Dallas: Championships could be decided this weekend

ENNIS, Texas - In what's becoming an annual tradition, the Texas Motorplex could once again play host to NHRA Winston championship celebrations. Point leaders in Funny Car and Pro Stock Truck are in position to claim 2000 NHRA Winston crowns at...

ENNIS, Texas - In what's becoming an annual tradition, the Texas Motorplex could once again play host to NHRA Winston championship celebrations.

Point leaders in Funny Car and Pro Stock Truck are in position to claim 2000 NHRA Winston crowns at the event held at the world's only all-concrete quarter-mile.

In Top Fuel, Gary Scelzi will try to add to his points lead, as top rivals Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon continue to mend after suffering injuries in separate crashes during the recent national event in Memphis, Tenn. In Pro Stock, Jeg Coughlin Jr. has already secured his 2000 Winston championship with a winning performance in Memphis.

In addition to the championship drama that will take center stage at the 15th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec, Oct. 19-22, at state-of-the-art Texas Motorplex, all teams will be working overtime to claim race victories at the track located just south of metropolitan Dallas. In addition, teams also will be tuning their machines for maximum performance in hopes of securing valuable bonus points by setting NHRA national records.

Schumacher, John Force, Warren Johnson and Brad Jeter are the defending winners of the $1.8 million race, the 21st of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Schumacher, from Park Ridge, Ill., earned his first career victory here in Top Fuel, defeating Scott Kalitta in the final. The victory led Schumacher to his first NHRA Winston championship in the 6,000 horsepower category. The driver of the U.S. Army dragster will not defend his title as he continues the healing process after suffering a fractured right lower leg following a crash during his final qualifying attempt in Memphis, Tenn. Dixon, also injured when his dragster suffered a blowover during the Memphis final round, is another favorite for the event who has decided to compete after undergoing successul surgery following his Memphis crash. Scelzi is still focused on winning his third Winston championship. Expect the Fresno, Calif. racer to receive plenty of competition from veterans Kenny Bernstein and Joe Amato, as well as Doug Kalitta, a three-time winner in 2000. Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., defeated Tommy Johnson Jr. in one of the quickest side-by-side drag races in NHRA history here one year ago. NHRA's all-time winningest driver will try to add to his win column here as he hopes to close on a record 10th NHRA Winston Funny Car championship. Top title challenger Jerry Toliver will try to end a recent slump that has included several first round losses and move back into second place in the standings. Memphis winner Ron Capps ended a 46-race drought and hopes another victory could secure his second place position in the Winston standings. Other top contenders include Scotty Cannon, Jim Epler, Whit Bazemore and Tony Pedregon.

Buford, Ga.'s Johnson defeated longtime rival Jim Yates in a classic Pro Stock final here last year. Johnson, driver of the GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird, hopes a victory here will salvage what has been a rebuilding year. Yates needs a win in his Splitfire/Peak Firebird to keep his streak of winning a race each season since 1994 alive. All eyes will be on Jeg Coughlin Jr., a 10-time winner this season who claimed his first Winston series championship recently in Memphis. The battle for second place in the Winston Top 10 will get interesting between Kurt Johnson and Ron Krisher. Jeter claimed the Pro Stock Truck win here last year by outrunning Vinny Barone in a battle of Chevy S-10s. The Greenville, S.C. driver will not defend his title as he has moved on to Pro Stock competition. Most likely, Bob Panella and Randy Daniels will play a role in determining the truck winner as the two have earned most of the victories this season. Panella has increased the gap in recent events and could earn his second Winston title with a strong showing at the Motorplex. Steve Johns, John Coughlin and Greg Stanfield also are favorites for the event victory. SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is scheduled for 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 20 and continues at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Oct. 21. Final professional eliminations start at 11 a.m. on Oct. 22. TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 15th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec. Call (800) 668-6775, or Ticketmaster for ticket information. ON TV: ESPN2 will provide two hours of eliminations coverage on Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. (ET). In addition, ESPN2 also will televise two hours of early round coverage on Oct. 22 at 1:30 p.m. (ET). ESPN2 will televise NHRA Heat, NHRA's 30-minute preview show, on Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. (ET). ON THE WEB: NHRA news, photos and driver information available at www.nhra.com.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Bob Panella , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Brad Jeter , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Ron Krisher , Randy Daniels , Scotty Cannon , Scott Kalitta , Greg Stanfield , Jerry Toliver , Steve J , Tommy Johnson Jr.