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Fri, 1 Oct 1999, 10:20 PM

TOPEKA - Top Fuel Qualifying Notes, Session #2
By Ed Dykes

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

TOPEKA, Kan. - Notes from round 2 qualifying in Top Fuel at the 11th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals listing lane, driver name, elapsed time/top speed this round, position in order following run, best prior elapsed time/speed, and position in order prior to run:
Left Lane: Allen Hartley Runs 10.590/78.24, Now #20; No Prior Run
Right Lane: Bob Vandergriff Runs 8.827/85.90, Now #18; Best prior run: 16.999/53.98, Was #19

9:21 PM, and to a guy who lives down south, it's downright nippy here. The thermometer says we're still in the low sixties, but the wind makes it feel much cooler. And these cars agree with me, apparently, as both are up in smoke, although Vandergriff did make it further downtrack this time.

Left Lane: Mike Smith Runs 6.703/126.13, Now #18; Best prior run: 9.047/88.38, Was #19
Right Lane: Cory McClenathan Runs 8.185/94.94, Now #17; Best prior run: 5.828/142.06, Was #17

Smith is driving for Ralph Smith's in the '97 Brad Hadman chassis, with Jay Lewis as crew chief. And it's a pedal-fest, you'd think these guys were in the last round tomorrow. The engines wanted no part of all that pedalling, so they sent the blower belts sailing, effectively ending their chances at crossing the finish line under power.

Left Lane: Scott Kalitta Runs 10.346/78.30, Now #14; Best prior run: 5.193/185.64, Was #14
Right Lane: Paul Romine Runs 9.655/88.08, Now #16; Best prior run: 5.442/171.84, Was #16

Two more cars equals four more plumes of tire smoke. These guys have been running in the heat of the summer so long that apparently they've all filed away all their cool-weather tuneup notes.

Left Lane: Doug Herbert Runs 4.679/315.05, Now #6; Best prior run: 4.983/218.09, Was #13
Right Lane: Andrew Cowin Runs 4.692/307.23, Now #8; Best prior run: 5.347/175.41, Was #15

Just when we thought it wasn't possible, Larry Frazier shows 'em all how it's done as he tunes the Snap-on dragster to a flawless pass here tonight. And the Aussies match them step for step, moving up into the qualified order with Larry Dixon sandwiched in between them. That bumped out Cory Mac, and leaves Paul Romine on the bubble.

Left Lane: David Grubnic Runs 10.617/79.12, Now #14; Best prior run: 4.876/274.39, Was #14
Right Lane: Tim Gibson Runs 5.424/176.60, Now #13; Best prior run: 4.831/298.80, Was #13

Grubnic goes up in smoke early, while the Nitronic Research columnist makes it to nearly half track in the Bill Miller dragster. Looks like the Safety Safari trucks are rolling for a cleanup of the right lane, right at the finish line.

Left Lane: Kenny Bernstein Runs 4.569/312.71, Now #2; Best prior run: 4.798/294.88, Was #11
Right Lane: Randy Parks Runs 8.278/92.38, Now #12; Best prior run: 4.820/279.15, Was #12

Bernstein and Beard know what it takes, and the Bud King motors right down Broadway to move in behind Eddie Hill.

Left Lane: Jim Head Runs 10.405/77.58, Now #11; Best prior run: 4.766/301.13, Was #11
Right Lane: Doug Kalitta Runs 4.718/300.33, Now #5; Best prior run: 4.638/310.41, Was #5

If anyone here was getting bored watching all the tire-smokers, Kalitta got their attention -- the engine exploded in a huge fireball right at the finish line, and continued to burn, and burn big, as he rolled to a stop. The Safety Safari was right there, as always, and their hoses made quick work of the flames but you can bet the crew will have their work cut out for them... this one burned for a long time. Adding insult to injury, the Safety Safari trucks have all assembled at the 1200' mark for a track cleanup party. Meanwhile, Jim Head was smoking the tires and coasting thru. By the way, the Checker-Schuck's-Kragen folks confirmed today that they will not back Head's operation next year, instead choosing to field two Funny Cars out of the Worsham camp.

Left Lane: Mike Dunn Runs 4.672/310.27, Now #7; Best prior run: 4.763/269.94, Was #10
Right Lane: Tony Schumacher Runs 12.356/77.62, Now #4; Best prior run: 4.623/319.14, Was #4

Instead of pedalling the throttle, Dunn grabs the brake handle when he feels the tires start to turn so it's harder for us to tell for sure when he does it, but it looked like he may have started to spin the tires at about 60-70' off the line. Regardless, he managed to get it under control and cross the finish line under power, moving up to the top half of the ladder in the process.

Left Lane: Larry Dixon Runs 16.166/36.37, Now #9; Best prior run: 4.691/297.88, Was #9
Right Lane: Gary Scelzi Runs 4.524/304.46, Now #1; Best prior run: 4.595/315.86, Was #3

This one had to be a heart-stopper for Scelzi, the engine fireballing right at 1200' and the shrapnel immediately taking out the left rear tire. It was a good thing that Dixon was well back, as the Team Winston dragster was weaving all over the top end as Scelzi fought to keep the disabled car upright and off the walls. This one could have been nasty, but the parachute kept the car straight and the wing stayed intact and the Californian was able to bring the car to a stop. The flames were still burning at that point and Scelzi was none too quick getting out of the car, but the Safety Safari was right there and they were able to extinguish the last of the flames and Scelzi emerged unhurt, so far as we can tell. There were parts and pieces flying everywhere, he certainly could have gotten hit in the crossfire, but luck was with the red team tonight as they take over the #1 qualifying spot in truly spectacular fashion. Dixon, by the way, smoked the tires right at the start.

Left Lane: Joe Amato Runs 4.538/322.11, Now #2; Best prior run: 4.641/313.51, Was #6
Right Lane: Eddie Hill Runs 10.039/79.98, Now #3; Best prior run: 4.552/316.82, Was #2

Amato gets within a tic of the track speed record (322.69) as he moves the Tenneco machine right in behind Scelzi while Eddie Hill gives in to the tire smoke gremlins. That's the final pair of the evening, and it's Team Winston on top with the CARQUEST guys on the bubble.

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