COMMERCE, Ga. - Jerry Toliver left Atlanta Dragway last year with a semifinal finish and the NHRA Winston points lead over the legendary John Force. He had the financial backing of the WWF and had already collected two national event wins on the...
COMMERCE, Ga. - Jerry Toliver left Atlanta Dragway last year with a semifinal finish and the NHRA Winston points lead over the legendary John Force. He had the financial backing of the WWF and had already collected two national event wins on the year. Championship hopes were high for the upstart Toliver at the beginning of the 2000 season.
After not qualifying at the Sonoma, Calif., event last August, things took a turn for the worst. By the conclusion of Y2K, Toliver had slipped to third in the overall standings and could do nothing but watch as Force marched on to his 10th Winston championship.
Entering 2001 the WWF Racing team had added Tony Bartone as the pilot of their second vehicle and were looking forward to making another run at the Winston championship. Unfortunately, things didn't start off as smoothly as planned.
Toliver, from Huntington Beach, Calif., has already experienced four first round losses and has failed to qualify for two other events, leaving him out of the top 10 in the Winston standings. He will try and begin to turn his season around when he competes in the 21st annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals, May 3-6, at Atlanta Dragway. The $2 million race is the seventh of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. "Atlanta has been a good track to WWF Racing," said the 50-year-old Toliver.
"We qualified No. 2 last year behind Dean Skuza, and it took a track record to beat us in qualifying. We ran good times and our car ran very consistent all weekend until we lost traction and smoked the tires in the third round against Force."
Toliver understands that there is tremendous competition in the Funny Car category this season and continuing to make mistakes and performing poorly too far into the season will eliminate any championship hopes.
"Obviously we aren't happy with the way the season has started," said Toliver. "There are plenty of events to make up ground in the points race. The season started off dim but the light will shine bright and this WWF Racing team will be up there in the ranks. We are too good of a team not be near the top."
Toliver gained an important year of experience last season when he was involved in the race towards the series crown. He hopes to use that experience to help his two-car team flourish in one of the most competitive fields in recent history. With an average of 23 Funny Cars showing up for each national event and a different winner at each race this season, any advantage one has will prove to be beneficial.
"I always feel our chances are good entering an event," said Toliver. "We have an excellent team led by (crew chief) Dale Armstrong. It's been a rocky start for WWF Racing, but I am confident that by the time we arrive in Atlanta, we will have our car figured out."