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Fri, 5 Sep 2003, 01:49 PM

Sunny Skies Clear Way for Renewed Competivive Spitit for Mac Tools U.S. Nationals
Courtesy of NHRA Communications

CLERMONT, Ind. -- Mother Nature may have had her way in postponing the biggest race of the NHRA POWERade season for a while, but now the racers are back in control.

With the storm out of the way, the track back up to speed and the racers rested from a few days off, the 49th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals is ready to resume this weekend. A record number of inches fell in the Indianapolis area, creating flooding throughout the city and surrounding areas.

The track was overwhelmed with water as well, but the staffs of Indianapolis Raceway Park and NHRA have combined efforts in turning the track into race-ready conditions.

"To be able to open our gates only four days after the amount of rain we received in a tremendous testimony to the caliber of our employees," said Ron Anderson, general manager of IRP. "Our facility crews have been working around the clock to get IRP back in race shape and we hope the fans enjoy the visit now that we will all be able to finally see some racing."

Fans and racers alike are anxious to get back to the business of quarter-mile competition this weekend for the completion of the 49th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, Sept. 5-7, at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The $2.5 million race is the 17th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Since the U.S. Nationals was moved to a permanent home in Indianapolis in 1961, the longest-running race on the NHRA schedule had never been postponed for a week. The biggest paying race of the season also has the most qualifying sessions (five).

While two rounds of qualifying were completed last weekend, racers will have three more chances to get in the top 16 spots before final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Warren Johnson has six victories in eight final rounds at Indianapolis. He is currently qualified in the No. 3 spot with a run of 6.825-seconds at 202.18 mph. Once the race was postponed, Johnson went back to his shop in Georgia to work on the car even more.

"Given the fact that we will have three additional qualifying sessions, things could get quite interesting," Johnson said. "Although we most likely would have addressed any chassis problems during subsequent qualifying runs had the rain not halted the event, the delay did give us time to work on other areas that we had run short of time on."

Budweiser Top Fuel crew chief Tim Richards said the team is anxious to race and will be ready to tackle any weather changes from last week.

"I think the track will be fine by the time we get on it because it is a pretty good surface to begin with," Richards said. "There is no reason to believe that it won't be as good as it usually is. The weather won't be that much different from (Saturday's qualifying sessions) with the exception that it won't be as humid. That will just help us make more power.

"We hate to have a race put off, because we were all ready to go and it seems like it is going to lose its luster. But believe me, once we start running again, it will be like (the delay) never happened."

SCHEDULE: One round of pro qualifying will be held on Friday, Sept. 5. The session will start at 4:45 p.m. Two qualifying sessions, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., will be held on Saturday, Sept. 6. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 7.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 49th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Call the NHRA at (800) 884-NHRA for ticket information. Tickets also are available at, and Tickets purchased for Friday, Aug. 29 will be honored Sept. 5. Tickets from Sunday, Aug. 31 will be honored Sept. 6 and tickets from Monday, Sept. 1 will be honored on Sept. 7.

TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 11 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 6. ESPN2 will televise two hours of early eliminations highlights on Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. (ET) that will include Budweiser Shootout coverage. At 11 p.m. (ET) Sept. 7, ESPN2 will televise one hour of eliminations coverage. NHRA 2Day will air on Sept. 7 at 11 a.m. (ET).

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