FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 MOPAR PARTS MILE-HIGH NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *The chase: John Force may lead the NHRA Winston standings by nearly two races with a 188-point bulge, but Chuck ...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761
MOPAR PARTS MILE-HIGH NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *The chase: John Force may lead the NHRA Winston standings by nearly two races with a 188-point bulge, but Chuck Etchells insists that Force can be caught if an ideal scenario unfolds. "A couple of times this year he was lucky to get out of the first round," Etchells said. "If he can take a couple of hits in the first round, and if one of the other guys in the top five can get hot, he can be caught. Etchells thinks the main contenders to Force's throne are himself, second-place Cruz Pedregon, third-place Whit Bazemore and fifth-place Randy Anderson. Etchells is fourth in the NHRA Winston point standings in the Kendall Dodge Avenger, 202 points behind Force but just 14 behind Pedregon. *Goals: Chuck Etchells has set two goals for the rest of the year as the second half of the 22-race NHRA season starts at the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals. "I want to win two to three more races," Etchells said. "The other goal is not to lose in the first round for the rest of the year." Etchells won the Pennzoil Nationals presented by Trak Auto in May at Richmond, Va. He lost in the first round three times in the first 11 races of the season. Every Funny Car driver in the top 10 of the NHRA Winston point standings has lost in the first round at least once this season. *Camaro is back: Ron Capps' victory at the Sears Craftsman Nationals, June 26-29 at Madison, Ill., was the first by an NHRA Funny Car driver in a Chevrolet Camaro since John Collins won the 1985 Fallnationals at Phoenix. Capps, a Funny Car rookie, drove the Copenhagen Camaro past Cruz Pedregon in the final. Capps became just the 10th driver to win in Top Fuel and Funny Car, as he won the Top Fuel title at the 1995 Northwest Nationals in Seattle. Capps' boss, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, was the first driver to win in both categories. *Split theory: Defending NHRA Winston Funny Car champion John Force leads the standings by 188 points over second-place Cruz Pedregon, but Force is winless since capturing the first two races of the year. That's no slump, but Force isn't enjoying anywhere near the success of 1996, when he won 13 of 19 races. Two theories abound as to why Force isn't winning: His team is struggling, and the rest of the field has improved. Chuck Etchells thinks it's a little of both. "I see two main things," Etchells said. "He's into the clutch situation that we all had last year. Only he's gotten into the problems this year. "Plus his crew chief, Austin Coil, has been looking at lots of other cars getting close in horsepower, and in some cases making more horsepower. He's changed his tuneup. He used to have a computer program based on his old tuneup where he could punch in a few numbers, and it would give him a solid baseline tuneup. All that information is useless to him now." *Farewell, Gary: Gary Bolger failed to qualify at the Sears Craftsman Nationals, June 26-29 at Madison, Ill., in his final NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series national event. Bolger, 53, from Genoa, Ill., retired from a driving career that started in 1965. He was winless during his career but highly respected for his ability to earn strong finishes with a limited budget. Bolger will be replaced in the Creasy Family Pontiac Firebird by Dale Creasy Jr., son of car owner Dale Creasy. The Creasy team will rejoin the NHRA circuit in mid-August. "We just weren't making any money, and I had been paying Gary to drive the car," Dale Creasy Sr. said. "That's not a problem with Dale Jr." *Flagman: Funny Car racer Gary Densham waved the flag for Winston West racers to start the Auto Club 200 at the inaugural race at California Speedway on June 21 in Fontana, Calif. One of Densham's sponsors is the Automobile Club of Southern California. It was Densham's first experience as a flagman and spectator at a NASCAR event. "They must have been real nervous about me because they had the Winston West flagman up there as well as the regular Winston Cup flagman," Densham said. Densham started the race and stayed on the flag stand for the first 10 laps. "It's different, it's neat, but probably not as exciting as standing on the starting line with a fuel car blasting off on either side of you," Densham said. "But when you have 40 of those guys coming underneath you at 180 mph, it's a pretty neat deal. It was louder than I thought it would be after watching it on television for years. "It confirmed my love for drag racing. Those poor guys (in NASCAR) don't get to meet the fans at all." *Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 4 p.m. July 18 and continues at 8 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. July 19. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. July 20. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 2 p.m. July 17. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals. Call Bandimere Speedway at (303) 697-6001. Tickets also are available at Ticketmaster outlets. All seats are reserved. *On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of live, final-round competition from the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals at 4:30 p.m. (MDT) July 20. ESPN2 also will show two hours of live, Friday-night qualifying at 8 p.m. (MDT) July 18. -30- 7/7/97-DC3-102
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