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Sun, 7 Sep 2003, 12:53 PM

Top Fuel Round 1 Eliminations
By Keith Burgan

CLERMONT, Ind. - Results of round 1 eliminations in Top Fuel at the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, 49th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals:

    6 Darrell Russell                       337 Paul Romine
E1   ****WINNER****  0.058  4.623 317.12                     0.030 No Time
 Qualified:             #9  4.568 320.36                        #8  4.563 299.26
As the mid field runners meet this is the 7th Indy start for Romine and his best starting position ever. Russell won in TAD in 97 and is 6-0 against Romine. Only three thousandth's separated this pair in qualifying Current weather conditions: 77degrees, 52 percent relative humidity, the barometer 30.10 inches, with a track temperature of 97 degrees.

Romine's car barely moved before blowing the tires off so violently that the motor revved up and exploded in a ball of flame. The trucks rolled but were not needed at the start line where some small debris was all that was left on the track surface. A quick clean up is taking place at the 1000' mark where the Carquest entry rolled to a halt. While everyone's attention was on Romine, Russell made a tidy run to advance.

    5 Cory McClenathan                        9 Rhonda Hartman-Smith
E1                   0.087  5.054 259.91     ****WINNER****  0.084  4.612 310.34
 Qualified:             #7  4.558 318.99                       #10  4.599 311.13
This is Rhonda's best ever start at Indy while it is also the lowest that McClenathan has ever qualified here. He has won twice here. 11:17 and we are back after a final trip down the right lane by the tractor. Cory puffed the tires just past the half track clocks and Hartman advances.The Berryman car left some "stuff" on the track in the shut down area and the trucks are rolling again.

    3 Tony Schumacher                        10 John Smith
E1   ****WINNER****  0.064  4.519 327.59                     0.059  5.777 171.47
 Qualified:             #6  4.534 322.50                       #11  4.611 317.87
Rhonda's husband is next up and has a tough opponent in two time and defending champ Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher. Schumacher made four 4.5 runs during qualifying here, missing out only on the second run where he smoked the tires. 11.25 and the third pair are fired. Smith was spinning the tires before the 330' clocks and had a great view of Schumacher making his best run of the event and setting top speed and the track mph record in the process.

    1 Larry Dixon                           757 David Grubnic
E1   ****WINNER****  0.079  4.566 324.51                     0.088 14.103  71.50
 Qualified:             #5  4.530 326.08                       #12  4.633 321.42
Dixon was won here twice but this is his lowest qualifying positions since Englishtown. Grubnic is making his 4th start at this event. Instant smoke for Aussie Dave while Dixon runs a safe and clean lap.

  319 Scott Kalitta                         104 Clay Millican
E1   ****WINNER****  0.075  4.575 322.88                           No Time
 Qualified:             #2  4.502 326.56                       #15  4.667 313.37
Scott Kalitta get a free pass here as scheduled opponent Clay Millican is in Epping, NH today at the IHRA race. Scott carries the wheels at the launch and keeps it hooked and clean through the traps. The run will give him lance choice over Rhonda in round two.

  797 David Baca                            443 Mitch King
E1   ****WINNER****  0.120  4.567 318.02                     0.069  7.815  94.98
 Qualified:             #1  4.499 324.51                       #16  4.683 312.64
Baca's dad was a winner here in 1977 while King is making his 8th start on the NHRA tour with just one round win to his credit. King is up in smoke before the 330 mark and Baca advances with a clean and dry pass to take lane choice over Russell.

    2 Kenny Bernstein                       201 Scott Weis
E1   ****WINNER****  0.166  4.594 321.81                           No Time
 Qualified:             #4  4.518 325.45                       #13  4.634 312.57
Kenny's first Indy was in 1978 and he has won here in both fuel categories. Weis has problems and the engine flares before the car is shut off after backing up from the burnout. KB will give up lane choice to Larry Dixon after his solo victory.

    4 Doug Kalitta                          888 Jim Head
E1   ****WINNER****  0.090  4.541 321.04                     0.078  8.722  91.99
 Qualified:             #3  4.511 317.94                       #14  4.639 321.58
This is Kalitta's sixth Indy start but he only has a 2-4 record against Head. Head strikes the Goodyears early in the run and make one attempt to pedal before giving up.Kalitta had a quick flash of flame from the back of the motor at the 1000' mark but that does not appear to slow the car. He did lose lane choice to Schumacher however.

Timing data courtesy of CompuLink

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