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NHRA LODRS IHRA Drag News Photos
Mon, 4 Sep 2000, 11:34 AM

First Round Preview
By Larry Sullivan

Monday, Monday...



CLERMONT, Ind. - If it's Monday it must be Indy, the only race in the Winston Drag Racing Series where Monday eliminations are scheduled in advance, not as the result of weather delays.

Speaking of weather (how's that for a segue?) a cold front unexpectedly moved through the Indianapolis area last night, producing a wild display of thunder and lightning along with gusty winds and anywhere from one to three inches of rain, depending on which rain gauge you trust. Many of the departing Sportsman competitors are doing so with the aid of a tow truck to get them out of muddy spots.

Remember the first-round massacre last year, where favorites were falling like flies? You could see that again today. Now that the professional teams have spent three days refining their tuneups to get down the tricky Indy racing surface in hazy sunlight and intense heat and humidity, they will come to the line for the first round of eliminations facing overcast skies and cool temperatures. The predicted high today is "mid-seventies," a far cry from the high eighties and mid-nineties we've seen for the past five days.

There are some very interesting first-round matchups today. Kalitta versus Muldowney brings back memories of feuds and friendships going back to the sixties - a relationship so intense that it was the basis for a movie. When asked if she had a list of those she would most like to beat, Shirley admitted having such a list in mind, but the only name she would admit to being on that list was "Kalitta."

Golfing partners Gary Scelzi and Kenny Bernstein meet in the first round today, qualified dead in the middle of the pack. That's a pairing you don't expect to see before the semifinals.

There are three female drivers in Top Fuel today - beside the Muldowney-Kalitta pairing, we'll see Rhonda-Hartman Smith racing Larry Dixon and Melanie Troxel facing Don Lampus. The earliest any of the three could face each other would be in the semifinals, Hartman-Smith and Muldowney on the same side of the ladder.

There are several interesting matchups in Funny Car, as well. When informed that teammate Tony Pedregon was going to be racing Jerry Toliver in the first round, John Force flashed a smile as dazzling as the one in his Fram air filter ad, saying "You just made my day." Since this took place during a press interview following his $100,000 win in the Bud Shootout, you get some idea of how intensely Force wants to beat Toliver. At the same time, Force was as concerned about Toliver making it into field on a last-ditch run as he was about Tony doing the same thing. Force wants to win the championship on the track, not by having his closest opponents fail to qualify.

For the second time in two days Force faces Del Worsham in the first round, who was also his first-round opponent in the Shootout. They have faced each other three times in prior first rounds here at Indy, Force winning two of them. If Force gets by Worsham, he will face either Scotty Cannon or Toliver's teammate Jim Epler in the second round.

There is no clear favorite when Tommy Johnson Jr. meets Whit Bazemore in the first round. When these two met a few weeks ago, in the first round at Seattle, Bazemore was qualified #1 and Johnson put Bazemore in the trailer. This time it's not the usually quick Bazemore who is the #1 qualifier, nor does he have lane choice. Johnson qualified #1 on the basis of his first run down the track, Friday, but was unable to come close to duplicating it in subsequent runs. Bazemore struggled through the first four qualifying sessions and then barely made it in, on the bubble, on his final qualifying run.

Whit also owns the car being driven here by Cristen Powell, who qualified well ahead of her car owner, fifth on the ladder with four consistently improving runs during qualifying. She will face Cruz Pedregon in the first round and the earliest she could face her car owner would be the semifinals.

Pro Stock points leader Jeg Coughlin barely qualified, surviving several close calls on the bubble during the final qualifying session. He faces #1 qualifier Mark Osborne in the first round, and, as with Funny Car, there's no clear favorite, Osborne #1 on the basis of a single run, his other four not even close to the same performance level.

Allen Johnson faces Darrell Alderman in the first round, the two Dodges qualified right in the middle of the field, so one of the Dodges will go home early.

Another interesting matchup finds Ron Krisher facing Jim Yates in the first round. Both struggled during qualifying and were in danger of not even being around on Monday, but both found the right combination and are separated by just 0.038 seconds, well within holeshot range.

Stick around, it promises to be an interesting, maybe even entertaining day



NHRA: 10 Most Recent Entries [ top ]

Sep 02- INDY - Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Wrap Up
Sep 02- BRAINERD - Top Dragster Final, Round 4 Eliminations
Sep 01- INDY - Monday Pro Mod Wrap Up
Sep 01- INDY - Regular Season Final Championship Points
Sep 01- INDY - Sunday Wrap Up
Sep 01- INDY - Bonus Points
Sep 01- INDY - Summary of Eliminations in Top Fuel
Sep 01- INDY - Summary of Eliminations in Funny Car
Sep 01- INDY - Summary of Eliminations in Pro Stock
Sep 01- INDY - Summary of Eliminations in Pro Stock Motorcycle

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