FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 DRIVERS FACE MANY CHALLENGES AS SECOND HALF STARTS AT BANDIMERE MORRISON, Colo. -- The NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series schedule shows no mercy in July for those ...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761
DRIVERS FACE MANY CHALLENGES AS SECOND HALF STARTS AT BANDIMERE MORRISON, Colo. -- The NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series schedule shows no mercy in July for those competitors trying to hunt down a runaway points leader. Gary Scelzi, John Force and Matt Hines lead by nearly one race or more in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock Motorcycle, respectively. Catching dominant performers at any time of the season is a chore, but it's an even steeper task in the cruelest stretch of the NHRA season, from mid-July to early August. That crucial period starts with possibly the most challenging event on the NHRA circuit, the 19th annual, $1,532,000 Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals, July 17-20 at Bandimere Speedway. The race is the 12th event of the 22-event, $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series in 1997. In Top Fuel, Scelzi has dominated en route to a 175-point lead over second-place Joe Amato. Scelzi, a rookie, has four victories this season in the Team Winston Dragster and has advanced to at least the semifinals at all 11 races of the season. No other driver has come close to matching that consistency. Consistency also has been the foundation of Force's success in Funny Car. He has two victories in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, the wins coming in the first two races of the season. Since then, defending NHRA Winston champion Force has lost only once in the first round while building a 188-point lead over second-place Cruz Pedregon. Hines, 1996 NHRA Winston co-Rookie of the Year, has shown no signs of a sophomore slump. It's more like a sophomore surge. He won three consecutive races during the spring on the Vance & Hines Suzuki GSXR and leads second-place John Myers by 109 points after seven of 14 races on the bike schedule. The points race remains close in Pro Stock, where defending NHRA Winston champion Jim Yates leads three-time champion Warren Johnson by just 20 points in the McDonald's Pontiac Firebird. So the challenge is simple for those competitors trying to catch Scelzi, Force and Hines: Move, and move now. But the 5,830-foot altitude of Bandimere Speedway can put even the best teams in neutral. The thin air of the Rocky Mountains forces teams to create special tuneups used for only the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals. No other track on the circuit approaches the altitude of Bandimere. Teams rarely test at altitude, so drivers can only hope that their crew chiefs made the right calls to succeed on the mountain. Another factor that complicates matters for points pursuers is that the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals starts the brutal Western swing, a stretch of three races on consecutive weekends. A strong start to the swing at Bandimere is crucial, because teams that suffer excessive parts breakage at this event sometimes run out of time to make repairs and tuneup changes in time for the following races at Sonoma, Calif., and Seattle. *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-