THE SECOND TIME COULD BE A CHARM AT ROUTE 66 RACEWAY

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The National Hot Rod Association has 23 national events on a schedule that spans 10 months each year. Three tracks, Route 66 Raceway, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Pomona Raceway (Pomona, Calif.) are lucky enough to host two events each year. The NHRA POWERADE Drag Racing Series will be at each of those tracks in three of the final four events of the season.

Route 66 Raceway outside of Chicago will play host to the second annual Craftsman 75th Anniversary Nationals, Sept. 26-29, at Route 66 Raceway. Kenny Bernstein, Whit Bazemore and Warren Johnson are the defending winners in their respective pro categories at the $1.9 million race, the 20th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERADE Drag Racing Series.

Just because the tracks are the same, doesn?t mean the competitors can just cruise through the event. Kenny Bernstein is the only pro driver to win the 2001 fall event in Joilet, followed by a 2002 win at Route 66 Raceway in June.

?The tracks we see twice, generally, we see them under two totally different times of the year,? Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell said. ?So it?s as if you?re going to a different track anyway. I don?t know that anyone gains an advantage, even the guy that wins one of them, because we all have to work just as hard to race the track and the conditions as we do at any other stop on the tour.? Russell may not have an advantage on the setup for the Bilstein Engine Flush Dragster, but he does have one mentally. All three tracks are at the top of list of favorite tracks.

?The nice thing is that the tracks we race at multiple times are all great race tracks,? Russell said. ?Chicago was our first real ?Supertrack.? That huge arena is so awesome. I can tell you when you?re sitting in your car and they pull you through the tunnel and you come out into that huge bowl-shaped arena, you get goosebumps every time.

?I?m still awestruck by that place. I haven?t won there yet, but I know the track is capable of quick times whether it?s the spring or the fall.?

Greg Anderson, driver of the Vegas General Construction Chevy Cavalier, is competing for his first Pro Stock championship. He is in the top three of the standings, where he, Jim Yates and Jeg Coughlin are separated by less than 80 points. Anderson said going to the same track twice could prove to be more of a challenge than anything else.

?The weather is cooling down and we are going to start seeing some good conditions and better air at the tracks that we close the season out with,? Anderson said. ?We are also going to some of the better tracks on the schedule which means that instead of having 16-20 cars running well, you are more likely to see 25-30 cars running well. Better tracks help the weaker teams. The more experienced teams excel at the hot, greasy tracks.

?We are going to have more cars capable of qualifying because we are headed to some racer-friendly tracks. At those tracks, you aren?t just looking out for the Warren Johnson, Jeg Coughlin or Jim Yates? teams. There can be a lot of spoilers at the upcoming tracks, starting with Route 66 Raceway.?

Anderson started running a full schedule of events this season, so he is going to the same track twice for the first time.

?Having raced there already this season, I would like to think that I am going to be better prepared to be at those tracks,? Anderson said. ?But so will everyone else. You need any information you can get from each track, so being there once already this season will help a little. There are so many quality cars out there, it?s not just three or four cars. It is a knockdown, drag-out brawl. You can get seriously whooped in any round very easily.

?The parity is great for the fans, especially at the great tracks we are headed to. But I?m going to have to drink a lot of milk before the season is over because this is giving me ulcers.?

* SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying is scheduled for 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 followed by two sessions at noon and 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 28. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sept. 29.

* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the second annual Craftsman 75th Anniversary Nationals presented by Racing Champions. Call Route 66 Raceway at (815) 727-RACE for ticket information or click on the specific event date to order NHRA Nationals tickets:

THURSDAY 9/26/02

FRIDAY 9/27/02

SATURDAY 9/28/02

SUNDAY 9/29/02

* TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise 90 minutes qualifying highlights at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 28. ESPN2 will televise 150 minutes eliminations at 8 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 29. * ON THE WEB: NHRA news, photos and driver information available at nhra.com or route66raceway.com.

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