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Sun, 30 Sep 2001, 04:58 PM

Fields Set for Final Import Race of 2001
By Michael L. Jex

First NHRA Champs of 2001 will be Crowned Tomorrow

POMONA, Calif. -- A Champion - One that wins first place or first prize in a competition. One that is clearly superior or has the attributes of a winner: a champion at something. An ardent defender or supporter of a cause or another person: a champion of the class. One who fights; a warrior.

The Dictionary does not fully illuminate what several hundred Import racers are working towards here at The Mazda NHRA Import World Finals presented by Toyo Tires. This is the final stop in the Summit Import Drag Racing Series. The last race of the year has some extra drama - it's worth double the extra points, meaning even with a big points lead, you need to not lose early to claim a championship trophy. To win the championship, many of the categories will come down to one final round of high drama racing.

Best of all, the five champions will have the distinction of winning the first NHRA points championships of 2001. Just two rounds of qualifying were completed today due to numerous delays for oil downs and a recurring problem with the timing system, but high drama was the norm all day.

In the Pro Category RJ Simrock is the current points leader, but Abel Ibarra, Jose Torres and Rafael Rivera are in hot pursuit. In the final qualifying session it was a real dogfight for the top spot. When the dust and rice hull ash had cleared Jose Torres was on top with a blistering 7.583 176.92 mph pass, followed very closely by Ibara's 7.602 177.86 mph effort. R.J. Simrock was not far behind in the AEBS Ford Focus, he ran 7.604 at 175.78. All of them ran these times in the fading sunlight of the last qualifying session.

In Modified Craig Paisley made the long haul from Hempstead New York worthwhile, he ended up on the pole with a last chance 8.742 155.49 mph effort in the last session of the day. Current Points leader Carlos Gonzalez is number two, so the battle for the championship may come down to the final round of the day in Modified.

In Hot Rod Lisa Kubo recovered from her second round loss in Englishtown to qualify number one with a 9.161 157.48 pass. JoJo Callos is next with a 9.258 154.47 mph run. JoJo follows Lisa by 68 points in the championship battle, making this a must win race for Callos to have a shot at the championship.

In Street Tire Ari Yallon's Patriotic RX7 has a virtual lock on the championship. Ari has won every single race so far this year, and only needs to go a round or two tomorrow to claim the title. His RX7.COM sponsored machine is number one with a 10.624 144.23 effort, followed by Robert Lives Jr and Joel Tanzman.

In All Motor Scott Kelley used the last pass of the day to get into the program. The first round the team was trying to qualifying opposite of points leader Joel Mandl in an attempt to win the championship. In the final session Scott was outside the program, so the team took a different route with the Toyo Tires sponsored bullet. Scott's own words "I got worried, and hit the panic button and qualified number one instead." The championship in the category will come down to a battle between Joel Mandl and Kelley, but for Kelley to have a chance Mandl will have to lose in the first couple of rounds tomorrow. Surprisingly Co'Torres Gee, number two in points failed to qualify, ending his bid for the NHRA crown in all motor.

Tomorrow evening NHRA will have it's first points champions for 2001 and Import Drag Racing will have the first Summit Import Drag Racing Champions in history. What better place to crown the first champions than fabled Pomona Raceway. Good Night!

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