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NEW FACES COULD MAKE VICTORY CIRCLE APPEARANCE AT ENGLINSHTOWN ENGLISHTOWN, N.J.-- If the current trend at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park holds true, then Doug Kalitta, Gary Densham and Mark Pawuk could be celebrating victories in...

NEW FACES COULD MAKE VICTORY CIRCLE APPEARANCE AT ENGLINSHTOWN

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J.-- If the current trend at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park holds true, then Doug Kalitta, Gary Densham and Mark Pawuk could be celebrating victories in their respective categories following completion of the 29th annual Mopar Parts Nationals, May 14-17.

The $1.6 million race is the eighth of 22 events in the $30 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Last year a Top Fuel rookie, a winless veteran Funny Car driver, along with a Pro Stock driver who ended a two year winless drought were raising trophies high above their heads as camera lights flickered in the distance at one of NHRA's most historic facilities.

Cristen Powell, Kenji Okazaki and Darrell Alderman were winners in their respective pro categories. Defending Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Hines claimed the bike victory.

Powell outran Bruce Sarver in the Top Fuel final to score her first professional victory. The Portland, Ore. racer will return to the track with new sponsor Reebok hungry for another win. In order to claim a second career victory, the former alcohol dragster racer will have to stop current Winston points leader Cory McClenathan, two-time finalist Jim Head, Mac Tools Gatornationals winner Kenny Bernstein and former Mopar Parts Nationals winners Joe Amato and Larry Dixon.

International racing star Okazaki ended several years of winless frustration by capturing his first Funny Car title here one year ago. Okazaki drove the Jim Dunn-owned Mooneyes Dodge to a convincing finish over Chuck Etchells. Okazaki, who parted with the Mooneyes team at the end of last season, will not get the chance to defend his title. Among the top candidates to replace Okazaki as the Mopar Parts Nationals Funny Car winner include points leader and NHRA elapsed time record holder Cruz Pedregon, seven-time NHRA Winston champion John Force, Team Winston's Whit Bazemore, Randy Anderson and '97 runner-up Etchells.

Team Mopar driver Alderman topped Bruce Allen last year for the Pro Stock victory, his first since March 1995. Alderman used a holeshot to defeat Allen, who posted a quicker elapsed-time in covering the quarter-mile distance. Alderman will be among a host of potential Pro Stock winners this season, led by the explosive Warren Johnson, already a winner three times this season. Defending Winston champion Jim Yates, Mark Osborne and young Jeg Coughlin will also be in the hunt.

Those drivers will also be among favorites to win the special Pro Stock Challenge, a year-long qualifying bonus program which features the quickest drivers in the category battling for a winner's share of $50,000.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Angelle Seeling, John Smith and Dave Schultz will try to deny Hines a repeat victory.

Larry Kopp and David Nickens are among pre-race favorites in Pro Stock Truck.

MOPAR PARTS NATIONALS GENERAL INFORMATION * Schedule: Pro Stock Truck qualifying begins May 14 at noon and 3 p.m. Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. May 15. Qualifying continues at 12:15 p.m. and 4 p.m. May 16. Pro Stock Truck final eliminations start at noon May 16.

The NHRA Pro Stock Challenge will also be held on May 16. Final professional eliminations start at 11 a.m. May 17. Federal-Mogul competition starts at noon May 14.

* Tickets: Tickets are available for the Mopar Parts Nationals. Call Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, (908) 446-7800, or Ticketmaster for ticket information.

* On TV: TNN will televise one hour of highlights and live first round coverage of the Mopar Parts Nationals on May 17, starting at noon (EDT). There will also be two hours of final round coverage on May 17, starting at 5 p.m. (EDT). TNN will also televise one hour coverage of the special Pro Stock Challenge on May 16, starting at 4 p.m. (EDT).

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , John Force , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , Larry Kopp , Chuck Etchells , Gary Densham , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Cristen Powell