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INTENSITY OF NHRA WINSTON DRAG RACING TO BE HELD UNDER THE LIGHTS AT SPECTACULAR GATEWAY INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY MADISON, Ill. -- The thrilling drama and excitement of professional NHRA drag racing will be illuminated by bright stadium ...

INTENSITY OF NHRA WINSTON DRAG RACING TO BE HELD UNDER THE LIGHTS AT SPECTACULAR GATEWAY INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY MADISON, Ill. -- The thrilling drama and excitement of professional NHRA drag racing will be illuminated by bright stadium lights at Gateway International Raceway during the third annual Sears Craftsman Nationals, June 24-26. The race, featuring a purse with cash and contingency awards of more than $1.6 million, is the 11th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Pro qualifying and final eliminations will be contested exclusively under the lights during three nights guaranteed to showcase a spectacular display of fire and speed as brilliant streaks of color will radiate the darkened background. Final eliminations will be held on Saturday night for the event, instead of NHRA's traditional Sunday afternoon format. As the event marking the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series' mid-season point, the stakes will be high for NHRA teams working to gain position for the season's second-half as they pursue elusive NHRA Winston championships. Winston championship battles are intense in several NHRA professional categories, as only a few points separate the top challengers in Top Fuel, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Truck. The race will provide competitors in Funny Car and Pro Stock Motorcycle an opportunity to chase down runaway performers John Force and Angelle Seeling. Both competitors have been dominant in early season events and have built sizable leads in their respective categories. Gary Scelzi, Frank Pedregon, Kurt Johnson, Matt Hines and Tim Freeman are the defending race winners in their respective pro categories. Scelzi, from Fresno, Calif., defeated Kenny Bernstein in a classic Top Fuel battle last year at Gateway International Raceway. This season Bernstein's Budweiser King dragster has been one of the most consistent in the category, while defending series champ Scelzi and his Team Winston crew have added much-needed victories in Dallas and Atlanta while working hard to rebound from a slow start. Winston points leader Mike Dunn, '97 race winner Joe Amato and two-time winner Doug Herbert are also among top contenders in the 6,000 horsepower category. Pedregon, from Alta Loma, Calif., earned his second-career Funny Car victory at this event one year ago, defeating veteran Chuck Etchells in a side-by-side finish. Pedregon, now reunited with '98 car owner Jim Dunn, hopes for a repeat performance, while Etchells has turned the driving duties of his Kendall Oil Chevrolet Camaro over to Whit Bazemore. Castrol GTX driver Force has dominated competition this season, winning six times. Tony Pedregon, Frank's younger brother and one of only three other drivers to win a Funny Car race this season, is also a major threat to win. In a battle of NHRA Pro Stock young guns here last year, Johnson proved his AC Delco Chevy Camaro had the muscle to defeat Jeg Coughlin's Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile Cutlass in an exciting final round. Johnson, from Lawrenceville, Ga., led the Winston point standings for most of the season, but recently gave way to his four-time and defending championship father, Warren, driver of the GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird. Hines, from Tinidad, Colo., will try to defend his victory in Pro Stock Motorcycle, while Baltimore's Kopp will do the same in Pro Stock Truck. Both competitors are defending NHRA Winston championships in their categories, but have found the going tough in 1999. Team Winston Suzuki rider Seeling has been the dominant bike rider, while former Pro Stock racer Mark Osborne leads the point standings in Pro Stock Truck behind the wheel of his RCL Components Chevrolet S-10.

SEARS CRAFTSMAN NATIONALS GENERAL INFORMATION * Schedule: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. (CT) on June 24 and June 25. Final professional eliminations start at 4 p.m. June 26. Qualifying and eliminations for Federal-Mogul categories begins June 24 at 9 a.m. * Tickets: Tickets are available for the Sears Craftsman Nationals. Call (618) 482-2400 or Ticketmaster for ticket information. * On TV: ABC will televise one hour of race highlights on July 4 at 1 p.m. (ET).

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Frank Pedregon , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Chuck Etchells