Brainerd Nationals Preview

SUBJECT: NHRA Champion Auto Parts Nats. Preview From NHRA for Immediate Release -- Crucial Stretch Run for Championship Begins at Brainerd -- Brainerd, Minn. -- The time for talk is over on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. There's no...

SUBJECT: NHRA Champion Auto Parts Nats. Preview From NHRA for Immediate Release --

Crucial Stretch Run for Championship Begins at Brainerd --

Brainerd, Minn. -- The time for talk is over on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. There's no more time the what would happen. What could happen. What should happen.

If competitors want to win an NHRA Winston Championship, they must get hot -- or stay hot -- at Brainerd.

The unofficial stretch run for NHRA Winston Championships will start at the 14th annual, $1,104,300 Champion Auto Stores Nationals, August 17-20 at Brainerd International Raceway. The race is the 14th event in the 19-event, $27- million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series in 1995.

A certain sense of urgency always enters the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series as it makes its annual trek to Minnesota. The reality that there are few chances left to accumulate points begins to seep into racer's minds.

That reality has helped an elite pattern develop the last few years at this event. The drivers that perform well in August at Brainerd usually ride stride across the stage as a Winston champion at the NHRA awards banquet a few months later. At least two of the pro champions at this event every year since 1990 also have won a championship the same season.

Take last year, for example. John Force won in Funny Car, David Schultz in Pro Stock Motorcycle at this event en route to NHRA Winston championships, and Top Fuel runner-up Scott Kalitta also won a championship.

In 1993, Eddie Hill won in Top Fuel, Warren Johnson in Pro Stock and Schultz in Pro Stock Motorcycle at Brainerd a few months before they won NHRA Winston championships.

While all of those drivers simply continued their season- long streaks at Brainerd, the Champion Auto Stores Nationals also can be a springboard for a late-season charge to a championship. Cruz Pedregon won this event in 1992 to start a stirring five-race winning streak as he eventually overtook Force for the Funny Car Title.

The drama could be heightened this year because of tight point races in all four pro categories.

Kalitta led Cory McClenathan by just 80 points in Top Fuel after 11 races this season, with rookie Larry Dixon just 105 points back. Force had the most comfortable lead of any of the four pro leaders with a 136-point margin over Al Hofmann, but Hofmann has shown consistency all season. And Pedregon, the king of the late-season charge, was just 208 points behind Force in third.

The stakes may be higher in Pro Stock than in any other category at the Champion Auto Stores Nationals. Warren Johnson led Jim Yates by just 10 points after 11 races. There is no margin for error in this battle.

And in interesting wrinkle should ba added into the Pro Stock mixture at Brainerd. Darrell Alderman and Scott Geoffrion, who finished 1-2 in the NHRA Winston points last year, are scheduled to return to competition at this event. The Mopar teammates have been sidelined since mid-May, when vandals entered their race shop and destroyed all six of the team's engines.

Schultz is facing his stiffest competition in two years in Pro Stock Motorcycle. He led archrival John Myers by just 31 points after 11 races, quite a contrast from his runaway championship dash of last season.


>From NHRA for Immediate Release --

Full-Time Job Keeps Pressure off Scott Kalitta During Stretch Run --

Brainerd, Minn., -- Scott Kalitta leads the NHRA Winston Top Fuel point standings heading into the stretch run, but he doesn't worry much about the pressure of trying to win a second consecutive championship.

He doesn't have the time.

Kalitta, from Chelsea, Mich., works 50 to 60 hours per week as president/owner of Trans Continental Airlines, a cargo airline based in Ypsilanti, Mich. While the high-pressure world of racing can be a crucible for many full-time drivers, it provides the perfect stress-buster for Kalitta.

"It helps a lot," Kalitta said of working in the business world. "It definitely takes your mind off of it. I come to the races to forget about work."

But it will be hard for Kalitta to forget about the close battles for the NHRA Winston championship once he arrives at Brainerd International Raceway. Kalitta has three victories this season in the American International Airways Dragster and leads second-place Cory McClenathan by 65 points. Despite the close points race, the laid-back Kalitta appears more relaxed than ever.

After all, racing is just a hobby for him. He'll let rivals McClenathan, Larry Dixon and Mike Dunn, all full-time drivers, fret about points, clutch discs and championships.

"The pressure is not as great," Kalitta said. "We've done it once already, so if we don't do it this year, we'll do it again next year. I guess the biggest thing is to try and not get caught up in the big picture and go out and have some fun and try to win rounds.

Working full-time in the air-cargo business helps keeps Scott Kalitta's mind off the pressure of chasing another NHRA Winston Top Fuel championship, but it doesn't give him much time to celebrate when he wins a race.

When Kalitta won the Western Auto Nationals presented by Slick 50 in early July at Topeka, Kan., and the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals in mid-July at Denver, he spoke with the media, posed for photos in the winner's circle and jumped in an airplane to fly home to Chelsea, Mich.

He had to work at 9 the next morning.

"We got home at 3 o'clock in the morning, and nine o'clock we went back to work, and it was like it didn't even happen," Kalitta said of his victories. "And when I go home, and we do good, it would be nice to be able to think about it a bit more and digest it, but there isn't time."

Scott Kalitta loves to race his American International Airways Dragster on weekends, but he would never trade his business suit for a firesuit on a full-time business. "First off, chances are you wouldn't make as much money," Kalitta said with a laugh.

******************************************************************* From NHRA for Immediate Release --

Big Potential Payday Motivates Etchells in Funny Car --

The prestige of a championship may be out of reach for Chuck Etchells, but the purchasing power of a freshly-padded wallet is not.

Etchells admits that his chances for winning the NHRA Winston Funny Car championship this season are over, as he's nearly 400 points behind leader John Force after 13 of 19 races. But Etchells' contracts with sponsors Kendall Motor Oil and Superwinch are loaded with financial incentives for strong results, providing plenty of motivation during the final stretch of the season.

"Every race we go to, there's a lot more there than the purse," Etchells said. "We have a lot on top, and we want to try to clean up all our incentives, which we've been doing a terrible job at.

"So there's a lot laying there we've got to take in."

The season has been a struggle for Etchells, from Putnam Conn. He was expected to contend for the NHRA Winston championship after hiring talented crew chief Tim Richards and key crew member Kim LaHaie but has no victories and has appeared in just one final round.

Consistency hasn't been a big problem for Etchells, though. He has lost in the first round just three times all season in the Kendall GT-1 Dodge Avenger but has had trouble breaking the barrier between himself and the final round.

"If we were making a lot of real stupid mistakes, it would bother me a lot more," Etchells said. "But when you're not catching breaks, you can't let that eat you up. We need to catch some breaks. It's got to happen and we're going to win one of these pretty quick."

Chuck Etchells won the Funny Car title at the 1993 Champion Auto Stores Nationals at Brainerd, Minn., so he knows how to get down the quarter-mile at Brainerd International Raceway.

Brainerd is a driver's track, pure and simple, Etchells said.

"The middle is pretty slippery," Etchells said. "There's not much out there and the car definitely wants to break the tires loose in the middle.

"As a driver, you have to pay real close attention to where you are on the track, because if you're out to half-track or further and you start spinning the tires, normally if you stay with it you can drive through it.

"You've got to really make the right decision at that track. A driver has got to make the right call."

There's a very good chance that the winner of the Champion Auto Stores Nationals will win the NHRA Winston Funny Car Championship this season. Four of the five winners of this event since 1990 also have won the championship the same season. John Force pulled off the double in 1990, 1191 and 1994; Cruz pedregon did it in 1192.

The only driver who didn't win the Champion Auto Stores Nationals title and the championship in the same season was Chuck Etchells, who won at Brainerd in 1993 and finished second in the championship chase.

******************************************************************* From NHRA for Immediate Release --

The clutch virus that has plagued most NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car teams this season continues to bother Chuck Etchells.

Etchells lost a semifinal matchup against Gary Densham at the Northwest Nationals earlier this month when the clutch broke midway through the run in his Kendall GT-1 Dodge Avenger.

It was another example of a team struggling with the new clutch discs. Raybestos, the clutch disc of choice in NHRA fuel racing, changed the composition of its discs earlier this season. That change forced crew chiefs to search for old discs or struggle to adjust their set-up to work with the new discs.

"It still drives you crazy," Etchells said. Etchells' crew member Kim LaHaie has devised a method to check the new discs for uniformity, but its not yet a perfect science.

"You're trying to come up with the best guess," Etchells said. "But that's still kind of what it is. You still can't take the disc apart and inspect it. It;s not like the Simpson trial, the DNA testing, you know."

Larry Meyer has joined the Rug Doctor Funny Car team as a consultant to crew chief Johnny West. Meyer served as crew chief for Cruz Pedregon when he won the NHRA Winston Funny Car championship in 1992.

Jim Epler drives the Rug Doctor Oldsmobile Cutlass. Epler, from Phoenix, is 11th in the NHRA Winston standings with no victories this season.

All Hofmann has won four NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series national events in one season for the first time in his Funny Car career, which started in 1987. Hofmann, from Umatilla, Fla., drove the Western Auto Pontiac Firebird past Gary Densham to win the Northwest Nationals on Aug. 8 at Seattle. Hofmann is second in the NHRA Winston point standings, 41 behind leader John Force.

John Force lost in the first round to K.C. Spurlock at the Northwest Nationals earlier this month at Seattle, his earliest defeat since losing in the first round of the Mid- South Nationals in May 1994 at Memphis, Tenn. Force had won at least one round in his Castrol GTX entries at 25 consecutive NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series national events before this race.

*********************************************************************** From NHRA For Immediate Release --

Mistakes Helped Yates Reach Elite Level in Pro Stock --

Brainerd, Minn., -- It may sound odd, but a healthy dose of stupidity helped Jim Yates reach the elite level of NHRA Pro Stock racing.

Yates is second in the NHRA Winston point standings this season in the McDonald's Pontiac Firebird, just 34 points behind leader Warren Johnson. Yates, from Alexandria, Va., has continued his rapid rise through the Pro Stock ranks, as he finished fourth last year.

But none of this success could have happened without the utter failure of 1993, when Yates finished 13th in the standings and didn't even qualify for seven national events.

"We made a lot of mistakes that year," Yates said. "Stupid mistakes. They're stupid now. We didn't they were stupid when we made them.

"We learned a lot from our failures that year. That's helping us to maintain consistent performance this year."

And how. Yates has been a model of consistency this season as he enters the 14th annual, Champion Auto Stores Nationals, August 17-20 at Brainerd International Raceway.

Yates has appeared in sis final rounds this season, the most of any Pro Stock driver, and won the Autolite Nationals last month at Sonoma, Calif. That consistency has kept him either first or second in the NHRA Winston points since late May.

It's quite a change from 1993, when just making the field was a struggle. The memories of that nightmare help to provide emotional balance for Yates.

"I don't think we're to the point where we're allowing ourselves to become self-destructive and worry about it," Yates said. "Because that's all worrying does. We have a positive attitude."

Yates has finished runner-up five times in six final rounds this season in the McDonald's Pontiac Firebird, and he still wonders why some people consider that to be a dubious record.

"When we're runner-up, we thank God," Yates said. "I mean, that's great. We're runner-up. A lot of people say, 'What happened? Why didn't you win the race?' There are a lot of people here that would like to be runner-up. I still think we're doing really well.

"we're trying to keep it in perspective. We're trying to remember there are guys out here with a lot more experience than us that aren't doing nearly as well as we're doing."

No NHRA Pro Stock driver has reached as many final rounds since June 1994 as Jim Yates. Yates has appeared in 10 of the 24 NHRA Pro Stock final rounds since the Oldsmobile Springnationals in June 1994 at Columbus, Ohio. He has appeared in six of 13 final rounds this year.

"It's a very simple mathematical equation," Yates said. "You win rounds. The more rounds you win, the more they add up and the quicker you get to the points lead. Right now, our program is based upon that. It just takes not making mistakes more than anything."

Jim Yates will concede that Warren Johnson has one important edge in their battle for the NHRA Winston Pro Stock championship: experience.

Johnson has won Winston championships in 1992 and 1993. He also has finished runner-up six times. Yates has won no championships, and his best finish was fourth last year.

"Warren has the experience," Yates said. "But we've proven ourselves worthy this year."

Yates also thinks that Johnson's experience could backfire. Now when it goes down to the last couple of races, he has lost Winston championships when they were close. Maybe that will work on him, I don't know. His failures could be a downfall again."

Despite his impressive season, Jim Yates insists that his best performance will come later in the season.

Crew chief and cylinder-head wizard Richard Maskin could produce about five to 10 more horsepower by the U.S. Nationals in early September in Indianapolis, Yates said. Yates also indicated he is working hard on producing better reaction times to the starting light.

"Everything we do is to try and move forward," Yates said. "We just have to keep going that way. We don't see an end in sight right now."

Variety has become the hallmark of Pro Stock racing at the Champion Auto Stores Nationals this decade as no driver has won more than one title at this event since 1990. Jim Yates won in 1994, Warren Johnson in 1993, Bob GLIdden in 1992, Darrell Alderman in 1991 and Bruce Allen in 1990.

The Champion Auto Stores Nationals is one of only four NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series national events without a repeat Pro Stock champion during the 1990s. The others are the Fram Nationals at Atlanta, the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals at Denver and the Chief Auto Parts Nationals at Dallas.

Warren Johnson earned his 50th victory by winning the Northwest Nationals earlier this month at Seattle and became the second-winningest pro driver in NHRA history.

Pro Stock driver Bob Glidden is No. 1 with 85 victories. Johnson drove his GM Performance Parts Oldsmobile Cutlass past Glidden to win at Seattle. Johnson, from Duluth, Ga., earned his first NHRA victory at Englishtown, N.J. All 50 of his victories have come in an Oldsmobile.

Warren Johnson earned Oldsmobile's 400th national-event victory in NHRA competition at the Northwest Nationals on Aug. 8 at Seattle. Buddy Sampson scored Oldsmobile's first NHRA victory at the 1957 U.S. Nationals. Since then, 89 Olds drivers have won NHRA events.

"There aren't many people who have won 400 times in any sport, so we're pretty damn proud of 400 wins in NHRA drag racing," said Oldsmobile General Manager John Rock.

Oldsmobile is withdrawing from drag racing after the 1995 season to concentrate on its road-racing program. Olds has won 13 NHRA Manufactures Championships, including the last 11.

****************************************************************** From NHRA For Immediate Release --

Schultz-Myers Bike Battle to Continue at Brainerd --

Brainerd, Minn. -- The names and positions at the top may be the same, but that's about the only similarity between NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racing this year and last year.

David Schultz leads the point standings on the Sunoco Suzuki GSXR, and John Myers is second on the Snap-on Tools Suzuki GSXR. But unlike last year, there is a tight race for the NHRA Winston championship.

That battle will resume at the 14th annual, $1,104,300 Champion Auto Stores Nationals, August 17-20 at Brainerd International Raceway. The race is the 14th event in the 19-event, $27-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series in 1995.

Schultz leads Myers by just 31 points entering Brainerd. Just two rounds of eliminations separate Myers from the point lead, and that's quite a change from last season, when Schultz crushed the field with a record winning streak of eight races.

"We just need to keep on doing what we have been doing." Myers said. "Last year at the halfway point, we weren't looking to good. This year, we're looking great."

Schultz and Myers have monopolized the NHRA Winston championship this decade, as Schultz won in 1991, 1993 and 1994, and Myers in 1990 and 1992. A glance at the pertinent statistics shows their dominance of the category has extended into this year.

Both have three wins. Schultz has appeared in five final rounds; Myers four. Both have 21-4 won-loss records during eliminations this season.

"It's anybody's dogfight out there now," Schultz said. "That's usually not the case for Pro Stock Bike. Now it seems to see-saw every round."

"It's really interesting for the fans. I hate it," Schultz said, laughing.

David Schultz sent shivers up the spines of his competitors with a reported test run of 7.42 seconds, 183,07 mph the week of July 10 in Florida on the Sunoco Suzuki GSXR.

Schultz, from Fort Myers Fla., is rumored to have made four runs in the 7.40s and eclipsed the 182-mph mark on two of them.

Schultz holds the NHRA elapsed-time and speed national records. He set the elapsed-time record of 7.503 seconds in March at the Slick 50 Nationals presented by Western Auto at Topeka, Kan., and set the speed record of 182.14 mph in June at the Virginia is for Lovers Nationals at Richmond, Va.

David Schultz and John Myers have dominated the three years of Pro Stock Motorcycle competition at the Champion Auto Stores Nationals. Schultz won at Brainerd in 1994 and 1993, while Myers won the inaugural Pro Stock Motorcycle race at the track in 1992.


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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Darrell Alderman , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , John Force , Chuck Etchells , Gary Densham , Bob Glidden , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Scott Kalitta , Bruce Allen , Tim Richards