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Thu, 27 Dec 2001, 08:43 AM

Wrapping Up The Year!
By Bob Frey

Since the 2001 season, and the Winston Drag Racing era, have both been over for a couple of weeks, I thought I’d clean out the notebook with a couple final issues of "Did You Know?" Of course, the fact that there hasn’t been much new news around the sport lately may have precluded me putting any really new stuff in this week’s column, although, I will tell you

Skuza's Stratus
this. Watch for the announcement real soon by one of the fuel teams that most folks have written off as dead. This will probably come as a shock to everyone, since most of the experts had already discounted this team for the year 2002. And, I’ll tell you this, it will be big!! And, watch for the subtle restructuring of one of the very big Pro Stock teams to take place in 2002. It may not come in the form of an announcement, but it will be readily apparent to any, true fan. Of course, the battle between the Ingersolls should be exciting next year, with Mark in the Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) camp, and Buddy, in the Warren Johnson arena. That, by the way, is a major addition to W.J.’s team and he’ll be awfully tough to beat in the Pro Stock ranks next year. Of course, with Rickie Smith and some testing opportunities on the horizon for Team Mopar, Mark Osborne and Darrell Alderman won’t be pushovers, either. Word has it that the Neons cranked out some 6.78 & ’79 runs at the end of last week’s testing. And, with the new Dodge Stratus body on Dean Skuza’s (and no one else’s) Funny Car next year, John Force may get a real challenge, and not just from those rumored new Toyota cars. By the way, since I mentioned Buddy Ingersoll, I think I’ll give you folks the real rundown on what his famous Buick V-6 turbo car really did back in the mid 1980’s. We’ll do that in my next "From The Tower" column on Friday of this week. Now…

Kenny Bernstein
Since Kenny Bernstein won the Winston Championship this year, it’s pretty obvious that he won the most rounds of competition. But, did you know that he also had the best winning percentage in the class? Kenny’s final total of 61 wins and 16 losses gave him a winning percentage of .792. Wow, now that’s impressive. It edged out Larry Dixon who chalked up a .760 mark, which, I think you’ll agree, isn’t too bad, either. By way of comparison, Gary Scelzi, in winning last year, finished up with a 54-14 mark, good for an amazing .794 percentage, while Tony Schumacher only needed a .637 mark (37 – 21), and one national event win, to win the crown in 1999. Life is all about timing, isn’t it?… Did you know that, with all of the talk about the demise of the Top Fuel class this year, that there were 42 different drivers who competed in at least one round of competition during the season? Two years ago, when there was no talk about the lack of cars, there were a grand total of 29 drivers who competed in at least one round. 29. Hummmm….If you wanted to win this past season in Top Fuel, it was a good thing if you qualified in the top half of the field. That’s because drivers who qualified eighth or better in 2001 won 22 of the 24 races. Only Darrell Russell (#9 at the Winternationals), and Doug Kalitta, (#10 at Phoenix), won when qualified in the bottom half of the field. That means

Larry Dixon
that, after the second race of the season, every winner in TF came from the top of the field. Did you know that the number one qualifier won nine times, and the number two guy won on four occasions? That means the top two guys won over 50% of the races this year in the dragster class. Wow…..Still in the dragster class, did you know that there were six, multiple winners this year? Of course, Kenny (8) and Larry (6) did it, but so did Doug Kalitta (3), while Mike Dunn, Darrell Russell and Gary Scelzi each won a pair of races. Andrew Cowin, David Grubnic and Tony Schumacher all shared a dubious, distinction in 2001. Did you know that all three of them made it to a Top Fuel final, but none of them won a race? The rest of the statistical honors were split between K.B. and Mike Dunn, with Kenny getting nine, number one spots and eight low elapsed time marks, while Mike, in the Yankees’ car, set top speed at an amazing 11 races. Still, the "King of Speed" wasn’t too far back in that category either. Did you know that Kenny set top speed at 8 races this year.? Look back at the numbers and it’s easy to see why Mr. Bernstein won the title, isn’t it?

John Force
The other fuel class, the one dominated by John Force, gave us some interesting stats, too. The most amazing one is this. Did you know that there were only 23 drivers who competed in at least one round this year? That’s 23 compared to the dragster mark of 42. And, did you know that there were 33 drivers who scored points in the Funny Car class this year? That’s 33 compared to the dragster number of 46. Now by "scoring points" I mean drivers who entered at least one event, whether they qualified or not. Of course, John had the best winning percentage with a .753 mark, based on a round total of 55 – 18. Only three Funny Car drivers qualified for a race and never won a round this year, do you know who they are? I’ll bet you guessed Bob Bode and Dale Creasy, but do you know who the third one is? I’ll tell you later. By the way, as an aside, I understand that some big things may be in store for the Creasy family this year. Let ’s keep our fingers crossed. Anyway…As far as where to qualify in the Funny Car class, it’s almost as important to be in the top half of the filed here as it is in the dragster class. Did you know that only four races were won last year by drivers in the bottom half of the filed? And three of them were by the same team. Del Worsham won from the number 11 spot in Pomona, and he won from the number 12 spot in Sonoma, while his teammate, Frank Pedregon, won Atlanta after qualifying 12th. Gary Densham, also won from the bottom half of the field, winning in Texas after starting 12th. Like the dragster class, the top two qualifiers in Funny Car were tough to beat, winning a total of eight races, seven of them by either John Force, Whit Bazemore or Tony Pedregon. Tony’s win in Englishtown marked the first and only time that he has ever won a race when qualified number one.

Whit Bazemore
Like the dragsters, we saw six, different, multiple winners in the Funny Car class this year, with five of them winning more than twice. Gary Densham won a pair of races, while Force, Del, Baze, Tony and Ron Capps all won three or more races. In all, there were nine guys who won races in 2001. With all of the talk about what a great season Whit Bazemore had, did you know (or remember), that Del Worsham actually won more races (4) than Whit did (3)? And, to show the parity in the Funny Car class, (yes, there was parity), did you know that 13 different drivers went to final rounds this year? Hey, when only 23 drivers qualified for a race, 13 is a pretty, impressive number, I think. That means that four guys made it to the finals, but not to the winner’s circle, right? They were Jim Epler, Al Hofmann, Dean Skuza and Bob Gilbertson.

For the first time in a long while, Mr. Force did not dominate the statistical categories this year, except for the big one, of course. Did you know that Whit Bazemore had more number one qualifying spots and more low elapsed times than John did this year? Well, he did. Whit qualified at the top of the pack nine times, including five of the last seven races, while John had to settle for second best, with six. Whit also had the upper hand in the low E/T category, with eight to John’s six. Force ran the best speed at six events, while Whit did it at 5. Sounds like 2002 should be some fun, huh?

Next week, I’ll look at the Pro Stock classes and then we’ll get into the 2002 season predictions. For now, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year, and I hope you ’ve had a great holiday season so far. Oh, by the way, the other Funny Car guy who qualified for a starting berth but didn’t win a round this year was, of course, Vinny Arcadi. But you knew that, didn’t you?

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