Reading: Keystone Nationals preview

COUGHLINS SEEKING THREE-OUT-OF-FOUR IN KEYSTONE STATE: Troy Coughlin will always have a special place in his heart for Maple Grove Raceway. The 38-year-old Columbus, Ohio, resident captured his first career win at the facility after eight...

COUGHLINS SEEKING THREE-OUT-OF-FOUR IN KEYSTONE STATE: Troy Coughlin will always have a special place in his heart for Maple Grove Raceway. The 38-year-old Columbus, Ohio, resident captured his first career win at the facility after eight runner-up finishes. His younger brother, 2000 Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin, was the 1999 event winner and last season established the current Pro Stock national record for elapsed time at 6.750 seconds but lost to Troy in last years semifinals. Jeg, the current Pro Stock points leader recently won the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis which moved him into fourth on the all-time Pro Stock win list.

"To win Indy, take the lead in the points, and pass the late Lee Shepherd on the all-time Pro Stock win list is a lot to take in," said Jeg. "There are still plenty of races (six) left in the season. We have a great team and our job is to keep the momentum going until the end of the last race in Pomona (Calif.)."

NINE POINTS SEPARATE TOP THREE PRO STOCK DRIVERS: In what is clearly the most competitive category in any form of motorsports, the top three drivers in the Pro Stock category are separated by nine points. Following Jeg Coughlin's win at Indianapolis, giving him four on the year, Coughlin moved into the lead, one point ahead of Greg Anderson. Anderson, who has two victories this season, is eight points ahead of two-time series champ Jim Yates, who despite not winning an event this year, has used consistency to remain among the category leaders.

In comparison, Funny Car leader John Force leads his closest competitor by 199 points and Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon is in the lead by 103 points. Tony Schumacher, who is third in Top Fuel, trails Dixon by 447 points while Gary Densham trails Force by 214.

MOHEGAN SUN STARTS SAVOIE'S SPONSORSHIP AT READING: Two-time NHRA Pro Stock Bike champion and current points leader Angelle Savoie will have Mohegan Sun as their primary sponsor for the remainder of the season beginning with the Lucas Oil Nationals at Maple Grove. The Mohegan Sun is a premier Connecticut resort and gaming establishment with more than 300,000 square feet of gaming space as part of the 5.5 million square foot facility.

"We have received a letter of intent for the remainder of this year and look forward to educating them about NHRA POWERade Drag Racing," said George Bryce, team owner of the Mohegan Sun Suzuki. "Our goal is to produce results that will convince them to remain with the team for several years. We look forward to adding a special NHRA section to their gallery of winners."

"I can't wait to unveil our new look and to tell our fans about Mohegan Sun," said Savoie. "I'm also looking forward to going to Connecticut and taking advantage of everything they have to offer. Most of all, I want to show the Mohegan Sun people how great the sport of drag racing is, and to take their bike to the winner's circle."

FORCE SEEKING FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN OF 2002: Perennial Funny Car champion John Force has scored three straight victories upping his career total to 104 entering the Lucas Oil Nationals. The 11-time champion has extended his points lead to 199 over his closest competitor, teammate Tony Pedregon, as he seeks his 10th consecutive series crown. Force, the defending winner of the Lucas Oil Nationals, established the national record for elapsed time at Reading last season when he clocked a 4.731-second pass in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. He has five career wins in the Keystone State and has won as many as five straight races in one season twice (1993 and 1994). The record for consecutive wins is eight, held by the late Pro Stock Bike rider and six-time champion Dave Schultz.

CSK TEAM COMES UP SHORT IN HUNT FOR FORCE RACING: The Checker Schuck's Kragen Funny car team owned by Chuck Worsham has parked the third car driven by Cory Lee. The 'black' Pontiac Firebird competed at both Brainerd and Indianapolis and qualified for both events.

"Let me say that Cory Lee, (crew chief) Gary Kennedy, and every member of the black team did an amazing job in Brainerd and in Indy," said Del Worsham, driver of the 'red' CSK Pontiac Firebird and son of Chuck. "They qualified at both races, made progress on every run, never had a leak, never had a problem, and were completely professional. Though they didn't bag any (John Force-owned) Mustangs, which was the well publicized target, we're well aware that they did, in effect, beat Ron Capps and Whit Bazemore for us. By qualifying at those two races, they knocked those two guys out of the show, so we picked up valuable points on each of them.

"They didn't let us down. If anything, we let them down. With our red car going out in round two at Brainerd and round one at Indy, we lost so much ground to John Force (who won both of those events) that spending the time, energy, and money to field a third team no longer makes a lot of sense. These guys did all they could, and they did a fantastic job."

AMATO SHOWS FAITH IN RUSSELL: Five-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Joe Amato recently signed 2001 NHRA Rookie of the Year Darrell Russell and crew chief Wayne Dupuy through the 2005 season. After a slow start to the 2002 season, Russell has demonstrated his driving skills while Dupuy has been able to make the right calls as the Bilstein Engine Flush dragster has risen from obscurity at season's start to fifth in the POWERade standings, only 66 points out of third.

"I think I'm getting the hang of being the team owner instead of the driver," said Amato. "I wasn't sure if I'd like it at first but I'm having a good time so I decided, together with our great marketing partners, to extend our efforts through the 2005 season. I can see with the group we have now, from Darrell and Wayne to the guys on the team and the sponsors we have, that the pieces are in place to win a championship. That's the goal and that's why we wanted to keep the chemistry we've developed and make a concentrated run at the POWERade title."

Russell is just happy to have been selected as the driver to replace the five-time Top Fuel champion.

"Joe giving me a chance in the first place was a huge day in my life," said Russell. "It's satisfying to know I've proven myself well enough over the last year-and-a-half for him to offer me this contract. Not many drivers and their families have this sort of security. Now I'm more motivated than ever before to prove my value to Joe, our sponsors, and this team."

ODDS AND ENDS: Defending NHRA POWERade champion Kenny Bernstein and fellow Top Fuel driver Cory McClenathan are the only two active Top Fuel drivers to have previously won at Maple Grove Raceway. Bernstein has two Top Fuel wins ('92, '96) while Mclenathan's lone victory came in 1997 when he defeated Bernstein.

--There has been only six different Pro Stock winners at Maple Grove Raceway over the past 12 years and only nine different winners in the 17 previous events heading into this year's Lucas Oil Nationals. Warren Johnson, Kurt Johnson and Bob Glidden lead the way with three victories each, while Jim Yates and Darrell Alderman each have scored two wins at Maple Grove.

QUOTABLE: Last year's runner-up at the Lucas Oil Nationals and six-time NHRA champion Kenny Bernstein, who will be making his final appearance as a driver at Maple Grove Raceway: "We've been so focused on trying to win a championship that we haven't been able to be nostalgic about racing at a venue for the last time. Driving is the fun part for me. We'll miss that, but it's time to move on. If it weren't for the fans, we wouldn't have been able to have the career we've been so fortunate to have."

--Top Fuel driver and current NHRA POWERade points leader Larry Dixon following his selection as the Top Fuel driver of the Year at the Car Craft All-Star Awards: "It's a cool deal. I want to thank Snake for the shot he gave me to ride his horse and making it into a badass horse. When I was a kid, I used to ride my bike to (engine builder) Ed Pink's shop (in Southern California) where I used to work and would see all his Car Craft awards. Now to win just one time is a real thrill for me."

LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS GENERAL INFORMATION · SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying will run at 3:45 and 6:45 p.m. on Sept. 13 and will continue at noon and 3 p.m. on Sept. 14. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sept. 15.

· TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 18th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Call (610) 856-7200, or visit maplegroveraceway.com.

· TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise 90 minutes of qualifying highlights at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 14. ESPN2 will televise 150 minutes of eliminations at 4:30 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 15.

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

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Gary Densham , Bob Glidden , Cory McClenathan , George Bryce , Cory Lee , Chuck Worsham