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Fri, 29 Sep 2000, 10:42 PM

Scelzi, Force Lead Advance Auto Parts Nationals Qualifying
Courtesy of NHRA Communications





TOPEKA, Kan. - Gary Scelzi led Top Fuel qualifying Friday at the 12th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals.

John Force, Jeg Coughlin and Bob Panella also were qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the $1.9 million race, the 19th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.


Gary Scelzi
Scelzi, from Fresno, Calif., sped down the Heartland Park Topeka quarter-mile in 4.604 seconds at 309.98 mph in his Team Winston dragster to lead the 16-car order. Kenny Bernstein drove his Budweiser King dragster to a 4.616 at 313.15, good enough for second place.

"When you're in a points battle that's as tight as the one Tony (Schumacher) and I have going, you need to make every point count," said Scelzi, who entered this event eight points ahead of his rival. "I've actually gained a lot of points this year on Tony during qualifying. Hopefully we'll be able to get another No. 1 out of this race."

Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., posted a 4.903 at 307.23 to lead Funny Car qualifying in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. Frank Pedregon posted an identical time in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird, but lost the top spot by virtue of Force's faster speed.

"We thought it might get cooler tonight and a little tricky, but the conditions were really good out there," Force said. "(Our run) could've been better if we had the nerve. Maybe it could've ran a low to mid-4.80. Right now we're counting the points with Toliver so we're making sure we don't do anything stupid. I don't know if that time is going to hold. It might, but I doubt it."

Coughlin, from Columbus, Ohio, paced the 16-car Pro Stock order, recording a 6.922 at 197.39 in his Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile Cutlass.

Stockton, Calif.'s Panella led Pro Stock Truck qualifying with a 7.585 at 176.95 in his Panella Trucking Chevy S-10.

Qualifying continues Saturday at 11 a.m.



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