Teams seeking championship combination in Tucson

TUCSON, Ariz. - The rumble of 6,000 horsepower Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars will come to life in the Southwestern desert as NHRA teams embark on their quest for championship glory in 2003. Many of the top professional race teams in the NHRA...

TUCSON, Ariz. - The rumble of 6,000 horsepower Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars will come to life in the Southwestern desert as NHRA teams embark on their quest for championship glory in 2003.

Many of the top professional race teams in the NHRA POWERADE Drag Racing Series will look to gain an advantage on the competition at Southwestern International Raceway, Jan. 24-26, during the annual PRO National Warmups.

Crew chiefs will test and tinker with every aspect of the race car from clutch to fuel system in hopes of finding a consistent tune-up that will put their respective team at the forefront when the 2003 POWERADE season kicks-off, Feb. 6-9, with the 43rd running of the K&N Filters Winternationals at historic Pomona Raceway.

Brandon Bernstein, who won the Division 7 Top Alcohol dragster title in 2001, will continue to acclimate himself behind the wheel of the Tim Richards-tuned Budweiser dragster. Bernstein, a leading candidate for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award, will make his professional debut at the K&N Filters Winternationals.

John Force Racing, which won 16 of the 23 national event Funny Car titles in 2002, also will be gearing up for the 2003 campaign. The charismatic Force will be chasing his record 13th NHRA crown, while teammate Tony Pedregon, who proved to be Force's toughest foe in nearly a decade last season, looks to bring home his first NHRA championship. Veteran driver Gary Densham and his Auto Club team hope to build upon a career-best season in which he scored two victories and finished fourth in the points chase.

For the past two seasons, right on the tail of Team Force has been the red Checker Schuck's Kragen Firebird of Del Worsham, who finished third in the points standings with four victories for the second consecutive season in 2002. Worsham is eager to continue his charge toward the title, while teammate Johnny Gray and the blue CSK team plan to join Worsham near the top of the Funny Car ranks.

Doug Herbert, whose seventh place finish in the 2002 Top Fuel standings equaled a career best, and new crew chief Ron Douglas hope to continue the late season performance that saw the veteran Top Fuel driver earn the first two No. 1 qualifying awards of his career in the final four events.

Also in attendance will be the FRAM and Prestone Top Fuel teams of Hartman Racing. The husband-and-wife duo of Rhonda Hartman-Smith and John Smith both had career seasons in 2002 finishing ninth and 10th in the Top Fuel points, respectively. Hartman-Smith, who advanced to the semifinal round twice in 2002, looks poised to capture that elusive first NHRA victory in 2003.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , John Force , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Gary Densham , Brandon Bernstein , Johnny Gray , Tim Richards