Gainesville: Skuza, Osborne to the Finals

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (April 22, 2001) - It was a great day for the Mopar Parts sponsored NHRA Winston Drag Racing program at the rain-delayed 32nd annual Gatornationals at the Gainesville Raceway. Dean Skuza, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge R/T...

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (April 22, 2001) - It was a great day for the Mopar Parts sponsored NHRA Winston Drag Racing program at the rain-delayed 32nd annual Gatornationals at the Gainesville Raceway.

Dean Skuza, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge R/T Nitro Funny Car, drove to his first final round of the season before losing to 10-time Winston Nitro Funny Car champion John Force. The Brecksville, Ohio resident smoked the tires at the start, as Force steamed to a 5.32-second elapsed time at 273.27 mph for the victory.

"We must of broke one of hurt something in the first bank," said Skuza, who qualified third. "Overall, we're really headed in the right direction. We went to the semifinals in Las Vegas and now the finals here. We're doing things right and the combination of Lance Larsen and John Stewart is really paying off."

Skuza advanced to the finals after beating John Force Racing's Gary Densham in round one. A smoking Jim Epler allowed Skuza to move to the semifinals. And Skuza defeated Tim Wilkerson in the third round, in a close match.

Osborne Fest

The Mopar Parts Dodge R/T of Mark Osborne fell in the finals to defending Winston Pro Stock World Champion Jeg Coughlin, Jr. After defeating Rickie Smith in round one, holeshotting Mark Pawuk in round two and nipping Brad Jeter in round three, the Abingdon, Va. gave Coughlin a starting line advantage.

"I just lost that one," said a candid Osborne, who also made his first final round appearance of the season. "We ran a good number and the car was decent all day. It's pretty nice to get some confidence back. We've struggled up to this point of the season, but a final round really cured that."

Three-time Winston Pro Stock World Champion Darrell Alderman, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge R/T Pro Stock entry, lost to long-time rival Warren Johnson in round one. Johnson posted a 6.875-second elapsed time at 201.79 mph, to Alderman's slower 6.904-second lap at 200.44 mph.

Patterson Getting Into the Groove

Todd Patterson got the next generation Dodge Motorsports Dakota R/T sorted out this weekend, with a semifinal round outing. The Augusta, Kan. resident barely missed his first final round appearance of the season when Randy Daniels ran a 7.478-second lap at 180.43 mph to Patterson's 7.488/179.90 combination.

"We're pretty happy with the weekend," Patterson said. "We're finally able to show how much horsepower the new Magnum P-5 engine is making. The new truck has been great, and we're learning new things every run. I'm pretty confident with what we have right now."

Patterson moved to the semifinal after beating Victor Cagnazzi in round one and Jeff Gracia in round two. Patterson's 7.470-second elapsed time in the first round was second quick of the session.

Morgan Out in Round One

The Dodge Motorsports R/T Pro Stocker of Larry Morgan lost to Kurt Johnson in round one. Morgan had to click his mount off early, as Johnson flew to a 6.906-second elapsed time at 200.00 mph.

"Something happened to second gear," Morgan quoted. "I shifted to second and it hurt second gear. It would have been nice to win, but we'll get them next time."

Eaton Falls in First Round

Craig Eaton was eliminated in round one by Daniels. The Dodge Motorsports Dakota R/T driver ran a 7.549-second pass at 178.45 mph, but Daniels ran quicker 7.518-second elapsed time at 179.40 mph.

"I didn't have a very good start," Eaton said. "The truck really moved around in the right lane. I'm happy with some of the numbers we ran this weekend though."

-Team Mopar-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Darrell Alderman , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Jim Epler , Dean Skuza , John Force , Larry Morgan , Todd Patterson , Jeff Gracia , Gary Densham , Tim Wilkerson