Atlanta Top Fuel notebook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 FRAM NATIONALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK *Speed merchant: Joe Amato set an NHRA speed national record of 317.57 mph in the Keystone Automotive Warehouse Dragster at the...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761

FRAM NATIONALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK

*Speed merchant: Joe Amato set an NHRA speed national record of 317.57 mph in the Keystone Automotive Warehouse Dragster at the Slick 50 Nationals presented by Western Auto in late March at Houston.

Amato, from Old Forge, Pa., broke the record of 316.90 set by Shelly Anderson at the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals in February 1997 at Pomona, Calif. Amato also holds the NHRA elapsed-time national record of 4.564 seconds, set at the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals in February 1997 at Pomona, Calif.

"This is so much fun, to be so competitive,"Amato said. "The bubble will probably break any week, but we're rocking and rolling right now."

Five-time NHRA Winston champion Amato has won the last two NHRA national events and took the point lead from Gary Scelzi with a victory in Houston. He is making a stunning comeback after finishing seventh, fifth, 10th and sixth in the NHRA Winston standings the last four years, respectively.

"During the bad years, I had a lot of sleepless nights," Amato said. "My friends would ask, 'Why continue? Just hang it up and go play golf with us.' I just couldn't walk away that way. I still love the challenge and thrill of driving. I'm doing what I love to do."

*Join the club: Bob Vandergriff Jr. wasn't the only driver to make his first 4.5-second run at the Slick 50 Nationals presented by Western Auto. Cory McClenathan became the fourth driver in the elite group with a pass of 4.592 in the McDonald's Dragster during qualifying.

Other drivers in the 4.5's besides Vandergriff and McClenathan are Joe Amato, Kenny Bernstein and the late Blaine Johnson.

*Fuzzy is back: It didn't take Fuzzy Carter long to resurface as a Top Fuel crew chief in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series, as he took over tuning duties for Doug Herbert less than a month after being released by Pennzoil Dragster driver Eddie Hill.

Herbert's Snap-on Tools Dragster failed to qualify with Carter turning the wrenches at the Slick 50 Nationals presented by Western Auto, taking the 19th spot with a pass of 4.917 seconds, 294.40 mph.

Carter, who tuned for Hill since 1987, was released by Hill after the ATSCO Nationals in late February.

*Slick business: Most passenger cars use 10W30 motor oil, but that oil could never withstand the intense heat generated inside a Top Fuel dragster engine.

Top Fuel cars use much thicker oil than passenger cars, straight 70 oil. A Top Fuel dragster uses 14 quarts of oil on every run, while most passenger cars use five.

Oil changes also occur much more frequently in a Top Fuel dragster than a passenger car. The oil is changed after every run, so a team could use more than 100 quarts during a race weekend. The oil in a passenger car is changed every 3,000 miles or three months, so most drivers use around 25 quarts of oil per year.

*Performance prediction: Top Fuel dragsters should have no problem making a pass in the low 4.60-second range during this event if the weather cooperates, Jerzees Dragster driver Bob Vandergriff Jr. said.

"Atlanta has always been a tricky racetrack," Vandergriff said. "It seems we always have trouble getting down the back half of the racetrack. But we plan on being ready."

The elapsed-time track record for Top Fuel is 4.739 seconds, set by Scott Kalitta at the 1996 Fram Nationals.

*The home folks: Bob Vandergriff Jr. lives in Alpharetta, Ga., about 50 miles from Atlanta Dragway, so the Fram Nationals provides conveniences and headaches because it's so close to home.

"I'll go home every night and sleep in my own bed, so I'm more comfortable," Vandergriff said. "But you know all your family and friends are going to be there. You have ticket requests. You've got to make sure everybody is in the suites, you've got to make sure everybody stays out of the way because everybody wants to be a part of it, and get in the trailer and the lounges.

"It kind of becomes a little bit of chaos, but your family doesn't get to come to a lot of the races. But if you go out, do well and win, there's nobody you'd reather be around than your family and friends. I kind of enjoy it."

*Variety: No driver has ever won consecutive Top Fuel titles at the Fram Nationals, which started in 1981. Only one event on the schedule as long as the Fram Nationals can claim no repeat Top Fuel winners, the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals, which started in 1961.

Larry Dixon is the defending Top Fuel champion of this event.

*Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. April 11 and continues at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. April 12. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. April 13. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 10 a.m. April 10.

*Tickets: Tickets are available for the Fram Nationals. Call NHRA Ticket Information at (800) 884-6472 for ticket information.

*On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of live, final-round competition from the Fram Nationals at 4 p.m. (EDT) April 13. ESPN2 also will show two hours of live, Friday-night qualifying at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) April 11.

*On the Web: The NHRA home page on the World Wide Web at http://www.goracing.com/nhra/ offers more information about NHRA Winston Drag Racing, including qualifying and eliminations results, news, point standings, statistics and driver biographies. -30-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Cory McClenathan , Scott Kalitta , Bob Vandergriff , Shelly Anderson