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Sat, 29 Sep 2001, 03:13 PM

Series Titles on the Line at Mazda World Finals
Courtesy of NHRA Communications

POMONA, Calif. - For the leading contenders in the NHRA Summit Import Drag Racing Series' five heads-up categories, six months of racing, countless hours spent at the race shop and numerous miles logged on the road have all come down to one event, the Inaugural Mazda NHRA Import World Finals presented by Toyo Tires, Sept. 29-20, at Pomona Raceway. The final of six events in the $120,000 NHRA Summit Import Drag Racing Series for 2001.

If the tight points-battles in each division weren't pressure enough, the Mazda World Finals will be worth double-points to the competitors in the five heads-up categories. A victory at an NHRA Summit Import Drag Racing Series event is worth 100 points, however at the Mazda World Finals a victory will be worth 200 points. So, an early exit could severely hurt ones chances at becoming one of the first NHRA Summit Import champions.

A tight points race is shaping up in the Pro category as points leader R.J. Simrock, who dominated the first race at the Texas Motorplex, and his ABS Focus will try to hold off hard charging Puerto Rican-star Rafael Rivera who took home the "Wally" at Gainesville. Other drivers looking to break through are Jimmy O'Connor in his Venom-backed Toyota Tacoma truck and local favorite Abel Ibarra in his 1998 RX7.

Parity is the word that best describes the Modified division as a different winner has found their way to the winner's circle at the conclusion of each event. The top five drivers are separated by less than 100 points, which means the race toward the title will be hotly contested. Chris Rado remains winless thus far, but consistency has carried him to the top of the Modified pack. Craig Paisley has one victory this season and has rebounded from his crash in Gainesville, Fla. and is looking to top Rado for the title. Other top contenders are Gainesville winner Carlos Gonzalez and Stephan Papadakis who took home the title at Sacramento.

Lisa Kubo and her Civic have a solid lead of more than 100 points over second place Kenny Tran after victories at Ennis, Texas and Gainesville, but Kubo's chance for a perfect season was lost at the start when she fouled out in Sacramento. However, if Kubo or Tran slip up, they may end the season looking up in the Hot Rod division standings at Sacramento winner JoJo Callos or O'Connor and his Honda.

Ari Yallon is the one driver who appears to have the championship trophy strongly within his grasp having dominated the Street Tire category winning all three events and qualifying in the No. 1 spot at each race as well. Yallon's teammate Steven Kan is looking to score his first victory of the season.

The All Motor class is another tightly contested battle that will come down to the wire. Joel Mandl leads the points battle, but has yet to record a victory. Co'Torres Gee drove his Honda to victory at Gainesville and is less than four rounds of competition behind Mandl. Also looking to spend Sunday afternoon in winners circle is Scott Kelly who drove his wild 1969 Volkswagen to the win in Sacramento.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the Mazda NHRA Import World Finals.

SCHEDULE: Heads-Up qualifying sessions are set for noon, 2 and 4 p.m. on Sept. 29. Final Eliminations begin at 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 30.

TELEVISION: On Monday, Oct. 15, ESPN2 will televise 30-minutes of event coverage at 8:30 p.m. (ET), with a rebroadcast on Friday, Oct. 19, at 12:30 a.m. (ET).

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