POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 12, 2000) - It was a tough end to the 2000 season for Team Mopar.
Dean Skuza, driver of the Matco Tools.com/Mopar Parts Dodge R/T Nitro Funny Car, lost in the second round of eliminations to Bob Gilbertson during the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway.
Skuza smoked the tires at the start and saw Gilbertson drive away to a 5.201-second elapsed time at 261.47 mph. The two-time NHRA national event winner advanced by defeating John Lawson in the first round. Skuza pedaled his Dodge R/T to a 6.353/234.09, while Lawson ran a 7.211/149.45.
"I think the track got us on that one," said Skuza, who was the number two qualifier. "It wasn't how I wanted to end my career with Matco Tools. The good news is that we stayed in the top 10 in points.
"I'm looking forward to next season with Team Mopar as our primary sponsor," Skuza said. "With (former Jim Epler crew chief) John Stewart on board handling clutches next season, we'll be a real force in Funny Car."
Rookie Dodge Motorsports R/T Pro Stock driver Bo Nickens surprised the packed house when he drove past Ron Krisher in round one of eliminations. Despite shutting off early in round two against newly crowned NHRA Winston Pro Stock Champion Jeg Coughlin, Nickens was pleased with his 6.910/199.37 in his victory.
"That was pretty cool," said the former Team Mopar Dodge Dakota R/T Pro Stock Truck driver. "I put a nice light on Krisher and we took the race. That was a great way to close out the season."
Darrell Alderman, who drives the Team Mopar Dodge R/T, fell in the first to Rickie Smith. The three-time NHRA Pro Stock World Champion held a .452-474 starting line advantage, but lost traction in the right lane and clicked off about half track.
"I was hoping for a little better end to the season," said the 27-time national event winner. "The car got over in the marbles and lost traction. That right lane wasn't very good."
Dodge Motorsports R./T driver Larry Morgan also lost in round one to Richie Stevens. The Ohio resident ran a 6.939/198.79 effort, but Stevens ran a quicker 6.914/198.06.
"We just didn't have enough in that right lane," Morgan said. "Overall though, we had a pretty good first year for the new Hemi engine. We made a lot of strides and I think we will be pretty strong next season."
Dale Eaton, driver of the Team Mopar Dodge R/T Pro Stock Truck entry, lost to Larry Joe Seay in a first-round eliminator. Seay clicked off a 7.495/178.83 run to Eaton's 7.530/178.66.
"We're pretty pleased with how the weekend went," Eaton said. "We found some nice horsepower in the new Magnum P-5 and had some consistent runs there at the end."
The 2001 NHRA Winston Drag Racing season will commence with the traditional Winter Nationals at this same Pomona Raceway on Feb. 1-4.