Bristol: Pre-race notes

Mac Tools Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals general information. SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is scheduled for 4 and 7 p.m. on April 26 and will continue at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. on April 27. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on April 28. TICKETS: ...

Mac Tools Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals general information.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is scheduled for 4 and 7 p.m. on April 26 and will continue at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. on April 27. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on April 28.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the third annual Mac Tools Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals. Call Bristol Dragway at (423) 764-1161, or visit bristoldragway.com for ticket information.

TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 8 p.m. (ET) on April 27. ESPN2 will televise three hours of eliminations at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on April 28.

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

NHRA NOTES & QUOTES
Second annual Mac Tools Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals, April 26-28, Bristol Dragway

* Current NHRA POWERade Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon will enter the Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals with a 65 point lead in the standings over defending series champ and rival Kenny Bernstein. Dixon had been on an unbelievable streak prior to his disappointing first round loss at Houston. He had gone 30 straight events without a first round defeat and, including the upset in Houston, Dixon has lost in the first round of eliminations only three times in the past 52 races dating back to the 2000 season-opener. He did not lose a first round matchup last season and lost only twice in 2000 (Reading, Pa., and Houston in the fall).

"I think that was an accomplishment for everybody on the team and myself included," said Dixon. "There have been a lot of times when we should have got beat but we were still able to get the win, so to be able to go 30 races in a row was great. I wish we could have gone 50 races in a row because that would have carried us through the end of the year. It wasn't meant to be. Now we just need to try and start a new streak and go from there."

* Of his 100 career victories, 11-time NHRA POWERade Funny car champion John Force has won an NHRA national event at 21 different facilities over the years. There are currently two venues on the NHRA's 23-race national event circuit where Force has yet to win. He has not visited the winner's circle in four events held in Las Vegas, and at the inaugural Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. However, Force has been victorious at Bristol, just not at a national event held at the state-of-the-art facility. In an NHRA all-star event in 1999 that featured Top Fuel dragsters versus Funny Cars in competition, Force drove his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang past five Top Fuel dragsters to win the event and collect the lucrative purse.

* Jeg Coughlin Jr. has experienced his share of problems over the past couple of seasons. After a remarkable performance in 2000 that saw him win 10 races in 14 final rounds which resulted in the series crown, the 31-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, has been close to matching the success of his championship year.

In 2001, Coughlin's fourth full season behind the wheel of the Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier, he finished fifth in the standings. A top five finish would be acceptable to most competitors in the ultra-competitive category of Pro Stock, but for Coughlin it was a disappointment after never finishing below second in his three previous seasons. Heading into Bristol, Coughlin was 10th in the standings and although he has one runner-up finish this year, he has already suffered a DNQ (did not qualify) and two first round losses in five events.

"We have some work to do between races to get these Jeg's machines where they should be," said Coughlin. "The guys have been busy working in the engine shop nonstop. We should have a couple of new engines ready for Bristol and some enhancements to our current power plants that will be a step in the right direction. I can assure you that there will be no Pro Stock team busier than ours leading into the Mac Tools Thunder Nationals."

* Out of the Top 10 driver standings for Funny car, all of them are part of multi-car teams except three-time Top Fuel champion Gary Scelzi. Force Racing occupies three spots (No. 1, No. 3, and No. 5), the Checker Schuck's Kragen team has two (No. 2 and No. 10), the Don Prudhomme-owned Skoal team has two (No. 4 and No. 6) and Schumacher Racing accounts for two spots (No. 8 and No. 9).

* Top Fuel legend Shirley Muldowney will return to racing action for the second time in 2002 as she enters her Mac Tools dragster into competition at Bristol. Muldowney, voted fifth last season in the NHRA's 50 Greatest Drivers program, has 18 career wins and three NHRA Top Fuel titles. She last competed in the Mac Tools Gatornationals earlier this season and qualified No. 9 and advanced to the second round of competition before losing to eventual event winner and current points leader Larry Dixon. That was her first round win at an NHRA event since her first round victory in 1990 at Topeka, Kan., over Michael Brotherton. She eventually lost in the second round to Tommy Johnson Jr.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Don Prudhomme , Tommy Johnson Jr.