Houston Top Fuel notebook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761 MATCO TOOLS SUPERNATIONALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK *Loaded: There will be few Top Fuel teams with as much talent as the Miller Lite team in 1998, as owner Don "The Snake" ...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761

MATCO TOOLS SUPERNATIONALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK *Loaded: There will be few Top Fuel teams with as much talent as the Miller Lite team in 1998, as owner Don "The Snake" Prudhomme hired Dale Armstrong as crew chief for next season. Armstrong will replace Wes Cerny, who will leave the team after this season. Armstrong left the Budweiser King team of Kenny Bernstein after serving as Bernstein's crew chief for nearly 16 years. Armstrong tuned Bernstein to four NHRA Winston Funny Car championships, the 1996 NHRA Winston Top Fuel title and numerous milestones, including the first 300-mph run in drag-racing history. Clutch specialist Bob Brooks, who worked with Armstrong on the Bud team, already has joined the Miller Lite team and will stay on board next season. "I think we'll have a lot of talent, a lot of information," driver Larry Dixon said. "Guys that are really smart. I'm just privileged to be a part of a group like this." *Not a lock: Rookie Gary Scelzi led second-place Cory McClenathan by 135 points -- about one race -- after 19 of 22 races this season, but he thinks the chase for the NHRA Winston championship is far from over. "The pin is pulled on our Team Winston hand grenade, and we're ready to roll into the Lone Star state," Scelzi said. "The race for the Winston championship won't be over for a long time. Looks like I'll have to keep taking Rolaids and using Grecian Formula until the Winston Finals." *Driven: Blaine Johnson led the NHRA Winston point standings last August and appeared to be headed toward his first Top Fuel championship when he was killed in a qualifying accident during the U.S. Nationals. Now that Johnson's replacement, Gary Scelzi, is zeroing in on the title, Johnson's brother, crew chief Alan Johnson, is driven to win the title that was tragically taken from him last year. "If we can win this championship it would mean that the dream Blaine and I started together 20 years ago came true," Alan Johnson said. "It's extremely important to me. It's just something I have to do. "I have to succeed at this. I don't want to end this season and have to live with the feeling of haven fallen short twice in a row." *Speed merchant: Cory McClenathan recorded the second-fastest speed in NHRA history, 318.58 mph, in the McDonald's Dragster at the Pennzoil Nationals earlier this month at Memphis, Tenn. The fastest speed is 318.69 by Kenny Bernstein last year at the Revell Nationals at Dallas. Joe Amato set the national record of 318.24 at the U.S. Nationals on Sept. 1 at Indianapolis. Neither Bernstein nor McClenathan set a national record because they didn't back up their speeds within 1 percent at the same event where the speeds were recorded, required by NHRA rules. Larry Dixon thinks a driver could reach 320 mph before this season ends, and Dixon is a candidate. He recorded a career-best speed of 317.90 at the Pennzoil Nationals earlier this month. Not bad for a team, owned by NHRA legend Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, that struggled for the first six months of the season. "I wasn't a candidate to go 220 two months ago," Dixon said. "If I could reach 320, I would be honored to do that for the Snake. Everything I have is because of him. I want to do it for him." *Firing sparks: Each spark plug on the Parts America Dragster driven by Shelly Anderson's fires just 333 times during each quarter-mile blast. By comparison, the spark plug in a typical street vehicle will fire approximately 40 million times in its 30,000-mile life. "You couldn't damage a street plug this bad if you drove the car to Mars and back," said Larry Meyer, Anderson's crew chief. "The car would stop running long before the plug would be destroyed as (bad) as one of Shelly's." *Quite an honor: Teen-age Top Fuel sensation Cristen Powell was chosen to represent auto racing at the Women's Sports Foundation's annual awards dinner Oct. 13 in New York. Powell, from Portland, Ore., won the Mopar Parts Nationals in May at Englishtown, N.J., in the Royal Purple Motor Oil Dragster just two months after turning 18. She will be one of 100 female athletes representing 40 sports in the dinner's Grand March of Athletes. Powell, a freshman at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., has raced a limited schedule this season. She will skip this event to concentrate on her studies. *Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. Oct. 24 and continues at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Oct. 25. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. Oct. 26. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 10 a.m. Oct. 23. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the Matco Tools SuperNationals. Call Houston Raceway Park at (281) 383-2666 or check the track's World Wide Web site at http://www.houstonraceway.com for ticket information. Tickets also can be purchased from Ticketmaster by calling (713) 629-3700. *On TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise 90 minutes of live, final-round competition from the Matco Tools SuperNationals at 4:30 p.m. (CST) Oct. 26. TNN also will televise one hour of live, first-round competition at 10:30 a.m. (CST) that day. *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 and driver biographies. -30-

10/10/97-MS2-165

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