Joliet II: Round nineteen preview

WHAT: Third annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals is the 19th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in three categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA POWERade championships. Sportsman ...

WHAT:
Third annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals is the 19th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in three categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA POWERade championships.
Sportsman competitors in seven categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series championships.

WHERE:
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.

WHEN:
Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 25-28.

WHAT TO EXPECT:
The name of the game this year is weather. As the NHRA suffered through three consecutive rain delays, the teams will be anxious to get to Chicago, and hopeful that the weather will cooperate. The U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis was held a week later than originally scheduled because of heavy rain. One of the races leading up to the CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals is the Lucas Oil Nationals in Reading, Pa. That race was postponed because of heavy rain and scheduled to run the first weekend of October. The following event at Memphis, Tenn., also was postponed for one day due to rain. So as the NHRA competitors race around the country in search of dry weather, the POWERade championship points chase is still hot. As summer's heat gives way to cooler fall temperatures, the changing of the seasons in Illinois not only provides a scenic backdrop, but prime racing conditions for drag racing's elite. Top Fuel points leader Larry Dixon has been a marked man for nearly two seasons. The driver of the Miller Lite dragster finds himself atop the points standings as the 2003 campaign nears its end. However, Dixon's quest for his second consecutive Top Fuel championship won't be easy as the Kalittas have teamed up to halt Dixon's title hopes. Defending event champion Doug Kalitta will have a familiar face around as cousin and two-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Scott hopes to give Doug the edge to win his first title. Also, don't look past Tony Schumacher and his U.S. Army dragster. Schumacher and newly hired crew chief Alan Johnson have teamed up to win three races in four final rounds out of the last 10 national events. The Funny Car chase is shaping up to be a battle between points leader Tony Pedregon and Whit Bazemore, two fierce rivals. Pedregon, who won six of the first 12 events this season, has been winless since mid-June, while Bazemore's consistent Lee Beard tune-up and recent victory at Memphis has put him atop the POWERade point standings for the first time in his career. Greg Anderson has opened up a commanding lead over second-place driver Kurt Johnson in Pro Stock after claiming nine victories in 11 final round appearances. If Anderson's performance edge continues, the North Carolinian looks sure to win his first NHRA championship. Anderson must win three of the remaining events to pass Darrell Alderman for most Pro Stock victories in one season (11).

FAST FACTS:
Route 66 Raceway is the first true "Stadium of Drag Racing" in NHRA history...Hometown racer Tony Schumacher earned his first win at the home track outside of Chicago in the spring...he had gone winless at home in seven previous attempts... Top Fuel driver Kenny Bernstein may like Route 66 Raceway more than anyone else. The driver of the Budweiser dragster has three wins in five final rounds at Route 66 Raceway, including the inaugural event win for the fall race in 2001...Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson has never been to the final round at Route 66 Raceway...Troy Coughlin, however, has been to the final round in Pro Stock twice (1999, 2000) but only in the spring event, and has yet to earn a victory in Joliet...Greg Anderson, Kurt Johnson and Jeg Coughlin are the top three Pro Stock drivers in the NHRA POWERade standings and also are the only three drivers to qualify for ever NHRA national event this season. Coughlin holds the longest consecutive qualifying streak in the category at 31 straight events.

NOTES OF INTEREST:
The NHRA Experience - Unlike any other form of major motorsport, the NHRA grants unprecedented access to each and every one of its fans. From watching the action of 6,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragsters and the 200-mph Pro Stock cars, to the unlimited access to the pit areas of the NHRA's top stars. Fans get the chance to get up-close-and-personal with drag racing icons like John Force, Don 'The Snake' Prudhomme, and Kenny Bernstein. They get the chance to meet and greet the next wave of NHRA superstars like Larry Dixon, Tony Schumacher, Darrell Russell, Tony Pedregon, Del Worsham, Jeg Coughlin and Angelle Savoie. The manufacturer midway provides an on-site shopping experience for the latest technology in the automotive aftermarket. The newest addition to the midway area is the exciting POWERade interactive display. Fans can take their picture wearing an authentic team shirt from their favorite team, meet different drivers during scheduled autograph sessions, spin the back wheel of a Top Fuel dragster to win various prizes, including a ride in a special vehicle that gives fans a taste of life on the quarter-mile by putting them track-side for a few passes.

Regarding Weather -- In drag racing weather plays a vital role as crew chiefs examine data and tune their race cars for maximum performance. Most teams have sophisticated weather stations on board their team transporters so they can access up-to-the-minute weather information as well as forecasts.

Kenny Bernstein Comes Out of Retirement to Sub for Injured Son-- Six-time NHRA champion Kenny Bernstein returned to the cockpit at Topeka, Kan., following his son Brandon's crash at Englishtown, N.J. which has sidelined the younger Bernstein for the remainder of 2003. At the time of the crash, Brandon was second in points with three victories on the year. Kenny showed no effects of his retirement in November of 2002. At his first event the 58-year-old Bernstein qualified No. 2 and advanced to the semifinals before falling to Doug Kalitta.

NHRA Stock on the Rise - The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series has been experiencing growth that is unprecedented in its 52-year history. The television coverage of the fastest form of auto racing on the planet is continuing to gain viewers and ratings in the third year of an exclusive partnership between NHRA and ESPN. That is due in large part to the innovative technology ESPN has introduced to the sensory-filled sport of 8,000 horsepower drag racing and the stellar competition that has been taking place on the quarter-mile drag strip. This also has presented an increasing amount of fan appeal, which draws new sponsors or increased support form current sponsors in various capacities. The NHRA and POWERade, a subsidiary of the Coca-Cola Co., joined forces prior to the 2002 season with high hopes and great expectations. The partnership has opened up new doors for marketing and advertising strategies that were not available in the past. Combining the product NHRA has to offer with the business capabilities of POWERade, the sport of drag racing is reaching new heights. The 23-race, $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing series has evolved beyond the wildest dreams of the organization's founder, 90-year-old Wally Parks, and the NHRA continues to increase its presence and influence in the world of motorsports.

GENERAL INFORMATION

* SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is scheduled for 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 26 followed by two sessions at noon and 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 27. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sept. 28.

* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the third annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals. Call Route 66 Raceway at (815) 727-RACE for ticket information. Tickets also are available at ticketmaster.com and nhra.com.

* TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 1:30 a.m. (ET) on Sept. 28. NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute weekly magazine show, will air at 11 a.m. (ET) on Sept. 28. On ESPN2 before 150 minutes of eliminations are televised on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 28.

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

-nhra-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson