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MOHNTON, Pa. - It's been a cruel, cruel summer for many NHRA teams. After opening the season at an incredible record-setting pace, the heat and humidity of June, July and August somewhat slowed the celebration of speed for NHRA's...

MOHNTON, Pa. - It's been a cruel, cruel summer for many NHRA teams. After opening the season at an incredible record-setting pace, the heat and humidity of June, July and August somewhat slowed the celebration of speed for NHRA's powerbrokers of high-performance. That trend is about to change. Now showing at scenic Maple Grove Raceway: NHRA Speed Fest II, the sequel. Cool temperatures that are normal for the Northeast in mid-September should have pro category crew chiefs hungry for a return to the exciting numbers that were produced on the track from February-May. No doubt, teams will have their machines set for maximum performance. Not only will national and track record performances be in the spotlight at the 15th annual True Value NHRA Keystone Nationals, Sept. 16-19, but select teams also will be focused on tightly contested points races. Top Fuel, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle feature intense battles between multiple drivers for Winston championship glory. Funny Car competitors will be trying to reel in season-long standout John Force, who has produced a substantial lead behind the wheel of his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. Gary Scelzi, Dean Skuza, Kurt Johnson and Angelle Seeling are the defending winners of the $1.6 million race in their respective professional categories. It is the 17th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Scelzi, from Fresno, Calif., two-time defending Winston Top Fuel champion and driver of the Team Winston dragster, defeated Mike Dunn here last year in the final round and moved into the points lead for the first time of the season. Scelzi and Dunn will return to the Pennsylvania quarter-mile with championship implications surrounding the event. However, they have plenty of company in the title chase, as Kenny Bernstein, Joe Amato, Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta and Doug Herbert are also top challengers for the Winston championship. Brecksville, Ohio's Skuza, driver of the Matco Tools Dodge Avenger, claimed an emotional Funny Car win here one year ago, defeating childhood hero Force in a close final round. Force has been the class of the category this season with seven victories and his eyes set on a ninth championship. Skuza, meanwhile, is still working to claim his first victory of the season. Whit Bazemore, Ron Capps, Scotty Cannon and Del Worsham are among candidates for victory. Johnson, from Lawrenceville, Ga., driver of the AC Delco Chevrolet Camaro, outran Mike Edwards for the last season's Pro Stock win. Johnson is battling his father for the Winston Pro Stock championship this season. Warren has five victories, while Kurt has three. Other top contenders in the competitive category include two-time Winston champion Jim Yates, Richie Stevens and Jeg Coughlin. New Orleans' Seeling, rider of the Team Winston Suzuki, claimed a popular Pro Stock Motorcycle victory here last season when she cruised to the win over Matt Hines's Suzuki, which suffered mechanical problems at the starting line. Seeling leads the Pro Stock Motorcycle point standings this season with four victories. Top championship challengers Antron Brown and Hines need a victory in the event to cut into Seeling's lead.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Antron Brown , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Mike Dunn , Kurt Johnson , Dean Skuza , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Scotty Cannon , Mike Edwards