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Wed, 17 Sep 2003, 07:13 PM

O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals Fact Sheet
Courtesy of NHRA Communications


The 16th annual O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals, the 19th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in four categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA POWERade championships.

Sportsman competitors in five categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series championships.

WHERE: Memphis Motorsports Park, Millington, Tenn. Track is located at 5500 Taylor Forge Road. From I-240, drive north on Highway 51. Turn right on Barrett Parkway, turn right on Raleigh-Millington Road, turn right on Fite Road and then right on Taylor Forge Road.

WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 18-21.

PURSE: Cash and contingency awards of more than $1.6 million.

THURSDAY, Sept. 18
-- Sportsman qualifying and time trials, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

FRIDAY, Sept. 19 -- Sportsman qualifying and eliminations begin at 9 a.m.

SATURDAY, Sept. 20 -- Sportsman eliminations, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
PROFESSIONAL QUALIFYING SESSIONS at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

SUNDAY, Sept. 21 -- Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m. FINAL ELIMINATIONS begin at 11 a.m. TELEVISION:
Saturday, Sept. 20, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 3:30 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 21, ESPN2 will broadcast NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute weekly news magazine show, at 11 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 21, ESPN will televise two hours of early eliminations at 1 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 21, ESPN will televise one hour of final eliminations at 6 p.m. (ET).

2002 EVENT WINNERS: Larry Dixon, Top Fuel; Tony Pedregon, Funny Car; and Jeg Coughlin, Pro Stock.

WHAT TO EXPECT: After suffering a spectacular crash in the final round of the 2000 O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals and being disqualified for crossing the center line, Larry Dixon and the Miller Lite team attained some revenge at Memphis Motorsports Park in 2002. Dixon defeated Tony Schumacher in the final round for his eighth win of the season. Dixon has been as dominant this season as he was in 2002 and will be the favorite for the victory at Memphis. Doug Kalitta, Tony Schumacher and the impressive nitro-rookie David Baca will all try and stop Dixon from moving closer to his second straight NHRA POWERade Top Fuel championship. Tony Pedregon, the defending event winner in Funny Car, has been mired in a second-half slump following an impressive beginning to the 2003 season, but still finds himself atop the standings. Pedregon has been engaged in a season-long battle with rival Whit Bazemore as the two drivers try and become the first Funny Car competitor other than John Force to win a series title since 1992. Force returns to one of his favorite cities as he plays the unfamiliar role of 'blocker' with hopes of helping his teammate Pedregon. Bazemore's teammate, Gary Scelzi, earned his first victory in a Funny Car (Sonoma, Calif.) and will try and add to that total and build on the momentum his team has generated in the second half of the season. Greg Anderson has distanced himself from the rest of the Pro Stock field and seems a lock for his first career NHRA championship. Anderson continues to crave victories and has had the dominant car in the competitive field. Anderson will have to drive past last year's event winner and two-time defending Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin, in addition to Kurt Johnson, who has been among the category point leaders all season, and the always dangerous Warren Johnson. Reggie Showers is coming off his first career victory in the Pro Stock Bike category and with renowned crew chief George Bryce tuning the Suzuki, Showers is primed for another win. Three-time series champ Angelle Savoie will try and rebound from a disappointing mid-season performance and will join Shawn Gann as the two riders try to move closer in the standings to points leader Geno Scali.

FAST FACTS: Lori Johns is the only Top Fuel driver to win back-to-back events at Memphis (1990-'91)...The last three Memphis event winners in Top Fuel have gone on to win the championship (Larry Dixon, Kenny Bernstein, and Gary Scelzi)...Bernstein and Tommy Johnson Jr. have won at Memphis in both Top Fuel and Funny Car...Jeg Coughlin and Warren Johnson are the only two Pro Stock drivers with more than one career victory at Memphis...Pro Stock Bikes have not competed at Memphis Motorsports Park since 1999 and have only ran at Memphis three times prior to that ('88, '97-'98)...Angelle Savoie has won twice in the four times the Pro Stock Bike category has been at Memphis (1998-'99).

ABOUT THE TRACK: In 1986, Memphis businessman Ed Gatlin, along with a group of investors, bought 400 acres and built the Memphis International Motorsports Park. The facility included a quarter-mile drag strip with an adjacent road course, a dirt track and a go-Kart track. There is a 1.77-mile road course attached to the drag strip, which is used as the road course straightaway. The pro pit area holds more than 350 cars, and the total pit area holds more than 500 vehicles. In 1996, Memphis International Motorsports Park was purchased by Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, Calif., (GPALB). In 1997, the word 'International' was dropped from the facility name. A three-quarter-mile paved oval was added in 1997. The paved oval was built on the site of the old dirt track, and a new dirt track replaced the go-Kart track. Also in 1997, GPALB was acquired by Dover Downs Entertainment, Inc. In 1998, a three-quarter-mile oval track with all four turns banked at 11 degrees was built. The oval track has seating for 35,000 with 14 executive suites and a covered garage area for 50 cars on the infield. Renovated before the 1998 season, the quarter-mile dirt oval features seating for 4,000 spectators and a pit area for up to 175 cars.

Top Fuel - 4.552 seconds by Tony Schumacher, Oct. 2000; 321.42 mph by Kenny Bernstein, Oct.
Funny Car -- 4.824 seconds by John Force, Sept. 2001; 316.23 mph by Tony Pedregon, Sept. 2002.
Pro Stock - 6.809 seconds by Scott Geoffrion, Oct. 2001; 201.76 mph by Allen Johnson, Oct. 2001.
Pro Stock Bike - 7.243 seconds by Matt Hines, Oct. 1999; 187.21 mph by Steve Johnson, Oct. 1999.

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.

For tickets call (866) 40-SPEED. Tickets also are available at

GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Thursday: Adult, $10; Junior (12 years & under), free. Friday: Adult, $25; Junior (12 years & under), free. Children five years and under admitted free in general admission areas and pit area each day.

RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - Saturday: Adult, $35-$45; Junior (12 years & under), $10-$20; Sunday: Adult, $40-$50; Junior (12 years & under), $10-$20.

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