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Sun, Nov 15, 12:14 PM

Just One Day Left in '98 Season
by Larry Sullivan

And Just One Championship Left On the Table

POMONA, Calif. - Good morning from Pomona Raceway, where the 34th annual NHRA Winston Finals are winding down with the final day of eliminations in the 1998 Winston Drag Racing season. The local forecasters are predicting that the good weather we've seen for the first three days of the event will continue through today, so we should continue to see close, quick, fast competition to conclude the year.

There is only one eliminator championship left to be decided today, though that one is all but locked up. Five championships were still undecided when qualifying began Thursday and four of the five were concluded prior to today's eliminations.

In Top Fuel, Gary Scelzi clinched his second, consecutive Winston championship in Top Fuel by qualifying in the sixteen-car field, and he did so in style, qualifying atop the ladder.

Though Scelzi clinched the season-long title, he fell out of the running in the Big Bud Shootout Saturday, with Rookie-of-the-Year contender Doug Kalitta taking home the $100,000 prize by defeating Eddie Hill in the final round.

Larry Kopp, like Scelzi, also only needed to qualify for the event to clinch the Winston title in Pro Stock Truck, and he did so Friday.

Like Scelzi, however, Kopp did not survive the second round of eliminations Saturday, Brad Jeter going on to grab his first-ever national event win in Pro Stock Truck competition.

In Funny Car, John Force has yet to clinch his eighth championship, but he can lock Ron Capps out by winning one round. Capps struggled through the first three rounds of qualifying and it appeared he'd go out with a whimper instead of a shout. Then he did a masterful job of driving in the final qualifying session to make the field and prolong Force's agony for at least one more round.

The other two Pro titles were never in doubt and were clinched before reaching Pomona - Warren Johnson in Pro Stock and Matt Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

In Comp Eliminator, Bob Andrews watched as his only remaining challenger, Santo Volpe, go down to defeat in round one. Volpe needed to win two rounds here to take the title away from Andrews.

The final title up for grabs here was in Stock Eliminator, where Jeff Hefler held the lead and only Harvey Emmons III had a shot at taking it away. To do so, Emmons had to advance to the semifinals. Instead, he lost in the third round, Saturday.

Three other Sportsman titles were settled at last weekend's Division 7 final at Phoenix. Dan Fletcher snared the Super Stock title by winning the event, while Gary Stinnett took the Super Comp crown and Jimmy Lewis the Super Gas title when their closest pursuers fell by the wayside early in eliminations.

Also on the Sportsman side, Frank Manzo and Rick Santos are repeat champions in Federal-Mogul Funny Car and Dragster, respectively, clinching their titles prior to last weekend.

Today's schedule is simple - final eliminations begin at 10:30 AM PST and continue until only one car is left in each eliminator. So pull up your computer, settle back, and get ready to wrap up the 1998 drag racing season. Stop by here at Drag Race Central throughout the day and we'll keep you up to speed on what's happening.

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