Rockingham Final Qualif.

RECORDS FALL IN QUALIFYING FOR SUNDAY'S 10TH WINSTON INVITATIONAL ROCKINGHAM, NC - SUMMIT FastNews - The race for the biggest prizes in professional drag racing -- $100,000 in Top Fuel and Funny Car, $50,000 in Pro Stock-- took a ...

RECORDS FALL IN QUALIFYING FOR SUNDAY'S 10TH WINSTON INVITATIONAL

ROCKINGHAM, NC - SUMMIT FastNews - The race for the biggest prizes in professional drag racing -- $100,000 in Top Fuel and Funny Car, $50,000 in Pro Stock-- took a record-setting turn Saturday in the conclusion of qualifying for the 10th annual Winston Invitational Rockingham Dragway.

Not a single track record survived a qualifying assault that left Gary Scelzi, Cruz Pedregon and Warren Johnson $10,000 richer, the result of No. 1 qualifying bonuses provided by VP Racing Fuels.

Scelzi, the reigning Winston Top Fuel Champion from Fresno, CA, was not qualified until he unloaded a track record-setting 4.585 second time coupled to a speed of 316.45 miles per hour at the wheel of the Alan Johnson-prepared Team Winston dragster.

Scelzi's last second heroics picked the pocket of five-time former Winston Champ and two-time former Invitational winner Joe Amato of Exeter, PA, who only moments earlier had been clocked in 4.620 seconds at 320.97 mph.

In claiming the qualifying bonus, Scelzi took the first step toward what could be a $110,000 weekend. Sunday, the 1997 Rookie-of-the-Year will try to become only the second Top Fuel driver in Winston Invitational history to win the race from the No. 1 starting position.

Pedregon, the NHRA national record holder in the Funny Car division, claimed his $10,000 bonus with a track record 4.884 at 307.79 mph at the wheel of the Joe Gibbs Racing Interstate Batteries Pontiac. That just barely held off late challenges from Ron Capps (4.894), Whit Bazemore (4.902) and three-time defending champion John Force (4.902).

Pedregon, brother of Tony Pedregon, the No. 6 qualifier and the winner of the most recent event in the NHRA Winston Series, elected to pass on his final qualifying effort, then watched while three cars took a legitimate shot at No. 1.

"We wanted to get ready for tomorrow (Sunday)," he said. "We know we've got a good shot at the big money and that's what we're focused on. I tell you, I've been coming (to Rockingham) for six years and the track just seems to get better and better. It was great to run those numbers for the fans. That's what it's all about."

Bazemore, who, like teammate Scelzi, was unqualified entering the last session, turned in a career best run that also included a track record speed of 313.47 mph.

In Pro Stock, the WJ Express continued to roll over the competition as the three-time Winston Champion drove his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac to track records of 6.888 seconds at 200.13 mph, giving him a cushion of more than .02 of a second -- enormous by class standards -- over second qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr., whose Oldsmobile Cutlass was clocked at 6.915 seconds, 198.45 mph.

As for Pro Stock Motorcycle, it too delivered records on Saturday as defending champion Angelle Seeling directed her Suzuki GSXR to the $1,000 Star Racing qualifying bonus with a track record time of 7.300 seconds at 182.88 mph.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Joe Amato , Cruz Pedregon
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing