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Sun, 24 Oct 1999, 01:48 PM

DALLAS - Top Fuel Round 1 Eliminations
By Ed Dykes

The Round That Wouldn't End

ENNIS, Texas - Results of round 1 eliminations in Top Fuel at the 14th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec:
   9 Kenny Bernstein     4.613 315.01  Q    8 Larry Dixon         4.603 301.20
                  0.461  9.949  91.93  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.460  4.624 317.12
It's a beautiful Sunday morning in Texas, 50 degrees, 30.33 on the barometer, and not a cloud in sight. In this first pair, the Bud King is up in smoke instantly, effectively ending his Championship hopes with this first round loss. After his crash in Memphis he dropped to fifth in the points battle, and this will likely drop him even more. Dixon comes into this weekend ninth, but he's too far back to move to the top, as well.
  10 Doug Herbert        4.620 316.78  Q    7 Eddie Hill          4.601 320.74
 *****WINNER***** 0.499  4.615 311.20  E1                  0.524  6.470 127.71
These guys always load up for the Motorplex, knowing this concrete surface will take just about everything they can throw at it, but this one may take the cake. Eddie was quicker to 60' and quicker to 330', then the engine literally exploded. We talk about engine explosions all the time, but this time it actually happened, the basically entire engine block coming out of the frame rails and rolling down the race track. The fireball was huge, as you might expect, but thankfully there was no damage to the tires or the wing and Eddie was able to get the Pennzoil dragster stopped safely. He was rattled by the concussion and slow getting out of the car, but the Safety Safari was on the scene immediately. We're told that Eddie will get a complete checkout, but the initial indication is that he's OK, just got the breath knocked out of him. The car is another matter, all that remains of the engine is the portion from the cylinder heads up, which pitched forward and is now hanging off the left side of the roll cage. The crankshaft is still attached to the clutch assembly, but there's nothing left of the pistons, cylinder block, etc. that used to surround it. It is truly the worst engine explosion I've seen in my 30 years of drag racing. The cleanup is going to be massive, with oildry going down in both lanes from the 300' mark all the way to the finish. Now Eddie is reporting in, with Ercie at his side, saying that the concussion was so massive that he wasn't sure whether he was OK or not, and he apologized to the fans for being so slow coming out of the car. It was a welcome end to a scary incident, but Eddie Hill is just fine after all.
   5 Cory McClenathan    4.580 311.74  Q   12 Tim Gibson          4.664 299.90
 *****WINNER***** 0.502  4.615 314.79  E1                  0.449  4.939 224.15
It's now 11:45 AM, and we started the round on time at 11AM... you can do the math. Gibson got a good headstart, and Cory Mac had to play catchup for the full quarter-mile. The BME car was still ahead at 1000', but the engine was going away by then and the MBNA car was able to pass him for the win. Eddie Hill is here in the press box now, saying that he has a little neck and back pain, but otherwise he's OK.
   4 Mike Dunn           4.573 312.60  Q   13 Jim Head            4.667 306.74
 *****WINNER***** 0.491  4.608 303.74  E1                  0.493  4.712 301.60
These guys were close all the way down, basically even off the line but Dunn pulled ahead quickly, running 270mph at the eighth vs. Head's 258. Then Head started pulling back on the Mopar dragster, but at the end it was Team Gwynn by about 40 feet. This run gives Dunn lane choice over Cory Mac next time.
   1 Scott Kalitta       4.546 318.92  Q   16 Mike Smith          4.709 286.71
 *****WINNER***** 0.496  4.567 317.01  E1                  0.492  4.855 285.80
Kalitta runs the first 'fifty of the day to down the Smith-White entry, quicker at every interval. Smith's dragster apparently started having engine problems at about 400', and now the Safety Safari has started their trail of oildry at that point and continued it all the was to the scoreboards. There was a visible trail of first oil and smoke then flames as Smith passed the 900' mark, but he stayed with it as long as he could. Kalitta advances to face Dixon next time, with lane choice of course.
   2 Tony Schumacher     4.557 326.91  Q   15 Don Lampus          4.686 298.30
 *****WINNER***** 0.415  4.659 323.85  E1                  0.513  5.523 176.43
Ok, after yet another huge cleanup, it's now 12:25 PM, almost 90 minutes after the start of the round and all we've been able to accomplish is about 30 seconds of actual racing. Here, Lampus launches into a huge wheelstand and rides it out for a long time, then when the front wheels finally drop the rear tires started to smoke and this one was over. It didn't really matter, Schumacher streaking to the finish, backing up his earlier 326.91 as a new National Record, yet loses lane choice to Doug Herbert.
   3 Joe Amato           4.566 319.26  Q   14 Bob Vandergriff     4.680 304.67
 *****WINNER***** 0.458  4.561 324.20  E1                  0.489  5.017 289.01
Vandergriff was tough all the way to the finish here, but Amato pulls out a crucial win in this Championship battle. We hear Jimmy Prock say that he was concerned about being too aggressive here in round one, but he made the right calls and the Tenneco car got the job done.
   6 Doug Kalitta        4.590 304.87  Q   11 Gary Scelzi         4.638 313.04
 *****WINNER***** 0.476  4.554 309.49  E1                  0.489  4.595 312.39
This one will surely have Championship implications, as the Team Winston dragster dropped a cylinder or two on the top end and that spelled defeat for them today. The only race that Scelzi won was at the quarter-mile speed traps, the Kitty Hawk car quicker or faster at every other interval. The margin at the end was 0.054 seconds here. In round two, Doug Kalitta will have lane choice over Amato, the Kitty Hawk machine a mere 0.007 quicker than the Keystone car.

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