NHRA Teams Chasing Winston Championship Glory Ready To Step Up The Pace At Heartland Park Topeka During Memorial Day 'Big Go' TOPEKA, Kan. - There's nothing quite like the electric atmosphere produced when a pair of richly-tuned, nitro-burning...
NHRA Teams Chasing Winston Championship Glory Ready To Step Up The Pace At Heartland Park Topeka During Memorial Day 'Big Go'
TOPEKA, Kan. - There's nothing quite like the electric atmosphere produced when a pair of richly-tuned, nitro-burning Top Fuel dragsters pop and crackle at the starting line, awaiting the green light to flash at one of the NHRA's premier speedplants.
The explosive blast that rivets from two 6,000 horsepower dragsters marching side-by-side down the dragstrip is guaranteed to provide an extreme shot of adrenaline to even the most conservative attendees. One blink and it's over.
Top Fuel drivers engaged in this season's highly competitive championship chase must be thinking the same thing: One blink and their opportunity for attaining Winston championship glory could be all but an afterthought. Indeed, drama will be plentiful as several Top Fuel teams try to add distance between the contenders and pretenders at the 13th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, May 24-27, at ultra-fast Heartland Park Topeka. The $1.9 million race is the ninth of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series for 2001.
Few points separate seven Top Fuel competitors chasing the coveted championship trophy and only five separate the top three. Title chases in other professional categories are intense as well. As many as seven drivers are in the hunt for the Funny Car crown, while five drivers are chasing drag racing's ultimate goal in Pro Stock competition. In Pro Stock Truck, the championship scene involves six drivers.
The awesome roar and powerful performances of motorsports' most extreme attraction will add some nitro punch to racing activities this Memorial Day weekend - historically four of the biggest days for auto racing in the United States.
The NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series travels to the state of Kansas -- the same state that hosted NHRA's first national event in 1955 -- with its 50th anniversary celebration going strong and join other prestigious events nationwide that have defined the popular weekend over the years, including the Indy 500 and a 600-mile NASCAR event in Charlotte, N.C. Gary Scelzi, John Force, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Bob Panella are the defending winners of the $1.9 million race, the ninth of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
Scelzi just edged Doug Kalitta for the Top Fuel victory in one of the closest races of the year and in the process the Team Winston driver broke a longstanding NHRA record, becoming Top Fuel's single-season win record holder. Scelzi and Kalitta will lead the charge once again, as Kalitta has claimed two victories in 2001, while the defending series champion is still looking for his first victory of the year. Other top contenders include points leader Mike Dunn, who recently powered his Yankee dragster to the fastest speed in NHRA history (331.61 mph). Kenny Bernstein, Darrell Russell, Larry Dixon and Tony Schumacher are also among the top challengers. Force powered away from Ron Capps here last year to take the Funny Car win, the seventh career victory for the 10-time Winston champ at the Kansas quarter-mile. Capps, a winner of this event in '98, is leading a strong contingent of drivers looking to end Force's reign as kingpin of the Funny Car category, including Tommy Johnson Jr., Whit Bazemore, Frank Pedregon, Bruce Sarver and Del Worsham.
Coughlin streaked to the Pro Stock win over veteran Darrell Alderman. Coughlin, the defending Winston champion, is in the hunt for a second-straight series title but will need to have his Chevy Cavalier clicking on all cylinders to hold off a tough challenge from tough father-son duo of Warren and Kurt Johnson, Jim Yates, Mark Pawuk and recent Bristol winner Greg Anderson.
Panella powered his Chevy S-10 to the Pro Stock Truck win over the GMC Sonoma of David Spitzer. Defending Winston champ Panella has claimed two victories this season, but is currently second in points chasing leader Randy Daniels, who has earned two wins in his Chevy S-10. Other top challengers include Greg Stanfield, Jeff Gracia and Augusta, Kan. native Todd Patterson.
SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is scheduled for 4:30 and 7 p.m. on May 25 and continues at noon and 2:30 p.m. on May 26. Final professional eliminations start at 10:30 a.m. on May 27.
TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 13th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Nationals. Call Heartland Park Topeka at (800) 43-RACES or (913) 234-4545, or Ticketmaster for ticket information. Tickets are also available at nhra.com.
ON TV: ESPN will provide two hours and 30 minutes of eliminations coverage on May 27 at 3:30 p.m. (ET). ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights on May 26 at 7:30 p.m. (ET).
ON THE WEB: NHRA news, photos and driver information available at www.nhra.com.