Top Fuel racer Richie Crampton certainly noticed the Route 66 Nationals has attracted the largest pro car count of the year and said that’s a positive sign.

“I think there are over twenty Top Fuel dragsters on the entry list for this weekend, which shows you how strong NHRA is right now,” the DHL Dragster driver for Kalitta Motorsports said. “This is a major city with a great racetrack, so everyone wants to get in on the racing.”

The 21-dragster field is the largest this season, topping the list of 18 entries at both the Gatornationals and the Virginia Nationals. It’s a marked improvement from the thin 14-car order at the season-opening Winternationals. At 19 entries, the Funny Car field matches the season-best at the Charlotte four-wide event. The Pro Stock class also drew 19, the most this year. The one class which has a strong showing this weekend but not a season-best count is Pro Stock Motorcycle. Eighteen riders this weekend are more than plenty to fill the bike lineup. But the class had 23 at its March debut at Gainesville, Fla., and 19 at two other races (Las Vegas and Charlotte).

Of the top four most successful pro racers at Route 66 Raceway, only one remains an active driver. He’s Jeg Coughlin, the sixth time Pro Stock winner. Eight-time series champion Tony Schumacher has six Top Fuel victories here in the are where he grew up, and nitro legend Kenny Bernstein and two-time Funny Car champ Tony Pedregon have three apiece here. Schumacher is sidelined without a sponsor and shares the FOX TV booth at least temporarily with Pedregon these days. And Bernstein is retired. Nine drivers have three Joliet victories – including Antron Brown, John Force, Matt Hagan, Doug Kalitta, and Jason Line – but four others who also won here three times are inactive: Whit Bazemore, Larry Dixon, Kurt Johnson, and Del Worsham.