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Fri, 10 Nov 2000, 09:08 AM

Force, Scelzi Lead Thursday Qualifying at Auto Club NHRA Finals
Courtesy of NHRA Communications

POMONA, Calif. -- John Force led Funny Car qualifying Thursday at the Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway.

Gary Scelzi, Jeg Coughlin, Matt Hines and Randy Daniels also were qualifying leaders at the $2 million race, the final of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Force clocked a 4.908-second time at 291.63 mph in his "Grinch Stole Christmas"-themed Castrol GTX Ford Mustang on the last pass of the day to take the No. 1 spot away from Dean Skuza, who posted a 4.921 at 307.86 in his Matco Tools Dodge Avenger. Force's machine started strong, but slowed near the finish line. The run was still good enough to lead the 16-car field, for now. Of the 28 Funny Cars that made qualifying attempts Thursday, only two posted runs in the 4.90s.

Randy Daniels qualified number one.
"We'll see some 80s (4.80-second runs) tomorrow," said the 10-time NHRA Winston Funny Car champion. "On that run (the car) dropped a cylinder or it would have run quicker."

Scelzi drove his Team Winston dragster to the front of the Top Fuel order, covering the distance in 4.617 at 311.77. "I was really surprised to see that the car ran that quick," said Scelzi, who recently clinched his third NHRA Winston championship. "I don't think it'll hold as the best run for qualifying. We'll probably see some 4.50s on Friday and Saturday. Anytime you make a solid run on the first day that takes the pressure off for the rest of the weekend."

Joe Amato was second, posting a 4.629 at 313.37 in his Dynomax dragster, while three-time Winston champion Shirley Muldowney recorded a career-best 4.677 at 313.37 for third-best overall. Coughlin paced Pro Stock, running 6.922 at 197.59 in his Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile Cutlass.

Hines rode his Eagle One Suzuki to the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle order, clocking a 7.279 at 183.17.

Daniels was quickest in Pro Stock Truck, recording a 7.557 at 178.80 in his Bailey Trucking Chevy S-10.

Qualifying continues Friday at 1:45 p.m.

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