Las Vegas II: Notes of interest, schedule

Second annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals, the 22nd of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in four categories earn points leading to 2002 NHRA POWERade championships. Sportsman competitors...

Second annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals, the 22nd of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in four categories earn points leading to 2002 NHRA POWERade championships.

Sportsman competitors in five categories earn points leading to 2002 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series championships.

The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, Nevada. From the Las Vegas Strip or McCarran International Airport, take I-15 north approximately 15 miles north of downtown to Speedway Blvd. Turn right.

This high-elevation track features one of the smoothest surfaces on the circuit, which combined with the right weather conditions can provide the recipe for producing some awesome performances from Top Fuel and Funny Car teams. National record opportunities do exist, as the track records for the nitro categories are very near the national marks. The naturally-aspirated Pro Stock and Pro Stock Bike categories, however, work extra hard to find the correct tune-up for maximum performance in the thin air. While all four pro category championship crowns could be presented at this event, only one is likely to be sealed. Angelle Savoie enters the event 173 points ahead of second place rider Craig Treble. She needs to leave the event with a 139 point lead to capture her third championship, tying her with Top Fuel legend Shirley Muldowney for most NHRA chamionships won by a female.

Notes of Interest:

Larry Dixon leads retiring Kenny Bernstein by 108 points entering the penultimate race on the 23-event schedule. Dixon needs to gain 31 points more than Bernstein during the weekend to clinch his first-ever NHRA Top Fuel crown. Bernstein needs Dixon to experience some bad luck and go on to win the event to keep his title hopes alive. Bernstein has had great luck at this track since it opened in 2000 and would love to hit the jackpot and carry the championship chase on to the season's final event in Pomona, Calif. The Funny Car crown is up for grabs in a big way, as John Force leads Tony Pedregon by 13 points in the closest points chase of NHRA's four pro categories. Technically there is a scenario in which Force could clinch his 12th NHRA crown, but highly unlikely given the way Pedregon has performed in the last four events. In Pro Stock, Jeg Coughlin also can clinch the championship by earning 31 points more than his closest challenger, Jim Yates. Angelle Savoie is in good position to clinch her third Pro Stock Bike crown in Las Vegas, as she leads Craig Treble by 173 points. In order to clinch, she needs to finish the race with a points lead of 139 or more.

Three Drivers Honor Legendary Rock Band 'KISS' at The Strip: The legendary rock band KISS will adorn the paint scheme of three different vehicles when the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals begin at The Strip at LVMS. As part of its 30th anniversary, the popular rock band will be featured on Doug Kalitta's Mac Tools dragster, Tony Pedregon's Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang in the Funny Car ranks, and the ACDelco Chevy Cavalier driven by Pro Stock competitor Kurt Johnson. In addition to the special paint schemes, KISS members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley will serve as the Grand Marshal and Honorary Starter for the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals. "Life should be hot and heavy," said Simmons. "Engines that shoot flames, loose cars and fast women-- I'm there."

Muldowney to Compete at The Strip -- NHRA Top Fuel legend Shirley Muldowney will be making her first appearance at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The drag racing icon was a pioneer for females in motorsports and is a three-time Top Fuel champion with 18 career victories. The 62-year-old Muldowney will be competing in her fifth NHRA event of 2002 behind the wheel of her Mac Tools dragster, which will be adorned with a special paint scheme featuring the character Lucy from the famous Peanuts comic strip created by the late Charles Schulz.

A Run to Remember -- Kenny Bernstein will be making his final appearance as a driver at The Strip, a track where he has experienced tremendous success at since the first NHRA event there in 2000. Out of four events held at The Strip prior to the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals, Bernstein has two wins, a runner-up finish and two No. 1 qualifying efforts. Bernstein is retiring from the cockpit at the end of this season and will turn the driving duties of the Budweiser King dragster over to his son Brandon. A six-time NHRA series champion with 65 victories, he is the only driver in the history of the sport to win NHRA crowns in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.

Angelle Savoie Trifecta - Pro Stock Bike rider Angelle Savoie will try and tie Shirley Muldowney for the most NHRA championships by a female competitor. The 32-year-old already has the most NHRA national event wins by a female competitor (27) and can clinch her third straight NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Bike championship at The Strip. She would become the ninth competitor in NHRA history to win three consecutive championships in a professional category and only the second in the two-wheel category (Matt Hines).

World's Fastest Couple-- Rhonda Hartman-Smith and her husband John Smith, who also serves as his wife's crew chief, compete against each other in separate dragsters to create an unlikely rivalry in the Top Fuel category. The couple travel with their daughter Megan to each NHRA national event. Rhonda's father, Virgil, is the team owner and also works on both cars, making each race weekend a family affair.

The Racing Chef-- Nicky Morse keeps the Jeg's Racing Pro Stock team running at full speed during each NHRA national event. Morse, a professionally trained chef, prepares meals at the track for the team in his state-of-the-art kitchen built inside an 18-wheel transporter.

NBA Fast Break-- Tom Hammonds and Larry Nance are former NBA players who have turned to a second sport -- drag racing -- to get their competitive fix. Hammonds recentlyretired from the Minnesota Timberwolves and Nance was the first NBA Slam Dunk champion in 1984. Both drivers had to have their race cars specially-constructed to fit their larger frames.

Safety Safari-- These men and women are a team of professionals dedicated to making the sport safe for the competitors. Spend the day or a few hours with this crew and watch as they take care of preparing the race track for competition, responding to crashes and cleaning up oil and debris on the racing surface.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying will run at 2:45 and 5:45 p.m. on Oct. 25 and will continue at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. on Oct. 26. Final professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Oct. 27.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the second annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals by calling (800) 644-4444, or (702) 474-4000, or visit lvms.com.

TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise one hour of early qualifying highlights at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on Oct. 26 and another two hours of qualifying highlight at midnight on Oct. 27. ESPN will televise two hours of eliminations at 5 p.m. (ET) on Oct. 27.

-www.nhra.com.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Matt Hines , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Doug Kalitta , Craig Treble , Tom Hammonds , Larry Nance