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Tue, 4 Sep 2001, 08:31 AM

Monday Pit Notes
Courtesy of NHRA Communications

CLERMONT, Ind. -- Today's 'double-up' bonus candidates include Frank Pedregon, winner of Sunday's $100,000 Budweiser Shootout for Funny Cars and Shawn Gann, winner of Saturday's $15,000 Holley Dominator Duel for Pro Stock Motorcycles. Should Pedregon win today's eliminations he will collect a $50,000 'double-up' bonus from the NHRA creating a possible weekend total of more than $235,000, while Gann can earn a 'double-up' bonus of $10,000 for winning the Pro Stock Motorcycle category, upping his winnings to more than $35,000.

The NHRA Safety Safari was presented an NHRA 50th Anniversary Guardian Angel Award by the Professional Racers Owners Organization (PRO). The NHRA Safety Safari was developed in 1954 to spread the word about NHRA, educate potential track owners about track preparation and management and to help grown the new drag racing sanctioning organization. Today the Safety Safari, complete with a roster of eight-full time members and many more devoted part-time workers all over the U.S., has evolved into one of the most sophisticated and efficient traveling units dedicated to safety in the world of motorsports. "The NHRA Safety Safari are the unsung heroes," said Bob Vandergriff, PRO president. "The full-time and part-time members who put on their red shirts and dedicate every ounce of their energies to provide these drivers a safe race track for every run. They know that anything can happen in this sport and they're on the scene in seconds in an emergency situation. They don't do it for the money, they do it for the love of NHRA Drag Racing and there's no better safety and response team anywhere in motorsports."

The Guardian Angel Award plaque lists the names of all full-time NHRA Safety Safari members and will be placed in the NHRA Motorsports Museum, Pomona, Calif. under an eight-foot color banner showing the Safari in action.

In association with the NHRA's 50th Anniversary, five NHRA 'Pioneer' awards were presented by NHRA President Tom Compton this morning during pre-race ceremonies to the following: Veteran announcer Dave McClelland; Three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion "Big Daddy" Don Garlits; Retired NHRA Division director Bob Daniels and his wife Eileen; and the Cluster Buster Hot Rod Club.

During pre-race ceremonies, the following special awards were distributed: Best Appearing Car -- Oakley Pontiac Firebird Funny Car, driven by Scotty Cannon; Best Appearing Crew -- MRO Software Super Comp crew (Gregg Enders, driver); and Best Engineered entry-- '68 Barracuda Super Stock entry of Bucky Hess. Hess won the $10,000 Mopar Super Stock Hemi Challenge on Thursday.

The last time Don Garlits won a round of eliminations in NHRA competition was 1987 at Baton Rouge, La., while Shirley Muldowney last won an NHRA-sanctioned round during the fall event at Heartland Park Topeka (Kan.) in 1990. Garlits, who logged a career-best 4.720 at 303.37 to qualify 15th, will face Mike Dunn in the opening round. Muldowney, who also clocked a career-best effort at 4.647 at 320.20, will face NHRA Winston Rookie of the Year leading-candidate Darrell Russell, who is making his first U.S. Nationals Top Fuel appearance. Garlits, who last won at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1986, is an eight-time U.S. Nationals winner, while Muldowney won the world's most prestigious drag race in 1982.

Coming into today's eliminations only five-points separate the top two challengers for the NHRA Winston Top Fuel title. Larry Dixon leads top qualifier Kenny Bernstein. A similar battle is set in Pro Stock Motorcycle, as Angelle Savoie leads Winston championship rival Antron Brown by 11 points entering today's race.

Shawn Gann claimed $2,000 for winning the All Pro/Bumper to Bumper/Auto Value RT Challenge, posting a .4173-second average in three of five qualifying attempts. The rider with the best season average will earn $30,000 at the season-ending awards ceremony.

Defending Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Top Fuel winner Tony Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army dragster, was upset in the first round by '99 U.S. Nationals Top Fuel runner-up Andrew Cowin, driver of the K&N dragster.

Paul Romine was fined 10 points and $2,000 for oiling the racing surface in the first round of Top Fuel eliminations. It was Romine's seventh oil violation of the season.

Budweiser Shootout winner Frank Pedregon was given new life in today's Funny Car eliminations when first round opponent Dean Skuza, who led the entire quarter-mile length of their first round match, was disqualified for crossing the center line in his Team Mopar Dodge R/T. Pedregon will now face defending U.S. Nationals Funny Car winner Jim Epler, who upset Winston points leader John Force in the opening round.

The National Basketball Association's Tom Hammonds, driver of the Winnebago Chevy Cavalier, qualified seventh in Pro Stock and was upset by No. 10 qualifier Mike Edwards in the opening round. Hammonds clocked a career-best performance this weekend, covering the IRP quarter-mile in 6.895 seconds at 199.73 mph. Hammonds, who plays power forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves, will conclude his part-time NHRA campaign at the NHRA Keystone Nationals, Sept. 13-16 in Reading, Pa., when he hangs up his driving helmet for his basketball sneakers and reports to the Timberwolves pre-season training camp. Hammonds hopes to campaign his Pro Stock machine full-time when he retires from the NBA.

Shirley Muldowney, driver of the Mac Tools dragster, gave an automatic first round win to NHRA Winston Rookie of the Year candidate Darrell Russell with an uncharacteristic red-light start. Muldowney, the 1982 winner here, left the line with a .066 reaction time (.400 is a perfect reaction time). MULDOWNEY: "I didn't come here for a joy ride, I came here to win. I think we had a legitimate chance to do that. I just wanted a chance today, but I didn't get it."

Don Garlits, who accomplished his goal of clocking a four-second run at more than 300 mph during qualifying (4.720 seconds at 303.37 mph), lost in a tire-smoking first round encounter to Yankee dragster driver Mike Dunn.

GARLITS: "I can't remember when I've had so much fun. This weekend was a dream. I'm going to do plenty of more races with the NHRA. I want to prove to the world that my mono-strut wing will work. I am going to team with Gary Clapshaw and put his engine in Swamp Rat XXXIV. We're going to race again this year, hopefully at Pomona (NHRA Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Pomona Raceway, Pomona, Calif.)."

With his semifinal victory over Kenny Bernstein, Larry Dixon will leave the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals with the Winston points lead in Top Fuel. Entering that round, Dixon held a five-point lead over Bernstein. With a win he will lead by 45.

Should Mike Dunn win today, he will join four others who have won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Dunn, who was the Top Fuel runner-up here in 1998, won this event in Funny Car in 1986. Kenny Bernstein, Don Prudhomme, Jim Head and Ed McCulloch have all won this event in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.

This is Larry Dixon's second final round appearance at this event. He won here during his rookie season (1995). This is Dixon's seventh final round appearance of the season (four wins). It is Dunn's second Top Fuel final here (runner-up in '98) and his fourth overall (two FC finals, 1 win, 1 runner-up). Dunn has two victories in three finals this season. In their only final round meeting this year Dunn defeated Dixon (Houston).

This is Whit Bazemore's second straight final round appearance here and third overall (runner-up last year, winner in '97). This is Bazemore's fifth final round of the season (1 win). A Bazemore victory will cut John Force's Winston points lead to 243. It is Tony Pedregon's first final round appearance at this event. It is Pedregon's fifth final of the season (three wins). The two drivers have no final meetings this year.

Mark Osborne is making his first U.S. Nationals final round appearance in Pro Stock, while Greg Anderson is making his second (runner-up '99). The two drivers have never met in a final round. It is Osborne's fourth final round appearance of the season (1 win, Seattle). It is Anderson's third final of the season (1 win, Bristol).

Angelle Savoie is making her third U.S. Nationals final appearance (no wins). It is her sixth final of the season (4 wins). No matter the outcome of the final round, Savoie will increase her Winston points lead over Antron Brown. Shawn Gann is making his second final round appearance of his career (runner-up this year at St. Louis). It is their first final round meeting. A win by Gann will move him just five points out of the top-five in Winston points.

Should Shawn Gann win today he will pocket an additional $10,000 'double-up' bonus from the NHRA, bringing his overall winnings to more than $35,000. Gann won $15,000 on Friday in claiming the Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel, a special event for the season's eight quickest Pro Stock Motorcycle riders.

It is Mike Coughlin's second final round appearance at the U.S. Nationals (also won this event in 1999). Coughlin's brother John was the runner-up here last year in PST. It is Mike's first final round appearance of the season. Randy Daniels is making his sixth final round appearance of the season (2 wins). A win by Daniels will cut Bob Panella's points lead to 20.

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