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MICKEY THOMPSON OFF-ROAD RACING RETURNS TO UTAH

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The bumpy, twisty, turny, pure-survival style of auto racing returns to Rice Stadium on the campus of the University of Utah on Saturday with the Mickey Thompson Stadium Off-Road Racing.

Simply put, hundreds of loads of dirt are dumped into the stadium and then pushed into a series of bumps and turns over which no vehicle could be driven sensibly. Some of the top drivers in the country, though, will drive it - as fast as possible.Qualifying will begin Saturday at 1 p.m., with races to start at 7 p.m. From 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. there will be a stadium autograph session.

Among the more successful teams on the circuit this year are "Johnson and Johnson" of "Nelson and Nelson."

The Chevrolet team of Nelson and Nelson Racing will debut its new S-10 hybrid-Chevy trucks this year. Behind the wheel will be Rick Johnson, 29, a converted off-road racer from motorcycles, and Jimmie Johnson (no relation), who at 18 is the youngest driver on the track.

For the elder Johnson, the switch from motorcycles to trucks was a smooth one. His first season he won two main events and was named the series "rookie of the year."

He returned this year to open with back-to-back victories in February.

The younger Johnson graduated from racing school this year and has already won two heat races this season.

The trucks they will drive are 1994 model Chevs with 90 degree V-6 engines.

The track will be built using 6,000 pieces of plywood and 24,000 square feet of plastic covered with more than 25 million pounds of dirt.