The 41st edition of the NHRA U.S. Nationals were held this past weekend at Indianapolis Raceway Park in very good weather, a rare occurrence on the national event circuit this year. As is the case in many events, the outcome of some races are rather predictable. This year's Nationals included Cinderella stories in the Top Fuel and Top Alcohol Dragster fields. Following is a capsule summary of eliminations.
Top Fuel: Larry Dixon defeated Bob Vandergriff, Jr. for the Top Fuel title. After the first round of eliminations, Dixon posted consistent ETs of 4.91, 4.90, 4.93 on his way to victory by defeating Blaine Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Jr., and Rance McDaniel.
Vandergriff, Jr. was the second Cinderella story this past weekend. After the end of last season, he lost his Fruit of the Loom sponsor- ship. He recently secured a three year sponsorship deal from Jerzees and the U.S. Nationals was his first outing of the year. Vandergriff was able secure the services of the Dan Olson as his crew chief. Olson had most recently wrenched for the Pat Austin Syntec top fueler.
On his way to the finals in Top Fuel, Vandergriff defeated Al Segrini, Pat Dakin, and notably, Mike Dunn. According to the NHRA communica- tions I heard on my scanner, the Vandergriff team was concerned about getting their 90 minutes of pit time before they were to appear in the televised final round. Not surprisingly, the team was not nearly as well rehearsed in the between round thrashes as the Dixon team. And it showed -- the parachute on the Vandergriff dragster fell out about 1000 ft down course in the final against Dixon. All in all, an excellent showing for the Jerzees team in their first outing this year.
Funny Car: Cruz Pedregon defeated John Force in a final that wasn't as close as many might have expected. After an opening round ET of 5.07 against Jim Epler, Force slowed to a 5.36 against Tony Pedregon and a 5.30 against K. C. Spurlock in the next two rounds. Cruz Pedregon posted a 5.20 ET against Kenji Okazaki, a 5.22 against Mark Oswald, and a 5.14 against Dean Skuza before facing Force in the final.
Cruz Pedregon out ran Force 5.07 to 5.22 to take the victory. Along with his strong ET of 5.07, Pedregon ran a speed of 304.67 MPH to tie him with McDonald's teammate and Top Fuel driver, Cory McClenathan, for top speed of the event. Pedregon also ran 300 MPH speeds in the late afternoon qualifying sessions on Saturday and Sunday. These were the first 300 MPH runs ever for the McDonald's Funny Car team.
Pro Stock: Warren Johnson defeated surprise final round opponent Lewis Worden. WJ ran consistent 7.0's throughout eliminations with a 7.05 ET to best Worden's 7.12 in the final. After a 7.35 ET against Jim Yates, who broke off the line, Worden ran ETs of 7.12 and 7.14 in his Bill Jenkins tuned car to defeat Mark Pawuk and Ricky Smith before facing WJ in the final. WJ defeated Jerry Eckman, Pete Williams, and Kurt Johnson (who red lighted) enroute to his final round appearance.
Top Alcohol Dragster: The TAD class had the biggest Cinderella story of this year's U.S. Nationals. Michael Bartone, who has experienced much less success in TAD than his brother Tony has in Top Alcohol Funny Car, won the event from the second alternate position. Bartone's victory also preserves the string of non-repeating victors in the U.S. Nationals since the class was started in 1981.
Michael Bartone hadn't decided to resume his racing career until June and hadn't begun putting together his dragster until Wednesday of the week preceding the U.S. Nationals. During qualifying, Bartone made decent passes, but none good enough to qualify for eliminations. His best pass, a 5.908, left him 0.005 seconds shy of the bump in the second quickest Top Alcohol Dragster field in NHRA history after the 1994 Chief Nationals.
As luck would have it, first alternate, Russ Lindert, replaced Bill Barney who couldn't rebuild his engine after it destructed on his last qualifying pass and Bartone replaced Darryl Hitchman who couldn't make eliminations.
After posting a 5.89 ET in the opening round of eliminations to defeat a red lighting Darrell Russell, Bartone ran 5.87's in the next three rounds to defeat David Wells, Randy Parks, and Tom Conway who shook the tires hard but still ran a repectable 5.96 in the final. Conway defeated Shawn Bowen, number one qualifier Richard Boyd, and championship contender Bobby Taylor before falling to Bartone in the final.
Top Alcohol Funny Car: Pat Austin put on one of his best showings of the year in his top alcohol funny car. He took the number one qualifying postion with a 5.87 ET. In eliminations, Austin beat Tony Schumacher, Tim Wilkerson, and Vern Moats with runs of 5.99, 6.01, and 5.90 before defeating Bob Newberry in the final with a 5.94. Newberry made it to the final round by defeating Donnie Frantz, John Weaver, and Frank Manzo.
A more detailed discussion of qualify and eliminations will follow in rec.autos.sport.misc.
-- Phil _____________________________________________________________ Philip Gravel Lisle, Illinois firstname.lastname@example.org