Joe Amato interview

Joe Amato, the all-time NHRA leader in Top Fuel championships (five) and victories (51), will seek his fourth triumph in drag racing's most prestigious event, the U.S. Nationals, this weekend (Aug. 30-Sept. 4) at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Joe Amato, the all-time NHRA leader in Top Fuel championships (five) and victories (51), will seek his fourth triumph in drag racing's most prestigious event, the U.S. Nationals, this weekend (Aug. 30-Sept. 4) at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Amato currently is fifth in the Winston point standings in the DynoMax/ Valvoline/Keystone Automotive dragster with a win earlier this year in Colorado. He captured the U.S. Nationals in 1987, 1988 and 1990.

Q. NHRA made two major rules changes for 2000, limiting the time between elimination rounds to 75 minutes, and reducing the fuel mixture to a maximum of 90 percent nitromethane. Have those worked? A. That's been good for the sport. The tighter schedule is good for the show and good for the fans. I think the fans like the racing because the 90 percent nitro mix still lets the cars go well over 300 mph and I think we've had more side-by-side racing. We've had fewer oildowns and that's kept the action going for the fans and cut down on the overall time of our show.

Q. Has it been good for the competitors? A. It helps the shelf life of the engine parts a little bit. The big thing for us has been the penalties for oildowns, the fines and the loss of Winston championship points. When you're running on tracks where there's been oildowns, that's rough. The NHRA Safety Safari does a great job, but still not as good if nobody (had) dumped oil. The lanes, generally, have been better and that makes for better side-by-side racing.

Q. Have you fully recovered from laser surgery to your right eye in June? A. Yes, the eye is fine. I've had it checked by the doctor and he said everything's OK. I had two tears in the retina. We think part of the problem might have been the G-forces I take when the parachute is deployed. We've solved that a little bit with a new chute that lets some of the air out when it's deployed and that cuts down on the G-force.

Q. Is the U.S. Nationals still the biggest race of the year? A. People seem to remember who won the U.S. Nationals second only to who won the Winston championship. That's the race where everybody feels like they have to step up. You have more cars there and everybody uses their best parts and pieces. Q. How are the track conditions at the U.S. Nationals? A. It's a little funny, at times. They race there all the time, and the starting line sometimes is good, and sometimes it's not. It's had a tendency to disappear on you. I think the big issue there is to try to be steady and run good right out of the box and get a baseline for race day. On Monday, it always seems the racetrack and the weather conditions change.

Q. What are your plans for next season? A. We'll be back, running the full schedule, trying for another Winston Top Fuel championship.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato