Madison: Round twelve preview

BERNSTEIN ENJOYS THE ENTHUSIASTIC FANS AND THRILLING NIGHT RACING IN ST. LOUIS MADISON, Ill. -- It is almost like coming home for Brandon Bernstein, driver of the Budweiser/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster, when he competes at Gateway International...

BERNSTEIN ENJOYS THE ENTHUSIASTIC FANS AND THRILLING NIGHT RACING IN ST. LOUIS

MADISON, Ill. -- It is almost like coming home for Brandon Bernstein, driver of the Budweiser/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster, when he competes at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis.

"It feels great to come here since it is the home of Anheuser-Busch," said Bernstein. "Everybody seems to come out and welcome us here. The fans are great and they are very supportive of us and Budweiser."

Bernstein would really like to give his Budweiser family a repeat win at the 10th annual O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Castrol, June 23-25 at Gateway International Raceway. The event, which will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD, is the 12th of 23 races in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Bernstein, Ron Capps, Kurt Johnson, and Angelle Sampey are the defending winners of the $1.3 million race.

Bernstein has had a successful 2006 season so far. He won most recently at the Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, and earlier in the year at the O'Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston. He also was the runner-up at the O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals in Topeka, Kan. His career final round record is an incredible 10-2.

The O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals is unique on the POWERade Drag Racing Series since the event is one of two races run at night. This brings out the fans who want to see flames shooting out of the header pipes of the Top Fuel dragsters and the Funny Cars.

The drivers seem to enjoy the night racing, also. "The night racing helps us out, because it is not so hot and humid," said Bernstein. "It is still hot, though. We have experience built up from racing on hot tracks so we use that data. Also, the track is top notch."

While Bernstein is sitting third in Top Fuel point standings, he is looking to gain more ground on the series points leader, Melanie Troxel. He is currently behind Troxel and Doug Kalitta. Kalitta has won the St. Louis event three of the last five years and is coming into the event red hot with four victories in the last six races. Others to watch in the category include last year's world champion Tony Schumacher and last season's Gateway runner-up Morgan Lucas.

In Funny Car, defending event winner Capps is off to a great start with five victories in seven final round appearances in the Brut Dodge. Teammates John Force, Robert Hight and Eric Medlen are sitting behind Capps in positions 2-4 and are ready to make a move.

Greg Anderson leads the Pro Stock point standings in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO and defending winner Johnson is currently fifth overall with two victories this season in his ACDelco Chevy Cobalt. Dave Connolly, who is also a repeat winner in Pro Stock in 2006, and Erica Enders are other drivers to watch at Gateway in the 200 mph category.

Sampey, a three time winner this year and current points leader in Pro Stock Motorcycle, is trying to repeat her winning performance from last year in St. Louis. She currently leads last season's world champ Andrew Hines. Other to watch are recent winners Matt Smith and Ryan Schnitz, Antron Brown, recent six-second club performer Chip Ellis and Geico Suzuki rider Karen Stoffer, who posted a runner-up finish last weekend in Englishtown, N.J.

* SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on June 23 and 2 and 7 p.m. on June 24. Final eliminations start at 3 p.m. on June 25.

* TICKETS: For tickets, call Gateway International Raceway at (866) 35-SPEED. Tickets are also available at Ticketmaster or online at gatewayraceway.com.

* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET) on June 24. ESPN2 also will telecast NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute weekly news magazine show, at 11:30 a.m. (ET) on June 25. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 10 p.m. (ET) on June 25.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Karen Stoffer , Melanie Troxel , Morgan Lucas , Andrew Hines , Eric Medlen , Chip Ellis , Robert Hight , Angelle Sampey , Dave Connolly , Matt Smith