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Sun, 10 Nov 2002, 02:47 PM

Top Fuel Round 1 Eliminations
By Darryl Jackman

POMONA, Calif. - Results of round 1 eliminations in Top Fuel at the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, 38th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals:

   8 Jim Head            4.676 311.49  Q    9 Mike Strasburg      4.705 303.78
 *****WINNER***** 0.501  5.186 240.68  E1                  0.505 10.565  98.14

Things to watch here in the first round include the points battles that are still undecided coming into this final event of the season. Tony Schumacher leads Doug Kalitta by 23 points in the battle for third place. Cory McClenathan leads Darrell Russell by 2 points for the fifth place ranking

Current conditions at Pomona look pretty good. Temperature is 66 degrees. Humidity is 60% and the barometer is 31.12 and falling. It's partly cloudy and a 5 mph wind.

First pair is on the grid and engines come to life. A green racetrack claims it's first victim here in round one. Strasberg was up in smoke at the hit and Head had stepped off the pedal at least once in the first 330. Head manages to finish the run but put lots of smoke out the pipes at the other end. Word comes that he also took the burst panel out of the supercharger.

  10 David Grubnic       4.727 303.43  Q    7 Doug Herbert        4.674 274.55
                  0.506  5.270 236.34  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.503  5.054 276.80

Both cars are smoking the tires early in the run and both have heavy tire shake. They are on and off the pedal but it's Herbert that eases back into it for the win. Herbert was only running 226 at half track. Grubnic, on the other hand, was only running 214.

   6 Kenny Bernstein     4.621 318.62  Q   11 Yuichi Oyama        4.864 266.27
                  0.482  5.165 247.11  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.532  4.676 318.24

It seems strange to say but that's the end of a long and remarkable career for Kenny Bernstein. Robert Rheel tunes Oyama to a 4.676 and Bernstein smokes the tires. Kenny hazed the tires at 330 and it just got worse for him from there. About half track he pushed a head gasket and a long career is over as a driver.

  12 David Baca          5.139 223.39  Q    5 Rhonda Hartman-Smi  4.617 315.19
                  0.000 No Data        E1 *****WINNER***** 0.621  8.542  99.87

Baca had problems right at the start. On the burnout the reverser failed and the crew had to jump over the wall and push him back b y hand. They didn't push quite far enough and Stewart had run run out and motion them back even further. Hartman-Smith waited but finally she staged and took the green. Baca had shut the car off and could only watch as she struck the tires.

  13 John Smith          5.560 242.23  Q    4 Cory McClenathan    4.615 320.28
                  0.331  5.116 210.70  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.497  9.179  91.75

Smith can't wait for the tree and turns on the red bulb. He may have seen the win light or just plain shook the tires loose but he calls it off very early in the run. Rhonda will have lane choice over Cory in the second round.

  16 Andrew Cowin        8.800   NS    Q    1 Darrell Russell     4.571 313.22
 *****WINNER***** 0.517  4.638 319.67  E1                  0.476  8.502  92.74

The number one qualifier goes down at the hands of the seeded Andrew Cowin. Russell was up in smoke before the end of the concrete. Cowin, in the Yankees racer, gets low ET of the first round and will get lane choice over Jim Head in next round.

   3 Doug Kalitta        4.599 319.52  Q   14 Tony Schumacher     6.402 159.40
 *****WINNER***** 0.480  4.629 322.19  E1                  0.516  4.974 258.67

Smoke claims another victim. Schumacher rattles the tires loose just before half track and can't get any kind of traction. Kalitta continues on his roll and runs top speed and low ET of the round to this point. Kalitta almost duplicated his qualifying pass and that was under perfect conditions.

   2 Larry Dixon         4.576 324.98  Q   15 Scott Weis          8.793  93.42
                  0.495  8.957  88.02  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.451  4.830 311.99

It's happened again. Weis deep stages on Dixon and then proceeds to out run him to the other end. Dixon was smoking the tires by about 100 feet off the line and his year is done. A terrific year it's been too. I believe it might be Miller time for part of the team. That's all from an upset filled round one.

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