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Sun, 4 Sep 2005, 01:53 PM

Force Leads Skoal Showdown Qualifiers after $100,000 Prize
Courtesy of NHRA Communications





CLERMONT, Ind. -- Perennial NHRA world champion John Force will start from the No. 1 position in the Skoal Showdown on Sept. 4 at Indianapolis Raceway Park, as he goes for his sixth victory in the special bonus event for qualified Funny Car drivers. The Skoal Showdown, a high-stakes, high-speed race featuring the eight quickest and most consistent Funny Car teams from the last season, is a lucrative race-within-a-race held during the 51st annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the world's most prestigious drag race.

The winner of the 24th annual Skoal Showdown will earn a $100,000 bonus from U.S. Tobacco. Any driver who can win the Skoal Showdown and the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals will earn a $50,000 'Double-Up' bonus from the NHRA.

A race day purse of $147,000 is available for the eight drivers competing in the Skoal Showdown. The Showdown runner-up will earn $15,000, while the two semifinalists will earn $6,000 each. The four first round finishers will earn $5,000 apiece.

Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., was the top qualifier four times and posted top five qualifying efforts at 15 of the 23 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series events that comprise the 2005 Skoal Showdown. Force tops the list of event appearances with 22.

Gary Scelzi will make his second appearance in the event, and starts second in the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T. Eric Medlen makes his Showdown debut in the third spot with his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang, while Del Worsham starts fourth in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevrolet Monte Carlo for his 10th career appearance. In the fifth position, Tony Pedregon makes his 10th career start in his Q-Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Tommy Johnson Jr., the sponsor favorite, sits in the sixth position for his second start in his Skoal Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Cruz Pedregon (Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Monte Carlo), and Robert Hight (Auto Club Ford Mustang), the third rookie to ever start in the bonus race, rounded out the field by virtue of a tiebreaker that bumps 11-time competitor Whit Bazemore out.

Drivers accumulated points for the Skoal Showdown at 23 NHRA national events between last year's Mac Tools U.S. Nationals up to the 2005 O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals at Memphis, Tenn. A $4,000 bonus was awarded to the No. 1 qualifier at each of those races.

Last year Gary Densham raced to victory over Force in the final round.

Skoal Showdown rounds are scheduled for 12:30 and 4 p.m. on Sept. 4.

2005 SKOAL SHOWDOWN FINAL STANDINGS
1. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang           3,385
2. Gary Scelzi, Fresno, Calif., Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T                  3,370
3. Eric Medlen, Indianapolis, Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang                       3,320
4. Del Worsham, Chino Hills, Calif., Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Monte Carlo  3,095
5. Tony Pedregon, Chino Hills, Calif., Q-Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo           3,050
6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Avon, Ind., Skoal Chevy Monte Carlo                       2,875
7. Cruz Pedregon, Camarillo, Calif., Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Monte Carlo   2,770
8. Robert Hight, Anaheim Hills, Calif., Auto Club Ford Mustang                  2,665

2005 SKOAL SHOWDOWN ROUND PAIRINGS
FIRST ROUND

Force vs. Hight
Scelzi vs. C. Pedregon
Medlen vs. Johnson Jr.
Worsham vs. T. Pedregon

SEMIFINALS
Force-Hight winner vs. Worsham-T. Pedregon winner
Scelzi-C. Pedregon winner vs. Medlen-Johnson Jr. winner

FINAL (4 p.m., Sept. 4)





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