Dallas: Round 21 makeup event preview

NHRA POWERADE SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES, WORLD RECORD PERFORMANCES ON THE LINE AT RESCHEDULED O'REILLY FALL NATIONALS ENNIS, Texas -- Over the years the Texas Motorplex has become a favorite track of many drivers because of its...


ENNIS, Texas -- Over the years the Texas Motorplex has become a favorite track of many drivers because of its consistently smooth all-concrete racing surface. It's the only drag strip of its kind and because of the tremendous amount of grip the track offers for the large rear Goodyear racing slicks used by Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock machines, it has a history of allowing teams the opportunity to produce maximum horsepower for national record-setting performances.

Speaking of reputations, due to its traditional late season spot on the NHRA schedule, the Texas Motorplex also has a history of hosting POWERade Series world championship celebrations.

Due to Hurricane Rita, which forced NHRA officials to reschedule the race from its late September date to two weeks later, the Texas Motorplex is primed to offer national record setting runs and world championship celebrations once again at the 20th annual O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec, Oct. 6-9 at Billy Meyers' showplace facility located south of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

The $1.5 million race, which will be televised on ESPN2, is the 21st of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car) and Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) are the defending race winners.

Schumacher, who has claimed two of his 27 career victories at the Motoplex, rolls into central Texas riding a wave of momentum and is in position to clinch his third POWERade Series world championship. The U.S. Army dragster driver has won six races this season and holds a 205 point lead over second place driver Larry Dixon, who drives the Miller Lite dragster. Doug Kalitta is third, 208 points back in the Mac Tools dragster.

In order to clinch the championship, Schumacher will need to add 72 points to his lead, which can happen if Dixon and Kalitta exit the race early, as they did at Chicago last weekend. Schumacher has pulled away from his two rivals by advancing to the last four final rounds (winning the last two in a row), posting six consecutive No. 1 qualifying positions and resetting the national elapsed time record at Chicago (4.437 seconds, worth 20 bonus points).

"The points have a way of taking care of themselves," said Schumacher, who earned his first Top Fuel crown in 1999 and followed with his second last year. "We're going to go down to Texas and just do our thing and we'll see how it all shakes out. We still have to close the deal. Until we've mathematically clinched the championship, we have plenty of business to attend to."

Another driver who can mathematically clinch his third consecutive POWERade Series world championship crown in Texas is Greg Anderson. Like Schumacher, Anderson needs to leave the Motorplex property on Sunday night with a lead of 277 points in order to secure the championship title. That means he needs to increase his current lead over Kurt Johnson by 95 points. The task is a little tougher than Schumacher's, but in NHRA drag racing, anything can happen.

While the POWERade Series title chase could end for Top Fuel and Pro Stock teams in Texas, the world championship drama building in Funny Car promises to do nothing but intensify.

In what many drag racing historians are declaring the greatest Funny Car points chase ever, all drivers in the POWERade Top 10 are still mathematically alive, and the top five drivers with a realistic shot at championship glory are in hot pursuit of the title, separated by 100 points.

Three-time Top Fuel world champ Gary Scelzi is leading the way in his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus, 43 points in front of 13-time champion John Force in the Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang. With a much-needed victory at Chicago in his Brut Stratus, Ron Capps moved to third place overall and trails his teammate Scelzi by 45 points. Force's two teammates -- Robert Hight (Auto Club Mustang) and Eric Medlen (Castrol Syntec Mustang) -- are 70 and 100 points back in fourth and fifth, respectively.

The stage is definitely set for an old fashioned shootout during the final three races.

"Scelzi came out to dance and now Capps is right back in it," Force said. "Eric and Robert could do the same thing. It's a real fight and it's great. It's great for the fans, for the sponsors and it's great for the drivers. You're in this thing and you know you can make a difference."

Being in a tight championship chase is nothing new to Scelzi, who edged Cory McClenathan for Top Fuel titles in 1997 and 1998 and beat Schumacher for the dragster championship in 2000. If he is successful in his pursuit, he would join Kenny Bernstein as the only drivers in NHRA history to win world championships in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.

"Believe me, I'm not trying to make this Funny Car championship chase so close," said Scelzi with a laugh, who has earned three victories in four final round appearances this season. "As long as you keep leaving the races with (a bigger lead) than you had when you got there, you're doing your job. Yeah, we're making it exciting for everybody. It looks like we're starting to make a little distance, and that's a good thing."

Capps also has some experience in close championship chases. He finished second overall in the point standings in 1998 and 2000, coming up short in two efforts to dethrone Force.

"Force is the man, he always will be," Capps said. "Hopefully Scelzi is going to be the man next year or maybe we will be. We have three races left. If you can't get up for racing John Force you don't need to be out here."

Should Scelzi or Capps win the championship it would be the first time a team other than John Force Racing has held that trophy since 1992 (Cruz Pedregon). Also, should Schumacher and Scelzi or Capps win championships in their respective categories, it would be the first time in NHRA history that a single team owner (Don Schumacher) has claimed world championships in the two nitro categories.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:30 and 7 p.m. on Oct. 7. Qualifying continues at noon and 3 p.m. on Oct. 8. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Oct. 9.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals. Call Texas Motorplex at (800) 668-6775 or (214) 373-8000 for ticket information, or check online at texasmotorplex.com.

ON TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying of the O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals at 4 p.m. (ET) on Oct. 8. ESPN2 will televise three hours of final eliminations coverage beginning at 8 p.m. (ET) on Oct. 9.


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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Eric Medlen , Don Schumacher , Robert Hight , Dave Connolly