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Sat, 16 Sep 2000, 05:36 PM

READING - Top Fuel Qualifying Notes, Final Session
By Larry Sullivan

MOHNTON, Pa. - Notes from final, round 4 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:

Left Lane: Rit Pustari Runs 5.328/239.10, Now #15; Best prior run: 7.895/109.17, Was #17

4:29 PM High drama - Pustari only needed to better Don Lampus' 5.817 to get into the field and Lampus was helpless to defend himself, his car still in pieces in his pit area, lacking the necessary parts to come back from breakage last night to make this session. It wasn't pretty, Pustari losing traction early in the run, pedaling, continuing, spinning the tires hard through the top half of the run, leaving a trail of oil from half track through the shutdown area. But he managed to get into the field, leapfrogging over Lampus and Bobby Lagana. As a result, Lampus fails to qualify for the first time this year.

Left Lane: Doug Kalitta Runs 9.200/86.86, Now #12; Best prior run: 4.641/291.38, Was #12

Another single, Kalitta's dancing partner (probably Lampus) once again not running the session. Looks like the same tuneup Kalitta ran in the first session today, up in smoke after 100 feet.

Left Lane: David Grubnic Runs 4.729/298.67, Now #11; Best prior run: 4.634/310.27, Was #11
Right Lane: Rhonda Hartman-Smith No Time, Now #13; Best prior run: 4.753/283.97, Was #13

Hartman-Smith's team was unable to fire the engine, so Grubnic also made a single run. He lost traction on the top end of the run, smoking the tires and leaving a trail of oil in the shutdown area, maintaining his position atop the list of Top Fuel oildowns.

Left Lane: Larry Dixon Runs 4.682/299.40, Now #10; Best prior run: 4.632/316.67, Was #10
Right Lane: Bob Vandergriff Runs 10.398/83.86, Now #9; Best prior run: 4.630/314.61, Was #9

Vandergriff's car is painted black, with gold trim, like the familiar Tas-sponsored Sportsman race cars. It also sports the Haldex logo toward the front of the car. He lost traction after 100 feet. Dixon made another full pass, nice and easy, right down the groove.

Left Lane: Cory McClenathan Runs 4.820/229.70, Now #8; Best prior run: 4.615/305.49, Was #8
Right Lane: Kenny Bernstein Runs 4.673/298.67, Now #7; Best prior run: 4.614/317.64, Was #7

This is the 175th straight race Cory Mac has qualified for, the string starting here in 1991. Both cars smoked the tires on the top end, Cory Mac earliest and heaviest. A close check of the track showed "all clear," so the tire smoke was all the damage suffered. The TV crew got some great in-car video from Bernstein's car that showed Cory Mac pulling away until about 1,000 feet, then falling back quickly.

Left Lane: Doug Herbert Runs 4.658/290.88, Now #6; Best prior run: 4.613/316.97, Was #6
Right Lane: Joe Amato Runs 6.779/122.88, Now #4; Best prior run: 4.579/312.93, Was #4

Two good launches, but Amato lost traction around 300 feet out and shut it down. Herbert was on a good pass, but the engine shut down just before the finish line. It looked like a blower belt, but the belt was still on the car in the shutdown area.

Left Lane: Andrew Cowin Runs 4.621/311.13, Now #5; Best prior run: 4.610/317.87, Was #5
Right Lane: Melanie Troxel Runs 5.236/188.86, Now #3; Best prior run: 4.576/312.57, Was #3

Nice, consistent pass by Cowin, that team appearing ready for eliminations. Troxel's car was staying with Cowin to half track, then got very close to the centerline and she shut it down and steered abruptly back toward the groove.

Left Lane: Tony Schumacher Runs 4.589/303.43, Now #1; Best prior run: 4.535/324.67, Was #1
Right Lane: Gary Scelzi Runs 4.640/301.60, Now #2; Best prior run: 4.554/321.27, Was #2

"Sarge" versus "Big Red." Our last two Winston champs square off for the final time during qualifying, qualified atop the Top Fuel ladder. If these are their race-day tuneups, they are ready to do battle. Alan Johnson used the middle two qualifying sessions to do some testing, but came back to his baseline tuneup for this session. As for Schumacher, his final run falls in between his other two full passes, right where yopu'd expect that team to be.

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