BAYTOWN, Texas - Rain-delayed eliminations at the 2nd annual NHRA Matco Tools Supernationals were completed Monday and the remaining two Winston championships are all-but-settled. Gary Scelzi, Top Fuel; Cruz Pedregon, Funny Car; Jeg Coughlin, Pro Stock; and John Smith, Pro Stock Motorcycle, won event championships in their respective eliminators.
Scelzi posted an amazing string of consistently quick and fast runs during qualifying and eliminations to win the event and extend his points lead over Cory McClenathan to 115 points and now need only qualify for the final event, in Pomona, Calif., two weeks from now to clinch the title.
Scelzi was the number one qualifier and advanced through eliminations with clockings of 4.544 seconds, 324.32 mph (setting the national speed record); 4.530 seconds, 326.44 mph (resetting the national speed record); 4.564 seconds, 320.28 mph; and 4.556 seconds, 320.85 mph against Tony Schumacher in the final round for the event win. Schumacher left ahead of Scelzi, but an engine explosion ended his run.
McClenathan advanced to the semifinals, which were held Monday morning after rain Sunday forced a one-day delay, but an engine explosion ended his day, and realistically his title hopes.
Pedregon swept the plate clean for the third time in 1998, qualifying number one, winning the event, and resetting the national elapsed time record. By resetting the record, he added a $50,000 bonus from MBNA to the event purse and moved past Chuck Etchells to third place in the 1998 points Pedregon ran 4.849 seconds at 317.90 mph in the final round to defeat Whit Bazemore, who was clocked at 4.993 and 307.27. Pedregon's final round run provided the one-percent backup for his earlier 4.807 as the new national standard.
John Force extended his lead over Ron Capps for the 1998 championship to 91 points in qualifying, then both lost in the semifinals. Force can clinch the title by qualifying and winning one round in Pomona, regardless of what Capps does.
Coughlin faced Tom Martino in the final round of Pro Stock and won easily with a 6.985 at 197.75 when Martino encountered problems and slowed to a 7.129 at 170.42.
Smith met Greg Underdahl in the final round of Pro Stock Motorcycle and prevailed with a 7.324 at 185.45 over Underdahl's 7.428 at 180.54.
In other final round action:
Rick Henkelman defeated Tom Beecham in Federal-Mogul Dragster,
Pat Austin defeated Jackie Stidham in Federal-Mogul Funny Car,
Mike Saye defeated David Rampy in Competition Eliminator,
William McLemore defeated Dan Fletcher in Super Stock,
Jerry Emmons defeated Jeromy Hefler in Stock,
Bob Fuller defeated Steve Lambert in Super Comp,
Craig Sites defeated Mike Bonfield in Super Gas, and
Daryl Patton defeated Richard Mayes in Super Street.
An estimated crowd of 78,500 attended during the four-day event.
The final race on the 1998 NHRA Winston Drag Racing schedule is the 34th
annual Winston Finals in Pomona, Calif., November 12-15.