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Fri, 12 Sep 2003, 11:55 PM

Top Fuel Qualifying Notes, Session #1
By Larry Sullivan

MOHNTON, Pa. - Notes from round 1 qualifying in Top Fuel at the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, 19th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals listing lane, driver name, elapsed time, top speed, and position in order following run:
Left Lane: Scott Kalitta Runs 6.484/120.16, Now #2
Right Lane: Rit Pustari Runs 5.218/259.41, Now #1

11:15 PM Current weather conditions: 62 degrees, 73 percent relative humidity, the barometer 30.19 inches

Kalitta put on an amazing performance at Indy, going to the semifinals before bowing out. This run was very good to half track, clocked at 2.162 seconds for the first 330 feet before losing traction and shutting it down. Pustari was much slower, rattling the tires early, then pedaling a couple times to get temporary ownership of the #1 spot.

Left Lane: Josh Starcher Runs 10.777/84.00, Now #4
Right Lane: Luigi Novelli Runs 4.685/318.39, Now #1

The age difference between these two is 42 years. Starcher's header flames went out in the first 300 feet, but Novelli made a career-best run, both ET and speed, driving a very crooked path on the top end, getting very close to the wall without lifting.

Left Lane: Clay Millican Runs 4.651/314.90, Now #1
Right Lane: Bruce Litton Runs 4.727/306.60, Now #3

A familiar pairing if you are an IHRA fan, these two squaring off at almost every IHRA event this year and last. Both were ready when the light turned green and they made a good side-by-side pass, almost duplicating their runs at Indy the first weekend.

Left Lane: Scott Weis Runs 7.834/103.26, Now #7
Right Lane: Jim Head Runs 4.652/319.22, Now #2

There are rumors that Head is looking for a younger driver to take over in his car - and several rumors who the likely candidates might be. There were sparks from the rear of Weis' car from the start and he lifted before the 330-foot marker. Head ran it through on a solid run, slightly behind Millican's pace.

Left Lane: Kenny Bernstein Runs 4.537/327.35, Now #1
Right Lane: Paul Romine Runs 4.564/310.13, Now #2

Two very pretty runs, side-by-side fifties, but Romine's chute didn't come out and he went on to the road at the end of the strip. No harm, no foul, no oil.

Left Lane: Doug Herbert Runs 4.593/300.20, Now #3
Right Lane: Rhonda Hartman-Smith Runs 4.602/305.22, Now #4

Both drivers shut off a bit early, not giving up much ET or speed.

Right Lane: John Smith Runs 5.094/214.66, Now #9

Solo run for "Bodie." Smith was slow to launch, started rattling the tires, pedaled a couple times, then shut it off.

Left Lane: David Baca Runs 4.609/311.99, Now #6
Right Lane: Cory McClenathan Runs 4.581/310.98, Now #3

Former teammates (Baca the owner, Cory Mac the driver). Two nice runs, just a couple hundredths apart. There were dramatic TV shots of Cory Mac's headers ablaze in the shutdown area, but a quick "spritz" put the flames out.

Left Lane: Tony Schumacher Runs 4.465/328.78, Now #1
Right Lane: Darrell Russell Runs 4.593/315.78, Now #5

The final round at Indy lined up again here. Schumacher outdid his final round Indy shocker with an even bigger shocker. Russell made a very nice run of his own, but up against the quickest run ever, it looked slow.

Left Lane: Doug Kalitta Runs 10.735/80.33, Now #18
Right Lane: Larry Dixon Runs 4.550/322.11, Now #3

Last pair, will they better Schumacher's run, or play it safe? Kalitta rattled the tires and shut it off before half track. Dixon made a nice, clean run, right down the groove.

Timing data courtesy of CompuLink

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