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Sun, 31 Oct 1999, 12:39 PM

HOUSTON - Top Fuel Round 1 Eliminations
By Larry Sullivan

The Fat Lady is Clearing Her Throat

BAYTOWN, Texas - Results of round 1 eliminations in Top Fuel at the 3rd annual Matco Tools SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions:
   8 Tony Schumacher     4.605 323.27  Q    9 Randy Parks         4.614 313.88
 *****WINNER***** 0.510  4.569 323.04  E1                  0.493  4.669 312.57
11:00 AM A stiff breeze kicked up about 15 minutes ago and the skydivers delivering the US, Texas, and NHRA flags appeared to be hovering over the track. It's a tailwind, so the cars may have a bit less downforce on the top end, good for speed, bad for stability and tirespin.

This first pair is important in the Winston championship chase, Parks with nothing to lose and Schumacher with the title at stake. Parks gave it a good shot, just slightly off his qualifying performance, but Schumacher's crew continues to deliver solid performance without making mistakes, a clean, strong run to step up from his qualifying performance and win easily, the margin of victory = 0.083 seconds (approximately 38 feet).
   7 Cory McClenathan    4.604 323.27  Q   10 Doug Kalitta        4.621 301.67
                  0.494  4.628 288.64  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.529  4.583 306.05
Cory Mac almost won this one, but his engine let go as he passed the 1,000-foot marker, in the lead, and his car lost momentum. Kalitta got by in the final 320 feet for the win by a margin of victory = 0.010 seconds (approximately 4 feet). The Safety Safari rolls, first to check Cory Mac's car and then to clean up the oil in the left lane.
   6 Joe Amato           4.598 314.39  Q   11 Kenny Bernstein     4.636 307.65
                  0.515 10.774  87.72  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.507  4.567 317.12
This is the other big first-round matchup in the Winston title chase, Amato needing to win to keep his hopes of catching Schumacher alive. After qualifying, Amato trailed by just 80 points, exactly four rounds, but Schumacher already won and all Joe could do here was keep pace. However, to do so he would have to get by his friend Bernstein, no easy matter on any weekend. Amato, however, held a 4-1 edge in their 1999 meetings prior to this one.

So much for prior results. Amato's team worked long hours last night shifting pieces to the backup car, the result a mixture of black and blue body panels, but the hybrid car immediately lost traction. Bernstein got very close to the centerline, but didn't cross it. That effectively gives Schumacher the title, though it's not mathematically "clinched" yet - two more round wins will take care of that detail.
   4 Gary Scelzi         4.592 320.58  Q   13 Jim Head            4.663 312.78
 *****WINNER***** 0.522  4.514 319.37  E1                  0.482 11.788  72.52
Head went up in smoke almost immediately. Scelzi stormed down the left lane, the car on a rope, resetting the event ET record with low ET of the weekend.
   2 Bob Vandergriff     4.563 316.01  Q   15 Doug Foxworth       4.681 307.58
 *****WINNER***** 0.524  6.328 248.29  E1                  0.582 10.191  88.23
This was a pedaling contest, both cars losing traction immediately and both drivers pedaling. Vandergriff got it to stick and shot ahead for the win, losing lane choice to Kalitta in round two.
   1 Mike Dunn           4.561 319.60  Q   16 Doug Herbert        4.698 308.71
                  0.535 10.590  80.28  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.460  4.612 310.98
Dunn lost traction early in the run and tried to pedal it, but something broke, the car trailing sparks from the clutch area as it went down the track. An easy win for Herbert, who loses lane choice to Schumacher in round two.
   3 Larry Dixon         4.572 312.50  Q   14 Mike Smith          4.669 301.60
 *****WINNER***** 0.527  4.593 312.93  E1                  0.536 10.581  82.66
This one was over after 100 feet, Smith up in smoke at that point. Dixon sailed right down the groove, the car appearing to be on an easy pass. Dixon will face Bernstein next round, Bernstein with lane choice.
   5 Eddie Hill          4.596 315.86  Q   12 Tim Gibson          4.648 312.42
                        No Time        E1 *****WINNER***** 0.513  6.397 129.05
Gibson got a competition bye here, Hill reportedly home and "hurting," but determined to have a car ready for Pomona, less than two weeks from now. Gibson used the opportunity to make a test pass, a half-track effort to check the tuneup for round two, where Gary Scelzi will have lane choice.

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