Reading: Pro Stock battle continues

MOHNTON, Pa.- The Pro Stock category opened the NHRA season with a lot of competition in the pits. Between 35-45 cars show up at each national event, vying for one of 16 spots for the elimination rounds on Sundays. It was said that the Pro ...

MOHNTON, Pa.- The Pro Stock category opened the NHRA season with a lot of competition in the pits. Between 35-45 cars show up at each national event, vying for one of 16 spots for the elimination rounds on Sundays.

It was said that the Pro Stockers this season could be the toughest group yet. Whoever said it first said it right. In the first nine events of the season, nine different drivers took home a victory - an NHRA record. Six-time Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson, looking to defend his title, did not even win until the sixth race of the year and he hasn't won since.

As the NHRA brings the action to Pennsylvania, fans can expect one thing: Anyone can win the race, and the championship is still up for grabs. All of the door-slammers will be scrapping for points at the 18th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, Sept. 12-15. Gary Scelzi, John Force, Troy Coughlin and Angelle Savoie are the defending winners of the $1.9 million race. It is the 18th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. It is the 12th of 14 events in the Pro Stock Bike category.

Ron Krisher is the only driver in the category to qualify for the first 16 races of the season. Jim Yates was the points leader following eight events, but has yet to win a race. Jeg Coughlin was in 17th place after the season-opening event in Pomona, Calif., and now he has more wins than anyone in the category (four) and leads the standings. Greg Anderson was as low as 16th in the standings after the third race, and now he is in second place, a single point behind Coughlin, after collecting two wins and four runners-up thus far.

Allen Johnson has been to two final rounds, earning one victory, and is eighth in the order. Basically, there is no rhyme or reason to Pro Stock.

"There are still three drivers in the top 10 that have not even won a race," Allen Johnson said. "You should see all of those guys get one soon, which means that you probably won't see anyone get four or more wins this season.

"Kurt Johnson usually wins a race or two each season, and you know that Yates is going to get a win. Mark Whisnant has had one of the best cars out here in the last few races, so he should win. You might see someone with four wins this year, but I doubt it."

Troy Coughlin is one of the 11 different racers to win this season, and he said that number surprises him. "I thought it would at least get up to 12 by now," Coughlin said. "It's a very tough road. You can go from winning a race one weekend to not even qualifying the next weekend. We did that. Larry Morgan did that. You have to be very humble to be in this sport right now. You can go from hero to zero in a few days."

The Pro Stock class saw 15 different drivers make an appearance in winner's circle last season. Yates said he predicted during the winter that the 2002 season would be similar.

"We knew what was coming," Yates said. "Everybody's programs are getting closer and closer and we knew there was going to be parity, we were just hoping that we could be consistent enough to lead the pack. Warren won six races last year and we still had 15 different winners. All you have to do is get hot."

Allen Johnson said the hot streak helps, with a little something extra. "You have to have a little luck too these days," Johnson said. "If you have parts failure during the night session, when everyone else is running their best times, you may not qualify in the other three passes. If someone makes a mistake, they are going to DNQ. You have to be just about perfect on every single run."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , John Force , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Larry Morgan , Allen Johnson , Mark Whisnant