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Sun, 3 Oct 1999, 01:50 PM

TOPEKA - Top Fuel Round 1 Eliminations
By Ed Dykes

All The Work Pays Off



TOPEKA, Kan. - Results of round 1 eliminations in Top Fuel at the 11th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals:
  
 Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed-Rd-Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed
   8 Doug Herbert        4.641 318.99  Q    9 Cory McClenathan    4.650 323.27
 *****WINNER***** 0.486  4.636 304.67  E1                  0.460  7.464  95.29
11:32 AM, 44 degrees, 82% humidity, 30.21 on the barometer, overcast skies, and a steady 10mph crosswind from the left to the right. The pre-race ceremonies are winding down, the National Anthem has been sung, the invocation given, and we're going racing. The jet track dryer is out trying to put some heat into the racing surface, and our infrared thermometer says the track temp is up to 62 degrees. The experts would tell you that the chances that you can hook up one of these fuel cars up at that temp is no better than 50-50, so we'll see which side of that 50 these first two come down on. Now 11:46 AM, the engines come to life and we're racing. They're off, and just like earlier in the weekend, the MBNA car shook the tires hard enough that the parachute came out prematurely, ending his shot at getting to the finish line first.
  
 Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed-Rd-Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed
   7 Andrew Cowin        4.588 313.58  Q   10 Mike Dunn           4.672 310.27
                  0.502 11.613  59.74  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.500  4.619 307.30
Both cars had the front ends in the air off the line, and when Cowin pedalled the K&N car to get back it on the ground the engine exploded in a huge fireball, all before the 200' mark. As the car rolls to a stop we can see the supercharger sitting crosswise on the engine, not at all where it's supposed to be. Dunn grabbed the brake to settle the Mopar dragster and managed to motor on thru with a very respectable pass in these conditions. The Safety Safari heads out for what looks to be a lengthy cleanup of the oil and debris from Cowin's engine, while the Bud King crew, lined up next, decides to swap to the right lane after seeing all the oil in the left side.
  
 Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed-Rd-Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed
  11 Larry Dixon         4.691 297.88  Q    6 Kenny Bernstein     4.569 312.71
                  0.570  4.674 311.77  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.467  4.725 320.74
That _was_ a long cleanup, mostly because NHRA wanted to put more heat into the asphalt so they spent awhile with the jet track dryers again. And their work pays off, both cars solid for the full 1320', and the Bud King wins it on a huge holeshot. Dixon was nearly a tenth late, and he was never in it after that. Even with the Miller car's quicker run, the Budweiser machine crossed the stripe first by a 0.052 second margin -- nearly 24 feet ahead.
  
 Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed-Rd-Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed
   4 Doug Kalitta        4.539 321.96  Q   13 Paul Romine         4.718 304.60
 *****WINNER***** 0.488  4.804 293.66  E1                  0.541  7.164 108.24
Kalitta leaves first, and pedals first, giving the CARQUEST car the lead, but then Romine's machine got the front wheels up in the air and heading for the centerline. Paul pedalled and got the front wheels down, but by that time he was out of the groove and it was too late to keep the car from punting the eighth-mile speed reflector in the center of the track. Kalitta's Kitty Hawk dragster never missed a beat after his early pedalling job, and he streaked to the finish with the win.
  
 Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed-Rd-Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed
  16 David Grubnic       4.766 270.16  Q    1 Eddie Hill          4.520 323.74
                  0.570  9.663  83.97  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.493  5.548 203.55
Both drivers pedalled at 100', then Grubnic pedalled a second time at 150' but still smoked the tires while the Pennzoil car soft-footed his way to the finish. The engine expired at 1000' but he was well on his way to victory by then. The Safety Safari trucks head down to clean up the shutdown area, apparently there's a bit of Pennzoil on the ground down there.
  
 Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed-Rd-Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed
   2 Gary Scelzi         4.524 304.46  Q   15 Randy Parks         4.759 307.72
 *****WINNER***** 0.494  5.619 282.07  E1                  0.505 10.969  84.87
Win, lose, or draw you have to give a tip of the hat to the Team Winston guys, who were here last night until 4am putting the finishing touches on this car, rebuilt from the massive crash he suffered here in qualifying yesterday. And it's a pedalling match but Parks was never in this one, the Fluke-Ryden Decal dragster trailing tire smoke early and often here. Gary pedalled at least four times before he finally got the pieced-together race car to hook up and go to the finish.
  
 Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed-Rd-Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed
  14 Mike Smith          4.749 309.20  Q    3 Joe Amato           4.538 322.11
                  0.535  9.209 100.88  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.496  4.688 322.73
Again, another case of both cars going up in smoke early and then it becomes a pedalling contest, and the guy with the most experience manages to coax his mount to the finish line first.
  
 Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed-Rd-Qua-Driver(Opp'nt)-RT-----ET---Speed
   5 Tony Schumacher     4.555 327.90  Q   12 Jim Head            4.697 314.39
 *****WINNER***** 0.516  6.691 213.77  E1                  0.508  9.985  71.12
The Exide car smoked the tires instantly, and Schumacher had to be thinking he was dead meat, but then Head's machine fireballed and Schumacher saw it, so he blipped the throttle about 4-5 times until he got the car moving toward the finish under power, and he streaked past a coasting CSK dragster and into the second round. Head was very slow to stage and Schumacher is complaining about it in his top end interview, but the bottom line is that his Championship hopes are still alive. In round 2, it'll be Herbert with lane choice over Hill, Kalitta over Schumacher, Dunn over Scelzi, and Amato over Bernstein.




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