NHRA Sport Compact star Abel Ibarra tested at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend in preparation for the season-opening NHRA Summit Sport Compact Drag Racing Series event in Las Vegas on March 15-16.  His K&N Filters Mazda RX-7 ran the quarter mile in a late-session pass at 7.04 sec./191.16 mph, and might have gone even faster had he not shut off before the finish line.

"It was kind of dark so I really did not know where the finish line was," Ibarra said.  Considering the altitude for Vegas, we're very happy. We wanted to test somewhere that we'll be racing, so Vegas was the obvious choice. I think this test session showed that we are in the ballgame again.  The boost is still low only about 26-27 pounds and I still have some issues with the clutch but I'll figure them out."

Ibarra will get some additional track time this weekend as he will make exhibition runs at the NHRA K&N Filters Winternationals, the 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series opener at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway.

The Strip's inaugural GM Performance NHRA Sport Compact Nationals on March 15-16 is  the first event of the 2003 NHRA Summit Sport Compact Series season.  The 10-race, $1.4 million series will once again feature exciting competition at many of the nation's premier drag racing facilities with each race being showcased on ESPN2. A year-end championship bonus fund of $144,000 as well as purses at each event totaling $260,500 are guaranteed. The series also offers the sport's most lucrative contingency program.

"Sport Compacts are the future of drag racing and we are excited to be a part of the NHRA Summit Sport Compact Drag Racing Series," said Chris Blair, LVMS' director of drag racing operations.  "The 2003 season promises to be a revolutionary year for this series and we're proud to see it kick off at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"Our inaugural GM Performance NHRA Sport Compact Nationals will feature special editions of our popular Titan Auto Insurance Midnight Mayhem street racing program, a car show and other youth-oriented lifestyle events.  The NHRA Summit Sport Compact race will be more than just another drag event -- it will be a major happening in Las Vegas."

Included in the Las Vegas event will be an appearance by the NHRA Pit Crew Girls, the NHRA Extreme Car Audio Contest, guest DJs and the NHRA Extreme Bikini Jam Contest.

NHRA officials have realigned the series' professional "heads-up" categories, providing a logical progression for enthusiasts to step up from a novice class to the ultimate level of professional competition.

In 2003, the NHRA Summit Sport Compact Drag Racing Series will feature two professional "heads-up" categories competing for a world championship: the Pro RWD (rear-wheel drive) class, and the new Pro FWD (front-wheel drive) category.

The current Hot Rod (front-wheel drive) and All-Motor classes will be maintained in 2003 and compete for an NHRA Summit Sport Compact Drag Racing Series Championship.  The current Modified category will feature rear-wheel drive only vehicles. In all, five NHRA Summit Sport Compact Drag Racing Series championships (Pro RWD, Pro FWD, Hot Rod, Modified, All-Motor) will be up for grabs in 2003

Inaugural GM Performance NHRA Sport Compact Nationals

Friday, March 14 -- Titan Auto Insurance Midnight Mayhem & Summit Sport Compact Series Kick-Off Party

Parking for professional teams and midway displays -- Noon - 5 p.m.

Titan Auto Insurance Midnight Mayhem gates open -- 7 p.m.

Titan Auto Insurance Midnight Mayhem Grudge Drags -- 8 p.m. - 2 a.m.

Summit Sport Compact Series Kick-Off Party/autograph session -- 10 p.m. - 2 a.m.

Saturday, March 15, 2003 -- GM Performance NHRA Sport Compact Nationals

Gates Open -- 8 a.m.

Tech Inspection -- 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Sport Compact Bracket Time Trials -- 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Heads-Up Qualifying Session No. 1 -- 2 p.m

Heads-Up Qualifying Session No. 2 -- 4 p.m.

Heads-Up Qualifying Session No. 3 -- 6 p.m.

Sunday, March 16, 2003 -- GM Performance NHRA Sport Compact Nationals and NHRA Stylefest

Gates Open -- 7 a.m.

Bracket Tech Inspection (for new arrivals) -- 8 a.m. - 10 a.m.

Sport Compact Bracket Time Trials -- 10 a.m. - Noon

Opening Ceremonies -- Noon - 12:30 p.m.

Racing Eliminations -- 12:30 p.m.

NHRA Stylefest -- 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Bikini Contest (following first round heads up eliminations) -- 1:30 p.m.

Admission Prices:

Friday, March 14:

Midnight Mayhem Spectator -- $5

Midnight Mayhem Race/Ride/Show -- $10

Saturday, March 15:

General Admission -- $15

Kids 6-12 -- $5

Kids Under 6 -- Free

Sunday, March 16:

General Admission -- $20

Kids 6 -12 -- $8

Kids Under 6 -- Free

Two-day Combo Tickets:

Adult: $30

Kids: $10

For more information on the series, visit www.NHRAsportcompact.com.