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THREE MAJOR NHRA DRAMAS TAKE SHAPE AT COLONEL'S TRUCK ACCESSORIES NHRA NATIONALS BRAINERD, Minn. - There are three major plots developing as the 1999 NHRA season heads into its final eight races. These story lines will be highlighted at...

THREE MAJOR NHRA DRAMAS TAKE SHAPE AT COLONEL'S TRUCK ACCESSORIES NHRA NATIONALS

BRAINERD, Minn. - There are three major plots developing as the 1999 NHRA season heads into its final eight races. These story lines will be highlighted at the 18th annual Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals, Aug. 19-22 at The Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway. NHRA teams in four pro categories will be racing for their share of the $1.6 million purse. The race is the 15th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

In one, as many as ten drivers are seeking a championship. In the other, two drivers from different categories are chasing an NHRA milestone. In the third, a competitor seeks to become only the second female champion in the history of the sport.

Top Fuel competition is as close as it has ever been, as every driver in the Winston top 10 point standings has a legitimate shot at claiming the Winston championship. Bob Vandergriff, who currently sits 10th, is 170 points behind leader Mike Dunn. Comparatively, second place Funny Car driver Tony Pedregon is 256 points behind leader John Force. A mere 93 points separate the top seven drivers in Top Fuel.

While Force has earned seven victories and appears well on his way to a ninth Winston championship in Funny Car, he is engrossed in a cross-category battle with current Pro Stock points leader Warren Johnson for the title of NHRA's winningest driver. Force and Johnson are currently tied for second on the all-time list, with 77 wins apiece. Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden has the most wins in NHRA history (85).

In Pro Stock Motorcycle competition, Team Winston Suzuki rider Angelle Seeling could become NHRA's second female champion. The first female to accomplish the goal, pioneering Shirley Muldowney, earned three Winston championships (1977, 1980 and 1982) during her NHRA Top Fuel career. With four victories, Seeling is having her best season and holds a 97 point lead over second place rider Antron Brown. Gary Scelzi, Ron Capps, Tom Martino and Matt Hines are the defending event winners in their respective pro categories.

Scelzi, from Fresno, Calif., cruised to the Top Fuel victory here one year ago, greatly increasing his chances for a second Winston championship, when Dunn lost traction at the start of the final round. Two-time defending series champ Scelzi and current Winston points leader Dunn have been among the top drivers in the category, both earning three wins apiece. Doug Herbert and Joe Amato are also multi-time winners this season, while major threats Kenny Bernstein and Tony Schumacher are still looking for their first victory of the season.

San Diego Funny Car driver Capps claimed a tough victory here last year over fellow new generation driver Dean Skuza. Both finalists have found the going tough this season as eight-time NHRA Winston Funny Car champion Force has been dominant, winning seven times and stretching out his points lead over closest challenger Tony Pedregon. Whit Bazemore, Del Worsham and Dean Skuza have been among Force's top challengers this season and are among a collection of top pre-race favorites in the category.

Martino, from Farmingdale, N.J. used a holeshot start to defeat Mark Osborne for the Pro Stock title here in '98. Martino, who has struggled this season while trying to figure out the correct setup for his new Pontiac Firebird, will try to defend his victory, while five-time season winner Warren Johnson looks to add more success to his incredible year. The 56-year-old Johnson appears to be headed for his fifth NHRA Winston Pro Stock championship at the pace he's going. Johnson's son Kurt, Jeg Coughlin, Richie Stevens and a resurgent Jim Yates will be among Johnson's top challengers for victory at the Minnesota quarter-mile.

Hines, from Trinidad, Colo., outran Seeling for the Pro Stock Motorcycle title here last year, but Seeling has had the upper hand in the category so far in 1999. However, Hines is making a late season run on his Eagle One Suzuki. Local favorite John Smith would like to get a win at his home track, while Antron Brown and Dave Schultz are eager to add another victory to their season totals.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Shirley Muldowney , Antron Brown , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Bob Glidden , Tom Martino , Bob Vandergriff