JoJo Callos Las Vegas preview

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (July 25-26) -- Rejuvenated by recent success outside the NHRA Summit Sport Compact Series, JoJo Callos and the Team Tactics Castrol SYNTEC0x2122 Acura Integra return to the NHRA tour this week to take another shot at points leader...

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (July 25-26) -- Rejuvenated by recent success outside the NHRA Summit Sport Compact Series, JoJo Callos and the Team Tactics Castrol SYNTEC0x2122 Acura Integra return to the NHRA tour this week to take another shot at points leader Marty Ladwig and his front wheel drive Pontiac Sunfire.

The occasion is the third running of the GM Performance Parts Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, fifth race in the Summit Series and one in which Callos knows he must improve if he is to retain any hope of winning the Hot Rod division championship for the second time in three years.

The 2001 Champion and the most successful driver in the short history of the class, Callos got a big boost in confidence from his June 15th victory in a NOPI "The Fast and The Furious" Series event at Reynolds, Ga.

Now, he hopes to parlay that success into victory in this week's rescheduled NHRA event, one that originally was to have begun the 2003 season. Weathered out in March, the race finally will run using a nighttime format.

Qualifying sessions at 9 p.m. and 12 midnight (ET) on Saturday will set the fields in Pro Front Wheel Drive, Pro Rear Wheel Drive, Modified, Hot Rod and All Motor classes. Single elimination finals will begin under the lights at 11 p.m. (ET) Saturday.

Because of his slow start, one in which he reached the finals just once in the season's first four races, Callos was completely ignored by Las Vegas oddsmakers who made Ladwig a prohibitive favorite and Mike Crawford the second pick.

It's not the first time the team has faced long odds, however.

"We've been working real hard (this year) without much payback," acknowledged team manager Scott Revell, "but the win in Georgia gave us a big boost even though it didn't come in this series."

Callos, a veteran of organized "import racing," which evolved from the illegal street racing portrayed in the movies "The Fast and the Furious" and "2Fast, 2Furious," won six times in the first two years the NHRA produced its own series. That performance yielded a championship in 2001 and a near-championship (second place) in 2002.

The year before NHRA entered the "import wars," Callos won nine of the 13 races NIRA and IDRC races in which he participated.

This year, though, he has struggled to get back up to championship form.JEven though he was runner-up at Englishtown, N.J., the Long Beach, Calif., driver has yielded center stage to the factory front wheel drive cars of Ladwig and Crawford, which have started from the No. 1 spot at every race and won three of four.

"They're fast," Revell said of Ladwig's Sunfire and Crawford's Dodge Neon, "but the big advantage they have is that they can run the numbers without using up their equipment. The rest of us are having to push to the limit just to be competitive. But we'll figure it out."

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Series NHRA