Columbus: Pre-race notes and quotes

NHRA NOTES & QUOTES 38th annual Pontiac Excitement NHRA Nationals presented by Summit Racing, June 13-16, National Trail Raceway, Hebron, Ohio * DEFENDING THE TITLE AND GOING FOR A RECORD: Larry Dixon will try and become only the fourth Top Fuel...

NHRA NOTES & QUOTES 38th annual Pontiac Excitement NHRA Nationals presented by Summit Racing, June 13-16, National Trail Raceway, Hebron, Ohio

* DEFENDING THE TITLE AND GOING FOR A RECORD: Larry Dixon will try and become only the fourth Top Fuel driver to win two in a row at National Trail raceway. If he successfully defends his title, he would join Shirley Muldowney ('76-77), Scott Kalitta ('94-5), and team owner Don 'Snake' Prudhomme (91-92) as back-to-back winners of the historic race.

Dixon also will be trying to tie the record for consecutive Top Fuel final round appearances (six) joining Scott Kalitta (1994) and Cory McClenathan (1997).

* NHRA AND THE COLUMBUS CLIPPERS: Six-time NHRA POWERade champion Kenny Bernstein will throw out the first pitch for the Columbus Clippers on Wednesday, June 12, at 7 p.m. prior to the game with the Indianapolis Indians. Prior to the game, Bernstein will be joined in an autograph session by fellow Top Fuel drivers Darrell Russell (2001 NHRA Rookie of the Year, and Andrew Cowin (driver of the New York Yankee dragster), Pro Stock driver and Newark, Ohio, resident Larry Morgan, and Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Craig Treble.

* TEAM CASTROL 1-2-3 IN THE STANDINGS: Over the past few seasons, John Force has assembled a team that is proving to be quite a three-headed monster for the rest of the Funny Car field. Current points leader Gary Densham, team-owner Force, and the final Force driver, Tony Pedregon occupy the top three spots in the NHRA POWERade standings for the second straight event (Topeka, Kan. and Joliet, Ill.). Each driver has two victories on the season and there has been at least one Force Racing vehicle in the final round at nine of the 10 events in 2002.

Densham became the points leader for the first time in his 30-year career after win at Englishtown, N.J., and is only the fifth different driver to lead the Funny Car standings for three straight races in the past 13 years.

"I always thought I would win a race; I never thought I would lead the points," said Densham. "It's a credit to my crew, to John Force and especially to my crew chief, Jimmy Prock."

* HAMMONDS GOES BACK TO TRAINING CAMP: After beginning the 2002 season strong, former NBA player Tom Hammonds began to struggle with four straight DNQ's (did not qualify). In what is considered one of the most competitive categories in all of auto racing, Hammonds needed to at least qualify to keep any hopes of finishing among the points leaders alive. Hammonds released his crew chief, Donnie Gardner, from the team during the first day of qualifying at the recent event at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill. Hammonds ended up tuning the car himself over the weekend. He qualified in the No. 2 slot and was the runner-up to Bruce Allen.

"To be honest, I had a mini-training camp (at Joliet) in terms of working on the motor again," said Hammonds. "I just ran out of gas in the final. It was tough, as tired as I was, to concentrate. But we're not about to use that as an excuse. We're going to focus on what we accomplished this weekend, making sure to stick with it and keep moving forward. I'm looking forward to finishing this year in strong fashion."

* PRO STOCK STREAK STOPS AT NINE: When Bruce Allen drove his Reher-Morrison Pontiac Grand Am to the winner's circle against former NBA player Tom Hammonds at Route 66 Raceway, he became the first repeat winner of the category this season. Amazingly, current points leader Jim Yates has not won an event and there are two drivers (Allen Johnson and Greg Anderson) that have been victorious but are not even in the Top 10 in the chase towards the 2002 NHRA POWERade championship.

"Even though we haven't won a race yet this year it's hard for us to be disappointed," said Yates, a two-time series champ. "We were able to extend our points lead (at Chicago) slightly, but we have to take advantage of the opportunities when the other guys go out to put some distance on them. I know how quick the roles can reverse out here, and if we have a bad week and Warren (Johnson) has a good week, he's going to be right there. The team has done an excellent job but our goal is to win the championship and we've still got a long way to go."

* TEAM VISIT: Matco Tools is hosting a team visit for area motorsports fans at their Stow, Ohio headquarters on Tuesday, June 11, as part of pre-race activities for the Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing.

The team visit will be available free to the public from 10:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. and will feature many of the drivers sponsored by Matco Tools who compete in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, along with the machines they drive.

Race fans will have the opportunity to meet the many of NHRA's top drivers, including Whit Bazemore, Scotty Cannon, Bruce Sarver, Top Fuel drivers Tony Schumacher, Darrell Russell, Pro Stock drivers Mark Pawuk, Darrell Alderman, Gene Wilson, V. Gaines, and Pro Stock Motorcycle competitor Craig Treble.

In addition, fans will be allowed to tour several of the teams' race car transporters.

Matco Tools headquarters is located at 4403 Allen Rd., Stow, Ohio. For more information, contact Kirk Fenn, motorsports administrator, at (330) 926-5540.

* THE PROFESSOR'S STREAK: Six-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson will try and extend his NHRA qualifying record for consecutive events when he competes at the 38th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals at National Trail Raceway. Johnson has qualified for 299 consecutive NHRA national events and has not posted a DNQ since 1987 at Gainesville, Fla. John Force has the second longest streak, qualifying for 287 straight beginning with the 1987 season-ender at Pomona, Calif. Matt Hines is third on the list qualifying for all 87 races he has competed in his career.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Bruce Sarver , Matt Hines , Larry Dixon , Darrell Alderman , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Andrew Cowin , Larry Morgan , Scotty Cannon , Gene Wilson , Craig Treble , Scott Kalitta , Bruce Allen , Tom Hammonds , Allen Johnson