Topeka 2 overview

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761 CHAMPIONSHIP RACES WILL BE AT FULL SPEED AT HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA TOPEKA, Kan. -- The record times and speeds produced by NHRA drag racers have been the dominant digits...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761 CHAMPIONSHIP RACES WILL BE AT FULL SPEED AT HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA TOPEKA, Kan. -- The record times and speeds produced by NHRA drag racers have been the dominant digits the last few years at the Sears Craftsman Nationals, but this year the most watched numbers at this event could be the NHRA Winston point standings. The chase for NHRA Winston titles in at least three of the four pro categories will remain at top speed at the ninth annual, $1,463,750 Sears Craftsman Nationals, Sept. 25-28 at Heartland Park Topeka. The race is the 18th event of the 22-event, $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series in 1997. The calendar is a major factor behind the return of the title race to Heartland Park this fall. This event was the 17th of 19 races on the schedule each of the last two years, and most titles already were secured or just a few elimination-round victories away. For instance, the Pro Stock Motorcycle battle between Dave Schultz and John Myers was the only tight race last year at this event. But four races remain on the schedule after this event, making the Sears Craftsman Nationals one of the most pivotal races of the stretch run. Pro Stock Motorcycle is the only category in which the leader dominated in early September, as Matt Hines led second-place Myers by 196 points. Only two Pro Stock Motorcycle races remain after Topeka, so Hines could clinch his first Winston championship at Heartland Park on the Vance & Hines Suzuki GSXR. But the races remain intriguing in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock. Leaders in all three categories have a gap of more than a race, but they can't seem to shake their pursuers. Take Top Fuel, for example. It appeared that Gary Scelzi would run away from the field earlier this summer in the Team Winston Dragster and breeze to the championship as a rookie. That was before Cory McClenathan went on one of the all-time tears in NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series history. McClenathan won four consecutive races and 19 consecutive elimination rounds during the summer in the McDonald's Dragster owned by former NFL coach Joe Gibbs, charging into second place. McClenathan is 153 points behind Scelzi, winless since mid-June. The scenario is no different in Funny Car. Defending NHRA Winston champion John Force leads by 133 points but isn't the hottest driver in the category. Second-place Whit Bazemore has won three of the last five races in the Team Winston Ford Mustang and has become the legitmate contender to Force's throne. That emergence started when Bazemore earned his first career victory at the Western Auto Nationals in June at Heartland Park. Defending NHRA Winston champion Jim Yates holds a 144-point lead over Warren Johnson in Pro Stock. But another Johnson, Kurt Johnson, might be the driver who is causing Yates the most anxiety. Kurt Johnson won two consecutive races, the Champion Auto Stores Nationals in mid-August at Brainerd, Minn., and the U.S. Nationals earlier this month at Indianapolis, and appears to strengthen at every race in his ACDelco Pontiac Firebird. *Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. Sept. 26 and continues at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Sept. 27. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. Sept. 28. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 9 a.m. Sept. 25. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the Sears Craftsman Nationals. Call Heartland Park Topeka at (800) 43- RACES. Tickets also are available at Ticketmaster outlets throughout the Midwest. *On TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise 90 minutes of live, final-round competition from the Sears Craftsman Nationals at 4:30 p.m. (CDT) Sept. 28. TNN also will televise one hour of live, first-round competition at 11 a.m. (CDT) that day. -30-

9/3/97-TK1-138

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Cory McClenathan