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Fri, 29 Oct 1999, 05:22 PM

HOUSTON - Top Fuel Qualifying Notes, Session #1
By Larry Sullivan

Top Half Elusive Target

BAYTOWN, Texas - Notes from round 1 qualifying in Top Fuel at the 3rd annual Matco Tools SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions listing lane, driver name, elapsed time, top speed, and position in order following run:
Right Lane: Doug Foxworth Runs 4.792/296.57, Now #1

3:10 PM Foxworth opens the round on a single run, looks like he's shaking down a new car. The car skated around a bit, but it was a relatively clean pass. The added downforce from the big rear wings on the dragsters may allow them to get through the top half of the track without the tirespin problems we saw from the Funny Cars.

Left Lane: Bruce Litton Runs 4.760/288.70, Now #1
Right Lane: Mike Smith Runs 8.555/93.91, Now #3

Litton's car made a clean, straight pass. Smith lost traction about 100 feet out with a puff of smoke, appeared to gather it in, then lost traction again and called it off.

Right Lane: Allen Hartley Runs 8.820/91.10, Now #4

Another new race car single here, Hartley making the big move up from A-Fuel to AA-Fuel. He, too, lost traction after 100 feet and shut it off.

Left Lane: Tim Gibson Runs 11.780/76.40, Now #6
Right Lane: Scott Kalitta Runs 4.753/240.94, Now #1

Ed McCulloch is here this weekend, his plans for the future still very much up in the air. He seems to spend a lot of time near the Interstate Batteries transporter, but maybe that's just a coincidence?

Gibson's engine went silent very early in the run. Kalitta's went right down the groove, but the fuse went out well before the finish line.

Left Lane: David Grubnic Runs 5.206/231.32, Now #5
Right Lane: Randy Parks Runs 4.670/313.15, Now #1

Grubnic's car went into a power-wheelie during Monday testing at the Motorplex, hitting the wheelie bar hard enough that the rear tires came off the track momentarily. No wheelies here, but all eyes were on the right lane, where Parks showed the other teams how it should be done with a nice pass that was only a couple hundredths slower than Parks' career-best, a 4.640.

Left Lane: Jim Head Runs 4.663/312.78, Now #1
Right Lane: Eddie Hill Runs 10.921/86.75, Now #9

Hill is running his backup car, one with a lot of laps on it. Here he picked the front wheels up for a moment, then lost traction. No problems for Head, a nice, straight pass with no tire smoke anywhere in the run.

Left Lane: Bob Vandergriff Runs 5.880/149.75, Now #8
Right Lane: Larry Dixon Runs 4.603/317.27, Now #1

Vandergriff was on a good pass until he lost traction about 500 feet down the strip. No problems for Dixon, his Miller Lite dragster right down the groove with no visible traction problems whatever.

Left Lane: Cory McClenathan Runs 4.932/298.93, Now #7
Right Lane: Kenny Bernstein Runs 7.174/117.27, Now #10

Lots of traction problems for this pair, Bernstein losing traction at mid-track and trying to pedal out of it before calling it quits. Cory Mac got a bit further down the strip, but around the 1,000-foot marker he, too, was battling tirespin.

Left Lane: Doug Kalitta Runs 4.641/303.64, Now #2
Right Lane: Mike Dunn Runs 8.857/84.34, Now #14

Kalitta made a clean run, one of the few to do so. Dunn lost traction before going 100 feet, pedaled, and the left side of the engine erupted in flames, leaving a trail of oil down the rest of the lane. The Safety Safari goes to work on our first major oildown of the day, the cleanup starting before the 330-foot marker.

Left Lane: Gary Scelzi Runs 4.846/221.63, Now #8
Right Lane: Doug Herbert Runs 8.939/93.10, Now #16

Herbert lost traction early in the run. Scelzi lost traction on the top half and it looked like more than tire smoke, but the track was clean and dry.

Left Lane: Joe Amato Runs 6.696/124.11, Now #13
Right Lane: Tony Schumacher Runs 4.658/316.90, Now #3

Odds are that one of these two drivers will be the 1999 Winston champion in Top Fuel, Schumacher with an 81-point lead over Amato coming into this race. That single point could prove critical since it makes the margin "more than four rounds" with just eight rounds left in the 1999 season. Amato lost traction before reaching half-track. Schumacher made a smoke-free run, right down the groove, the car obviously "detuned" from its 320-mph tuneup at Dallas in order to negotiate the surprisingly tricky Houston racing surface.

3:59 PM and that's it for the first Professional qualifying session of the weekend.

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