every October at the Motorplex. Kenny Bernstein clinched his first Top Fuel title and Jim Yates his first Pro Stock title last year at Dallas. But this race will have a different look. Don't plan on seeing a coronation ceremony where a driver only needs to waltz through one or two rounds to clinch a title. This race will feature an all-out chase for NHRA Winston championship points, as the races for titles are getting intense. Take Top Fuel, for instance. Five-time NHRA Winston champion Joe Amato leads rookie Gary Scelzi by just two points, 385-383, after four races this season. Amato and Scelzi hold a comfortable lead over the rest of the field, but a fierce battle has emerged for the other spots in the top 10. Dallas native Bernstein is third, but he's only 43 points -- less than two rounds -- ahead of ninth-place Shelly Anderson. And it's still early in the season. There's plenty of time for any of those drivers to make a strong run at Amato and Scelzi, and that run could start at the Motorplex. Funny Car is no different. Defending NHRA Winston champion John Force leads second-place Tony Pedregon by 89 points, but Pedregon is just 56 points ahead of seventh-place Cruz Pedregon, his older brother. Yates and archrival Warren Johnson will continue their simmering rivalry in Pro Stock. Yates led Johnson, 367-351, after four races this season. But don't count out Kurt Johnson. He's only 67 points behind Yates and has two victories in the last four years at the Motorplex. The Lone Star Nationals also should provide an interesting performance wrinkle. Conventional wisdom states that most teams start to switch to a more conservative, summer tuneup in early May. But that might be a mistake at the Motorplex, the only all-concrete dragstrip in the world. The smooth surface accepts every bit of the horsepower created by skilled crew chiefs and engine builders, so any team that tries a soft tuneup probably will go home early. An early exit could precipitate a freefall in the tight NHRA Winston point standings. There's little doubt that record performance can be produced at this track during the spring, even though the weather could be warmer than mid-October. After all, Eddie Hill recorded the first four-second pass in history, a 4.990-second run, in April 1988 at Texas Motorplex. *Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. May 2 and continues at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. May 3. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. May 4. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 10 a.m. May 1. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the Lone Star Nationals. Call Texas Motorplex at (800) 668-6775. Tickets also are available at Ticketmaster outlets. Call Ticketmaster Dallas at (214) 373-8000. *On TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise 90 minutes of live, final-round competition from the Lone Star Nationals at 4:30 p.m. (CDT) May 4. TNN also will show one hour of live, first-round racing during its "NHRA Today" show at 11 a.m. (CDT) May 4. -30- 4/7/97-LS1-054