Reading: Keystone Nationals preview

NHRA'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON CONTINUES IN PENNSYLVANIA MOHNTON, Pa. - The practical single-horsepower carriages and wagons that are a way of life in the rolling hills of eastern Pennsylvania won't be able to compete with the 6,000 horsepower...

NHRA'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON CONTINUES IN PENNSYLVANIA

MOHNTON, Pa. - The practical single-horsepower carriages and wagons that are a way of life in the rolling hills of eastern Pennsylvania won't be able to compete with the 6,000 horsepower nitro-burning 330 mph pieces of machinery that are preparing to invade the area.

Large crowds, record-setting performances and thundering reverberations will signal the return of the fastest form of motorsports to Amish country as the NHRA's 50th Anniversary season enters its final stretch.

Championship hopes will be at full throttle as the NHRA powers its way back towards the east for the 17th annual NHRA Keystone Nationals, Sept. 13-16, at the ultra-quick Maple Grove Raceway.

Joe Amato, Bruce Sarver, Kurt Johnson and Matt Hines are the defending winners of the $1.9 million race, the 19th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Hometown favorite Amato, from Exeter, Pa., scored his 52nd and final career victory of his career as the legendary driver drove past Gary Scelzi in the Top Fuel final. Despite his retirement at the end of the 2000 season, Amato's replacement, Darrell Russell, has proven to be a worthy substitute for the five-time Winston champ and the leading contender for NHRA Rookie of the Year. Russell and Scelzi will seek to stop the war of the beer cars as Larry Dixon and the Miller Lite dragster battle Kenny Bernstein and the Budweiser King dragster for the series title.

Sarver, from Bakersfield, Calif., scored his first career national event win holding off Ron Capps for the Funny Car victory. Sarver started 2001 off strong with a season-opening win and then struggled, but is looking for a repeat performance in the Keystone State. Whit Bazemore, Del Worsham, Capps and teammate Tommy Johnson Jr., are fighting for position in the standings in hopes of a remarkable finish that would deny points leader John Force his record-setting 11th Winston title.

Lawrenceville, Ga.'s, Johnson continued his late season surge winning for the fourth time in seven events edging out his five-time Winston champ father Warren in the Pro Stock finale. As K. Johnson and many other teams struggle to find the right tune-up for their new vehicles, Warren has been at or near the top of the standings once again this season. The father-son duo will have to hold off a flurry of racers for another all-Johnson final. Defending Winston champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., Jim Yates, and Mike Edwards are planning to deny both Johnsons a trip to the winner's circle at Maple Grove. Three-time Winston champ Hines, from Trinidad, Colo., had another impressive performance at Maple Grove, riding past eventual Winston champ Angelle Savoie for the Pro Stock Motorcycle win. The points chase in the two-wheel category has been a seesaw battle all year as Hines, Savoie, and the up-and-coming Antron Brown make a run at the top spot. All three have had difficulty with the rest of the field as the upset-minded GT Tonglet, Reggie Showers, Shawn Gann and Craig Treble all have their own ideas of who is going to take home the trophy at the end of the event.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is set to begin at 3:45 and 6:45 p.m. on Sept. 14 and will continue at 12:15 and 3:15 p.m. on Sept. 15. Final professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sept. 16.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 17th annual NHRA Keystone Nationals. Call Maple Grove Raceway at (610) 856-7200 for ticket information. Tickets are also available at nhra.com and maplegroveraceway.com.

* TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise 150 minutes of eliminations coverage at 8:30 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 16. ESPN2 also will televise 90 minutes of qualifying highlights at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 15.

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

-NHRA-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Bruce Sarver , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Shawn Gann , Craig Treble , GT Tonglet , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.