Brainerd: Mopar eliminations summary

Mopar Funny Car Report BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 18, 2003) -- Mopar's Larry Morgan continues to improve, advancing to the second round of today's Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. Morgan moved into the second round after...

Mopar Funny Car Report

BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 18, 2003) -- Mopar's Larry Morgan continues to improve, advancing to the second round of today's Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

Morgan moved into the second round after Warren Johnson red lit in the opening stanza. But his good fortune went away in round two as Taylor Lastor clicked off a 6.921-second elapsed time at 198.99 mph. Morgan ran a slower 6.959-second elapsed time at 198.70 mph.

"We really needed lane choice to do anything today," Morgan said. "But, I'm so proud of this team. We've been one of the best running Mopar's out there, and we're really starting to show the consistency, and some of the things this team is capable of. I'll tell you what, this team has a whole lot of confidence heading into the U.S. Nationals and Indy."

Gene Wilson lost in the first round to Jeg Coughlin, Jr. Wilson, 30, posted a 6.974-second elapsed time at 198.99 mph, but his .018 of a second light wasn't good enough to hold off Coughlin's 6.930/198.86 effort.

"This team has been working incredibly hard," Wilson said. "We have been running some nice speeds, and we're also getting things squared away in the clutch area. I'm pretty pleased with where we're going with this whole team."

Allen Johnson and his Hemi-powered Dodge Stratus red lit to eventual race winner Greg Anderson in round one.


There is some relative good news coming out of Brainerd International Raceway today for Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus. Although he lost in the second round of Funny Car eliminations to Frank Pedregon, Frank's brother Tony, Baze's rival for the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship, was eliminated in the semifinal. What could have turned into a huge lead for Pedregon over Bazemore turned into just a 61-point lead, as Bazemore also outqualified Pedregon to earn additional points.

No. 3 qualifier Bazemore faced the other Pedregon brother, Cruz, in the first round, handily dismissing him with a 5.046/303.16 pass to a 5.188/279.44. Frank Pedregon outran Bazemore with a 5.102/292.58 pass in the quarterfinal, as Bazemore hazed the tires half track to post a losing 5.249/271.79.

This loss bolstered the two-time U.S. Nationals champion Bazemore's resolve to fight even harder for his first Funny Car championship in the season's remaining seven races.

"If this Matco Tools Dodge team is going to win this championship, we cannot fail," he declared. "It goes for me, it goes for everybody. I've cost this team some rounds and we've gotten beat. From this day forward it just can't happen. We're either going to come out here and race and enjoy ourselves and let come what may or we have to go out there and make stuff happen. We have to make it happen. We've got to be strong every single round.

"We had an opportunity today to put ourselves further out in front of John Force (which he did and now leads the 12-time Funny Car champion by 174 points) and potentially catch Tony and it just wasn't our day. So we're going to have to make the U.S. Nationals our day and that's what we're focusing on from now on.

"There's a reason it smoked the tires and it was in trouble from the get-go," he added. "It's the way the chips fall sometimes. We have a tremendous Matco Tools team over here. These guys are so good; they're perfect. They want this in the worst way and I want it in the worst way and as a team we're gong to succeed. We got beat as a team. I'm upset because we got beat; I'm not upset for any other reason. We just needed to win this race today and we didn't."

No. 1 qualifier and event top-speed holder (311.90 mph) Gary Scelzi was expected to win the first round of Funny Car eliminations at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway today, and he did. But it was a lucky break that got him first to the finish line, as both he and Phil Burkart Jr. smoked their tires and shut their cars off at about 1000 feet and Scelzi was able to coast his Oakley Time Bomb Dodge Stratus first across the stripe with a 5.693/178.33 pass to Burkart's 5.806/169.70.

Scelzi then faced Funny Car points leader Tony Pedregon in the second round without lane choice and had the opportunity to not only advance himself to the semifinals en route to a potential second win in two races, but also to help his teammate Whit Bazemore in the Funny Car championship by eliminating Pedregon. It was not to be as Scelzi's 5.074/300.53 lap was no match for Pedregon's winning 4.959/301.87 in the steamy 90-degree Minnesota heat.

"We weren't going to run a .95," Scelzi responded to the loss. "We didn't have the car set up to run a .95 in either lane.

"We've got a lot of tools on this car," Scelzi added. "Some of them are to help reaction times, some of them are to do different things. We've been trying to keep the car calm and obviously it worked. We were No. 1 qualifier. But my reaction times suffered. So we changed the car around first round to help my reaction times and the motor got a little ahead of itself and smoked the tires. We got very lucky first round. A lot of times when you win a national event you have a lucky round somewhere along the line that maybe you shouldn't have won, and that one would've been it.

"Then we came back and calmed things down and raced Tony Pedregon and we just got pummeled. They ran a 4.95 in the heat of the day. That's pretty darned impressive. Unfortunately, I watched the whole thing from where I was sitting."

Next up is an NHRA-sponsored testing session on Tuesday and Wednesday at Indianapolis Raceway Park before the U.S. Nationals at that facility on Labor Day weekend, which gives the Oakley Time Bomb team another chance to work on its weaker areas. "We're gong to go to Indy, we're going to test and we're going to go back and put the Alan Johnson clutch in that we tried in Chicago last week, which makes our car snap and run a little better," said the three-time Top Fuel champion in his first full season of Funny Car competition. "It's just a little aggressive on hot, slippery race tracks. That's why we didn't run it here. So, we'll go to Indy and hopefully it will be hot and slippery so we can start getting two days' worth of runs on it. And if it shows promise we will run it at the U.S. Nationals.

"If we don't, we'll get through Indy with what we've got. Obviously it works. And well go to Reading (Pa., Sept. 12-14) with Alan's clutch in the car. That's pretty much where we're at right now."

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson , Larry Morgan , Gene Wilson , Phil Burkart , Allen Johnson