Reading: GM Racing preview

READING, Pa., Sept. 15, 2004 - The 20th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will be held Sept. 16 - 19 at Maple Grove Raceway. Professional category time trials begin on Friday, Sept. 17, with two sessions of qualifying at 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., two...

READING, Pa., Sept. 15, 2004 - The 20th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will be held Sept. 16 - 19 at Maple Grove Raceway. Professional category time trials begin on Friday, Sept. 17, with two sessions of qualifying at 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., two qualifying sessions slated for Saturday, Sept. 18, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and final eliminations scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 19, beginning at 11 a.m.

After 18 national events, Pontiac leads the NHRA Manufacturer's Cup standings with 3,380 points. Chevrolet is in second place with 2,860 points and Dodge is third with 1,000 points.

Only four Pro Stock drivers remain standing who have qualified for every race this season. They include Greg Anderson (Pontiac), Bruce Allen (Pontiac), Jason Line (Pontiac) and Larry Morgan. Anderson has the longest consecutive qualifying streak in Pro Stock at 42 races. Bruce Allen has qualified in 24 straight events and Jason Line in 18.

Greg Anderson's most recent win at the U.S. Nationals on Sept. 6 was the 16th Pro Stock victory this season for Pontiac and 141st all-time in NHRA competition.

Anderson continues to rewrite the NHRA record book. Anderson's third career win at Indianapolis (his 13th in 2004) tied John Force for most victories in a single season, and his 62 round wins is on pace to surpass a record of 67 he set during last year's championship run. Including this weekend's Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, there are five races left to be contested.

Anderson has won a national event at every venue on the 23-event NHRA POWERade tour with the exception of Gainesville (Fla.), Reading (Pa.) and Joliet (Ill.).

GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver Warren Johnson is the defending champion at Maple Grove Raceway. Johnson defeated Troy Coughlin in the finals of last year's event for the 92nd and most recent national-event victory for the six-time NHRA champion.

Warren Johnson's four career victories at Maple Grove Raceway (1991-92, '95, '03) are the most ever in the Pro Stock category. ACDelco Chevy Cavalier driver Kurt Johnson has won three times at Maple Grove Raceway (1993, '98, '00), Jim Yates has won three times in a Pontiac (1996-97, '02), current Chevy Cavalier pilot Jeg Coughlin won in 1999 and Pontiac Grand Am driver Bruce Allen won at Maple Grove Raceway in 1985.

Sea-Ray Pontiac Grand Am driver Jim Yates' most recent national-event victory came at Maple Grove Raceway in 2002, a race in which he also earned his last career pole award.

Anderson's Pontiac Grand Am set the Maple Grove track records in both e.t. and top speed last year with a run of 6.707 seconds at 205.79 mph.

Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson is the defending champion of the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Wilkerson defeated Cruz Pedregon in the finals of the 2003 meet.

Speaking of Cruz Pedregon, the Advance Auto Parts Chevy Monte Carlo driver will celebrate his 41st birthday on Sunday, Sept. 19. Pedregon's Chevrolet raced to the finals of the U.S. Nationals on Sept. 6, the third time this season Pedregon has made a championship-round appearance, and the ninth time in 2004 that a Chevy Monte Carlo has battled in the title heat. Pedregon won the Lucas Oil Nationals in 1992, has been runner-up at this event twice (1994, 2003) and was the No. 1 qualifier in 1995.

In addition to Wilkerson and Pedregon, current Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car drivers who have previously won at Maple Grove include Tommy Johnson Jr. (1999) and Tony Pedregon (2002).

Chevrolet-branded Funny Cars have compiled 69 all-time wins in NHRA competition and competed in 143 final rounds. Chevrolets have also raced to the final round at five of the last six national events.

Heading into the Keystone State, eight Pro Stock competitors racing GM-branded cars occupy a spot in the POWERade top 10. Greg Anderson leads the championship battle in a Grand Am with 1915 points, Anderson teammate Jason Line is second in a Grand Am with 1279 points, Chevy Cavalier driver Dave Connolly is third with 1160 points and Kurt Johnson is fourth in the ACDelco Chevrolet with 1091 points. Jeg Coughlin is sixth in a Chevrolet with 901 points, Bruce Allen is seventh in a Pontiac with 831, Steve Johns is eighth in a Chevrolet with 785 and Warren Johnson is ninth in a Pontiac with 721. Rickie Smith is 11th in a Chevrolet with 675 points, Mike Edwards is 12th in a Pontiac with 658 points, Jim Yates is 13th in a Pontiac with 536 and Ron Krisher is 15th in a Chevrolet with 443.

Anderson will clinch his second consecutive NHRA POWERade championship if he leaves Maple Grove Raceway with a net gain of 56 points over second-place Jason Line.

Five Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car drivers occupy a spot in the POWERade top 10. Del Worsham is in fourth place with 1107 points, Tim Wilkerson is seventh with 1039 points, Phil Burkart is eighth with 936 points, Tony Pedregon is ninth with 922 points and Cruz Pedregon is 10th with 913 points. Tommy Johnson Jr. is in 11th place with 707 points and teammate Ron Capps is 12th with 657 points. John Force leads the Funny Car standings with 1379 points.

The Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals is the 19th race on the 23-event NHRA POWERade tour. Qualifying highlights will be telecast on ESPN2 on Saturday, Sept. 18, beginning at 4 p.m. Three hours of final eliminations can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, Sept. 19, beginning at 4 p.m. (All times Eastern)

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Larry Morgan , Tommy Johnson , Cruz Pedregon , Bruce Allen , Tim Wilkerson , Phil Burkart , Jason Line , Rickie Smith , Dave Connolly , Mike Edwards , Steve J , Tommy Johnson Jr.