Chicago FRAM Route 66 Nationals story

DUNN, WILKERSON, JOHNSON, HINES AND PANELLA WIN FRAM ROUTE 66 NATIONALS JOLIET, Ill. -- Mike Dunn claimed his third Top Fuel victory of the season and in the process increased his Winston points lead by winning Sunday's FRAM Route 66 ...


JOLIET, Ill. -- Mike Dunn claimed his third Top Fuel victory of the season and in the process increased his Winston points lead by winning Sunday's FRAM Route 66 Nationals near Chicago. Dunn, from Wrightsville, Pa., powered his Team Mopar dragster down Route 66 Raceway's quarter-mile, posting a winning run of 4.702 seconds at 316.67 mph, to defeat defending event champion Kenny Bernstein, who lost traction at the start in his Budweiser King dragster. "This win means so much to this team," Dunn said. "We've been strugging a little bit during the last few races. This is a big lift and it puts us in great position heading into the long summer months. I'm looking forward to Columbus this weekend, I think we can do it again." Tim Wilkerson, Warren Johnson, Matt Hines and Bob Panella were also winners in their respective pro categories at the $1.8 million race, the ninth of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Dunn used a combination of his driving talents and crew chief Ken Veney's consistent tuning to defeat David Grubnic, Larry Dixon and Jim Head to advance to the final round. "We had our share of good luck and bad luck during this race," Dunn said. "We got lucky in the first round because we put out a cylinder against Dave Grubnic. Against Jim Head, we were fortunate to win a tire-smoking peadling match. In the final, Veney just tuned the car for what he tought it could run in that lane and it worked. That just shows you what kind to tuner he is." Dunn extended his Winston points lead to 126 over second-place Bernstein with the victory. Illinois native Wilkerson, from nearby Springfield, claimed a popular Funny Car victory by upsetting season-long dominator John Force in a classic tire-smoking final round battle. Wilkerson was emotional following his long-awaited first win. "John's been dominating the class all year, so for a Pontiac Firebird to beat him and to get my first win against him is pretty special," Wilkerson said. "We're going to celebrate this while we can. I don't think we're going to keep (Force) down for very long though." Force's Ford Mustang smoked the tires at the start, giving way to first-time winner Wilkerson's Pontiac Firebird, which also lost traction but managed to cross the finish line under power at 5.970 at 239.06. "I saw him fade off and my car started to shudder right," said Wilkerson, who earned round victories over Whit Bazemore, Cory Lee and Dean Skuza to advance to the final round. "My car started hauling on down there and then it got out of the groove. Then it started smoking the tires. Fortunately I got it back in the groove and it started going straight. That's when I knew I had won the race." With the runner-up finish, Force increased his Winston points lead to 244 over second place driver and teammate Tony Pedregon. Wilkerson moves to sixth in the standings with the win and earns an automatic starting position in the inaugural Winston Showdown, NHRA's all-star event, July 8-10 at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway. Johnson, from Buford, Ga., took his fourth Pro Stock victory of the season, winning a close final round contest with Troy Coughlin. Coughlin got the holeshot start in an Oldsmobile Cutlass, but Johnson's Pontiac Firebird was too strong, posting a winning run of 6.987 at 198.06. It was Johnson's 76th career victory, tying him with Force for second on NHRA's all- time winner's list behind Bob Glidden's 85. "I don't think we had any kind of dominating performance this weekend but it was good enough to win," said Johnson, who had to oust three of his toughest rivals -- Richie Stevens, Jeg Coughlin and Jim Yates -- to reach the final. "If you do a decent job of driving the car and don't shoot yourself in the foot with the setup, you should at least be competitive." Johnson extended his Winston points lead to 99 over son Kurt. Trinidad, Colo.'s Hines scored his first Pro Stock Motorcycle victory of the season and 21st of his career on his Eagle One Suzuki, denying Steve Johnson a first career NHRA win. Hines covered the distance in 7.365 at 182.75, while Johnson's Suzuki was a tick slower, running 7.530 at 175.39. "This could be my most satisfying win ever," Hines said. "We've been working hard to get this new bike in order and it looks like it's finally coming around. Angelle has been dominating this season and for us to get a win here where she went out in an early round really helps us in the points. It feels really good to be back in the winner's circle." Seeling, who lost in the second round to Johnson, holds a 123 point advantage in the Winston standings over Hines, who moved into second place with the victory. Panella, from Stockton, Calif., earned his first Pro Stock Truck victory of the season and in the process won a special $10,000 'double-up' bonus for winning the race and Saturday's $20,000 Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel, bringing his weekend payday to over $40,000. Panella drove his Panella Trucking Chevrolet S-10 to a 7.670 at 175.84 to defeat first- time finalist Dale Eaton, who ran 7.864 at 173.01 in a Dodge Dakota. Panella defeated Jerry Haas in Saturday's special Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel, featuring the eight-quickest trucks during qualifying in six designated events. "This weekend has been a dream come true," said Panella, also the category's No. 1 qualifier. "It's been amazing, everything just fell into place for us as the weekend went along. The truck ran great and we had a great combination for this track." Mark Osborne holds onto the Winston points lead in Pro Stock Truck by 42 over Panella. Brad Jeter is third, 54 points out of first. The estimated four-day attendance was 136,500. The next NHRA event is the 35th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing, June 10-13 at National Trail Raceway near Columbus, Ohio.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Bob Panella , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Brad Jeter , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , Whit Bazemore , John Force , David Grubnic , Bob Glidden , Tim Wilkerson , Cory Lee , Jerry Haas , Steve Johnson