>From: NHRA Communications
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761
SEARS CRAFTSMAN NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK
--Oh, Canada: Jeff Arend, from Toronto, won the Funny Car title at the Pioneer Electronics Keystone Nationals earlier this month at Reading, Pa., to become the first Canadian driver to win a professional category at a NHRA national event since Alberta native Gordie Bonin won Funny Car at the Pontiac Excitement Nationals in June 1994 at Columbus, Ohio.
Arend beat Tony Pedregon in his first career final round.
"This hasn't sunk in yet," Arend said after his victory in the Paul Smith's Drag Racing School Oldsmobile Cutlass.
--Surprise, surprise: John Force failed to reach the final round for only the second time this season when he lost to Kenji Okazaki in the quarterfinals of the Pioneer Electronics Keystone Nationals.
Okazaki dominated Force with a run of 5.207 seconds, 287.26 mph in the Mooneyes Dodge. Force lagged at 5.384, 276.07 in the Castrol GTX Pontiac Firebird.
"It was some kind of mechanical malfunction," Force said. But, hey, I love Kenji to death. He's down there saying, 'I kick his butt,' and I'm laughing so hard, I almost threw up.
"Yeah, he did kick my butt, but that just means I can drink some beer early and watch a drag race."
Force's only other early loss this season came against Chuck Etchells in the quarterfinals of the Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing in early June at Columbus, Ohio.
--Record run?: John Force can set two NHRA records with a victory at this event.
A victory will give Force 12 wins in 15 final rounds this season, both records. Pro Stock standout Darrell Alderman won 11 races in 1991, and Force matched that total in 1993. Alderman raced in 14 final rounds in 1991.
--Role model: As a driver who became a Funny Car standout from modest means, perhaps no one admires John Force's accomplishments more than Smokin' Joe's driver Whit Bazemore.
Force persisted through low budgets, constant nights of cramming eight crew members in one hotel room and devouring fast food before he became a six-time NHRA Winston champion. Bazemore followed a similar path since he started his driving career in the mid-1980s until he signed with Smokin' Joe's before this season.
"The fact that he's a guy who came from nowhere, that's really important to me," Bazemore said. "John came from nowhere, and he's where he is. That proves you can do it.
"You don't have to be a multimillionaire to have success out here. We respect them."
--Weather report: Expectations are huge for NHRA national records at this event considering that both the Funny Car elapsed-time and speed records fell during 80-degree temperatures in July at Heartland Park.
John Force set an elapsed-time national record of 4.889 seconds in the Castrol GTX Pontiac Firebird, and Cruz Pedregon set a speed national record of 311.20 mph in the McDonald's Pontiac Firebird.
Whit Bazemore thinks those records can fall at the Sears Craftsman Nationals, but he disagrees with those who think cool weather will create better conditions.
"Hopefully it will be 70 and 80 degrees," Bazemore said. "That would be ideal. The track can take that heat that we had there in July.
"If it's too cold, it's either going to be really awesome, or we're all going to go out there and shake. A lot of cars had problems earlier this year shaking the tires. It's easy to have super-good conditions and still not be able to go down the racetrack if they're way different from what we're used to."
Bazemore recorded career-best numbers of 5.023, 305.39 in July at Topeka in the Smokin' Joe's Ford Mustang.
--Kendall stays with Etchells: Kendall Motor Oil will continue as the primary sponsor of the Funny Car driven by Chuck Etchells through the 1997 season.
The contract extension announced two weeks ago at Reading, Pa., was the highlight of a busy month of off-track business for Etchells. A- 1 Steak Sauce became a major associate sponsor of Etchells' Dodge Avenger starting at the U.S. Nationals earlier this month at Indianapolis.
Etchells, from Putnam, Conn., won the Pontiac Excitement Nationals in June. He also has finished runner-up three times this season and is fifth in the NHRA Winston point standings.
--Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. Sept. 27 and is followed by a night-qualifying session at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Sept. 28, with final eliminations starting at 11 a.m. Sept. 29. Sportsman competition starts at 9 a.m. Sept. 26.
--Tickets: Tickets are available for the Sears Craftsman Nationals. Call (800) 43-RACES for ticket information. Tickets also can be purchased at Ticketmaster outlets.
--On TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise 60 minutes of live final-round competition from the Sears Craftsman Nationals at 5 p.m. (CDT) Sept. 29.
--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-
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