Joe Amato Defending Winner at Firebird

Joe Amato called his Top Fuel victory last year in the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals "the turn around of the century." After not qualifying for final eliminations in the 1999 season opener at Pomona, Amato still wasn't in the field after...

Joe Amato called his Top Fuel victory last year in the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals "the turn around of the century." After not qualifying for final eliminations in the 1999 season opener at Pomona, Amato still wasn't in the field after first-day qualifying at Firebird. Then, in his last run, he became No. 1 qualifier (over 325 mph) and defeated Kenny Bernstein in the finals. That turned out to be the first of five wins during the season and third place in NHRA points. The five-time Top Fuel champion returns to the Arizona quarter-mile Feb. 25-27, in his new Brad Hadman-built chassis, the DynoMax/Valvoline/Keystone Automotive dragster. Amato started his Y2K campaign Feb. 6 at Pomona as No. 1 qualifier and made it to the semifinals. "We're coming off a good year, with five wins, but we're looking to try to get our car a little more consistent," said Amato. "We need to try to limit the first-round losses. Looking back on last season, that was a key in the Winston championship. Maybe a little less power, with the nitro cut back (new 90 percent nitro fuel rule), may help us a little bit. Our car's been one to almost have a little too much power sometimes, so we're hoping that will play into our hands a bit. "Everybody's been testing more than usual and searching to figure out what the right combination is with less nitro, the different combination of compression, overdrive, magnito, clutch, all that's going to be an unknown until we get out in the different air conditions. It will almost take a good six months running under all conditions to really figure it out and get the maximum power out of the new combination. It's like the trauma everybody went through last year with the five-disc clutch and it took almost a year for everybody to figure it out." NOTE: Joe Amato is scheduled to participate in a live, on-line chat session Thursday, Feb. 24, 7 p.m., Eastern. Fans can participate by logging onto the www.goracing.com web site. The conversation also will be available in streaming audio format.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Joe Amato