Columbus Funny Car notebook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 PONTIAC EXCITEMENT NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Paying dues: Dean Skuza knows that there are few overnight successes in drag racing, so he understands that...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761

PONTIAC EXCITEMENT NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Paying dues: Dean Skuza knows that there are few overnight successes in drag racing, so he understands that time and effort will be necessary to challenge six-time NHRA Winston champion John Force. "You say, 'Look at Force. Why can't we run like that?'" Skuza said. "Well, look at what he's done. He's been racing for a long time. He's had significant budget for 10 years. He's got a program. "Why should I think I can come out here and in five years whip his butt? I can't think like that." *Sweet relief: Whit Bazemore admits that it took awhile for his first career victory to sink in. Bazemore, a ninth-year pro from Indianapolis, earned his first win in the Team Winston Ford Mustang at the Western Auto Parts America Nationals presented by Slick 50 on June 1 at Topeka, Kan. "I got up, went into the shop today and told the guys, 'It's real. It really happened,'" Bazemore said. "It was such a relief to get that first win." *Speedy: Whit Bazemore became the first Funny Car driver to record four consecutive 300-mph speeds during eliminations this season when he won the Western Auto Parts America Nationals earlier this month at Topeka, Kan. John Force last achieved the feat at the Sears Craftsman Nationals in September 1996 at Heartland Park Topeka. *Variety show: Seven drivers have won a Funny Car title in the first nine NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series national events this season, quite a change from last year. Only four drivers -- John Force, Al Hofmann, Tony Pedregon and Chuck Etchells -- won through the first nine races in 1996. Pedregon was the only first-time winner among that group. Three first-time winners have emerged this season in Funny Car: Randy Anderson, Kenji Okazaki and Whit Bazemore. Dean Skuza knows he must be added to the list of first-time winners soon to be considered a real contender for an NHRA Winston championship in the future. He is winless in four career final rounds, including the ATSCO Nationals in February at Phoenix. "What we need to do is to learn how to win," Skuza said. "Guys like Chuck Etchells, Cruz Pedregon, John Force, they're all winners. They can come in, and it won't surprise anybody if they win four or five races in a row. "It would really surprise us to win one because we haven't won one yet. It's kind of like an NFL team making the playoffs for the first time. They come back the second year and go a little further and a little further. And then like the Packers, they're the champs." *On the sidelines: Funny Car driver Al Hofmann did not compete at the Western Auto Parts America Nationals due to side effects from medication prescribed to him since suffering a broken right arm and lacerated left hand in a crash after winning the Mac Tools Gatornationals in March at Gainesville, Fla. Cory Lee served as substitute driver for Hofmann. Lee also is crew chief for the Pioneer Electronics Dodge Avenger driven by Tom Hoover. Lee did not qualify in the Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird. *Back in the saddle: Tom Hoover returned to driving the Pioneer Electronics Dodge Avenger at the Western Auto Parts America Nationals after missing four consecutive NHRA national events and the non-points Winston Invitational due to heart-bypass surgery. *Bursting with pride: Like all racers, Dean Skuza is happy that the aging track at National Trail Raceway was resurfaced last year before the Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Slick 50. But Skuza also is happy that NHRA is getting closer to finishing its multimillion-dollar renovation of the venerable facility, which it bought in October 1995. The new, state-of-the-art tower complex, complete with luxury suites, will be open for this event. "It makes me proud," Skuza said. "It used to be, 'Columbus is my home track, and it's a real hole.' No one wants that. I think it's great for the fans, too. They deserve that. They need to see that. I'm glad that NHRA made a good track for them." *Part of the game: Dean Skuza admits that it's harder for him to race at National Trail Raceway due to many friends and family members who travel from his home in Brecksville, Ohio, and the Cleveland area to attend the race. But he's not seeking any sympathy. "Everybody who races has a local track," Skuza said. "It might not be as close as this one is to our house, but they all go through the same thing." *Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. June 13 and continues at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. June 14. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. June 15. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 8 a.m. June 12. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing. Call NHRA Ticketing at (800) 884-6472. *On TV: ABC will televise one hour of highlights from the Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing at 1 p.m. (EDT) June 22. *On the Web: The NHRA home page on the World Wide Web at http://www.goracing.com/nhra/ offers more information about NHRA Winston Drag Racing, including qualifying and eliminations results, news, point standings, statistics and driver biographies. -30- 6/4/97-CO3-088

-- Paul Kelly Kelly Communications/NHRA Communications (315) 673-0184 (phone, fax) pkcny@ibm.net (e-mail)

Jack Durbin indy500@freenet.tlh.fl.us Motorsport News International jackd@motorsport.com (Moderators for "rec.autos.sport.info") Homepage http://www.freenet.tlh.fl.us/users/indy500/index.html

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Dean Skuza , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Chuck Etchells , Cruz Pedregon , Cory Lee , Paul Kelly