Atlanta Chevrolet finals report

COMMERCE, Ga., May 6, 2001- In front of a record crowd and sunny skies, Bob Panella put his Chevy S-10 in the Pro Stock Truck winner's circle for the second time this year at the Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. ...

COMMERCE, Ga., May 6, 2001- In front of a record crowd and sunny skies, Bob Panella put his Chevy S-10 in the Pro Stock Truck winner's circle for the second time this year at the Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. Along the way the two-time Winston champion chalked up his 100th career round victory by defeating John Coughlin in the first round of eliminations, and then knocked off teammate Jeff Gracia in the finals. It's the first time Panella and Gracia have raced in a championship heat.

"It feels really good to get both of the Panella trucks in the finals today," said Panella. "Jeff (Gracia) did a great job. I wish we could've put on a better show for the fans but unfortunately all our luck ran out in the semifinals. We had a good day and a great weekend. I hope it's the start of good things to come for this team." After beating Coughlin in round one, Panella also had to get by Jeff Naiser and Taylor Lastor III, before meeting Gracia in the finals. In the title round, Panella's S-10 was the better truck, but just barely, crossing the finish line in 8.185 seconds at 128.54. Gracia however lost the race at the starting line with a red light foul. Panella's performance this weekend moves him into second place in the Pro Stock Truck standings, just 14 points behind first place Greg Stanfield.

"We've been trying real hard to get both trucks in the finals and now we want to keep it up," Panella said. "You know, I wish GMC could've gotten their first win of the year, and Jeff almost pulled it off, but I'm not going to let that happen at my expense!"

In Funny Car, Ron Capps made his second straight trip to the final round in the Skoal Racing Chevrolet Camaro. Capps ran strong all day putting up consistent numbers with a 4.86 in round one, a 4.88 in round two, and a 4.91 in round three. In the finals against Frank Pedregon, Capps hazed the tires early and slowed to a 5.56 elapsed time at 180 mph while Pedregon's Firebird took the win light with a 4.902 second run at 305.98 mph.

"We went up there knowing we would be running in the left lane," said Capps. "That was fine with us because we'd been running in it all day. When the car left it didn't seem to have what it had in the rounds before. Then it drove into tire smoke. I'm disappointed we didn't win but we did everything we could."

For Capps, who was coming off last weekend's win at Bristol Dragway, it was his second final round of the year. It is also the fifth consecutive race, going back to the O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park in March, that a Don Prudhomme-owned racecar has competed in a final round. Capps is now in second place in the Funny Car standings, just 28 points behind first place John Force.

"Ace (crew chief Ed "The Ace" McCulloch) tuned it to run between a 4.85 and a 4.90 (seconds)," said Capps. "We couldn't have run like we did today without our new Camaro body. When you look on the bright side, we made up a lot of ground in the points race. We're now in second place. There are so many good Funny Cars out here, to even be in the top 10 is something to brag about."

In Pro Stock, Troy Coughlin drove the Jeg's Mail Order Chevrolet Cavalier to round two before falling to Mark Pawuk. Ron Krisher lost in round two to Mark Osborne.

"It feels great to advance from the first round," said Coughlin. "I feel like my season has turned a corner in the right direction. We qualified for the race and by doing that it also put us in the Holley Dominator Duel. Our goal was to qualify the Jeg's Cavalier for both races and we accomplished that."

Jim Yates and Greg Anderson faced each other in the finals for the second consecutive time with Yates coming out on top. Jeg Coughlin, Mike Edwards and Kurt Johnson all lost in round one; Coughlin to Greg Anderson, Edwards to Troy Coughlin, and Johnson to Jim Yates.

In Top Fuel, Larry Dixon went to the semifinals before falling to Mike Dunn, hazing the tires with a slower elapsed time of 5.579ET/178.64 mph to Dunn's 4.687 seconds at 316.23 mph. Dunn went on to win the race defeating Darrell Russell in the finals. Dixon is now second in the Winston points standings behind Dunn.

In the Sportsman categories, Joe LoCicero won in Super Stock in a 1987 Chevrolet Camaro. In Super Gas, Thomas Stalba Jr. won in an '87 Camaro and in Super Street GS Abbott won in a '76 Vega.

The next stop on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing tour is the 32nd annual Matco Tools SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions on May 17-20 in Englishtown, N.J.

-GM Racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Bob Panella , Larry Dixon , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Ron Capps , John Force , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Jeff Gracia , Don Prudhomme , Greg Stanfield , Joe LoCicero