Indianapolis: Teams race for part history

CLERMONT, Ind. - Emotions will be high as NHRA teams work to become a part of drag racing history at the sport's most prestigious event, the 46th annual U.S. Nationals. A look at the long list of past winners of the legendary ...

CLERMONT, Ind. - Emotions will be high as NHRA teams work to become a part of drag racing history at the sport's most prestigious event, the 46th annual U.S. Nationals. A look at the long list of past winners of the legendary event reveals some of the biggest names in the sport. Drivers in five NHRA pro categories hope to join the sport's most coveted Who's Who list with a victory. In Top Fuel and Funny Car, past winners include Don 'The Snake' Prudhomme, 'Big Daddy' Don Garlits, Jack Chrisman, Shirley Muldowney and Connie Kalitta, among others. The Pro Stock honor roll of former winners includes seven-time winner Bob Glidden, Ronnie Sox, Wayne Gapp, Don Nicholson and the late Lee Shepherd.

A victory at the $2.6 million race, Aug. 30-Sept. 4, at Indianapolis Raceway Park, could definitely make drag racing dreams come true for many. It is the 17th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Last season those dreams were answered for two first time winners. Frank Pedregon and Mike Coughlin tasted victory at Indy for the first time in 1999, while Cory McClenathan, Warren Johnson and Matt Hines added additional U.S. Nationals trophies to their collections. Pedregon, from Phillips Ranch, Calif., defeated Jim Epler for his first victory in the historic race last season while driving for legendary Funny Car owner 'Big' Jim Dunn. Pedregon will try for a repeat behind the wheel of one of the two Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebirds owned by Chuck Worsham. Epler, now driving the WWF Racing Chevy Camaro, will also be among the top contenders. Three-time U.S. Nationals winner John Force will be a top threat as always, as will Winston championship challenger Jerry Toliver, driver of the other WWF Racing machine. McClenathan, from Anaheim, Calif., defeated rookie Andrew Cowin for the Top Fuel crown last season, his second Indy title. While McClenathan hopes for similar winning magic, several other past winners of the prestigious event -- Gary Scelzi, Larry Dixon, Kenny Bernstein and Joe Amato to name a few - are ready to add another U.S. Nationals victory to their resumes. Defending Winston champion Tony Schumacher has been to a U.S. Nationals final round - during his first-ever Top Fuel start - but didn't get the job done. He'll definitely be looking to add this trophy to his collection.

Muldowney, the 1982 winner of the prestigious event, will be making a special one race return to NHRA competition as she looks to add to her 18 career national event victories, the most by a female in the history of the NHRA. The legendary 60-year-old driver last competed at an NHRA national event in 1997 at the Texas Motorplex. She is the only female to win a Top Fuel title at the U.S. Nationals in the history of the sport. Johnson, from Buford, Ga., scored his sixth U.S. Nationals Pro Stock victory, defeating former crew member Greg Anderson in the final round. Johnson, who won this event four years straight from 1992-95, can never be counted out here. Runaway Winston points leader Jeg Coughlin Jr. is looking for his first U.S. Nationals win, while other top threats include Jim Yates, Mark Pawuk, Kurt Johnson and Ron Krisher. Three-time defending NHRA Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Hines, from Trinidad, Colo., used a holeshot start to defeat the quicker Suzuki of Angelle Seeling in the final. Those two riders are the obvious favorites once again, while Antron Brown, Craig Treble, a resurgent Dave Schultz and energetic Steve Johnson will also be top contenders in the two-wheel category. Columbus, Ohio's Coughlin claimed his first Pro Stock Truck victory and first national event win at the U.S. Nationals by defeating Scott Perin in an all Chevy S-10 final round. While those two drivers hope for a rematch, Chevy drivers Bob Panella and Randy Daniels will try to extend their season-long battle into Indianapolis. Daniels has claimed five victories, while Panella has won three times and leads the Winston point standings. Greg Stanfield, Steve Johns and Rick Jones are also among the category leaders. In addition to the five professional categories, competition will also be fierce in two special bonus events. Qualified Funny Car and Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors will race for bonus cash in the Budweiser Shootout and Holley Pro Stock Motorcycle Dominator Duel during the U.S. Nationals. Ron Capps, driver of the U.S. Tobacco Chevrolet Camaro, is the defending winner of the $100,000 Big Budweiser Shootout, while Hines is seeking his fifth straight win in the Holley Pro Stock Motorcycle Dominator Duel.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Antron Brown , Frank Pedregon , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Bob Panella , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson , Andrew Cowin , Ron Krisher , Randy Daniels , Mike Coughlin , Bob Glidden , Don Garlits , Craig Treble , Cory McClenathan , Greg Stanfield , Chuck Worsham , Steve Johnson , Steve J