Brainerd: Title hopes come to life

BRAINERD, Minn. - The Land of 10,000 Lakes will soon become the battleground for extreme horsepower. The picturesque scenery of Minnesota will provide the setting as nitro-burning Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars along with the powerful...

BRAINERD, Minn. - The Land of 10,000 Lakes will soon become the battleground for extreme horsepower. The picturesque scenery of Minnesota will provide the setting as nitro-burning Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars along with the powerful Pro Stock cars and motorcycles meet at the starting line to do battle as the Winston championship race tightens up.

With 16 events in the books and eight remaining, the final third of the NHRA's 50th Anniversary year will get underway in the North.

Competition will be intense at the 20th annual Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals, Aug. 17-20, at The Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway.

Tony Schumacher, John Force, Kurt Johnson and Antron Brown are the defending winners of the $1.9 million race, the 17th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Park Ridge, Ill.'s, Schumacher has been struggling through a challenging 2001 campaign in his U.S. Army dragster, as he, and the rest of the Top Fuel field, continue to chase the beer cars in the Winston standings. Kenny Bernstein and his Budweiser dragster along with Larry Dixon in the Miller Lite dragster have been at or near the top of the Winston standings all season. Dixon and Bernstein will be challenged for Top Fuel bragging rights by the unassuming Doug Kalitta, three-time Winston champ Gary Scelzi and the Yankee dragster driven by Mike Dunn.

Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., has won in Brainerd six of the last seven years and will be seeking his 10th career win at the facility in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang as me marches towards his record-setting 11th Winston title. NHRA veteran Del Worsham and teammate Frank Pedregon, Bruce Sarver in the Alan Johnson-tuned Firebird, and the always dangerous Whit Bazemore have hopes of stopping Force's Brainerd win streak and make the rest of the NHRA's 50th Anniversary season more than a race for second place in Funny Car.

A win here last year continued a mid-season surge that landed Johnson in the No. 2 spot of the final Winston Pro Stock standings, however, this season hasn't been so kind. Adjusting to the aerodynamics of his new Chevy Cavalier, Johnson has struggled. Johnson's father, Warren, defending Winston champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., the upstart Mark Pawuk and two-time Winston champ Jim Yates have hopes of visiting the winner's circle at one of the NHRA's premier events.

Brown is hoping for a repeat of last season's performance as he, defending Winston champ Angelle Savoie and three-time series champ Matt Hines are engaged in a season long battle for supremacy of the two-wheel category. With a limited 14-race schedule, every competitor must make the most of their opportunities for glory. Other riders planning to challenge for the win include 18-year-old GT Tonglet, '99 event winner Craig Treble and the always-improving Reggie Showers.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is set to begin at 2:45 and 5:45 p.m. on Aug. 17 and will continue at 12:45 and 3:45 p.m. on Aug. 18. Final professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Aug. 19.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 17th annual Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals. Call Brainerd International Raceway at (810) 249-5530 for ticket information. Tickets are also available at nhra.com and brainerdrace.com.

· TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise two hours of eliminations coverage at 5 p.m. (ET) on Aug. 19. ESPN2 also will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 8 p.m. (ET) on Aug. 18.

-NHRA

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Reggie Showers , Craig Treble , GT Tonglet