Words and photos by Ian Tocher

tlanta Dragway's record book was rewritten May 14-16, when the NHRA national-event tour visited "Georgia's House of Speed" for the 24th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals presented by Pontiac. During qualifying, both ends of the track records fell in three pro classes, highlighted by Tony Pedregon's 329.83-mph blast that also marked the fastest speed ever attained in a Funny Car.

Air temperature in the high 80s and track temps exceeding 125 degrees awaited drivers and crew chiefs on raceday, and the tricky track helped decide the outcome of several key match-ups. When the tire smoke finally cleared, Cory McClenathan prevailed in Top Fuel, Whit Bazemore won in Funny Car, Angelle Savoie returned to winning form in Pro Stock Bike, and Greg Anderson continued his dominance in Pro Stock.


The first round of Top Fuel at Atlanta featured a battle of champions, with NHRA champ Larry Dixon (far lane) falling to reigning IHRA nitro king Clay Millican. After also losing in the opener two weeks earlier in Bristol, TN, Dixon's loss represented the first time since the end of the 1999 season he's been ousted from consecutive first rounds.

Seventeen Top Fuel teams attempted to qualify at Atlanta, with only Luigi Novelli missing the cut. Novelli suffered this engine fire in the first round of qualifying on Friday.

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