CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals has Become a Must-See POWERade Event

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This weekend's ninth annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals has quickly become a must-see event. This is the POWERade tour's only stop in the Windy City this year, so drivers and crew chiefs know they will get just one chance at one of the world's quickest and fastest dragstrips. Route 66 Raceway currently boasts three of the top four national records -- Tony Schumacher's 4.437-second elapsed time in Top Fuel and John Force's double-world-record Funny Car pass of 4.665 seconds at 333.58 mph.

This weekend will also feature two special races Saturday amid the final two rounds of Professional qualifying. First, the top eight Pro Stock qualifiers from the previous 12 months will be competing for the $50,000 top prize in the lucrative NHRA King Demon Crown. Additionally, the prestigious 22nd annual Jeg's Allstars will feature 62 of the best Sportsman drivers in the country vying for divisional bragging rights, $100,000, and the distinction of being named a Jeg's Allstar.

CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals

Last October, Schumacher set the national e.t. record in his U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster at Route 66 Raceway. He eventually earned his third overall and second consecutive world championship in the category. This year, Schumacher has shown his customary strength during qualifying, but his weak race day performances on Sunday have left the door wide open for teammate and season-long points leader Melanie Troxel, who has emerged as a big threat.

"We just can't seem to establish any consistency," said Schumacher, who lives in Chicago. "We'll get down the track one time and then struggle to make it past the 100-foot mark the next time. Hopefully, we can cure our ills real soon. We're overdue for giving our hardworking soldiers a victory. Perhaps, in honor of the U.S. Army's birthday at Joliet, we can serve them up a nice present."

While Schumacher looks to rebound, others in Top Fuel are continuing to surge forward, including three-time 2006 winner Doug Kalitta and two-time winner Brandon Bernstein. Dave Grubnic, Larry Dixon, "Hot Rod" Fuller, and Morgan Lucas also are top threats.

In Funny Car, Brut Dodge driver Ron Capps is holding firm to the top of the POWERade points standings with four victories and has led since the season's second event. A slumping Gary Scelzi, the defending champion at this event, has dropped steadily in the rankings and now sits 10th. Don Schumacher Racing's third driver in the category, Whit Bazemore, has fared slightly better with a midseason surge in his Matco Tools Dodge Charger. A three-time Chicago titlist, Bazemore is in seventh place.

Summit Racing Pontiac GTO driver Greg Anderson - who will lead the NHRA King Demon Crown bonus event as the No. 1 seed -- has maintained his series points lead in a season filled with parity in Pro Stock. Eight different drivers have won in nine races. Young gun Dave Connolly is the only driver to post multiple victories and is fifth in the standings. Erica Enders has been quick in qualifying and in Topeka became the first female to qualify No. 1 in Pro Stock history. Jason Line, Kurt Johnson, and Jim Yates also will be racing for victory.

Angelle Sampey and Antron Brown readily admit that although they place friendly bets on which one of them will win, they don't necessarily mind which one reaches the Pro Stock Motorcycle winner's circle as long as the yellow and black of the U.S. Army defeats the army of Harley-Davidsons and Buells. In addition to defending world champion Andrew Hines and his teammate, GT Tonglet, Chip Ellis, Matt Smith, Ryan Schnitz, and Karen Stoffer are among a long list of pre-race favorites.

Jeg's Allstars

The Jeg's Allstars race features racing in eight NHRA Sportsman eliminators -- Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Comp, Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, and Super Street. Competitors earn their way into the event by accumulating points during Lucas Oil Series events held within their home divisions. The seven divisional points leaders in each eliminator are joined by the defending event champs, who are invited to return as blockers.

Racers are competing for individual and team honors during the event. The Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car champions will each receive $7,000. The Comp and Super Stock winners will earn $6,000 each, and the champions in Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, and Super Street will take home $4,500 apiece. The team that accumulates the most round-wins during the competition will share in a $20,000 bonus. In addition, any racer who wins a Jeg's Allstars title on Saturday and returns on Sunday to win his or her respective category during final eliminations for the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals will receive double prize money from Jeg's.

Last year, the team from the Northwest Division claimed a narrow victory, 1,200 to 1,000 points, over the host team from the North Central Division. The championship was just the second for the Northwest Division, whose racers last won the title in 1988.

*NOTE: For more NHRA news and current NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series driver standings, be sure to check out www.nhra.com .

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