Indianpolis: Pre-race notes, quotes and schedule

WHAT: 51st 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 2005 POWERade world ...

WHAT: 51st 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 2005 POWERade world championships. Sportsman competitors in seven categories earn points leading to 2005 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series world championships.

Sport Compact competitors in one championship class will earn points leading to 2005 NHRA Xplod Sport Compact Racing Series world championship.

WHERE: Indianapolis Raceway Park, 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 through Monday, Aug. 31-Sept. 5.

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

SCHEDULE:

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 31
Sportsman qualifying and time trials, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

THURSDAY, Sept. 1
Sportsman qualifying and eliminations, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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

PROFESSIONAL QUALIFYING SESSION at 6:15 p.m.

SATURDAY, Sept. 3
Sportsman qualifying and eliminations, 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

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

RINGERS GLOVES PRO BIKE BATTLE at 1 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7:25 p.m.

SPORT COMPACT (PRO RWD) QUALIFYING SESSIONS at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

SUNDAY, Sept. 4
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 SESSIONS at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

MONDAY, Sept. 5
Pre-race ceremonies, 9:30 a.m.

FINAL ELIMINATIONS begin at 11 a.m.

TELEVISION:

Saturday, Sept. 3, ESPN2 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 1:30 a.m. (ET).

Sunday, Sept. 4, ESPN2 will televise NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute magazine show at 11:30 a.m. (ET).

Sunday, Sept. 4, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at noon (ET).

Sunday, Sept. 4, ESPN2 will televise three hours of qualifying coverage at 10:30 p.m. (ET).

Monday, Sept. 5, ESPN2 will televise a special presentation of NHRA 2Day at 11:30 a.m. (ET).

Monday, Sept. 5, ESPN2 will televise one hour of eliminations coverage at noon (ET).

Monday, Sept. 5, ESPN2 will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 8 p.m. (ET).

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 Indianapolis Raceway Park 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. Last year the event celebrated its 50th anniversary in memorable fashion with spectacular racing witnessed by one of the biggest crowds in NHRA history.

FAST FACTS: Tony Schumacher is seeking a fourth consecutive Top Fuel victory at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals... The U.S. Army dragster pilot has won the prestigious event four of the past five seasons... 2004 Driver of the Year Greg Anderson is seeking his third straight Mac Tools U.S. Nationals victory in Pro Stock. He has won the race three times in the past four 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 118 events, has won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals four times, his last coming in 2002... Whit Bazemore, a two-time Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner and resident of Indianapolis, holds the track speed record for Funny Car at 325.69 mph, which he set in 2001... John Force has won the Skoal Showdown a record five times... It will be Force's 22nd start in the Skoal Showdown, also a record... This will be Del Worsham's 10th start in the Skoal Showdown and the CSK Chevy Monte Carlo driver has never advanced to the final round in the bonus event... "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 Pro Stock driver Erica Enders will continue her quest to become the first woman to qualify No. 1 and win in the 200 mph category... For the first time in NHRA history an NHRA Xplod Sport Compact Racing Series category -- Pro RWD -- will be included as an official eliminator at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.

WHAT TO WATCH: Top Fuel series points leader Doug Kalitta, who drives the Mac Tools dragster, is in a tight world championship chase with four-time U.S. Nationals winner Tony Schumacher and two-time U.S. Nationals winner Larry Dixon ... Doug Kalitta leads Schumacher by four points in the Top Fuel category, while Dixon is 99 back in third place... Schumacher recently powered to the fastest speed in NHRA history in his U.S. Army dragster, a blast of 337.58 mph... The Funny Car points race is extremely close, as rookie Robert Hight, Ron Capps, three-time Top Fuel champ Gary Scelzi and Eric Medlen are challenging perennial world champ John Force for the season crown ... Eric Medlen is the hottest Funny Car driver, as the second-year pilot of the Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang has won three of the last four races, and brings a two-race win streak into the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals... The top five points positions in Funny Car are separated by 71 points, with rookie Hight leading... Kurt Johnson has been the hottest Pro Stock driver in the last three months, as the driver of the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt has earned three victories in five final round appearances in the last six races. A two-time Indy winner, Kurt is looking to keep the momentum going and keep gaining ground on series points leader Greg Anderson and hold off his father Warren, who is third overall... Only 15 points separate the top two championship contenders in Pro Stock Motorcycle -- current leader and defending POWERade Series world champion Andrew Hines and his teammate, GT Tonglet, who has led the standings at two separate times this season.

BONUS RACES: Two lucrative bonus races highlight the action at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.

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

RINGERS GLOVES PRO BIKE BATTLE ($15,000 to winner, Saturday, rounds at 1, 6 and 7:25 p.m.

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.

QUICK QUOTES:

Tony Schumacher, Long Grove, Ill., U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster, four-time U.S. Nationals winner: "We've been fortunate to have won Indy three straight years and three out of the last four years. Each win was that much more exciting, let me tell you. It never gets old winning the U.S. Nationals. How can it? It's our biggest race of the year and the most prestigious. That being said, this year we really can't get caught up in all of the excitement surrounding the event because we're in a battle for the world championship. That has to be the priority. Of course, should we manage to get to winner's circle again, that will clearly help our cause for the title."

Tommy Johnson Jr., Avon, Ind., Skoal Chevy Monte Carlo, 2002 U.S. Nationals runner-up: "You run the whole season, and then you run Indy. It's that special that it separates itself from the rest of the season. We're having a good year, but if we can win Indy or the Skoal Showdown, it will be a great year."

Antron Brown, Indianapolis, U.S. Army Suzuki, two-time U.S. Nationals winner: "We're certainly hoping we can get another Indy victory under our belts. There's nothing quite like winning a U.S. Nationals. It's such an indescribable feeling. But, our concentration once we get to IRP will be on the Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship chase. We're in serious contention this year and we have to stay focused on that huge piece of business."

Whit Bazemore, Indianapolis, Matco Tools Dodge Stratus, two-time U.S. Nationals winner: "Indy is the race with the most prestige and the most meaning behind it, so it is the one. What really sets Indy apart from the other races is the desire that most of the competitors carry into Indy and that desire, I think, is stronger to win there than it is at some other races. In fact, everybody raises their game and it makes it that much harder to succeed there. When you succeed there it makes it that much more meaningful. On one hand, you have the history and drama and prestige of Indy and on the other hand you have the fact that everyone digs really deep there and when you combine those two, as for me, it's what defines the race and makes it so special."

Kurt Johnson, Lawrenceville, Ga., ACDelco Chevy Cobalt, two-time U.S. Nationals winner: "If you're a drag racer and it's Labor Day weekend, you're at the U.S. Nationals. It's that simple. It's the one race everyone wants to win, even if you've won it before. I have been coming to Indianapolis Raceway Park for most of my life, first with my dad (Warren, six-time U.S. Nationals winner), and since 1993 with my own ACDelco Cobalt team, and it's still just as special. As tough as it sounds, we always try to treat Indy as just another race, and this year isn't any different. After all, the best way to win a championship is to score more points than everyone else, which is our goal every time out. Of course, we know the car count will be larger than it has been all year, with everyone bringing their 'A' game to Indy. Basically, it's up to us to figure out how to be better than all of them. We've done it twice before, and now we're looking to put a third U.S. Nationals trophy on the mantle in Sugar Hill."

Gary Scelzi, Fresno, Calif., Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus, 1998 U.S. Nationals Top Fuel winner: "Indy has a lot of prestige, but other than that it is the U.S. Nationals, it's no more important than any other race that is left in the season. There are going to be six races from there on out, so Indy is just another one that is extremely important. You're going to have everybody with fresh parts and trying to pay attention to every small detail, every fuel line and every spark plug wire. Everything that could go wrong is going to be new on our car. We go through great pains for the U.S. Nationals to make sure everything is perfect. They should call it Hell Week, because you're going through hell. I've seen big names like Kenny Bernstein and Larry Dixon not qualify, with an extra qualifying run. It could make you or it could be the end of you."

Angelle Sampey, New Orleans, U.S. Army Suzuki, two-time U.S. Nationals winner: "It's been a couple of years since I won Indy. I wouldn't mind re-capturing that magic again. Actually, right now, I can use a win anywhere. I need points in the worst way. We're looking to get on a roll over these last few races of the year, Indy included. We're trying to get back in the hunt for the championship. Either Antron or I won Indy in four of the last five seasons, so that gives the U.S. Army team some confidence going into that race."

Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., Brut Dodge Stratus, three-time Skoal Showdown winner: "Everybody every year talks about how your career isn't complete without a win at Indy. And that is definitely true. It's the race to win if you were to win one race. When you look down at the list of winners it's all the guys who were my heroes growing up. It's all the guys who made their place in history. I believe that the guys who have won Indy in the past have gone on and are more famous for other things, whether it's championships or doing this or that. When you've won Indy, and my crew chief Ace (Ed McCulloch) has won it five times, you're a racer, you've gone the distance, you've gone the whole weekend, the week, under the unbelievable amount of stress that's put on this one race. To win it would be awesome."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Antron Brown , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Bob Glidden , Don Garlits , Melanie Troxel , Andrew Hines , Eric Medlen , GT Tonglet , Robert Hight , Angelle Sampey , Tommy Johnson Jr.