Brainerd Funny Car notebook

CHAMPION AUTO STORES NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Heir apparent: When Tom Hoover decides to retire as a driver, it appears that his crew chief, Cory Lee, is more than ready to take over in the seat. Lee was an able replacement...

CHAMPION AUTO STORES NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Heir apparent: When Tom Hoover decides to retire as a driver, it appears that his crew chief, Cory Lee, is more than ready to take over in the seat. Lee was an able replacement for Hoover while he recovered from heart bypass surgery, qualifying for three of four races and winning two rounds. He also tuned and drove the Pioneer Electronics Dodge Avenger to its first 300-mph pass, a 301.91 run at the Mopar Parts Nationals in mid- May at Englishtown, N.J. "I'm going to stay in the car for the rest of the year," Hoover said. "I already told Cory at the beginning of the year to bring us some money. He's trying to find an associate sponsor to go along with Pioneer. "Very few of us get away without having to pay your dues some way or another, and I think the modern way is to bring some money to help a team out. Cory will be a great driver." *Winning Whit: Whit Bazemore became the winningest Funny Car driver this season by capturing the Northwest Nationals Aug. 3 at Seattle, his third victory in the Team Winston Ford Mustang. Bazemore, from Indianapolis, was winless before this season. He is second in the NHRA Winston standings, 114 points behind defending champion John Force. "The most important thing for us is not to choke or cave in under the pressure," Bazemore said. "We see an opportunity to unseat John Force as the Winston champion. But at the same time, our goal has not changed. We just want to keep winning rounds and races." *Drought continues: John Force's winless streak extended to 12 races in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, his longest drought in one season since 1989. Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., won the first two races of this season. Points leader Force could be caught for the NHRA Winston championship for the second time this decade if his dry spell continues, Funny Car driver Tom Hoover said. Cruz Pedregon hunted down Force, erasing a large deficit with five consecutive victories, to win the title in 1992. "If we can knock off John early in some of these races and get some help from the rest of the players, he can be caught this year," Hoover said. *Author, author: Tom Hoover may not be the most famous person in the family for long. Hoover's wife, Betten, is preparing to get her book, "Out of the Groove," published soon. The humorous book includes 60 top-10 lists encompassing all aspects of drag racing. List titles range from "Things to do during an oildown," and "Decorum for spectators." *Highs and lows: Ron Capps qualified No. 1 for the first time in his career by taking the top spot at the Northwest Nationals earlier this month at Seattle. Capps, from San Diego, raced in Top Fuel in 1995 and 1996 before moving to Funny Car this season to drive the Copenhagen Chevrolet Camaro owned by Don "The Snake" Prudhomme. The euphoria from that No. 1 spot didn't last long, as Capps lost in the first round to No. 16 qualifier Al Hofmann at Seattle. *TV star: John Force's proposed TV talk show is approaching reality. Force and co-host, TNN announcer Bob Frey, will film the pilot for his "sit-down Jay Leno-like show" Aug. 22-23, with funding from major sponsor Castrol. Force has an inside source at Paramount, to whom they'll first shop the show, called "Off the Wall." "We want more than just motorsports people, like movie stars who are car buffs: Jay Leno, Kenny Rogers, people like that," Force said. "You know me: Off the Wall, one way or another. Actually, I guess the show should have been called 'Full Of It.' That's really me." *Comeback trail: Jim Epler has left his duties as team manager for the Cristen Powell-driven Team Scandia Top Fuel operation and will resume his Funny Car driving career. Powell's crew chief, Mike Kloeber, also has assumed Epler's former responsibilities with the team. He also will continue to tune Powell's dragster. Epler, from Phoenix, was the first Funny Car driver to exceed 300 mph with a pass of 300.40 at the 1993 Sears Craftsman Nationals at Topeka, Kan. *Homecoming: The toughest race of the season for Minneapolis resident Tom Hoover is the one right in his back yard -- the Champion Auto Stores Nationals. "It doesn't matter if you're playing ball or whatever, when you go to your home court it's tough because of all the people you know," Hoover said. "It's harder on me to race at home. "It's a tricky track, also. But I expect this year I'll do better than I have in the past. I'm looking forward to going home. I've really got a weapon to show off right now, and I want to run good there." Hoover has never won the annual NHRA national event at Brainerd International Raceway. He is winless at the Champion Auto Stores Nationals since advancing to the quarterfinals in 1990. *Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 2 p.m. Aug. 15 and continues at 6 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Aug. 16. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. Aug. 17. Federal-Mogul competition starts at noon Aug. 14. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the Champion Auto Stores Nationals. Call Brainerd International Raceway at (612) 475-1500. *On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of live, final-round competition from the Champion Auto Stores Nationals at 4 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 17. ESPN also will show two hours of live, Friday-evening qualifying at 6:30 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 15. -30-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Epler , Al Hofmann , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Cory Lee , Jay Leno , Cristen Powell