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Sat, 14 Dec 2002, 09:35 AM

Force, Dixon Earn First-Team AARWBA All-America Honors
Courtesy of NHRA Communications

Force Candidate for Titus Award with Hornish and Stewart

GLENDORA, Calif. -- John Force is among three drivers eligible for the Jerry Titus Award when the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) names its Driver of the Year next month. Open wheel driver Sam Hornish and stock car racer Tony Stewart also are finalists for the prestigious award.

The three drivers were among the first team selections for the auto racing media organization, and one will be named as the Jerry Titus Award winner on Jan. 11 at the annual AARWBA banquet in Pomona, Calif.

Force and 2002 NHRA POWERADE Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon were named first team selections in the Drag Racing category, while Hornish, along with Cristiano de Matta, earned first team selections in the Open Wheel category and Stewart and Mark Martin were honored as first team selections in the Stock Car category. Also, Frank Manzo was named to the first team in the At Large category, while Kenny Bernstein made the second team in the Drag Racing category.

Force, a three-time winner of the Titus Award (1996, 1999 and 2000), is making his 12th AARWBA appearance and 11th as a member of the first team, breaking a tie with three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Don Garlits, who also had 10 first team selections. Force piloted his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a category-best eight victories en route to capturing his 10th consecutive and 12th overall NHRA Funny Car championship. In April, Force became only the third driver in major auto racing history to earn 100 career victories and his total now stands at 106, second all-time behind Richard Petty (200).

Dixon is making his second consecutive appearance on the AARWBA All-America team and his first as a member of the first team. Dixon powered his Miller Lite dragster to a record-tying nine victories while setting a record with 14 final round appearances en route to winning his first NHRA championships, giving team owner Don "The Snake" Prudhomme his fifth series crown overall.

Manzo, who captured his eighth NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car championship this season with four national event and six divisional event victories, was named to the first team in the At Large category. Manzo also was selected to the All-American team in 1997.

Hornish captured his second consecutive IRL championship with five victories this season. He is making his second consecutive appearance as a first team selection.

Stewart earned three NASCAR Winston Cup victories en route to winning his first series title at the final event of the 36-race season. This is the seventh time Stewart has been voted a member of the All-America first team, and fourth straight year he has made the team in the Stock Car category.

Bernstein earned his 12th overall selection to the All-American team, and fifth as a member of the second team in the Drag Racing category; seven of Bernstein's selections have been as a member of the first team. Bernstein won four events and finished second in the Top Fuel points chase during his final season as a driver.

NHRA drivers receiving Honorable Mention recognition were two-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin, who won a category-best eight races this season, and 19-time national event Funny Car winner Tony Pedregon, who won a career-best six events and finished second in Funny Car.

Other first team selections included: Road Racing: Ron Fellows, Boris Said; Short Track: Steve Kinser, J.J. Yeley; and At-Large: A.J. Foyt IV, Bryan Sellers.

Other second team selections included: Open Wheel: Helio Castroneves, Gil de Ferran; Stock Car: Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman; Road Racing: Didier Theys, Tom Kristensen; Short Track: Greg Biffle, Mike Bliss; At Large: Bill Auberlen; and Drag Racing: Clay Millican.

AARWBA members have annually selected an All-American Auto Racing Team since 1970. Drivers selected to the team will be honored at the AARWBA banquet, held each year in January. The reception will be held at the adjacent NHRA Motorsports Museum. The banquet is open to the public. For tickets or other information about the AARWBA banquet, call (818) 842-7005 or write to AARWBA, 922 N. Pass Ave., Burbank, CA, 91505.

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