Point race to heat up in Brainerd

BRAINERD, Minn. - NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series teams locked in intense championship battles will have no time to enjoy one of America's great vacation destinations. The majestic scenery of Minnesota's thousands of lakes will no doubt...

BRAINERD, Minn. - NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series teams locked in intense championship battles will have no time to enjoy one of America's great vacation destinations.

The majestic scenery of Minnesota's thousands of lakes will no doubt provide an unassuming backdrop for drag racing's top warriors, as they engage their competition and chase dreams of Winston championship glory at one of the most significant events of the 2000 season.

However, teams will have no time for distractions, as they'll need to be intently focused on their goals at the historic Minnesota quarter-mile. In Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock Motorcycle, few points separate the leaders from their pursuers. In Pro Stock, several drivers are working hard to reel-in a runaway points leader. As the season draws to an end, each competitor knows his or her time is running short.

And in drag racing, where quarter-mile passes clock in at under five seconds at speeds topping more than 320 mph, each point is crucial. NHRA teams locked in the chase for the championship will be looking to earn points with record-setting runs, brilliant qualifying efforts and by advancing to as many rounds as possible during Sunday's final eliminations.

Indeed, the stakes will be high for every NHRA competitor at the 19th annual Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals, Aug. 17-20, at The Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway.

Larry Dixon, John Force, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Craig Treble are the defending winners of the $1.8 million race, the 16th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Dixon, from Indianapolis, will try to drive his Dick LaHaie-tuned Miller Lite dragster to a third victory this season as he continues his climb in the Winston points standings. Other top contenders for the event victory include Winston points leader and '98 event winner Gary Scelzi, who has posted six victories this season. Defending Winston champion Tony Schumacher, and five-time NHRA champs Kenny Bernstein and Joe Amato, also are among top challengers.

Force, who has won five of the last six Funny Car trophies at the scenic racetrack, needs a victory as he continues to pursue a 10th NHRA Winston championship. Standing in the Yorba Linda, Calif. driver's way is championship challenger Jerry Toliver, a three-time winner this season in his WWF Racing machine. Other top threats for victory include Whit Bazemore, a recent winner in Denver and top qualifier for each of the three events that make up the West Coast swing, and Ron Capps, the '98 winner here, who has advanced to four final rounds this season but has yet to win.

Coughlin, from Columbus, Ohio, hopes to pad his Winston points lead with his seventh Pro Stock victory of the season. Coughlin, driver of the Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile Cutlass, has not won since May 7 in Atlanta and is ready to post another top finish. Coughlin may have a challenge with defending series champion Warren Johnson and hard-charging Ron Krisher, a two-time winner this season. Jim Yates, who earned his first NHRA national event victory here in '94, is also among the top contenders.

This event also marks the return of Pro Stock Motorcycle to the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Treble, from Chandler, Ariz., is very capable of defending his title, but if he wants to repeat, he'll have to keep a check on the top two Winston points contenders: three-time season winner Angelle Seeling and three-time defending Winston champ Matt Hines. Last year's runner-up, Dave Schultz, is a three-time winner at Brainerd and always considered one of the best riders on two wheels.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Ron Krisher , Craig Treble , Dick LaHaie , Jerry Toliver