Previously held largely in the evening in late June to escape scorching temperatures, the event contested in the shadow of the famed St. Louis arch at multipurpose Gateway Int’l Raceway should benefit greatly from its new early May date, when cooler temperatures should prevail.









0718-05306D_200.jpgFemale superstar Top Fuel pilot Melanie Troxel won her first race of the 2007 season and the third of her career Sunday at the 11th annual O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis. Troxel outlasted veteran Cory McClenathan, 4.741 to 5.355, in the money round to become just the second female winner in track history.

Ron Capps extended his lead in the POWERade Funny Car points to 121 with his third victory of the year, this one over Del Worsham. Dave Connolly topped teammate Jeg Coughlin by .016 seconds to move into second place overall in Pro Stock, while Matt Smith used a stunning national record elapsed time of 6.901 seconds to earn the Pro stock Motorcycle hardware over three-time Gateway winner Angelle Sampey.

This was the first victory for Troxel's new Vietnam Veterans/POW-MIA team, which came together in the off-season under the guidance of Evan Knoll. It was also the first for the popular pro in more than a year, as she last visited the trophy stand in Las Vegas in April of last year.

"We knew it would take a little time to get a new team together and get to a point 0718-05298D_200.jpgwhere we were running well," Troxel said. "It's certainly took us a few races and even when we started running a little better we didn't get any breaks. Today we weren't the best car and we definitely got little breaks here and there along the way so it was nice to see things fall our way."

Troxel powered from ninth to fifth in the rankings, while McClenathan solidified the 10th-place perch for the FRAM team. Top qualifier "Hot Rod" Fuller raced to the semifinals in his Fabick Caterpillar rail, which moved him back into the points lead he handed over to Brandon Bernstein at the last event. He is now 23 points up on the Bud Prince, who went out in the first round.

Capps looked exhausted when he climbed out of his Brut Revolution Dodge Charger R/T after dispatching Checker, Schuck's, Kragen racer Worsham in the trophy round. His 4.882 at 305.98 mph was just enough to beat Worsham's 4.918 at 308.50 mph and his 25th career win obviously took a lot out of him.

"I don't know if the people watching on TV at home have any idea at all how brutal it was this weekend," Capps said. "This is one of the toughest races I've ever been in and I can feel it now."

0718-05108_200.jpg The party was on in the Victor Cagnazzi Racing camp with Connolly catching and passing a slightly out-of-shape Coughlin to win the Pro Stock crown with a 6.663 at 206.99 mph in his Torco/Slammers Chevrolet Cobalt over Coughlin's 6.695 at 206.64 mph. Both drivers passed reigning series champion Jason Line in the points with Connolly second overall and Coughlin third.

"Victor has been working this program for so long and he's put so much effort, time, and money into this deal," Connolly said. "To give him his first win feels great, and the fact both his cars were in the final made it perfect. I was so happy to beat Jeg because he's a guy I really respect and I knew I would have to earn it to get it."

This was Smith's third Pro Stock Motorcycle final of the year and the third time he raced a female competitor for the race title. This time he finally got the win, using an otherworldly national record 6.901 at 191.78 mph on his Torco Buell V-Twin to conquer Sampey, who slowed well before the finish line and coasted through with a 7.132 at 162.67 mph on her Suzuki.

"I finally beat the girls and it feels so good," Smith said. "I beat two of them today. It was in my head a little, I have to admit. Credit this team with giving me a bike that has been running so sweet all year. We've worked very hard for this win so to go out and get it done is very satisfying."

Smith's third career win and the 20-point bonus he earned for setting a national record vaulted him to a 53-point lead over Karen Stoffer. Sampey is five points back in third.




a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website




0718-00515.jpg "Hot Rod" Fuller wants to break a perplexing streak Sunday when he attempts to win his first elimination round out of the No. 1 qualifying position, a slot he's earned four times in his brief career, including this weekend's 11th annual O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Castrol at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis.

With two of four professional time trials lost to rain, there was a premium on Saturday's final two qualifying runs and Fuller, Funny Car leader Mike Ashley, Pro Stock dominator Greg Anderson, and Pro Stock Motorcycle hot shot Matt Smith all managed to rise to the occasion.

Sporting Fabick Caterpillar livery this weekend, Fuller is the No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel for the second race in a row after zipping to a 4.596 at 313.37 mph. Fuller gains two points on No. 3 qualifier Brandon Bernstein, who passed him in the rankings by 19 markers with his second straight win in Atlanta last weekend.

“We've talked about getting past this deal where we qualify No. 1 and then lose in Round 1,” Fuller said. “When you're No. 1 it means you have lane choice and it means you're 0718-00594.jpgrunning the guy that's had the hardest time getting down the track. Instead of burying everyone, maybe we should just back it down enough to make sure we get down the track.”

Points leader Bernstein is third in the Budweiser rail with a 4.612 at 326.87.

Ashley made it three low qualifiers in a row in Funny Car by placing his Torco Race Fuels Dodge Charger R/T at the front of the class once again with a 4.799 at 331.77 mph. The Melville, N.Y., racer set a GIR track speed mark with his crowd-pleasing run, which came in the afternoon session.

“It's important to qualify No. 1 for positioning purposes but it's much more important to go rounds,” Ashley said. “We've found something between the chassis and the clutch that has made us so consistent. That's really exciting to me. Not only have we been No. 1 qualifier three times in a row, we've also had top speed of the meet at the last four races. We have a racecar here.”

Hard-charging Robert Hight is second, leading the John Force Racing contingent with a 4.819 at 319.07 mph in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. Despite missing a race after the death of teammate Eric Medlen, Hight is just 40 points out of first place.

0718-00427.jpg Hight's sister-in-law Ashley is third, muscling her way down the track in 4.853 seconds at 309.70 mph in her Castrol GTX Ford. Her father John is a solid fifth with a 4.856 at 317.57 in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang.

Runaway points leader Anderson has a slight jump on a fourth victory after qualifying his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO on top for the 55th time in his career. Anderson got the job done with a double-track-record pass of 6.676 at 207.69 mph in Saturday's slightly cooler morning session.

“We only had two shots to get in and that's always a little nerve wracking,” Anderson said. “You don't ever want that to happen but you can't control the weather. At least I know I have a team behind me that can totally handle that kind of pressure.”

Anderson teammate and reigning champion Jason Line was second with a 6.680 at 207.05 mph. The two men closest to Anderson and Line in the POWERade points -- Dave Connolly and Jeg Coughlin -- are third and fourth here with Connolly posting a 6.692 in his Torco Cobalt and Coughlin a 6.703 in his Slammers machine.

Smith was confident his track-record Friday night run of 6.970 at 188.96 mph would hold through Saturday's daytime sessions and he was right as the Torco Buell V-Twin rider collected his second No. 1 qualifier award of the season. The bikes were the only class to complete a qualifying session Friday.

“The strategy now is to win the race,” said Smith, who has two runner-up finishes this year, both to points leader Karen Stoffer. “We've proven we have a fast bike and we're No. 2 in the points. It's time to get a trophy. I always try to just shut out whose in the other lane and just execute the best pass I can and that's what I'll do tomorrow.”

Currently 42 points behind Stoffer at the top of the standings, Smith could make a big run at the lead spot in the POWERade rankings Sunday with a potential second-round match-up with Stoffer. She qualified eighth on her Geico Suzuki with a 7.062 at 190.81 mph.



a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website



 First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the 11th annual O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Castrol at Gateway International Raceway, the seventh of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday.

Top Fuel --
1. Rod Fuller, 4.596 seconds, 313.37 mph vs. 16. Doug Herbert, 4.782, 318.99; 2. Bob Vandergriff, 4.610, 321.19 vs. 15. Doug Kalitta, 4.751, 301.00; 3. Brandon Bernstein, 4.612, 326.87 vs. 14. Bruce Litton, 4.723, 288.39; 4. Cory McClenathan, 4.616, 326.08 vs. 13. Hillary Will, 4.711, 320.43; 5. David Grubnic, 4.620, 326.71 vs. 12. Scott Palmer, 4.697, 308.57; 6. Luigi Novelli, 4.646, 326.32 vs. 11. Melanie Troxel, 4.693, 311.41; 7. J.R. Todd, 4.650, 316.82 vs. 10. Larry Dixon, 4.682, 317.64; 8. Tony Schumacher, 4.652, 321.19 vs. 9. Clay Millican, 4.681, 315.78.

Funny Car -- 1. Mike Ashley, Dodge Charger, 4.799, 331.77 vs. 16. Tim Wilkerson, Chevy Impala, 5.111, 282.66; 2. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.819, 319.07 vs. 15. Cruz Pedregon, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.969, 314.02; 3. Ashley Force, Mustang, 4.853, 309.70 vs. 14. Jerry Toliver, Toyota Solara, 4.966, 303.98; 4. Tony Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 4.855, 318.39 vs. 13. Del Worsham, Impala, 4.918, 318.02; 5. John Force, Mustang, 4.856, 317.57 vs. 12. Jeff Arend, Monte Carlo, 4.911, 313.73; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Impala, 4.869, 316.45 vs. 11. Tony Bartone, Monte Carlo, 4.910, 307.16; 7. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.873, 314.02 vs. 10. Gary Densham, Impala, 4.904, 309.84; 8. Gary Scelzi, Charger, 4.891, 314.02 vs. 9. Scott Kalitta, Solara, 4.894, 315.12.

Pro Stock -- 1. Greg Anderson, Pontiac GTO, 6.676, 207.69 vs. 16. Erica Enders, Dodge Stratus, 6.740, 204.48; 2. Jason Line, GTO, 6.680, 207.05 vs. 15. Justin Humphreys, GTO, 6.739, 205.69; 3. Dave Connolly, Chevy Cobalt, 6.692, 205.91 vs. 14. Kenny Koretsky, Cobalt, 6.738, 205.26; 4. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.703, 206.61 vs. 13. Mike Edwards, GTO, 6.737, 205.04; 5. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.709, 205.66 vs. 12. Max Naylor, Stratus, 6.734, 205.22; 6. Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.716, 205.26 vs. 11. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.732, 205.47; 7. Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.717, 205.98 vs. 10. Tom Hammonds, Cobalt, 6.731, 205.94; 8. Jim Yates, GTO, 6.725, 205.69 vs. 9. V. Gaines, Stratus, 6.725, 205.79.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.970, 190.27 vs. 16. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.148, 188.31; 2. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.989, 190.54 vs. 15. Wes Wells, Suzuki, 7.134, 188.04; 3. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.989, 190.00 vs. 14. Scott Lewis, Suzuki, 7.121, 187.65; 4. Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.029, 189.71 vs. 13. Hector Arana, 7.110, 188.31; 5. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.042, 192.03 vs. 12. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.080, 188.15; 6. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.052, 190.65 vs. 11. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.070, 188.65; 7. Chris Rivas, Buell, 7.053, 187.57 vs. 10. Tom Bradford, Buell, 7.066, 188.25; 8. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.062, 190.81 vs. 9. Peggy Llewellyn, 7.064, 187.57.

a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website





Constant rain and high humidity forced an early end to qualifying action at the 11th annual O’Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Castrol at Gateway International Raceway on Friday, but not before Matt Smith posted a six-second pass to pace the Pro Stock Motorcycle field.

Smith recorded a track-record setting 6.970-second run at 188.96 mph on his Torco Race Fuels Buell to lead the two-wheel category. Pro Stock completed a partial round with former NBA star Tom Hammonds leading the pack, while Top Fuel and Funny Car were unable to make any runs down the St. Louis-area quartermile. Qualifying continues with two rounds scheduled for Saturday.

“If you're only gonna get one chance, you might as well go to the top,” Smith said. “The track was green and slick and I'd imagine we could have been at least one hundredth of a second quicker if there was some rubber out there but I'm still happy and I'd expect a 6.97 will hold up just fine.

“We’re gonna put the motor we blew up in Atlanta last weekend back in there for tomorrow's two rounds and see how it runs. Some times when you fix a motor that blew up like that one did it's never quite the same. We need to find out if it's good or not because you need a strong back-up piece to run in this class.”

Results Friday after qualifying for the 11th annual O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Castrol at Gateway International Raceway, seventh of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday's final eliminations.

Pro Stock -- 1. Tom Hammonds, Chevy Cobalt, 6.742, 204.54; 2. Justin Humphreys, Pontiac GTO, 6.752, 204.42; 3. Ron Krisher, Cobalt, 6.768, 203.16; 4. Larry Morgan, Dodge Stratus, 6.783, 205.47; 5. Jerry Haas, Ford Escort, 6.855, 198.99; 6. Kevin Lawrence, Chevy Cavalier, 6.867, 186.92; 7. Jim Yates, GTO, 7.598, 134.36; 8. Kenny Koretsky, Cobalt, 8.207, 114.19; 9. Roger Brogdon, Stratus, 8.519, 113.25; 10. Bill Shorts, Cavalier, 12.449, 57.61; 11. Max Naylor, Stratus, 15.471, 53.84; 12. Bill Windham, Cobalt, 18.549, 36.15; 13. Dave Northrop, Stratus, No Time; 14. Steve Schmidt, Cobalt, No Time.

Pro Stock Motorcycle --
1. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.970, 188.96; 2. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.989, 190.54; 3. Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.029, 188.54; 4. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 7.038, 189.55; 5. Chris Rivas, Buell, 7.053, 187.57; 6. Peggy Llewellyn, 7.064, 187.57; 7. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.070, 188.65; 8. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.089, 187.57; 9. Hector Arana, 7.112, 188.31; 10. Tom Bradford, Buell, 7.121, 185.38; 11. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.132, 187.89; 12. Wes Wells, Suzuki, 7.153, 187.99; 13. Barry Henson, Suzuki, 7.182, 185.51; 14. Mike Berry, Suzuki, 7.190, 184.67; 15. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.196, 190.92; 16. Scott Lewis, Suzuki, 7.205, 184.40.



a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website





Rain storms hit Thursday evening and continued into Friday. As of 12:45 PM, officials were drying the track in hopes of beginning professional qualifying at 4 PM.
UPDATE: 3:28 pm, CST - No word on a start time, but the track is being dried. Realistically, one session will be completed today.


a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website



_ja33641_copy.jpgTo say that the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series has been a roller coaster up to this point would be an understatement. With high profile names not qualifying for races, national records being set, and the death of a beloved driver, no one could have imagined that so much would have occurred in the first half of the season going into St. Louis for the 11th annual O’Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Castrol.

No one has seen this more then Kenny and Brandon Bernstein. Whether it’s working to find the rhythm needed with a new Funny Car team, or struggling to compete each week after losing a close friend and fellow driver, both have had their ups and downs this season.

“It’s been a roller coaster to say the least,” Brandon said. “Going into Pomona we had such high hopes for the two teams and to go all the way to the final round (with the Budweiser Top Fuel dragster) was really exciting for all of us. But then to go to Gainesville and not qualify it was a big downer. And then with what happened to Eric (Medlen) in Gainesville, that was probably the lowest point of my life.”

It was after a testing accident at Gainesville Raceway the Monday after the ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals that the NHRA community lost Medlen, a promising young Funny Car driver. For Brandon, who was close friends with Eric, this was a tough blow.

“It’s been a really trying time for me,” Brandon said. “It was hard to go to Houston two weeks later and compete and even Las Vegas was really hard for me not having Eric there. But winning the event there for him was not only huge for me, but was a big step for the team as well.”

Brandon says that though his focus this season has always been on winning the championship, winning it for Eric would make it even more special for him.

“Every season you’re trying to win the championship and that’s what our goal is this year,” Brandon said. “This year it gives you an added sense of desire and a sense of want to get that championship so that you can look up into the sky and say ‘this one’s for you.’ It just means a lot more when you have a friend that’s gone and you can win it for him.”

Coming into St. Louis with back-to-back wins at Las Vegas and Atlanta, Brandon says that winning there would be huge not only for him, but for his team as well.

“It would definitely mean everything to win there,” Brandon said. “It’s huge to win there because Budweiser (our sponsor) is located there. It’s like a second home for us. That’s our backyard, so to speak, and we want to win there bad.”

Kenny Bernstein is also feeling the ups and downs of the 2007 season. Bernstein failed to qualify for the first two events of the season, after stepping out of retirement and into the seat of his Monster Energy/Lucas Oil Dodge Charger Funny Car. But Kenny says the struggles from the beginning of the season have not pulled him or the team down.

“Well I think in reality (the season) is going really well,” Kenny said. “With the changes we’ve made with bringing in (new crew chief) Jimmy Walsh and the improvements we’ve seen since, I think things are going really well for us.”

It was after the second race of the season in Phoenix that Kenny brought on long time Top Fuel dragster engine tuner Jimmy Walsh, an addition that Kenny says has strengthened his team ever since.

“It’s been easy adjusting to Jimmy,” Kenny said. “He’s a great guy and a pleasure to be around. It just feels good and it’s nice to see the program going the way that it is and I’m really excited about it.

Though he is competing in what some have called the most talented lineup in Funny Car history, Kenny feels that the team has made the adjustments needed each week to contend with the group.

“The Funny Car field has been extremely competitive for quite a while and we knew that coming into it,” said Kenny. “It really has been a pleasure to be back and to be able to compete against these great drivers each week.”

Though things have been up and down for both teams, Kenny says as long as they can continue building on the success they saw in Las Vegas with both teams (Kenny making it to the second round of Eliminations and Brandon winning the event) then he’s confident that they’ll see the success they’re striving for.

“All we need to do is just learn from the success we had in Vegas and we’ll be good,” said Kenny. “I’m just happy with both our teams. Both crews are doing a great job on not only the Funny Car but the Top Fuel dragster as well.”

Kenny will have plenty to compete with when the competitive Funny Car class heads to Gateway International Raceway. Drivers to watch include defending champion and NHRA legend John Force, Force’s teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight who is coming off back-to-back wins at Las Vegas and Atlanta, last year’s event winner Tony Pedregon and two-time event winner Ron Capps.

Brandon will see plenty of competition in the Top Fuel class, as three-time event winner Doug Kalitta will be heading out along with last year’s event winner Tony Schumacher, and J.R. Todd, who won the season opener in Pomona as well as this year’s Houston event.

Pro Stock will also be bringing a competitive field with Greg Anderson coming off back-to-back wins in Las Vegas and Atlanta, and Jason Line who won the event in Houston. Mike Edwards won the event in 2006.

Pro Stock Motorcycle will be making an appearance and expect to see a strong performance from Houston event winner Angelle Sampey as well as defending champion Andrew Hines. Chip Ellis is the defending event winner.

SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 and 6:30 p.m. on May 4, and 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on May 5. Pre-race ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. on May 6, followed by the first round of professional eliminations at 11 a.m.

TICKETS: For tickets, call Gateway International Raceway at (866) 35-SPEED. Tickets are also available at Ticketmaster or online at gatewayracing.com.

ON TV: On May 5, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying at 5 p.m. (ET). On May 6, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will broadcast NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute pre-race show, at 11 a.m. (ET) and televise three hours of eliminations at 7 p.m. (ET).



a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website



THURSDAY, May 3, 2007
Parking, Registration & Tech (all categories) 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
FRIDAY, May 4, 2007
Spectator Gates Open 7:30 AM
Final Registration and Tech Inspection (all categories) 8:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Sportsman Qualifying 8:30 AM
Comp Eliminator Qualifying Session 10 AM, 12:30 PM, 3 PM
Pro Mod Qualifying 3:30 PM
Pro Stock Qualifying Session (PS Motorcycle / PS Car) 4:00 PM
Nitro Qualifying Session (Funny Car / Top Fuel Dragster) 5:00 PM
Pro Mod Qualifying 6:00 PM
Pro Stock Qualifying Session (PS Motorcycle / PS Car) 6:30 PM
Nitro Qualifying Session (Funny Car / Top Fuel Dragster) 7:30 PM
Secure Track 9:00 PM
SATURDAY, May 5, 2007
Spectator Gates Open 7:30 AM
Sportsman Eliminations 8:30 AM
Comp Eliminator - Round 1 11:00 AM
Pro Stock Qualifying Session (PS Motorcycle / PS Car) 11:30 AM
Nitro Qualifying Session (Top Fuel Dragster / Funny Car) 12:30 PM
Pro Mod Qualifying 1:30 PM
Pro Stock Qualifying Session (PS Motorcycle / PS Car) 2:00 PM
Nitro Qualifying Session (Top Fuel Dragster / Funny Car) 3:00 PM
Pro Mod - Round 1 4:00 PM
Comp Eliminator - Round 2 4:30 PM
Sportsman Eliminations continue 4:45 PM
Secure Track 6:00 PM
SUNDAY, May 6, 2007
Spectator Gates Open 9:00 AM
Pre-Race Ceremonies 10:00 AM
Final Eliminations 11:00 AM
Secure Event 4:30 PM

Schedule subject to change