Millington, Tenn. - - Team Panella is looking to rebound at the NHRA AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Memphis Motorsports Park this weekend. Team Panella drivers Bob Panella, Jr., from Stockton, Calif., and Jeff Gracia, from Ontario,...
Millington, Tenn. - - Team Panella is looking to rebound at the NHRA AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Memphis Motorsports Park this weekend. Team Panella drivers Bob Panella, Jr., from Stockton, Calif., and Jeff Gracia, from Ontario, Calif., were stopped short of the Pro Stock Truck title at the NHRA Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park on Labor Day. Both Team Panella drivers went down to defeat at the hands of Randy Daniels, from Grantsboro, N.C., Gracia in round two, Panella in the semifinals.
At Memphis, Gracia will be after his first career national event victory since turning pro in 1999. Gracia did take home the winner's trophy at the Holley Pro Stock Truck Dominator Duel, a special race-within-a-race held in conjunction with the Lucas Oil Products Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., just outside Chicago. Panella, who is the only driver to have qualified at every Pro Stock Truck event since the class inception in 1998, is chasing career win number 13.
As he prepared for Memphis, Gracia took a few minutes to reflect back on the tragic events in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. "Racing is sort of a secondary thing right now, but as we get closer to the first session of qualifying our focus will be on things at hand. The security at the airport coming to race serves as a reminder of what happen to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last week. So hopefully we can we can step away from the reality for a little while and concentrate on what we are here to do," said Gracia.
"Both trucks qualified good at Indy. Bobby (Panella) was second and I was third. We didn't have good luck on race day but came out of there with Bobby still number one in Winston points, while I held onto fourth. Hopefully, here in Memphis, we can qualify as well as we did in Indy but have luck on race day.
"We did suffer some parts breakage at Indy but all the motors have been redone and are just as good, or better, than before. Bobby should be able to pick up and if the breaks go his way win his third championship. I want to gain as many points as I can in the last four races and finish as high as I can in the Winston points chase." concluded Gracia.
Panella continues to add to the impressive stats that he already has established. Entering the AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil the numbers and highlights sort out like this:
* Panella is the reigning Winston Pro Stock Truck champion - - winning consecutive championships in 1999 and 2000 - - in 1998, the first year of professional competition for trucks, Panella finished fourth.
* Panella holds the NHRA national speed record at 182.40 mph - - set at Houston Raceway Park on March 25, 2001.
* Panella has won 24 rounds of racing in 2001, losing 7 - - a winning percentage of 77.4 percent. For his career, Panella has won 113 rounds of racing, losing 38 - - a winning percentage of 74.8 percent. He has not had a first round loss since the 1999 Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals - - 33 consecutive races.
* Panella has won 12 events out of 21 final rounds - - his first professional win came at the 1998 Pennzoil Nationals in Memphis. In 2001, Panella has three wins and one runner-up in four final rounds.
* Panella has earned 17 number one qualifying positions during his professional career - -Panella has qualified at every Pro Stock Truck event contested (50) since the inception of Pro Stock Truck as a professional category in 1998 (he is the only pst driver to qualify at every PST event contested) - - Panella has qualified in the top half of the field at 45 of 50 point earning events entered (1998: 10 of 12 events) (1999: 13 of 14) (2000: 12 of 14) (2001: 10 of 10). In 2001, he has not qualified lower than fourth in 10 events: 4#1's, 3#2's, 2#3's, and 1#4.
* Panella is number one in the NHRA winston Pro Stock Truck point standings with 850 points - - 40 points in front of second place held by Randy Daniels - - Panella has now been in the top ten in points following 49 of 50 point earning events entered (1998: 11 of 12 events) (1999: 14 of 14) (2000: 14 of 14) (2001: 10 of 10) - - he was #1 in points following 13 of 14 events in 2000.
* Special events: Panella won the 1999 Holley Dominator duel for Pro Stock Trucks, a special event for top qualifiers - - winning an additional $10,000 in NHRA's "double-up" program for winning the duel and the 1999 Fram Route 66 Nationals. He was runner up at the 2000 Holley Dominator Duel for Pro Stock Trucks and also won the 2000 Winston Showdown for Pro Stock Trucks, a special invitational event.
* Prior to turning professional in 1998, Panella won four division 6 Competition Eliminator Championships. -BPM-