Memphis: AutoZone Nationals preview

Championships On The Line At Memphis Motorsports Park MILLINGTON, Tenn. - As in any other sport, when the end of an NHRA season approaches, certain teams in competition become mathematically eliminated for the championship As the NHRA's season...

Championships On The Line At Memphis Motorsports Park

MILLINGTON, Tenn. - As in any other sport, when the end of an NHRA season approaches, certain teams in competition become mathematically eliminated for the championship As the NHRA's season enters the final stretch of its 50th Anniversary celebration, many competitors are making their last efforts for a win in 2001 and gathering data for next winter, while others are in a cat-and-mouse fight for the Winston title. Every qualifying point, every elimination round, every pass down the quarter-mile will be critical in their pursuit of triumph Championship dreams and realizations will become clearer as the NHRA makes another stop in the Volunteer State for the 14th annual AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil, Sept. 20-23, at Memphis Motorsports Park Gary Scelzi, Ron Capps, Jeg Coughlin Jr., and Mike Coughlin are the defending winners in their respective categories at the $1.9 million race, the 19th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series Scelzi, from Fresno, Calif., won his ninth race of the year in dramatic fashion. Scelzi's Top Fuel final round opponent Larry Dixon, who was clearly ahead in the race as Scelzi lost traction and did not record any time or speed, was disqualified when his Miller Lite dragster went airborne and crossed the centerline in pieces prior to the finish line earning an immediate disqualification. Scelzi, also was in the opposite lane a day earlier when Tony Schumacher's dragster went out of control resulting in a spectacular crash, used the victory as a momentum builder on his way to his third title in four years Schumacher has struggled this year, but Dixon and the Miller Lite dragster have been magnificent in the battle with rival Kenny Bernstein and the Budweiser King dragster for the Top Fuel title. Every Winston point will be significant as the duo will try and outlast Scelzi, Schumacher, rookie sensation Darrell Russell, and the Yankee dragster driven by Mike Dunn for supremacy of the 6,000 horsepower category Carlsbad, Calif.'s, Capps scored his first Funny Car win of 2000 after six runner-up finishes earlier in the season. The win solidified his late season charge, which landed him second in the final Winston standings behind the incomparable John Force. Capps, teammate Tommy Johnson Jr., Whit Bazemore and Del Worsham all will try and make a move for the second spot in the standings as the rest of the field plays catch-up to Force, who is inching closer to his record-setting 11th Winston crown Coughlin, from Columbus, Ohio, earned his first NHRA Winston Pro Stock championship during qualifying then capped off an emotional weekend with his 10th victory of the year driving past Scott Geoffrion in the final. The ultra-competitive category has not been dominated this year as multiple winners have been crowned and the standings continue to shuffle. Among the chaos is five-time series champ Warren Johnson, who has been at or near the top of the order all season. Coughlin, Jim Yates and Mike Edwards will try and make a move as the NHRA's 50th Anniversary season enters the home stretch Another Coughlin, Mike, won his first Pro Stock Truck race of the year and the third of his career defeating fellow Chevy driver Steve Johns in the final. Coughlin put up impressive numbers during the event but in order to repeat he will need an extraordinary performance to hold off two-time Winston champ Bob Panella, Randy Daniels, and Greg Stanfield, who have all had remarkable seasons.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is set to begin at 3 and 6 p.m. on Sept. 21 and will continue at noon and 3 p.m. on Sept. 22. Final professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sept. 23.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 14th annual AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil. Call Memphis Motorsports Park at (901) 358-7223 for ticket information. Tickets also are available at Ticketmaster and nhra.com.

* TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 3 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 22. ESPN2 will televise one hour of early eliminations coverage at noon (ET) on Sept. 23. ESPN2 also will televise two hours of final round coverage at 11 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 23.

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

-NHRA-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Bob Panella , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Randy Daniels , Mike Coughlin , Greg Stanfield , Scott Geoffrion , Mike Edwards , Steve J , Tommy Johnson Jr.