McCLENATHAN SEEKS MORE TOP FUEL SUCCESS AT MOPAR PARTS NATIONALS ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- In Top Fuel, parity reigns supreme. In six races so far in the 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series season, five different winners have emerged.
McCLENATHAN SEEKS MORE TOP FUEL SUCCESS AT MOPAR PARTS NATIONALS ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- In Top Fuel, parity reigns supreme. In six races so far in the 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series season, five different winners have emerged. The latest -- Pennzoil Nationals winner Cory McClenathan -- is glad to be back in the hunt for a Winston championship. "That win was a big lift," said McClenathan, driver of the MBNA dragster, who moved to fourth in the point standings with the win. "We really needed it. We felt confident about our chances at Virginia because we've had some success there in the past. We're just glad to get that first win of the year out of the way. Hopefully the momentum will carry us on to more victories." McClenathan hopes to earn his second victory of the season and first at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at the 30th annual Mopar Parts Nationals, May 20-23. The $1.8 million race is the eighth of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series for 1999. McClenathan, who jumped out to a roaring start in 1998 by winning four of the first six events, has been slow to get going this season. He opened with consecutive second round losses, then lost in the first round at Gainesville, Fla., before making two semi-final appearances at back-to-back events in Texas. His recent victory at Virginia Motorsports Park was welcome relief. "The car has kind of thrown us a bone this season," McClenathan said. "You get down a little bit trying to make the car consistent. You just have to climb out of that hole. We just dug a hole that's a little deeper than normal. Fortunately, we made a big move in the right direction at Richmond." McClenathan hopes his slow start is followed by a winning streak. Last season his early season momentum was replaced by an end of the season slump. "Even though we won six races last year we had problems by mid-season," McClenathan said. "We just fell off the pace. We started to have some parts failure and just weren't getting the job done, so we kind of changed things around. We started this season off with some damage motor-wise and the guys have worked hard to fix it. Now we're just trying to be consistent. There's guys out there running 4.52s and we're running 4.56s. We've got to lower that number consistently and we'll win more races." Team Mopar's Mike Dunn leads the Winston point standings as the season's only repeat winner, taking victories at Pomona, Calif. and Gainesville, Fla. Some new contenders are making statements this season, like Tony Schumacher, who posted the fastest speed in NHRA history, a 330 mph blast at Phoenix. Larry Dixon recorded a 4.486 second run, the quickest in NHRA history, at Houston. "I think we've seen other people step up," McClenathan said. "Of course Dunn is on top of his game right now. They're going to be awful tough as the season winds on. Schumacher has kind of come around, but it's not that surprising because they have a lot of talent on that Exide Batteries team. Then there's the normal big hitters, like Kenny Bernstein, Joe Amato and Eddie Hill. And then there's the two-time defending champion, Gary Scelzi. It's real tough, like always. But that's what makes it fun." McClenathan, a second place points finisher four times but never a champion, hopes this will be his year. He realizes there's plenty of races left on the schedule. "We're not concerned yet," he said. "There's so much parity in the class right now that I highly doubt you'll see one driver win six races again. Whether it's Scelzi, Dunn or myself -- if a guy wins four races this year he's going to feel pretty proud."