Joliet II: Pre-race notes

The second annual Craftsman 75th Anniversary NHRA Nationals presented by Racing Champions, the 20th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in three categories earn points leading to 2002 NHRA ...

The second annual Craftsman 75th Anniversary NHRA Nationals presented by Racing Champions, the 20th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in three categories earn points leading to 2002 NHRA POWERade championships.

Route 66 Raceway, Joliet, Ill. The track is located 30 miles southwest of Chicago on Route 53 (historic Route 66), approximately three miles south of the I-80 in Joliet. Take I-80 to exit #132A (Route 53 south) to the track.


SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is scheduled for 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 followed by two sessions at noon and 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 28. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sept. 29.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the second annual Craftsman 75th Anniversary Nationals. Call Route 66 Raceway at (815) 727-RACE for ticket information. Tickets are also available at and

TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise 90 minutes qualifying highlights at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 28. ESPN2 will televise 150 minutes eliminations at 8 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 29.

ON THE WEB: NHRA news, photos and driver information available at


**KALITTA'S FIRST WIN OF SEASON BOOSTS CONFIDENCE: NHRA Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta scored his first win of the season in his Mac Tools dragster, ending a winless streak that had lasted more than a year. En route to the victory, Kalitta defeated current points leader Larry Dixon in the Miller Lite dragster and defending series champ Kenny Bernstein in the Budweiser dragster. It was his ninth career victory.

"Connie (Kalitta, crew chief) and Jim (Oberhofer, co-crew chief) had our car running on a rail in Reading (Pa.)," said Kalitta. "It was really fun to go to the starting line each time knowing that our car was going to give me an incredible ride. Our Mac Tools dragster team proved to everyone that we could run with, and even outrun, the best in the business.

"Racing one of those beer cars at an event is tough, but racing against both on the same day is daunting. We knew that we were running well, but we also knew that Bernstein and his team would come to line (in the final round) ready to attack."

**THE PROFESSOR INCREASING HIS RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM: Six-time NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson is noted for his dedication and strong work ethic. Although a seventh championship is still possible this season, the 59-year-old Johnson is already contemplating the 2003 season.

"We're doing development work on cylinder heads and manifolds," said Johnson. "We're also working on a camshaft design that we believe will significantly raise the engine's rpm range.

"We haven't had an opportunity to do serious R&D for several years, so I'm excited to be back working on engines. With the time we devoted to developing the Grand Am and Cavalier bodies and working on our chassis program, our engine projects have been on the back burner. We don't have an army of people to do that work for us, but because (son) Kurt and I have our hands on every part, we can see trends and tendencies that ultimately help us to develop better engines."

**BAZEMORE FLASHBACK: Last year Whit Bazemore drove his Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird to a career-best No. 2 finish in the final Funny Car points standings. A main factor in his remarkable finish was his record-setting performance at the inaugural Craftsman 75th Anniversary Nationals. The Indianapolis resident earned the maximum points available (138) by earning the top qualifying position, establishing a national record for elapsed time (4.750 seconds), and winning the event. After posting a strong runner-up effort to Tony Pedregon in Reading, Pa., last weekend, Bazemore would like to earn his third victory at the Joliet, Ill. drag strip and keep his positive momentum going into the season's final stretch to try and improve on his fifth place points position.

"I have to say coming off a DNQ in Indy, the Matco Tools team just did an incredible job - bouncing back from some real adversity," Bazemore said. "The bottom line is that we hate to lose, but they (Pedregon's team) did a great job and we came up a little short. I said coming into (Reading) that this Matco Tools team is very mad and very motivated and we're going to make things happen. We're making progress and we're not finished yet. We're going to go to Memphis and try to do it again, but take it one step further."

**KRISHER UPS QUALIFYING STREAK TO CATEGORY-LEADING 66: In a category where it is routine for a Pro Stock driver to win an event one weekend, then not qualify for the 16-car field the next, Ron Krisher has qualified his Eagle One Chevy Cavalier for a Pro Stock-leading 66 straight events. He became the leader when six-time series champ Warren Johnson failed to make the field at the event at Sonoma, Ca., his first DNQ (did not qualify) since 1987 ending a streak of 303 consecutive starts. Krisher's last DNQ was the 1999 NHRA season-finale at Pomona, Calif.

"We've got a bunch of people working together to come up with ideas on how to make this Eagle One Cavalier run better," said the 54-year-old Krisher. "You don't know from track-to-track how these motors will work. Oh, sure, you've got an idea, but sometimes other people will gain more than you will gain. We've got a lot of horsepower, and a tremendous engine development program, and a tremendous group of people working together to make it happen."

**BERNSTEIN'S TRACK: Of the six NHRA national events that have been contested at Route 66 Raceway since the supertrack opened in 1998, Kenny Bernstein has been a Top Fuel finalist five times, including last season's inaugural fall race when he defeated Darrell Russell in the final. Bernstein's run at the Chicagoland track has included four victories and one runner-up finish, for a 19-2 overall record. The one time Bernstein didn't make it to the final he lost in the first round, to Andrew Cowin.

**QUOTABLE: Miller Lite dragster crew chief Dick LaHaie on Kenny Bernstein's pursuit of Larry Dixon in the points standings: "You don't want to lose any round. (Losing in the second round at Reading, Pa.) was a real hard one considering Bernstein seems to have luck on his side for the last five to six races. He should have been out in the second round, but he seems to keep marching on and that's makes it hard. It's not that we're running badly, it's just we're kind of on the wrong side of the ladder at times."

--Defending Top Fuel champion Kenny Bernstein on catching Larry Dixon: "We have a shot in the last five races to get close and win the championship. We were lucky today on the second round and that helped us. But points are what it's all about, and we're certainly in the game to finish it up."

--Top Fuel driver Doug Herbert on his standoff with part-time NHRA competitor Clay Millican. Neither driver would pull up to the starting line in their recent match-up at Reading, Pa., and chief starter Rick Stewart ordered both drivers to shut their engines off so they could refuel: "We've raced him twice this year and each time he's tried to burn us down. I told him (before the run) that I was going to go right in, but I wasn't staging first. He wouldn't go so I just put my car in park. I was just going to sit there."

--Pro Stock racer Bruce Allen, who has two wins on the year including the June race at Route 66 Raceway where he defeated Tom Hammonds on a holeshot, on the competitiveness of the category: "We probably won't have 15 different winners, but the competition will be even tougher. Every weekend you're going to have to beat people that are just as capable of beating you. I think from a points standpoint it'll be tougher to win than it ever has been just because there are so many cars that run the same. And the fields are deep. You can list 24 cars and anyone of them is capable of winning the race. It's fun to compete like that because it prepares you and keeps you on your toes. The competition keeps you from becoming complacent."

--Funny Car driver Scotty Cannon, who was the runner-up to Del Worsham earlier this year at route 66 Raceway and had a foul start at St. Louis against John Force and was disqualified, on what he'd do following his first career win on the NHRA circuit: "I don't know what I will do when it happens. I will probably keep going, drive the car back down the return road. Not turn it off. I don't know. I've won a lot of races and hopefully that can keep me in a state of mind of when I used to win. I'm not going to let one win take me to the highest high because you have to come back down and you might see the lowest lows. I like to be a middle of the road guy. I will enjoy the win, by far, a whole bunch. I just hope I keep my composure. It's been a long time since I won a race."


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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Clay Millican , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Doug Kalitta , Andrew Cowin , Ron Krisher , Scotty Cannon , Dick LaHaie , Bruce Allen , Tom Hammonds