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MOHNTON, Pa. - The National Hot Rod Association's annual stop at Maple Grove Raceway - which was postponed due to the national tragedy on Sept. 11 - will take place Oct. 4-7 as Winston championship battles tighten between the nation's fastest ...

MOHNTON, Pa. - The National Hot Rod Association's annual stop at Maple Grove Raceway - which was postponed due to the national tragedy on Sept. 11 - will take place Oct. 4-7 as Winston championship battles tighten between the nation's fastest dragsters.

Funny car driver, Del Worsham, one of the favorites at the 17th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals presented by Greased Lightening, said NHRA President Tom Compton's decision to postpone the event was the right thing to do. Now, he says, all NHRA teams can focus on heading to Maple Grove Raceway to give the fans in the region a great display of high-powered performance.

"We completely support the NHRA in its decision to put racing aside (that weekend)," Worsham said. "Racing very fast in a straight line may seem irrelevant as the nation focuses their energy and effort to resolve the terrible thing that happened that day, but the truth is Americans are passionate about sports and about the way we live. As a nation, we are indignant that anyone would think they could take away our freedom and our passions."

The only other time in NHRA's 50-year history that an event was postponed due to something other than weather was in 1991. The racing surface in Phoenix needed minor repairs, so the event was pushed back one week.

Joe Amato, Bruce Sarver, Kurt Johnson and Matt Hines are the defending winners of the $1.9 million race, the 21st of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Hometown favorite Amato, from Exeter, Pa., scored his 52nd and final career victory of his career as the legendary driver drove past Gary Scelzi in the Top Fuel final. Despite his retirement at the end of the 2000 season, Amato's replacement, Darrell Russell, has proven to be a worthy substitute for the five-time Winston champ and the leading contender for NHRA Rookie of the Year. Russell and Scelzi will seek to stop the war of the beer cars as Larry Dixon and the Miller Lite dragster battle Kenny Bernstein and the Budweiser King dragster for the series title.

Sarver, from Bakersfield, Calif., scored his first career national event win holding off Ron Capps for the Funny Car victory. Sarver started 2001 off strong with a season-opening win and then struggled, but is looking for a repeat performance in the Keystone State. Whit Bazemore, Del Worsham, Capps and teammate Tommy Johnson Jr., are fighting for position in the standings in hopes of a remarkable finish that would deny points leader John Force his record-setting 11th Winston title.

Lawrenceville, Ga.'s, Johnson continued his late season surge winning for the fourth time in seven events edging out his five-time Winston champ father Warren in the Pro Stock finale. As K. Johnson and many other teams struggle to find the right tune-up for their new vehicles, Warren has been at or near the top of the standings once again this season. The father-son duo will have to hold off a flurry of racers for another all-Johnson final. Defending Winston champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., Jim Yates, and Mike Edwards are planning to deny both Johnsons a trip to the winner's circle at Maple Grove.

Three-time Winston champ Hines, from Trinidad, Colo., had another impressive performance at Maple Grove, riding past eventual Winston champ Angelle Savoie for the Pro Stock Motorcycle victory. This season Savoie and Antron Brown are battling for season bragging rights. GT Tonglet, Reggie Showers, Shawn Gann and Craig Treble have emerged as top two-wheel threats.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. on Oct. 5 and 6. Final professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Oct. 7.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 17th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals presented by Greased Lightning. Call Maple Grove Raceway at (610) 856-7200 for ticket information. Tickets are also available at nhra.com and maplegroveraceway.com.

* TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise two hours of eliminations coverage at 8 p.m. (ET) on Oct. 7. ESPN2 also will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 1:30 a.m. (ET) on Oct. 7.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Bruce Sarver , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Joe Amato , Reggie Showers , Shawn Gann , Craig Treble , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.