ENNIS, Texas. -- Add another two drivers to Goodyear's roll call of NHRA Winston Drag Racing champions. Gary Scelzi and Bob Panella Jr. secured the National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel and Pro Stock Truck championships at the Nov. 5 ...
ENNIS, Texas. -- Add another two drivers to Goodyear's roll call of NHRA Winston Drag Racing champions.
Gary Scelzi and Bob Panella Jr. secured the National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel and Pro Stock Truck championships at the Nov. 5 rain-delayed O'Reilly Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex, joining fellow Goodyear racers John Force (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) as NHRA champions.
Scelzi secured his title on his opening run, giving him three Top Fuel championships in the past four years. "It's great to be associated with an industry leader like Goodyear, someone who has set the standard for tires in the motorsports industry," Scelzi said. "This new (D1230) tire has helped us to win our third Winston Top Fuel title in four years because it's consistent and it goes rounds. That means it's just one less thing that Alan Johnson has to worry about when he's setting up our Team Winston dragster."
Panella also put the title race out of reach from his competitors with a first-round win, becoming the first repeat champion in the three-year-old category. "I'm very glad to get this over with," Panella said. "And I can tell right off that defending a title is better than winning it the first time. This one proves it. In the Pro Stock classes performance and horsepower is what it's all about. We proved that, for the last two years, no one has done it better than us. This feels so good. It's very, very satisfying."
While the championships were making the news, there were others looking for event wins in Texas. Cory McClenathan remained undefeated in his new car, sweeping through Ennis just like he did in Houston the previous week. After defeating Rhonda Hartman-Smith, Mike Dunn and Larry Dixon, Cory Mac took care of Melanie Troxel in the finals, 4.659 seconds at 314.02 mph to 8.21/101 mph.
Troxel did make the fastest pass of the year at 326.08 mph, while Dunn lowered his quick time of 2000 to 4.529 seconds. "Dunn's got me scared," McClenathan said. "He's got the car to beat next year."
John Force had a blower explode at a most fortuitous moment: crossing the finish line. He got the win light in 4.863-second/302.55-mph in front ahead of Jerry Toliver's 4.994 at 306.40 mph, giving the 10-time champion his 91st career win.
Kurt Johnson earned his career-high fifth race win of the season and showed Pro Stock champion Coughlin that he will be need to be reckoned with in 2001. Johnson was the fastest driver in each round and defeated Coughlin with a 6.966-second, 196.73-mph run.
Steve Johns used lane advantage to win his first Pro Stock Truck event of 2000, running a 7.566 at 178.05 mph to Randy Daniels' 8.054 at 136.40 mph.
Goodyear also picked up two wins in the Sportsman categories, Mike Saye in the Competition Eliminator class and Randy Blackwell in Super Gas.
On the short tracks, Matt Crafton knew there could be trouble in Phoenix, so the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series points leader did his best to stay away from the competition in the series finale on the mile oval. Crafton led a Goodyear 1-2-3-4-5 sweep in qualifying, grabbed the lead at the start and was seemingly gone before a lap was over. That's when trouble began. Someone dropped a lot of oil in Turn One on the opening lap and Crafton was the first one to find it. His car went into a lurid slide on the fastest part of the track, but the Tulare, Calif., driver was able to gather it up and continue. Those behind him were not as fortunate as Winston Cup veteran Ken Schrader slammed into the wall, touching off a wild multicar accident that looked like it would never end. Nearly half the field had some sort of damage and 11 cars went behind the wall for repairs, including Crafton's only challenger Auggie Vidovich.
On the restart, Crafton quickly pulled out a comfortable lead and appeared to be running away with the race. But trouble found Crafton on lap 75 when the rear differential broke on his car, relegating the new champion to the role of spectator. That gave the lead to Garrett Evans, who headed off an exciting duel between Goodyear racers Greg Pursley and Scott Hansen for second. Doug McCoun came from 31st on the grid to finish fourth, ahead of fellow Goodyear racers Kevin Hamlin, Gary Lewis and Joe Benedetti.
The heavy rains in the Southwest made a quagmire of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway dirt track prior to the Pennzoil World of Outlaws season finale. The track condition on opening night was scarier than Halloween, so the show was postponed. The next night wasn't much better, although the winged sprint cars did take to the track.
Sammy Swindell entered the night just 12 points ahead of Mark Kinser in the battle for second place, but Swindell made sure he kept his position in the standings. "Slammin' Sammy" won his heat race, finished second in the Channellock Dash and drove around the outside of polesitter Andy Hillenburg on the first lap of the "A" race to secure the lead. From there, Swindell outlasted the challenges from WoO champion Steve Kinser and Hillenburg and survived three red-flag situations before WoO ended the race after 15 laps.
Swindell's win, taped for a TNN broadcast, also earned him another $10,000 for winning the Ratbag Cup, an award given to the driver scoring the most points in the series' televised races in 2000. (Ratbag is the series' official computer game manufacturer.)