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Sun, 7 Oct 2001, 04:04 PM

READING - Top Fuel Round 1 Eliminations
By Larry Sullivan

MOHNTON, Pa. - Results of round 1 eliminations in Top Fuel at the 17th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals presented by Greased Lightning:

   9 Rhonda Hartman-Smi  4.642 316.23  Q    8 Andrew Cowin        4.589 318.84
 *****WINNER***** 0.520  4.591 317.42  E1                  0.484  4.689 306.40
11:03 AM It's 48 degrees, 58 percent relative humidity, barometer 30.12 inches of mercury, under partly cloudy skies. In other words, just about perfect for performance.

Cowin and Hartman-Smith have met just once this season, in the semifinals at the Nationals in Las Vegas. Cowin won that one, then lost to Kenny Bernstein in the finals. The winner here will get to race Mike Dunn in the second round, Dunn with a bye in the first round because of the short field. Good drag race, the weather conditions promising outstanding performance today. Hartman-Smith used a career-best elapsed time to overcome Cowin's holeshot, the margin of victory = 0.062 seconds (approximately 28 feet).

  10 Doug Herbert        4.662 310.63  Q    7 Larry Dixon         4.570 317.94
                  0.486  5.322 182.13  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.492  4.505 326.16
This is the fourth meeting between Dixon and Herbert this year, Dixon winning all three of the prior contests. It started off to be an even race, but Herbert's engine went away on the top end while Dixon ran within a thousandth of his best run of the year.

  11 Scott Weis          4.665 307.37  Q    6 Darrell Russell     4.554 296.24
 *****WINNER***** 0.467  4.564 316.67  E1                  0.493  7.153 122.07
Russell and Weis have met twice before this season, in Memphis and the second Chicago race. Russell won both times. However, Weis defeated a tire-smoking Gary Scelzi in the first round in Chicago and he defeated a tire-smoking Russell here. Unlike Chicago, where he won despite an early chute deployment, Weis made a great run, with a great reaction time, a career-best elapsed time (by a tenth of a second), matching his career-best Top Fuel speed. However, his run was not without problems, the left-side header breaking and dragging on the track through the shutdown area.

  12 Jim Cavalieri       4.944 245.32  Q    5 Tony Schumacher     4.523 333.08
                  0.548  4.936 290.51  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.535  4.639 308.07
This is the first meeting between Cavalieri and Schumacher this year. Schumacher's problems in the final round of qualifying, by the way, were due to a mis-communication between Tony and crew chief Dan Olson, not a mechanical failure, when Schumacher thought Olson told him to shut the car down as he was staging. No missed communications here, but Schumacher was vulnerable, the car eating engine parts from half track on. Cavalieri gave it a good try, but dropped a cylinder early and by the time Schumacher's car started losing power the margin was too great to overcome.

  13 Steve Smith         5.067 274.33  Q    4 Gary Scelzi         4.513 316.90
                  0.000 No Time        E1 *****WINNER***** 0.478  4.527 315.71
Scelzi and Smith have met just once before this year, Scelzi defeating Smith in the first round at the 50th Anniversary Nationals at Pomona. This is the fourth different driver named Smith Scelzi has faced in the first round this year. Smith showed up, but never did fire the engine, so Scelzi got a free test run. The run was clean and smooth, the ESPN super-slow-motion showing the rear tires winding up on the launch. Scelzi had a solid 0.855 60-foot time and was clocked at 3.053 seconds and 272.17 mph at half track. He will have lane choice against Schumacher in round two.

  14 Bobby Lagana Jr     5.930 182.77  Q    3 Doug Kalitta        4.498 323.19
                  0.479  5.561 258.76  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.536  4.655 317.87
This is the first meeting between Kalitta and Lagana this season. Realistically, Kalitta had to stumble for Lagana to have a chance. Lagana ran his race, but Connie Kalitta is a crafty crew chief, especially on Sunday, and Kalitta made a nice, safe run for the win. However, it was not quick enough to earn lane choice against Weis next round.

        Bye                            Q    1 Mike Dunn           4.494 320.97
                                      E1 *****WINNER***** 0.521 11.825  80.15
This will be Dunn's 300th round win in NHRA competition, Dunn with the first-round bye because of the short field. Well, there are no style points, but this was an ugly win, the front wheels in the air and the rear tires enveloped in smoke before he went 20 feet. That gives Hartman-Smith lane choice in round two.

  15 Brady Kalivoda      9.932  89.39  Q    2 Kenny Bernstein     4.496 332.18
                  0.523  8.849  93.91  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.495  4.494 327.35
This is the first meeting between Bernstein and Kalivoda. Both cars shook on the launch, but Bernstein drove through it while Kalivoda's car shook hard and he threw in the towel. Bernstein's car was a bit sideways for part of the run, but got to the other end in a big hurry, quick and fast. That gives him lane choice against Dixon in round two, the winner of that matchup with the opportunity to make a big move in the tight Top Fuel points battle.

Timing data courtesy of CompuLink

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