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Sun, 3 Oct 1999, 11:04 AM

Cool, Overcast Skies in Oz
By Ed Dykes

Action On Hold For Now

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Welcome to the final day of the Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Heartland Park. The morning dawned cool and overcast, with temps throughout the area in the mid-forties. The weather radar for the region shows scattered rain showers dotting the map, but it appears that most of the moisture is not reaching the ground.

The latest revision of the day's schedule called for sportsman eliminations to resume this morning at 8am, but at we write this at 9:10am the Safety Safari is still preparing the track surface. They are working down past the finish line, so we can't tell exactly what they're working on, but it appears that the track may be weeping water up through the asphalt, a problem that has affected this facility periodically in the past.

Once we get started, the plan was to run round 3 of Stock, then round 4 of Super Stock, Super Gas, Super Street, and Super Comp. At that point we were to break for the pre-race ceremonies, followed by the first round of Top Fuel at 11:00am. Obviously the weather delays will cause that schedule to be modified a bit, and I would expect that some of the sportsman racing will be postponed to later in the day.

The major story of the weekend has to be the crash of Winston Champion Gary Scelzi. After a major engine explosion Friday, the team opted to bring out their backup car yesterday, and when Scelzi crashed that chassis in Round 3 qualifying it looked like the team was out for the weekend. But they refused to throw in the towel, electing to try and repair their badly damaged chassis.

Fortunately, chassis builder Brad Hadman was here, and he led a bevy of volunteers over to the nearby Neil & Parks chassis shop, where they stripped away everything except the bare tubing from the footbox to the rear of the roll cage, which was undamaged in the crash. Hadman took the front end off the car they discarded Friday, a rear chassis section borrowed from John Mitchell's Montana Express team, and went to work rebuilding the battered dragster. Meanwhile, Alan Johnson and part of the Team Winston crew stayed at the track, preparing a powerplant and associated parts for the car.

Hadman and crew left the track at just before 4pm yesterday afternoon, completed their work last night by 11pm, and by 12:30am the car was back here at the track and a brand new engine was being installed. This morning, the car has a wing borrowed from Jim Head's Checker-Schuck's-Kragen dragster, and the crew is busy with their usual last minute pre-race preparations, having now done what many considered impossible just eighteen hours before.

It's now 9:45am, and a light mist has started to fall from the Kansas skies. The NHRA officials have sent the Stockers back to their pits, after assembling them in the staging lanes for their planned early round. The Safety Safari is no longer out on the track, having sought cover until drier conditions prevail. We'll be back in an hour or so with an update, but for now all action is on hold here at Heartland Park Topeka.

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