MOPAR Drivers Gainesville Preview

MOPAR(r) TOP FUEL REPORT Mac Tools Gatornationals Gainesville, Fla., March 18-21, 1999 - Chalk one up in the luck column for Kenny Bernstein and his reptile sidekick, Louie the Lizard. The Budweiser duo took advantage of a broken part on the...

MOPAR(r) TOP FUEL REPORT Mac Tools Gatornationals

Gainesville, Fla., March 18-21, 1999 - Chalk one up in the luck column for Kenny Bernstein and his reptile sidekick, Louie the Lizard. The Budweiser duo took advantage of a broken part on the Mike Dunn Team Mopar(r) Top Fuel dragster during the second round of eliminations in Phoenix two weeks ago to pull out the quarter-mile win.

"We had him (Bernstein) covered all the way to half-track before we torched a gasket," said Dunn. "In fact, he didn't pass us until the 1,000-foot mark ... that's how good a run we were on. If we'd made it all the way down track, we would've run a low 4.5 at 315 mph. It's just one of those freak things that happens. We'll be just fine ... everybody knows we have a race car that can win, and we'll be tough to beat in Gainesville." Dunn retained the Top Fuel points lead and still holds the national elapsed-time record of 4.503 seconds.

And what is Dunn's prediction for the Gatornationals? "We could see elapsed times in the high 4.40s which," he said, "if backed up would lower the Top Fuel national elapsed time record again. Gainesville Raceway is a great track, and it'll support those kinds of elapsed times if weather conditions are right."

Dunn complemented his season-opening #1 qualifying position with the #2 spot (4.547/316.38) in Phoenix.

MOPAR PRO STOCK TRUCK REPORT

Team Mopar NHRA Pro Stock Trucks return to quarter-mile action this weekend, making their Gainesville debut and competing for their first win of the season. Gainesville is the second of 14 stops of the season for the Pro Stock Truck class.

Team Mopar drivers Bo Nickens, and Todd Patterson, along with Craig Eaton, have spent the last couple of weeks back at their shops searching for more horsepower. "It's going to be tough," Patterson said. "Everyone has stepped up since Pomona in the horsepower and performance department, including us. We did a lot of testing at Houston Raceway Park because we felt the conditions there would be very close to what we'll experience in Gainesville. Both tracks have excellent traction and are located near sea level, so the air should be nearly identical."

During the Feb. 25-28 CSK Nationals in Phoenix, local residents Craig and Dale Eaton made exhibitions runs with their Dodge Dakotas in preparation for the Gatornationals. "The NHRA fit us into their schedule during the national event in Phoenix," Craig Eaton said. "We wanted the fans in Phoenix to see how quick these small block trucks really are. We learned some valuable information from those runs, and now we can make the necessary changes qualify in the top half of the field in Gainesville."

Back in Houston, Pro Stock Truck rookie Bo Nickens has been busy preparing two new engines for Gainesville. Along with the engines, Nickens will debut a brand-new Jerry Haas-built Pro Stock truck. "I'm excited about the new truck more than anything else," Nickens said. "It looks mean and fast, and it has all the latest updates and improvements. Our original truck was starting to show its age and we felt it was time for a new one.

"Without giving too much away, we had Jerry incorporate some new ideas into the truck, including a new four-link rear suspension and redesigned air pan," Nickens continued. "We're heading over to Houston Raceway Park this weekend to put about 8 to 10 shake down runs on the new truck. These days it's important to test because we want to avoid the new car - or in this case, new truck - blues. With only four qualifying passes next weekend, we can't afford to waste any runs due to a glitch in our set-up."

With new trucks, new engines and revved-up attitudes, Team Mopar is looking stronger than ever going into the Mac Tools Gatornationals.

MOPAR PRO STOCK REPORT The Pro Stock Dodge Avenger driver duo of Darrell Alderman and Scott Geoffrion each made four qualifying passes in Phoenix, but their elapsed times weren't quick enough to make the 7.017-second qualifying field cut. Nonetheless, the David Nickens-owned and -tuned team left the Valley of Sun with valuable information.

"We're still in a testing mode," Geoffrion said. "David has been working night and day to get the most out of these Dodges. We're still trying to find the right combination."

Alderman, who qualified at the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, was likewise disappointed. "We left Pomona feeling pretty good with our car," he said. "We've been working on the first 60 feet of the run and* trying to generate tire speed, but we're not where we should be. I'm sure we'll have it figured out by the Gatornationals."

MOPAR ASSOCIATE NOTES The Phoenix weekend was - to steal a line from Charles Dickens - the best of times and the worst of times for Dodge Avenger Funny Car driver Dean Skuza.

On the positive side, the team's 4.944-second elapsed-time was its best qualifying effort ever, but, and here's where the worst of times come in, as Skuza explained: "We didn't have our computer on during our first (4.944) qualifying run and we lost some valuable data ... we just couldn't find a consistent combination." Of his eliminations loss, Skuza said: "We got bit by tire smoke when we went in the wrong direction with our clutch combination. We're working on a new combination, but it's going to take some time to get it figured out." Skuza is fifth in the Funny Car point standings.

Team Mopar associates, Larry Morgan and Larry Nance, qualified outside the Pro Stock 16-car field in the #21 and #25 positions. Said Morgan: "We had our back-up motor in the car in Phoenix ... we hurt our good motor during a test session before going to Phoenix. With the break we have between Phoenix and Gainesville, we've repaired and tested our good motor, and it showed a significant increase in horsepower. If weather and track conditions are good in Gainesville, we should have a great weekend."

MOPAR SPORTSMAN NOTES The Mac Tools Gatornationals is considered by many sportsman racers to be one of the toughest NHRA National Events of the season. With racers from all over the country converging on Gainesville Raceway, car counts are high in all seven sportsman categories. And with such large car counts, qualifying becomes even more difficult for the 16-car Federal-Mogul Dragster and Funny Car classes, along with the 32-car Competition Eliminator field. Racers in Stock and Super Stock have class run-offs on Friday and Saturday, which also determines who qualifies for their respective classes. For some racers coming in from the Midwest and Northeast, this is their first race of the season; for others, this will be their second or third event under their belt.

Last year's Gatornationals winner in Federal-Mogul Funny Car, Frank Manzo, is determined to keep his good fortunes going. Coming off an impressive win at the CSK Nationals in Phoenix two weeks ago, Manzo's Dodge Avenger dominated the field at Firebird Raceway as he showed the rest of the class why he is the current two-time NHRA Federal-Mogul Funny Car World Champion.

Hoping to improve from Phoenix, 1997 NHRA Stock Eliminator World Champion Al Corda will be at the Gatornationals with his Hemi(r) Challenger R/T. Al is no stranger to the Gainesville Raceway winner's circle, as he won this event in 1992 and 1986. "We stumbled a little bit at the first two races this year, but I'm sure we'll have this Team Mopar Hemi Challenger on track for the Gatornationals," he said.

Veteran sportsman racer Sheldon Gecker will be out to avenge his early-round loss in Phoenix. "We had our Hemi-powered Super Comp Dragster running flawlessly all weekend," Gecker said. "And then during the first round of eliminations, we had a shifter malfunction that caused the car to lurch forward during the staging process. This broke the beam which activated the red light on the Christmas tree. We installed a new shifter after Phoenix and we're sure this won't happen again." Gecker, the 1996 Gatornationals winner, wants to repeat his season-opening performance in Pomona, Calif., when he advanced to the finals in two classes and won in Super Gas.

MOPAR GATORS FACTS The NHRA Gatornationals debuted in 1970 at Gainesville Raceway and has been at the same location ever since. During the 1971 event, Chrysler-powered vehicles won seven of eight eliminator classes. Most notable were Ronnie Sox's win in Pro Stock and Carrol Fink's win in Super Stock, both driving Plymouth Hemi 'Cudas. Dave Boertman drove his 383-powered Dodge Charger to win in Stock Eliminator, and in Funny Car, Leroy Goldstein drove the Ramchargers' Racing Team Dodge Challenger to the winner's circle. Chrysler won six of seven NHRA Pro Stock events in 1971, prompting an NHRA-mandated 200-300 pound weight penalty on all Chrysler Hemi Pro Stock cars starting with the 1972 season.

During the '72 Gatornationals, Pro Stock legend Don Carlton drove the infamous Motown Missile Hemi Cuda to an impressive Pro Stock win, despite the NHRA weight penalty. After limited Pro Stock participation in the 1974, Chrysler pulled its teams from NHRA competition, and stayed away until the NHRA rescinded the weight breaks on the Chrysler Hemi in the late '80s and instituted a 500-cubic-inch limit on engine size. Dodge Motorsports rejoined NHRA Pro Stock with the Wayne County Speed Shop.

During the lean years, it was the indomitable efforts of the Mopar Sportsman racers that won numerous classes to carry the Team Mopar banner at the Gatornationals. Mopar fans waited until 1989 - 17 long years - until a Chrysler product won the NHRA Pro Stock class at the Gatornationals, and it was with Darrell Alderman at the wheel of a David Hutchens- and Mike Sullivan-tuned Dodge Daytona. Alderman won the '95 Gatornationals in a Dodge Avenger.

The first female competitor to win at Gainesville was Judy Lilly in 1975, driving a '74 Plymouth Duster in Super Stock. Lilly went under the pseudonym "Miss Mighty Mopar" and was sponsored by Direct Connection, the precursor to Mopar Performance Parts. Lilly was a long-time Chrysler racer, going back to the late '60s campaigning a Hemi 'Cuda in Super Stock, sponsored by the Denver (Colo.) Chrysler-Plymouth Dealers Association. As an independent, Lilly drove a Dodge Charger in Pro Stock in the early '80s with limited success.

MOPAR REWIND From the 1998 Mac Tools Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla., March 5-8 and 13-14

QUALIFYING (only two qualifying sessions run)

* Team Mopar Top Fuel driver Mike Dunn qualified #8 with a 4.68-second pass at 309.17 miles per hour. * Dean Skuza's 5.086 at 301.60 mph earned him the # 11 qualifying position. * Team Mopar Pro Stock drivers Darrell Alderman and Scott Geoffrion qualified their Dodge Avengers in the #14 and #15 positions, respectively, Alderman with a 6.953/199.51 and Geoffrion with a 6.955/197.97. Larry Morgan and Larry Nance did not qualify. * Federal-Mogul Funny Car driver Frank Manzo qualified his Dodge Avenger in the #1 position. * Jennifer Dziorny was #1 qualifier in Stock Eliminator with her 318 Magnum(r)-powered Dodge Dakota.

ELIMINATIONS * Top Fuel pilot Mike Dunn beat Doug Herbert and Gary Scelzi before bowing to Kenny Bernstein in the semi-finals. * Dean Skuza thrust his Dodge Avenger Funny Car past Whit Bazemore and Al Hofmann before falling to John Force in the semis. * Dodge Avenger Pro Stock drivers Darrell Alderman and Scott Geoffrion lost in the first round of eliminations. * Frank Manzo drove his Dodge Avenger past all the Federal-Mogul Funny Car competition to take his third win of the young 1998 season and the points lead. Manzo faced fellow Dodge Avenger Funny Car driver Bob Newberry for an all Mopar/Dodge final.

MOPAR FAST FACT There are many different types of Mopar engines being used in NHRA competition today. These engines come in a variety of sizes and produce a wide range of horsepower levels for the classes in which they're used.

For example, a 440 Six-Pack Stock Eliminator engine produces around 525 horsepower, the 358-cubic-inch small-block Magnum Pro Stock Truck engine generates roughly 900 horsepower and the 500-cubic-inch Hemi in the Team Mopar Top Fuel Dragster makes well over 6,000 horsepower. To put this in perspective, one cylinder in the Top Fuel Hemi makes more power than a traditional NASCAR small block engine!

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Newberry , Doug Herbert , Mike Dunn , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Dean Skuza , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Larry Morgan , Todd Patterson , Al Corda , Frank Manzo , Scott Geoffrion , Jerry Haas , Mike Sullivan , Larry Nance