Gateway: Team Panella final eliminations

Madison, Ill. - - As Bob Panella, from Stockton, Calif., prepared for today's eliminations at the fifth annual NHRA Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., he had the following thoughts. "Hot is good" for ...

Madison, Ill. - - As Bob Panella, from Stockton, Calif., prepared for today's eliminations at the fifth annual NHRA Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., he had the following thoughts. "Hot is good" for whatever the reason this Panella Trucking Chevy S-10 love hot weather. With the temperatures predicted to soar, we know what we got to do."

With the temperature pushing 90-degrees and sporting associate backing from Ranger Boats, headquartered in Flippin, Ark., and Chase Chevrolet, based in Stockton, Calif., Panella, in addition to running low elapsed time of the opening round, set the track speed record at 181.23 mph. Panella defeated Mike Coughlin, from Columbus, Ohio, to move to the second round against Taylor Lastor, from Austin, Texas.

Meanwhile, Panella's teammate Jeff Gracia, from Ontario, Calif., made a early exit when he lost to Scott Perin, from Pen Argyle, Penn., by two-hundredths of a second in the first round. The lost was the first first round loss for Gracia since the O'Reilly Nationals in October of last year. Gracia remained fourth in the Winston Pro Stock Truck standings with 593 points.

Reflected on his first round loss to Perin, Gracia said, "It's been a rough two races (Columbus and St. Louis). Today they (Perin's team) did a better job of preparing their truck and Scott did a better job of driving than I did. That's the bottom line. He made the better run."

The bulls-eye on Panella's back manifested itself in round two. When you're the two-time and reigning champion and current Winston point leader, every competitor takes a shot you. Taylor Lastor was next to come to the firing line.

After his burnout Lastor move straight to the staging beams, lighting the pre-staged and staged bulbs. Panella moved in deliberately, first turning on the pre-staged bulb, then waiting several seconds before igniting the staged light. The net result was a .024 second advantage for Lastor at the green. This translated to .0188 second win for Lastor at the finish line.

When asked if this tactic was strategy or games on the part of Lastor, Panella replied, "It was definitely games in my opinion. There's no strategy about doing things like that. The day I start racing like that is the day I'll quit racing. I can tell you that right now. If that's how he feels he has to race, I'll remember that.

"Realistically though, it had nothing to do with the outcome of the race anyway. All I needed to do was duplicate my previous run or run something similar and I have the win light. We made a terrible run and the two hundredths that he gained at the starting line was the difference. All I can do now is figure out what went wrong and why it went wrong and come back in two months quicker and faster than ever."

Even with the early loss, Panella remained at the top of the Winston Pro Stock Truck standings. With Lastor defeating Randy Daniels, from Grantsboro, N.C., in the final round, Panella now leads Greg Stanfield, from Bossier City, La., by 41 points and Daniels by 56 points. Panella has 773 points, Stanfield 732 points, and Daniels 716 points.

The next race for Team Panella will be the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, Labor Day weekend, at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

-Team Panella

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Jeff Gracia , Randy Daniels , Mike Coughlin , Greg Stanfield