Dallas: Chevrolet finals report

They said it wouldn't be done, that the O'Reilly Fall Nationals would never happen. But, after a total rain-out two weeks ago, and a wash-out of qualifying yesterday, the penultimate round of the 2000 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series was finally...

They said it wouldn't be done, that the O'Reilly Fall Nationals would never happen. But, after a total rain-out two weeks ago, and a wash-out of qualifying yesterday, the penultimate round of the 2000 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series was finally completed under threatening skies but nary a raindrop in sight. Only a brief drizzle slowed action today, as the crews breathed a sigh of relief that they would be able to get on the road and head to the season finale in Pomona, Calif., next weekend.

When qualifying was rained out on Friday NHRA set the 16-car and truck fields based on 2000 point standings, and which drivers/teams were on site at the time qualifying was "closed" on Friday.

PRO STOCK: KJ CLAIMS FIFTH WIN OF YEAR

KURT JOHNSON, ACDELCO CAMARO Z28, claimed his fifth Pro Stock win of the season, the 20th of his career, and the sixth for Camaro this season, when he defeated Winston Champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the final round with a 6.966-second elapsed time at 196.73 to Coughlin's 7.555/141.00.

Lane choice was key today, as Kurt was able to hold on to that privilege while defeating Larry Morgan, Richie Stevens, Troy Coughlin and finally Jeg Coughlin from the favored left lane. Kurt is in the midst of a three way-battle for second place in the championship among himself, his dad Warren in third, and Ron Krisher in fourth. Kurt is 80 points ahead of Dad, and 131 in front of Krisher.

KURT:  "I needed this one to put some points on the No. 3 and No. 4 guys out
there.  I love this kind of racing.  It's like going to Las Vegas and
gambling.  We looked at the information we collected last year here and put
together a package to get us down the track.  We didn't really change
anything all day long.  It was just consistent. The Camaro went down the
track every time, my driving  got better and better."  

WAS IT AN ADVANTAGE TO HAVE THAT NOTEBOOK? "It was and it wasn't. It's about what you would expect out there with a lack of cars on the track. It was an average track out there; a few cars had problems with tire shake. This Camaro has been really happy lately. It's been going down the track in all kinds of situations except for Memphis. I think if we went to Memphis now we would not get into the show, but we could get down the track."

WERE YOU CONCERNED AFTER SEEING YATES AND PAWUK CRASH? "He (Yates) had instant tire shake on the right tire. That's what drove him to the right and he kept his foot in it too long. There were a few times when I kept my foot in it too long. But I learned it's better to come back next week. The starting line is good, the track is always good here. We were concerned from second gear on. The Camaro has been exceptional from that point on. It's a good car under terrible conditions from second gear to the finish line. I think we had the better car here even before the race began. I think I had the best chance of getting down the right lane. There was definitely lack of rubber in the right lane. All the Pro Stock cars had problems; lane choice was definitely a factor."

YOU WILL SWITCH TO CAVALIER NEXT YEAR: "We're going to take some data we learned from this chassis and apply it to the Cavalier. Hopefully we can hit the ground running with it and keep Chevrolet in the winner's circle."

<pre> POINT STANDINGS:

1.    Jeg Coughlin Jr., Olds Cutlass (10) -- clinched            1956
2.    Kurt Johnson, Camaro (5)                                   1490
3.    Warren Johnson, Firebird (2)                               1410
4.    Ron Krisher, Firebird (2)                                  1359
5.    Mark Pawuk, Firebird (1)                                   1180

</pre> FUNNY CAR: CANNON GOES TO SEMIS; CAPPS, EPLER OUT IN SECOND ROUND; BAZEMORE GONE IN FIRST

* SCOTTY CANNON, MAD SCIENTIST CAMARO Z28, No. 7 in points, made it to the semifinal round after eliminating Dean Skuza and Ron Capps, but was then denied a chance to run against Jerry Toliver when his car broke at the line and was pushed out of contention.

* WHIT BAZEMORE, KENDALL OIL/MATCO TOOLS CAMARO Z28, the No. 6 seed, was eliminated in the first round by No. 11 Frank Pedregon in a tire-smoking, pedaling match. Whit's Camaro lost traction at the hit of the throttle, while Frank's Firebird smoked its tires half-track. Both drivers pedaled hard to reach the finish line, but it was Pedregon first with a 6.781/247.29 as Bazemore's car lost a blower belt , slowing him to an 8.424/121.33 pass.

BAZEMORE: "It smoked the tires at the hit. We still had a chance to win. We had to pedal it three or four times, but we were definitely catching him until the belt flew off. It's just a huge disappointment; that's about all I can say." DID YOU START TO PEDAL ONCE YOU SAW HIM SMOKING? "I was doing it anyway. When it smokes at the hit you have to have the car settled down so you grab the brake to slow the rear tires down. It hooked back up for a moment -- a second or half a second -- and then smoked them again and again. Whether we would have caught him or not, I'm not sure. But taking our starting line advantage (into consideration) we had a chance. It was a crapshoot today; we rolled our dice and lost. There's one more race, one more weekend, then we will really focus on next year." ON TRACK CONDITIONS: "This track and these conditions favor the Camaro. But we didn't take advantage of that; you have to get going first. The track is so good and we are in good air conditions and the traction available is good, so you don't really need the downforce that the Pontiac and the Mustang seem to have. Conditions like these favor the teams that run well right out of the trailer. I felt confident that we were going to go down the track, but I was prepared to have some tire shake because that was happening to some of the Top Fuel teams in front of us. I was concerned with cutting a good light because at the last race I wasn't happy with with my lights at all, and I did OK. I shallow staged, had a .478, and I was happy with that. But then it smoked the tires immediately. It's a team sport and it's just one of those things. Terry (Manzer, crew chief) is upset and perplexed because it certainly wasn't in the tune-up today. Perhaps there's some unknown in the car. You try to eliminate all your unknowns as much as you can, but once in a while I guess one will slip by."

* RON CAPPS, U.S. TOBACCO CO. CAMARO Z28, advanced to the second round after defeating Tim Wilkerson with a 4.870/305.56 in the first round to Wilkerson's 7.063/124.32. After an engine problem surfaced, the UST Camaro team was forced to make an engine change before the second round against No. 7 seed SCOTTY CANNON, MAD SCIENTIST CAMARO Z28. Without a proper warm-up, Ron was at a disadvantage and lost to Cannon's 5.164/246.21 with a 7.241/124.14.

Ron, second in points entering this event, is locked in a tight battle for second place in the Winston Championship with Jerry Toliver, in third, and Tony Pedregon, in fourth. He dropped to third in points after Toliver advanced to the final round, where he lost to John Force. Ron is now four points behind Toliver.

CAPPS: "Everything was great after the 4.87 (in the first round). Obviously, we felt very confident. We went to warm up for the second round and we had problems with the engine. The guys had about 20 minutes to pull that engine out and replace it for the second round. We were the first pair of Funny Cars and obviously didn't have time to get up there and do our normal warm-up. We had to do a quick warm-up and we were not able to seat the clutch. And basically it changed our clutch setup. When I stepped on the pedal for the run it dropped a cylinder on the left bank, and drove me to the left towards the guardwall. It was out of the groove, I gave it a quick pedal and tried to get it going again. I saw he had a little bit of trouble in the other lane. It's just a part of the deal. Right now we're fighting for second place. We have a good car; if we had had a good clutch setup we should have run an .80." ON COMING UP TO THE LINE FOR THE FIRST ROUND WITH NO QUALIFYING RUNS UNDER YOUR BELT: "I was actually more nervous than I have been in a long time before eliminations. Mainly because it's the first time down the track; but you have to try to put that stuff aside. I felt I had some big butterflies in my stomach. It was reassuring to step on the pedal and when it got past two seconds I thought it could run a high .80 or low .90. I knew half-track it was on a pretty good run. Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) is still learning about this Camaro. We've had only five or six laps on this Murf McKinney chassis. I was very nervous. But when you get out there and it runs that good, and when you pull the chutes and it tries to slam you against the windshield, you know it was a good run. You feel better about the track."

* No. 5 in points JIM EPLER, WWF RACING 'STONE COLD' CAMARO Z28, was also eliminated in the second round after defeating No. 12 BOB GILBERTSON, STEWART & STEVENSON CAMARO Z28, in the first round (5.317/234/21 for Epler; 8.263/91.27 for Gilbertson). Epler lost to Tony Pedregon in the quarterfinals: 5.014/291.76 to 8.878/88.57.

EPLER: ON GOING UP TO LINE FOR FIRST ROUND: "I hadn't been this nervous in a long time, because you didn't know what to expect. We had a great tune-up, but the track was more ready for us than we were for it in the first round, so it shook. I pedaled it twice and won. We had to change engines for the round against Tony (Pedregon) and it dropped a cylinder, but what it really did was lose blower boost and I didn't have any power and it shut off. It was unfortunate. Tony went in deep. He had a .440 light to my .448. It was close, but that's where close ended. It's frustrating."

* GILBERTSON: "We shook the tires and it was over. I tried to pedal it, but since we only have one of these Camaro bodies we thought we would save it for Pomona. We discovered this track is 10 times better than what we thought it was. It's been raining, it's been nasty. We thought it was going to run a 4.95 -- that's what we had in our heads -- but then it started shaking and that was it."

<pre> POINT STANDINGS:

1.    John Force, Mustang (10) -- clinched            1874
2.    Jerry Toliver, Firebird (1), Camaro (2)         1481
3.    Ron Capps, Camaro (1)                           1477
4.    Tony Pedregon, Mustang (2)                      1389
5.    Jim Epler, Camaro (2)                           1232
6.    Scotty Cannon, Camaro                           1061
7.    Whit Bazemore, Camaro (1)                       1057

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Ron Krisher , Larry Morgan , Scotty Cannon , Tim Wilkerson , Jerry Toliver