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Tue, 13 Sep 2005, 09:23 PM

18 Down, 5 To Go
By Bob Frey
Photo copyright 2005 Auto Imagery, Inc.

Greg Anderson
It's crunch time right now, time to separate the pretenders from the contenders for the 2005 POWERade championships. Of course Greg Anderson has pretty much taken care of that himself with his latest power surge. Did you know that since he was in second place for the last time after the Seattle race that Greg has won three of the next four races and has only lost one round? Over that period he is a flashy 14-1 with only a round loss to Kurt Johnson in Brainerd marring an otherwise prefect record. During those same four races Kurt is 11-3 with one win while Warren Johnson is 2-4 and has faded from serious title contention. Going into Maple Grove this weekend Greg has a lofty (make that an insurmountable) lead of 135 points, or about seven rounds over Kurt while the "Professor" is 213 points back. Only a major upset, like Greg losing in the first round this week and Kurt winning the race, could even make the Pro Stock battle remotely interesting down the stretch. It has been fun to watch for most of the year but when it came to crunch time Greg, driving his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO, showed why he has to be counted among the best ever in the class. When he needed to win, he did, and that's why he will be a three-time champion at the end of the season. Now I know that Greg and Kurt and Warren will all say that there are a lot of races to go and that it's far from over but if there's anyone out there who wants to bet on anyone other than Greg, please meet me at the tower at

Kurt Johnson
Maple Grove this weekend..If Kurt and Warren are going to climb back into this thing, more Kurt than Warren, Maple Grove is a perfect place to do it. Did you know that "WJ" has recorded more Pro Stock wins at the Pennsylvania track than any other driver in the class? Warren has recorded wins in four different seasons and Kurt has won there three times. Jim Yates and Bob Glidden also won three Maple Grove events while Mr. Greg has won exactly none. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada at Maple Grove. Hey, at least it gives the other guys some hope this weekend. And with the cool weather that is expected this weekend maybe that Pro Stock national record will get lowered from its current mark of 6.633. Did you know that the national elapsed time record has been set five times at this event and that it has been done by five different drivers? And do you know how many of those records Greg has recorded? How about none. Zero, Zip and all the rest? But don't bet against it happening this weekend. And for the record, the speed record has been set once at this race and it's not by anyone who you will probably guess. So who was it? I'll tell you at the end of this story.

Tony Schumacher
The Top Fuel class is still up for grabs with three drivers having a real shot at winning it all. The leader, Tony Schumacher, the second place guy, Doug Kalitta, and the third place driver, Larry Dixon are all within 79 points, or about four rounds of racing and that means that the chase should go right down to the wire in Pomona, unless of course somebody gets really hot. Historically all signs would point toward Tony getting hot since he has done well over the last five races of the season, especially last year. Did you know that the U.S. Army Top Fuel team won an amazing sixteen rounds and three races over the last five events in 2004? During that same period of time Doug won one race and seven rounds while Larry won a grand total of one round. One!! Now some might say that's because the chase for the title was pretty much over but I'm just presenting the stats, the cold, hard stats. A year earlier it was pretty much the same thing with Tony running off a couple of wins while Doug and Larry won none. Zero. Zip, etc., etc..This year should be different, though, and the team who is the most consistent over the next five races should be the champion. Tony and Larry have been through the rigors of a championship chase before while it may be a little new to Doug. The driver of the MAC Tools car needs to stay away from those bizarre losses like he had in Indy and just concentrate on winning rounds. Doug is an even two rounds behind Tony, and as the "Sarge" said earlier this week, "I'd rather be in my position than Doug's or Larry's." Me too, "Sarge," me too. While the Maple Grove track has been pretty good to Tony and Doug it has been anything but for the Miller Lite team. Did you know that Larry went to the final round in his

Larry Dixon
rookie year of 1995 in Pennsylvania and hasn't been back since? In fact, did you know that since 1997 Larry hasn't been past the second round at this event? If the two-time champ wants to stay in contention he has to make a stand this weekend. Larry enjoys coming to this track since he used to travel here as a boy with his dad back when the fuel cars had to run at the divisional events. Just for the record, Larry Sr. never won here either.. The Top Fuel elapsed time mark has been set four times at this race and Tony Schumacher did it one of those times. In fact, did you know that his record of 4.441 that he set in 2003 still stands as the national record in Top Fuel. By the way, Larry's crew chief, Dick LaHaie, also set the mark and he did it in 1987 en route to his national championship. And did you know that when Dick came into Maple Grove in '87 he wasn't the point's leader, either. So maybe history will repeat itself for Dick and Larry this year...Rod Fuller and his David Powers' Valvoline team may be on the entry list for this weekend but from what I hear they won't be at the race. Apparently David decided not to make the trip to Pennsylvania and to wait until next week in Dallas to race again..Doug Foley, who won the IHRA race in Epping, New Hampshire last week will make his NHRA Top Fuel debut this week and it will be interesting to see how he does. Clay Millican will also be here with the Nitro Fish / Werner Enterprises TF car and what are the odds of those two meeting up in the final round for the second consecutive week? Long, you say?

Scelzi vs Capps
The best race of the four professional classes and the best race in years comes in the Funny Car class where no less than six drivers have a shot at the championship. If you think that Kurt can catch Greg in the points than you have to think that Tommy Johnson, the number six guy in the points can win the FC title. The top five guys, from Gary Scelzi the point's leader, to Eric Medlen, are separated by a grand total of 55 points, or about three rounds. Every little mistake for the next five races could take a driver right out of the title chase. Did you know that when Gary Scelzi took the lead at Indy he became the 34th driver to lead the Funny Car points since the current system took effect in 1974. And did you know that there have been exactly 34 drivers who have led the points in the Top Fuel class over that same period of time. Like I often say, what are the odds?...In the previous twenty years of this event there have only been two Funny Car drivers to win more than once. John Force (surprise?) has done it six times and Mark Oswald has done it

Mike Ashley
twice, but other than that we've had a dozen one-time winners in Pennsylvania. Among those one-timers are Tim Grose, Jim White and Jeff Arend. Jeff won't be there this weekend but Paul Smith will. The legendary tuner has signed on with Jack Wyatt and the Race Girl team for the rest of the year and that's good news for Jack. Did you know that Paul was part of the sixteen car FC field at the very first Keystone Nationals in 1985?...The aforementioned Mark Oswald will also be in attendance as he'll be tuning the Mike Ashley Skull Gear / Torco Race Fuels car just like he did in Indy. After a very impressive 4.88 showing at the "Big Go" I have to tell you that I really like Mike's chances to make the show this weekend. And mark my words, a guy like Mike doesn't come just to be in the park, he comes to qualify and win and I know you'll think I'm crazy but Mike Ashley will make a final round before the year is over. Remember where you heard it first..Gary Scelzi's Oakley Dodge may have an advantage this weekend since he has always done well at this event. Gary is the defending champion and, prior to last year, he had also made three final round appearances in the Top Fuel class. In seven races at the "Grove" Gary has made it to at least the semi-finals five times. And with the kind of power that Mike Neff makes, maybe this will be the breakout weekend for this Don Schumacher team..Robert Hight and Ron Capps are also in title contention and both are coming off disappointing round one losses in Indy..Since I mentioned John Force and his wins at Maple Grove I guess it's only fair that I mention this, too. Did you know that over the past six years John has lost in the first round four times at this track? And since he's coming off a round one loss in Indy, the "Champ" can't afford any more. In fact, with nine opening round losses this year I'm

Phil Burkart
surprised that John is still even in the title chase, but he is and that's bad news for the other five contenders...John's loss at Indy came at the hands of Phil Burkart who seems to make a habit out of beating John early on Sunday. Did you know that out of John's last eleven round one losses four of them have been inflicted by Phil? Of course Phil has also beaten Robert Hight and Ron Capps in the first round this year. Good luck to all of the contenders and may the best man win..Del Worsham, who accomplished a couple of things last week that he had never done before gets another chance to do that this weekend. Did you know that Maple Grove is one of the few tracks on tour where Del has never won? And did you know that last year, over the last five races of the season Del won fifteen rounds and he went to the finals three times. When this kid gets hot he gets smoking hot. A word to the other drivers, stay away from Del.

Hines vs Tonglet
The Pro Stock Motorcycle race is down to a two bike affair and they both run out of the Vance & Hines Screamin' Eagle Harley Davidson camp. Either Andrew Hines or GT Tonglet will win it even though Antron Brown has not been mathematically eliminated. "AB" trails second place GT by ninety points and with only three bike races to go that's a bunch..Steve Johnson will get his picture taken in front of the MAC Tools U.S. Nationals backdrop this weekend and, while it's not the same as doing it at Indy, twenty years from now he'll be able to show everyone the picture and tell a great story and nobody will know the difference. Steve made a lot of media appearances over the past two weeks and handled himself very well and he is to be applauded for that...

Frank Manzo
There could be a big showdown in the sportsman ranks this weekend between Bob Newberry and Frank Manzo. It will be the last national event that either of them can claim and since they appear to be the two who have the best chance of winning the Lucas Oil World Championship it will be big for both of them. Frank took the point's lead with his win at Indy and Bob regained it with his win at the Division 1 race in Englishtown this past weekend. Did you know that between them they have won this race an amazing eleven times? Frank has seven wins, including the last five in a row and Bob has four. In fact, did you know that this race was the only national event that Frank won in 2004? The only one. With all of the attention on the pro classes it will be very interesting to watch these two great champs slug it out, maybe for all the marbles...The Stock Eliminator title isn't over yet but Peter Biondo sure looks like the heavy favorite, doesn't he? Did you know that before he lost at Englishtown this past weekend Peter had run off an amazing string of 32 consecutive round wins in his Stock Eliminator car? And his point total is already more than any driver in the Stock class over the past twenty years except for Al Corda in 1997. Like I said, it's not over.yet..And did you notice that at the Division 6 Summit Racing E/T Series Championships this past week Jody Lang won in two different classes? That's about fifteen round wins in one weekend and that's pretty impressive..And Tony Stephenson went all the way to Fallon, Nevada last week where he made it to the final round in Competition Eliminator before fouling out. He still picked up enough points to take the lead but he's only a few points ahead of Rodger Brogdon and Rodger still has one national and one divisional race left to claim. I wonder if Tony will chase Rodger around at the last few races in an effort to try and stop him for gaining more points. I would, would you?.....Finally, it was Mark Osborne who set the mph record at Maple Grove. He did it in a Dodge at the 2001 race and thatís the only time the Pro Stock speed record has been set at this event.

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