ATLANTA: Finals summary

COMMERCE, Ga. - Frank Pedregon scored his fourth career NHRA Funny Car victory at Sunday's Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, the seventh race of the NHRA's 50th anniversary season. Mike Dunn, Jim Yates, Antron Brown...

COMMERCE, Ga. - Frank Pedregon scored his fourth career NHRA Funny Car victory at Sunday's Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, the seventh race of the NHRA's 50th anniversary season. Mike Dunn, Jim Yates, Antron Brown and Bob Panella also won their respective categories at the $2 million race, the seventh of 24 races in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Pedregon's first victory of the season came when opponent Ron Capps' Skoal Racing Chevrolet Camaro lost traction and Pedregon blasted down the track in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird in 4.902 seconds at 305.98 mph. Capps' Chevrolet couldn't catch Pedregon, slowing to 5.556 at 180.07. "I didn't know what had happened to Capps," said Pedregon, the winner of the 1999 US Nationals. "When that win light came on, I didn't care happen to Capps. I was just looking for (Miss Winston) Jackie (Becke) at the end of the day."

Entering the Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals, Pedregon was eighth in the NHRA Winston Funny Car points. After defeating John Force, Whit Bazemore, teammate Del Worsham and Ron Capps, Pedregon leaves Atlanta fourth in the Winston standings.

"The last time I beat John Force in the first round was in Indy," Pedregon said. "I knew it was going to be tough. I knew if we got by that round, with all the emotions that that my whole team pulled from beating Force, that we were going to go all the way. We were in the right lane all day long. At the end of the day we were winners. We were the ones squirting champagne at everyone."

Despite falling to Pedregon in the first round, Force maintains the NHRA Winston Funny Car points lead with 530 points. The runner-up finish for Capps puts him in second, 28 points behind the leader.

Dunn won his 22nd career national event after final round opponent Darrell Russell could not back up after the burnout. Dunn's Yankee dragster covered the quarter-mile distance in 4.591 at 325.06 while Russell's Amato Racing dragster registered no time and speed.

"I'll take a win any way I can get it, but for the fans you hate to make a single run," said Dunn. "We knew they had trouble warming up because they are pitted right next to us. They warmed the car up four time. You still have to go into it assuming it is going to be a race. I didn't assume we had the thing won until I saw him drive down the track."

Dunn moved back into the NHRA Winston Top Fuel points lead with the win. Larry Dixon entered the event as the leader, but Dunn Heads into the Matco Tools SuperNationals in Englishtown, N.J. 25 points ahead of Dixon. Dunn earned round wins over Steve Smith, David Grubnic, Dixon and Russell for his second win of the season.

Yates drove his Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am to his 23rd career Pro Stock victory with a pass of 6.959 at 199.43, after fellow Pontiac driver Greg Anderson left the starting line early and fouled out. The final round last weekend in Bristol, Tenn. matched Yates and Anderson, but this time Yates came away the winner.

"The one thing this team is really good at right now is staying focused on our car and not trying to work on the other guys car because they never let you," said Yates. "I've been trying to calm down and drive my side of the tree and not get excited about what the other guy is doing over there. You have no control over it."

With the win and the runner-up at the Mac Tools NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Yates overtook Warren Johnson for the NHRA Winston Pro Stock points lead.

"You can get the points lead but keeping it is something different," said Yates, a two-time NHRA Winston champion. "We won the championship back-to-back in 1996 and 97. There are three things you need to win the championship. You have to be in the running, you have to have momentum and you have to have performance. Our hot rod is pretty darn fast out there. We had lane choice every round except for the first round. I think we'll be in the hunt."

Yates used a .404 reaction time to beat Kurt Johnson and the trio of George Marnell, Mark Pawuk and Anderson all had red lights to give Yates his first win of the season.

Brown picked up his first win of the season and the seventh of his career in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category. Brown's Team 23 Suzuki gained the starting line advantage over Matt Hines, running a 7.263 at 183.72 to a 7.249 at 185.03 in an all Suzuki final.

"Going in it was going to be a tough race," said Brown. "Matt has been the man on a mission ever since he pulled up that win in Houston. We had to step up to the plate and stay consistent."

Brown's win pushed him to second in the NHRA Winston Pro Stock points standings, 59 behind the leader Hines

Panella won his 11th Pro Stock Truck title and second of the season, holding off his teammate Jeff Gracia for the victory. Panella's Panella Trucking Chevrolet S-10 covered the distance in 8.185 at 128.54 after Gracia fouled out on a red light start.

"I've been working real hard on my reaction times because I was getting sick of hearing about me getting beat on a holeshot on TV or in the magazines," said Panella, the two-time Winston Pro Stock Truck champion. "It feels really good to get both of the Panella Trucks in the finals today. Jeff 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 semi-finals

Panella and Gracia qualified in the top two spots and ended the day meeting in the final round. The win places Panella in the second spot in the Winston points behind Greg Stanfield.

"I hope it's a start of a new thing to come for the team. We've been trying real hard to get both trucks in the finals and now we want to keep it up. You know I wish GMC could've gotten their first win of the year but I'm not going to let that happen at my expense!"

Panella beat John Coughlin, Jeff Naiser and Taylor Lastor before Gracia fouled out in the final.

The next NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series event is the 32nd annual Matco Tools SuperNationals, May 17-20 at Old Bridge Township Raceway in Englishtown, N.J.


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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Frank Pedregon , Matt Hines , Bob Panella , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Jeff Gracia , Steve Smith , David Grubnic , Greg Stanfield