FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
POST-RACE NOTES: WINSTON FINALS, NOV. 6-9, POMONA, CALIF.
TOP FUEL --Gary Scelzi became the first rookie to win an NHRA Winston championship. Scelzi, from Fresno, Calif., clinched the title at this event after his first qualifying pass in the Team Winston Dragster. --Joe Amato recorded the quickest time in NHRA history, 4.558 seconds, in the Keystone Automotive Warehouse Dragster. The previous quickest was 4.562, set by Amato at the Champion Auto Stores Nationals in August at Brainerd, Minn. Neither of those times are NHRA records, as Amato failed to back them up within 1 percent during the same event as required by NHRA rules for a record. Amato holds the record of 4.564 seconds, set at the 1997 Chief Auto Parts Winternationals at Pomona, Calif. --Former sprint car champion Doug Kalitta will replace his cousin, Scott Kalitta, as driver of the American International Airways Dragster next season. Doug Kalitta, 33, won the USAC sprint car national championship in 1994. Scott Kalitta retired after this event to devote more time to his air cargo business.
FUNNY CAR --Chuck Etchells announced that he will switch from a Dodge Avenger body to a Chevrolet Camaro body starting in 1998. Etchells will unveil the Kendall Chevrolet Camaro at the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals, Jan. 29-Feb. 1, 1998.
PRO STOCK --Warren Johnson finished in the top five of the NHRA Winston point standings for the 16th consecutive year, tying a record set by retired Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden. Johnson finished second this year in the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird and has placed in the top five every year since 1982. Glidden finished in the top five annually from 1977-92.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE --Matt Hines earned his eighth victory of the season on the Vance & Hines Suzuki, the second-highest total in one season by a Pro Stock Motorcycle rider in NHRA history. Dave Schultz won nine races in 1994. -- NHRA honors champions, award winners: A recap of the awards given at the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Awards Ceremony Nov. 10 at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, Calif: NHRA WINSTON CHAMPIONS Top Fuel: Gary Scelzi Funny Car: John Force Pro Stock: Jim Yates Pro Stock Motorcycle: Matt Hines
NHRA FEDERAL-MOGUL CHAMPIONS Federal-Mogul Dragster: Rick Santos Federal-Mogul Funny Car: Frank Manzo Competition: Andy Manna Jr. Super Stock: Jimmy DeFrank Stock: Al Corda Super Comp: Ed Richardson Super Gas: Mike Henderson
DON PRUDHOMME AWARD: Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen McEwen is one of the pioneers of NHRA Funny Car racing. His rivalry with Don "The Snake" Prudhomme during the 1970s contributed to the rapid growth of the sport. He continued to race until the early 1990s, finishing his career in Top Fuel. The annual award is presented to the individual who has made a profound impact on the growth and positive image of NHRA Winston Drag Racing.
BLAINE JOHNSON AWARD: Tom Hoover Veteran Funny Car driver Hoover won this annual award for showing perseverance and dedication to NHRA Winston Drag Racing during his career. Hoover showed another example of that dedication this year, returning to the driver's seat just seven weeks after undergoing open-heart surgery.
NHRA WINSTON ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD: Gary Scelzi Top Fuel driver Scelzi became the first rookie to win an NHRA Winston championship. He won five races in the Team Winston Dragster. Scelzi earned $20,000.
SLICK 50 PERFORMER OF THE YEAR: Tom Martino Pro Stock driver Martino earned this award by using a superior reaction time to beat quicker opponents five times this season, more than any other professional competitor. He earned an $8,000 bonus from Slick 50.
AUTOMOBILE CLUB OF SO. CALIF. ROAD TO THE FUTURE AWARD: Ron Capps Funny Car driver Capps earned this annual award as the pro competitor destined for greatness in NHRA Winston Drag Racing. Capps earned $10,000.
NHRA MANUFACTURERS CUP: Pontiac Pontiac won this award for the second consecutive year. Pontiac drivers earned more qualifying points and category victories in Pro Stock, Super Stock and Stock than drivers in any other make of car.
NHRA MEDIA AWARD: Leal Beattie; ESPN2 "RPM2Night" Beattie was the longtime motorsports writer for the Dayton Daily News. He died in early September. His last story was final-eliminations coverage of the U.S. Nationals. "RPM2Night" has provided thorough NHRA coverage for millions of ESPN2 viewers. -- New program to reward mechanics: Parts America, the Official Auto Parts Stores of NHRA, will sponsor a unique, season-long incentive program that will reward top NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series mechanics with a $130,000 in annual bonuses starting in 1998. Crew chiefs in all five NHRA professional categories -- Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Truck and Pro Stock Motorcycle -- will be rewarded in the Parts America Mechanic of the Year program. The Parts America Mechanic of the Year will earn $50,000 in 1998, and top mechanics in each pro category will earn bonuses from $7,500 to $25,000. "Our customers appreciate the extraordinary efforts of NHRA mechanics," said Brian Kelly, Parts America vice president of marketing. "The Parts America Mechanic of the Year program provides us a great opportunity to connect with our customers." The Parts America Mechanic of the Year program will start at the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals, Jan. 29-Feb. 1, 1998 at Pomona, Calif. Each professional team will designate one mechanic to enroll in the Parts America Mechanic of the Year program. Those mechanics can receive points at all 22 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series national events based on the performance of the car they tune. The points structure: Event winner: 10 points Runner-up: 6 Elapsed-time or speed national record: 5 Semifinal loser: 4 No. 1 qualifier: 3 Quarterfinal loser: 2 First-round loser: 1 The mechanic amassing the most points in each professional category for the season will receive a cash bonus. The No. 1 mechanic will earn $25,000 in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, $12,500 in Pro Stock, $10,000 in Pro Stock Truck and $7,500 in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Among those five winners, the mechanic who amassed the most points overall will earn $50,000 as the Parts America Mechanic of the Year. "Skilled tuning is a key component of success in NHRA Winston Drag Racing, and we're glad that Parts America is recognizing the hard work of talented NHRA mechanics through this program," NHRA President Dallas Gardner said. "The Parts America Mechanic of the Year program will provide even more incentive for crew chiefs to reach the winner's circle and create more excitement for our great fans." This program increases Parts America's deep involvement in NHRA Winston Drag Racing. The company sponsors the sister-brother team of Top Fuel driver Shelly Anderson and Funny Car driver Randy Anderson. Parts America also is the title sponsor of the annual NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series national event in Topeka, Kan., the Parts America Nationals. Parts America, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears, Roebuck and Co. with headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., operates 399 auto parts stores throughout the United States.