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A rejuvenated Gilbertson returning to competition at the Carolinas Nationals

Nitro Funny Car racer Bob Gilbertson hasn't been on a drag strip since last May and he's looking forward to getting back on track at this weekend's Carolinas Nationals at the brand-new zMAX Dragway in near-by Concord, N.C.

Gilbertson made the decision to park his team at the beginning of the summer so he could focus on new Military contracts for his business, Truck Equipment Manufacturing Company, that will increase sales 50%. The time off also allowed the Terminator Motorsports team to make the necessary changes including a new chassis, a new tire, a new sponsor and a new crew chief.

While chassis builder Murf McKinney was re-vamping the race car over the summer months to bring it up to the new NHRA safety specifications, Rinnai Tankless Hot Water Heaters joined the team as the primary sponsor for the Carolinas Nationals and Gilbertson hired veteran crew chief Mike Kloeber to lead the team at his home-town race.

"Its been a couple of crazy months around here," Gilbertson said. "Even though we weren't out there racing we kept busy working on a marketing plan for our new sponsor and putting the deal together to get Kloeber on board. I'm very happy that it all came together and I just can't wait to get behind the wheel again and it's also exciting to make my return at the nicest drag strip in the world that's in my own back yard."

Gilbertson knows he's got an uphill battle in front of him but he's optimistically confident about his chances.

"Our goal is to qualify and go rounds," Gilbertson added. "It's going to be tough to even qualify but since nobody has been down zMAX Dragway yet in a fuel car, we'll all be starting in the same boat, without any data. I believe this will play into Kloeber's hands and we'll have just as much of a chance to get in the show as the other mega teams do.

TELEVISION SCHEDULE:

Saturday, Sept. 13 Qualifying 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM ET (ESPN2)

Sunday, Sept.14 Eliminations 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM ET (ESPN2)