Joliet: Panella Route 66 preview

Defending Winston Champ Panella Among Contenders For Pro Stock Truck Title Again As Nhra Teams Head To Chicago JOLIET, Ill. - As Bob Panella stares intently at the two NHRA Winston championship trophies on his mantle, he can rest comfortably ...

Defending Winston Champ Panella Among Contenders For Pro Stock Truck Title Again As Nhra Teams Head To Chicago

JOLIET, Ill. - As Bob Panella stares intently at the two NHRA Winston championship trophies on his mantle, he can rest comfortably knowing that picking up a third is only a matter of consistency.

And during the last two seasons, no Pro Stock Truck team has been as consistent as Panella's, who made a miraculous comeback to deny Brad Jeter and Mark Osborne for the crown in 1999 and fought tooth and nail for the title last year in a see-saw battle with Randy Daniels. In both of those championship runs, consistency was the key.

That's why Panella isn't too worried at this point of the season, as he sits second in the Winston points chase, 14 behind leader Randy Daniels. His focus remains intently positioned on claiming a third Winston crown, and he's confident that his team has the correct formula for accomplishing the goal.

Panella will try to add a third victory to his season resume and move into the lead in the Pro Stock Truck point standings with a victory at the Fourth annual Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals, May 31-June 3 at state-of-the-art Route 66 Raceway, just south of metropolitan Chicago.

Panella, from Stockton, Calif., is a two-time winner of the $2 million race, the 10th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

"To be honest, I'm just happy to be a part of the battle," Panella said. "I want to win (the Winston championship) again, but right now I'm just happy to be in contention to win. Sometimes you can win championships and then the next year you don't run as well, and here I am in contention just one round out of the lead, a third of the way through the season. I'm just really happy that our Chevy S-10 is in contention and I can only hope that it will stay that way through November and we get another chance to win (the Winston championship) again."

However with increased competition from four-time NHRA Super Stock national champion Greg Stanfield, who recently lowered the Pro Stock Truck national elapsed time record to 7.395 seconds, turning the three-peat will be a tough task. Panella knows that his top rival, Daniels, isn't going to give him any slack either. With those two very close to his Chevy S-10's tailgate bumper, Panella is ready for a tough championship fight, which includes managing every aspect of the game, from performance to track conditions. The latter, Panella says, can make a big difference in who wins the Winston championship.

"Your competition is either going to make an out-of-this-world run and put you in the bad lane, or you could make a bad run to put yourself there," Panella explained. " Either way you've got to be able to be competitive in that lane. Jeff (Gracia, teammate) did a great job at (Atlanta) and I've been successful when I don't have lane choice. I remember in Chicago last year I was in the supposedly bad lane and ended up winning the race in that lane. So, that's what we're working on and will be the rest of the year -- staying consistent."

Having a consistent setup for all race conditions was what helped him reel in his championship challengers in '99. He knows in drag racing, anything can happen. Like a good Boy Scout, Panella likes to be prepared for everything.

"The first time I won I was 100 points behind going into the last third of the season," Panella said. "So I'm not worried about it right now. Stuff is going to happen. I'm going to lose races and Randy (Daniels) and Greg (Stanfield) will win races. As long as I can stay competitive and consistent I feel pretty confident we'll do well. Especially when the weather gets warmer and the tracks get warmer. If I'm still in contention by the time the end of the year comes around, I'll be happy."

Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel rounds for Pro Stock Truck are scheduled for noon, 2:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. June 3. <pre> 2001 HOLLEY PRO STOCK TRUCK DOMINATOR DUEL FINAL STANDINGS 1. Bob Panella, Stockon, Calif., Panella Trucking Chevy S-10 2,235 2. Randy Daniels, Grantsboro, N.C., Bailey Trucking S-10 2,210 3. Greg Stanfield, Bossier City, La., BDP Enterprises S-10 2,005 4. Jeff Gracia, Ontario, Calif., Panella Trucking GMC Sonoma 1,740 5. Mike Coughlin, Columbus, Ohio, Jeg's Mail Order S-10 1,580 6. Todd Patterson, Augusta, Kan., Dodge Motorsports Dodge Dakota 1,425* 7. John Lingenfelter, Decatur, Ind., Summit Racing GMC Sonoma 1,425 8. John Coughlin, Columbus, Ohio, Jeg's Mail Order S-10 1,325

* Earned higher seed by virtue ot tiebreaker using average of 10 best qualifying times for which points were awarded.

2001 HOLLEY PRO STOCK DOMINATOR DUEL ROUND PAIRINGS

FIRST ROUND (noon): Panella vs. J. Coughlin; Daniels vs. Lingenfelter; Stanfield vs. Patterson; Gracia vs. M. Coughlin.

SEMI-FINALS (2:45 p.m.): Panella-J.Coughlin winner vs. Gracia-M.Coughlin winner; Daniels-Lingenfelter winner vs. Stanfield-Patterson winner.

FINAL (4:30 p.m.)

-Team Panella-

-Team Panella-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Brad Jeter , Todd Patterson , Jeff Gracia , Randy Daniels , Mike Coughlin , John Lingenfelter , Greg Stanfield