Commerce: Southern Nationals preview

23rd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, the seventh of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in four categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA ...

23rd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, the seventh of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in four categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA POWERade championships.

Sportsman competitors in seven categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series championships.

Atlanta Dragway, Commerce, Ga. I-85 to Exit 149 (Hwy 441). After exiting the freeway go north on Highway 441 to Steven Tanger Blvd. Take left on Tanger and then right on Ridgeway Road.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series will make its final 2003 appearance in the Southeast the first weekend in May and as the first quarter of the season winds down, there will be a clear picture of who the contenders are for the POWERade championships. The Top Fuel points race appears to be another battle of the beer wagons as 2003 NHRA champion Larry Dixon looks to drive his Miller Lite dragster to its second consecutive victory at Atlanta Dragway, while leading rookie of the year candidate Brandon Bernstein aims to continue his early season hot streak. In Funny Car, all eyes will be focused upon 12-time NHRA champion John Force as he looks to right his early season struggles and race his Castrol Mustang to victory in Commerce, Ga. for the seventh time in his career. Hoping to keep Force from cashing in at Atlanta will be defending event champion Whit Bazemore and his Don Schumacher-owned Dodge Funny Car and Force teammates Tony Pedregon and Gary Densham. Georgia residents Warren Johnson, the winningest Pro Stock driver in NHRA history, and son Kurt, who has earned three victories in 2003, hope the Atlanta Dragway home track advantage will give them the needed edge on the rest of the Pro Stock compettion, while former Johnson employee Greg Anderson would like nothing better than to upstage his former boss at his home track. In the two-wheel category, three-time NHRA champion Angelle Savoie hopes to ride her Team 23 Suzuki to her second win in a row in Commerce as she looks to win an unprecedented fourth straight NHRA crown. Those who would like nothing better than to knock off the fan favorite Savoie include her teammate Antron Brown, rival Craig Treble and the Harley-Davidson V-Rod duo of Andrew Hines and GT Tonglet.

FAST FACTS:

Gary Scelzi is the only Top Fuel driver to ever win at Atlanta Dragway two years in a row (1999-2000)...Atlanta Dragway is the only track where all three Pedregon brothers have scored a Funny Car victory: Tony, 1996; Cruz, 1998; Frank 2001...The track records for both elapsed time and speed were reset in each category except Top Fuel, which only had a speed record established...Current Funny Car drivers T. Pedregon (1996) and Del Worsham (1991), along with Pro Stock driver Mark Osborne (1995), all earned their first career victory at Atlanta.

ABOUT THE TRACK:

Atlanta Dragway was built in 1975 by Gene Bennett and originally had been graded out for an airport. The original airport tower served as the timing tower for the drag strip, and the track direction was the same as the airport without asphalt, just Georgia red clay. In 1980, the track was sold to Norman Pearah, and it became an NHRA sanctioned track. At the time, the track would only open twice a year for major events. The track was purchased in 1987 by Pro Stock drivers Gary Brown, J.D. Stevens and Rudy Bowen. The track underwent major reconstruction to put in new aluminum grandstand seating, permanent restrooms and rebuilt concession buildings. In 1989, the 13-year-old track was resurfaced with a concrete launching pad and a new timing system. In addition to the track modification, a reconditioned VIP tower complete with timing deck, press center and corporate suites was built in 1990. NHRA purchased the track in 1993, and it was resurfaced in 1999 to include an updated timing system. The tower restrooms were remodeled and all concession, tower and ticket buildings were rewired.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Larry Dixon , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson , Gary Densham , Craig Treble , Brandon Bernstein , Andrew Hines , Don Schumacher , Gary Brown