Joliet: Chicagoland Nationals notes, schedule

The sixth annual Lucas Oil NHRA Route 66 Nationals, the 10th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in four categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA POWERade championships. Sportsman ...

The sixth annual Lucas Oil NHRA Route 66 Nationals, the 10th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in four categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA POWERade championships.

Sportsman competitors in five categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series championships.

Route 66 Raceway, Joliet, Ill. The track is located 30 miles southwest of Chicago on Route 53 (historic Route 66), approximately three miles south of the I-80 in Joliet. Take I-80 to exit #132A (Route 53 south) to the track.

Thursday through Sunday, May 29-June 1.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

Depending on the weather, Route 66 Raceway can produce some of the quickest and fastest passes on the NHRA circuit. Kenny Bernstein's national record for elapsed time in the Top Fuel category (4.477 seconds) may be in jeopardy. In its sixth year of hosting NHRA events, Route 66 Raceway has been the site of some memorable performances: John Force's 86th career victory, hometown favorite Tim Wilkerson's first career win (1999) when he defeated his hero, Force, in the final round, and Gary Scelzi's spectacular explosions and a crash en route to his win in 2000. In Top Fuel, Larry Dixon and Doug Kalitta both figure to contend for the victory. However, Chicago native Tony Schumacher is itching for that first victory in the U.S. Army dragster at his home track. The three Force Racing Ford Mustangs are sure to be around in the later rounds of eliminations, but Whit Bazemore has had past success at Route 66 and Del Worsham has to be considered the favorite in Funny Car after posting two straight victories at the Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals. Pro Stock is up for grabs as drivers in the POWERade standings continuously jockey for positions. Any one that can place among the quickest 16 cars is a contender, with the qualifying sessions now being as competitive as eliminations. Defending series champ Angelle Savoie has been struggling and will be challenged by teammate Antron Brown, rival Craig Treble and Chicago native and current points leaderGeno Scali for supremacy in the two-wheel category, as the bikers start a streak of four straight races which they will compete at.

There have been five different Pro Stock winners at the Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals....Del Worsham is going for his third straight Funny car victory at the Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals....Angelle Savoie could become the third straight repeat Pro Stock Bike winner at Route 66. Matt Hines ('98-99) and Antron Brown ('00-01) are the other two....Larry Dixon and Kenny Bernstein are the only active Top Fuel drivers to win the Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals (Doug Kalitta won the 2002 fall event at Route 66)....John Force's 86th career victory (2000) is the only victory for him at the state-of-the-art facility.

NOTES OF INTEREST:

Kenny Bernstein Comes Out of Retirement to Sub for Injured Son-- Six-time NHRA champion Kenny Bernstein returned to the cockpit at the O'Reilly Summer Nationals in Topeka, Kan. and will race this weekend in Joliet, Ill., while his son Brandon begins the recovery process from lower back injuries suffered following a spectacular crash during the opening round of eliminations at the K&N Filters NHRA SuperNationals at Englishtown, N.J. The elder Bernstein is expected to sub for Brandon until the rookie phenom receives a medical clearance to return to action. At the time of the crash, Brandon was second in points with three victories on the year. With an expected 2-3 month recovery period, Brandon's title hopes for his rookie season have been put on hold.

Perennial Funny Car Champ Force Continues to Struggle - What's going on with 12-time Funny Car champion John Force? The NHRA icon has three first round losses and has advanced to the semifinals once in nine events. With a three-car operation, Force's Ford Mustang is the one that is struggling. His two other drivers, Tony Pedregon and Gary Densham, currently occupy first and third place in the standings respectively and have combined for six wins on the season. Force recently moved back into the top 10 in the standings (eighth) and is 399 points behind Pedregon.

Student Leads Teacher - Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson is the former crew chief for six-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson. After competing in the Pro Stock category on a limited basis from 1998-2001 (racing 21 out of 22 races in 1999), Anderson left Johnson's team and committed himself to the entire NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series beginning in 2002. After a career-best finish in the POWERade standings (No. 3), final round appearances (six), No. 1 qualifying positions (two), and won-loss record in eliminations (32-19), Anderson has established himself as a top contender for the 2003 Pro Stock crown. Anderson recently set the national record for time and speed en route to the win at Englishtown, N.J., and increased his POWERade points lead with a follow-up victory in Topeka, Kan. Anderson now leads second-place driver Kurt Johnson by 31 points and his mentor, Warren, by 134.

Regarding Weather -- In drag racing weather plays a vital role as crew chiefs examine data and tune their race cars for maximum performance. Most teams have sophisticated weather stations on board their team transporters so they can access up-to-the-minute weather information as well as forecasts.

Fan Accessibility - No other major motorsport offers the kind of fan accessibility like the NHRA. Every ticket, general admission or reserved, is a pass to the pit areas of all of our professional and sportsman competitors. Fans get the opportunity to get up close and personal with their favorite drivers and teams. They get to interact with the various competitors, talk shop, or just hang out and watch the teams work. Fans have access to the pits as teams fire up their engines in preparation of their next pass down the track. With the continued growth of the NHRA, nothing helps separate the drag racing's premier sanctioning body, like fan accessibility.

Safety Safari-- These men and women are a team of professionals dedicated to making the sport safe for the competitors and keeping the action on the track moving for the fans. Spend the day or a few hours with this crew and watch as they take care of preparing the race track for competition, responding to crashes and cleaning up oil and debris on the racing surface.

ABOUT THE TRACK:

Founded by nine local Joliet entrepreneurs, Route 66 Raceway's visionary leadership developed the first true "Stadium of Drag racing". Route 66 Raceway is a multi-purpose, short track facility that includes a state-of-the-art quarter-mile drag strip and a half-mile dirt oval. The drag strip affords stadium style seating for 30,000 fans and 32 luxury suites. The half-mile dirt oval track features seating for between 8,000 and 10,000 spectators.

LUCAS OIL NHRA ROUTE 66 NATIONALS GENERAL INFORMATION:

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is scheduled for 4 and 6:15 p.m. on May 30 and will continue at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on May 31. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on June 1.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the sixth annual Lucas Oil Route 66 NHRA Nationals. For further ticket information call (815) 727-RACE. Tickets are also available through Ticketmaster and at ticketmaster.com.

TELEVISION: ESPN will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 8 p.m. (ET) on May 31. ESPN2 will televise two hours of eliminations at 8 p.m. (ET) on June 1.

ON THE WEB: NHRA news, photos and driver information available at nhra.com.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Matt Hines , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Gary Densham , Geno Scali , Tim Wilkerson