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Tue, 25 Oct 2005, 11:39 PM

I Can't Believe That It's Come To This
By Bob Frey
Photo copyright 2005 Auto Imagery, Inc. & Robert Grice

Pedregon vs Force at '02 Finals.
NHRA's 600th race surely was one of the best, wasn't it? Besides the fact that the race was conducted at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which has to be one of the best facilities ever, the performance of the cars, the outcome of the races and the domination by the U.S. Army car made it a great weekend for fans of drag racing all over the country. OK, so maybe the John Force fans weren't really excited about the event, but then they've had a lot to cheer about for the past decade and a half. Having said that, I don't think that anyone would be willing to bet against John, Austin Coil, Bernie Fedderly and the rest of the Castrol GTX Start-Up team as we head into Pomona. The Funny Car championship certainly will get most of the attention next week and there are so many possibilities that it would almost be impossible to detail all of them. Let's just say that it's been a long while since the final race of the year was as important as it will be this year. Did you know that John Force won the championship in 2002 when he beat Tony Pedregon in the semi-finals at the last race of the year and that was the latest that John has ever clinched the title? Well, I have a feeling that if John wins it this year it may be a little later than the semi-finals. However it plays out, it should be one of the truly great weekends in Pomona next week.

Dixon rides the Wagon in '03.
Tony Schumacher has a pretty good race car, doesn't he? After winning the Budweiser Shootout for the first time the "Sarge" went out and won the race on Sunday to put his name in the record books again. A check of the history books may indicate that Tony is only the second driver to double-up, but in fact he is the third. Or maybe he's the fourth. Let me explain. Joe Amato won the Shootout on Saturday and then he won the NHRA Finals on Sunday in 1990. Gary Scelzi won the NHRA Finals in 2000 and he won the 2000 Shootout too, although he didn't win that until the Winternationals in 2001 because of a rain out at the initial race and, since he won the two races at different events, he wasn't credited with doubling-up. Larry Dixon won the 2002 Shootout which was contested at the 2003 Winternationals which he also won. By then the rules had been clarified and Larry was given the double-up bonus. If you don't believe me, just visit his garage at home and you'll see that he still has the ceremonial check hanging up. Like I said, a quick glance at the record book may be a little confusing, but for the record, Tony is the third guy to get credit for a "double.".Since I mentioned Joe I should point out that when he won the race he also won the championship on Sunday in 1990 in what was the closest Top Fuel title race ever. Did you know that Joe wasn't crowned the champion until after he beat Gary Ormsby in the final round at that final race? I was there and I have to tell you that was, possibly, the single most exciting race that I have ever attended. Now we have the possibility of three drivers running for the title and you can only imagine what may happen. Anyway, the 1990 "Finals" will be a tough race to match for sheer drama and excitement but the 2005 version of the race will give it its best shot. By the way, did you know that Joe Amato could have lost that final round and still won the championship? A little thing like setting low elapsed time and the points that went with it could have propelled Joe to the title even if Gary beat him to the finish line. None of that mattered after Gary fouled out and, just for the record, Joe did set low elapsed

Schumacher celebrates great weekend.
time in the final round and he won the championship going away.literally..With his win Tony joined Scott Kalitta and Cory McClenathan as the only drivers to win four consecutive Top Fuel races. He is still a couple of rounds shy of the record for the most round wins in a row but he'll have a shot at that next week. Did you know that the record is nineteen straight round wins in the TF class and Tony now has sixteen? So even though he has won the title, Tony still has something to shoot for at the last race of the year. Plus, don't be surprised if his crew chief, Alan Johnson, isn't trying some new things in order to get a running start on the '06 season. Tony also hit a little milestone in his career with his four round wins in Vegas. Did you know that Tony now has 302 round wins in his career? By comparison, Larry Dixon has 398 round wins, Cory McClenathan has 372, Doug Kalitta has 272 and Scott Kalitta has 268. ..While the top spot is locked up there is still a battle for the second spot and for the fourth thru sixth spots in the POWERade standings. Larry Dixon is currently in second and he is just six points ahead of Doug Kalitta who is in third. David Grubnic, Doug Herbert and Morgan Lucas all have a shot at finishing as high as fourth in the points depending on what happens in Pomona. Did you know that Doug Kalitta has finished second in the past two seasons and that Doug Herbert has never finished as high in the points as he is right now?...

Ron Capps
That Funny Car deal will be decided in Pomona but your guess is as good as mine as to exactly when that will happen. Gary Scelzi and his Oakley Dodge lead Ron Capps and the Brut car by two scant points and Ron is twenty-six points up on John Force. With twenty points per round up for grabs and some valuable points available in qualifying every run by those three teams will be extremely important. When it's all over including the shouting, everyone will look back on certain moments during the season as potential turning points for each team. John's ten first round losses could turn out to be his downfall, while Gary will always think about that red light in Dallas and Ron will remember the Bristol race which had rain and only one round of qualifying. Ron was inserted into the field after that one round of qualifying based on his standing in the top ten but he didn't get any qualifying points for his effort. Of those ten first round losses that John has, did you know that Ron is the guy who beat him at three of those events?... Del Worsham handed John his latest round one loss and it was the first time that Del has ever beaten John in an opening round encounter. Did you know that those two have raced each other fifty-eight times but that this was only the sixth time they've faced each other in round one? And if you

Gary Scelzi
were wondering when the last time John lost in round one at the final race of the year, well, you'd have to go all the way back to 1992 when Gary Bolger took him out in the opening stanza. Of course I find it a bit ironic that John is battling Ron Capps for the title for a couple of reasons. Did you know that John's first championship was won in 1990 and he didn't clinch that until the final race of the year? Of course you did. But did you know that the guy John beat for that title was Ed McCulloch? And did you know that Bernie Fedderly was Ed's crew chief? And in 1998 when John won the title, did you know that Ron Capps finished second that year? Of course you did. But did you know that John won the title with only three national event wins while Ron had five? And this year, just how many wins do they each have? You guessed it, John has five and Ron has three. Oh, by the way, Gary Scelzi also has three wins heading into Pomona.. Robert Hight and Eric Medlen are nine points apart in the battle for fifth place in the standings.

Greg Anderson
Greg Anderson almost had a perfect weekend. He was awarded the championship and the big ceremonial check for locking up his third consecutive title, but he wasn't able to win the race like Tony did. Kurt Johnson was the last man standing in Pro Stock and what better place for the AC Delco Chevrolet to win than the AC Delco Nationals? Kurt now has four wins on the season, one more than his dad, Warren. With his win "KJ" all but locked up second place in the standings and, as a reward, he and his wife, Kathy, headed for a well earned vacation in Hawaii. Did you know that this will be the fourth time that Kurt has finished second in the standings?..I always like to throw these little teasers out there because they always get so much reaction. With her performance lately, three semi-finals at the last three races, how about Erica Enders for "Rookie of the Year?" I have to think that Robert Hight is the odds on favorite but, if you read all of the criteria for the

Erica Enders
selection, Erica isn't a bad choice. Not only is the on-track performance considered, but what the drivers have done for their class, how they have handled the fans and the media and how much positive exposure they have generated are all factors. Based on that, the driver of the Slammers Ultimate Milk car could rate strong consideration. Of course I know what will happen when the winner is announced. If it's Robert everyone will say that's because he is sponsored by the Automobile Club of Southern California, the presenters of the award. If it's Erica, you'll hear that "it's because she is a girl" cry. Maybe I'll just vote for Jack Beckman and be done with it. Speaking of Jack, he stopped by the announcing booth over the weekend and he did a great job talking about the cars from both a mechanical and a driving point of view. If Mike Dunn ever gets that team of his together, I think I'll recommend Jack for the TV gig.

Ellis vs Sampey
Chip Ellis is also on the roster for the Rookie of the Year and he didn't hurt his chances with his second win at the AC Delco event. Chip took the G-Squared, S & S Buell into the winner's circle after Angelle Sampey fouled away her chances in the final round. I still say that something has to be done in the bike class to eliminate the fouls. Did you know that there were five red lights in the motorcycle class and that there was exactly one in the other three classes combined? For the year there have been forty-eights fouls in the bike class and that's a bunch. Anyway, congrats to Chip and it was nice to see Ken Johnson at the track with the team, he is quite an inspiration to all of us.The point's leader, Andrew Hines, and the number two guy, GT Tonglet, both went out in the first round and that helped Angelle keep her slim title hopes alive. Of course the extra twenty points for a win would certainly have helped Angelle's chances. As it is, Andrew is forty-seven points up on GT who is another forty-five points ahead on the U.S. Army rider...I hope that Karen Stoffer is doing well after her bizarre accident in the pits after the race. From what I hear she is resting comfortable but, obviously, won't be able to race in Pomona. Our best go out to Karen and her husband, Gary, and we hope she makes a full and complete recovery..I was told this past weekend that two of the Pro Stock Motorcycle riders who are currently in the top ten in points are looking at switching classes next year. One may go to the Pro Stock car class while the other may be in a fuel car next year. Wonder who they could be?

Newberry celebrates win in Reynolds.
The Lucas Oil ranks got another couple of champions when Bob Newberry won the Division 2 race this past weekend and when Jeff Taylor locked up the Competition Eliminator crown. After starting out at Atco, and then deciding to go south when it rained in New Jersey, Bob won the Top Alcohol Funny Car class in Georgia and that locked out Frank Manzo and it also prevented Steve Gasparrelli from being able to win the title. Taylor won when his closest competitor, Michael Stone, lost in the first round of Comp in Vegas. Both Bob and Jeff will are multiple national championship winners..Speaking of multiple winners, how about that David Rampy? David won in both Comp and Stock in Vegas and became

Rampy Doubled Up
only the fourth driver to win two classes at the same event more than once. Pat Austin, Edmond Richardson and Jeff Taylor also have "double-doubled." Pat was the first to do it and just where do you that he accomplished the feat. How about Phoenix '92. I knew that would be the answer to a question someday. Pat doubled in Topeka in 1991 and then repeated his feat at the Arizona race a year later..Hugh Meeks III gave his title hopes a huge shot in the arm when he won the D-2 race in Georgia. Hugh may have only one real serious threat right now and that's Greg Luneack who will have to have two very good races in the next two weeks if he hopes to catch and pass Hugh. Should be fun and the final championships should come into focus this week at the Division 7 bash in Las Vegas. See you there.

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