Phoenix Race Review

AMATO, FORCE, KURT JOHNSON CLAIM CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NATIONALS VICTORIES CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Joe Amato went from the outhouse to the penthouse by driving his Top Fuel dragster to the winner's circle at the 15th annual Checker,...

AMATO, FORCE, KURT JOHNSON CLAIM CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NATIONALS VICTORIES CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Joe Amato went from the outhouse to the penthouse by driving his Top Fuel dragster to the winner's circle at the 15th annual Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Nationals. Amato, from Exeter, Pa., made a pass in 4.565 seconds at 320.66 mph which was enough to defeat Kenny Bernstein who had a run of 4.649 seconds at 316.75 mph. "After the first race of the year when I didn't qualify, I thought there goes my title hopes now," Amato said. "After something like that you ask yourself what you have to do, and go do it. This time it worked." John Force and Kurt Johnson were also victors in their respective categories at Firebird International Raceway, near Phoenix. The $1.5 million race was the second of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Eight-time NHRA Winston Funny Car champion Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., overcame the flu and earned his 71st career victory. Forced covered the quarter-mile in 4.843 seconds at 317.87 mph. That was enough to hold off Cruz Pedregon who completed his run in 5.095 seconds at 272.67 mph. "Lane choice was critical for this race," Force explained. "I figured if my hot rod ran good anyways I could outrun him because we had outrun him all weekend. We needed that lane choice and we got it." Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson, from Lawrenceville, Ga., earned his victory with a run of 6.970 seconds at 197.97 mph, which was enough to defeat Troy Coughlin who finished in 8.095 seconds at 120.38 mph. "The key to the (final round) was not overreacting," Johnson said. "I think we have a hot rod that will be a contender the rest of the season." Tony Schumacher, from Park Ridge, Ill., became the first person in NHRA history to eclipse the 330 mph mark. Schumacher made a run of 330.23 mph in the first round of eliminations on Sunday. Schumacher was not able to back up the run within the required one percent in order to establish a national record. The Mac Tools Gatornationals is the next event in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. The event will be held March 18-21 at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Fla.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Troy Coughlin , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Cruz Pedregon