Seattle: Northwest Nationals preview, schedule

WHAT: 16th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, the 14th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in three categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA POWERade championships. Sportsman ...

WHAT:
16th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, the 14th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in three categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA POWERade championships.
Sportsman competitors in seven categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series championships.

WHERE:
Pacific Raceways, Kent, Wash. The track is 10 miles east of Interstate 5 on Highway 18. From I-5, use Exit 142A (Auburn exit) and travel east 10 miles on Highway 18, following the signs to the track. From other points, use Highway 18 and exit S.E. 304th St. or S.E. 312th St.

WHEN:
Friday through Sunday, July 25-27.

WHAT TO EXPECT:
The second of three races on consecutive weekends in what has become known as the West Coast Swing, Pacific Raceways could be a pivotal stop in the race toward the POWERade championship. If the rest of the Top Fuel field is going to catch Larry Dixon in the POWERade standings, they need to make a serious move during this three-race western tour. Last year Darrell Russell won two of three to move into fourth in the standings. NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship contenders Tony Pedregon and Whit Bazemore have won the event at Seattle the last two years respectively and both will need to go rounds to in their quest for the title. An early exit in eliminations could juggle the standings in Pro Stock. Last season Jeg Coughlin won at Seattle, his second of eight victories in the final 12 events en route to the crown. This year friendly rivals Greg Anderson and Kurt Johnson, a two-time winner at Seattle, try to inch closer to Pro Stock supremacy by conquering the Northwest's quarter-mile.

FAST FACTS:
Pacific Raceways is one of four tracks where defending Top Fuel champion and current points leader Larry Dixon has yet to win (St. Louis; Sonoma, Calif.; Reading, Pa.) in the Miller Lite dragster...Funny Car teammates Ron Capps ('95) and Tommy Johnson ('93) both earned their first career NHRA victory at Seattle in a Top Fuel dragster. Capps also won at Seattle in a Funny Car in 1998...Joe Amato, who owns the Bilstein Engine Flush Top Fuel dragster driven by defending event winner Darrell Russell, and John Force, have five wins at Pacific Raceways, more than any other NHRA competitor. Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson is second on the list with four...Russell and Cory McClenathan are the only two active Top Fuel drivers who have previously won at Pacific Raceways.

NOTES OF INTEREST:
The NHRA Experience - Unlike any other form of major motorsport, the NHRA grants unprecedented access to each and every one of its fans. From watching the action of 8,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragsters and the 200-mph Pro Stock action, to the unlimited access to the pit areas of the NHRA's top stars. Fans get the chance to get up-close-and-personal with drag racing icons like John Force, Don 'The Snake' Prudhomme, and Kenny Bernstein. They get the chance to meet and greet the next wave of NHRA superstars like Larry Dixon, Tony Schumacher, Darrell Russell, Tony Pedregon, Del Worsham and Jeg Coughlin. The manufacturer midway provides an on-site shopping experience for the latest technology in the automotive aftermarket. The newest addition to the midway area is the exciting POWERade interactive display. Fans can take their picture wearing an authentic team shirt from their favorite team, meet different drivers during scheduled autograph sessions, spin the back wheel of a Top Fuel dragster to win various prizes including a ride in a Pro Stock simulator that gives fans a taste of life on the quarter-mile. All this adds up to a day of great fun with memories to last a lifetime.

Kenny Bernstein Comes Out of Retirement to Sub for Injured Son-- Six-time NHRA champion Kenny Bernstein returned to the cockpit at Topeka, Kan., following his son Brandon's crash at Englishtown, N.J. in May which has sidelined the younger Bernstein for the remainder of 2003. At the time of the crash, Brandon was second in points with three victories on the year. Kenny showed no effects of not driving a Top Fuel dragster since November of 2002. At his first event the 58-year-old Bernstein qualified No. 2 and advanced to the semifinals before falling to Doug Kalitta.

NHRA Stock on the Rise - The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series has been experiencing growth that is unprecedented in its 52-year history. The television coverage of the fastest form of auto racing on the planet is continuing to gain viewers and ratings in the third year of an exclusive partnership between NHRA and ESPN. That is due in large part to the innovative technology ESPN has introduced to the sensory-filled sport of 8,000 horsepower drag racing and the stellar competition that has been taking place on the quarter-mile drag strip. This also has presented an increasing amount of fan appeal, which draws new sponsors or increased support form current sponsors in various capacities. The NHRA and POWERade, a subsidiary of the Coca-Cola Co., joined forces prior to the 2002 season with high hopes and great expectations. The partnership has opened up new doors for marketing and advertising strategies that were not available in the past. Combining the product NHRA has to offer with the business capabilities of POWERade, the sport of drag racing is reaching new heights. The 23-race, $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing series has evolved beyond the wildest dreams of the organization's founder, 90-year-old Wally Parks, and the NHRA continues to increase its presence and influence in the world of motorsports.

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.

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:
The Fiorito family became involved with Pacific Raceways at its inception in 1958, when David Fiorito Sr. wanted to eliminate the dangers of teenage street racing by providing a safer, controlled environment. At the time, Dan Sr. owned a heavy road construction company and agreed to construct and pave the track. Pacific Raceways has a 2.25-mile road course carved out of the naturally wooded terrain, providing a total elevation change of nearly 128 feet. For the last 25 years, the property was leased to another operator and was named the Seattle International raceway. The property has returned to the Fiorito family and has assumed its original name.

16th ANNUAL CARQUEST AUTO PARTS NHRA NATIONALS
General Information:

* SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying will run at 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on July 25 and will continue at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on July 26. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on July 27.

* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 16th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals. Call (253) 631-1550, Ticketmaster, or visit ticketmaster.com for ticket information.

* TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 8 p.m. (ET) on July 26. ESPN will televise two hours of early eliminations at 4 p.m. (ET) on July 27 and ESPN2 will televise 90 minutes of final eliminations at 8:30 p.m. (ET) on July 27.

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

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Tommy Johnson , Cory McClenathan