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Sat, 28 Oct 2006, 02:13 PM

AMS Pro Mods Everything on the Line at Vegas



LAS VEGAS -- At the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals, the final race of the now nine-race AMS Staff Leasing Pro Mod Challenge, everything is on the line.

When the second-to-last event of the 2006 season was rained out three weeks ago in Richmond, Va., all that money went into the Vegas pot - as if drivers needed added incentive. There's a championship at stake, one race to go, and four of them have a shot at the title: Jay Payne, Joey Martin, Shelly Payne, and Joshua Hernandez.

As the incoming leader, Jay Payne may be the favorite, but he's not necessarily the most likely driver in his own household to win. Wife Shelly currently is the hottest driver on the tour, with a win at the most recent event (Dallas) and a runner-up at the rain-delayed Memphis race.

Martin is just as apt to score - he's closer to Jay than anyone is, just 13 points out of the top spot. The dark horse may be fourth-place Joshua Hernandez, who, like Jay Payne and Martin, was upset in round two in Dallas. Payne lost a chance at further entrenching himself in the lead, Hernandez missed a opportunity to take over first place, and Hernandez dropped behind Shelly Payne and into fourth. But even Hernandez isn't out of it.

"Every point - even every qualifying point - is important now," said series director Matthew Brammer. "This will be one last race for everything, double the purse, and they all have a shot."

When qualifying at The Strip at Las Vegas is complete, look for Hernandez at or near the top. Just last weekend at the IHRA event in Rockingham, N.C., he shocked the world with the first official 5-second Pro Mod run is history, a 5.990.

Vegas' notorious altitude may keep everyone out of the fives, but just making this field will be war. Joining Martin, Hernandez, and the Paynes in the battle for one of the 16 spots will be Indy runner-up Raymond Commisso, 239-mph man Troy Critchley, Top 10 drivers Rick Stivers and Chip King, Zach and Cody Barklage, Mike Bell, Steve Engel, Mike Knowles, Kirk Kuhns, Harold Laird, Harold Martin, Thomas Patterson, Brandon Pesz, Tony Pontieri, Scott Ray, Danny Rowe, John Scialpi, and Bryan Seward.





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