NHRA WINSTON DRAG RACING SERIES Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals Atlanta Dragway -- Commerce, Ga. May 13-16, 1998 Seventh of the 22-event 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series TOP FUEL FUNNY CAR -- Capps and Bazemore Looking for First...
NHRA WINSTON DRAG RACING SERIES Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals Atlanta Dragway -- Commerce, Ga. May 13-16, 1998 Seventh of the 22-event 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series
TOP FUEL FUNNY CAR -- Capps and Bazemore Looking for First Win
Ron Capps, in the Copenhagen Camaro Z28, and Whit Bazemore, Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28, are the only Camaro Funny Car drivers in the field. In 1998 in Atlanta Capps qualified 10th, advanced to the second round, then was defeated by John Force. Bazemore had not yet joined Team Chevrolet. His current car owner, Chuck Etchells, however, driving the Kendall Camaro, qualified 12th, advanced to the semifinals, and was defeated by Cruz Pedregon.
Bazemore, of Indianapolis, grew up in Atlanta as a teenager. Fascinated by drag racing, his first visit to an NHRA event was over 20 years ago at Atlanta Dragway. This is Whit's 10th appearance as a driver at the Atlanta Dragway. His best result is a semi-final finish in 1996. Whit is still looking for his first win since joining Team Chevrolet in mid-1998.
Capps, of Carlsbad, Calif., arrives in Atlanta following a promising test session at Virginia Motorsports Park, near Richmond. After finishing second in the Winston Championship in 1998 and winning more events than any other driver (five), Capps is struggling this season and has yet to win a round.
BAZEMORE: "I remember the first time I went to the Atlanta Dragway. I went with a schoolmate of mine, Hank Young, who to this day has a street rod business in Atlanta. His family was big into cars, as I was, and we loved drag racing. It was about 1977 or '78, and our mothers took us up there on a Friday. To show you how big a deal it was to us, they pulled us out of school for a day to take us to the races. The first car I saw there was a Fuel Funny Car -- Tom McEwen's Corvette. I remember very vividly seeing that car run -- it really got my attention. I think my future was pretty well sealed. It scared the hell out of me, but I thought it was the most awesome race car I had seen at the time, and I wanted to drive one. So I devoted my life to achieving that goal, and here I am."
CAPPS: "We had a good test session, and having moved the engine forward on the chassis before Richmond was definitely an improvement. It's obvious we're still struggling. By no means is it a lack of effort by anybody on the crew. We want to roll into Atlanta and hopefully give everybody something to talk about."
PRO STOCK -- Kurt Johnson is on Top of the World; Mike Edwards Wants the World to Help
Kurt Johnson, in the ACDelco Camaro Z28, and Mike Edwards, Dewco Sales Camaro Z28, are currently the only two new Camaro Z28s in the Pro Stock field.
Johnson, of Sugar Hill, Ga., is atop the Winston Championship point standings, with two title wins in '99 under his belt. He holds the national e.t. record for the first time since '94. He officially became the quickest Pro Stock driver on the planet with a record-breaking 6.840-second e.t. in Richmond.
Edwards, of Broken Arrow, Okla., is struggling with his new Camaro Z28 body and chassis, but has shown progress with two final-round appearances this season after not qualifying in the first three events. Edwards joined Team Chevrolet for the '99 season. He was No. 3 qualifier here in '98, advancing to the second round, where he was defeated. Edwards and his wife Lisa are working on programs to assist the victims of the recent deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma. These storms came as close as 25 miles to their home.
EDWARDS: "The major tornadoes were about 100 miles from us, but there was one in Tulsa just about 25 miles away. We flew into Tulsa from Richmond at 10:30 p.m. on Monday night, and at 11:30 a tornado hit Tulsa. Most people think this will never happen to them, but it can happen to them. It's total devastation. People work all their lives for what they have, and now they have nothing. We should all help these victims, and not just the ones in Oklahoma. Our church, the Church of God, in Oklahoma City is serving three meals a day for the victims. It was reported that the winds reached 318 mph. We can relate to that kind of speed, and with the tornados twisting at those speeds, it's absolutely unbelievable." ON RACING IN ATLANTA: "We've done pretty well in Atlanta. It's a good track, but it can be a little tough at times when it gets hot and nasty. We've come such a long way in about two to three races. I'd like to keep advancing and keep getting better. The car is still not where we need it to be. Every car changes from track to track, we just need to keep making better runs and getting more consistent. We need to start qualifying in the top half of the field, like we did in Virginia. Lane choice is critical. If you don't have lane choice it can really determine the outcome."
JOHNSON: "We test all the time at Atlanta Dragway, but after NHRA's track crew scrapes all of the old rubber off the surface, it will be a totally different race track. We have a tune-up that works when we're out there by ourselves, but who knows what the track is going to be like? The surface is very porous, so it should be a better race track when they're done with it."
PRO STOCK TRUCK -- Mark Osborne Seeks Third Win; Kopp is Chasing His First
This weekend's Pro Stock Truck event is the fifth of the 1999 season. Chevy S-10 Pickup drivers have dominated this category in its second year, winning each of the five races.
Mark Osborne, driving the RCL Components Chevy S-10, of Abingdon, Va., leads the point standings and has two event titles to his credit. Osborne will not defend his Pro Stock title here in Atlanta. He defeated Bruce Allen in the Pro Stock final last year. At the end of '99 he announced he would compete in Pro Stock Truck for Kessinger Motorsports.
Larry Kopp, in the Speedco Truck Lube Chevy S-10, of Baltimore, Md., is the defending Winston Champion and also the defending event champion. Kopp made up for red-lighting in the first event of this category's inaugural season in 1998 by claiming all the points in the second event in Atlanta. He continued to dominate the series, becoming the first Pro Stock Truck champion in NHRA's history.
OSBORNE: "Atlanta has always been a great track for me, I've had a lot of success here in the past. It's still my home track until Bristol (Dragway), Tenn., opens. It's not so much my driving style here, I'm just real comfortable racing here. I don't feel so much like an alien because it's so close to home. Because I've won a few races here I've sort of developed a little bit of a fan following. That always makes it nice."
KOPP: "It's just awesome how we put this together and came out and dominated in 1998. But it's not so easy this year. I predicted that it would be tougher this season, as the rest of the competition catches up. We're sort of struggling, but we're all right. Winning a championship might only come once in a lifetime to a driver. We've done that. But we're certainly not giving up. We have to work out the combination. Once we do that, we'll be right back on top."
ADVANCE AUTO PARTS NHRA SOUTHERN NATIONALS SCHEDULE:
* Pro Stock Truck qualifying begins May 13 at noon. Pro Stock Truck eliminations begin at 11 a.m. May 15.
* All professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. (EDT) on May 14 and at 11:15 a.m. and 4 p.m. on May 15.
* Final professional eliminations start at 11 a.m. May 16.
Fox Sports will televise two hours of final round coverage on May 16 at 7 p.m. (local time). Speedvision will televise two hours of first round coverage at 1 p.m. (EDT) on May 16. In addition, Speedvision will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 8 pm. (EDT) on May 15, and a repeat of final round coverage at 9 pm. (EDT) May 20.