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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 TALENTED, DEEP FIELDS COULD PRODUCE NHRA RECORDS AT HOUSTON BAYTOWN, Texas -- There's no question that the performance bar has been on a steady climb this season...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761

TALENTED, DEEP FIELDS COULD PRODUCE NHRA RECORDS AT HOUSTON

BAYTOWN, Texas -- There's no question that the performance bar has been on a steady climb this season in NHRA Winston Drag Racing.

There's also no doubt that a weekend of racing at Houston could send the performance bar through the roof.

Every NHRA record will be in jeopardy at the 10th annual, $1,631,200 Slick 50 Nationals presented by Western Auto, March 20-23 at Houston Raceway Park. The race is the fourth event of the 22-event, $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series in 1997.

The performance binge started quickly this season. Three NHRA national records were set at the season-opening Chief Auto Parts Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. Joe Amato set a Top Fuel elapsed-time record of 4.564 seconds in the Keystone Automotive Warehouse Dragster, Shelly Anderson set a Top Fuel speed record of 316.90 mph in the Parts America Dragster, and Warren Johnson lowered the Pro Stock elapsed-time record to 6.927 in the GM Performance Parts Pontiac.

A quick glimpse at the results at the second race of the season, the ATSCO Nationals, might indicate that the mind-numbing performance of Pomona was fleeting. Hardly. A closer look reveals that nearly every driver, not just the front-runners, has improved their performance this year.

The Top Fuel field at the ATSCO Nationals in Phoenix was the quickest in NHRA history. Eddie Hill was the No. 16 qualifier at 4.802 seconds in the Pennzoil Dragster. That time would have qualified Hill in the No. 7 spot last year at the Slick 50 Nationals.

Seven Funny Car drivers qualified at 5.100 seconds or quicker at the ATSCO Nationals. Only three were quicker than 5.138 last year at the Slick 50 Nationals. Pro Stock also was tight at Phoenix, with eight-thousandths of a second separating the first and 16th qualifiers.

There are many reasons behind the surge of early-season performance.

First, Top Fuel and Funny Car teams have learned the nuances of their clutch discs, probably the most important part of the process that converts 6,000 horsepower into quickness and speed.

Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle teams have spent countless hours squeezing more horsepower from their normally- aspirated engines. Chassis development also has moved to the forefront in these categories. New ideas such as the double- framerail Pro Stock chassis used by Warren Johnson are being embraced.

The performances at Pomona and Phoenix should be repeated and even improved upon at Houston Raceway Park. The track is considered one of the quickest and fastest on the NHRA circuit, as all categories thrive in the sea-level elevation and oxygen- rich air of southeast Texas.

At least one NHRA national record has fallen every year since 1992 at the Slick 50 Nationals. That's a record unmatched by any other early race on the NHRA schedule.

--Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. March 21 and continues at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. March 22. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. March 23. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 10 a.m. March 20.

--Tickets: Tickets are available for the Slick 50 Nationals. Call Houston Raceway Park at (281) 383-2666 or check the track's World Wide Web site at http://www.houstonraceway.com for ticket information. Tickets also can be purchased from Ticketmaster. To order through Ticketmaster, call (713) 629-3700.

--On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of live, final-round competition from the Slick 50 Nationals at 4 p.m. (CST) March 23. ESPN2 also will televise Friday-night qualifying with a two-hour, same-day show starting at 11:30 p.m. (CST) March 21. All-day, live coverage of final eliminations will be shown on pay-per-view from 10:30-6 p.m. (CST) March 23. The telecast costs $14.95. Viewers must order the programming through their satellite or cable provider. -30-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Joe Amato , Shelly Anderson