Las Vegas II: Round twenty-two preview

WHAT: Third 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 2003 NHRA POWERade championships. Sportsman ...

WHAT:
Third 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 2003 NHRA POWERade championships.
Sportsman competitors in five categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series championships.

WHERE:
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.

WHEN:
Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 23-26.

WHAT TO EXPECT: 2With two of the four 2003 POWERade championships and bonus checks in the hands of Larry Dixon (Top Fuel) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), all eyes will be focused on the battle for the Funny Car championship between points leader Tony Pedregon and second place driver Whit Bazemore. After losing his season-long points lead to Bazemore in September a week later, Pedregon regained his place atop the standings after winning his seventh race of the year at Joliet, Ill. Entering the fall event at The Strip, Pedregon holds a 114-point edge over Bazemore and his Matco Tools Dodge Stratus. Bazemore can't be solely focused on chasing down Pedregon because Pedregon's teammate and 12-time series champion John Force is only 63 points behind Bazemore after earning his 109th career victory at Dallas. Dixon clinched his second straight Top Fuel title with a semifinal finish at Texas Motorplex earlier this month. The Miller Lite driver has 58 round wins this season and looks to reach his goal of 60 round victories in 2003. If Dixon is to reach his goal, he needs to avoid the likes of Tony Schumacher, who set the E.T. record at 4.441-seconds in his U.S. Army dragster earlier this month; Scott Kalitta, who clocked the fastest run in NHRA history (333.95-mph) in Dallas; and legend Shirley Muldowney, who will make her next-to-last career start at LVMS following a 30-year career in Top Fuel. In the Pro Stock Bike ranks, points leader Geno Scali holds a 151-point margin over second place rider Shawn Gann. Scali must leave the Vegas event leading by 139 points in order to earn his first career POWERade championship. Greg Anderson has dominated the factory Hot Rods the entire 2003 campaign. Anderson has won a category-best 10 races, set both ends of the performance records in New Jersey in May (6.670 seconds at 207.18 mph) and secured his first NHRA championship at Dallas. Now, the only thing left for Anderson to accomplish is the category single season win mark set by Darrell Alderman with 11 victories in 1991. If And erson hopes to win the final two events, he'll need to hold off 2002 Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin and second place driver Kurt Johnson.

FAST FACTS:
Larry Dixon is the fifth driver in NHRA history to win at least two consecutive NHRA series championships inTop Fuel. Dixon joins Gary Scelzi ('97-'98), Scott Kalitta ('94-'95), Joe Amato ('90-'93) and Don Garlits ('85-'86). Amato is the only driver to win three consecutive Top Fuel championships...Either Tony Pedregon or Whit Bazemore will become only the 10th different NHRA Funny Car champion since 1974. Pedregon could join his brother Cruz as the only two drivers other than Force to win the Funny Car title since 1990... NHRA POWERade champion Greg Anderson has already had one of the most impressive seasons in NHRA Pro Stock history. In addition to establishing the national record for both time (6.670 seconds) and speed (207.18 mph), 10 victories on the year (one shy of the NHRA Pro Stock single-season record, Darrell Alderman, 1991), 13 final round appearances (one shy of the NHRA Pro Stock single-season record, Jeg Coughlin, 2001; Alderman, 1991) and has 12 No. 1 qualifying positions (third all-time to Warren Johnson, 15, 1999). He also has established the track record for time at nine events this season, and at 12 tracks for speed...Geno Scali could capture his first NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Bike championship of his career if he can leave the ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a 139-point lead or greater over his closest competitor in the standings. Scali would break a streak of three consecutive titles won by Angelle Savoie. Prior to Savoie's three straight crowns, Matt Hines won three consecutive championships in the two-wheel category.

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 losing to Doug Kalitta. He earned his first victory since his return to competition at Chicago a few weeks ago. It was his 36th career Top Fuel win, moving him into second place on the all-time Top Fuel wins list, one victory ahead of Don Garlits.

NHRA Stock on the Rise - The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series has been experiencing growth that is unprecedented in its 52-year history. Recently, in a survey published in SportsBusiness Journal, NHRA was ranked as the best value for the money by sponsors in a report that included 15 other major sports, including the NFL, NASCAR, NBA and the PGA Tour. 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 6,000 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.

ABOUT THE TRACK:
The state-of-the-art Las Vegas Motor Speedway is regarded as one of the premier motorsports facilities in the country. Located on 1,600 acres, LVMS officially opened in 1995. The multi-purpose motorsports complex includes a 1.5-mile Superspeedway, half-mile dirt oval, a 3/8 mile paved oval, a quarter-mile drag strip, road courses and various go-kart and motocross tracks. Speedway Motorsports Inc., purchased the facility in 1998. The drag strip, which is called 'The Strip', was completed in the spring of 2000, featured the first of its kind corporate suites located along the back of the spectator grandstands. A foot tunnel underneath the drag strip allows spectators easy access between the west and east grandstands.

ACDELCO LAS VEGAS NHRA NATIONALS GENERAL INFORMATION:

* SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying will run at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 24 and will continue at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 25. Final professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Oct. 26.

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

* TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise 90 minutes of qualifying highlights at 11 p.m. (ET) on Oct. 25. ESPN will televise two hours of eliminations at 7 p.m. (ET) on Oct. 26. NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute magazine show, will air at 12:30 p.m. (ET) on Oct. 26.

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

-nhra-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Shawn Gann , Don Garlits , Scott Kalitta , Geno Scali