Sportsman competitors in seven categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series championships.
WHERE: Maple Grove Raceway, Mohnton, Pa. Track is located off the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Exit 22), 10 miles south of Reading, Pa.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 11-14.
PURSE: Cash and contingency awards of more than $1.8 million.
FRIDAY, Sept. 12 -- Sportsman qualifying and eliminations begin at 8:30 a.m.
SATURDAY, Sept. 13 -- Sportsman eliminations scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 14 -- Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m. FINAL ELIMINATIONS begin at 11 a.m.
TELEVISION: Saturday, Sept. 13, ESPN2 will televise 90 minutes of qualifying highlights at 4 p.m. (ET). Sunday, Sept. 14, ESPN2 will broadcast NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute weekly news magazine show, at 11 a.m. (ET). Sunday, Sept. 14, ESPN2 will televise 150 minutes of final eliminations at 4:30 p.m. (ET).
2002 EVENT WINNERS: Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel; Tony Pedregon, Funny Car; Jim Yates, Pro Stock, Angelle Savoie, Pro Stock Bike.
WHAT TO EXPECT: As summer's heat gives way to cooler fall temperatures, the changing of the seasons in Eastern Pennsylvania 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 recent Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner Tony Schumacher and his U.S. Army dragster. Two years ago at Maple Grove Raceway, Schumacher became the first driver to surpass the 333-mph mark with his 333.08-mph blast. The Funny Car chase is shaping up as a classic 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 has him in striking distance as both drivers aim to score their first series crown. Greg Anderson has opened up a commanding lead over second-place driver Kurt Johnson in Pro Stock after claiming eight victories in 10 final round appearances. If Anderson's performance edge continues, the North Carolinian looks sure to win his first NHRA championship. Anderson must win four of the remaining six events to pass Darrell Alderman and Jeg Coughlin for most Pro Stock victories in one season (11). In the two-wheel category, Geno Scali has raced to a solid lead over Shawn Gann and three-time champion Angelle Savoie. If Scali remains consistent, he looks certain to win his first NHRA championship. The hottest rider in the bike class might be Reggie Showers. The world's fastest amputee claimed his first career No. 1 qualifying position in Brainerd, Minn. in August, and won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals last weekend along with a $15,000 bonus for beating the seven quickest Pro Stock Bike competitors in the K&N Pro Bike Klash. The Philadelphia native would like nothing better than to ride his PDI Suzuki to another NHRA victory at his home track.
FAST FACTS: Maple Grove Raceway is one of two tracks where defending Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon has yet to earn a victory in his career. At the beginning of the 2003 season there were four tracks with such a distinction, but following his victories at Seattle and Sonoma, Calif., St. Louis and Reading, Pa., are the only two NHRA venues where Dixon is winless. However, Dixon's crew chief Dick LaHaie won twice at the Pennsylvania facility (1986-'87) and team-owner Don "The Snake' Prudhomme also was victorious at Maple Grove (1991)...Funny Car driver Dean Skuza has two career wins in 13 career final round appearances. His last win was in 1998 at Maple Grove...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 30 straight events...Only four different riders have ever won the Pro Stock Bike category at Maple Grove Raceway (Dave Schultz, 1993-94; John Myers, 1995; Angelle Savoie, 1996, '98, '01-'02; annd Matt Hines, '97, '99-'00).
ABOUT THE TRACK: The track was a collaborative effort between Alfred Stauffer, who owned several hundred acres of farmland, and local racer George Weiler. Stauffer and Weiler, along with several members of the Eastern Custom Car Association, planned the layout and necessary facilities. A thin strip of asphalt, measuring 30-feet wide and 2,500-feet long, was laid in preparation for racers in 1962. Initially the track was a one-fifth-mile course instead of the standard quarter-mile due to the limited shutdown area. Maple Grove Raceway holds the distinction of recording many of the NHRA's most historic performances. Those memorable moments include Joe Amato and Shirley Muldowney making the first side-by-side four second Top Fuel pass (1989); the first side-by-side Top Fuel race where both drivers eclipsed 300 mph (Mike Dunn/Blaine Johnson); the first Top Fuel driver in the 4.70s (Cory McClenathan); the first Pro Stock driver in the 6.70s (Darrell Alderman); and the first Pro Stock Bike rider in the 7.00s (Matt Hines).
TRACK RECORDS: Top Fuel - 4.494 seconds by Mike Dunn, Oct. 2001; 333.08 mph by Tony Schumacher, Oct. 2001. Funny Car -- 4.731 seconds by John Force, Oct. 2001; 325.14 mph by Force, Oct. 2001. Pro Stock - 6.750 seconds by Jeg Coughlin, Oct. 2001; 204.35 mph by Mark Osborne, Oct. 2001. Pro Stock Bike - 7.092 seconds by Matt Hines, Oct. 2001; 194.77 mph by GT Tonglet, Oct. 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 (610) 856-7200. Tickets also are available at maplegroveraceway.com.
GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Thursday: Adult, $10; Junior (6-12 years), free. Friday: Adult, $30; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Saturday: Adult, $40; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Sunday: Adult, $45; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Child (5 years and under), free in general admission and pit areas each day. RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - Saturday: Adult, $50; Junior (6-12 years), $20; Child (5 years and under), $10. Sunday: Adult, $59; Junior (6-12 years), $24; Child (5 years and under), $14.