REST OF THE BEST

Big wheels spin at the Ford U.S. Hot Rod Truck and Tractor Pull Winter Championships at 8 Friday and 2 and 8 Saturday at the Capital Centre. It's $12 to $15; $8 for under 12. 432-0200 . . . the International Auto Show at the Baltimore Convention Center and Festival Hall (Charles and Pratt streets) is 12 to 10 Saturday, 12 to 7 Sunday, 12 to 10 Monday, 5 to 10 Tuesday through Friday and again next weekend. It's $5; $2 for under 12. 301/383-1200 . . . Country Gentlemen perform at Wolf Trap at 8 Saturday. Tickets are $12. 938-2404 . . . and for something different, not to mention from Yugoslavia: the Belgrade State Folk Ensemble performs at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall at 8:30 Friday. Tickets are $5 to $19.50. 393-3600.

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY CELEBRATIONS

Washington honors civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in many ways. Among them:

A Salute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a day of concerts at Howard University's Blackburn Center. Among the more than 50 jazz soloists and groups who'll perform: singer-pianist Shirley Horn, bassists Keter Betts and Van Perry, saxophonist Marshall Keys, the Bobby Sanchez Quintet, the Monk Family and many more. It's free noon to 10 Monday. Call 636-5983 or 291-0291.

Saturday at the National Museum of American History, the program "Making a Revolution: The Music, Tears and Joy" features civil rights activist Dorothy Cotton lecturing at 1 and a song workshop at 2 with the original Freedom Singers. At 3:30 the program ends with a tour of relevant museum exhibits. Free. 357-4176.

Conductor Howard Roberts brings his composition The Spiritual Heritage to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall via the New Harlem Chamber Orchestra, the North Carolina Central University Choir and soloists Ann Duquesnay, Ben Holt and Priscilla Baskerville. At 3 Sunday. Tickets $5 to $30. Call 254-3600.

Eclectic is the only way to describe A Song and Dance Tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. at the National Theater, where entertainment includes the five-member police singing group D.C.'s Finest, the Kankouran African Dancers and Drummers, world Hula-Hoop champion David Williams and Rio singer-dancer Miramar with the Carmen Miranda School Samba Dancers. All of this is free at 1 and again at 6 Saturday. Tickets have already been distributed, but those in line will be allowed to take remaining empty seats 15 minutes before showtime. Call 783-3372.

Voices will rise at Lisner Auditorium (730 21st St. NW) for the third annual Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation at 7:30 Monday, as six church choirs and the Anacostia High School Choir perform gospel and spiritual music. It's free (but bring clothing and canned food for the needy). 994-8716.

DUELING PIANOS

Opposites attract, and so it is at 3 Sunday when the Beethoven Society and the Thelonious Monk Center for Jazz Studies join to present pianist Marcus Roberts (winner of the first Thelonius Monk International Jazz Piano Competition) and Glen Sales (winner of the Beethoven Society Classical Piano Competition) in the Presidential Ballroom of the Capitol Hilton Hotel, 16th and K NW. It's $10 to reserve a seat, $5 for general admission at the door, free under 12. 363-8328.

POE, BUT NOT PITIFUL

For the 179th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's birthday at Westminster Hall (Fayette and Greene streets in Baltimore), not-quite-morose activities include the little-known Poe comedy "The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether" performed by the French/American Le Neon Theatre Company at 2, 5 and 8 Saturday ($10; $5 under 18) and one-man dramatic presentations by Tony Tsendeas of "The Black Cat" and the "The Tell Tale Heart" at 1, 3, 5 and 6:30 Sunday ($5). Monday's big events begin after the doors open at 6:15 p.m., and include more one-man performances (starting at 7) of "Frank the Body- snatcher," "A Dream Within a Dream," "The Tell Tale Heart" and the biographical performance "Edgar Allan Poe: A Dream Within A Dream" by actor Robert Rhode. This will all be followed by a solemn birthday toast at 10 at the Poe grave. It's $8; $5 under 18. 301/396-7932.

MORE BIRTHDAYS

Checking off another birthday anniversary: Robert E. Lee. There's an open house at Arlington House, the Lee Memorial, from 1:30 to 4 Sunday with a concert of 19th-century music. It's free at Arlington House, at the center of the Arlington Cemetery grounds; round trip shuttle buses from the Visitor's Center ($1.55) will take you to the house. (The program is repeated Tuesday.) 557-0613.

MUSIC CITY

Get on the beat:

Pianists Raymond Jackson and Sukey Goh perform at 8 Friday at the Levine School of Music (1690 36th St. NW) and again at 3 Sunday at the Bethune Museum and Archives (1318 Vermont St. NW) in the free program "Folk Influence: Basically Piano, Basically Classical." Call 337-2227.

The Fairfax Ballet performs "Dances from Coppelia," "Phoenix" (by choreographer Christopher Gillis) and "Suite in D/G" to music by Handel at 8 Saturday at George Mason University's Harris Theater, 4400 University Blvd., Fairfax. Tickets $6 (students and seniors) to $8. Call 820-6524 or 948-2369.

The chamber ensemble Musica Antiqua performs the program "Fortuna" (it's about the Renaissance musical deity Dame Fortune) at 8:15 Saturday and 4 Sunday at Post Hall, Mount Vernon College, 2100 Foxhall Rd. NW. Tickets are $7.50; $5 students/seniors. 331-3467.

The Monticello Trio performs works by Mozart, Ives and Smetana on violin, cello and piano in a free concert at the Phillips Collection (21st and Q NW) at 5 Sunday. 387-2151.