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Sun, 17 Sep 2000, 12:06 PM

READING - Top Fuel Round 1 Eliminations
By Larry Sullivan

MOHNTON, Pa. - Results of round 1 eliminations in Top Fuel at the 16th annual Keystone Nationals:

   8 Cory McClenathan    4.615 305.49  Q    9 Bob Vandergriff     4.630 314.61
                  0.440 11.376  83.34  E1 *****WINNER***** 0.509  4.726 262.44
11:04 AM For the first time this weekend there's not a cloud in sight, but the bright sunshine shouldn't interfere with the racing because the cool air temperatures are holding the track temperatures down into the eighties, just about perfect. With cool air and a perfect track temperature, we should see some stunning runs today. These two have met 14 times in their careers, Cory Mac winning 11 times. But Vandergriff has won both their meetings this year and McClenathan didn't even have a chance here, his MBNA dragster losing traction immediately. Vandergriff raised the season tally to 3-0 on a good pass in the right lane, but just before the lights there was a heavy BOOM from his engine and the TV pictures showed the supercharger sitting at a strange angle atop the engine. The explosion apparently also broke the engine block, a trail of oil visible behind Vandergriff's car as he pulled to a stop. That will cost him $1,000, 10 Winston points, and lane choice in round two.

   6 Doug Herbert        4.613 316.97  Q   11 David Grubnic       4.634 310.27
 *****WINNER***** 0.529  5.074 251.67  E1                  0.483 13.349  55.95
These two split their prior two meetings this season and Herbert takes the rubber match when Grubnic loses traction immediately. Herbert didn't have a trouble-free run either, his car chattering the tires after going 100 feet or so, but Herbert was able to backpedal and keep the tires hooked up. It looked like the engine started eating parts on the top end, spinning the tires from half track to just past 1,000 feet, where he pulled the plug.

   5 Andrew Cowin        4.610 317.87  Q   12 Doug Kalitta        4.641 291.38
 *****WINNER***** 0.501  4.788 303.98  E1                  0.307 12.412  76.05
Kalitta left very early, then lost traction, leaving Cowin uncontested enroute to the win light. Cowin's was the best of the runs we've seen so far, but his car also hazed the tires on the top half of the run, the top-end traction a little less than stellar so far today.

   1 Tony Schumacher     4.535 324.67  Q   16 Bobby Lagana        5.451 217.18
 *****WINNER***** 0.522  6.473 188.78  E1                  0.487  8.793  90.37
This was the first time these two ever faced each other, a sharp contrast between the well-funded, Army-sponsored team and Lagana's no-budget family team, but Lagana came "this close" to pulling off a stunning upset when Schumacher's car lost traction almost immediately. But Lagana's car nosed over at half track, the blower belt snaking across the track, and Schumacher frantically pedaled his way past the slowing "Twilight Zone" dragster for the win. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Another pice of luck, Schumacher not only gets the round win, he gets lane choice against Vandergriff in round two because of Vandergriff's oildown. The crushing blow? Lagana's car left a trail of oil way down in the shutdown area and that team is the least able to pay the $1,000 fine.

   2 Gary Scelzi         4.554 321.27  Q   15 Rit Pustari         5.328 239.10
 *****WINNER***** 0.461  4.615 315.86  E1                  0.000 No Time
Pustari destroyed his only clutch on his last-ditch qualifying pass and was unable to answer the call. "Big Red" made a nice pass, clean and straight, no tire smoke anywhere in the run.

   3 Melanie Troxel      4.576 312.57  Q   14 Luigi Novelli       4.815 291.01
 *****WINNER***** 0.521  4.910 232.71  E1                  0.499  5.890 163.39
These two also had not met before during the 2000 season. Both cars had problems. Novelli's engine was enveloped in flames from 300 feet on, leaving a trail of oil behind the car. Troxel's car smoked the tires on the top half of the run, the engine went silent at about 1,000 feet, and the car coasted across the finish line. Even so, her ET was good enough to earn lane choice against Herbert in round two.

   4 Joe Amato           4.579 312.93  Q   13 Rhonda Hartman-Smi  4.753 283.97
 *****WINNER***** 0.501  4.697 291.82  E1                  0.515  4.804 289.01
This was the fourth meeting between these two this year, Amato leading 2-1 in the three prior races. This was a good drag race. Amato led all the way, but his car started trailing tire smoke at half track and it looked like Hartman-Smith was going to close the gap - then her dragster also started turning the tires and Amato held her off to win by a Margin of victory = 0.121 seconds (approximately 51 feet). Amato has lane choice against Cowin in round two.

   7 Kenny Bernstein     4.614 317.64  Q   10 Larry Dixon         4.632 316.67
 *****WINNER***** 0.494  4.693 305.15  E1                  0.496  4.811 284.33
12:00 PM The final pair in a round a lot longer than anyone expected. These two have met 21 times in their careers, Bernstein with a 12-9 edge lifetime, but Dixon leading the series 3-2 this year. This was another good race, the cars side-by-side to half track, but then Dixon's car started spinning the tires and dropped a couple cylinders, allowing Bernstein to pull ahead to win by a margin of victory = 0.120 seconds (approximately 50 feet) and make their 2000 season record 3-3. Bernstein faces Scelzi in round two, Scelzi with lane choice

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