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Mon, Nov 2, 01:04 AM

Track Drying Nears Completion
by Larry Sullivan

It's Dark, Cool, and Damp

BAYTOWN, Texas - The current, rain-revised schedule for the 2nd annual NHRA Matco Tools Supernationals calls for racing to resume at 7:30 PM, with round 4 eliminations in Stock and Super Comp.

Rain interrupted the running of event at Houston Raceway Park during the second round of eliminations today. Second-round eliminations were completed in Top Fuel and Funny Car, but the final pair of Pro Stock competitors in round two was preparing to run when the skies opened, with the Pro Stock Motorcycles already gathered on the launch pad and ready to run.

The remaining pair of Pro Stock Cars and the second round of eliminations for Pro Stock Bike will follow Super Comp. The remaining two Professional rounds are scheduled at 8:15 and 9:45, allowing the final round to be broadcast live, during the repeat TV broadcast window.

The Safety Safari started to dry the track a couple times, but each attempt stuttered to a stop when the rains returned. The third try looks like it's going to be successful, the weather moving northeast and clear skies coming in from the west.

Before the rain, the two completed rounds produced some stunning results:

Gary Scelzi brought the national speed record back to the Top Fuel cars, ending John Force's presumptive possession of the record by an upstart Funny Car, by posting a 324.32 mph speed in round one, and then raising the record to 326.44 mph in the second round.

Scelzi and Cory McClenathan are now the only two drivers with a shot at the 1998 championship, Joe Amato eliminated from contention when he lost in round one.

Kenny Bernstein and Mike Dunn ran the quickest side-by-side race ever in the first round of eliminations for Top Fuel, Bernstein winning with a quicker reaction time and a 4.586 second, 321.42 mph run over Dunn's 4.584 at 316.45.

Rookie Tony Schumacher outdrove Kenny Bernstein in round two, posting a better reaction time, winning a pedaling duel when both lost traction, and then smoothly guiding his car to a stop when the engine exploded in a huge ball of flame and shrapnel exploded the left rear tire. His team took advantage of the rain delay to repair chassis damage and he'll be ready to go tonight.

John Force stormed toward an apparent eighth Funny Car title with strong runs in the two completed rounds, clocked at 4.839 seconds, 319.94 mph in the first round, and 4.830 seconds, 321.19 mph in the second.

Ron Capps, Force's closest pursuer, survived two close calls and is still in contention for the title, keeping Force from clinching the title by winning in round one with no oil pressure and again in round two when his Copenhagen Camaro tried to launch itself into orbit with his second gigantic wheelstand in three races. The rain delay also worked to Capps' advantage, giving his team time to check for front end damage. Surprisingly, there was none and he'll be ready to go tonight.

Low qualifier Kurt Johnson fell from contention for the race win when his car drifted toward the wall, out of the groove and then got seriously out of shape when he shifted into fourth gear, leading and pulling away.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Hines saw his usual final-round opponent go out early when Angelle Seeling redlighted by 0.002 seconds in round one.

We should be back in business in about 45 minutes.

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