Chicago: Bob Panella and Randy Daniels Rivalry Heats Up

JOLIET, Ill. - Bob Panella and Randy Daniels expect to see a lot of each other this season in the Pro Stock Truck category. So far, the two have had many battles on the track, and only a few points separate the drivers in their quest for NHRA ...

JOLIET, Ill. - Bob Panella and Randy Daniels expect to see a lot of each other this season in the Pro Stock Truck category. So far, the two have had many battles on the track, and only a few points separate the drivers in their quest for NHRA Winston championship glory.

After six of 14 races for the pickups, defending champion Panella holds the Winston points advantage, leading Daniels by 11. Daniels, who finished fifth in the '99 final standings, leads in victories, winning four races, while Panella has won twice.

Clearly, the chase for the truck title has become a two-man race. When Pro Stock Truck racing resumes at the third annual Prestone Route 66 Nationals, June 1-4 at the spectacular Route 66 Raceway near Chicago, the two combatants are obvious favorites for a victory in their category. The $2 million race is an NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series event, and also will feature competition for Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle categories.

Daniels, from Grantsboro, N.C., is just happy to be in the hunt, following a dreadful season-opener, where he failed to qualify at the early February event in Pomona, Calif. Since then he's unleashed a victory onslaught that has included titles at Gainesville, Fla., Houston, Richmond, Va. and Atlanta in his Bailey Trucking Chevy S-10.

"I don't want to jinx it right now," Daniels said. "We are going rounds, we are winning races and we are as happy as we can be. We have some time off before Chicago and we're going to thrash our engine combinations, go testing and see if we can learn some things with the Chevy S-10 and make it better. It's going to be one heck of a battle for the championship."

Last season Daniels was somewhat inconsistent, winning twice, but also losing five times in the first round. This season he's been to five finals in six races - posting a runner-up finish in Las Vegas.

"All I know is that I've had maybe two years of making mistakes and it's finally paying off," said Daniels, who finished eighth overall in the 1998 season, the year NHRA introduced the Pro Stock Truck category. "Mistakes are not so bad, as long as you learn from them."

Panella, who had perhaps the greatest weekend of his career at Route 66 Raceway last year, lost to Daniels at Houston and Atlanta this year. He did, however, defeat Daniels at Las Vegas, gaining some measure of revenge. "I'm tired of having no luck," said Panella, who earned over $40,000 at Route 66 Raceway last year after winning the Holley Pro Stock Truck Dominator Duel and the Pro Stock Truck portion of the Prestone Route 66 Nationals. "I told Randy, maybe I will get a little luck in the second half of the year, hopefully starting in Chicago. I started my roll there last year, maybe I can do it again."

* JONES MAKING PROGRESS: Noted race car/truck chassis builder Rick Jones, from nearby Galesburg, Ill., is off to the best start of his career as a driver in Pro Stock Truck. Jones, who builds chassis for several Pro Stock and Pro Stock Truck competitors, including five-time Winston Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson, was bit by the racing bug himself last year and decided to build his own racing vehicle.

Jones, who has posted a couple of semifinal efforts this season, is currently tied for fourth in the Winston point standings in his Country Motors Trailer Sales GMC Sonoma.

"I have to take my hat off to my crew and David Reher at Reher-Morrison for giving us great power," Jones said. "Overall, it's been an all-around good team effort but we just need to keep marching on. I've been known to be conservative sometimes, but we're going to keep plugging away."

Jones is definitely excited about returning to his home track, where he lost in the second round to Brad Jeter in 1999.

"The Route 66 Nationals is my hometown race and we'll have a lot of friends and family there," Jones said. "We'll work on the motor to try and step it up a bit, we'll work on some other things to make this Sonoma a better race truck. We should be better by the time we make our first qualifying run in Joliet. It's an awesome facility there, a great place to race with a tremendous racing surface and we can't wait to get there."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Brad Jeter , Warren Johnson , Randy Daniels