Houston Matco Tools SuperNationals Preview

BAYTOWN, Texas - There's nothing quite like the electric atmosphere produced when a pair of richly-tuned, nitro-burning Top Fuel dragsters pop and crackle at the starting line, awaiting the green light to flash at one of the NHRA's premier ...

BAYTOWN, Texas - There's nothing quite like the electric atmosphere produced when a pair of richly-tuned, nitro-burning Top Fuel dragsters pop and crackle at the starting line, awaiting the green light to flash at one of the NHRA's premier speedplants. The explosive blast that rivets from two 6,000 horsepower dragsters marching side-by-side down the dragstrip is guaranteed to provide an extreme shot of adrenaline to even the most conservative attendees. One blink and it's over. Top Fuel drivers engaged in this season's highly competitive championship chase must be thinking the same thing: One blink and their opportunity for attaining Winston championship glory could be all but an afterthought. Indeed, drama will be plentiful as Top Fuel teams near the season's final hour at the third annual Matco Tools SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions, Oct. 28-31 at Houston Raceway Park. As the season reaches its final hour, four Top Fuel competitors are left standing, chasing the coveted championship trophy. The title chase will be intense in Pro Stock Motorcycle as well. A trio of bikers are chasing drag racing's ultimate goal. In Funny Car and Pro Stock, the race is on for second place as John Force has already clinched his ninth NHRA Winston championship, completing his decade of dominance, and Warren Johnson has secured his fifth NHRA Winston title. Helping each competitor maximize their championship potential will be the opportunity for record-breaking performances. Larry Dixon demonstrated Houston Raceway Park's ability to support the quickest runs in NHRA competition when he posted the national elapsed time record for Top Fuel with a spectacular 4.486 second blast in his Miller Lite dragster earlier this season. The milestone run - the first in Top Fuel under 4.5 seconds - is already categorized as one of drag racing's most memorable moments. Gary Scelzi, Cruz Pedregon, Jeg Coughlin and John Smith are the defending pro category winners at the $1.7 million race, the 21st of 22 events in the 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Scelzi, from Fresno, Calif., drove his Team Winston dragster to a victory here last year that propelled him to a second straight NHRA Winston championship. Tony Schumacher, the '98 runner-up, enters this event as the current points leader with hopes of earning his second NHRA national event victory, as he rides the momentum gained by his career-first win a week earlier in Dallas. Joe Amato, Doug Herbert and Scelzi also are among the top contenders for not only a race victory, but the Winston championship as well. Camarillo, Calif.'s Pedregon was also a national record performer here last year, knocking-off rival Whit Bazemore in a close final round. Bazemore has been hot this season, winning once in five final rounds. However, the class of the category has been Force, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. Force's 10 victories and national record performances have slowed his rivals' charge. Matco Tools Dodge Avenger driver Dean Skuza, Tony Pedregon, four-time finalist Tommy Johnson Jr. and Scotty Cannon are among Funny Car drivers looking to record an HRP victory. Coughlin will be seeking his third straight Pro Stock victory at this event aboard his Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile Cutlass. The Columbus, Ohio driver defeated Tom Martino for the prize last season. The young driver earned his first-ever Pro Stock victory here in the fall of 1997, defeating Mark Osborne. Coughlin has won four events this season and is working to secure a second place points finish. Other top candidates for victory in the 200 mph category include spring Houston Raceway Park Pro Stock winner Kurt Johnson, Richie Stevens, Jim Yates, Mark Pawuk and newly crowned champion Warren Johnson. Smith, from Minneapolis, dominated the Pro Stock Motorcycle category here last year, defeating Greg Underdahl in the final round. Smith posted a top speed of 188.04 on his Anoka-Ramsey Suzuki to highlight his successful weekend. While Smith tries to defend his victory, Matt Hines, Angelle Seeling and Antron Brown enter this race with NHRA Winston championship aspirations.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Cruz Pedregon , Tom Martino , Greg Underdahl , Tommy Johnson Jr.