Report from Motorsport News International
CHIEF AUTO PARTS NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK
--The main man: John Force set NHRA records for victories and final rounds in one season when he earned his 12th victory in 15 final rounds by beating teammate Tony Pedregon in the final of the Sears Craftsman Nationals Sept. 29 at Topeka, Kan.
Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., broke the record of 11 victories set by Pro Stock driver Darrell Alderman in 1991 and matched by Force in 1993, and the record for final rounds of 14 set by Alderman in 1991.
"Let's be honest," Force said. "It's hard to say that John Force has won more races in a season than anybody else because maybe when the other guy was racing there weren't as many races."
True. But Force's season still will be held in the same esteem as Don Prudhomme's legendary 1976 season, when he won seven of eight national events.
--Among the giants: John Force became the second-winningest professional driver in NHRA history with his 60th career victory in the Castrol GTX Pontiac Firebird at the Sears Craftsman Nationals.
Force trails Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden, who has 85 victories.
--On the mend: There's an outside chance that Smokin' Joe's Funny Car driver Whit Bazemore may attend the Chief Auto Parts Nationals, but he won't be behind the wheel.
Bazemore, from Indianapolis, suffered severe leg injuries in a motorcycle accident Sept. 18 while on a pleasure trip in Virginia. His Ducati slid out from under him as he tried to give an oncoming truck more room in a curve. He is out for the season after suffering a compound fracture of his left leg , torn ligaments in both knees and extensive soft tissue damage to his right leg.
It was the second crash in three months for Bazemore on his Ducati, as he suffered bumps and bruises in a crash near Bakersfield, Calif., in July.
"You know, I do love riding motorcycles and have a passion for Ducatis, but the fact is, I've learned it can be pretty costly," Bazemore said. "There's a lot of pain involved, physical and emotional, so I've decided that I'm not going to ride on the road as long as I'm racing. Not that I was doing anything irresponsible, but to me the risks now are too great."
Dale Pulde has replaced Bazemore as driver for the rest of the season in the Smokin' Joe's Ford Mustang.
--Stepping up: Randy Anderson will move from Top Alcohol Funny Car to Funny Car next season as a Parts America teammate to his younger sister, Top Fuel driver Shelly Anderson.
Randy Anderson, from Ontario, Calif., won NHRA Winston Top Alcohol Funny Car championships in 1993 and 1994.
"I have a lot of learning to do," said Anderson, 31. "I'm a fierce competitor, and I will work to be the best driver I can be."
Al Hofmann's Pontiac Firebird Funny Car will continue to be sponsored by Parts America in 1997.
--Rough welcome back: Jim Epler had a rough return to NHRA Funny Car competition at the Sears Craftsman Nationals, as he crashed during qualifying.
Epler, from Phoenix, lost control of his Winnebago Dodge Avenger when oil leaked on his tires at the launch, causing the car to veer left and hit the retaining wall. Epler was uninjured, but the car was heavily damaged and unable to continue.
The crash marred the return of Epler, whose only other race this season was the ATSCO Nationals in Phoenix in February. He returned at Topeka with crew chief Johnny West.
Epler will try to have the car repaired in time for this event. He suffered burns over 12 percent of his body during a spectacular fire at the Chief Auto Parts Nationals last October at Dallas.
--Cybersuccess: Funny Car driver Gary Densham and his NEC Communications team are enjoying success on their World Wide Web page, launched during the late summer.
The NEC/Densham Motorsports page is receiving nearly 1,000 visits per day by Web surfers, team spokesman Al Liebmann said.
The page's address is: http://www.nitrofc.com.
--Next year: Two NHRA national events will take place at Texas Motorplex next season. Here are the dates:
--May 1-4: Inaugural national event.
--Oct. 16-19: 12th annual Chief Auto Parts Nationals.
--Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. Oct. 11 and is followed by a night-qualifying session at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Oct. 12, with final eliminations starting at 11 a.m. Oct. 13. Sportsman competition starts at 9 a.m. Oct. 10.
--Tickets: Tickets are available for the Chief Auto Parts Nationals. For ticket information, call (800) 668-6775, or (972) 878-2641 in metropolitan Dallas. Tickets also can be purchased at Ticketmaster outlets.
--On TV: ESPN will televise 60 minutes of same-day, final-round competition from the Chief Auto Parts Nationals at 9 p.m. (CDT) Oct. 13.
--On the Web: The NHRA home page on the World Wide Web at http://www.goracing.com/nhra/ offers more information about NHRA Winston Drag Racing,including qualifying and eliminations results, news, point standings, statistics, driver biographies and video clips. -30- Paul Kelly NHRA Communications
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