Dallas: Event preview

ENNIS, Texas - The streak is finally over. Ron Capps, who endured a 46-race absence from the NHRA winner's circle that lasted for nearly two years, tasted success once again in Funny Car competition. After going 0 for 6 in final round appearances...

ENNIS, Texas - The streak is finally over. Ron Capps, who endured a 46-race absence from the NHRA winner's circle that lasted for nearly two years, tasted success once again in Funny Car competition. After going 0 for 6 in final round appearances this season, the Vista, Calif., driver put an end to his runner-up blues recently in Memphis, Tenn., and in the process gained enough Winston championship points to vault past WWF Racing's Jerry Toliver into second place overall, 290 behind leader John Force. Certainly, Capps hopes to feed off the positive energy generated by winning again and keep the victory streak alive at the 15th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec, Oct. 19-22 at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas. The $1.9 million race is the 21st of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Capps knows exactly what he must do if he's to have any shot at catching runaway leader Force, an eight-time winner this season in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. Capps needs to win more races, while at the same time, Force needs to pick up a few first round losses. "You've got to set goals," said Capps, driver of the Don Prudhomme-owned U.S. Tobacco Chevrolet Camaro. "Force is out there and he's pretty much clinched it - mathematically maybe not, but realistically he has. You've got to have something to get your guys motivated."

For Bob Panella, it's only a matter of time. For Pro Stock Truck championship challenger Randy Daniels, time is about to run out. Panella can clinch his second straight NHRA Winston Pro Stock Truck championship at the 15th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec, Oct. 19-22 at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas. Should Chevy S-10 driver Panella manage to finish the event at the drag racing world's only all-concrete quarter-mile with a 139 point lead, he will have successfully defended his Winston crown. He enters the event with a 230-point advantage over closest challenger Daniels. With five victories in nine final round appearances and ownership of the NHRA national record for elapsed time (7.428 seconds), which he set recently at Memphis Motorsports Park, Panella has had a very dominant season in his Chevy S-10. Daniels, also a five-time winner, was really the only obstacle standing in the Stockton, Calif. driver's way. Three of Panella's runner-up finishes came courtesy of Daniels' equally powerful S-10. "I don't want to think about counting championship points or money at this point," Panella said. "We just need to finish the deal. We've had a great year-an awesome year. If Randy wasn't there it would really show what kind of year we had." Now that Jeg Coughlin has officially clinched the 2000 NHRA Winston Pro Stock crown, all teams can officially begin preparations for the upcoming season. Unless the team is headed by Warren Johnson. The veteran driver says he has been in research and development mode for much of the year, and feels confident that he can regain his championship form in 2001. Johnson, who has won the O'Reilly Fall Nationals the last two seasons, claimed NHRA Winston Pro Stock championships in 1992, '93, '95, '98 and '99.

And if there's one track that Johnson prefers for his "testing," it's the smooth, all-concrete quarter-mile at the Texas Motorplex. He'll definitely have his GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird clicking on all cylinders as he tries to score his 81st career victory. "We're gathering data for next year," said Johnson, 57, from Buford, Ga. "At the same time we're obviously trying to win races this year. We are using this season to garner as much knowledge as possible because everyone is going to have a steep learning curve when the next generation of Pro Stock cars arrives next year."

One moment Scott Geoffrion is trying to figure out a way to qualify for the 16-car field in NHRA Pro Stock competition, and the next he's celebrating the quickest run in NHRA history, a national record setting 6.809-second blast in his Dodge Avenger. Go figure. Geoffrion, who used his newfound horsepower to post a runner-up finish recently in Memphis, Tenn., is just happy to be competitive again after several years of working to rebuild a program that once dominated NHRA Pro Stock racing in the early to mid-'90s.

"The new Hemi is one incredible engine," said Geoffrion, who has nine career victories, his last win coming at Heartland Park Topeka in 1997. "I can't believe how far this program has come in such a short period of time. Man, we started with basically a clean sheet of paper at the beginning of the season. Now, we're breaking national records."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Bob Panella , Ron Capps , John Force , Randy Daniels , Don Prudhomme , Scott Geoffrion , Jerry Toliver