Madison: Round twelve preview, schedule

WHAT: Seventh annual Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals, the 12th 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:
Seventh annual Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals, the 12th 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 2002 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series championships.

WHERE:
Gateway International Raceway, Madison, Ill. Located five minutes from downtown St. Louis, the track is on Interstate 55/70 at Exit 4. From St. Louis, take I-70 south to I-55/70 and travel east to Exit 4.

WHEN:
Friday through Sunday, June 27-29.

WHAT TO EXPECT:
Four qualifying sessions and four rounds of eliminations of nitro-burning, racing action at night. Defending POWERade Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon wants to redeem himself and the Miller Lite team for last year's DNQ at St. Louis, which enabled Kenny Bernstein to get back in the points chase. Defending event winner Kenny Bernstein will be competing in his fourth race back after replacing his son Brandon, who is out for the year due to injuries sustained in a crash at Englishtown, N.J.. John Force and Tony Pedregon, the event's last two Funny Car winners, know they'll be challenged by Del Worsham, Ron Capps, Whit Bazemore and a host of drivers looking to light up the sky in their 6,000 horsepower machines. Pro Stock drivers will have to lay out their strategy to deal with the tricky weather conditions that exist at Gateway, adjusting to an all-night venue and varying temperatures. The veteran father-son duo of Warren and Kurt Johnson along with defending NHRA POWERade champion and last year's winner Jeg Coughlin and current title contender Greg Anderson will need to qualify for the 16-car field before worrying about eliminations in the ultra-competitive category. Chicago native Geno Scali is ready to contend for the 2003 Pro Stock Bike crown, but the two-bike team of Antron Brown and three-time series champ Angelle Savoie have demonstrated their strength this season, as have the two riders on the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rods, Andrew Hines and 2001 event winner GT Tonglet.

FAST FACTS:
Force Racing has won three of the six races at Gateway...Current Funny Car driver Gary Scelzi has the most career wins at Gateway (three, TF)....Doug Kalitta is the only current Top Fuel driver to win at Gateway...Three of the four pro winners at Gateway Raceway last year went on to win the POWERade Series championship in their category.

NOTES OF INTEREST:

Kenny Bernstein Comes Out of Retirement to Sub for Injured Son-- Six-time NHRA champion Kenny Bernstein returned to the cockpit at the O'Reilly Summer Nationals following his son Brandon's crash at Englishtown, N.J. which has most likely 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 not driving a Top Fuel dragster since 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. Last year at St. Louis, Bernstein took advantage of Larry Dixon's DNQ, winning the race for the first time in his career in Budweiser's hometown.

Perennial Funny Car Champ Force Continues to Struggle - What's going on with 12-time Funny Car champion John Force? The NHRA icon has four first round losses and has advanced to the semifinals once in 10 events. With a three-car operation, Force's Ford Mustang is the one that is struggling. His two other drivers, Tony Pedregon and Gary Densham, currently occupy first and third place in the standings respectively and have combined for six wins on the season. Force recently moved back into the top 10 in the standings (sixth) and is 419 points behind Pedregon.

Student Leads Teacher - Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson is the former crew chief for six-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson. After competing in the Pro Stock category on a limited basis from 1998-2001 (racing 21 out of 22 races in 1999), Anderson left Johnson's team and committed himself to the entire NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series beginning in 2002. After a career-best finish in the POWERade standings (No. 3), final round appearances (six), No. 1 qualifying positions (two), and won-loss record in eliminations (32-19), Anderson has established himself as a top contender for the 2003 Pro Stock crown. Anderson recently set the national record for time and speed en route to the win at Englishtown, N.J., and is currently 64 points ahead of Warren's son Kurt to lead the POWERade standings after posting a victory at Columbus, Ohio.

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.

Fan Accessibility - No other major motorsport offers the kind of fan accessibility like the NHRA. Every ticket, general admission or reserved, is a pass to the pit areas of all of our professional and sportsman competitors. Fans get the opportunity to get up close and personal with their favorite drivers and teams. They get to interact with the various competitors, talk shop, or just hang out and watch the teams work. Fans have access to the pits as teams fire up their engines in preparation of their next pass down the track. With the continued growth of the NHRA, nothing helps separate the drag racing's premier sanctioning body, like fan accessibility.

Safety Safari-- These men and women are a team of professionals dedicated to making the sport safe for the competitors and keeping the action on the track moving for the fans. 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.

ABOUT THE TRACK:
There has been racing on this site since 1967, when Wayne Meinert opened up the original St. Louis International Raceway, an eighth-mile strip. Chris Pook and the Grand Prix of Long Beach bought the facility in 1995 and began a renovation that continues today under the track's current owners, Dover Motorsports Inc. NHRA added Gateway and the Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals in June 1997 to the national event calendar, and it remains the midway stop on the NHRA tour.

SEARS CRAFTSMAN NHRA NATIONALS GENERAL INFORMATION:

SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying rounds are scheduled for 5:15 and 8:15 p.m. on June 27 and 28. Final eliminations begin at 4:30 p.m. on June 29.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the seventh annual Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals. Call 866-35-SPEED, or Ticketmaster, for ticket information. Ticket information also available at ticketmaster.com, nhra.com, and gatewayraceway.com.

TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 10 p.m. (ET) on June 28 ESPN will televise two hours of early eliminations coverage at 4 p.m. (ET) on June 29. ESPN2 will televise two hours of final round coverage at 9 p.m. (ET) on June 29.

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

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Gary Densham , Geno Scali , Chris Pook , Andrew Hines , GT Tonglet