Mark Osborne Englishtown Preview

OSBORNE HAVING BEST NHRA PRO STOCK SEASON ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Two years ago, Mark Osborne decided to hang up his driving suit for good when he came to the harsh realization that his independently financed team just wasn't able to...

OSBORNE HAVING BEST NHRA PRO STOCK SEASON

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Two years ago, Mark Osborne decided to hang up his driving suit for good when he came to the harsh realization that his independently financed team just wasn't able to compete with the big-money operations of Warren Johnson and Jim Yates.

These days, Osborne has a little different outlook.

The Abingdon, Va. racer has returned to Pro Stock competition in 1998 with a renewed enthusiasm thanks to a driving opportunity with the Dick Sherman Pontiac Racing Team. Their alliance has created a top contender in Osborne, currently third in the NHRA Winston point standings.

After opening with a No. 1 qualifying effort at the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals, Osborne went on to record two semi-final appearances at Phoenix and Houston and then defeated Bruce Allen at Atlanta's Fram Nationals from the top qualifying position. In addition, Osborne collected the biggest payday of his career in winning the $50,000 Winston Invitational at Rockingham, N.C., NHRA's non- points All-Star race.

Despite close first round losses to both eventual race winners in the last two events, Osborne is feeling good about his chances of posting a career-best Winston points finish.

He'll focus on earning his second win of the season and increasing his position in the Winston standings at the 29th annual Mopar Parts Nationals, May 14-17 at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. The $1.6 million race is the eighth of 22 events in the $30 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

"If we can keep our power up and I can do a better job driving I think we'll be right there at the end of the year," said Osborne, whose previous best points finish was ninth in 1994. "We've got a good crew chief and everybody on the team works real hard. We're just going to have to find a way to stop Warren Johnson. It's still early in the season, so we'll have to wait and see what happens."

At the beginning of the season Osborne had high expectations, but his team's effort so far has been incredible, he says.

"Our goal was to qualify at every race and go at least two rounds," Osborne said. "I felt like if we could do that we would finish the season in the top five. We've done a good job so far, but it's still going to be tough on down the road because there's a lot of races left. There's still some very competitive cars that haven't quite found the combination they're looking for. Once some of these other teams get everything in order it's going to be even tougher to compete."

* A crew chief's race: Mark Osborne says in order to have success at the Mopar Parts Nationals, the crew chief has to prepare the car for drastically different track conditions for nearly every run. He says the veteran Pro Stock teams are usually the ones to beat at the legendary quarter-mile.

"Englishtown has always been good to me," Osborne said. "We've had some good runs there over the years. I was runner-up there once at the Pro Stock Challenge. I'm looking forward to going back with my new team. The track is usually very good, but it can be tricky. The outcome of the race tends to be made in the pits with the right call on the setup."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Bruce Allen