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Thu, 9 Nov 2000, 07:18 PM

POMONA-2 - Top Fuel Qualifying Notes, Session #1
By Larry Sullivan

POMONA, Calif. - Notes from round 1 qualifying in Top Fuel at the 36th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals listing lane, driver name, elapsed time, top speed, and position in order following run:

Left Lane: Shirley Muldowney Runs 4.677/312.21, Now #1
Right Lane: Mike Dunn Runs 4.723/285.83, Now #2

3:11 PM The Top Fuel session opens with a couple of legends, Shirley Muldowney in the left lane and the New York Yankees in the right. Okay, so the right lane is Mike Dunn in Darrell Gwynn's dragster, but it sports the fabled Yankee pinstripes and logo. Dunn has run the two quickest laps of the year since the new 90-percent nitro rules came into force, but is still seeking his first round win of the year, showing just how tough the battle in Top Fuel has been this year. Muldowney's biggest headlines of the year came in a wheelstanding loss in the first round at Indy. Here Dunn ran out of engine well before the finish line, while Muldowney ran it all the way out the back door, a good lap considering that she has been on the sidelines since the U.S. Nationals.

Left Lane: Mike Smith Runs 10.531/79.06, Now #4
Right Lane: Gary Clapshaw Runs 4.873/288.15, Now #3

Smith went into a big wheelie, shaking the tires, and he pulled the plug to get the wheels down. Clapshaw shook early and ate a bunch of aluminum on the top end of his run, lots of white smoke from the pipes as he crossed the finish line.

Left Lane: Andrew Cowin Runs 10.264/64.19, Now #5
Right Lane: Bobby Baldwin Runs 4.850/292.84, Now #3

Cowin smoked the tires almost immediately, then something let go in the engine bay, what appeared to be a fuel fire in the engine compartment as he coasted down the strip. No oildown, so the engine may be okay, but it certainly was impressive. Baldwin ran it all the way through, nothing out of the ordinary visible through the tire smoke from Cowin's car.

Left Lane: Tim Gibson Runs 4.850/267.00, Now #5
Right Lane: Melanie Troxel Runs 4.846/282.84, Now #3

Troxel started smoking the tires at half track and her engine started eating some parts as the revs came up. Gibson's car was black-tracking for the first half of the run and the header flames went out early.

Left Lane: Rhonda Hartman-Smith Runs 9.892/68.28, Now #8
Right Lane: David Grubnic Runs 4.908/283.97, Now #7

Hartman-Smith left hard and then appeared to lose the blower belt, raw fuel spewing from the headers. Grubnic's car ran hard for the first half, then dropped a cylinder or two on the top end.

Left Lane: Don Lampus Runs 10.053/74.70, Now #10
Right Lane: Doug Herbert Runs 4.755/296.63, Now #3

Lampus launched and then shut off - couldn't see why. Herbert made a safe opening pass, something to tune from.

Left Lane: Bob Vandergriff Runs 5.432/182.82, Now #9
Right Lane: Cory McClenathan Runs 10.406/81.17, Now #13

Cory Mac lost traction almost immediately, the unbeaten new car finally missing a step. Vandergriff went to half track strongly, then lost the engine in a big fireball, leaving a trail of oil the rest of the way down the track.

Left Lane: Kenny Bernstein Runs 5.003/219.54, Now #10
Right Lane: Doug Kalitta Runs 4.844/291.07, Now #4

Both cars trailed lots of tire smoke from half track on, Bernstein's car skating around and getting close to the centerline, forcing him to lift early. Earlier this afternoon he announced that he will drive a maximum of two more years, son Brandon to serve an apprenticeship in the Darien & Meadows Federal-Mogul Dragster and then take over the Bud King driving responsibilities.

Right Lane: Tony Schumacher Runs 12.217/74.14, Now #17

Schumacher made a solo pass, his physical recovery still enough in doubt to make side-by-side runs unwise until he has a chance to assess things under racing conditions - G-forces and physical reactions. As was the case in Houston, the car lost traction immediately, but he should be able to make a decision about driving from that short effort.

Left Lane: Joe Amato Runs 4.629/313.37, Now #1

Amato was slated to run beside Schumacher, so also got a solo run to keep the rest of the first-session qualifying pairings intact. Amato made a nice, soft launch and left black tracks down the asphalt, but the run was smooth and there was no tire smoke.

Left Lane: Larry Dixon Runs 4.711/308.43, Now #4
Right Lane: Gary Scelzi Runs 4.617/311.77, Now #1

Last pair. Two good passes, Dixon a bit softer off the line than Scelzi, then both cars with all eight candles lit all the way to the finish line with no tire smoke.

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