Pomona Top Fuel Notebook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761 WINSTON FINALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK *All but over: Gary Scelzi only needs to make a qualifying attempt at this event to clinch his first NHRA Winston championship in the ...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761

WINSTON FINALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK *All but over: Gary Scelzi only needs to make a qualifying attempt at this event to clinch his first NHRA Winston championship in the Team Winston Dragster.

Scelzi, a rookie from Fresno, Calif., leads second-place Cory McClenathan by 135 points. A driver earns 10 points for a qualifying attempt, which will give Scelzi a 145-point edge. McClenathan can earn no more than 138 points at this event.

Scelzi replaced Blaine Johnson, who was killed in a qualifying accident in August 1996 at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Johnson led the NHRA Winston standings when he died.

"It's a shame we had to lose Blaine for me to get this opportunity," Scelzi said. "To actually do this, it's pretty emotional. If I could tell Blaine one thing, I'd say: 'We did it. We did it. It's for you.'"

*Slowdown tests begin: NHRA began testing with the Miller Lite Dragster team Oct. 20 at Texas Motorplex near Dallas in an effort to devise the proper formula for rules changes that will slow Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars in 1998.

Driver Larry Dixon made three passes with reduced compression ratio in the engine and ignition changes. One pass was aborted due to a broken blower belt, but the other two produced performance numbers of 4.90 seconds at 288.90 mph and 4.82, 296.73.

"Dale Armstrong, who will be the team's crew chief in 1998, will examine the engine to determine exactly what the new compression ratio was and do some analysis on what the reduction of blower drive would have had on performance, said Carl Olson, NHRA vice president of technical administration and international relations. "We'll do further research and make the final announcement on performance restrictions to all racing teams as soon as possible."

Said Graham Light, NHRA senior vice president of racing operations: "Ideally, if we can produce a combination that will take a small amount of power out of the engine, it will not only reduce speeds but could result in closer races and less tire smoking, as well as cost savings to the race teams in terms of parts usage. We still recognize the spectator appeal in 300-mph speeds and plan on maintaining similar speeds in the future."

*McDonald's back with Cory Mac: McDonald's will continue to be the primary sponsor of the Top Fuel dragster driven by Cory McClenathan through 1998.

"We felt this was the right thing to do and are delighted to share this good news before the end of the season," said David Paro, McDonald's U.S. sports alliances director. "We have always appreciated the professional standard -- both on and off the track -- of the ownership, drivers and crew members, who comprise our NHRA teams."

McClenathan has won six races in 1997, tying an NHRA record for Top Fuel victories in one season.

*Saying farewell: Two-time NHRA Winston Top Fuel champion Scott Kalitta will retire from drag racing after this event to concentrate on his growing air-cargo business and spend more time with his family.

Kalitta, 35, won consecutive NHRA Winston championships in 1994-95 in his American International Airways Dragster.

"I have enjoyed my 16 years in the sport," Kalitta said. "I've achieved goals that I only had dreamed about when I first started out. I've made a lot of good friends since I've been racing, and sadly, I've lost a few along the way."

Kalitta began his career at the 1981 Chief Auto Parts Winternationals and won his first event at the 1989 Slick 50 Nationals in Funny Car.

*LaHaie resurfaces: The second of two prominent crew chiefs to leave high-profile Top Fuel teams this season has found a new job, as Dick LaHaie was named crew chief for Doug Herbert's Snap-On Tools Dragster in 1998.

LaHaie tuned Scott Kalitta to NHRA Winston titles in 1994 and 1995 but left the team earlier this year. Dale Armstrong, who tuned Kenny Bernstein to five Winston titles since 1982, left that team in September and was hired within a week as crew chief in 1998 for the Miller Lite Dragster driven by Larry Dixon and owned by Don "The Snake" Prudhomme.

*Classic: Five-time NHRA Winston Top Fuel champion Joe Amato will aim for his record seventh victory in the Budweiser Classic as the No. 1 seed for the special event Nov. 8 during the Winston Finals.

The winner of the 13th annual Budweiser Classic will earn a record $100,000. Any driver who wins the Classic and the Winston Finals on Nov. 9 will earn a $50,000 bonus from NHRA.

*Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 6, as this is one of only two events in which pro qualifying takes place Thursday. Qualifying continues with at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 7 and ends with sessions at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 8. Final eliminations start at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 9. Budweiser Classic rounds are scheduled for 11:30 a.m., 1:45 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. Nov. 8. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 8 a.m. Nov. 6.

*Tickets: Tickets are available for the Winston Finals. Call NHRA Ticketing at(800) 884-6472 for ticket information. Tickets also can be purchased at Ticketmaster outlets.

*On TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise 90 minutes of live, final-round competition from the Winston Finals at 4 p.m. (PST) Nov. 9. TNN also will televise one hour of live, first-round competition at 10:30 a.m. (PST) that day. TNN will show one hour of live, final-round competition from the Budweiser Classic at 4 p.m. (PST) Nov. 8. -30-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Cory McClenathan , Scott Kalitta , Cory Mac