Columbus Top Fuel notebook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 PONTIAC EXCITEMENT NATIONALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK *Different style: Scott Kalitta admits that the laid-back style of his new crew chief Ed "The Ace" McCulloch suits him...


Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761


*Different style: Scott Kalitta admits that the laid-back style of his new crew chief Ed "The Ace" McCulloch suits him better than that of former tuner Dick LaHaie. "It's a little bit different relationship," Kalitta said. "Dick was really intense. Ed is a little bit easier to work with. It makes it a little bit easier." *Like clockwork: The Top Fuel dragster owned and tuned by Alan Johnson has won at least one round of eliminations at the last 27 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series national events in which it was raced in eliminations. The last time Johnson's car lost in the first round was September 1995, when his brother, the late Blaine Johnson, lost to Larry Dixon at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Blaine Johnson won at least one round at the last four events of 1995 and 14 events in 1996 before his death in a qualifying crash at the U.S. Nationals. Gary Scelzi has advanced to at least the semifinals in all nine races this year in the Team Winston Dragster, owned and tuned by Alan Johnson. Scelzi leads the NHRA Winston standings by 157 points -- more than a race worth -- over second-place Joe Amato. Scott Kalitta used similar consistency to win NHRA Winston championships in 1994 and 1995, and he admits that Scelzi will be impossible to catch if he keeps winning rounds at every national event. "I think he's too far ahead," Kalitta said of his chances of catching Scelzi. "I'm fourth, but I think he's 200 or 300 points ahead of me. I think if we can get into the top three, that would be good." Scelzi is 306 points ahead of Kalitta. *She's back: Cristen Powell will return to the driver's seat of the Royal Purple Motor Oil Dragster after skipping the Western Auto Parts America Nationals presented by Slick 50, May 29-June 1 at Topeka, Kan., to attend her graduation ceremony June 1 in her hometown of Portland, Ore. Powell, 18, became quite the sensation by winning the Mopar Parts Nationals, May 15-18 at Englishtown, N.J. She became the second-youngest driver to win a pro category in NHRA history and only the fifth woman to win a Top Fuel title. "This is wonderful," Powell said after winning at Englishtown. "It's an amazing feeling. People always said winning was wonderful, and I underestimated it. Now I know how wonderful it is." *Hometown hero: Jim Head, from Columbus, has struggled lately in the Close Call Phone Card Top Fuel Dragster, failing to qualify for three of the last four NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series national events. Head failed to qualify for consecutive races in late April at Richmond, Va., and early May at Dallas, a career-first. "This is the worst time of my drag-racing life," Head said. "I've never gone through a period like this." Head has tumbled from 10th to 13th in the NHRA Winston standings during his tough stretch. *Good company: Scott Kalitta would join an elite group of four drivers who have won the Top Fuel title at least three times at the Pontiac Excitement Nationals if he wins this year at National Trail Raceway. Shirley Muldowney won four times at Columbus, and "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and Gary Beck each have three victories. Kalitta won in 1994 and 1995. *Performance prediction: Kenny Bernstein dropped jaws throughout National Trail Raceway during this event last year with his track-record run of 4.608 seconds, 313.15 mph in the Budweiser King Dragster. His pass was the quickest in NHRA history at the time. Scott Kalitta thinks Bernstein's pass can be matched, if cool weather conditions prevail. "So much depends on the weather," Kalitta said. "The weather around there this spring has been kind of crazy. We'll see if the new surface, after it gets a year under it's belt, will be better. It's hard to say." The track at National Trail Raceway was repaved before last year's event. Conditions of freshly-paved tracks usually improve after a year, as the asphalt cures and car tires leave more traction-enhancing rubber on the surface. *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 offers more information about NHRA Winston Drag Racing, including qualifying and eliminations results, news, point standings, statistics and driver biographies. -30-


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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Shirley Muldowney , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Scott Kalitta , Dick LaHaie , Cristen Powell