Atlanta Preview

CHASE FOR WINSTON CHAMPIONSHIPS HEAT UP AT ATLANTA DRAGWAY COMMERCE, Ga. -- While most of the attention during the early stages of the 1999 NHRA season has focused on incredible record-setting performances, teams will shift their ...

CHASE FOR WINSTON CHAMPIONSHIPS HEAT UP AT ATLANTA DRAGWAY COMMERCE, Ga. -- While most of the attention during the early stages of the 1999 NHRA season has focused on incredible record-setting performances, teams will shift their concentration to more serious matters as the season drifts into the heat of the summer. While the crisp and cool weather of spring presented an inviting platform for record-breaking performances and history-making milestone runs, the heat and humidity of summer isn't as receptive to such lethal combinations. Crew chiefs will de-tune their ultra-fast machines to some degree, while trying to attain a more conservative, consistent setup. Teams will direct even more of their attention to race strategy. The emphasis will be geared toward winning races at all costs and earning valuable points in an effort to get in position to make a charge for an elusive NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series championship. It'll be all about survival when the contenders are separated from the pretenders during the chase for Winston championship glory. With nearly a third of the events completed on the NHRA schedule, the early season honeymoon is over. The competition gets serious at the 19th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals, May 13-16 at Atlanta Dragway. The $1.6 million race is the seventh of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Cory McClenathan, Cruz Pedregon, Mark Osborne, Matt Hines and Larry Kopp are the defending event winners in their respective professional categories. McClenathan, from Anaheim, Calif., cruised to a victory over Top Fuel journeyman Pat Dakin in last year's final. McClenthan, recent winner at Virginia, hopes to defend his title. Mike Dunn, Larry Dixon and Doug Herbert are among pre-race favorites in the 6,500 horsepower category. Camarillo, Calif.'s Pedregon was impressive one year ago, defeating arch-rival John Force in a very close final round. A victory here this season would aid in Pedregon's quest for a second Winston Funny Car championship. So far in 1999, Force and Pedregon's brother, Tony, have been dominating the competition in their sleek Castrol Ford Mustangs. Whit Bazemore, Dean Skuza and Cory Lee are also top contenders. Osborne, from Abingdon, Va., who currently leads the Pro Stock Truck point standings will not defend his Pro Stock title. The Johnsons, Warren and Kurt, and the Coughlins, Jeg and Troy, will hold their own family feud to decide the Pro Stock victory. Trinidad, Colo.'s Hines scored a dominating victory over Paul Gast here last year en route to his second straight Winston championship. If Hines is to win a third bike crown, he'll have to hold off tough challenges from points leader Angelle Seeling, John Smith, Antron Brown and Steve Johnson. Defending Pro Stock Truck champion Kopp celebrated a victory here last year with a win over rival Chevrolet S-10 driver John Lingenfelter. While those two drivers will be a factor in this edition of the race, Pro Stock transplant Osborne, Brad Jeter and Todd Patterson have held the early season edge.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Matt Hines , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Brad Jeter , Dean Skuza , John Force , Todd Patterson , Larry Kopp , John Lingenfelter , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Cory Lee , Steve Johnson , Paul Gast , Pat Dakin