Indianapolis: Round 18 pre-race notes, schedule

WHAT: 52nd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the 18th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in four categories earn points leading to 2006 POWERade Series world championships. Sportsman...

WHAT: 52nd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the 18th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in four categories earn points leading to 2006 POWERade Series world championships. Sportsman competitors in seven categories earn points leading to 2006 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series world championships. Sport Compact competitors in one championship class will earn points leading to its 2006 NHRA Xplod Sport Compact Racing Series world championship.

WHERE: O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis, Clermont, Ind. From I-465, exit Crawfordsville Road (Hwy. 136). Head west for approximately four miles through the town of Clermont. The main entrance to the facility is on the left-hand side, one-half mile past Raceway Road.

COURSE: Quarter-mile drag strip.

WHEN: Wednesday, Aug. 30 through Monday, Sept. 4.

PURSE: Cash and contingency awards of more than $2.6 million.

SCHEDULE:

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 30
Sportsman qualifying and time trials, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

THURSDAY, Aug. 31
Sportsman qualifying and eliminations, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

FRIDAY, Sept. 1
Sportsman qualifying and eliminations, 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

PROFESSIONAL QUALIFYING SESSION at 6:15 p.m.

SATURDAY, Sept. 2
Sportsman qualifying and eliminations, 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

PROFESSIONAL QUALIFYING SESSIONS at 1 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.

RINGERS GLOVES PRO BIKE BATTLE at 2:15 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7:25 p.m.

SPORT COMPACT (PRO RWD) QUALIFYING SESSIONS at 9:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m.

SUNDAY, Sept. 3
Sportsman eliminations, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

PROFESSIONAL QUALIFYING SESSIONS at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

SKOAL SHOWDOWN ELIMINATIONS at 12:30 p.m., 2:15 p.m., and 4 p.m.

SPORT COMPACT (PRO RWD) QUALIFYING SESSION at 9 a.m.

SPORT COMPACT (PRO RWD) FIRST ROUND ELIMINATIONS at 6 p.m.

MONDAY, Sept. 4
Pre-race ceremonies, 9:30 a.m.

FINAL ELIMINATIONS at 11 a.m.

TELEVISION:
Saturday, Sept. 2, ESPN2 HD will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 5 p.m. (ET).

Sunday, Sept. 3, ESPN2 HD will televise NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute magazine show at 11:30 a.m. (ET).

Sunday, Sept. 3, ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at noon (ET).

Sunday, Sept. 3, ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 11 p.m. (ET).

Monday, Sept. 4, ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of eliminations coverage at noon (ET).

Monday, Sept. 4, ESPN2 HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 4 p.m. (ET).

2005 WINNERS: Larry Dixon, Top Fuel; Del Worsham, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock; Steve Johnson, Pro Stock Motorcycle; Del Worsham, Skoal Showdown; GT Tonglet, Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle; and Brad Personett, Pro RWD.

MOST WINS: Bob Glidden, Pro Stock, 9; Don Garlits, Top Fuel, 8; Don Prudhomme, Top Fuel and Funny Car, 7; Warren Johnson, Pro Stock, 6; Dave Schultz, Pro Stock Motorcycle, 6; Ed McCulloch, Funny Car and Top Fuel, 6; John Force, Funny Car, 4; Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel, 4; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock, 4.

EVENT HISTORY: The most historic and prestigious event in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals has been contested annually since 1955. Originally known as "The Nationals" and first held at an abandoned airstrip in Great Bend, Kan., the event made stops at Kansas City, Mo., Oklahoma City and Detroit before eventually moving to O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis in 1961. Past winners include "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, an eight-time winner in Top Fuel; Shirley Muldowney, 1982 Top Fuel winner; Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, a seven-time winner and one of a handful of drivers to win the event in both Top Fuel and Funny Car; and Bob Glidden, the legendary Pro Stock driver who dominated the race by advancing to the final round in 13 consecutive seasons from 1977-'89. The Indiana native won the event a record nine times. It is the only major motorsports event to be contested on Labor Day. In 2004 the event celebrated its 50th anniversary in memorable fashion with spectacular racing witnessed by one of the biggest crowds in NHRA history.

FAST FACTS: Track performance records were set in all four pro categories in 2005 for both elapsed time and speed... Tony Schumacher has advanced to the last four Top Fuel final rounds at the event and is a six-time U.S. Nationals finalist... Schumacher's first career start came at the U.S. Nationals in 1996 and the then rookie posted a runner-up finish to Cory McClenathan... Pro Stock phenom Greg Anderson has won the race four times in the past five years... Five female drivers representing three professional categories will compete at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Angelle Sampey, a two time winner, and Shirley Muldowney, who won the race in 1982 in Top Fuel, are the only women to win the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals... Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Melanie Troxel (Top Fuel) could become the first married couple to share winner's circle at a POWERade Series event in NHRA history. The two drivers live in nearby Avon, Ind. ...John Force, 13-time NHRA POWERade world champion and winner of a record 121 events, has won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals four times, his last coming in 2002... Force has won the Skoal Showdown a record five times... It will be Force's 23rd start in the Skoal Showdown, also a record... "The Professor" Warren Johnson has six Pro Stock victories at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, but none this decade. His last victory there came in 1999 when he defeated his former crew chief Greg Anderson in the final round... Rookie driver Erica Enders, who last year became the first female Pro Stock driver to qualify for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, will try to earn her first career victory at the prestigious event... For the second consecutive season an NHRA Xplod Sport Compact Racing Series category - Pro RWD -- will be included as an official eliminator at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals... Defending Skoal Showdown winner Del Worsham, who earned the rare NHRA Double-Up last year, will not get to defend his title this season as he failed to qualify for the eight-car lineup in the lucrative bonus event... GT To nglet, the defending Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle winner, also will not get to defend his bonus event title as he failed to qualify for the eight-bike starting lineup.

WHAT TO WATCH: Tony Schumacher is seeking his fifth Top Fuel victory at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals... Three-time Pro Stock world champion Greg Anderson is seeking his fourth straight and fifth overall Mac Tools U.S. Nationals victory. Only two other Pro Stock drivers, Warren Johnson and Bob Glidden, won the U.S. Nationals in four or more consecutive starts... Top Fuel series points leader Doug Kalitta, who drives the Mac Tools dragster, is in a tight world championship chase with Tony Schumacher, Brandon Bernstein and Melanie Troxel. A runner-up at Indy in 2004, Kalitta has never won the U.S. Nationals ... The Funny Car points race is close as well as 17 points separate leader John Force with second place Ron Capps. Capps had led the standings for most of the season until he gave up the lead to Force at Memphis... Jason Line holds a 121 point lead over teammate Anderson in Pro Stock, while Dave Connolly and Kurt Johnson are also still in the points chase with six races to go... In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Andrew Hines holds a slim three point lead over Indianapolis resident Antron Brown. Chip Ellis and Angelle Sampey also are in the thick of the two-wheel championship chase... Top seed Robert Hight will lead the eight best Funny Car drivers in pursuit of the $100,000 Skoal Showdown victory... An increased purse will offer $25,000 to the winner of the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle, a special event for the eight best Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors.

BONUS RACES: Two lucrative bonus races will be showcased during the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.

SKOAL SHOWDOWN ($100,000 to winner, Sunday, rounds at 12:30, 2:15 and 4 p.m.)

Most victories, Skoal Showdown: John Force, 5; Al Hofmann, 3; Ron Capps, 3; Kenny Bernstein, 2; Mark Oswald, 2.

RINGERS GLOVES PRO BIKE BATTLE ($25,000 to winner, Saturday, rounds at 2:15, 6 and 7:25 p.m.)

Most victories, Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle: Matt Hines, 4; John Myers, 4.

NHRA offers a Double-Up Bonus for any driver/rider who can win his or her respective bonus race and the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. The NHRA Double-Up Bonus for competitors in the Skoal Showdown is $50,000. The NHRA Double-Up Bonus for competitors in the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle is $10,000.

Past NHRA Double-Up Bonus winners: Skoal Showdown - Del Worsham, 2005; Gary Densham, 2004; John Force, 1996 and 1993; Jim White, 1991; Don Prudhomme, 1989; and Kenny Bernstein, 1983. Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle - Reggie Showers, 2003; Antron Brown, 2000; Matt Hines, 1998; and Jim Bernard, 1991.

QUICK QUOTES:

Del Worsham, Chino Hills, Calif., Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Monte Carlo, 2005 U.S. Nationals winner and Skoal Showdown winner: "Until I win the POWERade championship, I'm pretty sure no single victory is ever going to mean as much to me as the 2005 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. All the wins, all the highlights, all the great days you can have in your career are great, and I treasure every one of them, but when you've added your name to the list of greats who have won Indy, well you've taken it to another level. I will always be Mac Tools U.S. Nationals champion, no matter what happens to me for the rest of my career. We had already won the Skoal Showdown when we went into the race, so there's no getting around the fact you're really thinking about it. We got out of the first round, and things started falling our way. When we got to the final, I'm not sure any of our crew guys took a breath or said a word servicing the car. The tension and the excitement in our pit was like a heavy blanket on everyone, it was just a huge weight on all of us. I can never remember a moment in my career when the tension was that thick. When we won, it was a huge release. It was almost unbelievable. A year later, it's still unbelievable."

J.R. Todd, Lawrenceburg, Ind., Skull Shine dragster, first U.S. Nationals start: "I am pretty excited about racing at Indy. I actually raced at the U.S. Nationals back in 1993 in my Jr. Dragster. It was really cool at the time to be able to line up in the staging lanes beside Kenny Bernstein and John Force. If I could win Indy it would cap off my season. That's the biggest drag race there is. Just the history of the race is incredible and to be able to add your name to the list of past winners is a big accomplishment. To win a race that you know everybody is shooting to win with everything they've got, it would be an amazing feeling for sure."

Tony Schumacher, Chicago, U.S. Army dragster, four-time U.S. Nationals winner: "I made my first start in a Top Fuel dragster at Indy in 1996 and we went to the final round. It's a coincidence that since then I have been able to have so much success at that race. I've said many times before that every driver has one race where everything seems to go their way, and I am fortunate that my lucky race is the U.S. Nationals. I am not sure why that is, but I am not going to fight it."

Melanie Troxel, Avon, Ind., Skull Shine/Torco dragster, fourth in NHRA POWERade point standings: "The U.S. Nationals is the most prestigious event of the year. I don't think there's any event that I would pick that I would rather win than the U.S. Nationals. It definitely has a lot of history surrounding the event and it's probably the one that we look forward to most throughout the year. Behind winning a championship that's the biggest you can do in your career. Certainly we have a focus on the championship, but I think everybody can't help but go into that race with a little extra enthusiasm."

Greg Anderson, Charlotte, N.C., Summit Racing Pontiac GTO, four-time U.S. Nationals winner: "Just to win that race one time can make someone's career, so to have the opportunity to win it four times in a row is pretty special. Winning that race just means a little more and we treat it that way in how we prepare for it. I've won the last three championships and each year I won Indy so that makes the championships that much more special. In my opinion it's a hollow resume if you win the championship and don't win Indy the same year. I want to win this year more than any just because I haven't won a race since February. I think if I can win it, it will be the biggest win of my career just because of the slump we've been in. We have a new car and we're making gains on it every week and it feels like we're just about to figure it out. I love racing at ORP because the track surface is really smooth and it will take everything you can throw at it. We've been in pretty good shape there the last few years and we hope we can keep it going this time around. "

Jim Yates, Alexandria, Va., Sea Ray Boats Pontiac GTO, 2002 U.S. Nationals runner-up: "Winning Indy is the only thing that we haven't done yet. I've won two championships, 25 races, been No. 1 qualifier 29 times, won the King Demon Crown two times; but Indy is still out there for us. Every year you ask yourself, 'Will this be the year?' In 2002 we had an extremely fast race car and let one slip away against Jeggie (Jeg Coughlin) in the final. You always look back and say if I could have done this or that, we could have won. But for this team winning Indy is still one of our goals and the way we've been running this year I think we have a good shot at it. "

Steve Johnson, Birmingham, Ala., Snap-on Tools/Wyotech Suzuki, 2005 U.S. Nationals winner: "In my 20 years in Pro Stock Motorcycle no race has ever matched the importance and prestige of the U.S. Nationals. It's Indy, for crying out loud, and there's nothing else like it. Just say the word "Indy" to any racer or fan, and they know what you're talking about. Winning last year while beating one of those 160 cubic inch 'tractors' in the most controversial Pro Stock Motorcycle finale ever is the highlight of my racing career to date, and I'd like nothing better than to match that again this year -- without the controversy."

TRACK HISTORY: In 1958, led by Tom Binford, Frank Dickie, Rodger Ward and Howard Fieber, 15 Indianapolis-area businessmen and racing professionals invested $5,000 each to fund the development of what would become O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis. The group purchased a 267-acre farm about seven miles from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and developed a multipurpose auto racing facility. The original intention in creating O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis was to design a 15-turn, 2.5-mile road course. Nearly as an afterthought, and as an insurance measure against economic problems, the investment group decided to incorporate a quarter-mile drag strip into the long straightaway of the 2.5-mile road course design. Constructed with assistance from the NHRA, the drag strip was the first of the three courses to be completed, with the facility's first event held on the strip in the fall of 1960. During the 1960 U.S. Nationals in Detroit, a handshake agreement between Binford and NHRA founder Wally Parks promised that the event would move to O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis in 1961. The historic three-year pact was signed and sealed under a tree in Detroit Dragway's pits, and O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis eventually became the home of NHRA's biggest annual event. The NHRA purchased the entire facility in 1979. The first major improvement came in 1983 with the construction and dedication of Parks Tower, the four-story drag strip tower. In 1998, new grandstands, suites and a tower complex on the front straightaway were completed at the oval track at a cost of nearly $2.5 million, which included the repaving of the entire oval surface as part of a three-phase facility improvement project. In 2001, NHRA and ORP constructed a new drag strip racing surface, replacing the strip with a 660-foot concrete pad and laying new asphalt on the remainder of the track and shutdown area. Prior to the 2003 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, eight new luxury suites were added along the top of the west-side grandstands of the dr ag strip, giving fans a unique perspective of the action on the famed quarter-mile track. Last year, new soft barrier walls were added to the oval. Earlier this year the track announced its first track entitlement with O'Reilly Auto Parts. The track - which had long been known at Indianapolis Raceway Park - is now known as O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.

TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also are available at ticketmaster.com, nhra.com, and oreillyracewaypark.com.

GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Wednesday: Adult, $5, Junior (6-12 years), free; Thursday: Adult, $12, Junior (6-12 years), free; Friday: Adult, $32; Junior (6-12 years), $10; Saturday: Adult, $40; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Sunday: Adult, $46; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Monday: Adult, $46; Junior (6-12 years), $10; Child (5 years and under), free in general admission and pit areas each day.

RESERVED (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $42; Junior (6-12 years), $20; Child (5 years and under), $10. Saturday: Adult, $48-$52; Junior (6-12 years), $18-$22; Child (5 years and under), $8-$12. Sunday: Adult, $56-$60; Junior (6-12 years), $20-$24; Child (5 years and under), $10-$14. Monday: Adult, $56-$60; Junior (6-12 years), $20-$24; Child (5 years and under), $10-$14.

-credit: nhra

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