NHRA notebook 2000-07-14

Scelzi chases record While Gary Scelzi pursues a third NHRA Winston championship, he's also chasing one of Top Fuel's longest standing single-season records. Scelzi, already one of the five all-time winningest Top Fuel drivers in NHRA history...

Scelzi chases record
While Gary Scelzi pursues a third NHRA Winston championship, he's also chasing one of Top Fuel's longest standing single-season records.

Scelzi, already one of the five all-time winningest Top Fuel drivers in NHRA history with 20 career victories, can become the lone holder of the single-season win record should he add an additional trophy to his collection this season.

Eight other drivers - including Joe Amato, Kenny Bernstein, Don Garlits, Darrell Gwynn, Eddie Hill, Scott Kalitta, Cory McClenathan and Gary Ormsby - are tied with Scelzi for the current record of six victories, first set in '85 by Garlits.

"I've been in this position before," said Scelzi, also a six-time winner in 1998. "We would like to get the record, but our primary goal is to win a Winston championship. I'd like to have a third ring."

Force reclaims Winston lead
Aided by an untimely DNQ (did not qualify) by season-long points leader Jerry Toliver at Sears Point Raceway, John Force capitalized on the situation and emerged from the West Coast Swing back in his familiar perch atop the Funny Car point standings.

Which could mean trouble for Toliver, driver of the WWF Racing Pontiac Firebird. Historically, Force has been impressive in NHRA's final stretch, which begins in mid-August at a track that he's dominated - The Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway.

The winningest driver in NHRA history will be seeking his 89th career victory, and looking to add to his 75-point lead over championship challenger Toliver at one of his favorite tracks. The Yorba Linda, Calif. driver has logged eight victories at Brainerd over the years, his most recent in '99.

"Our game plan is to whip the WWF team," said Force. "I love Jerry and I felt real bad for him when he didn't qualify (at Sears Point), but we want to beat 'em this year for the Winston championship. That's what we're after."

Johnson looking to keep streak alive
Kurt Johnson isn't exactly sure why he's currently the guy in NHRA Pro Stock competition.

Johnson has scored recent victories in Denver and Sonoma, Calif., and posted a semifinal appearance at Seattle. His 10 round wins was the most in his category during the West Coast Swing.

In a season that can so far be sliced into two sections, Johnson is rapidly creating a third.

The Lawrenceville, Ga. driver will try to keep the momentum going at the 19th annual Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals, Aug. 17-20 at The Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway, just north of metropolitan Minneapolis. The $1.8 million race is the 16th of 23 events in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Jeg Coughlin Jr. jumped out to the lead early in the season with a dominating performance that included six victories. The Columbus, Ohio driver's run was followed by the emergence of a relative unknown -- Ron Krisher -- who scored two victories and four top qualifying efforts in a surge to the front of the standings.

And now it's Johnson's time. The AC Delco Chevy Camaro driver is hitting his stride at the right time. He's currently fourth in the Winston point standings, but closing fast. He's three points behind his third place father, Warren Johnson, and 60 back of second place Krisher.

"Nothing lasts forever," said Johnson, a winner at the Brainerd quarter-mile in 1997. "Jeg had his time, Krisher had his time. We can all do well as long as we make some good decisions as far as track conditions and atmospheric conditions. When everything changes, we have to make changes. Maybe now we've got something to work with. It seems like it's good enough to win the race."

Hammonds not intimidated
Tom Hammonds was disappointed after jumping the start in his first round match with Kurt Johnson at the recent NHRA event at Sears Point Raceway. After qualifying 13th in the 16-car field, the forward for the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, had a little bit of a quick release when the lights were set to turn green.

But did he make the error out of nerves? No.

Hammonds, who had not qualified for an event this season, says he didn't have butterflies when he was going against one of the hottest competitors in the category. He says at this point in his career - no matter what the sport -- he rarely gets psyched-out by the competition.

"I grew up playing basketball against Shaquille O'Neal, so I don't think I was intimidated," said Hammonds. "Instead of doing my normal staging process, I waited for him to stage and it threw me off my rhythm. The one thing I've learned in drag racing is that I'm not racing Kurt Johnson or anybody else out here. I'm racing myself and the track."

Krisher's confidence rising
Ron Krisher says the main difference between his racing operation today and one year ago is the feeling that when he needs performance, he has it. With two victories in three finals and four top qualifying efforts, Krisher is having the best season of his career. With no Winston top 10 finishes to his credit, Krisher sits second in points as the 2000 season enters its final stretch.

"I think it's a lot easier to drive now," Krisher said. "The confidence in my crew chief (Mike Edwards) and what goes on when I leave the pits helps my transition. I know I can make a good run. Now I know if I get in trouble that I can shut it off because I will have a good run the next time."

Bikes back in action
After a two-event break, Pro Stock Motorcycle competition resumes at Brainerd, Minn. Winston points leader Angelle Seeling, who has earned four victories this season on her Team Winston Suzuki, will try to hold back three-time Winston champion and BIR track record holder Matt Hines, a two-time winner this season. Hines, rider of the Eagle One Suzuki, is a three-time winner at BIR.

Craig Treble, from Chandler, Ariz., is the defending winner of the event. The Matco Tools Suzuki rider used a horsepower advantage to defeat Sunoco Suzuki rider Dave Schultz in last year's final round.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , John Force , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Ron Krisher , Don Garlits , Craig Treble , Cory McClenathan , Scott Kalitta , Tom Hammonds , Darrell Gwynn , Jerry Toliver , Mike Edwards