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Sat, 16 Sep 2000, 12:56 PM

READING - Top Fuel Qualifying Notes, Session #3
By Larry Sullivan

MOHNTON, Pa. - Notes from round 3 qualifying in Top Fuel at the 16th annual Keystone Nationals listing lane, driver name, elapsed time/top speed this round, position in order following run, best prior elapsed time/speed, and position in order prior to run:

Right Lane: Rit Pustari Runs 7.895/109.17, Now #16; No Prior Run

12:21 PM Pustari sat out the Friday qualifying sessions, so this was his first pass of the event. He had trouble getting the car staged, first having to be pushed back behind the starting line and then deep-staging. He lost traction after 100 feet or so, coasting the rest of the way. But he bettered Melanie Troxel's 13.296 bump time and got in - for now.

Right Lane: Doug Herbert Runs 9.072/93.05, Now #5; Best prior run: 4.613/316.97, Was #5

Same story, Herbert starting to smoke the tires about 100 feet out and shutting it down.

Left Lane: Joe Amato Runs 4.579/312.93, Now #3; Best prior run: 4.608/313.95, Was #3
Right Lane: Cory McClenathan Runs 4.615/305.49, Now #7; Best prior run: 4.680/312.93, Was #9

Two nice runs, no muss, no fuss, right down the groove in each lane.

Left Lane: Gary Scelzi Runs 12.434/95.93, Now #2; Best prior run: 4.554/321.27, Was #2
Right Lane: David Grubnic Runs 4.634/310.27, Now #9; Best prior run: 4.684/311.41, Was #10

The drivers are universally praising the new racing surface here at Maple Grove, calling it one of the smoothest they have raced on. Combined with the usually excellent air conditions here, the teams all have a tendency to turn the wick up a bit. Sometimes that produces instant tire smoke - like Scelzi's run - or a complete pass - like Grubnic's. But Grubnic's team will have to fork over $500 for oiling the track, a trail of oil starting just before the finish line in his lane.

Right Lane: Doug Kalitta Runs 10.104/88.61, Now #10; Best prior run: 4.641/291.38, Was #10

Apparently several teams elected to skip this session, resulting in several single runs. Another 100-foot, then smoke, then coast run.

Left Lane: Melanie Troxel Runs 4.576/312.57, Now #3; Best prior run: 13.296/78.67, Was #17
Right Lane: Larry Dixon Runs 4.635/315.42, Now #9; Best prior run: 4.632/316.67, Was #8

Well, Melanie got back in the field with ease, running a career-best ET, the car planting the rear tires and leaping off the starting line. It ate a few parts on the top end, the header flames getting irregular and very orange, but by then the ET was pretty well established and all the engine damage did was knock a few mph off the speed.

Left Lane: Bob Vandergriff Runs 4.630/314.61, Now #9; Best prior run: 4.740/298.60, Was #12
Right Lane: Andrew Cowin Runs 4.630/317.19, Now #5; Best prior run: 4.610/317.87, Was #5

Nice side-by-side pass for the crowd, identical ETs and speeds within 3 mph of each other. To give you an idea of how quick the field here is, Vandergriff's 4.630 puts him in the bottom half of the field, along with usually top-half qualifiers Larry Dixon and Doug Kalitta.

Left Lane: Kenny Bernstein Runs 9.421/86.44, Now #7; Best prior run: 4.614/317.64, Was #7
Right Lane: Tony Schumacher Runs 5.535/166.05, Now #1; Best prior run: 4.535/324.67, Was #1

Bernstein went about 100 feet, started to smoke the tires, and shut it down. Schumacher appeared to be on a good run, but then there was a puff of smoke from the tires as he neared the half-track markers and he shut it off.

That's it until later this afternoon, the top half of the field squeezed in between 4.535 and 4.615 - and the top twelve at 4.641 or quicker.

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