KIRKERSVILLE, Ohio - The National Hot Rod Association has issued a red warning alert. The National Trail Raceway record book is in danger. Every performance record that the historic quarter-mile just east of Columbus has posted on the wall...
KIRKERSVILLE, Ohio - The National Hot Rod Association has issued a red warning alert.
The National Trail Raceway record book is in danger.
Every performance record that the historic quarter-mile just east of Columbus has posted on the wall prior to the 37th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing on June 14-17, may be ripped apart by professional category competitors when the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series makes its 11th stop in the 24 race series.
NHRA teams have left a shredded paper trail across the U.S. so far this season, thrilling drag racing fans with memorable performances from Pomona, Calif. to Joliet, Ill. and all places in between. Track and national performance records have been re-written at every national event.
Some of the highlights include Mike Dunn's powerful 331.61 mph blast in his New York Yankees dragster at Houston Raceway Park, the fastest speed recorded in NHRA history. Kenny Bernstein reset the national elapsed time record in Top Fuel, driving his Budweiser King dragster to an amazing 4.477 second run. In Pro Stock, Mark Pawuk clocked a memorable 6.806-second national elapsed time record when he drove his Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am to a runner-up finish at Englishtown, N.J. John Force lowered the national elapsed time record for Funny Car to 4.763 seconds and Antron Brown cruised to a national record performance of 7.103 seconds on his Team 23 Suzuki. Matt Hines rode his Eagle One Suzuki to the motorcycle national speed record, an impressive 194.10 mph effort. In Pro Stock Truck, Greg Stanfield lowered the national elapsed time record to 7.395 seconds at Houston, while Bob Panella upped the truck speed mark to 182.40 mph. While every driver will be gunning for record-breaking performances at the race, which will be televised by ESPN2, all will be working hard to gain critical positions in the Winston points order as the final stretch of the season begins.
Tony Schumacher, Tony Pedregon, Pawuk, Angelle Savoie and Randy Daniels are the defending event winners in their respective categories at the $2 million race, the 11th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
Schumacher claimed the Top Fuel victory here last year in a thrilling final against Joe Amato, who retired at the end of the 2000 season. Schumacher hopes for a repeat to get his 2001 season back on track. Darrell Russell was selected by Amato as his replacement and won the first race of the season, but would like to earn his second victory to prove his February heroics was no fluke. Winston points leader Bernstein, a winner here in '98, is in a tight points battle with Dunn and Larry Dixon. Three-time Winston champ Gary Scelzi, a winner here in '97, needs a victory to move closer to the top of the points order.
Pedregon used a holeshot start to oust Jerry Toliver here last year in a memorable Funny Car battle. The two drivers have struggled somewhat in 2001, and would like nothing more than to repeat their final round match-up. Pedregon ended a slump recently in Englishtown by claiming his first victory of the season and following up with another win in Topeka. Winston points leader Force hasn't enjoyed a victory here since 1990, and will be running on all cylinders in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang trying to get the win and better his chances for an 11th Winston crown. Other top contenders include Bruce Sarver, Whit Bazemore, Worsham and '98 race winner Frank Pedregon. Pawuk snapped a long winless streak here last year by outrunning Ron Krisher in the all-Pontiac final round. Pawuk enters the race as the defending champion riding a wave of success, including his national record performance at Englishtown, N.J. Warren Johnson is a three-time winner at National Trail, while two-time Winston champ Jim Yates has found a resurgence this year in his Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am and currently leads the Winston point standings. Jeg Coughlin, '98 race winner and the defending Winston Pro Stock champion, is always a favorite in front of the hometown crowd. Other top entries include Richie Stevens, Kurt Johnson, Darrell Alderman and Bruce Allen.
Savoie was ultra-quick on her Team Winston Suzuki in claiming the Pro Stock Motorcycle victory over Tony Mullen. The defending Winston champ, only the second female to accomplish the feat in NHRA history, needs a repeat this season to improve her chances for repeating as the Winston champion. Two-time National Trail bike winner Hines has been to every final round this season except one, and seems poised to take his fourth Winston crown. Brown, a winner here in '99, Craig Treble, Geno Scali and GT Tonglet are all top contenders in the two-wheel category.
Daniels captured the Pro Stock Truck win by using a holeshot start to oust Panella. The two Chevy S-10 drivers are favorites once again, along with Winston points leader Stanfield, Panella teammate Jeff Gracia and Scott Perin.
SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is set to begin at 3:45 and 6:45 p.m. on June 15 and will continue at 11:45 a.m. and 3 p.m. on June 16. Final professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on June 17.
TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 37th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing. Call NHRA at (800) 884-6472, or Ticketmaster for ticket information. Tickets are also available at nhra.com. * TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise two hours of eliminations at 8 p.m. (ET) on June 17. ESPN2 also will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 10 p.m. (ET) on June 16.