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Sat, 30 Oct 1999, 03:42 PM

HOUSTON - Top Fuel Qualifying Notes, Session #3
By Larry Sullivan

Deja Vu All Over Again

BAYTOWN, Texas - Notes from round 3 qualifying in Top Fuel at the 3rd annual Matco Tools SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions 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: Scott Kalitta Runs 5.258/186.12, Now #14; Best prior run: 4.753/240.94, Was #14
Right Lane: Steve Smith Runs 5.139/290.44, Now #17; Best prior run: 10.586/81.63, Was #21

1:49 PM We're still racing to get this session completed before the rain shuts us down. These two get down the track, but the next pair holds off on firing the engines because of a light rain at mid-track. Kalitta's car smoked the tires at half track, then lost a blower belt near the 1,000-foot mark. Smith's car was off the pace from the beginning - but at least he finally got a full pass on the books.

Left Lane: Allen Hartley Runs 11.753/80.00, Now #21; Best prior run: 8.820/91.10, Was #21
Right Lane: David Grubnic Runs 11.307/81.63, Now #18; Best prior run: 5.206/231.32, Was #18

Yesterday I mentioned a near-blowover with the Montana Express in testing at the Texas Motorplex Monday and attributed the "save" to a wheelie bar. I was mistaken - the Montana Express doesn't have a wheelie bar. The save was the result of a good job of driving by Grubnic, catching the front end of the car as it went quickly skyward and getting it safely down.

Here both cars lost traction in almost perfect synchronization.

Left Lane: Doug Foxworth Runs 4.681/307.58, Now #13; Best prior run: 4.792/296.57, Was #16
Right Lane: Joe Amato Runs 5.007/260.26, Now #17; Best prior run: 6.696/124.11, Was #20

This may have been Amato's last shot at saving his chances for a sixth championship, and this chance went up in smoke at mid-track. Amato pedaled and stood on it, but the rear tires never fully caught up with the car again. He has one chance left - maybe, weather permitting. Meanwhile, Foxworth made a nice run to move away from the bump spot. Now it's Bruce Litton's 4.760 that the others are shooting at.

Left Lane: Kenny Bernstein Runs 9.073/86.31, Now #20; Best prior run: 5.282/181.76, Was #20
Right Lane: Jim Head Runs 11.214/80.50, Now #10; Best prior run: 4.663/312.78, Was #10

Another big DNQ this round, Bernstein and Head both losing traction almost immediately. Bernstein tried to pedal his way through it, but was unable to get the big rear tires to bite again.

Left Lane: Randy Parks Runs 4.614/313.88, Now #7; Best prior run: 4.670/313.15, Was #12
Right Lane: Bruce Litton Runs 11.067/73.84, Now #16; Best prior run: 4.760/288.70, Was #16

Parks parlays a career-best run into a first-round lane choice spot on the ladder. Litton loses traction almost immediately.

Left Lane: Doug Herbert Runs 4.703/302.89, Now #14; Best prior run: 4.698/308.71, Was #14
Right Lane: Doug Kalitta Runs 4.621/301.67, Now #8; Best prior run: 4.641/303.64, Was #9

Kalitta improves just enough to move to the top half of the ladder, while Herbert shows good consistency - but 4.70s probably won't get the job done on Sunday

Left Lane: Tony Schumacher Runs 4.647/317.19, Now #9; Best prior run: 4.637/321.96, Was #9
Right Lane: Bob Vandergriff Runs 4.563/316.01, Now #2; Best prior run: 4.611/300.06, Was #6

Schumacher shows amazing consistency, his three runs 4.65, 4.63, and 4.64. Vandergriff makes a great run, taking the second spot away from Larry Dixon.

Left Lane: Eddie Hill Runs 4.605/297.88, Now #5; Best prior run: 4.596/315.86, Was #5
Right Lane: Cory McClenathan Runs 4.704/297.16, Now #6; Best prior run: 4.604/323.27, Was #6

Deja vu all over again. Hill got almost to the finish line and then the engine disintegrated in a big ball of flame. It was a virtual duplicate of his engine explosion at Dallas last Sunday, the engine coming completely out of the car and the biggest piece of the block passing the car and sliding to a stop way down by the sand pit at the end of the track. The video replays show Hill's head being shoved forward by the force of the explosion as the engine comes apart, the engine parts coming over the top of the roll cage and the engine "diaper" sailing through the air. The track was littered with debris following the explosion and the car came to a stop way down the track. The Safety Safari had to cut the roll cage to get Eddie out of the car on a backboard, Hill complaining of back pain. Hill was reported to be conscious and talking with the rescue crew, but as violently as he was bent double in the safety harness, the rescue crew is taking no chances. Hill will be transported to Baytown Hospital for a complete checkup.

Left Lane: Larry Dixon Runs 4.572/312.50, Now #3; Best prior run: 4.576/313.15, Was #3
Right Lane: Gary Scelzi Runs 4.632/260.61, Now #4; Best prior run: 4.592/320.58, Was #4

After a ten-minute cleanup, racing resumed, the crowd a bit subdued after Hill's close call. Two good runs here, Scelzi ahead to 1,000 feet, then spinning the tires and losing momentum while Dixon finished strong.

Left Lane: Mike Dunn Runs 11.765/81.00, Now #1; Best prior run: 4.561/319.60, Was #1

Last car and the weather may be holding off - at least we can hope it is. Dunn loses traction immediately.

That's it until later this afternoon, Dunn on the pole, Litton on the bubble, and neither Kenny Bernstein nor Joe Amato qualified yet.

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