Nuggets - "Final swing before the big dance"

Here it is, the first weekend of the rest of the season. A little dramatic, perhaps? Maybe. But this is going to be the start of something special regardless. There are four NHRA POWERade championships on the line. Greg Anderson could clinch the...

Here it is, the first weekend of the rest of the season. A little dramatic, perhaps? Maybe. But this is going to be the start of something special regardless. There are four NHRA POWERade championships on the line. Greg Anderson could clinch the Pro Stock title as early as this weekend. The rest of the categories, however, may have to fight it out a little longer. This weekend Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., will host the 20th annual Lucas Oil Nationals. Maple Grove starts the final three-races-in-three-weekends of the 2004 season. The Texas Motorplex will hold the 19th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals Sept. 23-26 before the NHRA heads back to Chicago for the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Sept. 30- Oct. 3. Then the NHRA takes a breath and has three weekends off before the final two events of the season (fourth annual ACDelco NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas and 40th annual Auto Club of Southern California Finals in Pomona, Calif.)

Your current points leaders after 18 events are Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Bike).

Wire to wire champ....: Greg Anderson is poised to clinch his second consecutive NHRA POWERade Pro Stock championship and first wire-to-wire championship this weekend. If he can qualify in the top four and earn a first-round win, Anderson will take the big check and big trophy home to Charlotte. Second-place driver and teammate Jason Line would have to earn at least 56 points more than Anderson to move the chase to Dallas.

Dazzling Densham: Indianapolis has been the site of dream-come-true situations for 50 years. Densham needed just 25 for one of his dreams to become reality. After making his first Mac Tools U.S. Nationals appearance at the 25th anniversary, Densham swept the Funny Car events at the 50th annual race. Densham won the $100,000 Skoal Showdown bonus event on Sunday before claiming the event victory on Monday. In all, Densham cleared town with more than $200,000 in prize money after earning a $50,000 double-up bonus from NHRA. Densham is just the fifth Funny Car driver to accomplish the double-up feat.

Another big moment: Having nostalgia withdrawals from the lack of 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals talk? No worries. Pomona Raceway is going to be the site of two more milestones in NHRA history. The 40th annual Automobile Club of Southern California Finals will be up next. February's 2005 season opener - the K&N Filters Winternationals - will celebrate the 45th year of hosting the quickest and fastest racers in motorsports.

Rookie watch: There are three rookies that have turned some heads this season. Pro Stock's Jason Line has earned three wins in five final round appearances with one No. 1 qualifying position en route to a second place spot in the standings. Line has posted just four first round losses all season. Funny Car's Eric Medlen broke out with his first NHRA victory in Brainerd, beating Gary Scelzi in the final. Medlen also posted a runner-up finish in Topeka. Medlen has five semifinal finishes and is currently sixth in the point standings. Top Fuel's Morgan Lucas has been to just three national events since starting his pro career in Brainerd (Aug.) and has one semifinal and one quarterfinal finish along with one first-round loss. Lucas will be pulling double-duty for the rest of the season. The 2003 Lucas Oil NHRA Series Top Alcohol Dragster champion will continue to race his Top Alcohol dragster as well as the Lucas Oil/Amato Racing Top Fueler.

Meet-n-Greet: Motorsports fans will be treated to an up-close and personal meeting with NHRA drivers in Texas. The second annual Texas Motorplex Night at Malibu Speedzone (I-35 and Walnut Hill) will celebrate the Sept. 23-26 O'Reilly Fall Nationals at the Motorplex. NHRA drivers including John Force, Eric Medlen, Gary Densham, Jason Line and Allen Johnson, to name a few. NHRA drivers will compete against fans and media on the race courses and sign autographs.

Maple Grove Monsters: The active career leaders for victories in Reading, Pa.: Top Fuel, Scott Kalitta (2), Gary Scelzi (2); Funny Car, John Force (6); Pro Stock, Warren Johnson (4); Pro Stock Bike, Angelle Savoie (4).

Texas Motorplex Two-Steppers: The active career leaders for victories in Ennis, Texas: Cory McClenathan (3), Gary Scelzi (3); Funny Car, John Force (6); Pro Stock, Warren Johnson (5).

Route 66 Raceway Rebels: The active career leaders for victories at the fall event in Joliet, Ill.: Top Fuel, Doug Kalitta (1); Funny Car, Tony Pedregon (2); Pro Stock, Jeg Coughlin (2).

Other notes of interest:


* David Grubnic has been to six final rounds in his career - four this season - and has yet to post his first NHRA event victory. If he can manage a win, he will become the first Australian to earn a pro NHRA victory.

* The three Kalitta Racing drivers have combined for 13 final round appearances out of the first 18 events. (Grubnic 0-for-4, Doug Kalitta 3-for-7, Scott Kalitta 1-for-2).


* Ron Capps has not been in the top 10 of the point standings all season. He is currently in 12th place, 256 points behind No. 10 Cruz Pedregon.

* The No. 4-7 spots in the standings are separated by less than 70 points.


* Warren Johnson sits in the No. 9 spot of the Pro Stock standings. The last time the six-time champion finished outside the top five was in 1981, when he finished 17th after racing in just four national events.


* Andrew Hines won the Pro Stock Bike special event, earning an extra $15,000 during the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Ringers Gloves took over the sponsorship of the event and started handing out cash for top qualifying spots on Monday morning.


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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , David Grubnic , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Scott Kalitta , Allen Johnson , Morgan Lucas , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Eric Medlen