JOLIET, Ill. --
Sportsman competitors in seven categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series championships.
WHERE: Route 66 Raceway, Joliet, Ill. The track is located 30 miles southwest of Chicago on Route 53 (historic Route 66), approximately three miles south of the I-80 in Joliet. Take I-80 to exit #132A (Route 53 south) to the track.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 25-28.
PURSE: Cash and contingency awards of more than $1.6 million.
SCHEDULE: THURSDAY, Sept. 25 -- Sportsman qualifying and time trials, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
FRIDAY, Sept. 26 -- Sportsman qualifying and eliminations, 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. PROFESSIONAL QUALIFYING SESSIONS at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, Sept. 27 -- Sportsman qualifying and time trials, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. PROFESSIONAL QUALIFYING SESSIONS at noon and 3:30 p.m. JEG'S ALLSTAR COMPETITION at 11 a.m., 1:45 and 3 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 28 -- Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m. FINAL ELIMINATIONS begin at 11 a.m.
TELEVISION: Sunday, Sept. 28, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 1:30 a.m. (ET). Sunday, Sept. 28, ESPN2 will broadcast NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute weekly news magazine show, at 11 a.m. (ET). Sunday, Sept. 28, ESPN2 will televise 150 minutes of eliminations at 8 p.m. (ET).
2002 EVENT WINNERS: Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel; Tony Pedregon, Funny Car; Jeg Coughlin, Pro Stock.
WHAT TO EXPECT: The name of the game this year is weather. As the NHRA suffered through three consecutive rain delays, the teams will be anxious to get to Chicago, and hopeful that the weather will cooperate. The U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis was held a week later than originally scheduled because of heavy rain. One of the races leading up to the CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals is the Lucas Oil Nationals in Reading, Pa. That race was postponed because of heavy rain and scheduled to run the first weekend of October. The following event at Memphis, Tenn., also was postponed for one day due to rain. So as the NHRA competitors race around the country in search of dry weather, the POWERade championship points chase is still hot. As summer's heat gives way to cooler fall temperatures, the changing of the seasons in Illinois not only provides a scenic backdrop, but prime racing conditions for drag racing's elite. Top Fuel points leader Larry Dixon has been a marked man for nearly two seasons. The driver of the Miller Lite dragster finds himself atop the points standings as the 2003 campaign nears its end. However, Dixon's quest for his second consecutive Top Fuel championship won't be easy as the Kalittas have teamed up to halt Dixon's title hopes. Defending event champion Doug Kalitta will have a familiar face around as cousin and two-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Scott hopes to give Doug the edge to win his first title. Also, don't look past Tony Schumacher and his U.S. Army dragster. Schumacher and newly hired crew chief Alan Johnson have teamed up to win three races in four final rounds out of the last 10 national events. The Funny Car chase is shaping up to be a battle between points leader Tony Pedregon and Whit Bazemore, two fierce rivals. Pedregon, who won six of the first 12 events this season, has been winless since mid-June, while Bazemore's consistent Lee Beard tune-up and recent victory at Memphis has put him atop the POWERade point standings for the first time in his career. Greg Anderson has opened up a commanding lead over second-place driver Kurt Johnson in Pro Stock after claiming nine victories in 11 final round appearances. If Anderson's performance edge continues, the North Carolinian looks sure to win his first NHRA championship. Anderson must win three of the remaining events to pass Darrell Alderman for most Pro Stock victories in one season (11).
FAST FACTS: Route 66 Raceway is the first true "Stadium of Drag Racing" in NHRA history...Hometown racer Tony Schumacher earned his first win at the home track outside of Chicago in the spring...he had gone winless at home in seven previous attempts... Top Fuel driver Kenny Bernstein may like Route 66 Raceway more than anyone else. The driver of the Budweiser dragster has three wins in five final rounds at Route 66 Raceway, including the inaugural event win for the fall race in 2001...Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson has never been to the final round at Route 66 Raceway...Troy Coughlin, however, has been to the final round in Pro Stock twice (1999, 2000) but only in the spring event, and has yet to earn a victory in Joliet...Greg Anderson, Kurt Johnson and Jeg Coughlin are the top three Pro Stock drivers in the NHRA POWERade standings and also are the only three drivers to qualify for ever NHRA national event this season. Coughlin holds the longest consecutive qualifying streak in the category at 31 straight events.
TRACK RECORDS: Top Fuel - 4.477 seconds by Kenny Bernstein, June 2001; 333.88 mph by Bernstein, June 2001. Funny Car -- 4.721 seconds by John Force, June 2003; 328.06 mph by Gary Scelzi, June 2003. Pro Stock - 6.751 seconds by Greg Anderson, June 2003; 204.23 mph by Anderson, June 2003. Pro Stock Bike - 7.103 seconds by Angelle Savoie, June 2001; 191.19 mph by Matt Hines, June 2001. NATIONAL RECORDS: Top Fuel-- 4.477 seconds (June 2001, Joliet, Ill.) by Kenny Bernstein; 332.75 mph (April 2003, Las Vegas) by Larry Dixon. Funny Car-- 4.721 seconds (May 2003, Joliet, Ill.) by John Force; 328.06 mph (June 2003, Joliet, Ill.) by Gary Scelzi. Pro Stock-- 6.670 seconds (May 2003, Englishtown, N.J.) by Greg Anderson; 207.18 mph (May 2003, Englishtown, N.J.) by Anderson. Pro Stock Bike -- 7.049 seconds (May 2002, Englishtown, N.J.) by Angelle Savoie; 194.10 mph (May 2001, Englishtown, N.J.) by Matt Hines.
TICKETS: For tickets, call (815) 727-RACE. Tickets also available at Ticketmaster, ticketmaster.com, and nhra.com.
GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Thursday: Adult, $10; Junior (12 years and under), free. Friday: Adult, $35; Junior (12 years & under), $10. Saturday: Adult, $45; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Sunday: Adult, $55; Junior (12 years and under), $10.
RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $45; Junior (12 years and under), $15. Saturday: Adult, $55; Junior (6-12 years), $15. Sunday: Adult, $65; Junior (12 years and under), $15.