Richmond Moto1.net NHRA Nationals presented by Chevrolet preview

DINWIDDIE, Va. - Inconsistency and poor performances in the early part of the season result in missed championship glory by year's end. Ask Gary Scelzi and Jeg Coughlin Jr. In an up-and-down 1999 season both Scelzi and Coughlin, who finshed...

DINWIDDIE, Va. - Inconsistency and poor performances in the early part of the season result in missed championship glory by year's end. Ask Gary Scelzi and Jeg Coughlin Jr.

In an up-and-down 1999 season both Scelzi and Coughlin, who finshed second in the Winston points chase in their respective categories, can look back at last year's event at Virginia Motorsports Park as a missed opportunity. Scelzi was eliminated in the first round after being the No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel. Pro Stock competitor Coughlin did not qualify for the second straight event.

With three months of racing nearly gone, the championship picture is becoming clearer and the true contenders are looking to rise above the pretenders. Consistency at the sixth annual Moto1.net NHRA Nationals presented by Chevrolet at VMP, April 27-30, will play a pivotal role towards determing the 2000 NHRA Winston Drag Racing championship in four of the professional categories. The event presents an opportunity for competitors to emerge as true players for the series crown.

The 1999 Virginia Nationals had its share of excitement over the weekend. The legendary John Force visited the winner's circle for the third time in five trips to VMP on his way to his ninth NHRA Winston Funny Car championship. Seven Pro Stock drivers eclipsed the 200 mph-barrier for the first time in their careers as they became members of the Speed-Pro 200-mph Pro Stock Club and the Pro Stock Truck category ran for the first time in the Old Dominion State.

Along with Force, Cory McClenathan, Allen Johnson and Brad Jeter are the defending winners of the $1.7 million race, the sixth of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

McClenathan, from Anaheim, Calif., claimed his third career victory at VMP last season when he drove his MBNA dragster past Larry Dixon and the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite dragster in the Top Fuel final round. Defending NHRA Winston champion Tony Schumacher, two-time series champ Scelzi, rookie Don Lampus, and Dixon are all among the top contenders in the 6,000 horsepower category.

Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., drove his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to the Funny Car win here last year, topping teammate Tony Pedregon's Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang. Force and Pedregon will be among the challengers for the Funny Car victory once again, along with WWF Racing's Jerry Toliver and Jim Epler, Nitro Fish rookie Todd Paton, and U.S. Tobacco Funny Car pilot Ron Capps.

Johnson, from Greeneville, Tenn., earned his first-ever Pro Stock victory by driving past upstart Richie Stevens in the Pro Stock finale. The father-son tandem of Warren and Kurt Johnson each set a national record on their last visit to VMP. Warren blasted his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird to a 202.24 mph pass while son Kurt covered the quarter-mile in 6.840 seconds in his AC Delco Chevrolet Camaro. Both Johnsons, current NHRA Winston points leader Coughlin and his brother Troy, along with local racer Jim Yates are among the favorites for a victory this season.

Former Pro Stock Truck competitor Jeter, from Greenville, S.C., outran Bob Panella for the Pro Stock Truck victory here in '99. Jeter has made the switch to a Pro Stock vehicle for the remainder of 2000, but Panella is determined to make it back to the final round and come away with a win this year. Other top truck contenders include two-time winner Randy Daniels, Rob Slavinski, Greg Stanfield and Jeff Gracia.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Brad Jeter , Kurt Johnson , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Jeff Gracia , Randy Daniels , Todd Paton , Cory McClenathan , Greg Stanfield , Allen Johnson , Don Lampus , Jerry Toliver