Seattle Finals Report

KENT, Wash. - Joe Amato won his second straight NHRA national event Sunday at the 12th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals presented by Al's Auto Supply at Seattle International Raceway. Amato, the defending event...

KENT, Wash. - Joe Amato won his second straight NHRA national event Sunday at the 12th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals presented by Al's Auto Supply at Seattle International Raceway. Amato, the defending event champion in Top Fuel, sped down the track in his Tenneco/Dynomax dragster in 4.704 seconds at 306.95 mph which was enough to hold off Doug Kalitta, from Ypsilanti, Mich., who ran a 4.697 at 307.58. It was Amato's fourth win this year and the second straight race where Amato, from Exeter, Pa., defeated Kalitta in the final round. "I was waiting at the finish line and he passed me because he drove out the back door a little further," said Amato. "I thought to myself, 'I think he won it'. It was so close. I was the one that didn't think we were going to do it. My guys gave me a good car all weekend. When we didn't have lane choice, that made me nervous. In Denver we both smoked the tires and this week we ran the quickest side-by-side pass. The racing gods were in our favor." Amato won for the fifth time at SIR, more than any other driver. "It must be the air or the trees, or the good fish," said Amato. "I ate two pounds of Washington cherries and they helped keep me sharp. We're trying to get back into this Winston championship hunt and we are doing a good job getting there. We have two (wins) in a row now. The big pressure is on for next week to try and get the hat trick. The westrern swing, (Denver; Kent, Wash.; Sonoma, Calif.) that was the deal. Last year we fumbled on the western swing and lost in the first round three times. We're not going to do that this year...By Indy we want to be in the hunt and keep the pressure on." For the second straight race Amato was also the number one qualifier. His 4.585 second elapsed time was a new track record. This victory bumped Amato into third in the NHRA Winston points standings. There was a good luck charm Amato had that also deserves credit for this win. "There was a little boy named Brandon who was at the race last year and we won," said Amato. "We contacted him and I got him some tickets and he was at the race all weekend and he was riding in the truck and we won the race again. He's confined to a wheelchair and last year I dedicated the race to him. I don't even know his last name but he is about ten years old. Anytime kids or any person comes around and they are confined to a wheelchair, I always make a special effort to go and sign something." For the second straight year Amato gave Brandon the winner's trophy. Del Worsham and Kurt Johnson were winners in their respective categories at the $1.3 million race, the 13th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Worsham, from Costa Mesa, Calif., earned his first vicory in eight years when he raced his Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird to a 5.283 at 279.67 as Whit Bazemore, from Indianapolis, lost traction and finished with a 7.302 at 163.67. Worsham's last victory was at the 1991 Southern Nationals in Atlanta. He had one runner-up finish in 1998 at the Fram Route 66 Nationals in Chicago. This was a victory well overdue. "It's unbelievable," said Worsham. "First we overcame the first big hurdle of the day when we beat John Force. I haven't beat Force since the 1992 U.S. Nationals. Once that was off our back we just cleared all the hurdles and wanted to start winning some races again." Worsham has experienced all the highs and lows between victories. "You do not understand what we've been through," said Worsham. "We've been in the hospital, runner-up, not qualified, ran out of money, we got a sponsor. We've done it all. We are back up on top again. We were ready for a win and it was time." Johnson, from Lawrenceville, Ga., captured his third victory of the year when he covered the quarter-mile in 6.923 at 200.44 in his AC Delco Chevrolet Camaro to edge out Jim Yates who ran a 6.962 at 198.00. It was Johnson's first victory since the O'Reilly Nationals in Houston back in April. "We were on such a high at the beginning of the year," said Johnson. "We won two races and out of the first six races we didn't finish worst than third. Then we went to such a low. It was the worst nightmare of my life. We knew it wasn't the car, just the people working on it." Hoping to overcome a mid-season slump Johnson has made a few changes. "I ran a suspension package today that I never ran before," said Johnson. " After the first round I felt comfortable with the information I gathered. I knew that this was going to work and we were going to be fine. I told some of the guys that putting that car in the Winston points race at the beginning of the year really didn't happen on our good looks. We know a little bit about the car and we ran into some problems in the middle of the year and I think we will have a fine race car for the rest of the season." The next stop for the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series is the Autolite Nationals, Aug. 6-8, at Sears Point Raceway, Sonoma, Calif.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta