Las Vegas: Team Panella pre-race report

Bob Panella Motorsports Pro Stock Truck NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series Driver: BOB PANELLA, JR.-CHEVY S-10 Driver: JEFF GRACIA-GMC SONOMA Second Annual Summit Racing.Com Nationals April 5-8, 2001 - - Professional Qualifying/Eliminations:...

Bob Panella Motorsports
Pro Stock Truck
NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series

Driver: BOB PANELLA, JR.-CHEVY S-10 Driver: JEFF GRACIA-GMC SONOMA

Second Annual Summit Racing.Com Nationals
April 5-8, 2001 - - Professional Qualifying/Eliminations: April 6-8
The Strip At Las Vegas Motor Speedway - - Las Vegas, Nevada

Repeat in Bob Panella's vocabulary on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Las Vegas - - Bob Panella, Jr., from Stockton, Calif., hot off a record setting weekend at the O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, looks for a repeat of last year's Summit Racing.com Nationals, as professional qualifying begins today on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Two weeks ago in Houston at the O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil, Panella reset the NHRA Pro Stock Truck national speed record at 182.40 mph and set a career best elapsed time (ET) at 7.400 seconds. The only negative to the record setting weekend was a "hole shot" loss to rival Randy Daniels in the final round.

"At Houston, I didn't win the battle at the (starting) lights," said Panella. "Here at Vegas I must couple a track set up with sound starting line techniques."

Panella won the inaugural Summit Racing.com Nationals last season in convincing fashion. He defeated Mark Whisnant, Greg Stanfield, Steve Johns, and Randy Daniels en route to the winner's circle. He holds the track records for both ET (7.680 seconds) and speed (176.24 mph) entering this year's contest.

"I definitely like The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It sort of like a home track for me. All my family, including my wife Tiffanie and four-month-old son Alex, have made the trip down here from Stockton, Calif. I want to do well here. A repeat would be nice.

"I carried Alex's sock with me at Houston as a good luck charm and it got me to the finals. Maybe having him here in person will get me a step further and get me to the winner's circle," added Panella.

Since turning professional in 1998, Panella, the reigning NHRA Winston Pro Stock Truck champion, has won 93 rounds of eliminations, losing 33. Including the final round at Houston, the twenty-nine-year-old driver has won nine titles and finished runner up 9 times.

Gracia eyes first title

Las Vegas - - If the big three in Pro Stock Truck - - Bob Panella, Randy Daniels, and Greg Stanfield - - falter, then Jeff Gracia, from Ontario, Calif., is standing at the front of a long line of contenders ready to take the title at this weekend's Summit Racing.com Nationals.

"Bobby (Panella), Randy (Daniels), and Greg (Stanfield) are definitely favorites. It will take being at the top of your game to beat them. The main thing will be not only who has the most power, but who doesn't make stupid mistakes. Personally, I need to be sharp at the starting line. These trucks are so closely matched that you need to gain an advantage right at the start. Races are won by thousandths at the finish line," said Gracia.

This was reflected at the last race two weeks ago in Houston. In the opening round of the O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil, Gracia was matched against Brian Self, from Spring, Texas. Self's Chevy S-10 left first and stayed ahead of Gracia's GMC Sonoma the entire length of the Houston Raceway Park - - except for the last few inches, when Gracia edged by and took the win light by .0002 seconds. That's two ten thousandth of a second.

"That was a close race," recounted Gracia. "It was a dead heat. I didn't do as good a job on the start as I could have. He got out on me and it took the whole quarter-mile to run him down."

An advantage that Gracia has here in Las Vegas is that his teammate Panella won the inaugural Summit Racing.com Nationals. "Although the weather doesn't look like it will be the same as last year, we can use the set up that Bobby (Panella) won with last year and adjust according. Last year it was hot; this year it looks like the temperatures will be considerably cooler. Last year's set up has shown that it is a good one for the altitude here in Las Vegas," says Gracia, as he looks toward qualifying.

When asked if he will win here, Gracia took the conservative approach. "You got to have luck to win. After all this is Vegas, isn't it? Also, I've got to do my job both on the staring line lights and all the way down the track. It would be great to have a Panella versus Gracia final, wouldn't it!"

-Panella Motorsports

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Jeff Gracia , Randy Daniels , Greg Stanfield , Mark Whisnant , Brian Self , Steve J