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NHRA TEAMS GEARING FOR CELEBRATION OF SPEED AT O'REILLY NATIONALS BAYTOWN, Texas -- When optimum atmospheric conditions combine with a superior racing surface, the recipe is guaranteed to produce a festival of speed. No wonder NHRA's ...

NHRA TEAMS GEARING FOR CELEBRATION OF SPEED AT O'REILLY NATIONALS BAYTOWN, Texas -- When optimum atmospheric conditions combine with a superior racing surface, the recipe is guaranteed to produce a festival of speed. No wonder NHRA's powerbrokers of high performance are counting the days till they make their first visit of the season to Houston Raceway Park, consistently one of NHRA's quickest quarter-miles. National records in four professional categories will be up for grabs at the 12th annual O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil, April 8-11 at Houston Raceway Park, as teams tune their machines for levels of performance not yet seen by fans and observers of NHRA's Winston Drag Racing Series. The $1.7 million race is the fourth of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. The setting has the potential to produce the next memorable moment in NHRA history, as Top Fuel teams race to become the first to produce a run quicker than 4.50 seconds. It seems to be a trend that's becoming very fashionable these days. Everyone remembers Gainesville in 1992 when Kenny Bernstein became the first to run 300 mph. No one has forgot Eddie Hill's tremendous 4.99 second run at the Texas Motorplex in 1988 when he became the first in the fours. Last year fans stood in awe at the Motorplex when John Force ran 4.787 seconds in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, the first run quicker than 4.80 seconds in Funny Car. Most recently, Tony Schumacher joined the milestone club, shattering the 330 mph barrier with an amazing 330.23 mph blast aboard his Exide Batteries dragster. Team Mopar driver Mike Dunn, who holds the national elapsed time record at 4.503 seconds, leads the charge among Top Fuel drivers to achieve the milestone. Defending Winston champion Gary Scelzi, Miller Lite dragster driver Larry Dixon, five-time Winston champion Joe Amato and Schumacher have been running 4.50s all season and will challenge Dunn for the piece of history. Cory McClenathan, Tony Pedregon, Warren Johnson and David Nickens are the event's defending champions in their respective professional categories. McClenathan, from Anaheim, Calif., knocked off an upset-minded David Grubnic in the Top Fuel final one year ago. The MBNA dragster driver heads a group of race favorites, including Scelzi, Bernstein, Dunn and Amato. Gardena, Calif's Pedregon defeated boss Force in an exciting '98 final that remains the quickest side-by-side Funny Car race in NHRA history. Pedregon, winner of the season-opening AutoZone Winternationals, will be gunning for his second victory of the season. Force, who won at Phoenix and Gainesville, will be going for three in a row. Cruz Pedregon, Whit Bazemore, Ron Capps and Al Hofmann hope to begin a winning trend for the season. Buford, Ga.'s Johnson defeated Mike Thomas in a battle of Pontiac Firebirds to take the Pro Stock win at HRP last season. Johnson hopes to put his GM Goodwrench Firebird into the winner's circle for the second time this season with a strong performance. Winston points leader Kurt Johnson and the brother tandem of Jeg and Troy Coughlin are among the top Pro Stock contenders. Hometown favorite David Nickens was a popular Pro Stock Truck winner last year in the category's first official event. Nickens has turned the truck driving duties over to son Bo while he focuses on managing the Team Mopar Pro Stock team. Pre-race truck favorites include '98 runner-up and Winternationals winner Randy Daniels, Brad Jeter, defending Winston champion Larry Kopp and former Pro Stock racer Mark Osborne, winner of the recent Mac Tools Gatornationals.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Troy Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Brad Jeter , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Larry Kopp , Randy Daniels , David Grubnic , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan