Castrol Trucks at St. Louis

MADISON, Ill. - Badly in need of some positive reinforcement, rookie Rob Slavinski leads the Castrol Super Clean Pro Stock Truck team back to Gateway International Raceway this week (June 22-24) hoping to duplicate the victory which just two...

MADISON, Ill. - Badly in need of some positive reinforcement, rookie Rob Slavinski leads the Castrol Super Clean Pro Stock Truck team back to Gateway International Raceway this week (June 22-24) hoping to duplicate the victory which just two years ago established Kessinger Motorsports as a major player in the NHRA's Winston Series.

Slavinski, an NHRA national event winner in three different categories, figures he's no less an underdog than was Tim Freeman who, in his first race for truck owner Jim Kessinger, stunned chassis builder Jerry Haas to win the 1998 Sears Craftsman Nationals.

Since then, two other drivers including Steve Johns, Slavinski's Castrol Super Clean teammate, have won races in Kessinger-prepared Chevy trucks. Slavinski, a winner in Competition, Super Comp and Super Gas before moving up to Pro Stock Truck this season, hopes to become the fourth member of that fraternity.

To do so, the 39-year-old resident of Wallingford, Conn., will have to reverse a trend which has left him outside the starting lineup in each of the last four races in the truck series. He took the first step last week at Columbus, Ohio, where he missed the field by only .009 of a second. He believes he might even have qualified had he not been forced to abort one of his four qualifying runs because of a transmission failure.

"The Pro Stock Truck class is so competitive that you can't afford to give away a qualifying run," Slavinski said. "It was very frustrating because we had a much better truck at Columbus than we had before went sent it back to Haas three weeks ago. We actually got in the show on the last run but then got bumped out.

"I don't think there's a more competitive class right now than the truck class," Slavinski continued. "But we're determined to turn this thing around."

Johns, Crew Chief on the Larry Kopp-driven Chevy truck that won the 1998 Winston Championship, has had some success this season but hasn't come close to the performance that enabled him to upset Winston Champion and current points leader Bob Panella Jr. to win last year's season-ending AAA of Southern California Finals.

After qualifying at the season's first four races, a credible feat, Slavinski suddenly hit the wall. Now, he hopes the combination of Haas chassis work and Bill Jenkins' horsepower will put him back in contention.

While his problems have not been as serious as Slavinski's, teammate Johns also has struggled, failing to qualify in the season's second race after reaching the semifinals in the first.

As a result, the Jenkins Performance shop foreman has fallen back to fifth place in points while Bob Panella Jr. and Randy Daniels, to whom Johns has lost in the two most recent events, have dominated.

    "We're both very competitive," Slavinski said, "and what's been
happening is totally unacceptable.  We're determined to do what every it
takes to turn this around.  This week would be nice." DID YOU KNOW:

Rich Purdy, Crew Chief on Steve Johns' Castrol Super Clean pickup, four times was named Craftsman Crew Chief of the Race while with two-time Winston Pro Stock Champion Jim Yates....Greg Guadagnolo, Crew Chief of Rob Slavinski's Chevy S-10, served in the same capacity last year for Brad Jeter, who won three races and finished second in points behind Bob Panella....despite four consecutive qualifying disappointments, Slavinski is tied for 16th in season points....of Slavinski's seven career victories on the NHRA tour, each was earned in a different state.....Steve Johns won the 1992 World Championship in the Competition class after sharing the honor three years earlier as Crew Chief to owner/driver Bob Kaiser.


Pro Qualifying at 4:45 p.m. and 8:45 (ET) on Friday, June 22, and Saturday, June 23. Finals starting at 5 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, June 24.


Two-hour qualifying highlights at 8 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, June 24, and two hours of race coverage at 10 p.m. on Sunday, June 25, on ESPN2. "NHRA Heat" at 6:30 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, June 22, also on ESPN 2.

TRUCK POINTS: 1. Bob Panella Jr. 802, 2. Randy Daniels 788, 3. Greg Stanfield 514, 4. John Coughlin 425, 5. Steve Johns, Castrol Super Clean Chevy, 409, 6. Brian Self 398, 7. Rick Jones, 382, 8. Mike Coughlin 343, 9. Jeff Gracia 33 9, 10. John Lingenfelter 320.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Larry Kopp , Jeff Gracia , Randy Daniels , Mike Coughlin , John Lingenfelter , Tim Freeman , Brian Self , Jerry Haas , Steve J