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Sun, Nov 15, 02:13 PM

POMONA - Top Fuel Round 1 Eliminations
By Larry Sullivan

Close, Fast First Round

POMONA, Calif. - Results of round 1 eliminations in Top Fuel at the 34th annual NHRA Winston Finals:
   8 Bruce Sarver        4.616 317.46  Q   9 Doug Herbert        4.628 304.77
                  0.500 11.748  95.33 E1 *****WINNER***** 0.464  4.735 298.01

10:32 AM The final day of Winston Drag Race competition for 1998 opens with a pairing that matches two up-and-coming teams that have both stepped up to new levels of performance in 1998, Sarver just 0.02 seconds slower than his career-best at Indy this year to qualify eighth and Herbert running a career-best ET to qualify ninth.

Sarver's car wadded up the tires and then appeared to break something with a flash of flame atop the engine. Herbert was on a good pass to half track, but started hazing the tires around half track, the RPMs going up and the engine starting to mix the cylinders up. The Safety Safari rolls in the right lane, Herbert's traction problems apparently provoking a few leaks when he shut it off.

  10 Kenny Bernstein     4.636 315.01  Q   7 Cristen Powell      4.615 305.70
 *****WINNER***** 0.459  5.726 255.31 E1                  0.505  6.232 218.34

This is "Louie's Last Race," the lizard headed back to the bayou after this race is over. And it looked like he would be headed for the bayou early when Bernstein lost traction almost immediately. But Powell's car just didn't come up to speed and Bernstein pedaled, and pedaled, and pedaled his way to the win light.

   6 Eddie Hill          4.600 315.12  Q  11 Cory McClenathan    4.646 300.60
                  0.502  4.637 312.82 E1 *****WINNER***** 0.474  4.597 302.82

Hill's Sunday luck continues to be bad, his car posting consistent runs through qualifying, the Shootout, and the first round today. The McDonald's dragster left first and was mixing up the cylinders all the way down the track, the engine letting go about 100 feet before the finish line. But the engine lasted just long enough, Hill screaming by just past the finish line, his season over. Once again the Safety Safari goes to work in the shutdown area of the right lane.

   2 Joe Amato           4.555 322.69  Q  15 Bob Vandergriff     4.706 296.44
 *****WINNER***** 0.487  4.616 309.70 E1                  0.458  4.679 314.24

Vandergriff had "Frosted Flakes" for breakfast - not particularly significant, but we want to share all the news with our readers. The sugary cereal may have helped Vandergriff's reaction time, slapping a nice holeshot on Amato, but the Tenneco dragster came up with enough performance to reel Vandergriff in and get to the finish line first by about 16 feet in a good drag race. Amato advances and has lane choice against Bernstein in round two.

  16 Don Lampus          4.770 304.67  Q   1 Gary Scelzi         4.548 323.85
                  0.479  7.600 111.09 E1 *****WINNER***** 0.496  4.564 320.97

Lampus' team was proud just to get to this round - and Lampus left first. But then reality set in, the Winston dragster on a flawless run and Lampus' car losing power after 300 feet, raw fuel spewing from the headers. The 1998 Winston champ advances, with lane choice over Herbert in round two.

   3 Doug Kalitta        4.576 320.85  Q  14 Tony Schumacher     4.693 302.62
 *****WINNER***** 0.486  4.644 311.52 E1                  0.449  4.853 283.91

Kalitta's quest for the $50,000 bonus for winning the Shootout and the event continues here, Schumacher nailing him to the tree but then falling victim to engine problems once again, with flashes of flame and "stuff" in the shutdown area. Kalitta's car was "shooting ducks" on the top end, the header flames irregular, but he still had more than enough to advance to the next round. However, the top-end engine damage did cost him lane choice against Cory Mac in that round.

   4 Larry Dixon         4.580 313.04  Q  13 Jim Head            4.690 294.31
 *****WINNER***** 0.468  4.638 317.57 E1                  0.497  4.787 304.05

Two clean runs here from a pair of cars that struggled a bit in qualifying. The numbers tell the tale, both cars straight and smooth.

  12 Terry Mullins       4.674 314.90  Q   5 Mike Dunn           4.587 320.97
                  0.490  4.736 309.70 E1 *****WINNER***** 0.500  4.689 310.55

Mullins runs strong against Dunn, and he did so again here, a great drag race. Dunn pulled out to an early lead, but began falling back when the tires started spinning at half track. Dunn grabbed the brake and tamed the tire spin to once again open the gap, winning by about 17 feet - half a car length for these long cars. Dunn advances, losing lane choice to Dixon in the second round.

11:05 AM and that's it for Top Fuel.

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