Indianapolis: Golden Anniversary weekend preview

NHRA's 500th National Event Gearing Up For Historic Weekend In Indianapolis During 50th Anniversary Season CLERMONT, Ind. - The fact that the NHRA is in the midst of its 'Golden Anniversary' is enough reason for celebration. Being able to...

NHRA's 500th National Event Gearing Up For Historic Weekend In Indianapolis During 50th Anniversary Season

CLERMONT, Ind. - The fact that the NHRA is in the midst of its 'Golden Anniversary' is enough reason for celebration. Being able to hold the most prestigious drag race in the world in the motorsport-rich city of Indianapolis is always an added bonus. Include the fact that the upcoming Mac Tools U.S. Nationals is the NHRA's 500th national event in the 50 year-history, and it becomes an NHRA event of epic proportions.

Competitors in all five of NHRA's professional categories will try and stay focused and earn as many points as possible towards winning a Winston championship, and go down in the history archives as the winner of arguably the most esteemed drag race ever.

More than 1,000 competitors and thousands of fans will make the pilgrimage to the Midwest for the historic 47th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, Aug. 29-Sept. 3 at the famed Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Tony Schumacher, Jim Epler, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Antron Brown and Bob Panella are the defending winners of $2.6 million race, the 18th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag racing series.

Schumacher made an impressive debut in the first event in his U.S. Army dragster driving the 6,000 horsepower vehicle to victory over the upstart Gary Clapshaw in the Top Fuel final. This season the battle of the beers rages on as five-time Winston champ and the driver of the Budweiser King dragster Kenny Bernstein continues to battle Larry Dixon and his Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite dragster for Top Fuel supremacy. Three-time Winston champ Gary Scelzi, Yankee dragster driver Mike Dunn and Mac Tools dragster pilot Doug Kalitta will challenge the beer duo in the standings. Legendary "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, an eight-time Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner and three-time Winston champ, will make his return to NHRA competition for the first time since 1992, behind the wheel of a dragster owned by last season's runner-up, Gary Clapshaw. Garlits' mission is to add a four-second run and 300-mph speed to his distinguished racing resume. Another NHRA legend, Shirley Muldowney, a winner here in 1982 and also a three-time Winston champion, will be competing once again at Indy as she steers the other Mac Tools dragster with hopes of returning to the days of glory.

NHRA veteran Jim Epler visited the famed winner's circle at IRP for the first time in his storied career as he was able to reach the finish line first in a tire-smoking Funny Car battle against Whit Bazemore in the all-Chevy final. The 10-time Winston champ John Force has all but locked up his record-setting 11th series crown, but would love to add the trophy from this significant event to his already impressive collection. Bazemore, Epler, teammates Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr., and Force's two team drivers -- Tony Pedregon and Gary Densham -- want to deny the champ this win and etch their name into the NHRA annals.

The lucrative Budweiser Shootout also will be held at IRP for Funny Car competitors. Over the past year drivers have earned points based on their qualifying positions and the top eight will compete for the $100,000 bonus. Last season Force captured his fifth Budweiser Shootout title and enters the 20th Budweiser Shootout as the favorite over teammate Pedregon and two-time winner Capps.

Columbus, Ohio's Jeg Coughlin Jr. used a holeshot to score an impressive win in one of the most extraordinary Pro Stock seasons in NHRA history when he defeated the quicker Ron Krisher in the final. Coughlin needs the win in Indy to keep his hopes of repeating as Winston champ alive. The father-son tandem of Warren and Kurt Johnson, Jim Yates, Mark Pawuk and the two Dodge cars driven by Darrell Alderman and Mark Osborne all will be in contention in the ultra-competitive category where one-thousandth of a second can determine a winner.

Brown capped off an impressive weekend with a Pro Stock Motorcycle final round win over John Smith who was riding for Dave Schultz, who recently lost his battle with cancer. Brown has been impressive but will be challenged by the defending Winston champ Angelle Savoie and three-time Winston champ Matt Hines. Savoie recently became the most prolific female winner in NHRA history passing Muldowney on the win list.

In addition, the Holly Dominator Duel for the motorcycles will be held on Saturday of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Brown scored his first-ever win and picked up the $15,000 purse in the bonus program when he defeated Savoie in the final. By winning the Duel and the event, Brown took advantage of the $10,000 'double-up' bonus offered by the NHRA bringing his event purse to more than $35,000.

Panella defeated John Coughlin in the final to earn the Pro Stock Truck win. The two-time Winston champ will have to go through a talented group of drivers including Randy Daniels, Greg Stanfield and teammate Jeff Gracia, if he's to repeat his victory from a year ago.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 47th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Call NHRA at (800) 884-6472, or Ticketmaster for ticket information. Tickets also are available at nhra.com.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 31 and will continue at 12:45 and 4:35 p.m. on Sept. 1 and at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 2. Final professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sept. 3. Eliminations for the Holley Pro Stock Motorcycle Dominator Duel will be held at 12:30, 2:20 and 4:30 p.m. on sept. 1. The elimination rounds for the Budweiser Shootout will be held at 12:30, 2:20 and 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 2.

* TELEVISION: ESPN will televise three hours of eliminations at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 3. ESPN2 will televise three hours of early round coverage at 8:30 a.m. (ET) on Sept. 2. ESPN2 also will televise 90 minutes of qualifying highlights at noon (ET) on Sept. 1. ESPN2 will televise 90 minutes of coverage of the special Budweiser Shootout for Funny Cars at 1 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 2.

ON THE WEB: NHRA news, photos and driver information available at www.nhra.com.

-NHRA-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Antron Brown , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Ron Krisher , Randy Daniels , Gary Densham , Don Garlits , Don Prudhomme , Greg Stanfield , Tommy Johnson Jr.